It should be no surprise that we love Dubia roaches. As it turns out, bearded dragons love Dubia roaches too! And we know why: They’re super delicious and uniquely nutritious.
In short, they offer more of the nutrients bearded dragons need for good health and vitality with less of the bad stuff they don’t. How do we know? Keep reading…
There are many things to like about Dubia roaches. Nutrition, digestibility, taste…ease of feeding, convenience, and more. We detail each of these below. By the end, we hope to convince you that Dubia roaches are worth a try. We think your bearded dragon will thank us. We hope you will too!
Bearded dragon diet basics
The bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps) is a popular lizard originally from southern Australia. They’ve been available in the United States since the 1990’s. They tend to be warm, engaging, and curious when properly socialized (which can be a chore), healthy and long-lived when properly cared for, and lovable when loved.
Bearded dragons often have big appetites to compliment their big personalities. They are omnivorous, which means their diet can and should contain both plants (mostly leafy greens) and animals (mostly insects). The right mix depends on their age and stage of development. Baby beardies, juveniles, and breeding females need enough protein, vitamins, and minerals to fuel rapid growth. Adult males and adults generally need less. In addition, bearded dragons require less and less dietary protein as they age.
Regardless of the sex or growth stage of your bearded dragon, it’s important to get his or her diet right. Most health problems he or she will face result from three things: inadequate diet, heat, and lighting.
Just like Dubia roaches, proper bearded dragon care requires the right environment and diet. Beardies suffer when either of these are sub-optimal. Inadequate environment or diet causes mild deficiencies in the beginning. If allowed to progress, they can cause lethargy, general health decline, and a decline in appearance. Some of the more serious diseases caused by inadequate diet and environment are nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism and constipation. These are potentially debilitating diseases that you should do your best to avoid. Fortunately, you can avoid these conditions and others common to captive insectivores by providing the right habitat, and by feeding your bearded dragon the right foods.
In the wild
But what is “the right diet” for bearded dragons, and what are “the right foods”? Scientists have attempted to answer these questions by investigating their natural diet. In one study (external link), researchers examined the stomach contents of adult bearded dragons living wild in Australia. Among the 13 adults tested (four females, nine males), insects made up 61% of the diet by weight. Plant matter was 16%, and fat 20%.
They found that among the lizards they examined, the “animal matter” part of their diet consisted of mostly two insects: locusts and termites. These happened to be abundant in the area at the time of the study. Bearded dragons are opportunistic feeders, so they generally eat whatever is available at any given time. And as expected, the scientists found that their diet varies a lot. Reptiles in dry, arid regions experience more seasonal dietary fluctuation than those in other climates.
Interestingly, the locust species researchers found in the bearded dragon’s stomachs is roughly 52% protein. Dubia roaches are almost exactly the same, at 54% protein. The fat and carbohydrate profile of these locusts and Dubia roaches are nearly identical as well. While not much is known about the nutritional composition of the termite species the researchers also found, termites range in protein composition from 34% to as much as 60%, depending on species.
But these were animals living in the wild. What about captive bearded dragons? Can we really determine the best food for them based on their natural diet? After all, they eat whatever they manage to find in the wild, and “natural” does not mean “the best”. We have a choice of what to feed our beaded dragons in captivity. Wild bearded dragons don’t have that luxury.
Conventional wisdom suggests hatchling and juvenile bearded dragons under four months of age should eat roughly 70% insects and 30% vegetables. This may vary depending on each animal’s needs. The mix for adults is 50% insects and 50% vegetables. As they age, bearded dragons require less and less protein. They will naturally eat more and more plant material when given a choice. The insect to plant ratio may fall as low as 10/90 in older animals. This change occurs gradually over time.
This brings up an important point: Quality protein is important for all bearded dragons in any stage of development. Hatchlings and juveniles need quality protein for rapid growth. Adults need it to maintain their health. Of course, quality protein is important for young beardies for obvious reasons. But it is also very important for adults because they tend to consume so little of it compared to their younger peers. They need to make every bit count.
