22 Reasons Why Your Leopard Gecko Won’t Eat

why is my leopard gecko not eating

When your Leopard Gecko stops eating, it can be a very worrying time. Though there are natural causes for a Leopard Gecko to lose their appetite temporarily, we still need to make sure we do what we can to encourage them to eat and stay healthy. So, why has your Leopard Gecko stopped eating?

A leopard gecko stops eating because of the following reasons:

  1. Shedding
  2. Brumation
  3. Egg-laying
  4. During mating season
  5. A small enclosure
  6. Incorrect tank placement
  7. Incorrect temperatures
  8. Incorrect humidity
  9. Incorrect lighting
  10. A lack of hiding places
  11. Due to other leopard geckos
  12. Inadequate hydration
  13. Parasites
  14. Fatty Liver Syndrome
  15. Metabolic Bonde Disease
  16. Impaction
  17. Incorrect feeding times
  18. Uninteresting food
  19. Overly challenging food
  20. After a period of not eating
  21. You just got your leopard gecko
  22. Your leopard gecko is full

That’s the quick answer, but let’s delve into how to analyze your setup and husbandry, and encourage your Leopard Gecko to eat.

Natural Reasons For Leopard Geckos To Stop Eating

Sometimes, Leopard Geckos stop eating for short periods due to completely natural causes. For example, egg-laying, mating, shedding, or brumation. 

1. Your Leopard Gecko Is Shedding

When Leopard Geckos shed their skin, it is normal that they might lose their appetite for a little while. The usual period of shedding may last around 1 to 3 days. So, if you see that your Leopard Gecko is shedding and is also not eating, don’t worry too much. 

If the shed takes longer than 3 days, or you see that your Leopard Gecko is struggling, then you may need to become more concerned. The longer it goes on, the longer they don’t eat. 

You help a Leopard Gecko finish shedding and start eating again by ensuring that humidity is at 40%. It should never drop below 30%. You can also provide a humid hide lined with moist sphagnum moss as well as rough surfaces like bark to rub against.

2. Your Leopard Gecko Is Entering Brumation

Brumation is a similar process to hibernation, except that Leopard Geckos don’t sleep solidly throughout. In the cooler months of the year, Leopard Geckos may stop eating, and instead, hide away and sleep for around 3 months.

During this time they will not eat, and this is normal. 

For brumation, Leopard Geckos need a temperature of around 60-72 degrees Fahrenheit. If you notice your Leopard Gecko has stopped eating and is sleeping all the time and resting during the winter, it may have entered brumation.

Providing a period of brumation is quite an advanced husbandry technique. In order to prepare, you need to take your Leopard Gecko to visit a vet for a parasite check and enforce a period of fasting before carefully lowering the temperature.

If you haven’t done these things and did not intend for your Leopard Gecko to brumate, consult your vet.

Depending on the situation they can help to determine whether it is best to provide conditions for the brumation to continue, or raise the temperature and encourage eating. 

3. Is Your Leopard Gecko Preparing To Lay Eggs?

When female Leopard Geckos prepare to lay eggs, they will often stop eating. The usual amount of time for them to stop eating in this case is around 3 days.

After the eggs are laid, the female usually starts eating again straight away and will need to eat a lot. 

Sometimes, this period of not eating can last a few days longer and isn’t a big cause for concern. However, you should continue to offer food. 

If the female continues not to eat, is lethargic, and still attempting to lay, there may be cause for concern. Especially if she has lumps in her belly. She may be egg-bound and needs veterinary attention immediately. 

4. It Is Mating Season

When there is potential for mating, adult Leopard Geckos can sometimes stop eating. Their focus is completely shifted to reproduction. This can last for up to a few weeks, but do keep offering food and encouraging them to eat. 

Environmental Causes For Your Leopard Gecko To Stop Eating

What do I do if my leopard gecko wont eat

Leopard Geckos are extremely sensitive to their environment. As a result, small changes or problems with their tank and setup can cause them to stop eating.

