Crickets are a staple live food item for many bearded dragons as pets. They provide a good source of protein especially during the growth phase of beardies until they are about 17 or 18 months old. They are also a reliable food source that can be easily found at most pet stores and online at affordable prices. Live crickets also provide a good source of activity for your beardies as their predatory instincts will kick in and they will actively chase or hunt their food.
Though they are a staple part of a dragon’s meal, there are guidelines on how many you should be feeding your beardie as part of a well-balanced and healthy diet that depends on their age and nutritional needs. The cricket’s size should also be taken into consideration to prevent any feeding or digestion issues.
How Many Crickets Should You Feed Your Bearded Dragon?
Baby bearded dragons can be fed anywhere between 25-80 crickets per day, juvenile dragons will eat about 25-60 crickets per day, and adults can be fed about 10-20 crickets per day.
The number of crickets you should feed your bearded dragon depends on its age and activity levels. Babies and juveniles will need to eat more crickets to aid with their growth while adults will transition to a more varied diet with greens, vegetables, and less crickets (or insects).
Bearded dragons will stop eating when they feel full and won’t overeat, unlike dogs or cats. So the number of crickets recommended is usually an estimate. An easier guide to follow would be how frequently you should feed your bearded dragon their crickets per day and how long these feeding sessions should be. A quick guide is given in the table below.
Baby Bearded Dragons
To facilitate healthy growth and development, baby bearded dragons (< 3 months old) should be fed 3-5 times a day. Let them eat as much as they can in 5-10 minute feeding sessions.
Juvenile Bearded Dragons
As juveniles at about 3-12 months, lessen feeding sessions to 2-3 times per day that last about 5-10 minutes long.
Adult Bearded Dragons
As your beardie becomes an adult, you should start to transition it to some greens by lessening the length of your feeding sessions or giving a set number of crickets per session. Adult bearded dragons should eat as many crickets as they like in a 10-15 minute session, once a day (or spaced out during mealtimes).
Bearded Dragon Cricket Feeding Chart
This quick overview highlights a transition period wherein your dragon is still growing and therefore needs more protein but should be weaned off an all cricket diet in preparation to a varied diet with greens and vegetables as adults. Since bearded dragons are omnivores, you will have to transition them into eating greens at about 9 months of age to start getting them used to it. An adult bearded dragon’s diet should be composed of about 80% greens/vegetables and 20% protein.
Should You Feed Crickets To Your Bearded Dragon?
What Kind of Crickets do Bearded Dragons Eat?
There are over 900 species of crickets but the most common feeder insects available for reptiles are:
- House crickets or brown crickets (Acheta domestica)
- Jamaican crickets (Gryllus assimilis)
- Tropical house cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus, also known as banded crickets or Indian house crickets)
- Two-spotted cricket (Gryllus bimaculatus, also known as African or Mediterranean Field crickets)
Cricket Size Guide
Crickets are also available according to their size (and age). It is important to only feed your bearded dragon crickets that are smaller than the space between their eyes to avoid any feeding, digestion, or impaction issues. Crickets are available as:
What Are The Benefits?
Crickets have good nutritional content especially iron, protein, and calcium which is great for bearded dragons especially when they are growing. They have softer exoskeletons (when young) compared with dubia roaches or other cockroaches so they are perfect feeders even for baby beardies.
Crickets also gut load very effectively so it’s easier to provide your bearded dragon with its essential nutrients and vitamins such as calcium and vitamin D3 by feeding the crickets these supplements a day before your dragon’s feeding session.
House crickets are composed of the following below and have 40.7 mg calcium and 295 mg phosphorus per 100 grams.
Crickets also provide a great feeding response from bearded dragons since they activate their predatory instincts and hunt the crickets. This provides a great stimulating activity for your bearded dragon and you’ll be surprised at how fast they can actually move!
Crickets are also easily obtained from most pet stores and online and are an affordable food source for bearded dragons and reptiles alike.
Are There Any Reasons NOT To Feed Crickets?
There are some reasons that may get you to rethink using crickets as live feeders for your bearded dragon but these are certainly not deal breakers.
For your bearded dragon, crickets are not as nutritionally dense as dubia roaches and are also smaller. This means that your dragon will have to eat more crickets to get the equivalent nutritional value of one dubia roach. This really isn’t a problem unless you have an extremely picky bearded dragon or one that has lost its appetite for some reason.
