Thinking about what to feed your bearded dragon every day can be difficult if you don’t know which vegetables are safe and which aren’t. Considering how many leafy green options are out there, you may be wondering: Can bearded dragons eat spinach?
If it’s good enough for Popeye, surely it’s good enough for bearded dragons, right? Unfortunately, spinach is not as good for beardies as you may think. It comes down to the nutritional composition of the spinach and how it affects your bearded dragon’s body.
Spinach is packed with good vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, C, and K. However, it’s also filled with oxalates and phosphate, which are bad for your bearded dragon’s body.
Therefore, it’s okay if fed as a treat in moderation, but other leafy greens should be the bulk of your bearded dragon’s plate. We’ll go through the best leafy green options for your bearded dragon a little later and see how they stand up against spinach.
Because we care for our readers, you’re in for a treat: At the end of this article, we’ll share some bonus care tips on how, when, and why to feed your bearded dragon.
What’s In Spinach?
Spinach is packed with nutrients:
- Vitamin A: Promotes good vision and healthy skin, supports the immune system
- Vitamin K: Essential for blood clotting
- Folate: Essential for developing healthy and healing damaged tissue
- Iron: Essential for proper oxygenation
- Potassium: Essential for nerve health, balances fluid levels, maintains muscle function
- Calcium: For building and maintaining strong bones, supports muscle function, essential for healthy development of eggs in egg-laying females
It’s important to understand that while spinach has plenty of all these nutrients, it’s not necessarily the right option for your bearded dragon.
Benefits Of Spinach In Your Bearded Dragon’s Diet
Bearded dragons need plenty of healthy greens in their diet among other fruits and vegetables. Leafy greens will provide your beardie with all the vitamins and minerals mentioned above.
Your bearded dragon’s belly skin is prone to tearing, especially during and after shedding, which is why they need folate and vitamin A, both of which are plentiful in spinach. And egg-bearing females need a lot of calcium to develop healthy eggs, otherwise the calcium is leached from their bones.
Drawbacks Of Spinach In Your Bearded Dragon’s Diet
Oxalates are found in most leafy greens. They are organic compounds and occur naturally. Oxalates bind with other nutrients, especially calcium. Human bodies are large and developed enough to excrete the oxalates in our urine.
When a bearded dragon’s body tries to excrete high amounts of oxalates, they often end up with kidney stones, which are incredibly painful and often fatal. The fatalities occur because kidney stones lead to infections that can remain undetected until they are quite serious.
As mentioned, oxalates bind with calcium. This means they prevent calcium from being absorbed by your bearded dragon’s system.
Phosphates also bind to calcium and are then excreted by the body. This means your bearded dragon will absorb and use a very small amount of the calcium they ate, which can lead to metabolic bone disease.
Mature spinach is very fibrous, which impacts the digestive system. Fiber is good for the system because it acts as a broom and “sweeps” out old food. However, too much fiber can cause diarrhea, constipation, and bloating, all of which are painful and possibly dehydrating to your bearded dragon.
Alternative Leafy Greens For Your Bearded Dragon’s Daily Salad
Instead of reaching for the spinach, there are other wonderful leafy greens you can offer to your bearded dragon that are more nutritionally balanced and taste great to their reptilian palate, including:
- Collard Greens
- Mustard Greens
Here is a breakdown of the main nutritional components of all the leafy greens mentioned in this article.
|Fiber (per 100g)||Vitamin A(per 100g)||Vitamin K(per 100g)||Calcium(per 100g)||Calcium-to-phosphate ratio(Ca:Ph)||Oxalate(per 100g)|
|Spinach||2.2 g||4,690 IU||482.9 μg||99 mg||1:5||750 to 970 mg|
|Collard greens||4 g||3,333 IU||354 μg||145 mg||3:1||25 to 90 mg|
|Mustard greens||3.2 g||3,020 IU||257 μg||115 mg||3:1||89 to 140 mg|
|Endive||3.1 g||2,500 IU||231 μg||52 mg||2:1||Approx. 0|
|Watercress||0.5 g||3,199 IU||250 μg||120 mg||2:1||Approx. 50 mg|
It’s clear that spinach does not compare favorably with any of the other leafy greens on the list because its calcium-to-phosphorus ratio is off. To absorb the calcium in their food, bearded dragons should be fed a favorable ratio where there is more calcium than phosphorus.
When it comes to oxalates, it’s also clear that spinach contains a lot, while endive contains barely any.
Collard greens are arguably the best leafy green to give to your bearded dragon. They are high in vitamins and calcium while being low in oxalates. It has a beneficial calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, which means your bearded dragon shouldn’t develop kidney stones from eating collard greens.
For more information on what to feed your bearded dragon, check out our article on the healthiest food to offer them.
Bonus Feeding Tips
Now that you know which leafy greens are best for your beardie buddy, let’s look at some bonus feeding tips!
How Often Should You Feed Your Bearded Dragon?
Bearded dragons need to eat more frequently as babies and juveniles than they do as adults.
