10 Best Greens for Bearded Dragons and 10 Worst

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Would you like to know the best vegetables for a bearded dragon? You are on the right page. We will discuss the best veggies for this critter’s salad mix and the worst to avoid or feed occasionally and sparingly.  

Surprisingly, most of the best veggies for beardies are also what we regularly consume. However, not all vegetables we like or consider the healthiest are ideal for these agamid lizards.

Therefore, knowing which leafy greens are nutritionally appropriate for these reptiles is very important. Also, even with the best types, you should still provide variety and have several kinds in a single serving.

Best greens for bearded dragons
Which are the best vegetables for bearded dragons?

More on the bearded dragon diet

To quickly jog your mind, bearded dragons feed on animals and plant materials in their natural habitats. These reptiles eat mainly invertebrates, small vertebrates, greens, flowers, and fruits.

Some of the animals they feed on include insects, slugs, snails, bird hatchlings, small lizards, and other dead animals. Essentially, they will eat anything they can capture or be able to eat.   

On the other hand, some of the vegetables or plant materials they feed on include dandelion greens, clovers, Xanthosia spp., kangaroo grass, prickly pear, clover, etc.

Similarly, your pet bearded dragons should eat various vegetables, feeder insects, other invertebrates, and small vertebrates. However, you have the option of feeding them balanced, commercial diets.

What makes greens best for bearded dragons?

Bearded dragons can eat over 100 types of vegetables and greens. However, not all these greens and vegetables can form a daily or regular dietary part of these semi-arid and arid reptiles. Some are good for everyday or regular feeding, others occasional.

Here is what makes greens healthiest and not so healthy for your bearded dragons:

1. Nutritional composition

When picking the best vegetables for bearded dragons, consider their nutritional composition. Pick nutrient-dense foods, i.e., rich in vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients such as antioxidants and other nutrients.

However, even if you go for the most nutritious, don’t forget that some nutrients like calcium and vitamin D3 must be supplemented. Diet alone may not provide the required levels.

2. Oxalate levels

Oxalates, including oxalic acids, affect the absorption of some vital nutrients. These nutrients include calcium and, to a lesser extent, magnesium.

Usually, when you feed your bearded dragons with diets high in oxalates, they will bind with calcium in their digestive system. This forms indigestible and insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, which will then be passed through feces.

When this happens, calcium bioavailability goes down. Consequently, oxalates negatively affect the absorption and proper utilization of calcium.

Some studies have shown that vitamin A may lower the effect of oxalates. This happens to a small extent. While more vitamin A seems like a solution to managing high oxalates in some greens, it is not. Why? Because too much competes in absorption with vitamin D3.

Besides binding with calcium, oxalates may also form kidney stones, i.e., insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. These kidney stones may damage your critter’s kidney and shorten its lifespan.

Perhaps the only benefit of calcium oxalate crystals is cleaning the digestive tract as they are passed out. However, their adverse effects outweigh this one benefit.

Therefore, always consider the oxalate levels of any greens and give your bearded dragon only those low to moderate in oxalates.

Some of the vegetables high in oxalates to avoid or minimize include:

  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Parsley
  • Pokeweed
  • Okra

3. Calcium to phosphorus ratio

The calcium-to-phosphorus ratio (Ca:P) is another important consideration when selecting veggies for bearded dragons.

Usually, an ideal bearded dragon diet should have a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio (Ca:P) of 1.5-2:1. However, egg-bound will require a much higher calcium ratio to phosphorus.

Why is the Ca:P ratio important? This ratio is important because calcium and phosphate inversely affect each other. Consequently, too much phosphorus will raise phosphate levels, decreasing blood calcium levels and vice versa.

Low calcium in these reptiles, coupled with other factors like deficiency of vitamin D3 and inadequate UV light, may contribute to hypocalcemia or low calcium in their blood. Usually, vitamin D3 helps absorb calcium, while UV boosts vitamin D3 synthesis.

Also, bearded dragons not getting enough calcium, UVB light, or vitamin D3 may suffer from musculoskeletal disorders and diseases. A common one is metabolic bone disease (MBD).

That is not all. Calcium deficiency may cause secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism, among other issues. Nevertheless, an excessive amount is detrimental to these reptiles, too.

Therefore, when picking the best greens for bearded dragons, choose those with a calcium to phosphorus close to 1.5-2:1 or higher and never lower.

4. Goitrogen levels

Goitrogen levels are the other vital consideration a specific vegetable has. These substances are known to suppress thyroid glands’ proper function marginally.

When thyroids glands don’t function well, your bearded dragons will have symptoms that mimic those caused by iodine deficiencies.

Furthermore, should this pet eat diets high in goitrogens daily, it may suffer from hypothyroidism. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include enlarged thyroid glands, among other health issues, that will need diagnosis and treatment.

