If you’re already a leopard gecko parent, you know they can make fantastic pets, but they only thrive in captivity when they’re fed properly. This means you need to know how often to feed them, when and what to feed them, and how much they need to eat.
A leopard gecko’s feeding needs change based on their age and also stages in their lifecycle. For example, they’ll eat significantly less during brumation, and females may stop eating altogether when they’re pregnant.
Read on as we take you through how to feed your leopard gecko based on their age and condition.
How Often Should You Feed Your Leopard Gecko Based On Age?
How often you should feed your leopard gecko depends on a number of things. First among them is the age of your lizard. Because young lizards are growing quickly, they need to eat more often to ensure they have all the nutrients they need to support their rapid development.
You’ll know how often to feed them based on their size, which is a good indication of their age. Exactly how often you should be feeding your leopard gecko based on size is outlined in the table below.
|3 times a week
|2-3 times a week
As you can see, baby leopard geckos need to be fed daily so they have enough nutrients to support their rapid growth. They can grow up to an inch a month in the first year of life.
But when they get to about six months of age, it’s time to start adapting them to a slower diet, feeding them on alternative days. Once they enter adulthood, you can drop them down to three feeding times a week.
Other Times Leopard Geckos Need Less Food
Once your leopard gecko is an adult, there will be times in their life when they will eat less. You should not see this with growing babies, though, and if they stop eating it is cause for concern.
But adults store fats and liquids in their tails for those times when they would have more limited access to food in the wild.
Both male and female leopard geckos can stop eating for a few months at the start of breeding season.
If you have a leopard gecko in captivity, even if they have never seen a member of the opposite sex, they will feel an urge to breed at some point during the year. One of the ways they may express this is by rejecting food.
Females will also stop eating for a while before giving birth. This is thought to be because eating becomes uncomfortable due to the size of the eggs they’re carrying, but they should return to a normal eating schedule soon after laying.
It’s important to ensure they have plenty of calcium in their diet at this time, to replenish calcium used to develop the eggs.
All leopard geckos will also stop eating for three months or so when they enter brumation, which is their winter hibernation cycle. In captivity, leopard geckos should not be fed anything for at least 10 days before brumation and also nothing during brumation.
This is because the microorganisms that work in the stomach can cause food to rot, resulting in bloating and inflammation, and also potential infection. They will probably be hungrier than usual when they emerge.
In the wild, leopard geckos enter brumation in winter. You will have some control over this in captivity as you should change tank temperature conditions to imitate winter.
How Long Can A Leopard Gecko Go Without Food?
Whether your leopard gecko is refusing food or you’re going to be away, it’s important to know how long they can go without food before causing serious damage to their health.
While it is important to maintain a regular feeding schedule, the occasional longer period without food should not do your pet any harm, as long as it’s not too long.
Small babies up to about the age of two months should not go more than two days without food as this can affect their growth during this important period of development.
Juveniles up to the age of six months can go a maximum of about seven days without food, and older juveniles up to 12 months of age can go 14 days without a proper feeding.
Healthy adults can go a month without food without serious suffering, and they can go up to three months if they’re in the metabolic state of brumation.
But these time periods apply to healthy leopard geckos. If their health is compromised in some way, they should have regular access to food to help with the healing process.
How Do You Know If Your Leopard Gecko Is Properly Nourished?
Since leopard geckos store fat in their tails, the condition of their tail is a good indication of whether your lizard is getting enough food and the right type of food.
Ideally, the central point of their tail about halfway down should be about the same width as the body of your gecko. After this, it will taper off into a pointed tip.
If it’s thicker than this, they are malnourished and underweight. If their tail expands to be fatter than their bodies, then they’re overweight.
If they lose their tail for some reason, they lose their fat stores and you should return to feeding them on a daily basis until their tail regrows. If they’re fed properly, this should only take about two months.
What Time Should You Feed Your Leopard Gecko?
For leopard geckos, there is a correct time of day for feeding. This is because this lizard is crepuscular, which means they are active at twilight, so dawn and dusk, but not very active during the day or night.
This means that your leopard gecko should be fed during twilight hours when they’re active, to properly digest their nutrients. The majority of lizard parents feed their leopard geckos at dusk.
What Do Leopard Geckos Eat?
Unlike other popular reptile pets, such as bearded dragons, which are omnivorous, leopard geckos are insectivores. This means they only eat insects and do not eat fruits or vegetables.
