9 reasons why Bearded dragons won’t eat

It is normal for owners to be concerned when their pet Bearded dragon is not eating. Those concerns are only sometimes justified. Very often the reason for a Bearded dragon not eating can be identified and the problem can be rectified.

New environment

Newly obtained Bearded dragons often experience huge changes in their new environments. This is even more pronounced with new, baby Bearded dragons. A new environment will lead to some degree of stress and all sorts of behavioral abnormalities such as glass surfing, hiding, aggression, and eating abnormalities.

It is normal for a new Bearded dragon to take some time to adapt to its new environment. It is important for owners of new Bearded dragons to give ample, non-disturbed time to do so.

Brumation

During the cooler months of winter, Bearded dragons are known to go through a mild form of hibernation (called brumation). During this period many Bearded dragons will eat less and even start to lose weight. This is a normal occurrence and should not be altered.

Incorrect food and food size

The size and type of food are often the reason for Bearded dragons not eating. Apart from not being used to new food items (see below), food that is too large or too small might not be eaten. As a general guideline, food items should not be larger than the distance between the eyes of a Bearded dragon. From experience, Bearded dragons might also refuse to eat food that looks dangerous or has caused problems in the past. A good starting point in these cases is to feed the correct-sized crickets and or Dubia roaches and a mixture of variable-sized greens.

Food changes

As with its size and type, changing foods are often a reason for Bearded dragons not to eat. This is often seen when a Bearded dragon is used to one type of food and is suddenly given something else. Mealworms are, for example, considered very tasty to Bearded dragons, and moving to a different (more nutritious food) can often cause temporary eating strikes.

Image with permission from South Texas Dragons.

Satiety

Another reason for Bearded dragons not to eat is, simply, being full. This is seen when feeding frequencies are too close together or when a large meal was fed, even a day before. In these cases, a Bearded dragon will have a predictable pattern where they will or will not eat (e.g. once every other day).

Bullying

Larger Bearded dragons can bully smaller ones up to the point where they stop eating. To see if this is the case, try to feed them on separate ends of the enclosure or remove the larger one.

Incorrect heating and lighting

Bearded dragons are often seen not eating when their environmental temperature and/or UV lighting is not up to scratch. Too high or too low temperatures will lead to stress and digestion problems.

Temperature-related problems are often encountered during the winter months (see brumation discussed earlier) or when the feeding times are shortly after heating equipment has been switched on (e.g. early in the mornings).

Inadequate ultraviolet (UV) lighting will lead to the inability to see food properly. Owners often complain that their Bearded dragons are not eating properly when, in fact, the only problem is that the efficiency of the UV lighting has faded over time.

Excessive handling

As with newly obtained Bearded dragons, excessive handling can also lead to abnormal eating behavior. Sudden changes in environmental temperatures can take time to get accustomed to. In these cases, it is better to keep handling to a bare minimum or allow an hour or two before or after its feeding time.

Diseases

It almost comes without saying that a sick Bearded dragon will eat less or not eat at all.

Additional

A Bearded dragon owner has pointed out that her female Bearded dragon refuses to eat each time she falls gravid without a male. This will be the case even if the eggs are fertilized. When there are eggs in the abdomen, there is less space in the abdomen for the stomach to expand. This will lead to a fuller experience. During these times it is important to focus on food items with high amounts of proteins, e.g. crickets and Dubia roaches to fill the nutritional gap.