If you own a bearded dragon, then naturally you are going to have some questions about suitable foods to offer them. But what about lettuce? Is this a healthy food to provide and are there any benefits of including it in your beardies diet? I decided to do some research into the nutritional profile of this leafy vegetable, whether it has a place and if you should be looking to offer it. I would like to share what I found here today.
So, can bearded dragons eat lettuce? A bearded dragon should not eat lettuce. This is because lettuce has very poor nutritional value and is very high in water which can cause bloat, digestive distress, and diarrhea if consumed. It also can also make your bearded dragon full and displace other nutritious foods in the diet. While feeding very small amounts of lettuce to your bearded dragon is not likely to harm them, there are no real benefits in doing so. There are more suitable, health-promoting vegetables that should offer.
Bearded dragons are omnivores and enjoy a varied diet.
In fact, research has suggested that they do best with a diet of 50% plant and 50% animal-based matter.
For this reason, typical foods owners give a bearded dragon include insects, non-citrus fruits, and vegetables.
The diet of these reptiles is crucial for keeping them active and healthy.
Feeding your bearded dragon can seem daunting in the beginning, and naturally, you will have lots of questions regarding what they can and can’t eat.
Let us now take a closer look at lettuce in particular. We will be covering why it is not the best food for your beardie along with some practical alternatives.
Why Shouldn’t You Feed A Bearded Dragon Lettuce?
When you research the nutritional needs of a bearded dragon, you will often find recommendations for vegetables – particularly of the green leafy variety. You then naturally tend to think of lettuce.
As it is so easy to acquire and relatively cheap to buy; it can even make us think that we should be including it in our beardies salad bowl on a daily basis.
However, by looking at the nutritional breakdown and the views of many reptile nutritionists and experts, you soon begin to realize this is probably not the best idea.
As mentioned above, lettuce is poor nutritionally. In fact, there is not much in terms of vitamins and minerals that it even provides.
Take a look at the nutritional breakdown of 1 outer leaf of green lettuce (24g) which would be an appropriate serving size for a beardie:
|Vitamin C||2.21 mg|
|Vitamin A||1780 IU|
|Vitamin E||0.05 mg|
|Vitamin K||30.3 µg|
As you can see, lettuce contains no real energy, the protein is of an inferior type, and it is generally very low in important minerals and vitamins. For example, Vitamin D which is very important for beardies is 0.
Taking it a step further, if your bearded dragon eats enough lettuce, it could very likely end up having diarrhea, leading to further health complications.
Lettuce has a high water content with little room for other nutrition. As the table above shows, lettuce is almost entirely water; In a 24g leaf, 23g of it is water! And your beardie does not need or want too much of it.
Bearded dragons have tiny stomachs and can become full quickly. Filling them up with foods that offer little nutrition can restrict their growth and damage their health.
You must take extra care with young bearded dragons as they grow at a fast pace and need plenty of nutrition. This is generally why they require more protein-rich foods and have an instinctual preference for being more carnivorous; doing better with more insects within the diet.
Additionally, lettuce contains very little calcium, which is one of the essential nutrients for these reptiles.
A lack of calcium in their diet can cause metabolic bone disease as well as other health complications.
The only good thing going for lettuce (regarding bearded dragons) is that it’s low in sugar.
Sugar can cause lots of problems for these reptiles as they love their fruit and tend to overeat it when given to them freely.
All in all, while feeding a small serving of lettuce here in there should not cause any issues – there are no real benefits in offering it.
In other words, it does not earn its place against other nutritionally balanced foods.
Lastly, it’s also important to note that there are different lettuce varieties. Iceberg, Butterhead, Cos, and Romaine are perhaps the most popular (in order of least preferable to most preferable).
While they all do have a different nutritional profile, with Romaine offering more calcium than the other varieties, it is a minimal increase and all types of lettuce are not considered an optimal food.
Ultimately, if you did decide to offer a small amount, you must ensure that you source an organic romaine lettuce head.
It’s very important that you do not offer leaves that contain pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals.
Otherwise, you are just doing more harm than any good whatsoever.
What Vegetables Should My Bearded Dragon Eat?
Establishing that bearded dragons should not eat lettuce is good information to have, but let’s move on and look at what vegetables you should feed your bearded dragon. Aside from insects, bearded dragons need vegetables, including greens in their diet.
- Acorn squash
- Artichoke heart
- Bell peppers (raw)
- Yellow squash
- Boc Choy
- Swiss chard
- Mustard greens
You can feed your bearded dragon plants as well as vegetables. Many of the plants mentioned below are wild and very easy to find anywhere.