Some of the greens high in goitrogens include:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Horseradish
  • Broccoli
  • Bok choy
  • Collard greens
  • Rapeseed
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Rutabagas
  • Mustard greens
  • Spinach
  • Swedes
  • Turnips

However, don’t shy away from giving your bearded dragon some vegetables with goitrogens occasionally or as part of a balanced diet. Just ensure they don’t eat them alone and daily.

Also, you can mix them with veggies low in these compounds. This way, they are unlikely to affect your pet.

5. Tannins

You have seen recommendations on avoiding giving your reptiles foods high in tannins or tannoids. These are nothing other than water-soluble compounds, which can bind with protein and iron in the gut, making them unavailable for absorption.

These tannins give an astringent taste. Also, they make vegetables and fruits turn brownish when bruised.

Why are tannins not good for bearded dragons? Tannins are not good because they bind with vitamin B12, forming a compound that is thought to be cancer-causing. Also, they may damage your reptile’s intestines.

Some foods high in tannins include blueberries, apples, strawberries, grapes, pomegranates, bananas, apricots, and persimmons.

Also, greens (herbs, spices, and vegetables) like rosemary, basil, mint, cloves, thyme, cinnamon, lettuce, rhubarb, and spinach have tannins.

However, if your bearded dragon has a balanced diet, tannins are not likely to be a problem unless you give only greens rich in these compounds.

Lastly, Doneley et al. (2018) note that goitrogens are rarely a problem in reptiles, which & Donoghue (2010) had previously suggested. However, we recommend limiting diets high in oxalates and goitrogens.

6. Some chemical compounds

Finally, some greens have natural toxins such as cyanogenic glycoside, gossypol, photosensitizers, phenolics, and alkaloids. Some are safe and beneficial in small quantities.

However, in large amounts, some of these compounds may be toxic or may cause some cancers.

For instance, in large quantities, parsley may cause photosensitization. This condition is characterized by irritation, pain, redness, and skin swelling. However, in small portions, parsley is healthy and an excellent source of vitamin A.

10 Best greens for bearded dragons

You have a rough idea of our criteria for selecting the best bearded dragon’s greens. We picked nutritious greens that are low in oxalates and goitrogens and with the correct calcium-to-phosphorus ratio.  

Also, we were biased towards vegetables higher in calcium and don’t have tannins or any other chemical compounds deemed dangerous. However, since you dust most diets with vitamin D3 and calcium, we will not emphasize calcium content.

That is not all. We also included some foods with goitrogen if they are very nutritious. Goitrogen may rarely show any effects unless these pets eat only such vegetables. However, under regular feeding, and if you offer a variety of foods, they will not cause any effects.  

So, what are some of the best veggies for bearded dragons?

Here is a summary:

VegetableNutrientsCa (mg)Ca:POxalates in mg (per 100g)
Dandelion greensRich in: Vitamins A, C, E, and K, riboflavin, iron, and calcium.
Moderate in: Thiamine, vitamin B6, calcium, manganese, and magnesium.
1872.8:124.6
Escarole/EndiveRich in: Folate, Vitamin K, manganese
Moderate in: Vitamin A, and B5
521.9:10 (1)
KaleRich in: Vitamin A, C, K, B6, folate, manganese
Moderate in: Thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, E, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium,
2544.6:113
Alfalfa (not sprouts)Rich in: Vitamin K
Moderate in: Vitamin B and C, folate, iron, copper, and magnesium
 5:1Low
Mustard greensRich in: Vitamin A, C, K, folate, and manganese.  
Moderate in: Calcium, potassium, and Vitamin E.  
1152:17.7-10
Bok ChoyRich in: Vitamin A, C, K
Moderate in: Calcium, folate, vitamin B6,
1052.8:11.5  
ArugulaRich in: Vitamin A, B9, and K
Moderate in: vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese,
1603.1:117.1-19.1
WatercressRich in: Vitamin A, C, K
Moderate in: Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, calcium, manganese,
1202:110  
Turnip greensRich in: Vitamin A, C, and K, and folate
Moderate in: Manganese, calcium, vitamin B6, and E
1904.5:150
Prickly pearRich in:  Vitamin C and magnesium562.3:1Variable with age (1)

Let us now discuss a little more about these best ten leafy greens for bearded dragons.

1. Dandelion greens

Dandelion greens, or common dandelion greens (Taraxacum officinale), are a nutritional powerhouse. They are one of the greens bearded dragons eat, even in the wild.

Can bearded dragons eat dandelion greens
Dandelion greens

This vegetable belongs to the aster, daisy, composite, or sunflower family. It is an excellent source of iron, calcium, vitamins A (including beta-carotene), C, E, K, and riboflavin. Also, dandelions contain some thiamine, vitamin B6, calcium, manganese, and magnesium.

