Leopard geckos are a great beginner reptile as they are relatively low maintenance compared to other species. These geckos are generally easy to care for; so it can be concerning if they lose they appear to suddenly lose their appetite.
If your gecko has gone off their food, it’s natural to wonder; why is my leopard gecko not eating? A leopard gecko may not eat due to several reasons. The main ones include being too cold, suffering from fecal impaction, illness, injury, or experiencing vision problems.
Thankfully, Leopard geckos can go for months without food and weeks without water so there is no immediate cause for concern.
However, it is important you get your leopard gecko back eating at a regular feeding schedule with appropriate foods to ensure their nutritional needs and requirements are met.
Leopard geckos are insectivores and enjoy a variety of waxworms, crickets, and mealworms in moderation.
Seeing how keen they normally are to devour these insects can lead us to worry if they lose their appetite for normally, appetizing foods.
Ways to increase your geckos appetite begin with examining their environment, physical appearance, and behavior.
It is only from there that you can do your best to assess the problem.
If you think your leopard gecko is sick, you should take them to a vet at the earliest opportunity.
They will be able to make the best recommendation for your gecko and help you to formulate the right approach.
That being said, it’s important to be aware of the reasons why a leopard gecko may stop eating and to educate yourself around the topic so you know how to respond, if and when, they stop eating.
Let us now further explore, covering the main questions and concerns you may have, to help you on your way.
Reasons A Leopard Gecko May Stop Eating
Reptiles can lose their appetites for many reasons. It could be due to something we did or fed to them; other times, it could be due to illness.
If your leopard gecko has stopped eating all of a sudden but is generally active, there are a number of things you can try at home to encourage them to eat before you rush to the vet:
The main reason why leopard geckos stop eating is that they are too cold.
The heat bulb inside their cage may have burned out, the heat mat has stopped working, there could be a draft coming into the enclosure, or perhaps there was never a sufficient heat source to begin with.
Either way, the temperature needs to be optimal.
The colder seasons from late fall to winter are times when many geckos lose their appetite.
To overcome this, all takes is a simple change to the environmental temperature, and they should start regularly eating once again.
If the metabolic rate of your gecko has dropped below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, then they will stop eating.
Your gecko requires supplemental heating if the room where your gecko is located is below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of us would never keep our homes this warm.
Heat mats are ideal for making your leopard gecko feel warm and more comfortable where they are sitting, but they don’t warm the air.
It is best to have a simple heat light in the enclosure where you can best control the basking temperature. You must ensure that the cage isn’t getting too cold, especially at night.
You must monitor your geckos bowel habits as constipated feces can build up in the intestine.
A recent large, hard or inappropriate meal alongside the accidental ingestion of hard bedding material can all cause impacted feces in your leopard gecko.
If your gecko is experiencing fecal impaction, try giving them a soak in warm water twice a day. The water should cover your gecko’s hips, and you can gently massage their belly.
Bathing your gecko in warm water and rubbing their belly usually works to help your gecko pass stool and increase the rate in which they do.
However, if this does not work, you should swiftly take your lizard to the vet.
A specialized enema is what your leopard gecko needs and it must be completed by a specialist.
It may even help discover intestinal parasites which could be causing digestive issues/distress.
Leopard geckos are prone to getting respiratory infections due to chills, drafts, or a temperature decrease in their environment.
Respiratory infections are the leading medical reasons for reptiles losing their appetites.
If your leopard gecko doesn’t have a respiratory infection but is sick in another way, your vet can quickly diagnose growths that impede or block the intestinal tract.
Pain And Injury
If your leopard gecko is in pain or has a wound due to an injury, this will likely stop them from eating.
Injuries include abscesses, eye injuries, and toe and tail issues. All of which can be extremely uncomfortable to live with and put your lizard off their food.
Your leopard gecko may not want to eat until his pain is controlled, and they are feeling better.
Retained skin on your gecko’s eyes can prevent your pet from properly seeing their food.
Vision problems usually arise after an incomplete shed, and a lack of humidity in the enclosure is often the cause.
Other vision problems include retrobulbar abscesses and corneal ulcers that can prevent your gecko from being able to see their food.
In this way, this ceasing eating is not due to a lack of appetite; but a structural problem where they cannot get the food they want to eat!
It could also be the case that you are overfeeding your gecko. This can result in indigestion, weight gain, and even the regurgitation of food.
If you have been providing too much food, or foods with too high energy, your gecko may stop eating. This can happen even accidentally, especially with new owners.
If you suspect this to be the case, you should actually be sure to remove all food sources from the enclosure.
This will give them a chance to re-regulate their hunger and give their digestion a much-needed break and opportunity to heal.
After this, you can look to introduce smaller insects to resume the feeding process.
Generally, leopard geckos should be allowed to eat as much as they desire within a 10-15 minutes window.
Once they begin to lose interest you can rest assured that they have had enough to eat.
