By Alice Garcia
Herbs are healthy for your bearded dragons, but it’s important to know which herbs for bearded dragons can safely be incorporated into their diets. Bearded dragons have varying dietary needs depending on the season and their age so it’s important to get information from experts and vets, who can help you choose the right herbs for your beardie. Reptile expert, Alice Garcia, at Reptile Ninja, shares with us the benefits of herbs for bearded dragons, which herbs to feed your beardie, and healthy tips for serving them right.
About Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons (or “beardies”), the popular pet lizards of the Australian Native, are known for their friendliness. They’re gaining in popularity worldwide as more people discover the joy of keeping these gentle, curious reptile companions.
Bearded dragons get their name from the tiny “spikes” on the skin that wraps around their necks. This area of skin puffs out when a bearded dragon is startled or senses danger, giving it the appearance of a beard.
Bearded dragons may live from ten to fifteen years.
Being omnivorous, a bearded dragon’s diet includes herbs as well as insects. Though easy to care for, beardies are sensitive creatures, making it important to know the right herbs that would suit them. Read on for more details!
Benefits of Feeding Your Bearded Dragon Herbs
The first important thing to know is your beardie’s dietary requirements. Herbs fit in well to fulfill their nutritional needs such as calcium and vitamins. The juveniles require a more carnivore diet along with herbs, then, as your bearded dragon grows to an adult, herbs and other greens become the major part of its diet.
The following factors should be considered when choosing herbs for bearded dragons:
- They are high in calcium as compared to phosphorus, and have a good Ca:P ratio, 2:1 being the ideal.
- The right herbs provide ample vitamins and minerals.
- They contain beneficial properties such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-bacterial effects that improve digestion, immunity, and overall health of your beardie.
- Herbs add variety to a bearded dragon’s diet improving the overall quality of their life and making them happier.
- A diet with a variety of herbs help fight stress and reduces the chances of your beardie developing cancer or other serious illnesses.
- Research thoroughly any foods you are considering feeding your bearded dragon to make sure they are beneficial and safe for your pet’s health. Consult with a vet on any herbs, greens, or vegetables you are uncertain about before feeding to your pet.
What Herbs should Bearded Dragons be Fed?
Bearded dragons are reptiles that come from the sparse desert regions of central Australia and as a result have an appetite for a variety of foods in their diet. Before we learn which specific herbs are best for bearded dragons, it important to cover a few tips on serving fresh herbs to your pet.
- A good herb should be served fresh. No matter how suitable the herb is for your pet, its true potency depends on being served fresh.
- Bearded dragons should be provided with healthy and clean herbs. This means the herbs should be picked from the right place. Either organic or farm fresh, make sure you pick it from the right place.
- Herbs prove to be a fun and healthy supplement to their existing diet. They could either contribute to a good taste or as healthy nutrients that existing diets might miss. In either case, they should look fun, fresh, and healthy to eat.
- Good herbs should also fulfill the taste criteria. As for humans, so for pets. A healthy diet can’t just count all the nutrient values, but also the taste it offers. After all, it’s the right taste that would make the diet enjoyable.
List of Some Vegetables and Herbs for Bearded Dragons
With this basic idea, let’s now dive right into the greens and veggies that will make your beardie happy and healthy. Below is a list of fresh herbs, greens and some vegetables that your bearded dragon will enjoy along with information on how frequently they can be served. Remember, these are to be served raw and just as additions to a full, well-balanced offering of foods:
Arugula (Can be served daily.)
Arugula is closely linked to broccoli and is well-suited for salad servings. Arugula has an ideal calcium: phosphorus ratio making it suitable for daily consumption. Arugula is best when mixed with tasty meals. It should be served after removing any large stiff stems that might be difficult for beardies to digest. Also, make sure to cut the arugula into small pieces. A good guide is to cut greens to the size of the distance between the two eyes of your beardie.
Cilantro (Can be served daily.)
Cilantro (or coriander) adds freshness when sprinkled over salad and other dishes which your bearded dragon will enjoy. Cilantro is rich in calcium and vitamin A, making it perfect for daily serving. Because of its basic pH scale, cilantro goes well with fruits and foods which are acidic.
Mustard Greens (Can be served daily.)
These are leaves from the mustard plant which have peppery, spicy taste, making a perfect combo with salad and other meals. Being highly alkaline they go well with acidic items like blueberries and tomatoes. Make sure to serve only the leaves, while mixing other tasty items to compensate for the spicy taste.
Kale (Can be served twice per week.)
Kale is a nutrient-rich green that goes well with meals, but due to high oxalate levels, kale can block calcium and can lead to kidney stones over time. It’s important not to give your bearded dragon too much and it’s probably best to limit to serving only twice a week. The leaves should be offered raw after removing the stems.
Carrots (Can be served twice per week.)
Beardies love carrots (not baby carrots). However, carrots are low on calcium so you’ll want to be sure other parts of your bearded dragon’s diet is calcium-rich. Carrots should be washed and scrubbed well before consumption. Being hard, carrots should be grated into loose shreds before serving, and mixed with other meals. Better yet, warm carrots for 15 minutes to soften them and feed once cooled. This will make them easier for your bearded dragon to digest and enjoy.
Broccoli (Can be served twice per week.)
Broccoli is best served with herbs with high calcium (like kale) due to high phosphate levels. Remember to cut into small pieces so that they don’t choke your pet. Serve broccoli raw (rather than cooked) after removing the stem and stalks.
Below are a few more herbs that can be cut up and served in small quantities to your beardie in a salad or sprinkled over their main meal. Once again, pay attention to the serving frequency. While these herbs are a healthy supplement to your bearded dragon’s diet, they should not be served daily:
Basil (Can be served once per week.)
