Updated: November 14, 2022 by Jennifer Munsell
As a new pet owner, you may have serious concerns about what and how to feed your bearded dragon. This article will help you figure out how many crickets to feed a bearded dragon according to their age.
A bearded dragon’s diet depends on its age group. Babies and juveniles need 80% insect protein and 20% vegetation, whereas adults need the opposite.
These ranges are averages. Every bearded dragon is different and may have a particular taste for crickets, or they could prefer a different protein source like Dubia roaches or mealworms. We’ll guide you through feeding your dragon crickets as well as the various alternative insect protein sources that are appropriate for bearded dragons.
It is always important to understand the why’s and the how’s of feeding a specific item to your pets. This article will detail precisely why crickets are beneficial to a bearded dragon’s diet and why live feeder insects are better than preserved ones.
Continuously purchasing live crickets can become expensive, and breeding your own crickets can be a cheaper alternative. We’ll also help you with how you should keep crickets if you intend to breed them for live feeding.
How Many Crickets to Feed a Bearded Dragon
Depending on your dragon’s size, age, health, and personal preferences, the amount of crickets they will need to eat will vary if you have chosen them as your beardie’s primary source of insect protein. The main indicator of how many crickets your dragon should eat is their age.
Baby bearded dragons (0 to 2 months old) should be fed a protein source, in this case crickets, at least three or four times per day. Babies need to be fed this often because they are growing rapidly. They need the extra energy from the insect protein to satisfy their fast metabolisms, maintain healthy organs, and maximize their growth and lifespan.
They should also be given fresh leafy greens a few times per day to nibble on if they get hungry between feedings. This is important to maintain a balanced diet and to make sure they do not go hungry without jeopardizing their nutrition.
In each feeding, you should allow your baby bearded dragon to eat as many crickets as it wants to in a 10 to 15-minute period. At the end of each day, your baby beardie will have eaten on average as many as 10 to 20 (or more!) crickets. This seems like a lot, but it is actually completely normal, since their metabolisms are so fast at this age.
Juvenile bearded dragons (3 to 8 months old) should be fed an insect protein source two or three times a day. During this time, they are still growing rapidly and need the extra protein in order to maintain a healthy growth rate and support developing organ growth.
As they hit the 6 to 8-month mark, gradually reduce the number of insect protein feedings to two times a day. As adults, this will reduce to once a day.
In each feeding session, you should let your juvenile eat as many crickets as they want within a 10 to 15-minute period. Your juvenile beardie will eat on average 15 to 30 (or more!) crickets a day. Make sure you clear out any uneaten crickets at the end of each feeding.
Once you have decreased their feeding times to two times a day the number of crickets they consume will also decrease to about 10 to 15 crickets a day.
Do not forget to offer them leafy greens throughout the day in case they get hungry and for them to have access to a well balanced diet. Over time, you will need to give them a higher ratio of plant matter and less insect protein as they get closer to adulthood.
Sub-adults (9 to 12 months old) should be fed an insect protein source once or twice a day. Their growth rate is slowing down at this point, so they will need less protein and more vegetation.
During their feeding windows, offer them as many crickets as they want to eat in a 10 to 15-minute period. It is important to start incorporating a wider variety of vegetation in their diet at this point to supplement their nutritional needs.
At this point, your sub-adult bearded dragon will be eating on average only 5 to 10 crickets a day. This amount will decrease even more soon. You should also incorporate other feeders such as Dubia roaches and superworms into their diet to offer them some variety and keep them interested in their food.
Adult bearded dragons have a complete reversal of a baby’s diet ratio. They need 80% vegetation and only 20% insect protein at this point. Your adult bearded dragon will only need a protein feed once every day or two depending on how you set up their schedule.
During their feeding window, offer them as many crickets as they will eat in a 10 to 15-minute period. They should only eat around 5 to 10 crickets every other day or every couple of days, with the rest of their diet being made up of plant matter.
At this stage, their diet is mostly made up of dark, leafy greens, vegetables, other plants and flowers, and a small amount of fruit. It is always a good idea to keep this side of their diet varied and exciting, as there is a wide range of great plant-based foods they can eat.
What Size Should Feeder Crickets be?
