Welcoming a leopard gecko into your home is a delightful experience, but it can quickly become worrisome if they stop eating.
Understanding your gecko’s dietary habits is crucial, yet sudden changes can leave even experienced reptile enthusiasts puzzled.
So, why is my leopard gecko not eating? Your leopard gecko might not be eating due to factors like environmental stress, incorrect habitat temperatures, illness, shedding, or breeding behavior. Regular monitoring and vet consultations are essential for diagnosing and addressing the root cause.
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.
If you’re asking yourself, “Why is my leopard gecko not eating?”, you’re not alone.
This article delves into the reasons behind your gecko’s altered eating patterns and offers guidance to help restore their zest for food.
Let’s explore together and put your concerns to rest.
Reasons A Leopard Gecko May Stop Eating
- Environmental Stress: New surroundings or frequent changes.
- Incorrect Habitat Temperatures: Too cold or too hot environments.
- Illness: Underlying health issues or infections.
- Shedding: Natural behavior before or during the shedding process.
- Breeding Behavior: Reduced appetite during mating seasons.
- Impaction: Consumed substrate leading to digestive blockage.
- Poor Diet: Lack of variety or improper food size.
- Dehydration: Insufficient water intake.
- Presence of Parasites: Internal or external parasites affecting health.
- Age: Older geckos might eat less frequently.
When introduced to new surroundings or exposed to frequent habitat changes, leopard geckos may feel stressed. Sudden noises, handling, or the presence of other pets can also contribute to this stress, causing a reduction in their appetite.
Incorrect Habitat Temperatures
Leopard geckos are ectothermic, relying on their environment to regulate body temperature. If their habitat is too cold or too hot, it can affect their metabolism and deter them from eating. Ensuring a proper temperature gradient in their enclosure is crucial for their wellbeing.
Underlying health issues, such as respiratory infections, metabolic bone disease, or other illnesses, can lead to a reduced appetite. Regular check-ups with a reptile veterinarian can help in early detection and treatment.
It’s natural for leopard geckos to reduce or even halt their food intake before or during the shedding process. This period can make them feel vulnerable, so it’s best to minimize handling and disturbances.
During mating seasons, it’s not uncommon for leopard geckos, especially females, to show a reduced interest in food. This is a temporary phase and should return to normal once the breeding season concludes.
Impaction occurs when a gecko consumes substrate or other indigestible materials, leading to a blockage in their digestive system. Symptoms include lethargy, bloating, and lack of appetite. It’s essential to use a safe substrate and monitor their behavior.
A lack of variety in their diet or feeding them prey that’s too large can deter a gecko from eating. Regularly rotating the types of insects and ensuring they’re appropriately sized can help maintain their interest in food.
Insufficient water can lead to dehydration, which in turn can affect a gecko’s appetite. Ensuring a consistent water source and monitoring the enclosure’s humidity can prevent dehydration-related issues.
Presence of Parasites
Internal or external parasites can negatively impact a gecko’s health, leading to reduced appetite and other symptoms. Regular vet consultations can help in diagnosing and treating such conditions.
As leopard geckos age, their metabolism slows down, and they might eat less frequently than they did in their younger days. While it’s natural for older geckos to have reduced appetites, it’s still essential to monitor their overall health.
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 To Do If Your Leopard Gecko Is Not Eating
If your leopard gecko isn’t eating, it’s essential to identify the cause and take corrective measures. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you address the situation:
Review the Environment
- Temperature Check: Ensure the habitat maintains the correct temperature gradient. The warm side should be between 87°F to 90°F (31°C to 32°C), and the cool side around 75°F (24°C).
- Hide Availability: Ensure there are enough hides for your gecko to feel secure. This can help reduce stress.
- If your gecko is nearing its shedding phase, it’s natural for it to eat less. Ensure the humidity is right to aid the shedding process, and avoid handling during this time.
- Variety: Rotate between different types of insects to keep the diet varied.
- Appropriateness: Make sure the prey’s size isn’t too big for your gecko.
- Supplementation: Dust the insects with calcium and vitamin supplements to ensure a balanced diet.
Check for Impaction
- Look for signs like a swollen abdomen or difficulty defecating. If you suspect impaction, consult a vet immediately.
- Ensure your gecko has constant access to fresh water. Consider misting the enclosure lightly to boost humidity levels, aiding in hydration.
- Reduce handling, especially if the gecko is new to its environment or if you’ve recently made changes to its habitat.
- Ensure there are no disturbances, such as loud noises or predatory pets nearby.
- If you’ve tried the above steps and there’s still no improvement, or if you notice other symptoms of illness, it’s crucial to consult a reptile veterinarian. They can diagnose underlying health issues and provide appropriate treatment.
- Even after your gecko resumes eating, continue monitoring its eating habits, behavior, and overall health to ensure it remains in optimal condition.
Remember, while occasional fluctuations in appetite can be part of a leopard gecko’s natural behavior, prolonged refusal to eat warrants attention. By being observant and proactive, you can ensure your gecko’s health and well-being.
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.
Best Foods For An Under-Eating Gecko
- Mealworms: Easily digestible and commonly accepted by geckos. They are high in protein and can stimulate appetite.
- Crickets: A favorite for many geckos. They are lively and can entice the gecko’s natural hunting instinct.
- Waxworms: High in fat and can be used as a treat or a way to boost calorie intake. However, they should be given sparingly due to their high-fat content.
- Phoenix Worms (Black Soldier Fly Larvae): Rich in calcium and protein. Their wriggly nature can attract the gecko’s attention.
- Dubia Roaches: Nutritious and meaty. They are a good protein source and are often relished by geckos.
- Silkworms: Another protein-rich option. Their soft bodies make them easy for geckos to digest.
- Hornworms: High in moisture content, which can assist with hydration. They can be particularly enticing due to their vibrant color and movement.
- Butterworms: A tasty treat for geckos, they are high in fat and should be given occasionally.
- Repashy or Pangea Fruit Mix: Commercial gecko diets that can be used as a supplement or occasional meal. They are formulated to provide balanced nutrition.
Remember, always provide foods that are appropriately sized for your gecko.
Gut-loading and dusting prey with calcium and vitamins can enhance their nutritional value.
Foods To Avoid Feeding An Under-Eating Gecko
- Fireflies (Lightning Bugs): These are toxic to geckos and can be fatal if consumed.
- Wild-Caught Insects: They can carry parasites or pesticides that can harm your gecko.
- Pinkie Mice: While they can be fed occasionally to breeding females, they might not be suitable for an under-eating gecko as they can be harder to digest.
- Fruits and Vegetables: Geckos are insectivores, and their digestive systems are not equipped to process plant matter.
- Superworms: They have a high chitin content which can be tough for some geckos to digest, especially if they are already having digestive issues.
- Insects with Bright Colors: Some brightly colored insects in the wild are toxic or distasteful. It’s best to avoid any unknown species.
- Raw Meat or Fish: These can introduce pathogens and are not a natural or suitable diet for geckos.
- Commercial Dog or Cat Food: These are not formulated for reptiles and do not meet their specific nutritional needs.
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 is 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 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 an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.