Look through the following questions and check if there’s anything about your setup that could be causing your pet not to eat. 

5. The Tank Isn’t Big Enough

Your Leopard Gecko needs a 20-gallon tank at a minimum. If your tank is too small, your Leopard Gecko may become stressed and stop eating. 

6. The Tank Placement Is Off

Although it is great to have natural lighting in the room where you keep Leopard Geckos, you don’t want to have your tank in direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can be surprisingly strong and can easily overheat your tank. 

Also, keeping your tank in a very busy place in your home is not advisable. If people are constantly passing by, music is playing, the television is blaring, this environment could be overwhelming for your Leopard Gecko. 

If your Leopard Gecko is not eating, ensure that your tank is in a peaceful location and does not receive direct sunlight. 

7. Incorrect Temperatures

The temperature of your tank setup is key to getting your Leopard Gecko to eat. If the tank is too cold, your Leopard Gecko can’t digest food.

His digestive system will become slow and sluggish and he will lose his appetite. If it is consistently cold, he may even enter brumation and stop eating altogether. 

However, a tank that is too hot will cause overheating, which also results in loss of appetite. On top of that, your Leopard Gecko will become dehydrated.

This could result in constipation and impaction, and for sure will cause your Leopard Gecko to stop eating. 

The ideal temperature for your Leopard Gecko tank is 70-77 degrees Fahrenheit for the ambient temperature, with warmer areas of 90-92 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your Leopard Gecko will rest his belly on warm surfaces to digest his food, so a heat mat is a good addition.

If your Leopard Gecko isn’t eating, check that there are two distinct temperature zones within the tank. Ensure that your Leopard Gecko has a warm place to rest his belly. 

8. Inadequate Humidity

Humidity in the tank should be between 30-40% but can be higher if your Leopard Gecko is shedding. If the humidity is too low, your Leopard Gecko may become dehydrated. Then he will stop eating.  

9. Is Your Leopard Gecko’s Lighting Right?

Lighting in your tank is very important and can affect your Leopard Gecko’s appetite in two ways. Firstly, lights produce heat.

Over-intensive lighting can cause overheating, dehydration, and skin injuries. In this scenario, your Leopard Gecko will not eat.

Secondly, lights influence your Leopard Gecko’s circadian rhythm. This means they inform your Leopard Gecko about when it is morning, night, and in between.

As your Leopard Gecko is crepuscular, he will hunt and eat when he believes it is dawn or dusk. 

If the lights around your Leopard Gecko tank do not follow a repetitive pattern of day and night, your Leopard Gecko will become disorientated, stressed, and unwell. He will not know when to eat and his appetite and digestion will become very disrupted.  

So, if you have lighting in your or around your Leopard Gecko’s tank, consider whether you should reduce the intensity. Also, assess whether any lighting that your Leopard Gecko is exposed to follows the rhythm of night and day.

Most Leopard Gecko setups don’t require UV lighting. It is very complex and high risk to provide correct UV lighting for Leopard Geckos. So, only very experienced or professional keepers usually do this. 

10. Does Your Leopard Gecko Have Adequate Shelter?

Anything that causes stress in your Leopard Gecko is likely to cause them to stop eating. Lack of shelter, or competition for shelter, will cause stress. So, if your Leopard Gecko is not eating, try adding more hides to his tank. 

11. Your Leopard Gecko Is Stressed By Other Geckos

Leopard Geckos are best kept alone, except when paired for mating. While not a particularly aggressive species, Leopard Geckos still compete for space, shelter, and food.

Keeping them together can cause some chronic stress, which can lead to them not eating. 

If your Leopard Gecko is hushed with others and is not eating, try separating him into his own tank. If this is not possible, provide a larger tank, with more shelters and visual dividers like rocks and branches. 

12. Does Your Leopard Gecko Have Adequate Water?

Despite being desert-dwelling lizards, Leopard Geckos do still need to drink. If you haven’t provided a shallow water dish, get one. Of course, your Leopard Gecko may only use it occasionally, and often gets most of his hydration from food. 

