Have you recently brought a pet Leopard gecko home?
If so, you’re probably wondering what does a Leopard gecko eat?
In this article, we dive into what leopard geckos eat while also exploring some of the best and worst foods for Leopard gecko health, plus give you some expert tips on how much to feed your leopard gecko.
Let’s get started!
Leopard geckos are insectivores and thrive on a diet rich in crickets, cockroaches, sowbugs, beetles, tomato hornworms, butterworms, waxworms, and mealworms.
What Does a Leopard Gecko Eat
Leopard Geckos are carnivorous insectivores, meaning they are designed to eat and digest meat (primarily insects).
In the wild, leopard geckos hunt for prey at night, stalking and eating everything from centipedes and giant spiders to crickets, small locusts, grasshoppers, mealworms, wax moth larvae, and sometimes even other small lizards and nesting mice.
Since leopard geckos are carnivores, they should always be given live insects to feed on.
Never feed your gecko dead or dried insects.
What Can You Feed a Leopard Gecko
While in the wild, Leopard geckos may be forced to dine on everything from spiders to nesting mice, this does not mean they should be fed these foods in captivity.
Leopard geckos are best suited to a diet of live insects, and if you feed them other foods, they may experience health problems or have digestion problems.
So what are the best insects to feed your pet Leopard gecko?
Crickets are by far the most popular staple in a Leopard gecko’s diet.
They are nutrient-rich, readily available, easy to gut load, and provide a healthy meal for your Leopard gecko.
Although crickets are the main staple in a Leopard gecko’s diet, don’t make the mistake of only feeding your Leo crickets.
Leopard geckos, just like the rest of us, need plenty of variation in their diets. Imagine eating grilled chicken for every single meal!
Your body would be missing out on key ingredients, and mealtime would get pretty dull.
In the same way, Leopard geckos need to be offered a variety of different insects regularly.
Some of the best insects for Leopard geckos include cockroaches, sowbugs, beetles, tomato hornworms, butterworms, waxworms, and mealworms.
Waxworms, superworms, and butterworms should only be offered as occasional treats since they are high in fat and can lead to obesity if consumed too often.
Also, butterworms contain unhealthy calcium, and Leopard geckos have been known to get addicted to them and refuse to eat all other foods, so always offer them sparingly.
Our post on the best leopard gecko foods will give you a huge list of options for your pet and additional diet information.
Can Leopard Geckos Eat Fruits and Vegetables
As we mentioned earlier, Leopard geckos are carnivorous insectivores, meaning they can only digest meat (primarily insects).
As carnivores, they do not possess a functioning Cecum.
The cecum is the part of the body used to digest cellulose, a substance found in both fruits and vegetables.
Since Leopard geckos don’t have a Cecum and thereby are unable to digest fruits and vegetables, you should never offer these foods to your gecko.
Further, Leopard geckos have a short, alkaline digestive tract.
In contrast, herbivores have a much longer, acidic digestive tract, meaning Leo’s digestive systems are not equipped to handle the fruits and vegetable herbivores eat.
However, since Leopard geckos are opportunistic eaters (meaning they will hunt and eat anything available), they may eat fruits and vegetables if offered to them.
So if you’ve given your Leopard gecko fruits and vegetables and it consumed them, it’s likely that it ate these foods simply because they were there and available, not because fruits and veggies are their natural choices.
What Size Food Should You Feed a Leopard Gecko
Although Leopard geckos have around 100 teeth in their mouths, their teeth are not correctly aligned to slice and dice their food, meaning they do not chew their food.
Like many other reptiles, Leopard geckos swallow their food whole, only using their teeth to grab, crush, and kill their prey.
Because they don’t chew their food, it is essential to feed your Leopard gecko the right size of insects.
If the insects are too large, they could cause choking, digestion, or impaction issues.
The general rule to follow when selecting feeders is never to feed insects larger than the width between your gecko’s eyes.
Typically, this means feeding hatchling and baby geckos insects measuring ¼ inch long.
Juveniles (four months and older) usually can handle ⅜ inch insects, and adult Leopard geckos (one year or older) should be able to handle ½ inch feeders.
Feeder size requirements will change as your Leopard gecko grows and will be unique to each gecko, so measure your Leo each month to ensure you’re offering the right size of insects.