Vegetables were not always an option, so certain plants became integral to the diet of these reptiles.
Let’s look at a selection of safe herbs and other plants:
- Dandelion greens
- Rose petals
How To Prepare Vegetables For Bearded Dragons
If your bearded dragon has a favorite vegetable, you can offer it to them in a variety of ways.
These include mashing it, finely chopping it, or spreading it over other vegetation.
Before mashing and chopping, make sure that any vegetable you feed your pet is thoroughly washed to remove any pesticides or dirt on the surface.
You can mix finely chopped vegetables in with insects to encourage curiosity and movement; you can also tie up whole leaves in a bunch and suspend them from the top of their habitat.
Your bearded dragon can pick at the leaves; it’s an excellent way for them to eat greens more naturally, and it’s a lot of fun for them.
Feed Your Bearded Dragon Planted Vegetables
Many bearded dragon owners like to offer their pets, vegetables live and growing in a tray.
This way of feeding your dragon is an excellent way of encouraging natural grazing and feeding habits. This is easy to do with certain plants like basil, dandelions, grass, clover, and other edible plants. Consider growing several trays of vegetation for rotation to allow them to regenerate and maintain good hygiene.
Avoid using chemical fertilizers as it results in high nitrate content for your plants. It’s also not environmentally sound.
Consider taking your bearded dragon out to your garden to choose from the selection of edible plants growing well, make sure the roots of the plants are well established to prevent them from being pulled up completely and consumed with the soil attached.
With this method of feeding your bearded dragon variety is crucial. It provides excellent fresh food as well as environmental enhancement.
Hand Feeding Your Bearded Dragon
Hand-feeding your bearded dragon is a great way to feed them when they’re young, but it’s not ideal to continue this practice for the long term.
You can hand-feed your pet by putting vegetables in a worm. Your bearded dragon will take the vegetables as well as the worm. Feeding tongs provide some protection when hand feeding your bearded dragon as they can bite your hand. You can wave food in front of your bearded dragon to encourage him to eat.
Factors To Consider Before Preparing Food For Your Bearded Dragon
When looking to offer and prepare food for your bearded dragon, its important that you take into account some of the following considerations:
- Baby bearded dragons are not omnivores and require a good selection of insects before they reach pre-adulthood. Juveniles begin eating vegetables and greens, and this is what they mostly eat as adults.
- If your pet’s food contains too many powdered vitamin supplements, it can put your bearded dragon off as vitamin and calcium supplements are not palatable.
- Your bearded dragon’s environment needs adequate warmth and lighting, as it can impact behaviors like feeding.
- It is better to use wide and shallow dishes to feed your bearded dragon as deep dishes can make it hard to see food from a distance.
- Healthy adult bearded dragons don’t require a lot of food or daily feeding. Being fed too much can turn your pet into a picky eater.
We now know you should avoid feeding lettuce to your bearded dragon – it is almost exclusively water with very little nutritional value.
It’s not good for a beardies small stomach that should instead, be filled with as much nutrition as possible.
Lettuce simply displaces other, more appropriate foods in the diet. So if you do decide to feed it, do so sparingly and in limited serving sizes.
It’s also best not to feed it alone; and mixed into other, more nutritious foods.
As omnivores, bearded dragons can consume many other safe vegetables and plants. But of course, you will equally need to consider how to prepare them.
Ultimately, the key is to provide variety and get to know your bearded dragon and its preferences. From there, with a little education about the best foods; your reptile can live a long, happy, and healthy life.
Bearded dragons should not consume Iceberg lettuce. They do best without it in their diets and it can do more harm than good. It’s the most nutritionally inferior lettuce variety, almost predominantly water, and is, therefore, most likely to lead to digestive upset. It has little to no calcium or other nutrients.
Bearded dragons should not eat Butterhead lettuce. It’s similar to Iceberg lettuce being a very nutritionally poor vegetable, high in water, and with little to offer and benefit a beardie.
Bearded dragons should not eat Cos lettuce. It’s slightly more nutritious than Iceberg and Butterhead lettuce varieties but still is considered to be low nutrition to be health-promoting and too high in water which can lead to digestive issues.
Bearded dragons should not eat much if any Romaine Lettuce. While it is slightly more nutritious than other lettuce varieties (e.g. Iceberg), with more calcium – it is still considered nutritionally poor and not beneficial for a beardie to eat.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.