I’ve not yet had ANY bearded dragon from birth die, go to the vets or fail to eat, worst thing is a few toes have been nipped.
Chances are that if you have a dragon that’s less than 8 weeks old then you’re breeding Bearded Dragons, otherwise you shouldn’t have brought one at such a young age and it’s irresponsible for anyone to sell or give a dragon that’s under 8 weeks/ 2 months old. For completeness (and new dragon breeders) I’ll go through the feeding and diets from birth.
Before we go into detail on the diets for baby beardies, please remember one thing: Do not keep your juveniles (<6 months) on any kind of substrate, especially Calci-sand. On dirt they can be messy eaters and generally very excited and will get a mouthful of dirt when catching insects as they lunge for them, they’ll never wait for that locust to climb off the sand/ soil. At such a small size and age, the sand will clog them up and they may die from impaction and there’s nothing that can be done to heal them at this age. It’s best to keep them on newspaper or kitchen towel (and it’s cheaper as well) as they’ll be pooing very often so you want to be changing the substrate almost daily to avoid them catching parasites and diseases. It seems such an odd thing since in the wild they live on dirt/sand but in the natural environment this is probably one of the mechanisms that works as population/ birth control, not all dragons that hatch are destined to live. However, we want to avoid this since it’s your new best friend.
Remember also that you need a proper vivarium setup with regulated lighting and UVB, for babies I try to keep them in small groups in fairly small enclosures so they can find food quicker, subdividing a larger vivarium as I need to.
If your dragon is more than 6 months, please still read the whole article since it may give you new information, for more generic feeding tips, please read my guide on what bearded dragons can eat.
Baby Bearded Dragon Diet
Remember with whichever insects you use to ensure that they’re gut loaded e.g. you’ve fed them up on greens etc… the day before you feed them to your dragons. An empty Cricket apparently has more nutrition than a Locust, but a gut loaded/ well fed Locust is far more nutritious than a Cricket (due to the length of their gut).
This really is no different to feeding an adult just in a more basic way, you feed smaller amounts more often and in smaller pieces. From birth they can eat insects but may be less keen upon vegetation to start with – you’ll soon find that they try to eat anything that’s smaller than them and moving. Still offer vegetation though, just simple finely shredded greens – cutting up the leaves just makes sure every dragon can get some without fights.
When they hatch they’ll have some nutrition from their egg and they’ll also be pretty exhausted so need some time to recover and charge up before gaining an appetite. Don’t be alarmed if the hatchling Beardie doesn’t eat in the first 48 hours, it’s fairly normal. They’ll also not want to move too much so remember not to disturb them.
When feeding them insects, ideally try hatchling locusts/ hoppers if you can get them, failing that use crickets. Whatever you feed your Bearded Dragon, it’s often said it needs to be shorter in length than the width between the dragons eyes, otherwise they may get impacted, I’ve followed this rule of thumb and it’s worked out well every time for me, but I’ve never seen any scientific data regarding this. They’re not fussy about size and will try to eat anything that’s bigger than themselves.
With adults I’ve fed insects longer than the width of the eyes with no problems as they tend to chew the insects pretty well – however, once or twice I’ve had an adult not able to cope with adult/ full grown Locusts.
With a baby dragon hatchling I would air on the side of caution, but it depends on how you feed them as well. If you’re offering the insects in a bowl then you can keep them smaller as not much energy will be spent in hunting them, if they’re left to find them you may want to use the next size up given the energy expended to catch the prey – there’s not much difference in the size really.
I used to recommend getting the Brown or Black Crickets, while they are harder to feed and dust individually with calcium/ multivitamin powder but generally worked out much cheaper in the long run. However, they are less likely to have more nutrition in them than a Locust after gut loading – although are meant to be high in iron. The other trouble is, being so small they will escape into your house, Locusts are far more docile. You can’t really avoid Crickets escaping but to make it easier you could put your Crickets in the fridge for around 5 minutes, this will cool them down and they’ll become a bit easier to handle – also get a few Cricket traps around the house.
The other downside with Crickets is that I’ve heard that if any are uneaten and not removed they can chew on your dragon and create open wounds on a baby.
To feed the tiny Crickets to the dragon, I recommend ‘pouring’ the insects from the tub into a small bowl, about 6cm in diameter and about 3cm tall – big enough to stop them escaping. I then add in a small pinch of calcium powder and multivitamin every other day – the insects will run through this and then dust themselves (you can also shake the bowl a bit). I then tip the bowl up slightly in front of the baby beardie so it can see them and get to them, this provides a nice controlled way to feed them and they don’t have to expend important energy in their first few weeks hunting. This method works for 1 or 2 dragons in a vivarium, but for larger groups it tends to promote dominant behaviour so should be avoided. I used to dust the insects in the same way but then pour them into the vivarium for the dragons to chase and catch, watching for any bullying and making sure they all get the same. But it worked out better to use several bowls with the small Crickets in there. Again Locusts are easier to catch and will be more enery efficient so if you can afford it I’d go that route – I’m happy to pay the extra for the hoppers and have less hassle than Crickets.