How Often Do Leopard Geckos Eat
Hatchling and baby Leopard geckos should be fed every single day until they are one year old.
Once they are full-size adults (around one year of age), they should be offered food every other day.
If your gecko is sick or underweight, offer it food every day until it regains its strength.
How Much Should You Feed a Leopard Gecko
Baby leopard geckos should be fed 5 to 7 small crickets or mealworms every day and one larger insect every other day until it grows to be about 4″ inches in length or reaches one year of age.
At the one year mark, cut back to only feeding your gecko once every other day.
Once they’ve reached adulthood, Leopard geckos should be offered about 5 to 7 crickets or mealworms 2 to 3 times each week, and 3 to 5 supplemental worms about three times a week.
Keep in mind, waxworms, butter worms, and superworms should only be offered sparingly as treats, since they are high in fat and can lead to obesity.
We have a post on how much to feed leopard geckos that goes into more detail on feeding frequency with insects if you need more on the topic.
How Do You Gut Load Insects for Leopard Gecko
It is essential to gut load certain feeder insects before offering them to your Leo.
Why? Gut loaded insects, unlike hungry insects, are full of nutrition and provide your gecko with a much heartier, nutrient-dense meal than a hungry feeder insect could ensure.
Not all feeders should (or can) be gut loaded, however.
For example, Phoenix worms should never be fed or gut-loaded since they will cause mold and bacteria to grow and pollute the bedding medium.
Crickets, silkworms, mealworms, and superworms, on the other hand, can and should be gut loaded before offering them to your Leopard gecko.
To gut load crickets, place them in a very tall storage box and offer them a specially formulated gut-loading diet designed explicitly for crickets like Fluker’s High-Calcium Cricket Diet.
- Allows insect-eating pets to benefit not only from the nutritional value of the insect itself, but from the insect's nutrient-gut content as well
- Provides added calcium
Let the crickets feed for at least 24 hours before offering them to your gecko.
Gut load mealworms and superworms by placing them in a shoebox and giving them fresh veggies like leafy greens and carrots 24 hours before feeding them to your Leo.
Silkworms can be gut loaded with silkworm chow or by feeding them mulberry leaves.
Can You Overfeed a Leopard Gecko
It is possible to overfeed your Leopard gecko. When this happens, your Leo could become obese, leading to potential health problems and poor quality of life.
Some of the most common reasons why Leopard geckos become obese is because they are fed too many high-fat insects like mealworms, butterworms, superworms, and waxworms.
Another cause of obesity is feeding your Leo pinky mice.
While your Leopard gecko may enjoy this meal, avoid feeding them rodents as these can lead to obesity.
How to Know If Leopard Gecko is Overweight
One of the most common signs indicating your Leopard gecko is overweight are armpit bubbles.
Armpit bubbles are full of fat, protein, calcium, and vitamins.
They look like small air sacs or blisters in the armpit region, and while they do not hurt or cause any discomfort, they are an indication of obesity and should be addressed.
Other signs your Leo may be overweight include a round belly, fat, sausage-like legs, and an extra thick (wider than its head) tail.
The best way to prevent obesity is only to feed your Leopard gecko insects and to be very sparing with high-fat insects like waxworms and butterworms.
If your Leo shows signs of obesity, you may consider placing it on a crickets-only diet until it returns to a healthy weight.
Since it is hard to detect weight gain and obesity in Leopard geckos, it may be helpful to purchase a gram scale to monitor your Leo’s weight weekly.
- High-Precision Weight: Etekcity digital food scale equipped with four built-in high-precision load sensors have 0.05oz/1g increments when adding ingredients, capacity 5kg/11lb
- Multi-units Conversion: This scale can easily convert units between oz/lb'oz/fl'oz/g/mL, and can help you measure different type of foods and ingredients
- Tare Function: The tare function allows you to subtract the weight of container, and can help you get the accurate reading for food & ingredients
If you’ve been wondering what a Leopard gecko eats, we hope this article answered your question and gave you some information to help you better care for your pet Leopard gecko.
Leopard geckos are carnivorous insectivores and are healthiest and happiest when fed a diet of insects.
Crickets are among the most popular staple foods for Leopard geckos, but mealworms, tomato hornworms, silkworms, roaches, and other insects are also crucial for the Leopard gecko’s diet.