When your leopard gecko skips a meal, the first reaction may be to panic – especially if you’re new to keeping leopard geckos. That’s why we’ve decided to write this article.
- Baby leopard geckos (0-2 months of age) can’t go longer than 2 days without food
- Juvenile leopard geckos (2-6 months of age) can’t go longer than 2-7 days without food
- Sub-adult leopard geckos (6-12 months of age) can go 7-14 days without food
- Adult leopard geckos (over 12 months of age) can go 14 days to over 1 month without food
- Healthy leopard geckos can go for 3 months without food during brumation
- Malnourished, sick, or gravid leopard geckos should have access to food all the time
Here’s a table showing how long they can be kept without food and how often they should be fed.
|Age of Leopard Gecko||Size Of The Leopard Gecko||Length Of Time They Can Go Without Food||How Often They Should Be Fed|
|Hatchling||3 – 4”||Very Dangerous To Leave Without Food||Daily|
|1 Month||4”||Don’t Push It Beyond 1 Day||Daily|
|2 Months||5”||Don’t Push It Beyond 2 Days||Daily|
|6 Months||5 – 6”||2 – 7 Days||Every Other Day|
|12 Months||7 – 10”||14 Days – 1 Month||Every Other Day|
|18 Months||8 – 11”||Over 1 Month||Every Other Day|
There are various other factors that come into play when your leopard gecko doesn’t want to eat.
In this article, we’ll cover the factors that impact how long they can go without food, reasons why your leo isn’t eating and what to do about it, as well as warning signs to look out for that show that something is wrong.
Table of Contents
What Factors Impact How Long A Leopard Gecko Can Go Without Food?
How long your leopard gecko can go without food has a lot to do with how much energy they expend daily. Here are a few reasons why your leopard gecko may not be able to go without food for as long a time as a very healthy leo.
A sick leopard gecko usually doesn’t have the fat reserves or ability to use those reserves as they normally would.
This can impact how long they can go without food or even water as their bodies need all the nutrients it can get to keep the immune system working at its best and to give enough energy to fight off whatever disease it has.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
MBD is a horrific disease that leopard geckos get when they do not get all the nutrients – especially calcium – that they need. The calcium then gets extracted from their skeleton and this leads to deformities, breakages, and eventually a very painful and slow death.
Note! Even a “well-fed” leopard gecko can become sick with MBD if they aren’t fed the proper diet. This is why it’s imperative that you should always feed your leopard gecko only healthy feeder insects that have been gut fed and dusted with calcium.
During breeding season it’s usual for leopard geckos – both males and females – to stop eating for days or even a couple of weeks. This is usually the case at the beginning of the breeding season.
If this happens, you should not try to force them to eat, but you should keep an eye on them to ensure that your leo doesn’t lose too much weight; as this can be a sign of something else being wrong.
Gravid females may stop eating a few days before they lay their eggs. This is completely normal and shouldn’t worry you. Once they have laid their eggs they should start eating again. The few days they go without food during this time won’t impact their health in any significant way.
Tail Size and Tail Loss
The leopard gecko’s tail not only serves to store fat reserves, but a lot can also be gathered from the healthiness of the tail.
What A Healthy And Sick Leopard Gecko Tail Look Like
A healthy leopard gecko tail actually has a weird shape to it – and sometimes new leo owners may think that their leo is putting on unnecessary weight.
However, the tail should start out narrower than the leopard gecko’s body and, after about half an inch, start to widen. A healthy tail should be about as wide as the leopard gecko’s body.
Note! If the tail is wider than your leopard gecko’s body, it’s a sign that they are overweight.
This fatty deposit in your leopard gecko’s tail is much like a camel’s hump as both contain excess fat and water reserves that they’ll need at some future time.
The leopard gecko will need these reserves when they’re brumating or fall sick and can’t catch or eat live prey.
The Health Impact Tail Loss Has On Your Leopard Gecko
Losing their tail, therefore, means that your leopard gecko also loses all of their fat and water reserves in one go. This can have a devastating effect on their health if they don’t get adequate food, water, and supplementation after the loss of their tail.
Your leopard gecko will also not be able to go without food for days at a time as they cannot draw on the fat reserves in their tail.
You should, therefore, make sure that you have enough food, water, and supplementation to keep your leo comfortable while their tail grows again.
