bearded dragon looking at food

Can Bearded Dragons Survive Without Bugs? [Bugs Are Vital]

Bugs play an essential role in a bearded dragons diet. Bugs are a natural source of protein, which is essential for growth and development. Bugs also provide a good source of fat, which is important for the healthy functioning of their organs and hormones. 

They are also a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Despite the fact that bearded dragons can live without bugs, they shouldn’t be excluded from their diet completely.

The Role of Bugs in a Bearded Dragon’s Diet

Provide Essential Protein and Fat

Bearded dragons require protein and fat to survive, and bugs are an excellent source of both. 

Insects offer essential amino acids and fatty acids, which are necessary for growth and development. Gut-loaded insects, such as crickets and mealworms, provide a rich source of protein and fat, as well as calcium, iron, and other essential vitamins and minerals. 

Hunting For Food is an Instinctual Behavior

Bearded dragons have an instinctual behavior of hunting and foraging for food. This behavior is important to help them stay healthy and active. In the wild, they would hunt for bugs, small mammals, and even some vegetation. 

It is important to provide your bearded dragon with an opportunity to hunt for food, even if it’s only in a controlled environment. You can do this by offering crickets or other feeder insects for your bearded dragon to catch. 

This hunting behavior helps keep your bearded dragon physically active, as well as providing them with mental stimulation.

Natural Source of Fiber, Vitamins, and Minerals

Bearded dragons are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal-based foods, including insects. Insects are an important part of their diet in the wild and should also be an important part of their diet in captivity.

In addition to providing protein, live insects also provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that a bearded dragon needs to stay healthy. For example, crickets contain high levels of calcium, phosphorus, and other essential minerals that are vital for healthy bones and muscle growth. 

Insects like mealworms are also a great source of zinc, magnesium, and other micronutrients that help regulate bodily functions.

Can Bearded Dragons Survive Without Bugs?

Nutritional Deficiencies Caused by a Bug-Free Diet

Without the necessary protein and fat from bugs, bearded dragons can suffer from nutritional deficiencies. 

Protein is essential for tissue growth and repair, for developing strong muscles, and for promoting healthy skin and nails. 

Fat is vital for energy, to keep the immune system functioning properly, and to support healthy organ function. 

Impact on Growth and Development

The lack of bugs in a bearded dragon’s diet can severely impact their growth and development. Without bugs, their growth rate will be reduced, as insects provide essential proteins and fats required for healthy growth. 

Additionally, the lack of vitamins, minerals, and fiber provided by insects can lead to stunted development and improper bone and muscle growth. 

Potential Health Issues

Not only can a lack of bugs in a bearded dragon’s diet lead to nutritional deficiencies, but it can also cause potential health issues. 

Without an adequate source of protein, fat and other essential nutrients, your bearded dragon may become malnourished and weak. As such, they may become more prone to illness and infection. 

Alternatives to Bugs in a Bearded Dragon’s Diet

Cooked Meats

Cooked meats are a great alternative to bugs. Although it is not the same as live prey, cooked meats can provide a lot of the same nutrients that bugs provide. Chicken and fish are two of the best sources of protein for Bearded Dragons. 

Make sure to cook the meat thoroughly, as raw or undercooked meat can contain bacteria that can make your dragon sick. 

Dragons have difficulty digesting seasonings and spices, so you should avoid them. 

If you choose to feed your dragon cooked meats, it’s important to supplement with a multivitamin and calcium powder to ensure your dragon is getting all the nutrients they need.

Commercial Bearded Dragon Food

Commercial bearded dragon foods are available in most pet stores and can be a great supplement to your dragon’s diet.

These are formulated to provide all the essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins that a bearded dragon needs to stay healthy. However, they should not be used as a substitute for live bugs, as they don’t provide the same hunting and foraging experience that is vital for the mental and physical health of your dragon. 

Commercial foods should only be used to supplement your dragon’s diet and should not exceed 20% of their daily caloric intake. 

Be sure to read the labels carefully and choose products specifically designed for bearded dragons.


You should supplement your dragon’s diet with calcium and other vitamin and mineral supplements. This can help to ensure that your bearded dragon is getting the essential nutrients it needs. 

However, it’s important to remember that supplements should never replace the need for live bugs in your dragon’s diet. Even if you are providing supplements, you should still be offering live bugs periodically to get the full benefits of a nutritious diet.

Signs of Malnutrition

Signs of malnutrition in your bearded dragon may include a loss of appetite, weight loss, and a dull coloration. 

If you suspect your dragon is not getting the nutrition they need, you should speak to an experienced reptile veterinarian as soon as possible. Your dragon’s weight and overall health should also be monitored regularly.

How to Slowly Add Bugs Back Into Your Bearded Dragons Diet

If your bearded dragon has gone a while without bugs, it’s important to slowly reintroduce bugs back into their diet. This should be done in moderation. 

Juvenile dragons should be fed full-sized adult crickets, while older dragons may need two or three superworms per week. 

When introducing insects, place them one by one into the tank using tweezers or reptile tongs to avoid being bit. 

Gut-loading these insects with nutritious foods before feeding them to your dragon can help provide essential vitamins and minerals. 

Monitoring your dragon’s activity and appetite can help you ensure that they are getting the right balance of nutrients. 

If you notice any signs of malnutrition, such as weight loss, lethargy, or poor skin condition, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Bullet Point Summary of the Article

  • A bug-free diet isn’t ideal for bearded dragons, as insects provide essential protein and fat, as well as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 
  • Without bugs in their diet, bearded dragons can suffer from malnutrition, growth issues, and potential health problems. 
  • Alternatives to bugs include cooked meats, commercial bearded dragon food, and supplements. 
  • To slowly add bugs back into your bearded dragon’s diet, introduce them one at a time and monitor how your pet reacts to each new insect.