My 2 year old male dragon has drastically reduced his food intake. He will only eat a few crickets and or superworms per

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Customer: My 2 year old male dragon has drastically reduced his food intake. He will only eat a few crickets and or superworms per week. He used to chase and devour the food, but within the last 4 to 6 weeks he just isn't interested. I changed him from a 40 gallon tank where I was using bed a beast substrate to a 100 gallon tank where I am using Reptisand, hoping it would help him. He is also now with my 3 year old female whom he is familiar with and had mated with earlier this year. He is still active, head bobbing, arm slapping, and dominating the female (though not assaulting her and trying to mate her). He is spending more time on the cool side under his rock cove, but still roams around and basks under the heat lamp. I got him when he was 1 year old, and from the get go he never liked greens or soaking, unlike the female. Not sure what to do, since he and the female have been eating the same crickets and superworms and she is as hungry and active as ever, though she does love greens and soaking. I've tried everything to get him to eat greens even before he started acting funny. As expected, his bowel movements are few and far between and when he does have one, it is usually small small. I can't tell if he has lost weight, but he doesn't seem lethargic or weak. I just am not sure if I should wait it out until he gets better or if he is only going to continue this and then die. I did give him a pinkie the other day to try and stimulate his appetite, and although he was happy to eat it, he still doesn't seem interested in his other food.

Hot side is around 100 with a basking spot at about 105. Cool side around 80.
Reptisun 10.0 full spectrum UVB replaced within the last 3 months.
Repashy Calcium and Vitamin supplement
Answered by Anna in 8 hours 10 years ago
30+ years of experience

17,054 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Reptile Veterinary, Herp Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Amphibian Veterinary


I apologize that no one has responded to your question sooner. Different experts come online at various times. I just came online and saw your question. I'm sorry to hear that Gonzo is having a problem. Thank you for providing such thorough information.

Most of your husbandry is excellent; you are a few steps ahead of many beardie owners in providing correct temperatures and proper lighting. However, there are a couple of things that may be contributing to the problem.

You should get rid of the sand. Pet stores often recommend it, but it does frequently lead to serious health problems, including impaction. It’s also a leading cause of eye infections, respiratory irritations, and skin problems. Bed-a-Beast is a little better, especially for water dragons and a few other reptiles, but it's not the best substrate for bearded dragons. A solid substrate, such as reptile carpet or ceramic or slate tile is best. You can read more about substrate here:

Because Gonzo is not eating well and his droppings are small, it is possible that he has accidentally ingested some substrate. Those two symptoms often accompany constipation or partial blockages. I'll give you a first aid measure to try. Gonzo may not like it, but it's for his own good. Buy some Pedialyte (yes, the kind for human infants), and prepare a shallow warm bath consisting of 1/2 warm water and 1/2 Pedialyte. Soak him for about 20 to 30 minutes. After the first 10 minutes, with him still in the water, gently massage him underside from front to vent for an additional 10 minutes. That may be enough to help him pass some feces. Try to get him to swim while he's in the water, as that can help, too. Be sure to supervise closely.

As for feeding, at this age he really should be eating 80% greens and 20% prey insects. Most beardies love the taste of raspberries, so you might be bale to encourage him to eat greens by smearing a little raspberry baby food or 100%fruit spread on the greens. Of course, there's no way to force him to eat greens, so all you can do is make them available and encourage him. Be sure to try a variety since you may stumble on produce he likes. I recommend this reputable website for the best and most complete information on feeding:

One pinkie didn't hurt anything, but they are not a good food for dragons. They are very high in fat and protein, and can lead to digestive problems, and if fed regularly, kidney failure. Crickets and silkworms are the best staple foods.

It is possible that Gonzo is preparing to brumate, but before we assume that, it's important that any possible health problems be ruled out. It can be difficult to distinguish between illness and brumation. Beardies under one year of age don't brumate, but after one year, many of them do.Their bodies slow down in response to the shorter days , even when they live in our houses. Some dragons will brumate every year, and some only once in awhile. During brumation, you shouldn't feed any live prey, but make fresh greens available. Once a week, take him out for a soak to keep him hydrated. Supervise the bath carefully since he will be sluggish. As the days grow longer again, brumation ends.