In the wild, leopard geckos eat grasshoppers, crickets, spiders, beetles, caterpillars, flies, and small scorpions. They may sometimes eat smaller lizards, snakes, and even newborn rodents if they come across a nest.
Their diet in captivity should imitate this as much as possible, which means live insects. They can also eat freeze-dried insects for convenience, but this should not be their main food source.
This is because a lot of the liquid that leopard geckos need for hydration they get from their food, and freeze-dried insects don’t provide the moisture they need. Nevertheless, they can be used in a pinch.
Preferably, leopard geckos should be fed live feeder insects that have been bred in captivity and given foods rich in the vitamins and minerals that leopard geckos need. Your lizard then gets these nutrients second hand from eating the insects.
Among the most popular foods for lizard geckos are mealworms because they are among the easiest to breed. But they aren’t necessarily the best for your pet since they are high in fat and don’t have the best calcium-phosphorus ratio.
This is important because leopard geckos need lots of calcium, but phosphorus leeches calcium from the body.
Nevertheless, if you want to raise feeder insects yourself at home, they are a popular choice but should be dusted with plenty of calcium before being fed to your reptile baby.
Crickets are also an excellent feeder insect and ideal if you have access to a reliable supplier. Unfortunately, they tend to be difficult to raise at home. Various species of tropical cockroaches, such as Dubia roaches, are also a very good choice.
It’s not recommended to catch wild insects to feed your leopard gecko. This is because they often carry parasites and diseases that can be passed to your lizard.
Some people catch wild insects and then microwave them to sterilize before feeding,. but since your leopard gecko prefers live prey, this is not the best option. But you can try this and see if your leopard gecko will accept dead insects.
What About Calcium Supplements?
In addition to their live insects, it’s also essential that you feed your leopard gecko a combined calcium and vitamin D3 supplement. This should be bought in powdered form and dusted over their food.
When leopard geckos don’t get enough calcium, they can develop metabolic bone disease. This is when calcium is extracted from the skeleton, which can cause them to develop deformities and breakages and lead to death.
They should have about a teaspoon of calcium with each meal. They should have a supplement with vitamin D3, as they need the D3 to enable them to use the calcium.
Since leopard geckos don’t bask in the sun like many other lizards, they don’t tend to get enough vitamin D3 through sun exposure.
Try the Zoo Med Repti Calcium with D3 Reptile Supplement to ensure your leopard gecko is getting all the calcium they need.
How Much Do Leopard Geckos Eat?
Generally, you should let your leopard gecko eat as much as they want during a 15- to 20-minute feeding slot, and then remove any insects that have not been eaten.
For baby and juvenile leopard geckos, this tends to be five to seven mealworm-sized insects per feeding. For adults, it is six or seven.
Yes, that means adults eat less than the babies since they eat less often, but babies need those extra nutrients to fuel their growth.
What About Hydration?
Leopard geckos can only go about two days without water, so they do need a regular source of hydration. But don’t expect them to drink, as they actually absorb it through their skin.
They should have fresh water in their tank every day, that is deep enough for them to submerge up to their neck.
You can also mist their terrarium on a regular basis, and this is usually sufficient for them to get the hydration they need in combination with the moisture they absorb from their food.
Keep your terrarium at a humidity level of between 30-40% to help them maintain their moisture levels as well.
Leopard Gecko Feeding FAQs
Can I feed my leopard gecko once a day?
Leopard geckos don’t need to be fed too often. As babies up to about the age of 10-12 months, they should be fed once a day at dawn or dusk. But as they enter adulthood, you only need to feed them two or three times a week.
Can you skip a day feeding a leopard gecko?
While baby leopard geckos should eat every day, if you skip the occasional day, it won’t do them any harm.
Adult leopard geckos only need to eat two to three times a week, but this only applies if your lizard is healthy. If they are having health problems, they should not miss meals.
How often do leopard geckos poop?
How often your leopard gecko needs to poop depends on what they’re eating. Growing babies may poop a couple of times a day as they manage their growth, but adult leopard geckos usually only poop once every few days.
Thinking Of Adopting A Leopard Gecko?
Leopard geckos might feel a little high maintenance when it comes to feeding because they need live insects. But they are actually incredibly easy to look after, even as a beginner, which is why we rank them among the four best reptiles for beginners.
Not sure whether a leopard gecko is the right reptile for you? Read our assessment here.