However, if they’ve stopped eating, they will therefore be very dehydrated. Then dehydration leads to a lack of appetite and constipation. So, providing water is important. 

If your Leopard Gecko has no water source and is not eating, provide one immediately. Also, you could increase the humidity or mist the enclosure to give them a hydration boost.

Health Reasons For Your Leopard Gecko To Stop Eating

Should I worry if my leopard gecko won't eat

Loss of appetite is a symptom of so many illnesses, infections, and diseases that it is impossible to cover them all here. Of course, the best thing to do if your Leopard Gecko is sick is always to consult the vet. 

However, below we have laid out some of the most prevalent diseases and medical issues among Leopard Geckos.

As these diseases are common, preventable, yet very dangerous, it’s a good idea to be familiar with the signs and symptoms. 

13. Parasites

If your Leopard Gecko has parasites in his gut, he will stop eating eventually. Before this, you are likely to see vomiting and regurgitation, loss of weight, and loss of appetite. His tail will become thin quite quickly. 

The diagnosis is very simple. It can be done by taking a fecal sample to your vet. The vet can often prescribe simple medications to solve this issue and save your Leopard Gecko. 

14. Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty liver disease results from long-term overfeeding and obesity. So, before your Leopard Gecko stops eating, he will for a long time have had a very strong appetite. Your Leopard Gecko is likely to have been overweight, and have a very wide tail.

However, once the fat in his body takes over his liver and begins to destroy liver function, your Leopard Gecko will gradually become lethargic and will stop eating.

He will suffer from pale-colored diarrhea. He will begin to lose weight extremely quickly after this. 

If your Leopard Gecko has symptoms of fatty liver disease, medically known as hepatic lipidosis, then you absolutely must seek veterinary help urgently.

Also, the diet that you try to feed to your Leopard Gecko hereafter will be different from the diet suggested for other underweight Leopard Geckos. Medical guidance is needed.

15. Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic bone disease, or MBD, is a very dangerous but entirely preventable disease. Metabolic bone disease, in short, is caused by a deficiency of calcium. 

Your Leopard Gecko’s body must find enough calcium for organ function. So, it pulls calcium from the skeleton, in order to keep the organs going. Young and egg-laying Leopard Geckos are most susceptible to this. 

Symptoms of MBD include deformed limbs and jawbone, lethargy, and the inability to stand and walk strongly. Your Leopard Gecko will stop eating during this process.

If you suspect your Leopard Gecko has MBD, it is a medical emergency and you should get your pet to the vet. 

16. Is Your Leopard Gecko Suffering From An Impaction?

Impaction is a very common but dangerous medical issue for Leopard Geckos. Impaction results from a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract.

This blockage prevents new food from being digested, and causes a lot of pain. Symptoms include a lump in the belly, constipation, and not eating. 

If your Leopard Gecko has stopped eating recently, gently massage his belly and see if you can feel a lump. A gently warm bath can also help to loosen up an impaction. 

But, beware to make the bath very shallow, so that your Leopard Gecko’s head is not in danger of getting wet. You can also gently massage his belly. Ensure he is well hydrated too. Observe to see if he begins defecating and eating soon after.  

However, if your Leopard Gecko has not been eating for a few meals, or has a very obvious lump in the belly, get straight to the vet. Impactions need to be treated, or they will only worsen and cause further illness and eventually death. 

Feeding Mistakes That Can Cause Your Leopard Gecko To Stop Eating

Why is my new leopard gecko not eating

The way that you feed your Leopard Gecko directly affects how well he will eat. Timing, food preparation, and delivery are all important. 

17. Are You Feeding Your Leopard Gecko During The Day?

Leopard Geckos are crepuscular, meaning that they are active at dawn and dusk. This is also when they naturally hunt and eat.

While they do wake and move around from time to time during the daylight and nighttime, this is not the correct time for them to be eating. 

If your Leopard Gecko is not eating, and you’ve been offering food outside of their natural eating periods, or without a good routine, it is possible that this is the cause.

