When your bearded dragon stops eating it can be concerning. Your pet can’t tell you what’s wrong and you need to figure it out quickly as, like all living creatures, your bearded dragon needs nutrition to be healthy and survive.
Of course, it would be great if these pets came with a manual when you got them from pet stores, but alas this isn’t the case!
Instead, we’ve come up with nine reasons why your bearded dragon might not be eating so you can try and work out a solution to the problem.
So, if you’re asking “why won’t my bearded dragon eat?”, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll cover the possible reasons for a bearded dragon not eating and give you some ideas to fix it. Remember, if you’re still worried, you can always seek veterinary advice.
Let’s get started.
9 Reasons Your Bearded Dragon Won’t Eat – with Solutions
Reason #1: They’re Feeling Stressed
Have you recently got your bearded dragon? If so, it could be that he or she is stressed by the changes in his life. In this case, simply being persistent and patient is best. You should continue offering food each day, even if it is being refused.
Stress can also be shown through other changes in behavior too: you might see them exhibit biting behavior or their beard might turn black.
Sometimes, a new bearded dragon or one that has been rescued will see you as a predator when you enter their tank. So, even if you’re there with food, they could be scared, which will put them off their food.
In this case, allow them time to get comfortable with you. Let them look at your hand and stroke them (if they’ll allow). Eventually, your beardie will realize you’re not a predator – but it might take some time.
Hand-feeding could be a solution here too.
Stress Caused by Other Factors
If your bearded dragon isn’t new, then you might want to think about other things that could be causing him stress.
Stress can be caused by temperature changes, lighting changes, and even diet. You should aim to check the tank temperature regularly to ensure it’s not too cold or too hot.
This can cause a range of different health problems, including decreased appetite.
Temperatures and Humidity
The daytime temperatures must be in the range of 95 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (in the basking spot). Remember, bearded dragons are cold-blooded and need external sources of heat.
There should be cooler areas away from this space too so they can regulate their body temperature.
At nighttime, the temperatures should be in the range of 65 to 75 degrees. Too cold temperatures will cause health problems.
While checking the temperatures, don’t forget to also check the humidity. Bearded dragons’ natural habitat is very dry and so too much moisture isn’t good for them.
If your temperatures are fine, then consider your UVB lighting and when you last changed the UVB light bulb. For good health, this should be replaced twice a year. Otherwise, your bearded dragon might not get enough vitamin D3.
The lighting in your bearded dragon enclosure signals them to eat. Darkness and cooler temperatures tell them the opposite: that it’s time to brumate and reduce energy output.
So, if your bearded dragon doesn’t get enough of the right light, or if it’s too cold in their tank, you need to resolve this.
Change in Environment
If you’ve checked the temperatures and replaced the UV bulb recently, then you might need to consider other sources of stress. Have you recently changed anything in your beardie’s enclosure?
Many people add new tank decorations or change their enclosure setup without realizing that they’re stressing their pet. If you’ve added something new, try removing it for a few days to see if his eating picks up again.
Other changes to their environment might include a new baby, a barking dog, or noisy neighbors. If you can’t remove the stressor, you’ll need to give your pet time to adjust to the change.
Still Unsure of The Cause of Their Stress?
If you still don’t know why your bearded dragon seems stressed, it’s probably best to see someone who can provide veterinary advice. This is because persistent stress can lead to other health issues in bearded dragons.
Solution: Work out what’s causing the stress and eliminate it as much as possible.
Reason #2: They’re Growing Bigger
If you’ve got kids, you might have noticed them go through phases where they don’t eat as much – and it often coincides with a growth spurt. Well, beardies can be the same.
Young bearded dragons can cope with a smaller enclosure, but you should be wary of growth because they can feel a little cramped if their tank is getting too small. This could be a reason for your bearded dragon not eating.
Tank size advice:
- If your beardie is less than sixteen inches, a 40-gallon tank is fine.
- If your beardie is over sixteen inches, you need a 50-gallon tank.
If your tank is already the right size, consider its contents. Are there too many decorations? It could be that your beardie can’t move around as much as he’d like.
Growing up – a Reason to Stop Eating as Much
If your beardie is still quite young, consider if their age could be a reason for them to be eating less.
Many bearded dragon owners worry about something that is actually a natural and normal change.
Bearded dragons grow quickly in the first year of life. And for this growth to happen, they eat a lot. However, once they reach (or almost reach) adult size, they don’t need as much food for growth or energy.
Once they’re fully grown, they might eat around half of the food they used to, which is a natural part of the aging process.