A leopard gecko’s tail can actually grow back in as little as two months. Even when the leopard gecko’s tail has grown back, however, it will still take some time to get their tail back to a healthy size and filled with fat reserves.
Depending on their age (see the table at the beginning of this article), you’ll have to keep to a strict feeding schedule for the first four to six weeks. During this time, also ensure that your leo’s tail wound doesn’t get infected.
Note: Should the tail wound get infected, you need to take your leopard gecko to the vet right away.
Whether you feed your leo daily or every other day (again depending on size and age), you can add more waxworms, silkworms, and other high-fat and high-calorie foods to their diet for the time being.
Feeding them in this way will not only give them the energy required to regrow their tail, but will also give them extra energy for their fat reserves. Be sure to always provide fresh water to them as well.
While your leopard gecko can go for a relatively long time without food, they cannot go without water for very long.
We’ve already seen that leopard geckos store a surplus of fat and fluids in their tail. However, there is only that much fluid that they can use before they start to get dehydrated.
Your leopard gecko gets some of their fluids from the food that they eat (yum), so if they don’t eat, they don’t have that source of fluid.
If you take away the water as well, they have no fluid intake at all. This is basically a relatively quick and definitely horrible death sentence.
Let’s look at the symptoms and what you should do if your leopard gecko is dehydrated.
The symptoms of dehydration are as follows:
- Their skin is dry, with a puckered appearance and little elasticity
- Lethargy and/or weakness
- They may have trouble shedding if they get dehydrated just before or during shedding
- Impaction (severe constipation) or infrequent defecation
When it comes to dehydration, you get mild, moderate, and severe dehydration – and each of these must be treated differently:
- Mild dehydration – Soak your leopard gecko in some lukewarm water and make sure they have access to fresh, clean water
- Moderate dehydration – Get them to the vet, soak them in lukewarm water, and give oral administration of water (depending on what the vet does)
- Severe dehydration – Get them to the vet ASAP and then follow their guidance on how to keep this from happening again.
Dehydration can be prevented as follows:
- Check the humidity levels in their tank – it should be between 30% and 40%
- Give them new water daily to ensure that it’s clean and fresh (and don’t forget to wash their water bowl
- Give them live insects to eat. A freeze dried mealworm or two now and then won’t do any harm – unless they’re already dehydrated – but you don’t want to just give them dry food. Think of squishy worms versus crickets (if you must)
If you provide the right circumstances for a correct brumation phase (temperatures between 59 °F and 50 °F), your leopard gecko won’t eat anything during brumation and this is completely normal.
All you need to do during this time is to provide them with water and watch closely that they don’t lose too much weight.
Too much weight loss is a sign that they’re sick or have any number of parasites. If they lose too much weight, you need to get them to the vet ASAP.
Tip: Before brumation, take your leopard gecko to the vet for a checkup. They can confirm that they don’t have parasites or other underlying diseases which may impact your leo’s health while they brumate.
Signs Of Weight Loss And Behavioral Changes To Watch Out For
When your leopard gecko skips a meal or two, there’s usually nothing to worry about – leos in captivity are often overfed and not eating is your leo’s way of not putting on extra grams. However, there are signs that mean not everything is okay with your leopard gecko, including:
- sluggishness or lethargy
- sunken eyes
- swelling of abdomen
- poor appetite
- weight loss
- vent prolapse
Weight loss is often not picked up at first because a leopard gecko is so light and the fat in their tails can make it seem as if there is nothing wrong. However, if their tail starts to get thinner, that is a huge sign that something is wrong.
While there can be a number of reasons for weight loss in your leopard gecko, parasites are one of the most common reasons.
Reasons Why Your Leopard Gecko Isn’t Eating
Let’s look at some of the reasons why your leopard gecko isn’t eating before moving on to the warning signs you need to look out for.
You’ve Just Brought Your New Leopard Gecko Home
The chances are that, when you first bring your leopard gecko home, they won’t eat – and may even skip a meal or two. Your leopard gecko will most likely be very stressed when they’re placed into their new home; no matter how awesome and real you make it look.
To make sure that you ease your leopard gecko into their home as smoothly as possible, ensure that the tank is correctly set up before placing them in it (we’ll get to the tank in a moment).
You should also have the tank somewhere quiet where it won’t be disturbed by other people and/or curious kids and pets.
During this time, you also shouldn’t handle your leopard gecko except for putting them into their tank. You can be in the same room as them so they get used to you, but don’t play loud music or video games, etc. as the noise can cause even more stress.
