One of the most common problems that reptile enthusiasts encounter in caring for their crested geckos is when they stop eating. While inappetence, or a lack of interest in eating food, may sometimes be normal, chronic anorexia or completely rejecting food for a period of time can become dangerous to their health.
A lack of appetite in crested geckos may be caused by physiological factors such as reproductive behavior, shedding, and dehydration. A lack of appetite can also be caused by infectious and non-infectious diseases, as well as stress that is triggered by gaps in care and husbandry.
Identifying the underlying cause for inappetence is important to make the necessary steps to help your crested gecko regain its appetite. In this article, we will look at the 14 common reasons why your crested gecko isn’t eating and what you can do to solve and prevent this health issue.
14 Reasons Why Your Crested Gecko Isn’t Eating
First, have a look at this decision tree we created to help you find out why your crestie isn’t eating. After that, we will go into more detail!
1. It Is Breeding Season
Male crested geckos become sexually mature at 9-12 months of age, while females reach their reproductive age at 12 months when they weigh between 30-35 grams. Part of their mating behavior is losing appetite during breeding season.
Male crested geckos lose their appetite as they shift their focus to finding a mate. Female crested geckos may also experience inappetence because they are conserving energy for egg production.
They have a natural breeding cycle that lasts for 8-10 months of the year, and breeding may occur every 4-6 weeks.
If you suspect that your crested gecko’s decreased appetite is due to the breeding season, don’t panic.
This is a natural behavior, and there is no need to intervene unless your gecko’s weight loss becomes excessive or it displays other concerning signs.
If you plan on breeding your cresties for the first time, you should consult a veterinarian or a reputable breeder beforehand to ensure that your geckos are healthy enough to breed.
Breeding can be a challenging and risky process, and it’s crucial to have the proper knowledge and resources to do it safely.
Tip: You may also wanna read our article on how long crested geckos are able to go without eating. You will learn that a day without food is nothing for these guys.
2. Your Female Crested Gecko May Be Pregnant
If your female crested gecko is carrying eggs, it’s natural for her to decrease her food intake.
As the eggs develop, they take up space in the abdomen, which can put pressure on the digestive system, leading to a decreased appetite. Hormonal changes can also affect the female crestie’s appetite.
You can tell if your female crested gecko is carrying eggs by observing her behavior and physical appearance.
Females carrying eggs will often appear plump and have a visibly distended abdomen. They may also become less active and spend more time in their hides.
It is crucial to provide pregnant cresties with the appropriate care and environment to support the egg-laying process. Prepare a suitable laying box filled with damp substrate to facilitate egg laying.
3. Your Female Crested Gecko May Have Dystocia
Related to pregnancy, inappetence may also occur in female crested geckos that have trouble releasing their eggs. This condition, known as dystocia or egg binding, can be very dangerous to your crestie’s health.
Often, a female crested gecko that is unable to lay her eggs may be lethargic and have a distended, firm abdomen on top of anorexia. If you suspect that your female gecko is suffering from dystocia, seek veterinary care immediately.
4. Your Crested Gecko Is Shedding
Shedding is a natural process that all reptiles, including crested geckos, go through as they grow. During shedding, the gecko’s outer layer of skin comes off in patches, making way for new skin growth.
Shedding can be a stressful process, and it’s not uncommon for lizards to lose their appetite during this time.
Signs that your crested gecko is shedding include dull, grayish skin, clouded eyes, and reduced activity levels. Shedding can take anywhere from a few days to a week, and during this time.
To help your crested gecko during shedding, provide a humid hide in the enclosure by filling a small container with damp moss, vermiculite, or paper towels and placing it in a corner of the enclosure.
Avoid unnecessarily handling your as this can be stressful and potentially damage their skin. Instead, monitor your crested gecko from a distance and ensure that they have access to fresh water and food.
If your gecko’s shedding process is prolonged, or if you notice any signs of retained shed, such as stuck shed around their toes or tail, seek veterinary care.
Retained shed can be a serious issue and can lead to health problems if left untreated.
5. Something Is Wrong With Your Enclosure Setup
Factors such as insufficient tank size, inappropriate thermal gradient, stress from overcrowding, a lack of hiding places, inadequate humidity, and poor ventilation can quickly cause inappetence in crested geckos.
Addressing husbandry-related problems will usually lead to appetite improvement in crested geckos.
6. Your Crested Gecko Is Stressed
Stress is a common reason why crested geckos may stop eating.
Several factors can cause stress, including a new environment, loud noises, excessive handling, inadequate hiding places or enrichment, and other pets in the household.
When your gecko is stressed, it may become lethargic and stop eating. Another common sign of stress is dropping its tail, which unfortunately does not grow back for crested geckos.
