As a Dragon Keeper, you know greens are very important for your bearded dragon! But in the world of vegetables, there are so many greens. What greens can bearded dragons eat? How do you know which greens are good for them, and which aren’t? And what can you do if your bearded dragon won't eat greens?
To make things simpler for you, we’re providing two lists here: a list of some of the best greens bearded dragons can eat on a daily basis, and a list of greens they can eat a little less frequently. We’ve highlighted some perks and pitfalls for each green, and included each calcium to phosphorus ratio for your reference.
Best Greens for Bearded Dragons
The following factors play an important role in determining what greens bearded dragons can eat and how often:
Overall nutritional value. The best greens for bearded dragons are the most nutrient dense.
Calcium content. Bearded dragons need calcium to grow and thrive. Greens with a lot of calcium are a vital part of your pet’s diet.
Calcium to phosphorus ratio. Phosphorus prevents calcium absorption, and calcium deficiency can cause metabolic bone disease in bearded dragons.
Oxalates. Like phosphorus, oxalates interfere with calcium absorption. A diet high in oxalates can cause metabolic bone disease.
- Goitrogens. Too many goitrogens can cause thyroid problems in bearded dragons.
If a leafy green vegetable is nutrient dense, high in calcium, and low in phosphorus, oxalates, and goitrogens, it’s a winner.
Best Greens Bearded Dragons Can Eat: Daily Staples
The following is a list of greens that bearded dragons can eat on a daily basis. These greens offer a variety of textures and flavors, allowing you to make each salad an exciting treat for your dragon.
Daily Staple Greens for Bearded Dragons:
- Cactus pad, or prickly pear (2.3 to 1). This desert delicacy is high in calcium and rich in antioxidants, fiber, and Vitamin C. To serve it, carefully slice away the outer thorned coating and cut the inner flesh into small pieces.
- Collard greens (14.5 to 1). One look at the stunning calcium to phosphorus ratio tells us collard greens are a great source of calcium for your bearded dragon. They are also rich in Vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as fiber and folate.
- Dandelion leaves (2.8 to 1). Rich in calcium and Vitamin A, these common yard weeds are actually an excellent addition to your bearded dragon’s salad, as long as they are pesticide-free. Dandelion leaves do contain a moderate level of oxalates, so serve them with collard greens, prickly pear, or another green that is high in calcium.
- Endive or escarole (1.9 to 1). Whether you serve up the crunchy, bitter heart or the dark, curly leaves, endive and escarole both add texture and nutrients to your bearded dragon’s salad, particularly calcium. They do contain a moderate amount of oxalates, so dish them up with other greens that are even more calcium-dense.
- Mustard greens (2.4 to 1). Many bearded dragons find the peppery taste of mustard greens irresistible. Even more irresistible is the fact that they are rich in calcium along with Vitamins A, C, and K. Serve them with collard greens to offset the moderate amount of oxalates and goitrogens.
- Turnip greens (4.5 to 1). Known for their near-spicy flavor, turnip greens are rich in calcium and Vitamins A and C. On the downside, they contain a high amount of oxalates, but the health benefits outweigh the risks if you serve turnip greens with oxalate-free, calcium-rich greens.
Best Greens Bearded Dragons Can Eat: Occasional Staples
The following is a list of greens that don’t quite make the daily list due to phosphorus, oxalates, or goitrogens, but they offer many benefits and can be eaten weekly or every other week, depending on what else is on your dragon's feeding schedule.
- Bok choy (2.8 to 1). Filled with Vitamins A and C, bok choy is a flavorful mixer for your bearded dragon’s salad. It’s also goitrogenic, which is why this veggie doesn’t quite make the list of daily greens.
- Basil (2.2 to 1). Making pesto? Set aside some basil for your bearded dragon. This anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial herb packs Vitamin A and antioxidants in each fragrant leaf.
- Cabbage, green (2 to 1). Although green cabbage is goitrogenic, this crunchy salad mixer contains Vitamin C, fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium, all of which are great for your dragon’s health.
- Cabbage, napa (1 to 0.4). A good source of calcium, Vitamins A and C, and fiber, napa cabbage will give your dragon’s salad a refreshing crunch.
