You may have heard some mixed information about feeding citrus fruits to your bearded dragon. Should they be avoided altogether? Are they safe sometimes? How about oranges? As an excellent source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, they’re a sweet, tangy snack that’s hard to resist. Should you share a slice with your beardie? Can bearded dragons eat oranges? Let’s find out.
Can Bearded Dragons Have Oranges At All?
Despite their nutritional value, oranges—like all citrus fruits—can be pretty dangerous for bearded dragons. Here’s a deeper look at why:
Oxalic acid. Oranges and other citrus fruits have quite a lot of oxalic acid. Basically oxalic acid binds with calcium to create calcium oxalate, which essentially takes calcium away from the body. Metabolic bone disease (MBD) is often the result of too much oxalic acid. With this condition, beardies suffer from soft bones, limb deformities, and paralysis. In severe cases the disease can be fatal.
To be clear, in small amounts oxalic acid isn’t usually a problem, as long as your beardie is taking calcium supplements and is on a healthy, balanced diet, but there is too much oxalic acid in oranges to make them safe for your beardie to eat.
High sugar content. In general bearded dragons shouldn’t have a lot of fruit in their diet. This is largely because of the sugar content. Oranges are extremely sweet, and if bearded dragons eat too many, they can suffer from obesity, fatty liver disease, diabetes, and heart failure.
Citric acid. As citrus fruits, oranges contain citric acid. In humans, this acid can irritate the stomach lining and cause heartburn. It can have a similar effect on bearded dragons, irritating their digestive tract and causing diarrhea, which then causes dehydration. As desert animals, bearded dragons are used to being dehydrated, but not this kind of severe dehydration. If a bearded dragon has prolonged diarrhea, he will eventually become unable to properly absorb any nutrients. Long term, as you can imagine, this causes the beardie’s health to slowly but surely deteriorate.
Some Dragon Keepers might give their dragon a piece of citrus fruit now and then (every several months or so), but at the end of the day, you have to decide if you want to take the risk.
You might wonder why bearded dragons can eat tomatoes more frequently than other citrus fruits. Actually, tomatoes aren't citrus fruits; they're part of the nightshade family, and they are safe for your bearded dragon to eat once in a while.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Mandarin Oranges?
Generally mandarin oranges have less acid than regular oranges, so it might seem like they should be safe for bearded dragons to eat. Unfortunately, the amount of acid in mandarins is still enough to be harmful to your dragon’s stomach and digestive system.
Additionally, mandarin oranges have more sugar than regular oranges, making them a delicious healthy snack for people...but not so great for beardies. So ultimately, bearded dragons should not eat mandarin oranges.
On this note, bearded dragons can’t eat clementines either, for similar reasons.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Orange Peels?
You probably won't be surprised to hear that orange peels are not safe for your bearded dragon either. Although they have a lot of calcium, they have oxalic acid and orange oil—neither of which are good for your beardie’s health. Plus, the texture makes them difficult for bearded dragons to eat.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Insects That Have Eaten Oranges?
Some feeder insects that are popular with bearded dragons, particularly crickets and Dubia roaches, love eating oranges. Is it safe to feed your feeder insects oranges? Or will it harm your beardie?
Oranges are actually a great source of calcium for feeder insects. Dubia roaches in particular tend to thrive with some citrus fruits in their diet.
Feeder insects like roaches and crickets digest oranges differently than bearded dragons do. The citric acid is broken down during the digestion process, so it's easier on your beardie's digestive system.
Just make sure you only offer oranges to your feeder insects once or twice a week. Any more than that, and the insects may become too acidic for your beardie.
What Fruits Can Bearded Dragons Eat?
So oranges are off the menu...but that doesn’t mean all fruits are off limits. These fruits are all safe on a weekly basis:
You may not be able to safely feed oranges to your bearded dragon, but there are plenty of other delicious, healthy options that your bearded dragon will love.
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