Bearded dragons and Dubia roaches
Among feeders and the animals that do the feeding, the relationship between bearded dragons and dubia roaches is established and solid. As we’ve said before, bearded dragons love eating Dubia roaches. They provide the right feeding stimulus, they presumably taste good, and eating them is an experience beardies generally consider positive enough that they eagerly anticipate doing it again. That’s the evidence, anyway. It’s hard to ask them directly, but you can see it in their behavior. We understand this is a broad generalization, but so far it seems reasonable.
Dubia: quality protein
Dubia roaches contain the quality protein bearded dragons need in the amount they need it. B. Dubia has about 54% protein. This is likely plenty, and as mentioned before, it almost exactly matches the protein content of at least one primary insect found in the natural bearded dragon diet. Given the similarities of these two insects, it seems the Dubia roach mimics an important part of the bearded dragon’s natural diet.
And because food is a package deal, “quality protein” means the source (the feeder insect) comes with other macro and micro-nutrients that the end consumer (the bearded dragon) needs. For example, a feeder high in dietary protein but devoid of other beneficial nutrients – or even one that has harmful nutrients – would not be a quality protein source. Instead, it would be something to avoid.
Other nutrients for bearded dragons
In addition to protein, Dubia roaches contain other important micro and macro-nutrients. These beneficial substances come in levels and combinations that are good for bearded dragons. In fact, compared to other feeder insects, Dubia roaches contain more good stuff captive insectivores need for growth and good health and less bad stuff they don’t. Based on our research into common feeder insect nutrition, we believe Dubia roaches are the ultimate feeder, generally.
Specifically, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D are nutrients of concern for captive bearded dragons. Dubia roaches contain more calcium than 80% of the feeder insects we’ve researched. They have more calcium than all of the insects commonly fed to bearded dragons. Vitamin A levels are unknown for most feeder insects, and vitamin D comes from UVB light and supplementation, so these nutrients should be and usually are supplemented by dusting or gut-loading.
Gut loading Dubia for bearded dragons
This brings up another awesome Dubia roach feature: gut-loadability. You can gut load Dubia roaches to the extreme. Amazingly, their stomach and digestive system can hold as much as twice their body weight of food.
This means that in addition to dusting, you can feed Dubia roaches foods containing the nutrients you want your bearded dragon to consume, and you can do so in large amounts. Do you want your animal to get more vitamin A? Give your Dubia food high in carotenoids like sweet potato, squash, and carrots. Do you want it to get more calcium? Give the roaches greens before feeding them to your beardie and you increase their calcium intake naturally, without supplements.
Leafy greens: a word of caution
NOTE: Some leafy greens are not recommended for bearded dragons. These include spinach and beet greens, which contain oxalates. Oxalates are believed to inhibit calcium absorption in bearded dragons and other animals. A good rule of thumb is only feed your Dubia roaches (or any feeder insect) foods that are OK for your animals. Never give your feeders anything that might harm your animals!
If hydration is an issue with your animal, you can offer Dubia feeders high moisture foods like watered down roach chow or high water content vegetables. Cockroaches can generally survive a long time without water. They don’t need much, but they will consume a fair amount of it if it’s contained within food. This makes gut loading Dubia roaches an effective way to boost bearded dragon hydration in a pinch, when you need it. It’s not a common issue, but it’s an option if the time ever comes.
Gut loading vegetables
The topic of gut loading brings up another interesting point: As omnivores, bearded dragons require plant matter for good health. You can provide at least some of the plant matter they need by offering healthy vegetables to their feeders. Is your beardie not eating his/her vegetables? Is there some particular vegetable you think it should eat but it doesn’t like it? The solution can be as simple as feeding that item to his or her feeder and then feeding the feeder to your beardie. Remember – Dubia roaches can hold three days worth of food in their guts, and twice their body weight.
