If you own a bearded dragon you probably know that calcium is extremely important for their health. A beardie that doesn’t get enough of this will suffer (which no one wants).
In fact, we would say almost all soon-to-be or inexperienced owners know this. It’s mentioned on care sheets, forums, and in pet stores all the time.
But after that, the information gets hard to find. Why they need it, what happens if you give them too much, and the best sources of calcium are things that many new owners can’t answer.
So we wanted to help with that.
This guide will teach you the fundamentals of why bearded dragons need calcium, how to provide it to them (with our powder recommendations), the way other factors influence how much they need, and much more!
Table of Contents
- Why Your Bearded Dragon Needs Calcium
- What Happens If They Don’t Get Enough?
- What Happens If You Give Them Too Much
- The Influence Of Cage Setup And UVB
- The Best Ways To Provide Them With Calcium
- The Best Calcium Powders For Your Bearded Dragons
- Closing Thoughts
Why Your Bearded Dragon Needs Calcium
So let’s start with the basics. Why does your bearded dragon need calcium in the first place?
Unlike other minerals such as phosphorus, calcium is not something your bearded dragon will receive enough of from their diet.
This is worth noting because calcium (as well as vitamin D3) is one of the most important minerals these animals can receive. It plays a huge role in their ability to grow and maintain bone health over time.
But here’s where it gets interesting:
Bearded dragons can’t metabolize calcium without vitamin D3. This is why you’ll see these talked about in tandem throughout this article. They need both in order to function!
While they can receive some of this from the proper lighting, it’s usually not enough (99.9% of the time). This means you need to supplement these in order for your bearded dragon to remain healthy.
What Happens If They Don’t Get Enough?
So what happens if your bearded dragon doesn’t get enough calcium? Are the health complications severe, or on the mild side?
Unfortunately, it’s the former.
There’s a long list of nasty health issues that your bearded dragon can develop if it doesn’t get the necessary amount of calcium. While some are worse than others, none of them are pleasant.
One of the most obvious issues you’ll notice is in their behavior, movements, and energy. You might see them twitching or acting very skittish (even when the stimulation is mild).
If things get worse, this will likely swing the other way. Lethargy and weakness can be a sign of many potential health complications, and it’s no different with a calcium deficiency.
Expert Tip: You might also see other issues arise like seizures and constipation. These tend to happen in more serious cases.
There are plenty of bone and structural issues that can occur as well. You might see deformities begin to develop (especially if your bearded dragon is still growing). They might develop tail rot as well.
Their bones can become brittle as well. Without enough calcium, your beardie will be prone to fractures from very light impacts or even handling.
And if left unchecked, all of these health complications can lead to death.
This is why it’s so important to take the calcium factor seriously when keeping a bearded dragon as a pet. It’s unfair to subject another living creature to these kinds of symptoms just because you didn’t take the time to learn what to do!
What Happens If You Give Them Too Much
What a lot of new owners don’t realize is that you can give your bearded dragon too much calcium as well. This is actually a common mistake because inexperienced owners go overboard in an attempt to avoid the list of awful symptoms we mentioned above.
Something that’s important to note is that too much calcium is only a problem when there’s too much vitamin D3 as well. This is because vitamin D3 is necessary in order for your bearded dragon to absorb the calcium.
Without vitamin D3, the calcium won’t do much (for better or worse).
Assuming you have too much of both, there are other serious issues that can arise in your bearded dragon.
General weakness, lethargic behavior, and constipation are all common signs that your beardie is absorbing too much calcium. There will also be a lack of mobility since the muscles and soft tissue will begin to stiffen.
If these animals continue to receive too much calcium they can potentially die (although this is less common).
Expert Note: It’s worth pointing out that even though these symptoms can present with a deficiency in calcium too, it’s going to be pretty obvious what the cause is.
If you’re actively trying to give your bearded dragon more calcium, it’s probably an overdose. If calcium isn’t something you haven’t been paying much attention to, it’s likely the opposite.
The Influence Of Cage Setup And UVB
It’s entirely possible for you to be giving your bearded dragon too much calcium without realizing it. One of the most common ways this occurs is with a suboptimal light and habitat combination.
Let’s say you have one of the best cages for bearded dragons and a high-quality light. This is obviously a step in the right direction since it’s another effective and natural way for them to get calcium into their system.
But what if the light is too close? Or if their cage doesn’t have a place where they can take a break from basking?
This can lead to an excess amount being created from the lighting situation. When you combine that with any other calcium-related efforts, you could end up with an overdose.
Fortunately, this is an easy thing to fix. Simply revisit the recommended setup guidelines in order to ensure you have everything positioned properly.