How Long Can A Gecko Go Without Eating?
Leopard geckos can go for months without food and weeks without water.
In the wild, leopard geckos often go for months on end without food – this is more common in the colder months where food is harder to come by. Then they usually gorge themselves when food is in abundant supply.
For females of breeding age, ovulation can cause a lack of appetite lasting anywhere between 1 to 3 months.
The signs a female gecko is ovulating include a lack of appetite, thinning tail, swollen belly, and two pinkish dots on the underside of their abdomen.
If your female isn’t eating, it could be because of the physiological and hormonal changes they go through in preparation to lay eggs.
You don’t need to panic about a female during this time; she will eat when she’s ready.
In the meantime, make sure that she has a fresh supply of water. You can offer your female food every two weeks during this time.
For these reasons, you should not be too concerned about your gecko getting in enough food and energy. They are adapted and equipped to cope.
What Do I Do If My Gecko Is Not Eating?
First things first, there is no need to panic.
If you only got your gecko recently, then chances are they will not eat right away due to stress.
Many things can cause stress, such as the transportation process, the new environment, adapting to new foods or supplements, and also the activity and interaction around their enclosure – all of which take a period of adjustment.
Nonetheless, it is essential to eliminate all factors that can lead to stress as soon as possible. You want to reduce the time it takes for your gecko to get used to his new environment.
It is super important that you do not hold or have direct contact with your gecko until they are fully adjusted and begin eating on their own accord.
Let’s look at steps to take to encourage your gecko to eat:
Make sure that the temperature of your gecko’s enclosure is optimal. In a terrarium, the surface temperature should be between 90-92 degrees Fahrenheit, and the ambient should be between 78-84 degrees Fahrenheit.
Low temperatures can make a gecko inactive, and it soon lose their appetite.
Too high a temperature is actually worse, they can become severely hydrated, and it can even lead to death.
Move The Enclosure
Move the enclosure to a quiet space away from the hustle and bustle of everyday activity; these lizards need peace, especially to eat.
Do not house geckos together.
It’s better to keep them apart for their entire life as they are solitary animals.
Having other geckos in the same enclosure will induce stress which can result in diminished eating.
Do not use bright lights in the terrarium, as this will cause stress.
If you use lights for heat, ceramic heat emitters are best.
They can be left on 24/ 7 as they don’t emit light.
You can use a red/blue nighttime bulb on a dimmer. Only ever use light-emitting bulbs during the day.
Remember, leopard geckos do best with UVB.
Should I Force Feed My Leopard Gecko?
You should never attempt to force-feed your leopard gecko; its not normally possible anyway.
If you are pushy with food, this will only stress your gecko out; it’s entirely counter-productive, which we now know reduces appetite.
If you only got your leopard gecko recently, you should not look to feed them right away. Wait a few days to bring their stress levels down, and for their prey drive to go back up.
If after a week, your leopard gecko is not eating, place fresh mealworms in a bowl outside of their hide.
Leave it there for a day. After which you can remove it, and put fresh mealworms in for another day. Keep repeating this process. After some time, this process should work.
- Nutritious, dehydrated ingredients that can be fed with other diets or as a treat
- Quick and easy way to provide reptiles with high protein foods that they prefer
- No refrigeration required
- Ideal for bearded dragons, leopard geckos, chameleons as well as large tropical fish and birds
- For smaller sized animals, break Mealworms into pieces before feeding
Best Foods For An Under Eating Gecko
Before discussing the best food for an under-eating gecko, we must consider the foods to avoid, at least in the beginning.
Certain foods might cause your nervous pet even more stress.
Foods to avoid include crawling insects such as crickets, loose super worms, dubia roaches etc.
If you have a nervous new leopard gecko, you should give them certain worms, with mealworms being ideal to start with.
Be sure to serve in a shallow bowl to start with; these are the least stressful food for your gecko. They are equally very tasty, high in energy, and easy for a gecko to digest.
In time you can gradually introduce other insects to your pet’s diet such as the insects mentioned above along with the likes of soldier flies, butter worms, and other larvae.
Unfortunately, it is very common for leopard geckos to go off their food, and this can be very worrying for any owner.
It is essential to practice proper husbandry and to be on the lookout for environmental factors which can result in a diminished appetite. These include improper temperature and lack of suitable humidity.
Make sure to keep a close eye on your gecko’s physical health, as any injury or sickness are likely to result in your gecko ignoring their food.
Leopard geckos might be relatively robust creatures, but they still need adequate care and attention.
They have needs that they need to meet, regardless of whether they have quirky personalities and movements which makes it harder for us to understand them.
All in all, if your gecko is not eating; from a nutritional perspective, there is no immediate cause for concern. Geckos can go for extended periods without food, and so so regularly in the wild.
It is if they show any signs or symptoms that something else may be wrong.
If in doubt, take them to a vet, and offer flavorsome foods like mealworms to spike their appetite where you can.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.