Although leopard geckos are among the hardiest pet reptiles, these popular lizards still require a very specific, nutritious diet to thrive in captivity.
When planning your gecko’s meals, perhaps you’ve considered adding fresh fruit to the lineup.
After all, plenty of lizards eat fruit and love it, so why not your pet leopard gecko?
Feeding a leopard gecko fruit or vegetables will make them very ill. Leopard geckos are a particular type of carnivore known as an insectivore. This means their bodies are only equipped to digest and derive nutrients from small prey like insects, arachnids, and other small invertebrates.
Keep reading to learn more about why fruit should be avoided as a source of nutrition for these cute reptiles.
We’ll also go over what you, as a gecko owner, should be feeding your pet to have a happy, healthy gecko who is satisfied with every meal.
Can Leopard Geckos Eat Fruit or Vegetables?
While fresh fruit is a tasty, healthy treat for you and plenty of other herbivorous and omnivorous animals, it should never appear in your leopard gecko’s food dish.
The big reason comes down to your gecko’s digestive system and how it is structured to digest only a specific range of foods.
Essentially, leopard geckos’ diets are strictly insectivorous.
Insectivores are a very specific kind of carnivore.
Rather than eating all different types of meats, animals with insectivorous diets feed only on small invertebrates, namely a variety of insects and occasionally small arachnids.
Insectivores are usually smaller animals like lizards, shrews, birds, and frogs who cannot take down large prey but still have short digestive tracts designed to digest animal matter rather than plant material.
Herbivorous animals that eat only plant material have long, winding digestive tracts (and sometimes multiple stomachs or multi-chambered stomachs) perfectly equipped to break down plants’ tough cellulose.
Carnivores, however, including insectivores, have much shorter digestive tracts, which are better suited to digesting animal material.
What’s more, a diet of fruits and vegetables would not nourish your gecko and keep them healthy.
Since your lizard is unable to digest fruit, they also aren’t able to fully break it down and derive the essential nutrients their body needs from it to thrive.
Even if a starving leopard gecko in the wild attempted to munch on plants out of sheer desperation, it wouldn’t survive very long.
Related: Will a leopard gecko starve itself?
In short, your leopard gecko’s stomach and intestines aren’t designed to break down or gain any meaningful nutrition from fruits or vegetables!
Your leopard gecko is unlikely to show any interest in fruits or veggies as a food source, and even if they did, they’d become very sick and uncomfortable after eating such a meal.
Check out our complete list of what leopard geckos can eat safely.
What Foods Should Leopard Geckos Eat?
Since leopard geckos cannot eat any plant material whatsoever and are strictly insectivorous, the types of foods they can eat are limited to small insects and invertebrates.
Fortunately, most feeders for reptiles, including all the ones leopard geckos love to eat, are inexpensive and readily available at most chain pet stores.
They are also available for purchase from various professional breeders online.
In terms of nutrition, it’s best to opt for feeder insects with low-fat content and high in protein with a calcium to phosphorus ratio of at least 2:1.
However, fattier insects should also be offered as occasional treat items to provide a more varied diet.
Avoid dried insects, as drying them strips them of moisture and their nutritional content.
Additionally, most leopard geckos have a strong hunting instinct and typically will only recognize moving prey as food.
All insects should be reasonably sized or smaller than the width of the space between your gecko’s eyes to prevent choking and digestive impaction.
Never feed wild insects to your gecko, as they often carry high parasite loads and are sometimes coated in traces of pesticide products and herbicides.
Only feed your gecko feeder insects born and raised in captivity.
Leopard Gecko Insect Table
Below is a table with an accessible list of the most common feeder worms and other insects for leopard geckos, their basic nutritional information, and how often your gecko should ideally be eating them.
Nutritional information percentages are approximations averaged from multiple feeder insect vendors and sources.
|Food Item||Feeding Frequency||Nutritional Info|
|Black Soldier Fly Larvae (AKA Phoenix Worms, NutriGrubs, CalciWorms)||Staple (2x to 3x+ per week)||Moisture: 65%|
|Butterworms||Semi-Staple (1x to 2x per week)||Moisture: 58%|
|Crickets||Staple (2x to 3x+ per week)||Moisture: 70%|
|Dubia Roaches||Staple (2x to 3x+ per week)||Moisture: 62%|
|Hornworms||Occasional (1x to 2x per month)||Moisture: 85%|
|Mealworms||Semi-Staple (1x to 2x per week)||Moisture: 60%|
|Silkworms||Occasional (1x to 2x per month)||Moisture: 80%|
|Superworms (AKA Morio Worms)||Semi-Staple (1x to 2x per week)||Moisture: 60%|
|Waxworms||Occasional (1x to 2x per month)||Moisture: 60%|
Preparing Your Leopard Gecko’s Meals
Once you bring the feeder insects home, you’ll need to find somewhere to store them.
Storing the insects in a secure, temperature-controlled, slightly ventilated (small air holes are just fine) container and “gut loading” the insects a day or so before feeding is ideal.
If you are not breeding the insects on your own, it’s best to only purchase enough insects to last three to five days whenever possible to ensure they are as fresh as possible when your gecko eats them.
Most feeder insects have fairly short lifespans, and dying insects will quickly become smelly and messy.
As we touched on earlier, your leopard gecko is unlikely to show interest in dead insects.
To properly gut load your feeder insects, offer them nutritious vegetables low in water, like carrots, potatoes, or dark, leafy greens.
Simply placing small pieces of vegetables inside the insects’ storage container is recommended.
There are also commercial feeder insect diets specially formulated to be packed with nutrients your gecko needs, such as this product on Amazon.
Finally, lightly dust the gut-loaded insects with a calcium powder supplement with added vitamin D3 like this one on Amazon before feeding them to your leopard gecko.
Leopard geckos’ diets have strict calcium requirements.
These lizards need calcium to keep their skeletons strong and prevent health issues like metabolic bone disease and weak, brittle bones.
Vitamin D3 should be present in the vitamin powder supplement, as it helps your gecko’s body properly absorb the calcium.
Feed your gecko as many insects as they will eat within a 5-to-10-minute period.
Be sure to provide your gecko with constant access to a shallow, non-porous dish of clean, fresh water.