Feeding your leopard gecko human food sounds like a nice idea, right? After all, sharing food is one way to bond with somebody or a pet. Dogs and cats love when we share food with them, even other reptiles like bearded dragons enjoy fruits and veggies.
So, why NOT share something with your leo?
The fact of the matter is that leopard geckos cannot eat any human foods. They are insectivores, meaning they eat nothing but insects and drink nothing but water. The end result is that your leo could end up sick if he eats anything other than appropriate insects.
Read on to discover all you need to know about what leopard geckos can and cannot eat.
Table of Contents
What Are Common Foods A Person May Want to Feed A Gecko?
Some questions we’ve gotten about what a person could feed their leopard gecko include:
“Can I feed my leopard gecko a piece of…”
The answer is no- this is a bad idea. The body of the leopard gecko is NOT capable of digesting such foods. Their body is lacking in what is called a cecum. This part of the body breaks down cellulose, which is part of fruits and vegetables. Their bodies are equipped to only digest insects.
Aside from having no cecum, leopard geckos also have a short digestive tract. This digestive tract is an alkaline tract, while herbivores have longer and acidic, digestive tract which is better equipped to handle such foods.
The skull of the leopard gecko also has an impact on what they are capable of eating. The skull and jaw of the leo has evolved over time to handle the consumption of meat. And it is smaller and less pronounced than that of an herbivore.
What Happens If My Leo Eats Fruit or Veggies?
Some leopard geckos have eaten fruits and veggies because it was sitting there and gave them something for them to do. Other leopard geckos do not react to the food because it doesn’t even move.
There are even some YouTube videos of leopard geckos eating fruits and veggies. However, we do not recommend this, as these foods are simply not digestible by leopard geckos.
Thus, feeding the leopard gecko anything but insects could lead them to feel quite ill and uncomfortable.
- We explain in detail why leopard geckos can’t eat fruit here (and exceptions)
- And we explain in detail why leopard geckos can eat vegetables here
What About Fish?
Fish might seem like a natural thing to feed your leopard gecko. However, leopard geckos should not be eating any kind of fish, such as minnows or goldfish. Leopard geckos are denizens of the desert, and in such a place, fish aren’t around anyway.
Furthermore, fish have bones inside, which can lead to impaction or even choke your reptile. Eating raw fish, especially ones sourced from a pet store, can also give your gecko parasites, which could really make him feel uncomfortable and compromise his health.
The bottom line? Leopard geckos should not be eating anything except the gut-loaded insects you give to them.
Now, let’s learn about good insects to feed your gecko and how to feed them properly.
What Can Leopard Geckos Eat Safely?
The best insects and worms to feed your leopard gecko include:
- Dubia roaches
However, some worms make great treats for your leopard gecko to enjoy once a week or once every two weeks. Waxworms, butterworms, and hornworms are some examples of this.
Feeding the waxworms and butterworms should be done only as a treat because of their high-fat content. Feeding too many of these insects leads your gecko to become overweight or obese, which has negative effects on their health.
In some cases, leopard geckos can become addicted to the taste of butterworms and end up refusing to eat their staple foods as a result. It would be akin to a human eating nothing but pizza- certainly, they would be full, but there would be a serious lack of nutrients.
Make sure that when you do feed your gecko, you are feeding only live food. Many leopard geckos will not touch a worm if it has already died. You should also make sure that fresh water is available in unlimited supply.
You should also have a look at our leopard gecko diet guide here. It will show you everything you must know and give you a feeding schedule.
A Closer Look: Worms for Your Gecko
Crickets are the old standby for leopard gecko owners because they are tried and true, geckos love them, and they are relatively cheap. They are like rice and chicken for us humans; a staple food that keeps us full.
Let’s learn more about some other worms you can feed your leo on a regular basis.
These are foods geckos just LOVE to eat. They are offered in a variety of sizes depending on the age of your leo, and you can get them in mixed sizes too if you have geckos of varying ages in your home. They are easily found here (even gutloaded) or in the local pet shop.
These worms are beloved by leos because of their excellent calcium content and good taste. Geckos like these because they are nutritious, but also different from the standard mealworm or cricket. You can get hornworms here (with enough food for them to grow and thrive)!
Now let’s talk a bit more about “special treats” for your leo.
These are great for serving once every two weeks. They are quite high in fat and are great for leopard geckos that are picky eaters. You can get super worms here but we recommend going with the wax worms below. Super worms are known for biting quite hard.
These are very high in fat and good for picky eater geckos. If you have a leo that has to gain weight after illness or being rescued, these are a great way to help them make those gains. These are like candy to leopard geckos, so feed them sparingly, or else your leo might get addicted!
If left to their own devices, leopard geckos would eat these with reckless abandon. Therefore, we recommend checking out our guide on feeding wax worms to leopard geckos here before feeding them.