Also watch for any symptoms to appear. Infection can develop during brumation. Watch for eyes that are actually swollen shut, abnormal breathing, any swelling, sneezing/coughing, etc. If anything unusual happens, you'll want to see a reptile vet. Otherwise, just let the brumation run its course. Some dragons brumate for only a week or two, while others may go as long as four months.

I'm also going to send along a care sheet, courtesy of Joan, another of our experts. She has many years experience with raising beardies and doing rescue. I thought you might like to read it.If you have more questions, just let me know by clicking on REPLY.


Bearded Dragon Care Sheet

* Bearded dragons should be housed alone.

* Ages of bearded dragons follow these guidelines:

1. 0-3 months- baby
2. 3-12 months-juvenile
3. 12-18 months- sub adult
4. 18 months + -adult

* Bearded dragons live as much as 10-12 years if well cared for properly.
* Bearded dragons have a very good temperament as long as they are cared for and handled.
* When you bring your baby home, it may be quite stressful to him/her to get use to new home. May not eat well the first 2-3 days. They may not need to be handled the first 2-3 days if skittish and nervous.
* Never use sand or any other type of loose substrate: Loose substrates can cause impaction (not being able to go Poop) in all ages of bearded dragons- they lick their environment to explore .It is difficult to keep germ free and clean. Ceramic tile, newspaper, non adhesive shelf liner and reptile carpet is what is most recommended. Use paper towels for the little one and as they get bigger you can change to something else.
* Be sure you keep your beardies home as clean as you can. Clean up by spot cleaning when needed. Clean & sanitize entire tank every 10-14 days. A good cleaning solution is a 20% bleach solution. If you choose to use wood climbing branches etc, these should be soaked in the bleach solution and rinsed well. Then bake in 250 degree oven for 30 minutes.
* Need a climbing accessory: to bask and to warm up under basking heat light and lower branches or platforms to come down and cool off.
* A hide of some sort like a cave.
* A food dish and water dish.
* Plastic spray bottle
* Can use artificial plants when they get older- 3 months or so.
* Digital thermostat and/or temp gun
* Tank size: Minimal size tank for this age is 20 gallon long
* Minimal size for older beardie: 4 months of age: 40 gallon breeder is the minimal tank size for older dragon. Can divide a 40 gallon breeder for a smaller dragon. Must have two lights for your beardie.

1. A UVB light source-best is 10.0 Reptisun that runs the length of your tank. Your dragon must have this light to metabolize calcium. If not he will get metabolic bone disease, a serious condition. You can also take your beardie outside to bask in the sun for 15 minutes each day if your temps are 80 degrees or above outside. You can purchase cages or reptariums from your pet store. Never leave a beardie outside unattended.
2. A basking type light that puts out heat and warmth above basking spot. Your beardie must have warmth to digest food & thrive.

* Lights should be on for 12-14 hours each day. Follow the seasons and light timers are a great luxury if you can get them. 6 dollars at Lowe's. No lights or warmth needed at night unless your temperatures get below 62 degrees. If they do, there are ceramic heat emitters that put out no light, only heat. Use these at night if temperatures fall below 62 degrees.

* Temperatures have to be kept at the following ranges during the day:

Babies: Warm basking log: 110-125 degrees F (43.5* to 51.5*C)
Cool side: 85-90 (29.5* to 32*C)
Adults: Warm basking spot: 105-115F (40.5*C to 46*C)

Cool side: 80-85F (27*C to 29*C)

Measure temperatures with a digital probe type thermometer or a temp gun-these are most accurate. Stick on thermometers unreliable.