Solution: Ensure the tank is the correct size and think about their age in relation to the amount of food they eat.
Reason #3: Shedding Their Skin
As you might know, bearded dragon skin does not grow with them and so in order to grow, they need to shed their skin and replace it with new skin.
During the shedding process, bearded dragons can feel uncomfortable. Many beardies won’t eat much, if at all, while they’re shedding.
You can help your beardie through this process by offering warm baths and misting the enclosure each day. You should never pull the skin off, though, as this is harmful.
If you had dry and itchy skin, you might not feel like eating much either!
Once the shedding process has finished, you should see their appetite come back to normal.
Remember, baby bearded dragons and juveniles will shed much more than adults.
Solution: wait it out, provide misting and warm baths to help – but don’t remove any skin yourself.
Reason #4: Changes in Diet Due to Age
When they’re first born, baby bearded dragons will mostly eat insects. Conversely, adult bearded dragons mostly eat greens. As you can imagine, then, there is a time when bearded dragons transition.
It can be a challenging time for bearded dragon owners as juveniles still want to eat lots of insects but you’re trying to get them to eat more greens.
Too many insects for an adult isn’t healthy and so you need to be patient and consistent in what you’re offering your juvenile bearded dragon.
If your juvenile is refusing greens but still eating insects, transitioning is likely the cause of this lack of eating.
Varying the greens on offer or hiding insects within iceberg lettuce might get your beardie eating more of the green.
Bearded Dragon Dietary Requirements and Age
A bearded dragon is an omnivore and as such, he will eat plant and vegetable matter as well as living creatures. When feeding a bearded dragon in captivity, you should aim to emulate their natural diet as much as possible.
In terms of ratios of plant matter to meat, this varies throughout a bearded dragon’s life.
Juveniles should eat 25% vegetables and 75% meat while adults should eat 25% meat and 75% vegetables. Of course, there will be a transition time in between!
The most common source of protein and ‘meat’ for a bearded dragon are living insects like:
- dubia roaches
As for greens, they love:
- collard greens
- mustard greens
- turnip greens
- dandelion greens
- chicory greens (escarole)
- and cilantro (occasionally).
Solution: you know what’s best in your bearded dragon’s diet. Keep offering a variety of greens to see what your pet likes. After all, they have preferences like us!
Reason #5: You’re Keeping Two Dragons Together
You might think it’s a good idea, cute even, but keeping two dragons in the same enclosure is not good for them.
Bearded dragons don’t take well to sharing their space. What might start out as a friendly pair, will likely turn into aggressive tank mates soon enough.
By nature, bearded dragons are territorial. What this means is that one bearded dragon will dominate the other. Unfortunately, the least dominant dragon will not only be stressed but will likely starve.
If you don’t keep dragons in the same tank but you do have more than one and they can see each other, this might also be a problem.
Solution: the only solution to this is to have separate tanks. Head straight to your pet store and get one right away.
Reason #6: Your Bearded Dragon Is Malnourished
Often, appetite loss and lethargy come together. Whether it’s due to a poor diet, hunger strike, or a vitamin deficiency, if your household pet is suffering from malnutrition, it’s best caught early.
Ensure you’re offering a balanced diet appropriate for your beardie’s age and that you have good feeding schedules.
A baby dragon, a juvenile dragon, and an adult dragon will all need different diets and schedules.
You should always supplement their diet with a decent calcium powder too as this will ward off serious health problems like metabolic bone disease.
Encouraging a malnourished dragon to eat is important. When they’re refusing food it can be difficult. Offer things like butternut squash, which will attract their attention due to its brighter color.
It’s also recommended to leave your dragon’s light on for at least two hours after their meal in order to aid digestion.
Solution: Evaluate your bearded dragon’s diet for their age and ensure you offer optimal nutrition. Malnourishment is best treated in its early stages to avoid serious health problems.
Reason #7: Your Dragon Has Acquired an Injury
If your beardie isn’t eating, you need to consider if he might be struggling to access his food. Does he look like he’s struggling to get around? Can you see any scratches or cuts? Are there any lumps or bumps? Do his limbs look a normal shape?
If your bearded dragon has managed to injure himself, this can reduce appetite. An injured bearded dragon might also find it difficult to move around to eat.
Another condition that can lead to injury is metabolic bone disease. This problem can result in broken bones. In this case, contacting a vet is the only solution.
Solution: Contact a vet.
Reason #8: Illness
Another reason why bearded dragons lose their appetite, stop eating or might lose weight is due to illness.