- Celery leaves (1.6 to 1). Celery and its bushy leaves are a great way to get antioxidants, Vitamin C, and hydration into your bearded dragon’s salad. Make sure you chop this veggie extra small to eliminate any possibility of your dragon choking on the stringy stalk.
- Cilantro (1.4 to 1). Fresh cilantro is practically the perfect salad topper for your bearded dragon (without the oxalates, it probably would be perfect!). Aside from being flavorful, cilantro contains antioxidants, calcium, potassium, manganese, and Vitamins A, C, and K. In addition, it has antimicrobial properties.
- Grape leaves (4 to 1). Oddly enough, grape leaves are actually excellent greens bearded dragons can eat. High in protein, Vitamin A, and that all-important mineral calcium, grape leaves can really amplify the health benefits of your dragon’s salad.
- Kale (2.4 to 1). Kale is called “superfood” for a reason. One of the best greens bearded dragons can eat, kale is dense with Vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and calcium. Kale is low in oxalates and is somewhat goitrogenic, which prevents this green from being a daily staple.
- Kohlrabi (1 to 2). As part of the cabbage family, it’s no surprise that kohlrabi is goitrogenic. However, it also offers fiber, protein, Vitamins B6 and C, potassium, and folate, all of which your bearded dragon needs.
- Lemongrass (1 to 1.5). High in fiber and antioxidants with a delicious citrus flavor, lemongrass has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that will help your dragon fight illness.
- Pea sprouts (1 to 4.6). Pea sprouts have a lot of phosphorus, but they also offer Vitamins A and K. So in small quantities, pea sprouts are healthy greens for your bearded dragon.
- Rosemary (4.8 to 1). This fragrant herb is high in calcium and fiber, making it an excellent way to spice up your dragon’s meal.
- Watercress (2 to 1). High in Vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, and manganese, but also high in oxalates, watercress makes a great occasional salad mixer for your dragon.
What to Do If Your Bearded Dragon Won't Eat Greens
There are some bearded dragons who will eat anything you put in front of them. If that sounds like your pet, awesome! If it doesn’t, you are not alone. “My bearded dragon won’t eat his greens!” is one of the most common complaints bearded dragon owners have.
Now, if your bearded dragon is refusing to eat at all, that is also common but could be the sign of stress or a more serious health problem. But if your dragon has a healthy appetite and just doesn’t want greens, it’s unlikely there is a serious problem; many dragons are just picky or don't realize that greens are actually food.
So what can you do if your dragon won’t eat greens?
Evaluate your dragon’s diet. Maybe your dragon is eating too many insects, in which case she is simply not hungry for greens. It’s worth a look at what your dragon eats on a daily basis to determine if you need to offer less protein.
Hide the greens. A popular solution is to mix in favorite fruits or insects with the greens so your dragon accidentally eats the leaves along with the stuff he likes. Berries can be especially helpful with this.
Trial and error. Another method is to experiment with different kinds of greens in an attempt to find one your dragon likes. Collard greens and cactus pad tend to be a huge hit.
Constant exposure. Some owners leave greens in their dragon’s tank all day, replacing them every 24 hours or when they show signs of wilting. This is especially helpful for baby dragons who primarily eat insects and don't realize that greens are edible.
Regardless of the cause, it’s stressful when your bearded dragon won’t eat greens. Our Reptile Greens & Calcium Powder contains crushed collard greens to give your dragon that much-needed boost.
How to Serve Greens to Your Bearded Dragon
Now that you know what greens to feed your bearded dragons, here are some tips for serving them!
Keep it natural. Organic produce is the best for your bearded dragon. It’s free of fertilizer, pesticides, and chemicals that could harm your bearded dragon. If you buy produce that isn’t organic, just remember to thoroughly wash it before serving it.
Keep it small. Chop or slice the greens to make sure they are small enough for your bearded dragon to chew. For tougher veggies like collard greens, it can be very helpful to massage the leaves and remove the stems first. Stringy greens like kale can get lodged in the throat, so be sure to chop them extra small.
Keep it raw. Dragons can and should eat their greens raw. In the wild, bearded dragons wouldn’t eat greens that are cooked, so feeding them raw greens helps keep things closer to their natural environment. Plus, cooking does remove some of the nutrients, and in some foods this makes the oxalates more prominent. Play it safe and dish up those greens fresh, clean, chopped, and raw.
If you have questions or feedback, please email us at [email protected].