It’s been said that mealworms are a leopard gecko’s favorite dish – and knowing how eagerly they can devour these insects, we’re sure it’s true. But what do you do if one day your leo refuses to eat their mealworms? What’s going on?
A leopard gecko may refuse to eat mealworms if the gecko is still feeling full, not interested in dead prey, or if the mealworms are too large. A gecko may also have a low appetite if they are shedding, if the tank temperature is too low, or if they are unwell or stressed.
In this article, we will explore the reasons why your gecko may be refusing to eat the mealworms you’re offering. We’ll also give you 7 tips to get your gecko eating again.
Table of Contents
Why Your Gecko is Refusing These Mealworms
Sometimes, the issue is with the mealworms themselves. Here are a few possible reasons why your leopard gecko isn’t eating.
Your Leopard Gecko Wants Active Prey
Mealworms, Tenebrio molitor, are mealworm beetle larvae. They are cheap, easy to breed, long-lasting, palatable, and harmless to your leopard gecko. The downside is that they move very slowly.
Leopard geckos are bold hunters who enjoy chasing their prey, so they might not be motivated by mealworms – particularly if you are feeding dried or canned mealworms that don’t move at all.
Find out more about feeding canned mealworms to your leo here.
The Mealworms Are Too Big for Your Leopard Gecko
A leopard gecko may refuse to eat large mealworms. The gecko’s throat is lined with thick tissue, so a big mealworm is unsuitable. As a guide, your gecko’s mealworms should be smaller than the space between its eyes.
Mealworms have more chitin in their exoskeletons than other insect feeders, which may lead to impaction on your gecko. So, you should try to give your gecko younger (recently hatched) and small-sized mealworms.
The Leopard Gecko is Addicted to Other, Tastier Worms
If your gecko becomes used to eating other worms such as butterworms, waxworms, or superworms, he may get picky and refuse to touch mealworms.
These other insect diets have high-fat content and are much tastier than mealworms.
To avoid this scenario, you should only occasionally offer fatty worms as treats.
To keep things interesting, alternate mealworms with other insects such as:
- crickets (Read our guide on feeding crickets here)
- dubia roaches (A perfect feeder insect for leos as we explain here)
- black soldier fly larvae (Probably the best worm for leopard geckos – more on that here)
- silkworms (Good but expensive – read more here)
to keep things interesting – they are high in protein but low in fats.
Reasons Your Gecko May Not Want to Eat
Sometimes the mealworms are fine but your leopard gecko still doesn’t want to eat them. Here are some possible answers to what’s going on.
Note: This article will give you an idea of what might be going on with your leo. However, if you need more help, check out our article on 21 reasons why your leo has stopped eating!
Your Adult Gecko Doesn’t Need to Eat Every Day
Your leopard gecko may also refuse its mealworms after becoming an adult. This is because baby geckos feed every day, but juveniles feed every other day and adults feed even less frequently.
You may have offered the mealworms to an adult when it doesn’t need them.
Your Leopard Gecko is Shedding and Eating Shed Skin
Your leopard gecko could be shedding and eating its old skin. Hence, it has no capacity for mealworms. Shedding is a natural phenomenon occurring once or twice a month for young geckos and once every four to eight weeks in adults.
Normally, leopard geckos feed on their old skins to replenish nutrients lost during the formation of new skin, hide their existence or keep their habitat clean.
It is essential to provide a humid hiding area and a bowl of clean water for a smooth shedding process.
Your leopard gecko may stop eating its mealworms a few days before and begin eating them two to five days after shedding.
The Tank Temperatures are Low
When your leopard gecko’s habitat temperature goes below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the gecko may refuse to eat.
Cool temperatures lower its metabolism and activity, leading to low energy demand. Cool temperatures also slow digestion, reducing your gecko’s appetite.
Provide your gecko with ideal temperature conditions.
- A basking area at 90-95 degrees F
- A warm hiding area at 80-85 degrees F
- A cool end at 75-80 degrees F
Your Leopard Gecko has Underlying Health Issues
Health issues that might put a leopard gecko off their food include:
Impaction – a blockage in your gecko’s digestive or fecal tract. With plenty of water, the impaction can clear on its own, but a complicated one may require advanced medical procedures by a vet.
