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Why does my Bearded Dragon attack my hand when putting food in his cage? I feed my bearded dragon Greens and live worms and give him distilled water. Lately I have been noticing that my Bearded Dragon has been trying to puff up and attack at my hand when I put his food in. I wash my hands with soap to eliminate some of the food smell if the food gets onto my hand to keep him from thinking my hand is food. Is there a safe way to stop him from attacking my hands when putting his food in his cage?

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    Coincidentally I just mentioned this today, but distilled water isn't good for reptiles. It doesn't have the minerals they need to get from it. – Spidercat Jun 21 '14 at 2:59
  • @MattS. What minerals do bearded dragons need from water? and what kind of water should they have? – Blender Warrior Jun 21 '14 at 4:07
  • The most important ones would probably be calcium, but possibly also some of the magnesium, potassium, sodium, and others found in water. – Spidercat Jun 21 '14 at 18:13
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You say attack, but it doesn't really sound like aggression to me. Typically aggression will come with a warning first. With bearded dragons that will be them puffing out their neck, showing what looks like a scaly beard (which is where their name comes from), which will usually also turn black. So unless that's happening, I would say he's just overly excited that it's feeding time.

Bearded dragons have pretty bad eyesight, so they like to explore by tasting things (That's why sand and other particle substrate is considered bad for them). It's also possible that he smells the soap on your hands and isn't sure what to make of it, so he's checking it out to see what it is.

My suggestion is to make sure you regularly interact and handle your bearded dragon outside of feeding times, to help him distinguish your hand from food. That way, even if he does still associate you with food, which I bet he will, he'll be better about getting the food from your hand.

  • It might help to feed him in a separate container, that way your hand is the transporter to the food, and not the container of the food. Which shouldn't illicit excited nips.

  • If you feed him in a separate container, you might want to try putting the food in first, then transitioning to adding the food in later.

    Alternatively, if you want to feed him in his terrarium, you could pick him up with one hand, put his food in, then put him back down at his food.

  • At the very least, it might be worth trying to put the food in at the opposite side of the container your bearded dragon is located. I usually put mine opposite of the basking lamp anyways, that way the greens don't dry out too fast.

Remember, the end goal is to make it so that he doesn't associate hitting your hand with making food appear, otherwise that's what he's going to start doing when he's hungry.

Even if you think it is more aggression than excitement, I think the best thing that's going to fix it is simply more handling.


I assume you've had him for quite some time, but for people with new dragons, handling becomes easier if they're first used to your scent. Placing a worn t-shirt on top of the tank for a night or two is a simple way to do that.


Pick him up and just hang out with him for a couple minutes each day if possible. A good time to do this is before feeding, that way he associates your hand with getting picked up, and it's when he gets put down that food appears.

Bearded dragons like moving colors, so they make fairly good companions when you're on your computer or watching a movie, as they'll be content to sit and watch the colors for the most part. Mine will run up and try to catch anything that makes a sudden movement on my computer screen every so often, so be prepared for that possibly.

It shouldn't take too long with frequent handling, where he should start recognizing that your hand isn't food and/or doesn't mean him harm.

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