Taking care of its nutritional requirement is the best you can do for your pet bearded dragon. And a beardie’s nutritional need is not completely met until you make sure it gets adequate calcium. Here’s all you need to know about feeding calcium to your pet beardie.
How long bearded dragons can go without calcium? A bearded dragon is a robust creature that can go without calcium for up to 2 weeks. However, this is not recommended. Calcium is vital for a bearded dragon’s well-being. Also, remember that depriving a bearded dragon of calcium for more than 2 weeks can cause long-lasting damage.
If you have a pet bearded dragon, as a responsible owner, it is important to know all about its calcium requirement. In this article, we’ll discuss the significance of supplementing your beardie’s diet with calcium and the harmful effects that calcium imbalance can cause.
Always remember that having good knowledge about your pet’s needs goes a long way in keeping it healthy and happy.
Why do bearded dragons need calcium?
All bearded dragons in captivity need calcium supplements in their diet. It is very important for a beardie’s bone health and also for its physiological functions. If you have a baby or juvenile dragon, calcium is absolutely necessary for its growth.
An adult beardie also needs adequate calcium for maintaining good bone health.
Also, note that a breeding female has high requirement of calcium.
A beardie’s body needs to maintain a constant volume of calcium in order to function well. If a beardie has a calcium deficiency, its body takes calcium from the bones. This ultimately results in weakened bones prone to fractures and other problems.
If you are wondering why pet dragons need calcium supplements, you are not alone. This is a common question new beardie owners face. After all, bearded dragons in the wild do not have anybody feeding them calcium supplements.
And the beardies in the wild do just fine! So why do we need to specially introduce calcium to beardies in captivity?
The reason is simple. Bearded dragons in captivity have a different diet compared to those in the wild. Also, even in the wild, bearded dragons are known to go looking for natural calcium sources.
They can be often found licking rocks in a bid to get a little calcium. Here is another reason why bearded dragons lick everything.
How often should calcium be fed to a bearded dragon?
The amount of calcium needed by a bearded dragon depends on its age. Pet beardies usually feed on crickets and vegetables. So, in order to ensure they are getting the required amount of dietary calcium, their food should be dusted or sprayed with calcium powder.
- For baby dragons between 0-2 months, food should be dusted with calcium daily.
- For juvenile bearded dragons between 2-12 months, calcium should be fed every alternate day.
- For adult dragons (more than one-year-old), the calcium requirement is lesser since their growth is already complete. Their food should be dusted with calcium every 2-3 days.
Do note that just as low calcium can be harmful to a bearded dragon, too much of it can also cause problems. Thus, you should ensure that your pet dragon has a balanced diet including calcium and vitamins.
How to promote calcium absorption?
Consuming calcium is of no use unless it is absorbed by the bones. Vitamin D3, the sunshine vitamin, helps in calcium absorption. But, pet bearded dragons hardly ever get their dose of the morning sun.
That is why you need to have a UVB light in your beardie’s vivarium. As the beardie basks in some UVB light, its body produces vitamin D3. (Here is how long beardies can go without UVB, btw)
Thus, having a UVB lamp is extremely important. Also, make sure you change the UVB lamp every six months. The light might still be visible, but the rays dissipate over time and it is ideal to change the lamps after six months of use so that the beardies continue to get adequate UVB.
Also, a bearded dragon is a cold-blooded animal. It needs appropriate external heat to maintain its body temperature.
In cold conditions, a beardie cannot digest its food properly. Hence, adequate basking light is necessary so that your pet can properly use the calcium supplement you are feeding it.
Harmful effects of calcium imbalance
Calcium imbalance can be caused due to:
- Too much calcium in the diet
- Too little or no calcium in the diet
- The absence of UVB or less UVB due to which calcium absorption is not optimum
- Improper digestion due to lack of heat in the beardie’s enclosure
This imbalance can be harmful to a beardie’s bone health. Metabolic Bone Disease is a harmful condition that can affect bearded dragons that have calcium imbalance for longer periods of time.
This disease can lead to irreversible bone damage, a lot of discomfort and pain to the dragon, and ultimately, death.
Common symptoms that indicate calcium imbalance are given below. These symptoms can worsen with time and cause irreparable damage to the beardie’s health.
- The bearded dragon’s limbs twitch or shake.
- The beardie is lethargic and looks weak.
- The lower jaw recedes.
- The dragon drags itself along indicating paralysis of the limbs.
- Bone fractures.
- The bearded dragon will begin to eat substrate in order to balance its minerals, which can lead to impaction.
Which calcium powders to use for a bearded dragon?
There are basically two types of calcium powders available that can be used for pet reptiles. One with overages of Vitamin D3, and one without. Which one is ideal for your beaded dragon depends on the kind of UV lamp you are using.
If you have the UVB light that we recommend in this article, you can choose the calcium powder without vitamin D3. Similarly, if your beardie gets a lot of sunlight, you can opt for a powder without vitamin D3.
Most other UVB lights do not produce enough UVB rays, that´s when calcium powders with vitamin D3 should be used. We recommend using this calcium powder.
Cholecalciferol calcium powders are best for bearded dragons. Cholecalciferol is a form of calcium which is very similar to the type of calcium naturally produced by the skin. Hence, it is the safest form of calcium for your pet.
Also, remember to check the label on the calcium powder to avoid powders with phosphorus in them. Beardies need calcium and phosphorus in the ratio of 5:1 and since their diet usually provides adequate phosphorous, you don’t want to tip the balance by feeding them extra amounts of this mineral.
How long can a bearded dragon go without eating during Brumation? Brumation is a hibernation-like phase in reptiles. A brumating beardie can go without food for around three months. During this time, a beardie will stop eating and uses its fat stores for energy.
How long can bearded dragons go without heat? A bearded dragon should not be kept without heat for more than 24 hours. If such a situation arises, you should immediately provide it with natural sunlight and keep a close eye on it.
What can you feed a bearded dragon instead of crickets? Though crickets are a popular choice, you can also feed a range of other insects such as dubia roaches, hoppers, etc. Bearded dragons should also feed on vegetables and fruit. In fact, around 70% of their diet should be in the form of vegetables.