Hello there! I adore geckos, they are officially my favorite reptile and therefore I thought I would do a little research and see if having a pet gecko might be for me.
Leopard geckos, in particular are known as one of the easiest reptiles to take care of with a docile, easy to tame nature, a favorite with both experienced and beginner herpetoculturists‘.
Fortunately, these little lizards have been captive bred in the United States for over 30 years, meaning that they are widely available and affordable.
Like with any pet, the best way to begin to build a fantastic relationship is to ensure all the necessary essentials are met. Get the basics right and you will be rewarded with a lovely friend, who is both happy and healthy.
Food, water, shelter and a little bit of love are all a happy gecko needs, but of course, many of our pets see a little luxury now and then, just because we love them so much.
Here, I am going to cover all aspects of diet for the leopard gecko. From when to feed, what to feed to what to avoid and of course including a few treats along the way.
Firstly, we will establish that leopard geckos simply eats a variety of insects.
How Often Does a Leopard Gecko Eat?
To gain a wonderful relationship of trust with you gecko, they must be fed on a regular schedule. As Leopard geckos are nocturnal creatures, they should be fed early in the evening around 7pm to 9pm.
How often and the quantity of insects a leopard gecko should eat depends on there age and health.
For growing baby geckos, they need approximately 4 to 8 insects per day. The daily feeding is also suitable for sick geckos and picky eaters to make sure they get enough nutrients.
When your little babies have grown up, healthy, active adult geckos that are one to two years old can be expected to eat 5 to 10 insects every other day or as much as they want in a 10 or 15 minute session.
Of course it is expected that if your gecko has a large appetite for the more indulgent treats and hence is overweight then they should be fed less than the average adult gecko to get there weight back on track.
Unlike food, always make sure to have clean water at all times in a shallow dish. Clean the water dish if it gets dirty and fill with clean, fresh water.
Avoid Feeding Your Leopard Gecko These Foods
There are some surprising foods which you leopard gecko should not be fed. These include wild insects, pinky mice and fruit and veg.
Unfortunately, although ‘free range’ and of course free, wild insects caught outside or in your house could be potentially toxic to your gecko companion.
These insects might have parasites and trace amounts of pesticides that are highly toxic to your gecko.
Even if you don’t use pesticides yourself, these insects likely travel across gardens and farmers fields where they are less welcomed.
Some insects in themselves are poisonous to geckos. Fireflies, for example contain chemicals that make them bio-luminescent. Sadly, though beautiful to watch, these glowing insects are also highly toxic to geckos.
You should also avoid feeding your leopard gecko pinky mice because it can lead to intestinal gout and obesity due to the fatty nature of the mice, however, some owners suggest feeding them occasionally to laying females to help maintain body weight.
Fruit and vegetables are famed for being the perfect health food, but not in the case of leopard geckos. They simply cannot digest them and therefore should not be fed them.
This is because their bodies do not possess a Cecum, a pouch found at the start if the large intestine. In herbivores, this pouch contains bacteria to help digest the cellulose that is contained in fruits and vegetables.
Nutrition For Your Leopard Gecko
Supplements will help keep your gecko happy, healthy, and able to ward off illness.
Geckos, being nocturnal and not exactly a pet you can walk so that can mean that it is difficult to ensure you gecko gets enough natural sunlight.
Sunlight, in particular the UVB rays allows the body product vitamin D through exposure of skin, and this is also true in geckos. Vitamin D3 is essential to health as it helps absorb calcium which is needed for their bones.
Worried about your own vitamin D let alone your gecko? Fear not there are alternatives for you gecko.
This functions are like a substitute for natural sunlight, however, the UVB must be very limited and controlled because in the wild, leopard geckos burrow deep underground and hide in rock crevasses to sleep during the day.
They only come out early in the morning and late in the afternoon to hunt. Overexposure could lead to UVB or your pet could get burned.
You could also provide vitamin D3 in a supplement form, usually included in all inclusive powder through dusting.
You should also be careful to not supplement with Vitamin D3, if you use UVB light therapy or you could cause a D3 overdose.
What is Dusting?
Dusting is done by sprinkling the powdered supplements onto the live insects before feeding them to your leopard gecko.
Dusting supplements usually contain a variety of essential nutrients including vitimin D3 and calcuim.
Calcium is the most critical mineral to feed your gecko, and the insects should be coated 1 to 2 times a week right before feeding time, unless they are babies or breeding females and then the insects should be coated daily.
If your leopard gecko doesn’t get enough calcium, its body will begin to draw calcium from its bones which leads to MBD or Metabolic Bone Disease.
MBD can cause a hanging jaw, soft bones, and irreversible damage. So please make sure your leopard gecko is getting enough calcium and Vitamin D3 which work hand in hand to ensure a healthy gecko.
If you’re unsure on any aspects, seek advice from a reptile specialist, who can answer any questions that you may have about your pet leopard gecko.
8 Best Foods for Leopard Geckos – What Do They Eat?
A key, simple trick with feeding your gecko and ensuring that your gecko wont bite off more than they can chew is to only feed insects that do not not exceed in length, the space between your gecko’s eyes.