Lastly, their calcium to-phosphorus ratio (2.8:1) favors this vegetable. Furthermore, it is an excellent source of calcium (187mg per 100g), and its oxalate levels are not so high, i.e., about 24.6 mg per 100g.

2. Endive/Escarole

Endive (Cichorium endivia) is another excellent vegetable for your bearded dragon. This vegetable, also from the sunflower family, is rich in vitamin K and manganese and moderate in vitamins A and B5.

Can bearded dragons eat escarole
Escarole

Endive has a Ca:P ratio of 1.9:1 and is meager in oxalates, contrary to some older data that claims it is high in oxalates. However, it is not so high in calcium, standing at 52 mg per 100 g, but still an excellent vegetable choice.

3. Kale

Please don’t shy away from kale, a Brassica oleracea cultivar in the cabbage family, because it was initially thought to be high in oxalates. However, recent studies have found this otherwise.

Kale is one of the nutrient-rich vegetables to feed your bearded dragons. It is high in vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, and manganese. Also, it is moderate in thiamin (B1), pantothenic acid (B-5), vitamin E, iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

Can bearded dragons eat kale
Kale

What makes it ideal? Kale has a Ca:P of 4.6:1, which is extremely good. It is also low in oxalic acid, i.e., about 2mg per cup of raw chopped kale (67g), with some sources putting it at 13mg/100g. Furthermore, kale is high in calcium, i.e., 254mg per 100g.

Lastly, it would be best if you didn’t make kale the only vegetable your beardie eats because it is one of the goitrogenic greens.

4. Fresh alfalfa (not sprouts)

Alfalfa or lucerne (Medicago sativa) is another wonderful veggie for your bearded dragons. It is a good source of vitamins B5, C, K, and folate. Furthermore, it is high in iron, copper, magnesium, and essential amino acids.

Can bearded dragons eat alfalfa
Alfalfa

More reasons to feed these reptiles alfalfa is its high calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of about 5:1 and negligible oxalates.

5. Mustard greens

Mustard greens (Brassica juncea) is another excellent vegetable you should feed your bearded dragons because it is nutritious and has considerable calcium (115mg per 100g)

This vegetable is rich in manganese, vitamins A, C, K, and folate. Also, it is moderate in calcium, vitamin E, and potassium.

Can bearded dragons eat mustard greens
Mustard greens

Don’t worry about the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio because it stands at 2:1. Additionally, this veggie is low in oxalates, with about 7.7 mg per 100g.

Unfortunately, mustard greens have goitrogens like any other cabbage, mustard, or crucifer family Brassicaceae. However, this should not worry you unless you intend to feed these pets exclusively on mustard greens, which isn’t recommended. 

6 Bok Choy

Bok Choy, Pok Choi, pak choi, pichay, or petsay (Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis) is another good vegetable that your bearded dragons can have. This Chinese cabbage type is rich in vitamins A, C, and K and has considerable calcium, folate, and vitamin B6.

Can bearded dragons Bok Choy
Bok Choy

Its calcium is 105mg per 100g and is very low in oxalates (1.5 mg per 100g). Although it does have goitrogen, don’t worry about it so long as your lizard’s diet is balanced.

7. Arugula or rocket

Arugula or rocket (Eruca vesicaria) is another excellent veggie for these lizards. It has a fresh, peppery taste that is somewhat bitter.

This leafy green vegetable is an excellent source of vitamins A, B, and K and has a significant amount of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese.

Can bearded dragons eat arugula
Arugula

Usually, arugula isn’t very high in oxalates, with some sources quoting 15.1-19.1 mg/100g (2). Also, it is high in calcium 160 and has a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of 3.1:1, making it perfect for your bearded dragons. However, like most cabbage family members, it has goitrogen.

8. Watercress

Watercress or yellowcress (Nasturtium officinale) is one of the crucifer’s family greens for your bearded dragons. This aquatic vegetable is rich in vitamins A, C, and K and is moderate in riboflavin, vitamin B6, manganese, and calcium.

Can bearded dragons eat watercress
Watercress

Furthermore, watercress has 10mg of oxalates per 100g (3). Also, it is high in calcium and has a favorable ratio of phosphorus to calcium, i.e., Ca:P is 2:1.

9. Turnip greens

You can give your bearded dragons some turnip greens or tops as you enjoy your turnips (Brassica rapa subsp. rapa). They will enjoy each bite, too.

Turnip tops are very nutritious, i.e., rich in vitamins A, C, K, and folate. Also, they have moderate amounts of manganese, calcium, vitamin B6, and E.

Can bearded dragons eat turnip greens
Turnip greens

We recommend turnip greens because they have an impressive Ca:P ratio of 4.5:1 and are high in calcium (190 mg per 100g). Despite being slightly higher on oxalates (50mg/100g) and having goitrogens, please don’t avoid this veggie.