7. Your Crested Gecko May Be Dehydrated
Your crested gecko may not be drinking enough water, or you are not misting it enough, or perhaps you are not giving it access to a fresh, clean source of water at all times.
In any case, dehydration can lead to inappetence and many other health issues if not resolved immediately.
Other signs of dehydration include lethargy, a dull, wrinkled appearance of the skin, and sunken eyes.
The good news is that in the absence of an underlying health issue, once your crested gecko is rehydrated, its appetite will also return to normal.
8. You Are Feeding Your Crested Gecko The Wrong Food
Another possible reason why your crested gecko may not be eating could be that you are feeding it the wrong food.
A crested gecko’s diet should primarily consist of insects such as crickets, mealworms, and dubia roaches. They also require a balanced mix of fruits and vegetables.
Some owners make the mistake of feeding their crested gecko too much fruit, which can cause high sugar levels, diarrhea, and other health issues.
Not feeding the right size of prey and not gut-loading insects prior to feeding are also common mistakes most beginners make.
Also Read: Should Crested Geckos Eat Strawberries?
9. Your Crested Gecko Ate Something Bad
On a rather similar note, it is also possible that you may have fed your crested gecko something that made it sick.
Wild insects or fireflies, for example, can be toxic to crested geckos. Additionally, feeding them rotten or spoiled fruit can also cause gastrointestinal issues, leading to a loss of appetite.
If you suspect that your crested gecko may have eaten something bad or poisonous, consider it an emergency and take it to the veterinarian as soon as you can. Fireflies are especially toxic to lizards and consumption can lead to death.
10. Your Crested Gecko May Have Parasites Or An Infection
Parasites or infections are a common reason why your crested gecko might not be eating. Parasites can cause inflammation in the digestive system, leading to discomfort and a lack of appetite, among other signs such as diarrhea and weight loss.
Common parasites found in crested geckos include pinworms, coccidia, and flagellated protozoa.
Infections can also cause digestive issues, and respiratory infections are particularly common in crested geckos.
If your gecko has a respiratory infection, it may not want to eat because of difficulty in breathing. Other symptoms of respiratory infections include wheezing, coughing, and lethargy.
11. Your Crested Gecko May Have Mouth Rot
Stomatitis, also known as mouth rot, is a bacterial infection that can cause your crested gecko to stop eating.
This is a common issue in reptiles, including crested geckos, and can be caused by poor dental hygiene or damage to the mouth.
Other signs of stomatitis apart from inappetence include redness and swelling in the mouth, discharge or pus, and difficulty opening the mouth.
In severe cases, the infection can spread to the jawbone and cause serious health problems.
12. Your Crested Gecko Is Suffering From Impaction
Impaction is the blockage of the digestive system that prevents geckos from passing waste. This condition can be caused by a variety of factors, including the consumption of substrate or foreign objects, dehydration, or improper temperatures.
Impaction is a serious condition that can lead to death if not treated promptly. Other symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, swelling of the abdomen, and constipation.
If you suspect that your crested gecko is impacted, it is important to take action immediately. The longer the blockage persists, the more serious the condition becomes, and the more difficult it will be to treat.
13. Your Crested Gecko Has Metabolic Bone Disease
Metabolic bone disease (MBD) is a common condition in captive reptiles, including crested geckos.
This condition occurs due to a lack of proper calcium and vitamin D3 in the diet, leading to weakened bones and a range of other symptoms.
Symptoms of MBD in crested geckos include swollen or twisted limbs, difficulty moving, bowed legs, and muscle twitching or spasms.
Advanced cases of MBD can result in fractures, paralysis, and even death. Hence, cresties with MBD generally feel unwell and will be unwilling to eat.
14. Your Crested Gecko Has Organ Failure
Organ failure can occur in crested geckos, particularly in older lizards or those with preexisting health conditions.
Liver failure is often the result of prolonged exposure to high levels of toxins, such as those found in certain cleaning products or pesticides.
Kidney failure, on the other hand, can be caused by various factors, including dehydration, infection, or the use of certain medications.
Signs of organ failure in crested geckos can include anorexia, weight loss, lethargy, and changes in behavior or appearance.
Affected geckos may exhibit symptoms specific to the organ affected, such as jaundice from liver failure or bad breath and changes in urine output due to kidney failure.
How To Help Your Inappetent Crested Gecko
Inappetence in crested geckos may appear as a lone, transient symptom. If the animal is still maintaining weight, then you may first consider physiological causes such as breeding season, shedding, or pregnancy.
You should also consider reviewing your care and husbandry to identify gaps.
