A healthy diet can help reduce certain health complications, such as obesity and diabetes. As humans, part of a healthy diet involves eating various foods – a mix of carbs, proteins, fats, fruits, and vegetables. Food variety is essential, mostly because different foods contain different nutrients.
Bearded dragons are no different. They need a varied diet, and fortunately, there are plenty of edible options that can benefit them nutritionally. We know crickets are a popular protein source for them. But hey! Eating the same type of food can turn out to be boring.
Worms, such as butterworms, have a high protein content, and this is highly beneficial for bearded dragons. For instance, baby bearded dragons need extra protein to build muscles and healthy bones. Feeding worms can spice things up in the bearded dragon’s diet. This article will walk you through the best worms for bearded dragons.
What’s an ideal diet for a bearded dragon?
Bearded dragons are omnivores. They eat various insects, plants (vegetables, flowers, weeds, and fruits), and the occasional rodent (such as mice).
In the wild, bearded dragons eat a lot of insects, which is not a cause for concern since they are very active- they can climb trees, hunt down prey, etc. But as domesticated pets, they can be quite sedentary. So, as a pet owner, it’s up to you to provide a healthy and appropriate diet to keep your pet healthy.
Baby bearded dragons, or hatchlings, need to eat a diet that consists of 80% insects and 20% plants. For juveniles, their diet should be 50/50. While for adults, their diet should be 80% plants and 20% insects.
Let’s talk about worms
Worms are not nutritious enough to be part of the staple diet of bearded dragons. They contain high-fat levels or incorrect calcium to phosphorus ratios. If bearded dragons eat too many foods with high-fat content, they may become obese, which can strain their hearts and other organs.
Bearded dragons need to eat foods with high calcium content and low phosphorus. They use calcium to digest phosphorus. Therefore, if they lack sufficient calcium, they can use the calcium from their bones. Too much phosphorus can prevent calcium from being absorbed.
As a result, worms should only be fed as treats rather than as the main food source.
The 8 best types of worms for bearded dragons
Bearded dragons are not picky eaters. So, they can eat just about any insect, no matter the toxicity. But if you want to feed your pet the best worms, here’s a list of the worms we recommend.
Butterworms are the larval stage of the Chilean moth. They are typically small and can grow up to 1 – 1.5 inches long. Their bright color (orange-yellow) makes them enticing to your beardie.
The nutritional value of butterworms is as follows:
- Moisture: 60.2%
- Protein: 15.5%
- Fat: 29.4%
- Fiber: 1.4%
- Ash: 0.8%
- High moisture content to help with hydration.
- Excellent protein source.
- High in calcium.
- They smell and taste great.
- High-fat content.
- They need to be kept dry. They can die if they get wet.
These are a type of caterpillars that can grow as big as 3 – 4 inches long. They are bright green.
Hornworms are packed with protein, moisture, and calcium, which makes them great feeders. Here’s their nutritional information:
- Moisture: 85%
- Protein: 9%
- Fat: 3%
- Fiber: 1%
- Ash: 1%
- Calcium: 46.4mg/100mg
- High in protein.
- High water content.
- High calcium content.
- Low in fat.
- Soft exoskeletons.
- They can be pretty active and activate bearded dragons’ hunting instincts.
- They can grow too big too quickly, making them a choking hazard.
- The high water content can cause diarrhea.
- They are a bit too expensive.
Mealworms are the larval stage of a darkling beetle that can be a great addition to your adult bearded dragon’s diet. They have a golden color and a chitinous exoskeleton.
Mealworms are easy to store and can last up to 45 days in the refrigerator, but should be thawed a bit before giving your pet.
Their nutritional content looks like this:
- Moisture: 62%
- Protein: 20%
- Fat: 13%
- Fiber: 2%
- Calcium: 13.3mg/100mg
- They are easy to source and affordably priced.
- Packed with vitamins A & B for energy, organ functionality, and immunity.
- High protein source.
- They are active and can prompt a hunting response.
- Their chitinous exoskeleton is difficult for juveniles and hatchlings to chew and digest.
- High in phosphorus.
- Low in calcium.
These are caterpillars of wax moths and can grow up to an inch long. They are whitish and have a sweet flavor due to their high-fat content.
