Baby dragons have become increasingly popular as exotic pets in recent years. They’re known for their unique appearance and fascinating behavior, making them a source of enjoyment for many people.
However, as bearded dragon keepers know, caring for a baby dragon comes with responsibilities, and providing proper care is crucial for their wellbeing. One of the most important aspects of care is nutrition, and ensuring that baby dragons receive the right amount of food, including the right number of crickets, is essential for their growth and development.
In this blog post, I’ll delve into exactly what should be included in your baby bearded dragon’s diet. We’ll also examine the nutritional needs of baby beardies and the best practices for feeding crickets to these fascinating creatures.
The Importance of Proper Nutrition for Baby Dragons
Baby dragons are highly susceptible to nutritional deficiencies, and providing the right diet is essential for growth and development. This includes a variety of fresh vegetables, a small amount of fruit, and supplements like calcium powder.
Insects also play a vital role in their diets, providing protein, essential vitamins, and minerals. When it comes to insects, crickets are a popular choice for baby dragons, as they’re easy to come by and provide a great nutritional balance.
But knowing how many crickets to feed a baby dragon can be tricky, and getting the amount just right is important for their overall health and development.
Why Are Crickets So Crucial to a Baby Dragon’s Diet?
Baby dragons require energy and nutrients to grow and develop, just like any other creature. Understanding the basics of their biology is important for providing the right amount of crickets in their diets.
For starters, baby dragons are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperatures. So, they require a diet high in protein to produce energy, as proteins are broken down into individual amino acids and used for energy production.
Crickets are an excellent food source for baby dragons for several reasons. Firstly, they provide essential protein and other important nutrients. Secondly, they’re easy to catch and eat. Thirdly, they are a natural source of food that baby dragons would be used to if they were living in the wild.
Baby dragons have unique anatomy and physiology, with sharp claws and teeth that are ideal for catching insects. Plus, they need protein and other essential nutrients like calcium to remain healthy and consume a balanced diet. All of these factors play an important role in determining how many crickets should be fed to your baby dragon per day.
Calculating How Many Crickets a Baby Dragon Needs Each Day
A baby bearded dragon has different dietary and feeding needs compared to an adult bearded dragon. As an example, adult bearded dragons have an ideal greens-to-protein ratio of around 80/20%. However, this is reversed in baby and juvenile dragons, meaning they need a diet that’s 80% composed of protein-rich insects like crickets.
So, how many crickets should be given to a baby dragon each day? As a general rule, baby dragons should be fed crickets 3-5 times per day, allowing them to eat as many insects as they want in a 10-15 minute period. It’s crucial to adjust the feeding schedule and the number of crickets offered according to the dragon’s age and growth. So, it’s important to note that as the baby bearded dragon grows, the number of feedings per day will gradually decrease.
Generally speaking, baby dragons will eat an average of 10-20 crickets per feeding (around 50-100 in a single day). In addition to protein-rich insects like crickets, fresh leafy greens should also be offered a few times per day for a balanced diet.
How Long Do Bearded Dragons Live?
Bearded dragons can generally live up to 8-12 years as pets when they’re given proper care and nutrition, with some able to live even longer under optimal conditions. A proper diet, including the right number of crickets per day, is essential for ensuring your dragon’s long-term health and wellbeing.
It’s important to remember that every baby dragon is unique, and some may need more or fewer crickets than others. It’s also a good idea to vary the type of insect you feed them each day.
Offer a combination of crickets, mealworms, locusts, and other insects to ensure your baby dragon is getting all the essential nutrients they need.
Maintaining the Right Feeding Schedule
In addition to offering the right number of crickets each day, it’s important to establish a regular feeding schedule. As mentioned earlier, baby dragons should be fed several times per day, in feeding sessions lasting between 10-15 minutes.
Remember, your bearded dragon depends on you to provide an appropriate diet, and an adult dragon will feed differently from baby or juvenile dragons. In younger bearded dragons, an example feeding schedule might look like this:
- 7 am: 10-15 min feeding
- 11 am: 10-15 min feeding
- 3 pm: 10-15 min feeding
- 7 pm: 10-15 min feeding
This schedule should be adjusted as needed depending on your dragon’s age, size, and activity level. As mentioned earlier, baby bearded dragons can get through up to 100 crickets in just one day, so it’s important to monitor their food intake carefully. But generally, in each feeding session, you should let your baby beardie get through as many crickets as they can manage!
How to Keep Your Bearded Dragon Hydrated
As well as making sure they’re fed the right amount of crickets, it’s also important to keep your baby dragon adequately hydrated. Provide them with a shallow water dish and mist the enclosure lightly once or twice a day to avoid over-misting. Adding vegetables with high moisture content like mustard greens and dandelion greens to their diet can help them stay hydrated.
Signs Your Bearded Dragon Is Underfed
If your baby dragon isn’t receiving enough food, they may display signs of malnourishment. These can include a lack of energy and activity, as well as slow growth. If you suspect your dragon is underfed, take them to the vet immediately for an examination.
Signs Your Bearded Dragon Is Overfed
If your dragon is eating too many crickets, they may become overweight and sluggish. An increase in food intake should be matched with an increase in activity levels to ensure your dragon remains healthy.