When feeding you’re looking to spend about 10-15 minutes to allow them to catch the insects and feeding twice a day, at this age you shouldn’t be handling them. Remember to remove any uneaten insects.
The below chart should give you an idea of the size of insect versus the age of the Bearded Dragon.
After the first 2 weeks have passed continue with vegetation every day, nothing fancy just some basic salad leaves (not lettuce! or anything that will bind with Calcium), but you’ll need to cut up the leaves into small pieces. I normally finely shred up the leaves into a shallow bowl and then leave that for them to find and eat – this works out really well where you have a lot of babies in one vivarium. The young generally should be eating more insects than vegetation, but it’s important this is offered.
At this point you’ll also want to think about separating them into smaller groups.
The same feeding process applies, just allowing more space.
Again keeping with the smaller sized insects, they should be eating more and you should be able to see that they have nice, bright and alert orange eyes. While you don’t want to handle them, you can start to try to hand feed them leaves and insects to get them used to human hands. Avoid feeding from above – any moving shape above them is seen as a predator, so instead feed them with your hand close to the ground in front of them.
At these age you should be able to see any defects, but providing you followed the above you shouldn’t have an issue though you should be able to spot any signs of stress, bullying and malnutrition easily. A good sign to look for is fat in the base of the tail for whether they’re getting enough food.
8 – 16 weeks
This will be the youngest that you should buy a dragon, it’s the earliest that they can be sexed and also held, at this age they are also more likely to adapt to a new owner and develop their individual personalities.
In case you skipped the above, you want to be feeding your baby dragon twice every day with locusts/hoppers or crickets, dusted every other day and with vegetables/ leaves offered every other day as well.
At this age it now becomes more economical to also start feeding mini/ micro meal worms every few days – these are generally no more than 2cm big and you can leave a bowl for them to feed on, just make sure that you pick out any worm that looks like its due to malt as that chitin (the skin) will be really hard for a dragon to digest. This also allows the baby to put on more fat, you’ll soon know if there’s a problem digesting the worms as their faeces will contain recognisable parts of the worms – the adults also suffer from this if they eat the worms too fast. To be safe feed the worms in small quantities. You can buy these worms in a big bulk bag, which is handy if you’re breeding many dragons and works out really cheap. But remember there won’t be as much nutrition as the Locusts and mealworms should be fed in moderation.
I also still feed Locusts/ hoppers, the hoppers are easy to leave for the Bearded Dragons to hunt/ stalk and catch – crickets I would still feed in a bowl due to their speed and the mini worms I leave in a bowl in the morning for them eat during the day – but remember only put a few in there, don’t fill the bowl!
I also offer vegetation more freqently sometimes replacing a meal of insects, purely with vegetation but still feeding twice daily. At this age you can also begin to hold them, so I’ll start hand feeding leaves more often and picking the Beardie up and feeding outside the viv. It takes some patience before they’ll get confident to feed from your hand outside the vivarium but bare with it.
Keep up with the feeding regime, you can now begin to skip a feeding occasionally, feeding them once a day and missing out a day of feeding entirely. This also helps to keep your dragon eager and ready to greet you when you have food, making it easier to tame them.
At this point you’ll be buying slightly bigger locusts/ hoppers and this will be the most expensive time for feeding as they’ll still be eating a lot but need the larger insects.
Also at this age you’ve probably got your Bearded Dragon from the pet shop, if that’s the case then it’s really important to keep a look out for any health issues, moving them to a new home can be stressful. They may also have parasites and need worming for which you can get some tablets from the vets. Keep an eye out on their poo, if it’s reddish coloured or the urate (the white bit) is really yellow then you may have some problems so pay close attention. Otherwise the above feeding rules all hold true.
6 months and onwards
You can now start feeding once a day and skipping a day now and then, remember to keep the insects dusted every few days, but you can now decrease the frequency in which you dust the insects, it becomes slightly less important. I’d now also offer vegetation daily, and I’d also stop cutting the leaves up into small pieces. You can now also feed them some other things as treats such as strawberries, grapes, carrot etc… By 9 months, your dragon will be tearing up the newspaper/ kitchen towel and it’s time to start thinking about giving them some sand to dig in. You can read more on this site about the ideal bearded dragon substrate.