Leopard geckos love bugs. In fact, many are so crazy for bugs that they will eat any insect you put in front of them. This makes them easy to feed, and even easier to overfeed. So it’s important to know what kind of bugs are best, how often to feed them, what not to feed them, and more. What do leopard geckos eat?
What Can Leopard Geckos Eat? Dubia Roaches & Other Feeders
Leopard geckos are insectivores, meaning they only eat bugs. Their bodies aren’t even designed to digest fruits, vegetables, or any other kind of meat. Just insects.
Because of this, geckos can eat a variety of feeders. These include:
- Dubia roaches - Arguably the most nutritious feeder, Dubia roaches are a great source of protein, low in fat, easy to gut load, easy to keep, and an excellent staple feeder.
- Crickets - A great option for a staple, difficult to keep, but easy to gut load.
- Locusts - A good staple option.
- Mealworms - Also a good staple.
- Hornworms - A great source of water and a good staple, but expensive.
- Superworms - A tasty treat, only safe for adult geckos.
- Wax worms - A great treat, but use these with caution! Your gecko may go too crazy for these and refuse other food. One or two a week is probably enough.
- Butterworms - A tasty treat.
- Silkworms - Also a great treat.
Geckos benefit from a variety of insects. You can choose one staple feeder and supplement with other bugs, or you can switch staple feeders regularly, depending on your budget and what your gecko likes to eat most.
AVOID giving your geckos any of the following:
- Dead bugs. This applies to feeders that die as well as freeze-dried insects. In the wild, geckos chase wild bugs...and welcoming an exotic pet into your home means replicating their natural diet as closely as you can. Dead bugs just don’t have the same nutritional value as live bugs, and they won’t stimulate your gecko’s natural urge to hunt.
- Pellet foods. Although these are prevalent on pet store shelves, they are best avoided. Your gecko needs delicious, gut-loaded insects—not man-made pellet food—to grow healthy and strong.
- Lightning bugs and fireflies. Any insects that light up are poisonous for geckos.
- Wild insects. This means any insects you find outside or in your home—there is no way to know where they’ve been or what kind of chemicals they have been exposed to. Why risk making your gecko sick?
How Often Do Leopard Geckos Eat?
Geckos aren’t like humans who need to eat multiple times a day, every day. How often they eat depends on their age:
- Baby: Every day.
- Juvenile: Every day at first; every other day as they age.
- Adult: Every other day to every three days. However, obese adult geckos can be fed every five days. Your gecko is likely obese if his tail is wider than his neck.
How Many Insects Do Leopard Geckos Eat?
If you have a baby gecko, the goal is for them to grow as much as possible. It’s not likely your baby would become obese, so you don’t have to worry as much about overfeeding (although you still have to be careful so your gecko doesn’t end up regurgitating the food). On the other hand, if you have an adult gecko, you must limit the amount of insects you are feeding.
Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb is to feed two insects per inch of your gecko’s body. So if your gecko is 6 inches long, you would feed her 12 insects during feeding time.
Helpful Tips: How to Feed Your Leopard Gecko
Here are some tips to keep your gecko’s feeding time clean, fun, and productive.
- Choose the right size. Insects should be no bigger than the space between your gecko’s eyes. Larger insects can cause choking or regurgitation.
- Gut load the insects. The best way to give your gecko a nutritious meal is to gut load their feeder insects. Give the feeders healthy fruits and vegetables 24 hours before your gecko eats them.
- Dust the insects. Geckos need calcium to prevent metabolic bone disease, a common yet very serious condition among reptiles. It’s unlikely that geckos will get enough calcium from their domestic diet. Additionally, some feeders are poor sources of calcium or they have a lot of phosphorus, which prevents calcium from being absorbed. So each time you feed your gecko, dust the insects with calcium powder.
- Keep it contained. If possible, use a designated feeding bin or feed one insect at a time.
- Set limits. It’s important not to overfeed your gecko. Determine how many insects to offer based on the length of your gecko’s body. You might have heard that you should feed your gecko as many insects as he will eat in ten minutes. This is not the best idea since most geckos get over eager and will stuff themselves if given the chance.
Pro Tip: Always keep a dish of fresh water in your gecko’s terrarium.
Tips for Dusting Your Gecko’s Food
To avoid a mess, don’t sprinkle calcium dust on the feeder insects. Try this instead:
- Place insects and powder in a zip-top bag or airtight container.
- Seal it…
- shake it…
- then serve!
Tips for Your Gecko's Feeding Time
Dropping a handful of insects in the terrarium can cause some issues. Bugs can escape, hide, and die so you have to remove them later (or worse, you don’t find them and they rot and stink). Or your gecko may be overwhelmed by all of the insects at once. Some insects, like crickets, may become aggressive and gang up on your gecko.
Here are a few alternative ways to feed your gecko:
- Use a designated feeding container, allowing your gecko to chase down one or two insects at a time.
- Hand-feed your gecko using tweezers. If you don't want to use tweezers, you may want to wear gloves to protect yourself from a bite.
- Place an insect in a small dish or a cup and hold it near your gecko so he can fish out the bug.
Tips for Gut Loading
Not sure how to gut load or even what that means? That’s okay - it’s pretty simple. “Gut loading” means giving feeder insects healthy foods prior to feeding time so they are “gut loaded” with nutrients your gecko needs. Sometimes the breeder has already gut loaded the insects you intend on feeding to your gecko, but it’s important that this take place 24 hours before feeding time to optimize the nutritional value.
Pro Tip: Gut load insects with a variety of fruits and vegetables. You can supplement with oats.
While baby, juvenile, and adult leopard geckos need different amounts of food, they all need a variety of insects. You can keep your pet happy and healthy by offering the appropriate amount of bugs based on their length, dusted with calcium of course. Happy feeding!
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