This would mean that you should feed baby geckos crickets which are about ⅜ inch in size and juvenile geckos crickets ¼ inch in size or, in both cases, slightly smaller than your gecko’s head for easy swallowing.
Adult geckos should be able to enjoy eating adult crickets, but just like each gecko will be differently sized, so will the crickets.
Ensure you follow the trick above, just smaller than your crickets head and your gecko can enjoy meal times without worry of any bugs getting stuck.
“Gut load” your crickets 24 hours before you feed them to your leopard gecko for proper nutrition. “Gut loading” crickets means the crickets have been well fed so they can pass on the nutrients to your gecko.
Feed the crickets water, calcium, supplements, and food that is vitamin-rich.
Don’t be tempted to overlove you gecko with these fine delicacies. The downsides of crickets is that overcrowing your gecko’s home with crickets will cause them to irritate and bite your gecko’s skin.
Crickets also escape easily and can disappear. They will smell bad, so keep them in a plastic container with a lid. You will need to clean the plastic container the crickets are in on a regular basis.
These worms definitely benefit those who are not a large insect fan. Mealworms cannot escape easily from a bowl and disappear like the crickets so long as the bowl is smooth.
Other perks for your gecko include there slow moving nature, so they are always a easy meal for your gecko. These worms also don’t bite and don’t irritate your gecko if you put a few too many into your companions home.
Like the crickets, you will need to “Gut Load” your mealworms with a nutritious powdered diet 24 hours before feeding your gecko to ensure they transfer all the essential nutrients through the food chain.
Your gecko will have to work a little harder to gain these nutrients for mealworms compared to crickets because the mealworms exoskeleton is tougher to digest.
Just like cake, feeding too many waxworms will cause your gecko to get fat and therefore only feed them as a treat, once a week. Due to there tasty nature, these worms can be used to jumpstart geckos which have a eating problem.
In terms of Waxworms are cheap and easy to find, but waxworms smell bad. Waxworms cannot be “gut loaded” and have a short lifespan.
Silkworms are also low moving and easy to eat like mealworms, but they are highly nutitious. They are low fat and high protein, high calcium, and they contain high moisture.
Furthermore, these worms also contain an enzyme, Serrapeptase, that reduces arterial plaque, pain, and inflammation.
This enzyme also aids in the absorption of calcium. This combination makes them a good meal for a sick leopard gecko, but can also been seen as the best food to provide any leopard gecko!
Unfortunately, silkworms have a short lifespan and are expensive. This may not be the budget friendly option but providing a few worms once or twice a week will help give your gecko a healthy, balanced and more cost-effective diet.
5) Dubia Roaches
Dubia roaches are low-fat and high protein and their movement stimulates leopard geckos to eat.
These roaches usually “Gut load” very easily, meaning that they will naturally ensure they are well fed and nutritious for your gecko.
These Dubia roaches are expensive but live longer which may make them more cost-effective than silkworms.
These worms too are high in fat and don’t provide as much protein as the
They are softer and easier to digest than mealworms, easy to breed, a cheap food source with a long life span.
Superworms are not suitable for younger geckos and they also can bite.
These worms cannot be fed extra nutrition via gut loading and are slow moving and will not stimulate your leopard gecko to eat.
Butterworms are not as readily available as some of the other insects but fortunately they can be stored for several months in the fridge if you manage to find some.
This worm easily gives you gecko high levels of calcium and low levels of fat, however, they are also low in protein.
These worms are great for picky eaters as they provide a high moisture content and are larger and therefore filling.
Leopard geckos are exotic animals that need constant care even though they are relatively easy to take care of.
Reading up on diet, demonstrates that you want to be a responsible gecko parent, whether this because you want to welcome a new member to the family or just to double check the latest knowledge is the best thing you can do for your pet.
Leopard geckos require a low-fat, high protein diet with an easily digestible live insect.
Take care to observe your gecko because each one is an individual. One leopard gecko may prefer mealworms over crickets where the other gecko prefers Dubia roaches over crickets.
Taste is just as important, there is no point having the most nutritious insects if you gecko just wont eat them!
Different geckos may not gain weight in the same way either or eat as fast. One way to check whether your gecko is getting chubby is to check the size of the body against their tails.
There body should never be wider than there tails as there tails are where they store fat.
The main aspect to keep aware of with keeping a gecko is that in effect you have many more pets. These insects are live, some smell, are noisy and can escape but also need food and care just like your gecko.
You will always need to keep insects in a clean container, especially crickets and have the food available for the insects too.
Be sure you can stomach handling and caring for your creepy crawly companions too before committing to a gecko.
If you are uncertain about a problem that arises with your gecko, please consult a reptile specialist. Observe your little friend and write down everything that doesn’t seem right to you.
Take your observations to the reptile specialist with you or when you chat on the phone with the specialist.
Experiment with different combinations of insects. This is the only way you will find out what works for both you and your gecko. Most importantly enjoy your exotic pet!