Having a leopard gecko who just won’t eat is a stressful situation for a reptile owner.
There are many potential reasons why a gecko would simply refuse to eat, from illness to stress to more mundane reasons like they just don’t like the insects you’re offering them.
The main reasons why a leopard gecko would suddenly refuse to eat are:
- Issues with the gecko’s environment (ex. Improper heating or humidity)
- Disinterest in the type of insect you’re offering them
Let’s explore the many reasons why a leopard gecko would stop eating as well as what you should do as a reptile owner to get them interested in their food again.
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Why Won’t My Leopard Gecko Eat?
A lack of appetite in your leopard gecko can occur for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes the reason might be environmental, or something we, as owners, can quickly fix.
You might even find, your leopard gecko isn’t hungry at the moment.
Other times the issue might be a bit more complicated and require a trip to the veterinarian.
Here we will explore the top reasons your leopard gecko has a decreased or absent appetite.
Stress is one of the top reasons your leopard gecko might not be eating.
This is especially true when you first bring your leopard gecko home, as the new enclosure, sights, sounds, and even you are going to cause a fair amount of anxiety for your new pet.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep your gecko’s enclosure in a quiet, calm space where the gecko won’t be harassed by other pets or small children in the home.
Even long after you’ve just brought them home, you should strive to keep your gecko’s environment calm and free of loud, sudden noises or bright lights, as stressful external stimuli will affect their appetite.
Your leopard gecko might also experience stress if another leopard gecko is bullying them in their enclosure.
This is especially common if you attempt to house two male leopard geckos in the same tank.
The males will be extremely territorial and bully or fight other members of their species if they think another leopard gecko is coming into their territory.
This is why cohabitation is strongly discouraged for leopard geckos, as they prefer to live in solitary habitats and don’t like interacting with other geckos.
Even female geckos prefer to live alone and will sometimes fight one another for resources or out of stress.
In many cases, cohabitated geckos will establish a hierarchy, resulting in a “dominant” and “submissive” gecko.
As a result, the dominant gecko will end up eating all of the food, resulting in the submissive gecko missing out on essential nutrients or even refusing to eat altogether due to the intense stress of the situation.
A lack of appetite is also often caused by abnormal environmental conditions.
If the humidity levels or temperatures are not in the proper range, the leopard gecko cannot eat, let alone perform other bodily functions.
For leopard geckos, humidity should always be within 30% to 40% at most.
If the humidity is too low, your gecko risks becoming dehydrated.
On the other hand, if it becomes too high, they are at risk of developing a respiratory infection.
Learn how to lower humidity in a leopard gecko tank with our guide.
On top of simply being uncomfortable and stressful for the gecko, environmental issues leave your pet vulnerable to health problems.
Like other reptiles, leopard geckos are cold-blooded and require a warm exterior temperature for their bodies to function correctly.
If the terrarium’s temperature is too cold, they cannot properly digest their meals and won’t even want to try to eat.
If it’s too hot, they will avoid light entirely and stay in the cooler corners of their enclosure at all times.
The temperature in your gecko’s enclosure should always be within about 80 to 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C), with the basking area slightly warmer.
There should also be a gentle temperature gradient from the cool side to the warm end of the enclosure so your gecko is able to properly thermoregulate.
Finally, if your gecko lacks a humid hide to help them shed properly, they risk developing stuck shed, which is painful for them and will affect their appetite.
Be sure they have both a dry, cool hide on the cool side of the tank for shelter and sleep and a humid hide near the warmer end of the tank for shedding.
If your leopard gecko is not interested in eating the food you are providing, it also could be because they are a picky eater.
Leopard geckos are strictly insect eaters.
They are unable to digest the cellulose present in plant material and have short digestive tracts.
It is crucial to offer your gecko a wide variety of both staple feeder insects like crickets and mealworms as well as occasional “treat” insects like waxworms to provide the gecko’s body with the full range of vitamins and nutrients they need to thrive.
If you’re been offering your gecko the same insects over and over, there’s a good chance they will lose interest in them over time.
This can happen when they are tired of their food, especially if given the same insects for days and days.
Like you, leopard geckos aren’t going to want to eat the same thing forever.
They need variety to keep them interested, but also to provide a well-balanced diet.
Always offer your gecko a diverse range of safe feeder bugs, such as:
- Dubia roach
- Super worms
- Wax worms
- Phoenix worms (also known as Black soldier fly larvae or NutriGrubs)
Any feeder insect like these should also be sprinkled with calcium powder.
Sickness And Injury
While leopard geckos are great pets, partly because they are such hardy creatures, they can still develop illnesses.
Leopard geckos can get respiratory infections if there is a draft, or if the temperature in their cage decreases.
Respiratory infections are the most common illnesses that cause a lack of appetite in your leopard gecko, but there are others.
These include a blockage in their intestines and even ulcers in their mouth.
Other common illnesses and health conditions which affect appetite in leopard geckos include:
- Metabolic bone disease
- Internal parasites (such as pinworms)
- External parasites (such as reptile mites)
- Cryptosporidiosis (also called “stick tail”)
- Other bacterial infections
Injury is another issue you might face when owning a leopard gecko.
If they have become wounded or are in pain because of some other injury, your Leo might show absolutely no interest in eating.
Alternatively, if your gecko has recently dropped their tail, the stress involved and the energy exerted by regrowing their tail will sometimes affect their appetite.
Tail dropping is both stressful and sometimes painful if complications occur, such as the tail nub becoming infected due to unhygienic terrarium conditions.
Until the pain is controlled and your leopard gecko is feeling better, you will likely not see their appetites increase.
Other Reasons For A Lack Of Appetite In Leopard Geckos
A lack of appetite isn’t always because of something you have done or an illness.