Crickets, like any other live feeder insects can harbor parasites which can affect your bearded dragon. This is why it’s very important to get your crickets from a very reputable source. Also, never feed your dragon any insect you catch from the wild for the same reason.
Crickets can also attack smaller bearded dragons if left in the enclosure for too long and this can stress your bearded dragon out. Make sure you clear out all uneaten food from your dragon’s tank after feeding sessions.
Crickets can be quite noisy and can develop a foul odor. They can also quickly escape and jump away. The noise can also affect reptiles so make sure your cricket bin is far from your pet’s enclosure.
How To Feed Crickets To A Baby Bearded Dragon
Baby bearded dragons, from 0-2 or 3 months (9-11 inches length), will need frequent feedings of a high protein diet such as crickets to help with their rapid growth rates. Crickets provide a good protein source to ensure proper nutrition for your growing beardie, helping them grow healthy and preventing developmental diseases such as metabolic bone disease.
Feed your baby bearded dragon as many crickets as it will eat in a span of 5-10 minutes. With the recommended feeding frequency of 5 times a day, this roughly translates to almost 60-80 crickets per day.
You should feed your baby bearded dragon their crickets at least 3 times up to 5 times a day.
Specific Tips For Baby Bearded Dragons
Feed younger and smaller (1-2 day old) crickets to baby bearded dragons. Since baby beardies will not have a developed bite, they need softer insects for better digestion. Aside from this, baby bearded dragons may not have good hunting skills yet so younger and smaller crickets are better for it. Always remember to only feed insects that are smaller than the space between your bearded dragon’s eyes.
📚 Read More >> How Big Do Bearded Dragons Get?
How To Feed Crickets To Juvenile Bearded Dragons
Juvenile bearded dragons can have lesser feeding sessions per day as they mature into adults. However, as your dragon nears maturity into an adult, between 9-18 months, you should start transitioning into a more varied diet with vegetables and other insects to help it get used to other food items.
Juvenile bearded dragons should be fed as many crickets as they can consume in 5-10 minute feeding sessions. With feeding sessions up to 3 times per day, this translates to about 25-60 crickets a day.
Nearing the end of their juvenile stage, as they become adults, you can start giving a set number of crickets per feeding session (less than what your dragon would normally eat) and then start supplementing with some greens and vegetables. You can also introduce other feeder insects such as dubia roaches and worms as a treat.
Juvenile bearded dragons should have feeding sessions 2-3 times per day.
Specific Tips For Juvenile Bearded Dragons
Juvenile bearded dragons can eat crickets that are a bit bigger. Just keep in mind never to feed your dragon anything bigger than the space between their eyes.
It’s highly recommended that as your young dragon slows down its growth rate signifying that it is almost a mature adult, you start transitioning it to a more varied diet with vegetables. This will make it easier for you to provide a well balanced diet as your bearded dragon becomes an adult.
How To Feed Crickets To Adult Bearded Dragons
Adult beardies need to be fed 80% greens and 20% protein (from insects and/or crickets). They should have lesser cricket feeding sessions per day with longer feeding times.
Vegetables and greens that are great for adult bearded dragons include: collard greens, mustard greens, leafy greens, kale, dandelion, carrots, and many other greens and vegetables. Fruits can also be introduced as treats.
Adult bearded dragons should be fed as much as they can eat in 10-15 minute feeding sessions. This translates to about 10 crickets per day or 20 crickets every other day depending on your feeding scheme.
You should feed your adult beardie crickets once a day or a set number of crickets spaced out during meal times (example: 5 crickets per feeding session, 2x a day).
Specific Tips For Adult Bearded Dragons
Adult bearded dragons need less protein as they stop growing. Their metabolism will also slow down hence the need to transition to a more varied diet rich in fiber and moisture. Greens and vegetables are a great source of nutrients for your adult dragon. Make sure your adult beardie eats a nice salad every day to help maintain its good health.
Top Tips For Cricket Feeding
1. Prevent Impaction
Prevent feeding and digestion issues that may lead to impaction by making sure you use the correct cricket size depending on how big or how old your bearded dragon is. Babies and younger dragons should eat smaller and younger crickets.
In general, the maximum cricket size you should feed your adult dragon should be medium crickets that are about 3 to 3 ½ weeks old (1/2“ to 5/8“ long). These are crickets that still have soft exoskeletons for better digestion. Crickets that are 5 weeks old already have tougher exoskeletons that are harder to digest.