What Types of Cricket Should You Feed Your Baby Bearded Dragon?
When feeding your bearded dragon crickets, it’s important to make sure they are clean and free of parasites. Your local pet store should be able to advise you on the best type of cricket to feed your dragon, but some common types are house crickets, pinhead crickets, and banded crickets. Wild crickets should be avoided, as they may carry diseases, parasites, and pesticides.
How Large Should the Crickets Be?
When it comes to the size of crickets, they should be no larger than the length of your dragon’s head. Baby dragons will usually manage better with smaller crickets and mealworms, while adult dragons can handle bigger insects such as locusts.
Preparing Crickets to Feed a Bearded Dragon
It’s important to prepare crickets before feeding them to your dragon. Crickets can be dusted with vitamin and mineral supplements, such as calcium powder, to provide extra nutrition if possible.
But the best way to prepare crickets before feeding them to a baby bearded dragon is to provide them with a nutritious diet for a few days before feeding them to the dragon. This process, known as gut-loading, will ensure that the crickets are carrying a good balance of nutrients and energy, which will then be passed on to the dragon.
The Benefits of Gut-Loading
To gut-load crickets, you can feed them commercial cricket food or a mixture of high-quality vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and greens. It’s also recommended to provide them with a calcium and multivitamin supplement, as baby bearded dragons have a high requirement for these nutrients.
For best results, you should keep the crickets in a clean and well-ventilated container and avoid overcrowding, as this can lead to stress and decreased nutritional value.
After gut-loading for a couple of days, the crickets should be rinsed with water and offered to the baby bearded dragon as a nutritious snack.
Should You Feed a Bearded Dragon Dead Crickets?
Live crickets are the safest and best way to go. In short, you should never feed your dragon dead crickets as these can contain harmful bacteria and parasites. If you do purchase pre-packaged crickets, ensure they are alive and healthy before offering them to your dragon.
Overall, when it comes to the diet of a baby bearded dragon, crickets should make up the bulk of their food intake. But it’s also important to provide them with a variety of other insects and vegetables for additional nutrients.
Cleaning Your Bearded Dragon’s Enclosure After Each Feed
Make sure to clean your bearded dragon’s habitat regularly to avoid bacterial and fungal growth. This can occur, along with the emergence of serious health problems, if they eat any leftover crickets that have begun to decompose. Never leave dead insects alone with baby beardies for this reason.
After each feeding session, it’s vital you remove any uneaten crickets in the enclosure and disinfect the substrate with a pet-safe cleaner. By maintaining a clean habitat and providing your baby beardie with an appropriate diet, you can ensure they have a healthy and happy meal time, every time!
What Else to Feed Your Bearded Dragon Apart from Crickets
By now, we know it’s important to feed crickets to your baby beardie – mainly because they just love to eat crickets! But when it comes to what else you can feed bearded dragons, there are a few other feeder insects, along with veg such as leafy greens, you can boost or alternate their diet with (some beardies may just naturally eat fewer crickets than others). So additionally, let your dragon eat:
- Waxworms (as an occasional treat due to their high fat content)
- Dubia roaches
- Collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and turnip greens
Remember to always stick to feeding your beardie an appropriate size insect that they can easily swallow, which is usually no bigger than the space between a bearded dragon’s eyes.
Dieting Concerns: When Should You See a Vet?
If you think your bearded dragon isn’t eating enough crickets (or other insects), or if they seem to be having trouble digesting them, then it’s time to contact a qualified reptile veterinarian. The vet will be able to provide advice and support on how best to address any underlying issues with the diet, as well as offer treatment if needed.
You should take your bearded dragon to a vet if:
- You notice any physical signs of illness (loss of appetite, dehydration, or sores)
- Your dragon’s poops aren’t the same as usual
- They’re not acting in their normal way
- You think they might have ingested decomposing crickets
Remember, gut-loaded, appropriately-sized crickets form an essential part of your baby bearded dragon’s diet, but it’s always best to discuss any concerns with a qualified vet.
Mistakes to Avoid When Handling Crickets
It’s important to practice good hygiene when handling crickets, as unclean hands can transmit diseases and parasites that can harm your bearded dragon. Ideally, you should wear gloves when handling crickets and always wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
When transferring the crickets from their container to the enclosure, it’s best to use a scoop or spoon to avoid direct contact. This reduces the risk of any potential parasites being passed on. Avoid using newspaper or paper towels too, as these can contain inks and dyes that can be harmful to your bearded dragon.
Providing your baby beardie with the right kind of diet is essential to their health and wellbeing. Bearded dragons should primarily be fed crickets, which should always be gut-loaded, appropriately sized, and regularly disinfected after each feeding session. You should also provide them with a variety of other insects such as mealworms and dubia roaches, along with leafy greens like collard greens and dandelion greens.
Be sure to always practice good hygiene when handling crickets, and be prepared to contact a qualified vet if your dragon shows any signs of illness or behavioral changes. With this approach, you can help ensure your bearded dragon enjoys a nutritious and balanced diet that will keep them healthy and happy for their entire life cycle!