There are natural reasons for a leopard gecko not being hungry.
For example, when the animal is about to shed their skin, they will generally stop eating for two or three days before the process and two to three days later.
It is common for geckos to resume eating after they shed, and in many cases, they will eat their shed skin to reabsorb the nutrients they lost in the process.
This is normal and a great way for your gecko to bulk back up after shedding.
Sometimes, your leopard gecko might just not want to eat, and you may never know the reason.
If their weight is maintained and stays healthy, the animals can afford to miss a meal from time to time.
Keep an eye on their tail fat, as this is the main fat storage on their body.
As long as their tail stays fairly plump and the gecko doesn’t go without eating for more than a few days, you likely don’t have much to worry about.
A dramatic loss of weight over a short period is an indication something is wrong, but if you do not see this, try to be patient and provide them with the opportunity to eat on their regular schedule.
What To Do If Your Leopard Gecko Won’t Eat
Understanding what causes a lack of appetite is only half of the battle for getting your pet to eat.
Once you have identified the problem, it will be easier to find a solution and get them back to eating.
If you believe your leopard gecko is stressed, adding extra hides to their environment will put them on the path to feeling more secure.
Remember, ideally, your gecko should have both a dry hide and a humid hide.
Additional plant cover is also helpful to give the gecko plenty of places to hide when they’re feeling shy or stressed out.
You will also need to speak in a soothing voice, reduce handling sessions, and slowly build up a trust and relationship with your new leopard gecko.
Make sure you know how to pick up leopard geckos safely.
Never cohabitate two leopard geckos, regardless of their sexes.
While it is true some geckos are capable of living in the same enclosure, the risks involved are just too great, and you won’t be able to monitor your geckos 24/7 in case a fight breaks out.
If stress has come on because of another gecko, separate the two, placing them in separate tanks.
This will eliminate any opportunity for physical interaction and give each one their own space to claim as their own without having to fight for it.
With environmental issues, like temperature and humidity levels, a quick check of the levels will identify a problem.
Once you realize if the terrarium isn’t just right, make any necessary adjustments.
Especially check if you live in a climate where the weather can get cold, and homes can be drafty.
At night, it is fine for temps to dip a bit lower than usual, as long as they don’t drop below 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C) or so.
During the day, temperatures should always be between 80 and 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C).
If your leopard gecko starts eating again, you will know you have found the problem.
Picky eaters will require a little extra trial and error to get their appetites back.
Try changing the type of food you give them, to add variety, but you can coax them into eating with a treat.
If your leopard gecko has some favorite foods, try tempting them with these insects.
Some worms like butterworms or superworms are favorites of leopard geckos, but they are very high in fat, and superworms are difficult for your pet to digest.
Read our post covering how safe superworms are for leopard geckos to learn about the potential issues your pet could encounter with this insect.
We recommend giving these to your gecko as a treat and not making them a daily part of their diet.
Some leopard geckos have even been known to become addicted to them and refuse to eat anything else.
Remember, food should not be larger than the space between the gecko’s eyes.
If it is too large, the gecko will not be able to digest the insect.
Say you have tried all of these tricks and your leopard gecko still isn’t eating, you might have a suspicion they have developed some illness or maybe an injury.
Contact your Leo’s veterinarian for back up.
They will be able to tell you if there is an underlying issue causing the animal’s lack of appetite, and if not, the vet will give you more information on getting your Leo to eat.
If you suspect an illness, the sooner you contact the veterinarian, the better.
How Long Can Leopard Geckos Go Without Eating?
Leopard geckos can go for quite some time without eating, but this is not ideal under normal circumstances.
Thanks to their substantial fat storage in their tails, leopard geckos are able to subsist off their tail fat alone for days or even weeks at a time.
Keeping consistently hydrated is far more critical for the animal.
Be sure to always provide fresh, clean water to your gecko.
If your gecko doesn’t drink standing water very often, misting them with water daily will also encourage them to lick droplets off their mouth.
Keeping consistently hydrated is far more critical for the animal.
Adult geckos and even older juveniles can go without food for ten days and up to two weeks, but we don’t recommend testing this timeline.
Regular feeding should be maintained.
If you have an adult leopard gecko, the animal should be fed every other day.
Hatchlings and baby leopard geckos will need to be fed every day, and juveniles of the species will require food every day, but as they get older, you will be able to skip a day every so often.
This will help wean them off the daily schedule and get them ready for the every other day schedule they will be on once they reach adulthood.
As babies, leopard geckos have rapid metabolisms and are growing at an accelerated rate.
As they age and grow into their adult size, their metabolism gradually slows down, and they don’t need to eat as often as they did as babies or juveniles.
How Much Do I Feed My Leopard Gecko?
The number of insects fed to your leopard gecko is very important to help avoid the animal becoming obese.
This rule can be used from the hatchling stage, all the way up to when the leopard gecko is an adult.
Babies and hatchlings should eat daily to accommodate their fast metabolisms and growing bodies, while sub-adults and adults need only to eat three or four times a week.
Alternatively, some reptile owners simply offer their gecko as many insects as they will eat within a 5 to 10-minute period.
This method is fine as long as your gecko doesn’t become overweight or obese as a result.
Understanding the correct feeding schedule and amount to feed your pet is just part of good husbandry, to ensure your leopard gecko stays healthy.
Check out our complete guide to leopard gecko husbandry.
Noticing your leopard gecko is not eating can be scary for owners, especially if you are a new owner.
A lack of appetite requires some small tweaks on your end, but in other instances, a trip to the veterinarian is in order.
Remember, try not to be so hard on yourself and realize this isn’t an uncommon problem, but once you notice your pet not eating, make every effort to determine the issue and fix it.