Designing a Bearded Dragon Mealplan program--Struggles with Conflicting Dietary Advice

Hi all,
This semester I am designing a program with a small team for a software engineering class. The program will create a daily meal plan composed of veterinarian-approved food items (fruits, vegetables, greens, insects, etc) recommended in the correct proportions (eg 80% greens, 20% insects) based on a bearded dragon's age. The goal of this program is to give bearded dragon owners a tool to diversify their beardie's diet and ensure proper nutrition for their pets.
However, there is a problem . . . There seems to be conflicting dietary information even within good veterinary resources. For example, VCA hospital recommends tofu as an appropriate protein source (Bearded Dragons Feeding | VCA Animal Hospitals) while Canobie Lake Veterinary Hospital does not ( Additional conflicts arise in the percentage of diet that live food should compose in both Juvenile and adult ages. Some say 20% live food for adults, while others say 25%, 30%, and even one states that only 4-5 insects should be given in one sitting. I'm having a hard time deciding who to go with here. All my sources are from veterinary hospitals, rescue organizations, and veterinary organizations. The google doc of all my accumulated sources is here: Bearded Dragon Diet info dump

Claudiusx Sicko
Staff member
Welcome to the world of nutrition, it's just as back and fourth for humans too.. 😁

If you are making it specifically for bearded dragons, you're better off speaking with people who have been working with bearded dragons for years, as opposed to vet resources who typically generalize to fit a wide group of creatures, or lack the specific expertise for dragons.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask here. I'm sure there are more than a few of us willing to help with your questions, or possibly point you to a source.
However, I get needing sources if this is going to be for a college class. You might just have to accept the fact that you just have to work with what you've got.

Realistically, there are not going to be any hard and fast rules as far as nutrition because dragon's haven't been studied to the degree that humans have. Because of that, user experience is typically going to be the best source... to a degree.

Maybe if you changed the goal of the project to just helping owners provide a varied diet (much like certain meal planners such as eatthismuch) you could still put together something very good that doesn't rely on varying opinions. Certain foods are good, fact. Certain foods are bad, fact. Certain foods are ok.. fact?

80% feeders 20% salad items? Not fact.. opinion. Wrong? No. Are there other options? Yes.
2 meals a day? Not fact.. opinion. Wrong? No. Are there other options? Yes.
The list goes on..



Original Poster
Are there no nutritional guidelines for bearded dragons? I know there are AAHA guidelines for cats and dogs. Humans also have guidelines for nutrient intake.

Claudiusx Sicko
Staff member
Are there no nutritional guidelines for bearded dragons? I know there are AAHA guidelines for cats and dogs. Humans also have guidelines for nutrient intake.
Nope. And if you find any, I promise you they are most likely just some random's thought's on what they should be, or the same regurgitated anecdote, not based in science like you are likely looking for.

There is experience and anecdote. When that's the case, you try to get your information from people who have been raising dragons for decades. And you try to follow what those people have done to be successful. Success is not being able to breed dragons and sell them and become well known, success is being able to raise healthy dragons for a full lifetime, which at this point is around 10-12 years. Maybe with some more sound and solid nutrition advice, and actual data being collected, that lifespan might improve.

We know certain quantities of things are bad, and we know certain things are good, but it is all from user experience and sharing information on sites like these over the years. Because of not knowing exactly what dragons need, and in what quantities things are good and things are bad (to be general) the typical best advice is to provide a varied diet full of nutrient dense foods (and nutrient dense insects). That's not to say we don't know anything about what is good and bad, but none of it is based on scientific tests like you are most likely looking for.

An example would be we've learned thanks to the explosion of dubia roaches in popularity that overfeeding of Dubia roaches to dragons can lead to Gout. And we've learned that feeding your dubia roaches a high protein diet makes the chances of your dragon developing gout much higher because the more protein dubia roaches eat, the more uric acid they store in their bodies. There were no scientific tests or companies or what have you that determined this. It was from what this site was made for, the sharing of information. But because that is the case, there is no "guideline" to say dragons can only eat X amount of dubia roaches per day otherwise their RDI of Uric acid will be exceeded which leads to gout..

And likewise, that same example can be applied to nearly all aspects of a dragons diet. There is no, "provide this many g of calcium powder a day. This many g of protein per day."

All this to say, the task you are undertaking would be difficult for even the most experienced and specialized in this hobby. Which is probably why it hasn't been done yet.

We are here to help though.:)



Original Poster
I didn't know overfeeding dubia could lead to gout. I will have to make sure I incorporate some more insect variety into my beardie's (Torrin's) diet. I have been feeding dubia as an exclusive insect staple for like a year and a half.

Ok, so it sounds like what the app should probably do is have a master list of bearded dragon-safe foods and then generate a daily menu of random items. Additionally, it would probably make sense for it to select, for example, three different types of greens, two vegetables, one fruit, and maybe two types of insects to be offered in a day. The same meal plan can be used for maybe 4 days before being randomized to something else (to incorporate variety and avoid sky-high grocery/insect feeder costs). It might also make sense to pick one of the veterinary sources I found to offer some guidelines as to what proportions the menu items should be given.

Let's say this menu is generated:
image0 (8).jpeg

The user (especially if they are new to bearded dragons) may assume that the quantity of each does not matter. They may decide that the strawberry should account for %80 of the food offered since their beardie likes it. The user may also not understand that their 3-month-old beardie needs more insects than an adult beardie. Hence the need for some guidelines that explain proper proportioning.

Additionally, it would be nice if the menu prioritized some items instead of pure random generation (say the strawberries just went on sale at the local supermarket or you have some garden fresh kale). Care would be needed to make sure that the user does not constantly prioritize the same thing since variety is key.


Original Poster
Ok, so I'm trying to sort through my resources to determine if any are of higher quality. I was thinking created by veterinary association > created by 2-3 vets > created by 1 vet. Turns out it's not that simple. Why is it that most of the vets that write these are board-certified avian vets? I can't find a single board certified reptile vet author . . .

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