These worms taste great to leopard geckos and, if eaten too often, could make the reptile obese. You can get wax worms for your leopard gecko here but keep these as a special once a week or once every two weeks treat.
Dusting and Why It Matters
Every time you feed your leo, the insects you feed should be gut loaded and dusted with a reptile calcium multivitamin supplement.
The supplement will provide your gecko with D3, which is needed to form and maintain healthy bones, plus calcium, nutrients, and more, which will keep your leopard gecko in good health.
It will also prevent you from having to use a variety of supplements and, in turn, save some money. This Calcium+D3 supplement is really good!
Using this product, dust the insects every day by placing the bugs in a sandwich bag, adding the supplement, and shaking it up.
To properly gut load, which is required EVERY time you feed, place the insects in an enclosure for 24 hours with pieces of potato, oats, bran, leafy greens or carrots.
After 24 hours, the insects can be fed. If you were curious about how a leo gets their fruits and veggies, it is through the gut-loaded insects they are fed.
Make sure that you closely watch your leopard gecko during feeding. Observe them to see when they are done eating and get rid of any insects that remain. Some insects, like crickets, can bite the leopard gecko, so make sure to get rid of them once the leo is done eating.
Food Size for Your Gecko
Did you know that proper feeding of your gecko depends upon his size?
For babies, offer crickets that are 3/ 8 inch long.
For Juvenile geckos under age 1, offer crickets 1/ 4 inch long.
For Adults, make sure to feed adult size crickets.
It is crucial to make sure meals are sized appropriately. Do not give insects that are wider than the space between the eyes of your gecko. For adults, offer two insects per inch of body length for the gecko.
For example, a gecko measuring in at 4 inches long would get 8 mealworms about four times per week (as you should be feeding every other day for adults).
When to Feed My Leopard Gecko?
When you feed your leopard gecko matters, as it will help keep them on a schedule, help you manage the cost and cleanup of cricket and other insects offered, and of course, prevent them from becoming overweight or obese.
Here is a feeding time list for geckos of varying life conditions.
- Leopard geckos that are babies or juveniles (aged under one year) should be given food every single day.
- Adult geckos should be given food every other day.
- Geckos that are sick should be given food once a day until they get their strength back.
- Because leopard geckos are crepuscular animals, you should drop their food into the enclosure later in the day or early evening. This is because leopard geckos start their hunting when living in the wild.
- If your gecko is a picky eater, make sure you feed him as you would based on their age, but make sure to place some worms into the habitat so they can eat them later on when they feel ready.
Obesity and Leopard Geckos: Know the Consequences
Feeding a leopard gecko too much can result in obesity for the reptile, which is ultimately uncomfortable and unhealthy for them.
Thus, reptile keepers have a responsibility to provide just enough food to nourish and sustain the gecko, but not overstuff them to the point of becoming unhealthy.
In the wild, leopard geckos reside in places where food can sometimes be quite scarce. As a result, leopard geckos have the natural ability to last in conditions that may not always be conducive to eating every day.
They process and store away their food, which is a natural ability they have as a means of helping them through times of scarcity in the desert.
Leopard geckos store their fat in their tails, which is why they have something of a chubby tail compared to the rest of their body. It is normal- the tail should always be wider than the body of the gecko, and the tummy of the reptile should be flat.
If you feed your leopard gecko too much, regurgitation of the food can happen. The leopard may also become lethargic, legs can become chubby, and they may even develop bubbles near or under the armpit. These are all signs that the leopard gecko is obese.
Toxic Leopard Gecko Foods
Are you curious about what foods could be harmful or toxic to your leopard gecko? In this section, we will cover foods that can be quite harmful to your reptile.
Avoid feeding bugs that light up. Fireflies, or lighting bugs, are two such examples of insects that should NOT be fed to leopard geckos. These bugs are natural possessors of chemicals that are toxic to leopard geckos and should NOT be used.
Insects caught in the wild. It may seem like a great idea to go outside and get some bugs from the backyard. But who knows where those bugs have been, what they’ve landed upon, or if they have parasites?
It’s best to play it safe and stick with insects you purchase from your local reptile shop or online from a reputable seller or pet shop.
Water and Leopard Geckos
Leopard geckos should not be given anything except water when it comes to hydration. Make sure to offer a dish of clean, fresh water at all times of the day in unlimited supply.
Keep the dish shallow in nature, as this will allow your gecko to sip from it easily and comfortably. The gecko will also avoid the risk of drowning if the dish is shallow. Make sure the dish cannot be knocked over, as a means of keeping the substrate nice and dry.
To sum it up, leopard geckos should not be eating ANY human food. These reptiles are insectivores and care to only eat insects as a result.
It may seem like your leo is missing out when he cannot partake in human food like other pets. However, this is not the case. Your leo will be happier, and healthier eating insects and worms served as a special treat.
Enjoy caring for, and providing great nutrition, to your leopard gecko!