Just like people, bearded dragons can get illnesses. Some of these are preventable with a good diet, good husbandry and no stress. And, like many things, prevention is better than the cure.
Here are some illnesses than can cause appetite loss:
- Infection (and mouth rot)
- Parasitic infection
- Gut impaction (this can be very serious)
- Metabolic bone disease (as discussed above)
If you believe your dragon is ill, it’s best to seek veterinary advice to work out a solution.
Besides a lack of appetite, other signs of illness include lethargy, diarrhea, bulging eyes, vomiting, difficulty walking, or troublesome breathing.
If you know your dragon’s usual behavior, you’ll be able to spot these changes more easily.
One of the most common reasons why a dragon is not eating is due to impaction.
For anyone who doesn’t know, impaction is a buildup in the dragon’s intestines or gut that can’t be moved along by normal gut contractions.
When impaction is serious, it will be very uncomfortable for your dragon and will likely mean he won’t be interested in eating no matter what food sources you offer.
As well as this lack of eating, lethargy is common.
It’s best to give your vet a visit if you think your dragon is impacted as this can be very serious.
Usually, impaction is caused by:
- a dragon eating loose substrate
- too much protein in the diet.
Oftentimes, substrate consumption isn’t deliberate. If you’re feeding your dragon live insects like dubia roaches and large crickets and you have a substrate like sand, it’s likely that your dragon will eat some sand while eating his meal.
Some beardies will eat the substrate purposefully, however.
If you know your dragon is consuming substrate, it’s best to switch to another type. Make sure you check our guide Best Substrate For Bearded Dragons to make the right choice.
A reptile carpet or even newspaper is a good substrate for bearded dragons because they won’t be tempted to eat it and won’t accidentally consume it with their meal either.
Too Much Protein for Their Age
If the impaction is caused by too much protein, you should compare what your dragon is eating with recommendations. If you’re giving them too much of the same thing, you could be inadvertently causing impaction.
If it is impaction, don’t try to deal with this yourself. This is a serious condition that needs medical assistance. Only once your dragon is no longer impacted should you deal with his food variety to prevent it from happening again.
Infections and Parasites
There are lots of potential illnesses that could mean your dragon is not eating. Parasites and infections are, however, the most common.
One of the most common infections is mouth rot. This happens when your dragon has an infection in his mouth. The signs are bleeding and swelling. Your dragon might even have loose teeth. If you had this, you wouldn’t want to eat either!
In terms of parasites, these can be picked up from the live insects fed. It might seem cheaper and convenient to collect wild insects but these will likely contain parasites that will make your bearded dragon ill.
Thus, always source your live insects from a trusted seller.
Of course, there are lots of other illnesses and diseases that might cause a lack of appetite, which is why seeing a vet might be useful.
A vet will often ask for a stool sample and run blood tests to check what the problem is.
Solution: find out the cause of the illness. See a vet to diagnose if your dragon has a health problem like impaction.
Reason #9: Brumation
Our final reason for a bearded dragon not eating is that he is getting ready for brumation. Brumation is the reptile equivalent of mammal hibernation (with a few differences) and is like a deep sleep for the cooler, winter months.
During brumation, your dragon’s digestive system will shut down and he won’t need to eat his usual diet (if at all). This is a natural process for beardies like it is for many other animals.
If your bearded dragon is about to brumate, there will likely be other signs. These include:
- going into his hiding spot more often and for longer periods of time
- avoiding people
- acting tired and spending more time asleep
- not going to the bathroom as often.
If you suspect brumation, get a vet to confirm and then ensure the tank is set up correctly and that all of the surface temperatures are correct for this phase.
Some dragons go into brumation suddenly without any signs of this natural process beginning – so it can come as a surprise.
After brumation, your dragon should start to eat again, though it won’t be immediate!
Solution: see a vet to check for brumation and prepare your dragon’s tank ready.
Final Thoughts on Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Won’t Eat
A healthy bearded dragon usually loves his food. In fact, beardies are known for being enthusiastic eaters their entire life.
So, when a bearded dragon eats less or stops eating, it can be worrying.
There are some perfectly normal reasons why bearded dragons eat a reduced diet, but there are also things that need the attention of a vet.
In our article, we discussed nine reasons why your bearded dragon won’t eat. To summarize, these were:
- tank mates
It’s important to work out the exact cause of your dragon not eating so that you can ensure they stay healthy.
Be reassured that a loss of appetite is really common in bearded dragons as it is in other lizards. There are many simple reasons why he might not eat as much – but you need to find out the reason.