Should you add a vitamin D3 supplement to your leopard gecko’s diet?
Do you need to add UV lighting to your gecko’s enclosure?
Feeding your leopard gecko the proper diet ensures it gets all of the vital nutrients it needs to stay healthy and happy.
If you are a new leopard gecko owner, you may be confused about what kinds of vitamins and minerals are important to your gecko’s diet.
This article will explore the various supplements available to leopard geckos and discover which nutrients are the most important to their diet.
Table of Contents
Do Leopard Geckos Need D3 Supplemented To Their Diet?
Vitamin D3 is an essential nutrient for a leopard gecko aiding in the absorption of calcium and other minerals. Without D3, a leopard gecko cannot process calcium in its body and may become calcium deficient. This deficiency leads to metabolic bone disease, known as MBD. This disease is often untreatable and is fatal to leopard geckos.
Even with a well-rounded insect diet, it becomes necessary to add vitamin supplements to your leopard gecko’s diet.
Most insects lack the nutrients which are vital to the leopard gecko in proper amounts.
The main issue is how insects have low calcium to phosphorus ratio, meaning they contain more phosphorus than calcium.
Too much phosphorus can inhibit calcium absorption and may even lead to the gecko’s body leeching calcium from its bones.
If left unchecked, this may lead to MBD, which is fatal to leopard geckos.
The proper calcium to phosphorus ratio for leopard geckos is 2:1.
How Do You Add a D3 Supplement to Your Leopard Gecko’s Diet?
D3 is usually included in calcium supplement powders, but it is also available in a separate vitamin supplement without calcium.
D3 is a hormone which aids in calcium and phosphorus absorption, so it is considered a vital nutrient in your leopard gecko’s diet.
Some gecko owners leave a small, shallow dish containing calcium powder inside the gecko’s enclosure.
Still, this method is somewhat unreliable, as most geckos do not like the powder’s taste and will not lick it from the dish.
Never leave a calcium powder with D3 in your leopard gecko’s enclosure, as it is difficult to regulate the amount of D3 your gecko will ingest, and too much can lead to D3 toxicity and liver failure.
The best way to ensure your leopard gecko is receiving the proper amount of calcium and D3 is to dust its feeder insects before feeding them to the gecko.
It is also advisable to dust the feeder insects’ food with calcium and D3 supplement.
You should do this 12-24 hours before feeding the gecko to allow the insects to absorb the nutrients properly.
Even properly gut-loaded insects will lack all of the nutrients required in a leopard gecko’s diet, so supplementation is essential.
Repashy Calcium Plus is an excellent choice for a calcium supplement that includes D3, and it is highly recommended by breeders as well.
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If you are looking for a supplement not containing calcium, Repashy SuperVite is a great choice containing vitamins A, C, and beta carotene, in addition to D3.
Should You Add a UV Light To Your Leopard Gecko’s Enclosure?
While it is true UVB lighting can provide a source of vitamin D3 to reptiles, leopard geckos are not basking animals, and they typically avoid sunlight in the wild.
UV lighting can be harmful to leopard geckos because they have sensitive eyes and skin.
The natural lighting in your home is sufficient to give your gecko a sense of day and night.
Be sure to turn the lights off at night in whatever room your leopard gecko’s enclosure is located, as they are nocturnal animals.
The lack of UVB lighting exposure makes D3 supplementation even more important for your leopard gecko because they have no other way of getting the proper amount of D3.
What Should You Feed Your Leopard Gecko?
Leopard geckos are insectivores, which means they only eat insects and do not eat fruits or vegetables because they cannot digest plant fibers.
Geckos should be fed live insects because they are not attracted to dead or freeze-dried insects.
Acceptable insects in a leopard gecko’s diet include crickets, mealworms, silkworms, small grasshoppers, waxworms, hornworms, beetles, and roaches.
You should never feed your leopard gecko, fireflies, or lightning bugs because these insects are very toxic to geckos.
The general rule of thumb is to never feed your gecko insects larger than the space between their eyes to ensure they do not choke on their food.
Leopard geckos should be fed two insects for every 1″ inch (2.5 cm) of body length to avoid overfeeding.
Baby geckos should be fed every day until they grow to 4″ inches (10 cm) in length and then every other day until they reach one year of age.
Adult leopard geckos should be fed three to four times a week.
A variety of insects should be offered to your leopard gecko, as some insects offer more nutritional value than others.
For example, mealworms and waxworms have a much higher fat content than other insects and should only be fed as a treat.
It is important to properly gut-load the feeder insects with a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and dusting them with supplements.
Gut-loading should be done 12-24 hours before feeding your gecko to ensure the insects properly digest the nutrients.
An insect with no food in its stomach offers very little nutritional value compared to an insect properly gut-loaded.
Never leave live insects in your leopard gecko’s enclosure because some insects, especially crickets, will bite your gecko and cause injury.
In addition to a varied insect diet, it is essential to provide your leopard gecko with fresh, clean water every day.
The following table illustrates what to feed and not feed your leopard gecko.
|Safe to Eat||Crickets, Small Grasshoppers, Silkworms, Hornworms, Beetles, and Roaches (live)|
|Feed Sparingly Due to High Fat Content||Mealworms and Waxworms (live)|
|Avoid||Fruits, Vegetables, Lightning Bugs, Fireflies, Human Food (Table Scraps), and Dead Insects|
What Are Vitamin Deficiency Symptoms in Leopard Geckos?
The symptoms of vitamin deficiency in leopard geckos will vary according to the deficiency’s duration and severity.
Common vitamin deficiency symptoms include bowed legs, muscle tremors, softening of the bones, limping, refusal to eat, lethargy, constipation, and the gecko’s inability to lift its body off the ground.
Unfortunately, by the time these symptoms present themselves, it is usually too late to reverse the damage.
Vitamin deficiency is rare when leopard geckos are fed a well-rounded diet.
With a varied diet of insects combined with vitamin supplements, your leopard gecko will receive all of the nutrition it needs to thrive.
What Should You Do If Your Leopard Gecko Is Not Eating?
If you observe your leopard gecko is refusing to eat, there is no need to panic right away.
There are several reasons a gecko will not eat which does not signal a serious condition.
Leopard geckos typically do not eat before and during shedding, and they may also become aggressive.
Once the shedding process is complete, your gecko should return to its normal behaviors and eating patterns.
Pregnant geckos will not eat before laying their eggs, sometimes for up to three months.
This is also considered normal behavior and should not be a cause for worry.
Heat is also a factor in a leopard gecko’s appetite, as they require heat to digest their food.
If the temperature is too low in their enclosure, they will not eat and may even go into a state of hibernation.
This behavior is very typical among wild geckos, and hibernation allows them to survive through the winter.
The ideal temperature for your leopard gecko’s enclosure should be between 80-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C).
Dehydrated leopard geckos will also have a loss of appetite, so be sure to provide fresh, clean water at all times.
Geckos can survive for months in the wild without eating.
Still, if you notice any of these behaviors in your leopard gecko, it is best to seek medical attention from a veterinarian to rule out any diseases or injuries.
Understanding the nutritional needs of your leopard gecko is very important to ensure its health and overall well-being.
Vitamin D3 and calcium supplements are necessary, even with a varied live insect diet, as insects do not provide all of your leopard gecko’s nutritional requirements on their own.
Vitamin deficiency can lead to disease, with the most notable being metabolic bone deficiency, which is often incurable and fatal to your leopard gecko.
A proper diet combined with supplements, freshwater, and a well-maintained habitat will ensure your leopard gecko lives a healthy and happy life for many years.
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