You already know that bearded dragons are omnivorous lizards and that they consume insects, fruits, and veggies at different rates, depending on their age. Baby and juvenile dragons require diets consisting of 80% insects and 20% veggies and fruits. The percentages reverse with adult dragons as they age.
You also know that tomatoes are tasty, nutritious, and particularly handsome. So, do bearded dragons, and tomatoes get along? Let’s have a look!
Is Tomato Safe for Bearded Dragons?
The general answer is yes, but this depends on feeding frequency above all else. In short, tomatoes are safe in small quantities and when fed sparingly. There are several reasons for that, which we will discuss shortly.
Benefits of Tomatoes for Bearded Dragons
Surprisingly, tomatoes provide bearded dragons with several benefits, such as:
- Improved heart health – Fruits are often packed with sugar, which doesn’t sit well with the dragon’s heart and blood status. This is the main reason why bearded dragons should only have fruits as treats rather than regular meals. Fortunately, tomatoes don’t fit this category. Despite being fruits, tomatoes are low in sugar, so they won’t impact your dragon’s heart health.
- Added vitamin A – Vitamin A is great for your bearded dragon for a variety of reasons. These include improved immune systems, better vision, more optimized growth, and improved reproductive capabilities. Given that tomatoes are full of vitamin A, you can see where the argument is heading.
- Improved skin and heart health – We’re talking about lycopene. This antioxidant is great for reduced inflammation, better heart functioning, and improved skin condition.
It’s also worth noting that tomatoes don’t contain too many oxalates (oxalic acid.) The problem with oxalates is that they bind to minerals, making them more difficult to absorb in the system. They function similarly to phosphorus, binding to calcium and preventing the lizard from getting the amount of calcium necessary.
This can lead to calcium deficiency and Metabolic Bone Disease, which bearded dragons, and reptiles, in general, are already sensitive to. Oxalates can also cause kidney stones and impact good gut bacteria, leading to digestive issues and faulty nutrient absorption with time.
As an interesting note, spinach contains a lot of calcium but also a lot of oxalates. These will neutralize the calcium in the spinach, so your dragon won’t get much out of it.
Risks of Bearded Dragons Eating Tomatoes
Unfortunately, there are many more downsides than upsides to feeding tomatoes to your bearded dragon. The primary risks associated with excessive tomato consumption include:
- Vitamin A overdose – This is a particularly dangerous one and quite prevalent among bearded dragons. That’s because bearded dragons also receive vitamin and mineral supplementation, including vitamin A, to avoid deficiencies. The problem is that tomatoes are filled with vitamin A, which can lead to overdoses. Excessive vitamin A consumption can cause toxicity that results in dehydration, low energy, inflammation, swelling, and weight loss.
- Diarrhea and dehydration – Tomatoes are very acidic. This causes the fruits to cause digestive problems like diarrhea, leading to severe dehydration. This is particularly dangerous for reptiles due to their innate sensitivity to the lack of water.
- Calcium deficiency – A regular tomato contains approximately 18 mg calcium and 43 mg phosphorus. This is a red flag because one mg of phosphorus neutralizes one mg of calcium. What remains is pure phosphorus, which bearded dragons have no use for. This means that a diet rich in tomatoes leaves the bearded dragon vulnerable to calcium deficiency and Metabolic Bone Disease.
As you can see, tomatoes aren’t exactly ideal for bearded dragons due to the relatively low nutrient content and improper phosphorus-calcium ratio. Ideally, you want most of the dragon’s fruits and veggies to come with a 1:1 or 2:1 phosphorus-calcium ratio, with calcium being the predominant element.
Feeding Tomatoes to Beardies
The feeding process should be fairly simple. You only need to peek the tomato, remove the seeds, and cut it into small pieces. Not too small, but enough for your dragon to eat it easily.
Can Baby Bearded Dragons Eat Tomatoes?
No. I’ll just put it simple like that. Don’t feed your bearded dragons tomatoes. It’s not that the fruit is toxic to them or whatever, but your main concern is the nutrient content. Tomatoes simply lack the right calcium content, and baby beardies need all the calcium they can get.
If they get their fill from tomatoes, they won’t have any room left to eat anything else and meet their calcium quota. Instead, aim for a varied diet consisting of foods rich in calcium and as low in phosphorus as possible.
That being said, tomatoes may not be completely forbidden for baby dragons. Just keep them as occasional treats, like once per month.
Is Any Part of Tomato Toxic to Beardies?
Yes, several parts of the tomato are toxic for bearded dragons and other reptiles. Here, we include the vines, stems, flowers, and leaves primarily due to the alkaloid content. This makes them literally toxic to reptiles.
Then you have the skin. The tomato’s skin isn’t necessarily toxic, but it can be if it is sprayed with pest-killing chemicals. This is why you should always peel off the tomato before feeding it to your beardie.
In conclusion, I would say that you can safely skip tomatoes entirely, and your beardies won’t miss anything. They don’t crave and don’t need tomatoes, so you can easily eliminate them from your dragon’s diet.
If you do plan on keeping them as treats, only feed them to adult beardies and only once or twice per month, not more.