If you use the correct cricket size, you won’t have to worry about their legs (that may have sharp spines) too much but it pays to check now and then to make sure your dragon is safe from impaction risks.
A good way to prevent impaction is alternating your feeder insects (with mealworms, superworms, or roaches) to make sure you don’t feed just one type too much to your beardie. Another is to keep your bearded dragon well hydrated by providing a clean water bowl and giving it regular baths.
📚 Read More >> Bearded Dragon Superworm Feeding Guide
2. Monitor Changes in Behavior or Eating Habits
Crickets are considered safe feeder insects but it is always good practice to monitor any changes in your dragon’s behavior or eating habits to check for any digestion issues. It’s good to monitor their bowel movements as well. Crickets tend to bite bearded dragons if they’re left in the enclosure too long so make sure you clear out all uneaten food after your feeding sessions.
Make sure you provide the correct heating and lighting requirements in your bearded dragon’s enclosure to help with their digestion and metabolism.
3. Using Live Crickets
Live crickets are a great way to entice activity for your bearded dragon during feeding sessions. They will try to hunt the crickets making feeding time a stimulating activity as well.
You can use feeding tongs to place crickets in your dragon’s enclosure. Try to place just a couple or a few at a time so as not to overwhelm your dragon. This will also make it easier for you to keep track of any crickets that may end up hiding in the tank and disturbing your beardie later on. It’s also good bonding time for your and your bearded dragon.
4. Picking the Correct Size
With any insect feeders such as crickets, you should always pay attention to the size you are feeding your bearded dragon. Especially if you have a baby or juvenile bearded dragon with a developing jaw and digestive system.
A general rule is to never feed your dragon anything bigger than the space/length between its eyes. You can buy pinhead crickets from pet stores that are perfect for baby bearded dragons. Medium sized crickets are commonly offered in pet stores as well and are usually the perfect size for juveniles and adults.
5. Clearing Out Uneaten Crickets
It’s best practice to always clear out uneaten food from your bearded dragon’s enclosure after feeding times. This ensures cleanliness and makes sure any uneaten crickets will not disturb or attack your bearded dragon after. The noise these crickets make can also cause your beardie some stress so it’s best to clear them out and keep your cricket bin far from the beardie’s enclosure.
6. Gut Loading and Dusting
Crickets are easily gut loaded with supplements such as vitamin D3, calcium, and other multivitamins to provide your bearded dragon the essential nutrients and minerals needed for its good health. Gut loading is done by feeding your crickets these vitamins a day before your dragon’s feeding sessions. Make sure you don’t go beyond 24 hours after gut loading to feeding your dragon since a cricket’s metabolism is quite fast. After 24 hours, the supplements will have passed through their digestive system making them nutritionally useless for your beardie.
As an alternative, crickets can also be dusted with calcium supplement powders with vitamin D3. Place your crickets in a baggie or a small plastic container, add enough calcium powder to lightly dust your crickets, and give the container a light shake to coat them. Crickets can be dusted right before feeding sessions.
How To Breed Your Own Crickets At Home
Crickets found dead in a box of live ones or any dead bugs you may find elsewhere should never be fed to your dragon. For one, you are unsure of the cause of death and it could be a sickness or a parasite that could affect your dragon.
Dead crickets are also harder to digest since they may have begun to dry out and lose their moisture. They can also harbor bacteria as they start to decompose. Separate and discard any dead crickets you find in your live feeder bin to be safe.
Crickets are a great staple insect feeder for reptiles like bearded dragons. They are readily available from almost all pet stores (online and physical ones) and are very affordable. They also have good nutritional value and are easy to feed to bearded dragons. Just make sure your crickets are the correct size for your bearded dragon to eat and are sourced from reputable breeders and you’re good to go!
Forums on crickets and other insect feeders:Pooping out non-digested cricketsYoung beardie refusing to eat crickets + other tips
Comprehensive list of plants that reptiles can eat:Edible Plants List
An article tackling some feeding myths found online:Fact Vs. Fiction on food for herbivorous reptiles
Informative article on powdered crickets (for consumption):Nutritional value, protein and peptide composition of edible cricket powders
Informative article on the nutritional value of the field cricket:(PDF) Nutritional value of the field cricket (Gryllus testaceus Walker)
Cricket Biology guide from Fluker’s:Fluker’s Cricket Biology Guide