But in cases when the lack of appetite has progressed to anorexia or not eating at all, causing drastic weight loss in your crested gecko, then more serious causes related to illness must be ruled out.
A Vet Visit Always Helps
In any situation, a visit to the veterinarian is always recommended and encouraged.
A professional clinical evaluation will help identify the underlying causes and your herp vet will recommend the necessary medications and management changes that you must follow to help your pet feel better.
Review Your Enclosure Setup
The table below gives a summary of husbandry factors that are suitable for your crested gecko.
|Minimum enclosure size||20-gallon with vertical orientation|
12” x 12” x 18” (LWH) can house one crested gecko
18” x 18” x 24” (LWH) can house pairs or trios
Wire mesh top for ventilation
|Thermal Gradient||Daytime: 78 – 82F (25 – 28C)|
Nighttime: 70 – 77C (21 -25C)
Winter time: 5 – 10F (3 – 5 C)
For colder climates, add a 40-watt basking lamp for supplemental heat
|UV Lighting||Not necessary but encouraged with a low-level UVB light|
Crested geckos are arboreal creatures, so they benefit well from high terrariums with tank accessories suitable for climbing and perching, such as branches, vines, cork bark, and bamboo tubes. Males are territorial, so they are best housed individually.
Aside from climbing enrichment, a crested gecko enclosure should also have hiding places that cresties can retreat to. Have a look at these accessories!
You may also try to simulate their natural feeding habit in the wild by allowing them to feed on wall-mounted ledges. This helps replicate how they eat in trees.
Avoid loosely particulate substrate, as it can cause impaction when your crested gecko accidentally ingests it when feeding. Instead, opt for a substrate that can hold humidity, such as coconut fiber coir or this specially mixed soil substrate under a layer of moss or leaves.
Another way to prevent impaction is to serve their food in these clean feeding cups.
Misting the enclosure once or twice per day will help maintain high humidity levels suitable for your crested gecko.
Warm Water Bath
At home, one simple way to help your crested gecko regain its appetite is to give it a warm water bath.
Gently soaking the entire body in warm shallow water, around 2-3 cm deep, for 15 minutes can help encourage metabolic processes such as urinating, defecating, and eating.
A warm water bath is especially helpful in cases of dehydration, impaction, constipation, and instances when your crested gecko isn’t eating because your enclosure temperature is too low.
Crested geckos who have trouble shedding in certain parts of their body, such as the digits and tail, can also benefit from a warm water bath, especially if the bath is mixed with a shedding aid solution like this one.
Ensure Adequate Hydration
Dehydrated cresties who have trouble shedding will also benefit from regular hydration. Place a shallow water bowl in their enclosure that is always filled with clean, fresh water.
You may also mist your crested gecko regularly, and provide fresh fruits and vegetables.
Provide A More Varied Diet
Your crested gecko may be less inclined to eat if you keep giving it the same food each time. Additionally, a restricted diet does not give the complete nutritional profile that a diet with more variety offers.
Crested geckos are omnivorous, which means that they thrive well eating a wide selection of plants, nectar, fruits, and insects. An ideal diet consists of 50% fruits and 50% small insects.
Fruits such as papaya, nectarine, pears, peaches, berries, apricot, passionfruit, melon, mango, blueberries, grapes, and pitted apples are good options for nutrition and variety.
Insects such as crickets, silkworms, and waxworms should be no larger than your crested gecko’s head, and you may feed adults a few pieces of insects once or twice per week.
To maximize their nutritive benefits, gut load the insects with a highly nutritious meal 24-48 hours before feeding.
Juvenile crested geckos that are younger than 8 months should be fed daily, while adults can be fed every 2-3 days.
Dusting the food with calcium and vitamin D3 for reptiles will help prevent nutritional diseases like MBD. It also ensures adequate nutrition for juvenile geckos and breeding females. We recommend using this supplement here.
Generally, young geckos under a year old and breeding females need calcium and vitamin D3 supplementation 3-4 times a week, while adults need it 2-3 times a week. however, it’s best to consult your veterinarian to confirm the exact dose and frequency of supplementation.
Provide Food That Is Easy To Ingest
If the lack of appetite is caused by an oral health problem such as stomatitis, it may help to provide food items that are easier to digest for crested geckos. Pureed fruits, although high in sugar, are good treats to occasionally give to your crested gecko and they are easy to consume.
Commercial gecko foods (like this one) are also widely available nowadays, and they are convenient and quick solutions for feeding because you only need to add some water to create the feeding mix.
Nevertheless, providing easily ingestible food should only be applied to help your crested gecko regain its appetite. To treat the underlying cause, you must visit a vet for a consult.
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