Colorful veggie salad

What Vegetables Can Leopard Geckos Eat?

Many new leopard gecko owners want to know what kinds of vegetables to feed their leo. 

Perhaps they own, or know someone who owns, a bearded dragon. They’ve either fed or seen someone feed their dragon slices of carrot, an occasional broccoli flower or some radish pieces, not to mention daily salads made from calcium-rich greens or even cabbage leaves, knowing that these foods are packed with essential nutrients that bearded dragons need.

Wanting to take care of their leopard gecko, they might automatically assume that they should offer the same meals to their leo.

In this article, we’ll explore why you should never – with one surprising exception – offer vegetables to your leopard gecko, and what some of the risks of doing so may be.

First, let’s take a look at…

Why Vegetables Don’t Belong in Your Leopard Gecko’s Digestive Tract

Leopard geckos have developed very simple and short digestive tracts, uniquely fitted to their insectivorous diets. Their digestive systems are designed to quickly digest and metabolize their high-protein foods like insects, worms, small rodents, and even other leopard geckos.

Here’s a simplified breakdown of the leopard gecko digestive system:

  • Small sharp teeth
  • Esophagus
  • Stomach 
  • Small intestine
  • Large intestine
  • Vent

The leopard gecko’s sharp little teeth are great for catching, ripping, and slicing up their prey. They then use their tongues to move their prey to the back of their throat and into their esophagus. The food moves down the esophagus, through the small and large intestines, and out the vent.

Pretty standard, right?

Well, the devil is in the details here.

Why You Should Never Feed Your Leopard Gecko Vegetables

Although at first glance you may not see anything in the above description of a leopard gecko’s digestive system that would prevent you from feeding vegetables to your leo, it becomes more clear when you dive into the details.

Small Jaws, Sharp Teeth

Vegetables are tough to chew. That’s why herbivores in general have developed large jaws, robust skulls, and flat teeth, all of which work together to grind down tough organic matter.

A leopard gecko’s head, jaws, and teeth, on the other hand, are designed to tear through insects, worms, and meat. Generally, they aren’t strong enough to bite into and grind down plant matter. (Yes, this includes fruit.)

Short Digestive Tract

Vegetables are actually very hard to break down. They require a great deal of time and a lot of different enzymes and bacteria to digest and metabolize. That’s why herbivores and omnivores have developed longer, more complex, and highly acidic digestive systems.

Leopard geckos, on the other hand, have shorter, alkaline intestines designed for efficiently digesting and metabolizing animal proteins.

No Cecum

The cecum is a pouch at the beginning of the large intestine that is filled with beneficial bacteria specifically designed to aid in the digestion of plants. Most herbivores and omnivores have one. And those who don’t, typically have a gizzard, which uses tiny pebbles that the animal swallows to grind down plant matter.

The cecum produces chyme, a substance consisting of partly digested foods, water, hydrochloric acid, and digestive enzymes. Chyme helps the body break down cellulose and absorb the nutrients from the plants and vegetables that we eat.

Some reptiles – like bearded dragons – have a cecum.

But leopard geckos don’t.

Because of this, a leopard gecko’s intestines can’t break down cellulose – the substance that stiffens plant wall cells and is found in all plant matter.

Alkaline vs. Acid

Finally, the leopard gecko’s digestive system is highly alkaline. This is perfect for breaking down foods like insects, worms, and small rodents. But it is not suited to breaking down vegetables.

Vegetables require a highly acidic digestive system in order to break down their tough fibers. That’s why our digestive systems, and the digestive systems of other herbivores and omnivores, are highly acidic and produce bile. And this is why leopard geckos can’t eat vegetables.

Leopard gecko by a rock

What Could Happen If You Feed Your Leopard Gecko Vegetables?

Ok. So, you can see that your leopard gecko’s digestive system isn’t designed to break down difficult foods like vegetables. Their little bodies just aren’t designed to break down veggies and absorb the nutrients from them.

If you’ve occasionally given your leopard gecko vegetables in the past, you don’t necessarily have immediate cause for concern. Those veggies will pass through your leo’s system. However, there are some dangers to be on the lookout for, including:

  • stomach cramping
  • indigestion
  • bloating
  • diarrhea
  • constipation 
  • acid reflux
  • small tears in the mouth
  • festering sores in the mouth
  • damaged teeth

If you notice any of these symptoms, give your vet a call.

When Can Leopard Geckos Eat Vegetables?

At the beginning of this article I mentioned one surprising exception to the rule that you should never offer vegetables to your leopard gecko.

What is that exception?

Although leopard geckos should never be offered fresh vegetables directly, there is a way to help them get the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from fresh vegetables indirectly.

Gut-loading your insects 24 hours prior to feeding them to your leopard gecko is the only way to do this.

In general, the bugs that you buy from your typical pet store aren’t fed high-quality, nutrient-rich foods. That’s one reason why it’s important to purchase insects, like Dubia roaches, from a reliable source that raises their insects on nutrient-rich foods, and gut-loads them prior to shipping.

If and when you decide to establish your own colony of Dubia roaches, crickets, locusts, or other insects, you can buy fresh veggies to gut-load them prior to feeding them to your leo. But this is the only time you should buy fresh vegetables for your leopard gecko.

What Should I Feed My Leopard Geckos?

Leopard geckos are insectivores. For this reason they need a balanced and varied diet consisting of different kinds of insects and the occasional worm. Some of their favorite insects include:

  • Dubia roaches
  • Crickets
  • Locusts
  • Mealworms
  • Waxworms
  • Hornworms
  • Superworms
  • Butterworms
  • Silkworms

For a more in-depth look at what you should feed your leopard gecko, check out our article “What Do Leopard Geckos Eat?”.


Since insects make up at least 25% of your leopard gecko’s diet, you need a good source of live insects – like Dubia roaches. Dragon’s Diet offers humanely raised, gut-loaded Dubia roaches backed by our live delivery guarantee. Shop Dubia roaches today!

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