How many mealworms can a bearded dragon eat? Well, that is a question I learned the answer to the hard way. When I was a new beardie owner, I over-fed my dragon mealworms and he ended up throwing up. It was traumatic, for both of us. Now, thankfully I have learned and I am here to share my knowledge and experience with new bearded dragon owners!
So, how many mealworms can a bearded dragon eat?
While there is not a set number of mealworms a bearded dragon can eat, there are some general guidelines. In general, adult beardies should only have mealworms once or twice a week, and only about 5-7 per feeding.
While mealworms are a great source of protein, they also have a hard exoskeleton that is hard to digest, hence my aforementioned throw up situation.
It’s best to treat mealworms as a special treat, and not a main meal. For my adult beardie, Bill, mealworms are his favorite snack. He would overeat those suckers all day if he could, and then turn into a grumpy guy with a black beard and vomit them up, unfortunately.
Can baby bearded dragons eat mealworms?
Juvenile bearded dragons can eat mealworms, but it’s best to only feed them the young, small mealworms. These younger mealworms are softer and easier to eat, which helps to avoid digestive programs. You should only feed your baby bearded dragons mealworms one or two small mealworms once or twice per week.
A good rule of thumb: Look at the width between your bearded dragon’s eyes, and only feed them insects (or any other food) that is that size. As they grow, naturally this gets bigger and they can eat bigger bugs.
Nutritional Benefits of Mealworms for Bearded Dragons
Mealworms can be a nutritious addition to a bearded dragon’s diet, providing essential nutrients that support their health. However, it’s important to note that mealworms should be offered as part of a balanced and varied diet. Here are some nutritional benefits of mealworms for bearded dragons:
- Good Source of Protein: Mealworms are rich in protein, which is crucial for muscle development, growth, and overall body function in bearded dragons. Providing mealworms as an occasional snack can help ensure your beardie gets the amount of protein they need.
- Amino Acids: They contain essential amino acid chains that contribute to the formation of proteins necessary for various physiological processes.
- Healthy Fats: Mealworms provide healthy fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are important for skin health and immune function.
- Calcium: Mealworms are a good source of calcium, which is vital for bone and teeth development. However, it’s essential to maintain a proper calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, as mealworms are also high in phosphorus.
- Vitamins: They contain essential vitamins such as vitamin A, which is important for vision and immune function, and vitamin B complex for energy metabolism.
- Minerals: In addition to calcium, mealworms contain other minerals like magnesium and zinc, supporting various physiological functions.
- High Moisture Content: While not a substitute for water, mealworms do have some moisture content, contributing to overall hydration.
- Chitin: The exoskeleton of mealworms is a source of chitin, which can aid in digestion by promoting gut health and providing a source of dietary fiber.
Despite these benefits, it’s crucial to feed mealworms in moderation and alongside a diverse array of feeder insects and vegetables. This ensures that your bearded dragon receives a well-rounded and balanced diet, preventing nutritional imbalances and promoting long-term health. Always consult with a reptile veterinarian or specialist to tailor the diet to your individual bearded dragon’s needs.
Risk Factors of Feeding Mealworms to Bearded Dragons
While mealworms can be a beneficial part of your pet’s diet, there are also potential risk factors associated with feeding them. It’s important to be aware of these risks to ensure the health and well-being of your bearded dragon. Here are some potential risk factors:
- High Phosphorus Content: Mealworms have a high phosphorus content compared to calcium. An imbalance in the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio can lead to metabolic bone disease (MBD), causing issues with bone development and overall health. In short, too much phosphorus is bad!
- Chitin Content: The exoskeleton of mealworms contains chitin, a tough, indigestible substance. In excess, chitin may be difficult for bearded dragons to digest and could potentially lead to impaction.
- Limited Nutrient Diversity: Relying solely on mealworms as a primary food source can result in a lack of nutrient diversity. Bearded dragons require a varied diet to meet all their nutritional needs.
- High Fat Content: Mealworms are relatively high in fat. While healthy fats are essential, excessive fat intake can lead to obesity in bearded dragons, causing health problems.
- Risk of Allergies: Some bearded dragons may be allergic or sensitive to certain components in mealworms. Allergic reactions could manifest as digestive issues, skin problems, or respiratory difficulties.
- Parasite Risk: Mealworms purchased from unreliable sources may carry parasites that can be transmitted to bearded dragons, causing gastrointestinal problems and other health issues.
- Overfeeding: Feeding too many mealworms can lead to overfeeding, resulting in obesity and related health issues. It’s important to control portion sizes and monitor the overall diet.
- Potential for Impaction: Insects with tough exoskeletons, like mealworms, pose a risk of impaction if not properly chewed and broken down. This can lead to blockages in the digestive tract. The hard outer shell is especially dangerous for young bearded dragons, who are at greater risk of intestinal blockage.
- Inadequate Hydration: While mealworms contain some moisture, they are not a substitute for water. Depending solely on mealworms may contribute to dehydration if not accompanied by a proper water source.
To mitigate these risks, it’s crucial to provide a balanced and varied diet for your bearded dragon. This should include a mix of different feeder insects, vegetables, and fruits. Additionally, always ensure that the insects you feed are appropriately sized for your bearded dragon’s age and size. Regular veterinary check-ups can also help monitor your pet’s health and address any potential issues.
Overall thoughts on feeding mealworms to bearded dragons
As a general rule, think of mealworms as more of an occasional treat, and less of a staple insect for a bearded dragon diet. Be sure to pay attention to the size of the mealworm in comparison to your beardie, and only feed a juvenile beardie small mealworms occasionally. Be sure to balance your beardie’s diet with lots of fresh veggies, leafy greens, some fruit, and a main protein source like crickets. When fed as a snack, mealworms can be a great part of a balanced diet for a bearded dragon.