* Feeding a Beardie: Beardies eat live prey consisting of crickets, roaches and/or silkworms. Never feed any size of mice to your beardie. Never feed mealworms. They also must be given greens/veggies everyday. The younger they are the more live prey they should have. As they grow older the live prey decreases and the veggies/greens should be the major part of diet. Never feed anything bigger, than the space between your beardie's eyes. This includes both live prey and pieces of veggies/greens,
* A chopper or food processor is a huge help when your beardie is small. Always offer greens and veggies: collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, cabbage, red cabbage, fresh green beans, yellow summer squash, butternut squash, sweet potato, cactus pad. Apricots, strawberries, apples, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe- fruits are treats only.
* What is live prey? The easiest and less expensive live prey is crickets when you have a young or first beardie. The other live preys you can feed are silkworms, and special types of roaches. You can learn to raise your own live prey. Treats can be waxworms, super worms, and tomato/goliath worms. You may find that ordering live prey from the internet is the way to go..... Never leave live prey or greens/veggies in tank overnight. . Crickets can bite your beardie when sleeping.
* Babies should get 80% live prey, and 20 % greens/veggies. But since the greens/veggies are a must when they are older, get them eating their greens/veggies very early. Give greens/veggies in small pieces everyday. You should eventually start decreasing your older dragon's protein intake when they are about a year to 15 months old. Their protein intake decreases to 20 % live prey and 80% veggies/greens.
* A baby can eat 50-75 crix a day. Never feed crix or veggies bigger than the space between your beardie's eyes. Use this guide when buying crix or chopping your greens/veggies.
* You must provide calcium dust without D3 and multivitamin dust for your beardie. You should dust the live prey with calcium one time a day, and vitamins 3 times a week. Just collect your live prey into baggie and add enough calcium and vitamin to dust them. Then pour a few at a time into your tank. Some people feed their beardie in a separate tank so that no crickets can hide. Or some take out "furniture" from tank and feed this way. As they get older, 4-5 months or so dust live prey with calcium 3 times a week.
* Feed the veggies/ greens 1st thing in morning after lights on for one hour at least. Then after 2-3 hours offer crix. Then freshen green/veggies. Then give more crix. Make sure after last crix feeding there is at least 1-2 hours of lights so that they can digest their food before night time.

*Beardies over the age of one year old during the winter months will go into a Brumation like most Reptiles and Herps. It is a form of hibernation that is governed by the weather and time of year. The lights should be on a shorter period at this time. Fresh greens should be available during this period. Do not feed live prey during Brumation.

Water: Mist your little one with the spray bottle 3-4 times a day. You can also offer a small dish of water in your enclosure but be sure your dragon is not too small to drown in it. It is recommended that when your beardie is 2 months old you can bathe your baby in a small plastic container with warm water- not hot. It will help them to stay hydrated. As they get older you can move up to the bathroom sink and then to the bathtub. Very important for bath enclosure to be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed prior to bath time. Clean between dragons too if bathing more than one.


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Thank you.

There are two things I don't get. I have the lights and heat on timers so they are getting 14 hours everyday right now. Would it be possible for him to be going into brumation despite this and so early in the year? The female in the same housing with him is not showing any signs of brumation. Also from other experts I've talked to, including the dragon specialist at the LA Zoo, I've been told that housing dragons together is ok as long as you have adequate space for them and the ratio of male to female doesn't exceed 1:2. Do I really need to separate them? I don't want to personify them, but they do seem to enjoy each others presence. They often lounge on or next to each other and sleep together.
Brumation is possible, even under the circumstances you describe. however, as I said before, we need to rule out illness. I would try a few soaks. If Gonzo doesn't perk up, your best choice would be to have him checked over by a vet. If you don't already have a vet, this link will take you to a directory:

As for leaving the dragons together, you're the only one who can make that decision. I would keep an eye on the situation. Aggression can appear at any time, even between dragons that have always gotten along.

If you need anything else, don't hesitate to ask.

Hi Tim, I'm just following up on our conversation about Gonzo. How is everything going? MsAM

I haven't noticed a difference. I have soaked him in pedialyte for 30 minutes (he wanted out after 5!), stroking his belly down to his vent. He didn't have a movement. I've also removed the sand and installed tile. I tried a raspberry spread, and he just licked a little off of his nose, but didn't want to eat the collard greens. I did manage to put some in his mouth when he was thermo-regulating. I'm going to get some squash today and see if he likes that. Overall, he is still the same. He isn't sluggish, lethargic, nor weak. He just isn't eating, which is surprising for him. He is just basking in his heat, occasionally going into his cave.


Hi Tim,

I'm sorry that Gonzo isn't eating. I'll give you an alternative method of feeding. Get some plain chicken baby food. Drop a small dollop right on the end of his snout. Most of the time they'll lick it right off. Hope it works for you.

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