Respiratory infections – poor hygiene and incorrect humidity in your gecko’s tank can cause respiratory infections, which lower your gecko’s appetite.
Calcium deficiency – mealworms are low in nutrients, particularly calcium. If you only feed your gecko mealworms, they will develop calcium deficiency and lose their appetite. You can avoid this problem by dusting or gut loading the mealworms before you feed them to your gecko.
Metabolic bone disease (MBD) – your gecko won’t eat if it’s suffering from MBD. MBD is caused by calcium and vitamin D3 deficiency leading to painful jaws.
You can avoid the disease by gut-loading the insect feeders before feeding and providing UV lighting or necessary supplements.
Parasitic infestations – parasitic infestation may cause loss of appetite, diarrhea, weight loss, and other problems. Pinworms are the most common and are unnoticeable even in feces.
The Leopard Gecko’s Home Is New, or There Are Changes in Its Habitat
If your leopard gecko is new, it may refuse to eat for a few days up to one week as it tries to adapt to the new environment. The gecko may also refuse to eat if you relocate, rearrange, remove decorations or decorate its enclosure.
When You Cage Two or More Geckos, There Could be Bullying
If you have various hiding areas, you can cage two or more females or one male with some females together. But if you put two males together, they’ll bully each other and won’t eat.
How to Get Your Leopard Gecko to Eat Mealworms
A mealworm diet produces significant growth rates in geckos compared to other insect feeder diets. So let’s have a look at different ways to get your leo to eat mealworms again.
Provide Live and Moving Mealworms.
Always provide alive and moving mealworms. Give 5-7 mealworms to your baby gecko daily or 6-7 mealworms twice or three times a week if it’s an adult. The general formula is two mealworms per inch of your gecko’s length.
Transfer mealworms into a container lined with wheat bran or oatmeal and provide a piece of raw potato, carrot, or apple.
Then secure the container with a perforated lid to keep the mealworms alive for a long time. Keep the container in a dark place below 80 degrees F.
Give Small-Sized to Medium-Sized Mealworms
Alternatively, provide different-sized mealworms as your gecko grows. Give 0.4” long to a baby gecko, 0.25” long to a juvenile, and 0.5-0.75” long to adult geckos.
Dust or Gut-load the Mealworms Before Feeding Your Gecko
Since your gecko may lose its appetite due to calcium deficiency, you should gut-load the mealworms 24 hours before feeding or dust them with calcium during feeding.
You should also offer vitamin D supplements if you don’t provide enough UV light.
Change Your Gecko’s Diet
Avoid the monotony of mealworms and give other insect feeders once in a while to stimulate your gecko’s appetite.
Have a look at our article on the best worms for leopard geckos here to learn what worms you can feed your leo and how many.
Provide a Bowl of Clean Water and Increase the Humidity During Shedding
Provide a bowl of clean water as your gecko needs more water during shedding than the other times.
Normally, your leopard gecko requires about 30-40% humidity, similar to your home. But during shedding, you should provide a hiding area on the warm side of its cage with humidity levels of 70-80%.
Increase Your Gecko’s Cage Temperature
Ensure your gecko’s enclosure has the ideal temperature of between 77-90 degrees F with a cool area, warm hiding, and a basking area.
Monitor Your Gecko’s Health and Seek a Vet’s Assistance as Needed
It is essential to monitor your gecko’s health by assessing its growth, weight, and color changes and seeking a vet’s help whenever you notice abnormalities.
It is also important to avoid giving your gecko insects from your backyard as they may cause parasitism, toxicity, or other health problems. Instead, you should buy mealworms and other insect feeders from pet shops.
There are a number of reasons why your leopard gecko might be refusing to eat the mealworms you’re offering.
It’s normal for an adult leo not to eat every day, but if it continues to refuse the mealworms, try some of the tips in this article to encourage it to eat.
Remember to consult with an experienced reptile veterinarian if you have any worries about your gecko’s health!