Basil provides vitamins A, C, E, and K as well as calcium. There are many varieties of basil you can grow, but a basic green-leaf, culinary basil is best suited to your bearded dragon. Offer the fresh chopped leaves after first removing any firm stems.
Dandelion Greens (Can be served once per week.)
Dandelion leaves are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K, and calcium. They also have a good calcium: phosphorus balance. Young leaves are the most tender, but it would still be beneficial to cut them into smaller pieces. Be very certain that any dandelion leaves you harvest have not be exposed to chemicals or animal wastes that might harm your beardie. Don’t feed the flower stems or seed heads.
Mint Leaves (Can be served once per month.)
There are many varieties of mint available, but it is simplest to just offer your beardie basic peppermint or spearmint leaves, chopped and sprinkled on its meal. Mints are high in vitamins A and C as well as providing a good source of fiber. Mints are easy to grow in the garden or in a pot so you can grow your own to maintain a fresh source.
Rosemary (Can be served once per week.)
Fresh rosemary is a great source of fiber for your beardie that will benefit its digestive system. Rosemary also has a good calcium:potassium ratio and is a good source of vitamin C.
Thyme (Can be served once per month.)
There are a lot of different varieties of thyme on the market, many grown for their ornamental value. Stick with a culinary thyme for your bearded dragon. Thyme is a good source of vitamins C and A. Strip the fine leaves from the stem and sprinkle them on a salad or other meal.
Fennel (Can be served once per week.)
Fennel is a good way to supplement your bearded dragon’s diet with vitamins A, K and C along with potassium, manganese and magnesium. Chop the fine fennel foliage and sprinkle it on a meal.
Herbs and Vegetables You can Grow for Your Bearded Dragon
To learn more about growing these herbs and vegetables for your bearded dragon click on the image for each plant:
Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Mustard Greens (Brassica juncea)
Carrot (Daucus carota)
Basil ‘Italian Large-Leaf’ (Ocimum basilicum)
Arugula, Rocket Salad, Roquette (Eruca vesicaria subsp. sativa)
Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
Sweet Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Cilantro, Fresh Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
Kale (Brassica oleracea)
Broccoli (Brassica hybrid)
English Thyme, Common Thyme, Garden Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Upright Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Plants to Avoid Feeding a Bearded Dragon
In addition to knowing which herbs are good for your bearded dragon, it’s also important to know what herbs should be avoided to keep your bearded dragon safe. While a few of them could be safe in small quantities, it is best to check with your vet or simply avoid these plants (or any others you might be considering) unless you’ve conducted sufficient research to verify what, if any, amount is safe:
- Beet greens
- Wild plants
- Dill leaves
- Bay leaves
Important note: Herbs that are too acidic in nature should be avoided altogether, unless suggested by your vet as an exception.
More Tips for Serving Your Bearded Dragon Healthy, Safe Meals
As we know that bearded dragons are sensitive reptiles, so should owners be sensitive about caring for their nutritional needs. While this gets better with experience, you should have a good understanding of how herbs can be served best. Let’s discuss a few important ones:
Storage of Herbs and Vegetables for Your Bearded Dragon
One of the essential factors to providing your bearded dragon safe, healthy food is food storage. Not everyone gets time to grow their herbs that can directly be plucked and served fresh. Besides, there is a limit to how many they could. It becomes obvious that some or most of the herbs have to be purchased and stored. Here, proper storage becomes an essential consideration.
Herbs should be stored in airtight containers that ensure good sealing to avoid moisture. Also, they should be stored in cool places, away from sunlight or heat, as they will sap the taste and potency. Refrigerators are the best storage options, followed by cupboards. Despite these facilities, herbs should be used quickly.
Cleanliness and Hygiene When Preparing Herbs for Bearded Dragons
Cleanliness includes disinfecting the herbs, especially when purchasing from outside. This can easily be done using mild vinegar and rinsed again later, which helps in effectively disinfecting the herbs. Also, it’s best to avoid purchasing canned or packaged herbs. While purchasing, checking the label for details is a safe and healthy way to ensure usage of the right product.
Moderation and Balance in a Bearded Dragon’s Diet
Serving a proper diet is also about serving the right quantity. A diet should neither be served in a large quantity, nor meager. Moderation is the key. Observe your pet eating its meal to understand whether it leisurely feeds or gulps its meal. If you have more than one bearded dragon, observe whether they are competing for food and eating quickly as a result.
Herbs should serve as 25% of the diet, along with fruits and carnivore diets such as worms, to provide balance of taste and nutrients. If the meal lacks calcium, consider using calcium powder as a supplement. Calcium powder can be sprinkled right on the food. Refer to the product packaging for frequency or check with your vet.
Can you feed bearded dragons herbs all the time?
While there are some herbs that can be fed daily, others are fed occasionally. Herbs are not meant to be served as standalone items, but as a supplement to add variety, nutrition, and taste to a meal.
Can you feed bearded dragons herbs that you personally grow?
Herbs grown personally are the best and safest form of food for your pet. By growing plants yourself, you can ensure that the seeds and soil are free from contaminants such as fungicides or pesticides that could harm your pet. As always, be sure to do your research and confirm with a vet that you’re making good plant choices before investing your time and resources into growing them for your beardie.
Keeping Your Bearded Dragon Happy and Well Fed
While bearded dragons are friendly pets and easy to care for, their sensitive diet demands proper research and attention. You’ll want to ensure a proper balance of a carnivore diet, fruits, and herbs. Besides, it’s also important to know the herbs that are to be avoided. While herbs make up a quarter of your pet’s diet, they contribute greatly to ensuring a happy and healthy pet.
To learn more about growing your own herbs we have compiled a variety of articles on growing, harvesting, and storing herbs. You’re sure to find the information you need to provide healthy, homegrown herbs in, All About Growing and Using Herbs.