Waxlworms are soft and small, making them easy to eat and digest. As a result, they are suitable for all bearded dragons, irrespective of age.
Waxworms can be stored in a cool place for a long time (up to two months).
Let’s take a closer look at their nutritional information.
- Protein: 15.5%
- Fat: 20%
- Calcium: 13.3mg/100g
- A good choice for underweight beardies.
- Low maintenance.
- Good source of protein.
- Their high-fat content can lead to weight gain or obesity.
- Not great as the main food source.
Closely related to mealworms, superworms are also a type of darkling beetle larva. Compared to their cousins, they are much larger (except for giant mealworms). Being larger, superworms have a higher meat-to-shell ratio, meaning they have less chitin per worm.
However, their phosphorus levels are high ( 13 times more than calcium), which can cause health concerns if fed in large amounts.
An interesting thing about superworms is that they can’t go down without putting up a fight. They can bite and even sting sometimes. When handling them, we recommend that you wear gloves or use tweezers. In addition, they can be too aggressive for juveniles and hatchlings who are still learning how to deal with prey.
The nutritional value of superworms consists of:
- Moisture: 58%
- Protein 20%
- Fat: 18%
- Calcium: 177mg/kg
- They can help malnourished beardies add weight.
- Great source of protein.
- Great source of hydration.
- Encourages hunting.
- Low calcium, high fat, and high phosphorus content.
- Hard exoskeleton that can cause gut impaction.
- They can bite and sting.
Silkworms are the larvae or caterpillars of the Bombyx mori moth. They are small creatures that can grow quickly, up to 3 inches long. This makes them an ideal snack for baby bearded dragons. Adult bearded dragons can also eat them but have to eat a lot of silkworms to satisfy them.
Silkworms are packed with protein, calcium, and moisture content. Additionally, they contain other elements such as iron, magnesium, sodium, and B vitamins.
They can be bred in captivity since finding them in the wild can be hard. They only eat mulberry leaves. If they don’t eat mulberry leaves, they could eventually die.
They can be stored at room temperature.
Let’s take a look at their nutritional data.
- Moisture: 76%
- Protein: 64%
- Fat: 10%
- Ash: 7%
- Packed with nutrients.
- Easy to keep and grows quickly.
- Good for adult and baby bearded dragons.
- They only eat mulberry leaves.
Phoenix worms have a small size, with a white body, and are typically about 1 inch long.
They are an excellent source of protein and calcium. They contain a perfect balance of calcium and phosphorus, so they don’t need to be gut-loaded or dusted in supplements.
Regardless of what we said about worms being fed as an occasional treat, you can feed Phoenix worms daily since they have a low-fat content.
They are relatively easy to find, and you can purchase them online or at your local pet store. You can also find them in stores such as Calci worms, Reptiworms, and Nutrigrubs.
Their nutritional content is as follows:
- Moisture: 68%
- Protein: 15.5%
- Fat: 8%
- Calcium: 43mg/100mg
- Good calcium to phosphorus ratio.
- Don’t need to be gut-loaded.
- Easy to breed.
- Easy to digest.
- They’re small. You need a lot of them for an adult bearded dragon.
Earthworms can be a healthy treat for your bearded dragon as long as you feed them in moderation. They are large and can be 1.5 to 8 inches or more in length.
If you are going to feed earthworms to your beardie, we recommend you buy them from a reputable pet shop because they are grown for this purpose. Catching wild earthworms from your backyard might be tempting and cost-effective, but they are likely to contain harmful parasites. Additionally, they might have been exposed to pesticides, insecticides, or other harmful chemicals that could cause health concerns.
This is the nutritional content of earthworms.
- Moisture: 83%
- Protein: 10.5%
- Fat: 1.6%
- Calcium: 444mg/kg
- An alternative source of protein.
- Good source of moisture.
- They might contain harmful parasites like protozoa.
- High water content can cause other digestive issues.
Worms should not be fed as the main protein source for your bearded dragon because they contain a high-fat content and large amounts of phosphorus.
Nevertheless, they can make a great occasional treat and are a great way to diversify your beardies’ diet.
However, only one type of worm can be fed regularly as the main food item – the Phoenix worm, also known as the black soldier fly larvae. It’s packed with essential nutrients to keep your beardie healthy and happy.