As a baby, your bearded dragon will need to eat up to five times a day; this is to fuel their rapid growth and development. As a juvenile, your bearded dragon can be fed three times a day as their development is slowly reaching completion and they don’t need as much fuel all the time.
Subadult bearded dragons can be fed once a day as they have achieved the length they will be as an adult and are now just filling out around the belly. Adults can also be fed once a day but will survive if you feed them every other day, depending on whether they need to lose weight or not.
How Much Vegetables Should I Give My Bearded Dragon vs. Insects?
The ratio of plant matter to insect protein changes as your bearded dragon ages because their nutritional needs change over time.
Of their total daily food intake, a baby bearded dragon should have 80% insect protein and 20% plant matter because this is when your bearded dragon needs the most calcium and protein. Juvenile bearded dragons can move to a 50/50 ratio because their growth rate has slowed.
By the time your bearded dragon reaches adulthood, you should have slowly transitioned them from their 50/50 juvenile ratio to 20% insect protein and 80% plant matter. This is because adults need to maintain their weight instead of continuing to bulk out and grow.
How Much Should You Feed Your Bearded Dragon?
Bearded dragons should be fed using the five-to-10 rule. Allow them access to their food for five to 10 minutes and allow them to eat as much as they can during this time. Once the time is up, remove any of the leftover food from their enclosure.
Your bearded dragon will grow accustomed to this and won’t suffer from hunger or try to gulp as much food down as possible and make themselves sick like a cat or dog might.
You should never leave food in your bearded dragon’s enclosure as it attracts bugs, can disrupt the humidity levels, and grow bacteria and mold, which will require a full deep clean to get rid of.
How Do You Feed Your Bearded Dragon?
Bearded dragons are incredibly cute but not always the smartest creatures when it comes to food. If it looks and smells like food, they will try to put it in their mouth regardless of whether they can swallow it or not — or whether it’s food or not!
You need to be the responsible pet parent and cut their food up into bite-sized pieces, no larger than the space between their eyes, to prevent your bearded dragon from choking on more than they could literally chew.
FAQs About Bearded Dragons Eating Spinach
Is there a difference between spinach and baby spinach, and can bearded dragons eat baby spinach?
There is no nutritional difference between baby and mature spinach. They both contain the same vitamins and minerals per weight. However, mature spinach does have more fiber in it and it’s tough to chew.
Bearded dragons can eat both baby and mature spinach; however, consider the pros and cons previously mentioned.
Can I feed my bearded dragon cooked spinach and other vegetables?
Bearded dragons cannot eat hot or especially cold food as it messes with their internal temperature.
Cooking food removes a lot of its nutritional value, which means your bearded dragon isn’t going to get everything out of their meal in terms of vitamins and minerals, which in turn could lead to a nutritional imbalance. Always try your best to find fresh or freeze-dried food.
Secondly, if you cooked some spinach or pumpkin for the family and want to give the leftovers to your beardie, we would advise against it. We humans cook with spices and flavorings (such as garlic) that are toxic to bearded dragons. Feeding them your leftovers could kill them.
What is metabolic bone disease?
Metabolic bone disease is caused by a chronic lack of calcium. The lack of calcium coming into your bearded dragon’s system means their body needs to pull the calcium from elsewhere to perform its functions. So, the calcium is pulled from the bones instead.
Metabolic bone disease is the weakening and bending of the bones because of the lack of calcium. Mild metabolic bone disease results in painful joints and bending bones. Serious metabolic bone disease can result in fractures, inability to move, and even death.
If your bearded dragon is showing signs of lethargy or decreased movement, and you know they haven’t had an especially calcium-rich diet, you can add calcium to their meals through powders or liquids. Simply add the recommended amount to their daily salad or coat their crickets in the powder.
Can I feed my bearded dragon one type of leafy green if it’s their favorite?
Bearded dragons can be picky eaters, which means when you find success with one leafy green, you tend to stick to it. As mentioned previously, the leafy greens have different nutritional values, so feeding only one type can lead to a nutritional imbalance.
However, if your bearded dragon absolutely refuses to eat any leafy green other than endive or watercress, supplement their daily salad with other fruits and vegetables such as blueberries and bell peppers.
A Final Word On Bearded Dragons Eating Spinach
Bearded dragons can eat small amounts of spinach, but they should eat other leafy greens that are more nutritionally balanced, contain fewer oxalates, and have a better calcium-to-phosphorus ratio.
Bearded dragons being fed an unbalanced diet will suffer from kidney issues and vitamin deficiencies such as metabolic bone disease.
Let’s recap the most important things to remember:
- Be aware of the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of any item you feed your bearded dragon.
- Be aware of the oxalate content of all fruits and vegetables.
- Use a calcium powder or liquid to supplement your bearded dragon’s diet.
- Collard greens are possibly the best leafy green to offer your bearded dragon.
- Feed your bearded dragon on a controlled schedule to help them regulate their digestive system.