Feeding your bearded dragon crickets that are too large may result in them refusing food, choking, or becoming impacted later. Use the distance between your beardie’s eyes regardless of their age as an indicator of how large their food item should be.
The size of any food items you give your dragon should not be larger than the space between their eyes. You can use this as a guide when cutting up their veggies or fruits, too!
How Should I Feed My Bearded Dragon Crickets?
The number of times your bearded dragon needs to be fed depends mostly on their age range. During these feeding times, offer your dragon their live feeders such as crickets in a 10 to 15-minute window. Allow them to eat as many crickets as they want during this time.
Once feeding time is over, it is important to make sure all of the crickets are out of their enclosure. If there are any left behind, they can cause problems and harass your dragon while they’re trying to sleep. If a feeder insect has fallen into the water dish, you must replace the water immediately, as dangerous bacteria can grow very quickly.
Place only a couple of crickets in the enclosure at a time. Do not just dump them all in at once. Keep track of any that are hiding in the corners of the enclosure so you can clean them out at the end of the feeding session.
Keeping track of the crickets is important because it will help you keep track of your beardie’s appetite and alert you to any changes.
Baby bearded dragons need younger and softer crickets because they don’t have a developed bite and cannot break down the tough exoskeletons of older crickets.
Baby beardies do not have a set of good hunting skills yet and may struggle to keep up and catch older crickets. Younger, smaller crickets are not as much of a challenge to a baby beardie.
If your baby is having trouble catching the crickets, you can use a set of tweezers or feeding tongs to pick up the cricket and hold it in front of your dragon’s face until they take it.
Juveniles can eat bigger crickets. However, always keep the size of the cricket in mind and use the space between their eyes as a guide to avoid health problems such as impaction.
Juveniles are quite lively and will hunt down the live crickets with ease. If your beardie is having a problem, feeding them with a pair of tweezers is okay.
Sub-Adult and Adult
Sub-adults and adults can handle larger crickets as long as they are not larger than the width of the space between their eyes. You should avoid crickets that have large spines on their back legs, as they can cause impaction problems.
You should have a set number of crickets you will feed your adult so you can monitor their diet ratio carefully. This number can be anywhere from 5 to 10 a day or 10 to 20 every second day.
You can put your crickets into your bearded dragon’s enclosure to feed them, or you can put your beardie and the crickets in a separate container to avoid mess and keep a careful eye on the number of crickets being consumed.
Breeding Your Own Crickets
Constantly buying live crickets can become quite expensive. Breeding and raising your own crickets can help cut down on costs.
You will need a plastic tub around 12 inches tall x 25 inches long and 15 inches wide to use as a breeding container. This size is large enough to hold 500 crickets.
The best bedding to use in your tub is vermiculite. It is very dry but holds moisture well and is relatively cheap for when you need to replace it. Vermiculite helps with odor control. Fill the tubs to two inches deep with the vermiculite.
Crickets won’t lay their eggs in vermiculite. Their eggs need a humid environment to develop. Fill a small hand-sized container with some topsoil, and place it in the corner of the large plastic tub. Push the egg-laying container down into the vermiculite so that it sits flush against it.
Step 1: Place Crickets in Container
Take your crickets you ordered and place them in your large container. Remember that after the big move from where they came from to you they need to be rehydrated and cared for.
Step 2: Give the Crickets Food
Take some slices of fruit such as tangerines, watermelons, or juicy citrus fruits and place them in the container. This will rehydrate the crickets and give them some nutrition as well. You could place a bowl of water in the container, but the crickets might drown.
Step 3: Let the Crickets Lay Eggs
These crickets will now breed and lay eggs in the topsoil container. Once you are satisfied with the amount of eggs in the container (about seven days), remove it and put it into a new container set up like the first one. Make sure the topsoil is damp to the touch and has a nice dark color. Be careful not to oversaturate it.
Place the container in an area with a stable temperature of around 90°F. You can use a heating pad or light to maintain the temperature.
Step 4: Wait for the Crickets to Hatch
In about seven days, the eggs will hatch, and the process will start all over again.
Be aware: they are noisy and smelly compared to most other feeder insects.