10. Prickly Pear

Prickly pear (Opuntia) is a genus in the cactus family whose pads are a delicacy in various parts of the world, including in Mexico (nopales).

Your bearded dragons can also eat this cactus pad. These critters even eat this plant while in the wild. However, if we were honest, it is not the most nutritious, so we listed it last.

Can bearded dragons eat prickly pear
Prickly pear

Prickly pear is high in sodium and moderate in vitamin C. Its Ca:P is 2.3:1, calcium is 55 mg/100g, and oxalate content varies with age.

Finally, when feeding prickly pear to your bearded dragon, remove any prickles. Alternatively, you can peel it and cut it into small pieces.

10 Worst greens for bearded dragons      

We have seen some of the best greens for bearded dragons. Let’s look at the worst vegetables, including those that are toxic or poisonous to your reptile.

VegetableWhy it is not suitable for bearded dragons
Scallions, green onions, spring onions, and leeksBreaded dragons shouldn’t eat green onions, scallions, leeks, or any onion type, including garlic, because they have some toxic compounds, i.e., disulfides and thiosulphates. These compounds are detrimental to your lizard’s health.  
Tomato plantTomato leaves, flowers, stems, and unripe fruits are high in solanine, a steroidal alkaloid saponin with a bitter taste, and tomatine, a glycoalkaloid. Both these two will harm your bearded dragon’s health.
EggplantEggplant fruits and plants have alkaloids such as solanine, which are toxic to reptiles and other animals when consumed in large amounts.
Elephant’s Ears or TaroLike many other plants in the Araceae family, taro leaves have insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. These crystals are associated with severe mouth irritation and gastrointestinal tract, i.e., numbing, burning, or an itching sensation.
Iceberg lettuceDon’t feed iceberg lettuce to bearded dragons because it is deficient in nutrients, i.e., it is mostly water. Also, excessive amounts may cause diarrhea and will not benefit these pets.
Potato plantIt has solanine like the tomato, eggplant, and other nightshade family plants. Don’t feed your reptiles green potatoes or potato plants (leaves, flowers, or stems).
RhubarbBearded dragons shouldn’t eat rhubarb because it has very high oxalate levels ranging from 570–1,900 mg per 100g, with leaves having the highest concentration.
SpinachSpinach is very high in oxalates, about 656-970mg per 100g. However, being exceptionally nutritious, you don’t have to exclude it altogether. Instead, allow your bearded dragons to eat spinach sparingly. 
Swiss ChardIt has high oxalate levels, about 700mg per 100g. Allow bearded dragons only to eat Swiss chard rarely.
Beet greensBeet greens have high oxalate levels (610mg per 100g). Only feed beet greens to bearded dragons as a rare vegetable
PurslaneAlso known as duckweed, little hogweed, or pursley, this vegetable is very high in oxalates, standing at about 1200-1300 mg/100g. Don’t give purslane to your bearded dragons.

Tips for feeding vegetables to bearded dragons

Veggies are an essential part of the bearded dragon’s diet. However, how much vegetables, including leafy greens, flowers, herbs, and other plants that bearded dragons should eat depends on their age.

Usually, juveniles and baby bearded dragons will eat less and adults more. For instance, adults can eat up to 80% of vegetables, while babies eat as little as 20%.

Here are more general tips for feeding vegetables to your bearded dragons:  

  • Lightly spray or dust them with calcium and vitamin D3. How often you dust greens with vitamin D3 or calcium depends on age. Growing youngsters need more often dusting than adults.
  • Offer your bearded dragon salad mixes of several vegetables and keep varying the greens you offer. No one vegetable is good enough, and each does have different nutrients. Mixing and varying will ensure your reptiles get all the nutrients they need.
  • Always offer your bearded dragon raw vegetables and not cooked ones.
  • Bearded dragons can eat frozen, dried, or canned vegetables. However, frozen greens should naturally thaw first before you offer them. If in cans, ensure they don’t have any additives and, if dried, wet them well first.
  • Chop or slice vegetables into small pieces to make eating more manageable.
  • Invest in a good feeding dish like Fluker’s Food/Water Reptile Corner Bowl or Zoo Med Reptile Rock Food Dish if you use loose particulate substrate like sand. This will prevent substrate ingestion as they eat. Too much ingestion of such substrate may cause GI blockages.
  • Remove any uneaten vegetables after 3-4 hours, and don’t leave them overnight or for a long time since they may begin molding.

References

  • Doneley, R., Monks, D., Johnson, R. & Carmel, B. (2018) Reptile Medicine and Surgery in Clinical Practice. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Stahl, S., and Donoghue, S. (2010) Nutrition of Reptiles. In: Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, et al., editors. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition. Topeka (KS): Mark Morris Institute pp 1237-1249.

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