Dubia roaches eat a variety of foods. This is especially true if you don’t give them a choice. Most of the time they don’t need coaxing to eat one thing or another, but again…it’s an option. We use this as a way to occasionally sneak in a few greens or fruit when our bearded dragons don’t feel like eating these on their own.
As a reminder, always be sure to avoid vegetables on the bearded dragon “do not feed” list!
Dubia gut physiology
Dubia roaches eat large amounts of food compared to their body size, and they have a propensity to consume healthy foods. Interestingly, they also hold on to their food longer than other feeder insects. A typical feeder digests its food in 24 hours, but Dubia roaches can keep food in their gut for as many as three days. This is probably the roach’s evolutionary response to periods of dietary insufficiency. Roaches with the ability to digest more things, or different things more thoroughly, have a survival advantage over those that can’t when times are lean.
This is great news for gut loaders. It means that at any given time, foods a roach consumed are in various stages of digestion. As a result, more nutrients are available to the bearded dragons that eat them. This is particularly true with minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron. These must be released from plant cells by the digestive process before absorption. Dubia roaches have special digestive bacteria and enzymes in their guts that break down substances carnivorous animals can’t. Plant fibers are one of these substances. Dubia roaches unlock nutrients other feeders can’t. They pass these unlocked nutrients along to the animal that eats them. Neat-o!
Related reading: All about gut loading Dubia roaches »
Do bearded dragons find our Dubia roaches “special”?
In addition to all the health benefits we have mentioned so far, bearded dragons really do seem to love eating Dubia roaches. They particularly love our Dubia roaches. This is not hyperbole or us being salesy. It’s literally true. Bearded dragon owners have contacted us amazed by how much their reptiles love our roaches. We don’t know if this is because we feed our roaches so well or care for them obsessively, or maybe it’s because they are more nutritious than other Dubia roaches, and bearded dragons can sense it. Whatever the case, we like it!
Feeding Dubia roaches to bearded dragons is easy and even fun. Dubia are often a strong trigger for the bearded dragon’s feeding response. They often eagerly pursue their Dubia feeders, eating them aggressively one after another. This is healthy feeding behavior and you want it from your bearded dragon. Feed however many insects it can eat in 10 or 15 minutes, or until it gets its fill.
More Dubia feeder benefits
There are more benefits of Dubia roaches, and they have more to do with you than your bearded dragon. Dubia roaches are quiet (unlike crickets), they don’t smell (like other feeders), when properly contained they can’t escape, and if they do they tend to die rather than reproduce (like other feeders).
They are very easy to keep as feeders. Just store them in a container along with some food, water, and harborage material. Place them in a warm, dark location, and that’s about it. Dubia roach feeders are simple and easy to care for. They don’t require any special work, and they’re less annoying than some other feeder insects too!
Feeding bearded dragons the right size Dubia roaches
Some direct advice: Try to feed your bearded dragon insects that are no longer than the distance between their eyes. This will help make sure that they don’t try to consume an insect that’s too big for them to handle. This has been known to injure and even kill them.
Some people feed their bearded dragons insects no longer than the width of the beardie’s head. This is a reasonable measure of maximum feeder length for Dubia roaches. Dubia are very soft-bodied compared to other insects. Beardies don’t seem to have much of a problem with the larger ones. Whichever rule you choose – the eye rule or the head rule – use your judgment. Bearded dragons should consume insects easily. They should never struggle with an insect that’s too big. If they do, now you know that size is too big for them. You will get a better sense of what they can handle by observing their feeding.
Bearded dragons not eating Dubia roaches will likely benefit if you add them to their diet. This is probably true whether you add Dubia roaches as a primary feeder, a secondary feeder, or a once-in-a-while treat. We think they’re best used as a primary feeder, but that’s up to you. However you want to use them, we recommend you find a way to use them! Try Dubia roaches if you haven’t already. We think you will notice a positive change in your bearded dragon(s). We did. That’s why we got into Dubia roaches.
If for some reason you don’t see a change, at least if you try them you will understand what we mean when we say “bearded dragons love them”. They really do. See for yourself! Give them a try today!