The Cricket Facts
Most reptile owners have a lot of questions about using crickets as feeder insects, how to prepare them, and what other types of feeders they should provide to their beardie.
Living vs. Dead Crickets
Live crickets prompt a predatory response in bearded dragons. This makes feeding a stimulating and satisfying experience for your beardie. Stimulation is important for all kinds of pets. It helps them stay healthy and active and live long lives.
Living crickets also contain necessary moisture that your bearded dragon needs. Living crickets are preferable; however, if you are unable to get your hands on them, you can use frozen, canned, or freeze-dried crickets from a reputable source.
You will have to keep a careful eye on your beardie for signs of impaction and dehydration. Live feeders are nutritionally better for your beardie, and they promote exercise and provide enrichment, too.
Crickets are high in protein, iron, and calcium. Your bearded dragon needs these nutrients to grow and maintain their bodies.
Baby beardies need softer bodied insects that have all of these nutrients. Younger crickets are softer than Dubia roaches and other protein items, which makes them perfect feeders.
Crickets contain a lot of moisture, which helps digestion and prevents impaction, especially in younger bearded dragons.
However, because crickets are smaller than other feeders such as roaches, juveniles and adults will need to eat more crickets than roaches to achieve the same benefit.
You do not always have to feed your bearded dragon crickets. Crickets are safe food items that are easily accessible and relatively cheap. However, just like how you mix it up with your beardie’s vegetable diet, you should also mix it up every now and then with their insect protein diet.
Acceptable feeders include the following:
- Dubia roaches
- Phoenix worms (also known as black soldier fly larvae)
Dubia roaches and Phoenix worms are excellent sources of protein and are easy to digest. These are more expensive than crickets, but they provide far more protein and nutrients. They have enough calcium in them that they do not necessarily need to be dusted in a supplement, but dusting them lightly with calcium still helps if you’re worried your beardie isn’t getting enough in their diet.
Waxworms and butterworms should be offered as treat items only as they are very fatty and too many of them can lead to obesity.
Mealworms have very hard exoskeletons and should only be offered to 18+ month adults. Their exoskeletons will cause impaction in younger bearded dragons. They are not packed with nutrients or protein. Despite their popularity, accessibility, and how inexpensive they are, they will not benefit your beardie’s health that much.
Can you overfeed a bearded dragon?
Yes, you can! Stick to their recommended feeding schedule according to their age range to ensure you do not overfeed your beardie. Overfeeding leads to obesity. Obesity puts strain on a bearded dragon’s heart, liver, and kidneys and can be fatal.
How many crickets should a four-month-old bearded dragon eat?
A juvenile bearded dragon (four months old) should be eating crickets two to three times a day. Offer them crickets or live feeders two to three times a day for 10 to 15 minute periods, and let them eat as many as they want during those short feeding sessions.
They will usually eat anywhere from 10 to 15 crickets a day, though this varies depending on their size and preferences.
Must I feed my adult bearded dragon crickets?
Your adult bearded dragon should get a balanced diet that is 80% plant based and 20% protein. Their protein can be made up of crickets or any other approved protein source such as superworms and Dubia roaches.
Can you feed bearded dragons dead crickets?
You can feed your beardie dead crickets, provided they have been appropriately raised and stored. If the crickets have been freeze dried, frozen, or canned for the specific purpose to feed reptiles, then you can feed them dead crickets. However, you cannot feed them crickets that have died in the container or that you have found outside.
Do bearded dragons have to eat crickets?
Crickets are good live feeders for bearded dragons. Baby bearded dragons benefit from them the most because they have a softer body compared to other feeder insects. However, you should include some variation in your bearded dragon’s protein diet and include other feeders.
What is impaction?
Impaction happens when there is a blockage in your bearded dragon’s digestive tract. An impacted bearded dragon will be unable to pass bowel movements and can quickly become seriously ill. Impaction can be caused by improper sizing of food items, a lack of hydration, or from eating inappropriate food items.
At the Tail End of Things
It is important to know how many crickets to feed your bearded dragon depending on their age range. The amount of protein beardies get will impact their ability to grow, develop healthy organs, and sustain their weight to live a long and healthy life.
Crickets and other live feeders are the best way to include protein in your bearded dragon’s diet to keep them healthy and living a long time.