You can have more interaction with them as the days go by and they get used to you. Don’t force them to interact with you as this will also stress them out and may cause them to see you as a threat. Then you’ll have a whole new problem on your hands.
But first, let’s look at the tank setup.
The Tank Setup Is Wrong
If your leopard gecko’s tank isn’t set up correctly, you may find that they lose their appetite because of this.
That’s because temperatures that are too low can result in your leopard gecko not being able to digest their food because their metabolism has slowed down too much. Temperatures that are too high can easily dehydrate and even kill your leo.
Remember to also have a temperature gradient in the tank – the tank shouldn’t be just one temperature inside. You need to give your leopard gecko the chance to regulate their body temperature.
The correct temperatures for your leopard gecko’s tank is as follows:
|Warm part of temperature gradient||90-92°F||32-33°C|
|Cool part of temperature gradient||70-77°F||21-25°C|
The tank’s humidity should be between 30% and 40%.
We’ve already touched on the fact that leopard geckos usually don’t eat at the beginning of the breeding season and that gravid females may refuse food a couple of days before they lay their eggs.
However, ovulating females may also refuse food and skip a couple of meals. Keep offering food, however, as they will need a lot of nutrients to create the eggs and still stay healthy themselves.
Calcium is more important than ever during this time. They may even lose a few grams, but unless they don’t start eating again or you see rapid deterioration and/or weight loss, that’s nothing to worry about.
Keep in mind that a female can lay infertile eggs, so you shouldn’t count on not having clutches of eggs if you don’t breed with your leopard geckos.
In the wild, leopard geckos go through brumation during the colder months. This is similar to hibernation.
Signs that your leopard gecko is almost about to go into brumation, are:
- Spending most of their time in the cooler part of the tank
- They stop eating
- They move around a lot less
- They may hide for days at a time.
Leopard geckos who go into brumation, will stop eating about two weeks before they start to brumate. This is to get their bodies ready, as there shouldn’t be any food left in their digestive tract when they start to brumate.
This is because their metabolism slows down so much that they basically stop digesting and the food will rot inside them while they brumate. This can make them extremely ill and even kill them.
It’s also normal for your leopard gecko not to eat during brumation and they’ll be fine as long as they were healthy to start with.
Still, you need to keep an eye on them to make sure that they don’t lose too much weight. Losing 10% or more of their body weight during brumation is dangerous and usually means that they have some form of parasites.
Note: If you see that your leopard gecko is losing a lot of weight, get them to the vet immediately.
When you see your leopard gecko starting to return to their normal level of activity, you can start to offer them food again. If they keep refusing food after their brumation has ended, you will need to take them to the vet for a checkup.
Impaction, or gut blockages, is another reason why your leopard gecko may stop eating altogether. It is very serious and, if home remedies don’t work, you will need to go to the vet immediately.
The vet will most likely give your leopard gecko an enema, but in certain cases surgery may be required to save your leo’s life.
The symptoms of impaction are:
- loss of appetite
- reduced activity
- swelling of the abdomen
- vent prolapse
If you suspect that your leopard gecko is suffering from impaction, a home remedy you can try is to give them a lukewarm bath while massaging their stomachs lightly. This can cause them to pass the stool.
Make sure that the water isn’t too hot, though! Test the water with your elbow or wrist before putting your leopard gecko in it.
Should this not work, you will need to consult a vet.
There are various diseases that can stop your leopard gecko from eating, including a respiratory infection. Respiratory infections can be avoided by ensuring that the humidity of the tank remains at the correct levels (30–40%).
Consult a vet if you suspect that your leopard gecko has a respiratory infection.
Other diseases which may cause your leopard gecko to stop eating, are parasites and metabolic bone disease (MBD).
Although some of the parasites infecting your leopard gecko are considered to be normal – specifically at low levels – the parasite Cryptosporidia is highly infectious, causing:
- considerable weight loss
- a lack of appetite
- failure to thrive.
In some cases of this parasite, euthanasia may be the option your vet recommends.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
If your leopard gecko is suffering from MBD, they may be too sick or weak to eat. In a case like this, you will need to consult a vet.
Will A Leopard Gecko Starve Itself To Death?
A leopard gecko will not starve itself to death. It might refuse to eat when it has stored enough energy in its tail but will start eating again when that energy is used up. Leopard geckos that refuse to eat even though they are starving are usually sick or suffering from an incorrect tank setup.
