Caring for a bearded dragon is a very rewarding and enjoyable experience, but there are some important chores that come with the job. When it comes to feeding time, is it better to go with freeze-dried crickets or live crickets?
Freeze-dried crickets are easier to handle, and most bearded dragons do enjoy them so they can make a pleasant snack or treat. Live crickets, on the other hand, are much more nutritious and are actually beneficial for bearded dragons, although they can be quite difficult to store and handle.
Read ahead in this article to find out all of the differences between these two types of food, so that you know whether you might choose one over the other!
Benefits Of Freeze-Dried Crickets
There are some obvious and pretty appealing benefits to choosing freeze-dried crickets when your bearded dragon is looking hungry.
- They Are Not Alive: Most owners don’t really like the idea of handling a lot of live insects, and there are challenges to buying and storing crickets that move and jump around. Freeze-dried crickets, on the other hand, are very easy to deal with.
- They Last: Live crickets need to be kept alive, so they can’t exactly be left in a cupboard and forgotten about. Freeze-dried crickets, on the other hand, can be easily stored for a long time.
- They Are Easy to Get: You can find freeze-dried crickets at almost any pet store, and they are also very easy to buy online and have shipped directly to your door.
- Most Bearded Dragons Like Them: They may not be as exciting as a live cricket, but most bearded dragons do still enjoy eating a nice, freeze-dried treat.
- They Are Filling: If your bearded dragon is feeling hungry, a freeze-dried cricket or two can certainly hit the spot.
Disadvantages Of Freeze-Dried Crickets
Although there are benefits when it comes to choosing freeze-dried crickets, not everything about them is positive. In fact, there are some pretty significant downsides to feeding these to your bearded dragon, and some people even advise against it.
- They Are Not Nutritious: Although it may look like a good meal for your lizard, there is almost no protein or nutrition in freeze-dried crickets. This means that they are not providing many benefits as part of a healthy diet.
- They Are Not Gut Loaded: Gut loading is the process of feeding an insect beneficial nutrients, which will then be passed on to your lizard. Even if it says so on the packet, freeze-dried crickets will not be effectively gut loaded.
- They Can Cause Impaction: Freeze-dried crickets are essentially just the hard exoskeleton part of the animal, which can build up in your dragon’s stomach and cause impactions.
- They Are Completely Dry: It may sound self-explanatory, but freeze-dried crickets contain basically no moisture at all. Your bearded dragon will get most of its fluids from the food it eats, so dry foods are not giving them much of what they need.
How Long Do Freeze-Dried Crickets Stay Edible?
One of the major benefits of buying freeze-dried crickets is that you can keep them for a long time. Having some of these in a cupboard for the occasional snack or meal replacement is pretty handy, and you don’t need to worry about replacing your supply too often.
In fact, most freeze-dried will stay edible for around three years, if not longer. Of course, it is important that you check the date that is given on the packaging to be sure.
Are Freeze-Dried Crickets as Nutritious as Live Crickets?
So, will your bearded dragon actually get as much out of eating freeze-dried crickets as they would from live crickets? Unfortunately not. While live crickets are a great source of protein and other nutrients, freeze-dried crickets have almost no nutritional value whatsoever.
They don’t even contain any water, which your bearded dragon needs to gain from the food that it eats.
Benefits Of Live Crickets
With all of that in mind, is it worth getting your hands on some live crickets instead? There are certainly some big benefits to feeding your bearded dragon live food.
- They Are Highly Nutritious: Unlike freeze-dried crickets, the live ones have a lot of nutrition in them. They are a great source of protein, and they have a lot of other nutritional benefits besides. They also contain fat, fiber, calcium, and phosphorous.
- They Are Filled With Moisture: Around 80% of any live insect will be moisture. This is great for keeping your dragon hydrated, and it helps their digestive system to handle the food as well, reducing the likelihood of an impaction.
- They Can Be Gut Loaded: Alongside the basic benefits that these insects provide, they can even be gut loaded with extra nutrients that make them even better for your lizard.
- They Encourage Natural Behavior: A live cricket allows your bearded dragon to actually hunt, giving them some exercise and letting them practice the natural behavior that they would exhibit in the wild.
- They Are Fun And Tasty: Not only do bearded dragons like the taste of live crickets, but they also enjoy being able to hunt them down as well!
- They Are Easy To Find: There are many different places where you can purchase live crickets – and you can even get them delivered to your house.
Disadvantages Of Live Crickets
It’s not all upsides when it comes to live crickets, though. There are also negatives to this food option.
- They Have to Be Kept Alive: One of the most obvious challenges when it comes to feeding your bearded dragon live crickets is that they have to be kept alive. This means that they will need to be stored in an appropriate container, and they will need to be fed and watered until they are eaten.
- They Can Be Difficult to Handle: Of course, they are also much more difficult to handle than freeze-dried food. They can jump pretty high and will try to escape from your dragon, which can lead to them getting loose in your house.
- They Can Be Noisy: Crickets are well known for making quite a bit of noise. Not every cricket species is excessively loud, but they are certainly more disruptive than a pack of dried crickets in the cupboard.
- They Smell: As live creatures, crickets do give off a bit of a smell, and their container needs to have holes in it to allow them some air.
- They Sometimes Bite: Live crickets can fight back against your dragon, making them a bit awkward as a meal, and they can even bite you as well!
With all that being said, they are definitely a better food source for your dragons when it comes to their health and happiness. They aren’t easy to deal with, though, which is why some reptile owners try to avoid them.
How To Get Bearded Dragons to Like Freeze-Dried Crickets
If your bearded dragon is not a fan of freeze-dried crickets, you can try to encourage them a little by pairing them with other foods or moving them so that they seem more alive.
Mixing the crickets in with fresh and healthy greens is a great way to make them more appealing, and it makes for a much more nutritional meal as well.
You can also move the freeze-dried crickets around a bit (with tweezers or by shaking them on a dish) to make them look like they are still alive, which might entice your dragon to want to eat them.
Can Bearded Dragons Survive Only On Freeze-Dried Crickets?
It is important to remember that bearded dragons cannot live on freeze-dried crickets alone. They provide almost no nutritional value, and they do not contain the vital water that your dragon needs.
In fact, your breaded dragons should never have a diet that is solely insect-based, whether they are alive, frozen, freeze-dried, or canned. A healthy bearded dragon needs to eat a mixture of fruits, vegetables, and potentially supplements, as well as insects. The majority of their adult diet should actually be plant-based, although juveniles will need more insects for protein.
How Many Freeze-Dried Crickets Should You Feed Your Dragon at A Time?
With the risk of impaction and the lack of nutrition that they offer, you don’t want to be giving your bearded dragon too many freeze-dried crickets. They are best as an occasional snack or meal replacement, rather than a significant part of your lizard’s diet.
When you do offer some freeze-dried crickets to your bearded dragon, it’s important that you only give them a few. 5-10 crickets are probably the maximum, or it can result in digestive problems.
Summary: Freeze Dried Crickets vs Live for Bearded Dragons
So, what are the main differences between these kinds of crickets? Well, live crickets give much more nutrition and moisture, and they are more entertaining and tasty for your bearded dragons as well. Freeze-dried crickets, on the other hand, are easier to store and less of a challenge to deal with.
At the end of the day, freeze-dried crickets provide very little nutritional value, apart from as the occasional meal replacement or snack. By comparison, live crickets can actually make up an important part of your pet’s diet.