Leopard geckos are one of the most popular pet reptiles, especially for beginners. They are easy to care for as long as you provide them with a proper habitat and a healthy diet.
Nutritious Leopard Gecko Diet Basics
Leopard geckos are insectivores, which means they eat a diet composed entirely of live insects. They should be fed a regular diet of mealworms and crickets. You can also supplement this diet with other insects such as:
Black soldier fly larvae (phoenix worms)
Madagascar hissing roaches
Superworms (morio worms)
Waxworms (moth larvae)
Of these insects, butterworms, superworms, and waxworms should only be fed occasionally as a treat due to their high fat content. Pinkie mice should also only be fed occasionally because they are high in fat. Insects should always be fed live, as most leopard geckos will not be interested in eating dead, freeze-dried, or canned insects.
Dusting Leopard Gecko Food
An important part of your leopard gecko's diet is eating sufficient vitamin D3 and calcium to keep them healthy. These nutrients are necessary to prevent a common reptile disorder known as Metabolic Bone Disease. You can buy powdered vitamins and calcium and place some in a plastic sandwich or gallon bag. Add in your insects and shake gently so the powder is distributed onto the insects. You can then proceed to feed them to your leopard gecko. Dusting should be done based on the gecko's age:
Baby leopard geckos should have their food calcium dusted three times a week and once a week with vitamins.
Juvenile leopard geckos should have their food dusted with calcium twice a week and once a week with vitamins.
Adult leopard geckos should have their food dusted with calcium once a week and once a month with vitamins.
Gut Loading Leopard Gecko Feeding Insects
Gut loading means feeding fruits and vegetables to your feeder insects prior to feeding them to your lizard. By gut loading the insects, you can provide your leopard gecko with additional nutrients like vitamins. Gut loading can be easily done by placing fruits and vegetables in the tank where you keep your feeder insects, ideally at least one day before you feed them to your lizard. Foods that reptile keepers commonly use to feed insects are potatoes, leafy greens, carrots, and apples as well as bee pollen. You can also use a prepared cricket feeding supplement like Fluker's Cricket Diet or Mazuri Better Bug Gut Loading Diet.
How Much Food to Feed Your Leopard Gecko
The quantity of food depends on the age of your leopard gecko.
Baby and juvenile geckos should eat daily.
Adult geckos (over a year old) should eat every two to three days. Once their tails are wider than the gecko's neck, switch to every five days.
As a general rule, you can determine the size of the crickets to feed your leopard gecko by the size of the lizard's head.
- They should eat bugs that are no larger than the width between your gecko's eyes.
- The quantity of insects you feed them can be based on their body length, with about two insects for each inch of your gecko's overall length.
- Another method to determine amount is simply let the leopard gecko eat whatever it can within 15 to 20 minutes time and remove the food after that.
Timing a Leopard Gecko Feeding
Leopard geckos tend to do best when you feed them late in the day, such as early evening. This complements their natural instincts to hunt regularly at this time of day.
Removing Extra Food From the Tank
You should always remove crickets and other insects from a leopard gecko's tank after they are done eating. Crickets can actually crawl onto the lizard while they're resting and chew at them, which can hurt your leopard gecko. They can also burrow into your reptile's decorations or under the substrate, making them harder to catch. If you want to leave mealworms for your leopard gecko, you can buy a bowl that keeps them trapped inside.
Overfeeding and Obesity
Obesity can be a problem with leopard geckos. They store fat in their tails, and it may be hard for owners to tell they're getting fat right away. Give your leopard gecko a visual test to see if you're overfeeding them. Their bellies should be flat, unless you've just fed them, in which case it's normal to see some swelling. Their tails should be wider than the width of their bodies from side to side. Another common sign of overfeeding is lethargic behavior and regurgitating their food.
Don't Feed Fruit and Vegetables
Leopard geckos should not be given fruits or vegetables, as they are not capable of digesting them. They lack a cecum, which is what is required to break down the cellulose in fruits and vegetables. Their jaws and teeth are also designed to eat insects and would have difficulty with fruits and vegetables.
Can Leopard Geckos Eat Scrambled Eggs?
Because leopard geckos subsist on a diet that's protein-based, some lizard owners may think feeding scrambled eggs is safe. Scrambled eggs are not an appropriate food item for your leopard gecko. Most leopard geckos won't even try to eat scrambled eggs if you put them in their cage, as they only will eat food that is live and moving.
Foods Poisonous to Leopard Geckos
You should never feed insects that you catch outside to your leopard gecko. These insects may contain insecticides, pesticides, and deadly parasites. In addition, certain types of insects you can catch outside are toxic. Any bugs that produce light, such as fireflies and lightning bugs, are poisonous to leopard geckos, as are other bugs such as grasshoppers.
Water for Leopard Geckos
You should provide your leopard gecko with a shallow bowl of water in their tank and make sure it's always available. The water should be cleaned and changed daily. Unlike with other reptiles, do not treat the water with a conditioner as these are not healthy for your lizard and tap water will not hurt him. The bowl shouldn't be so deep that a leopard gecko can get stuck and drown, and it should be made of a heavy-enough material that he can't easily knock it over.
Feeding Your Leopard Gecko
Leopard geckos are one of the most uncomplicated reptiles to care for because their dietary needs are quite simple. As long as you feed them the right type of insects in appropriate amounts and make sure you are regularly dusting them with calcium and vitamins, your leopard gecko should thrive and maintain a healthy weight. Always watch for signs they are getting too fat and that their feces is normal to ensure they're healthy. If you see signs of refusing food, regurgitating, or unhealthy feces, contact your veterinarian right away.