So just to be clear, if your leopard gecko does not eat, it usually has a reason for that. We showed you above what reasons that might be in detail.
Now let us show you some warning signs you should look out for and how to get your leo to eat again.
Warning Signs When Your Leopard Gecko Won’t Eat
Should your leopard gecko show signs of illness or suddenly lose a lot of weight, you will need to take them to a vet to be properly examined and professionally treated. As noted, signs of illness in leopard geckos include:
- sluggishness or lethargy
- sunken eyes
- swelling of abdomen
- poor appetite
- weight loss
- vent prolapse.
How To Tempt Your Leopard Gecko To Eat
If your leopard gecko has skipped some meals, but you don’t notice anything particularly wrong with them, you can try tempting your leo to eat before taking them to a vet for a checkup. Here are some things you can try to get your leopard gecko to eat:
- try to feed them their favourite treat, like a silkworm, waxworm, dubia roach, etc. Don’t overdo this, however, as you don’t want them to only eat treats after a while!
- try feeding them a mealworm that’s been cut in half (to do this, first put them in the fridge. The cold will act as an anesthetic.)
- try hand feeding them and see if that can tempt them.
Common Situations When You Can’t Feed Your Leopard Gecko And What You Can Do
Finally, we’ll look at other questions you may have.
You’re Going Away – What Do You Do About Feeding Your Leopard Gecko ?
If you’re wondering if someone should feed your leopard gecko if you’re away for a few days, the answer is both yes and no. It really depends on how long you’ll be away and whether you have fed your leopard gecko just before you left.
If you’re only gone for a day or two, you don’t have to worry about getting someone to feed your leopard gecko as long as it’s an adult. However, baby leopard geckos will need to be fed every day and juveniles every other day.
Should you be unable to find anyone willing to feed your leopard gecko live prey, you may be able to get them to feed your leo freeze-dried mealworms. These you can buy online or at your local pet shop that sells live prey for leopard geckos.
Note: Even if you don’t have someone coming in to feed them, you should have someone that comes to check on the water and change it at least every other day if not every day.
What If I Can’t Feed My Leopard Gecko For The Whole Weekend?
As long as your leopard gecko is healthy, and old enough to go without food for a day (i.e. not a baby) they’ll be fine to live off of their fat reserves in their tails for the weekend.
Remember that they can go for days without eating in the wild. Just be sure to give them access to plenty of fresh, clean water.
If your leopard gecko is still a baby, you don’t want to keep them without food for too long. Two days can be pushing it for these small ones.
What If My Leopard Gecko’s Food Died And I Can’t Get Any For A Few Days?
If your leopard gecko is healthy and not too young, there shouldn’t be any problem. Just make sure that they have access to fresh, clean water at all times. They’ll simply live off of their tail fat between meals, so to speak.
If your leopard gecko is younger than 2 months old, this can be a big problem. As soon as you are able to get new food, try to get fatty food like mealworms so that your leopard gecko baby gets a lot of energy after such a fasting period.
Still, a baby leopard gecko should not go that long without food. It can end bad for them. They need energy every day.
My Leopard Gecko Is Lost In The House – How Long Can They Survive?
This is a tricky one. First of all, it will depend on whether there are any other pets in the house which may prey on your poor leo.
If this isn’t the case, the chances of them being found alive and well (if with a bit of a thinner tail) after even a few weeks of being missing is much higher.
If possible, make sure that your house or flat is the same temperature as what the leopard gecko tank is. This will ensure that your leo doesn’t get too cold and die of exposure.
Then all you can do is to start searching some more and moving furniture – carefully! – out of the way.
Do Leopard geckos go through periods of not eating?
Leopard geckos often go through periods of not eating when they have stored enough energy in their tail. They will live off the stored energy for weeks, sometimes even months. Further, Leopard geckos usually brumate from November to February and eat very little or nothing at all during that time.
So if you have a healthy leopard gecko with a thick tail, there isn’t really a lot you should worry about when your leo refuses to eat for some time.
Just make sure that your leopard gecko is able to defecate properly as they sometimes stop eating because they are impacted.
In conclusion, an adult leopard gecko can go without food for 7 days up to a few weeks (during brumation). By keeping a close eye on your leopard gecko and their health, however, you can ensure that your leo lives a long and healthy life.