how many mealworms to feed a bearded dragon

How Many Mealworms to Feed a Bearded Dragon

Written by: Annemarie Dutton
mealworms

Mealworms are some of the most popular feeder insects for reptiles and amphibians and among the easiest to raise and care for. In addition, these little critters are highly nutritious for bearded dragons, other lizards, and frogs. 

However, it is essential to know just how many mealworms to feed your bearded dragon.

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms?

Bearded dragons can eat mealworms, although it is best to feed them in limited quantities and in moderation because mealworms are high in fat and phosphorus relative to protein and calcium – so there are better options. 

However, excessive feeding of mealworms can lead to excess weight gain and other health complications. Equally, you should never feed mealworms to bearded dragons under 18 months old, as only adult ones can digest mealworms properly.

How Many Mealworms Can You Feed A Bearded Dragon?

Mealworms can be a delicious treat for your bearded dragon. When your beardies reach the juvenile stage (5 to 18 months), it is safe to feed them mealworms. 

However, despite the nutritional benefits of mealworms, it is highly recommended that you regulate the number of mealworms you offer your bearded dragon to avoid creating obesity and appetite problems in your reptile pet.

Adult bearded dragons should eat 5 to 6 mealworms in a single weekly feeding session. For juvenile bearded dragons, provide a maximum of two mealworms 1-2 times a week and use them only as a treat rather than the main meal. Pregnant lizards can eat a little more because their bodies demand more food than usual.

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Can Baby Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms?

Baby bearded dragons should not eat mealworms. Mealworms are beetles in their larvae form. One of the defining characteristics of the beetle is its hard exoskeleton.

Their larvae may not look like it, but their exoskeleton is tougher. Baby bearded dragons lack the digestive capability to break down these tough bugs. Eating these may lead to choking, impaction, or, in worse cases, death.

Nutritional Information of Mealworms

Mealworms consist of the following:

  • 63 % moisture
  • 19 % protein
  • 1 % ash
  • 14 % fats
  • 3 % carbohydrate

Bearded dragons love the higher fat content and the moisture content in mealworms, but this same higher fat content is almost as much protein as the mealworm has.

This is not a good ratio and means if you feed a bearded dragon a diet of mealworms, it will quickly become overweight and malnourished from the dietary imbalance.

To counter this, you should always dust the food with a calcium supplement.

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Benefits of Feeding Bearded Dragons Mealworms

When offered to beardies in the right amount, Mealworms can have significant positive results.

Mealworms are rich in moisture.

Bearded dragons are typically desert animals, and therefore they do not need large amounts of water to survive. They get most of their water content from vegetables and foods such as mealworms. Mealworms contain 62% water which means that your beardies will be sufficiently hydrated.

Mealworms are rich in protein.

Protein aids in the growth of bearded dragons. When they are younger, they need more of it and thus may exhibit a high appetite for insects.

Proteins are typically made up of amino acid chains and are vital building blocks for bearded dragons. Proteins are crucial when developing muscles, antibodies, and enzymes, especially in juvenile bearded dragons.

The amount of protein they get in the earlier stages of life determines the full size of your bearded dragon. Therefore, selecting mealworms for their protein content is the right decision. Protein selection determines the health and lifespan of a bearded dragon.

Mealworms are a great source of fat.

Fat in mealworms directly contributes to energy production for beardies. While too much fat may cause obesity, a balanced amount helps dragons stay active. The more engaged they are, the leaner they get – due to exercise.

Lack of fat content in foods can lead to underweight problems, lethargy, and a lack of motivation for beardies to move around their environment.

Risks of Feeding Mealworms to Bearded Dragons

Mealworms have hard shells. The tougher exoskeleton makes it harder to digest for bearded dragons (especially babies).

It also makes it more difficult to bite and chew, so mealworms should only be used as a treat.

Large amounts of mealworms in a beardy diet can lead to obesity. However, if your bearded dragon is pregnant, you can spoil her by increasing the number of worms by just a bit as their bodies demand more food than usual.

If your beardie is not eating mealworms, it may be due to the following:

  • Poor terrarium conditions, e.g., low temperature
  • Sickness
  • Shedding
  • Impaction
  • Stress
  • Parasite attack
  • Brumation

Try mixing mealworms with veggies and other insects that your beardie loves. If these don’t work, consider visiting the vet.

Conclusion

Mealworms are a treat for a bearded dragon and should only be eaten in small amounts. However, juvenile bearded dragons may eat more as long as the mealworms are small enough to be safely consumed. Baby bearded dragons should never be fed mealworms.

Continuously research any different food you want to incorporate into your bearded dragon’s diet.  Sometimes the food that seems the safest can have risks involved.  If unsure, please contact your vet for advice.

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