You can learn more about why this is so important in our article about the best time to feed your Leopard Gecko.

For now, because your Leopard Gecko isn’t eating, try offering food at dawn and dusk, say 6am and 8pm, every day, until your Leopard Gecko starts accepting some food. Thereafter, put a solid feeding regime in place. For example, always feed at 7pm on preplanned days.

18. Are You Offering Your Leopard Gecko Boring Food?

Leopard Geckos are stimulated to hunt and eat food that moves. For this reason, they may be disinterested if you have been feeding them freeze-dried food, or worms that have been refrigerated and therefore don’t move much. 

If this is the case, and your Leopard Gecko has stopped eating, there are some things you can do to pique their interest. First, you can simply try allowing them to hunt a cricket. 

Also, you can allow worms to warm up, and even make a small puncture in them. This causes them to wriggle more and also to spill tasty juices that can entice your Leopard Gecko to eat. 

Lastly, you can simply try using hand feeding to make the food more interesting. Placing it in a bowl is very unfulfilling for a Leopard Gecko, so try making it jump and move about a bit using your hand or tongs. 

Tip: We show you the pros and cons of hand-feeding leopard geckos here!

19. Are You Offering Your Leopard Gecko Overly Challenging Food?

If your Leopard Gecko has been hand-fed too much in the past, it may not be comfortable with hunting. Also if you are selecting insects that are too big for it to hunt or swallow safely, it may be too intimidated to eat. 

If your Leopard Gecko is not eating for these reasons, you can easily fix it. Firstly, ensure you are selecting insects that are narrower than the width between your Leopard Gecko’s eyes.

If you feel you are already doing this, try downsizing just a little more while you attempt to get your Leopard Gecko eating again. 

If your leopard gecko is unwilling to hunt, and just wants to be hand-fed, you should hand feed at first to get some food into them. Struggling with feeding is not a reason to let your Leopard Gecko go angry for long periods.

Then, you can work on increasing their hunting ability. Try ovign the food around a lot to get them to engage more actively. Gradually drop food farther away from them, so that they begin to hunt more and more independently. 

Eventually, you can start them hunting for themselves by refrigerating crickets to make them slow-moving, easy targets. Read our article on how to feed a Leopard Gecko that is a picky eater to get plenty more tips and instructions. 

20. Has Your Leopard Gecko’s Appetite Dried Up?

Sometimes, when a Leopard Gecko stops eating for a little while, it is difficult for them to begin eating again. The gastrointestinal tract needs to be stimulated by introducing a little food. 

Often, once a Leopard Gecko has had a little bit to eat, their appetite begins to recover quickly. To help with this, you might need to offer some assisted feeding. Assisted feeding is a firmer way to encourage eating then hand feeding is. 

Also, with assisted feeding, you can offer liquified food, or a formula prescribed by the vet to sustain your Leopard Gecko. Before proceeding to these steps, it is always best to check with your veterinarian. 

Check out our article on when to force-feed a Leopard Gecko to learn more about how to do this safely and encouragingly. Beware, though, not to be tempted to feed a lot of food at once.

This could certainly cause more harm than good. And, as always, if in doubt consult your vet.

21. You Just Got Your Leopard Gecko

If you just got your leopard gecko and it isn’t eating, you do not have to worry.

New leopard geckos are often stressed from transportation, the new environment, new feeder insects, or even new people in front of their enclosure. Usually, a leopard gecko gets used to that within 2 weeks and should start eating again.

22. Your Leopard Gecko Is Full

It sounds weird but yes, leopard geckos can be full. Being full is a bit different in leopard geckos than it is in humans.

Leopard geckos store energy in their tails and if they have stored enough energy, their tails will be nice and plumb. A leopard gecko with a plumb tail may stop eating as it has enough reserves to survive without eating.

Some owners reported that their leopard geckos have stopped eating for weeks for no apparent reason (other than their tails being very fat).

So if your leopard gecko is absolutely healthy and happy (checked by a vet), there is no reason to be worried here.