The Best Ways To Provide Them With Calcium
If you’re trying to increase the amount of calcium your bearded dragon gets, there are a number of ways you can accomplish this. We’ve hinted at each of them at one point or another above, but this section will take a deeper dive into each.
It’s important to note that each of these should not be used on their own. You’ll want a mix of each in order to maximize the health of these animals since they get their calcium from a variety in the wild.
Supplements & Powder
One of the most effective ways to quickly increase the calcium your bearded dragon gets is through supplementation. This is most effectively done through powder, so that’s what we’ll speak to in this section.
Bearded dragon calcium powder is quite straightforward and easy to use. Simply put, it’s a powder that contains concentrated calcium (and D3 depending on which product you get) that you sprinkle on their food.
This process is often called “dusting” among owners, so if you see that mentioned in a forum or on social media you’ll know what’s being talked about. You can space out how many meals are coated in this calcium powder depending on how much calcium your bearded dragon needs.
Expert Tip: If you coat the food in too much powder your bearded dragon might decide not to eat it. This just means you need to ease off on the seasoning a bit!
Light is another great way for your bearded dragon to get the necessary amount of calcium. In the wild, this species heavily uses UVB rays from the sun to fulfill this requirement.
That why it’s important to get the best UVB light for your bearded dragon possible (and set it up properly). While you can’t rely on this entirely, this will provide a good baseline and a bit of variety. This species can’t get all their calcium from supplementation alone!
It’s important to read the instructions when setting up their lighting situation. Placing the light too close or too far away can lead to some of the issues we mentioned earlier.
Diet is another obvious but important source of calcium for bearded dragons. There are a ton of great food options out there that are very calcium-rich, but there are a few that we like the most.
In general, leafy greens tend to pack quite a punch when it comes to calcium. Foods like Romaine lettuce, collard greens, turnip greens, chicory, escarole, and cilantro are all options we use often. Try to provide a mix of these instead of just one or two (variety is important when it comes to diet).
Blackberries and figs are also tasty treats that have plenty of calcium in them as well. We like to treat these as an occasional snack instead of daily foods.
You can also do something called “gut loading” which involves you feeding insects (like crickets) a very calcium-rich diet, and even including some calcium supplements as well. Then, simply feed the insects to your bearded dragon.
While many owners don’t have a problem with this, we tend to avoid it because it feels a little cruel. While they’re “only insects” the process of gut loading is not good for their health.
They’re already going to get eaten, so why make things worse for them? That’s just our personal preference though!
The Best Calcium Powders For Your Bearded Dragons
There are a ton of different calcium powders you can use for your bearded dragon. And on the surface, they all look pretty much the same.
But which ones are the best?
This is something we think about a lot, and are constantly testing. We also ask other owners what they’re using to see what everyone likes!
Because of this, we feel confident recommending the following two bearded dragon calcium powders. Each of them has vitamin D3 included (something that not all powders have) because it’s just a more straightforward and sensible way to approach supplementation.
Repti Calcium D3 Supplement By Zoo Med
This is one of the best bearded dragon calcium powders on the market. Zoo Med is a fantastic company that has been providing high-quality products to the reptile community for quite a while.
This calcium powder is great because it’s one of the best mixtures in terms of impurities. It’s not made from anything like oyster shells or other substances that can affect your bearded dragon over time.
All you get with it is high-quality, trusted calcium and D3. The mixture is extremely fine which makes it easier to digest. Some calcium powder that’s not ground properly can cause GI issues in your reptile.
We know tons of owners who swear by this powder, and we’ve had great success with it as well. It’s also very affordable, so you can easily fit it into your existing care strategy without it disrupting your budget too much.
Fluker’s Repta Calcium
This is another great calcium powder for bearded dragons that we really like. Fluker’s is a fantastic company that’s been a staple among reptile owners for years.
Like the product above, the Repta Calcium powder also contains D3 to allow your bearded dragon to absorb the calcium properly.
This is a powder that we recommend giving a little extra love before using it. There have been reports of some lumps here and there, so we always like to grind it up a little bit more just to be safe.
This will allow your bearded dragon to digest it more efficiently, and reduce the risk of any GI issues that lumpy powders can cause.
One of the nice things about this product is that it’s super affordable. It has the quality of a more expensive powder, in a cheap package.
Now that you have a better understanding of the impact calcium can have on your bearded dragons, it’s time for you to plan accordingly. Take a look at your enclosure, lighting, and diet to see if there’s anything that can be improved.
If your bearded dragon is doing fine so far (aka not exhibiting any of the symptoms we mentioned above) then don’t rush out and change everything. If you’re certain there’s something that needs to be addressed, improve it slowly.
The worth thing you can do is overcompensate and fix a problem that didn’t exist in the first place!
Instead, keep it simple. Provide them with the necessary light, a good diet, and a little bit of calcium powder. The rest should take care of itself!