Leopard Geckos make great pet reptiles for beginner and experienced herpetology enthusiasts alike. These docile lizards are relatively easy to care for, but providing them with a proper diet is essential. When it comes to feeding a leopard gecko, there are several key factors to consider. In this article, we will explore the dietary needs of leopard geckos and outline the best feeding options to keep them healthy and happy.
An Introduction to Leopard Gecko Nutrition
Leopard geckos are insectivores, meaning insects make up the bulk of their diet. In the wild, they would eat a variety of insects like crickets, mealworms, waxworms, and cockroaches. As pets, our job is to try and mimic their diverse insectivorous diet as much as possible.
There are a few key nutrients leopard geckos need in their food:
- Protein – Needed for muscle growth and development. Feeder insects like crickets are high in protein.
- Calcium – Crucial for healthy bones and egg development in females. Dusting feeder insects with calcium powder provides a calcium boost.
- Vitamin D3 – Works with calcium to allow proper calcium absorption. Also acquired through gutloading feeder insects.
- Water – Hydration is essential. Provide fresh water at all times.
Feeding a balanced leopard gecko diet with these nutrients is vital for keeping geckos active and healthy. Now let’s look at some of the best options for feeding pet leopard geckos.
Feeder Insects for Leopard Geckos
Feeder insects should make up the main portion of a leopard gecko’s diet. Here are some of the best feeder insect options:
- A staple feeder insect. They are widely available and packed with protein.
- Make sure crickets are no bigger than the space between the leopard gecko’s eyes.
- Gutload crickets with nutritious food for 24 hours before feeding to enhance their nutritional value.
- Dust crickets with calcium + D3 powder just before feeding to boost calcium.
- Another excellent feeder insect. Somewhat higher in fat than crickets.
- Can be fed in moderation along with crickets. Limit to 1-2 times per week.
- Gutload and dust with calcium + D3 powder just like crickets.
- Similar to mealworms in nutrition profile. Also feed in moderation.
- Some leopard geckos may have difficulty digesting the hard outer shell.
- Best to feed supervised or cut superworms in half before feeding out.
- Very high in fat, so feed sparingly as an occasional treat.
- Make a great food reward during training sessions.
- Gutload and dust just like other feeders. But limit to 1 worm per feeding max.
- An excellent staple feeder insect like crickets. High in protein, low in fat.
- Tend to be more nutritious than crickets and less likely to bite geckos.
- Can be more expensive and less readily available than crickets in some areas.
- Soft-bodied insect that provides a good source of moisture.
- Best fed occasionally for variety. Too much can cause diarrhea.
- No need to gutload, but dust with calcium + D3 before feeding.
- Contain more fat than crickets or roaches, so feed in moderation.
- They have soft bodies, so are gentler on young or sensitive leopard geckos.
- An occasional variety feeder insect. Dust with calcium + D3 before feeding.
Supplementation and Gutloading
Along with offering a variety of feeder insects, proper supplementation and gutloading of feeders is vital.
Gutloading involves feeding the insects a nutritious diet before offering them to your leopard gecko. This boosts their nutritional value. Use high calcium, low phosphorus gutload diets.
Supplementation means coating insects with calcium + D3 powder just before feeding to optimize calcium absorption. Do this 1-2 feedings per week for adult geckos, and 3 feedings per week for juveniles.
With a diverse, well-supplemented insect diet, leopard geckos can thrive. Now let’s look at some other diet considerations.
Other Dietary Options
In addition to insects, there are a few other options that can round out your leopard gecko’s nutritional needs:
- Calcium-rich reptile pellet food – Offer a small amount in a dish 1-2 times per week. This provides balanced nutrition.
- Meal replacement powders – These powdered diets can be mixed with water for geckos recovering from illness.
- Treats – Occasional treats like mealworms, waxworms or hornworms add variety. But insects should still be the main diet.
- Fruit puree – Some leopard geckos enjoy a tiny amount of blended fruits like papaya, mango, or banana once a week or less. But not all geckos like fruit.
- Fresh water – Always provide clean water in a small dish, changed daily. Proper hydration supports digestion.
Leopard geckos do best when offered food regularly. Here is a sample feeding schedule of leopard gecko:
- Juveniles (under 1 year) – Feed every day, providing as many appropriately-sized insects as they will eat in a 15 minute period. Dust with calcium + D3 powder 3 feedings per week.
- Adults (over 1 year) – Feed 3-4 times per week. Feed around 5-6 appropriately sized insects per feeding for an adult gecko. Dust with calcium + D3 powder 1-2 feedings per week.
- Seniors (over 3-5 years) – Feed a slightly reduced amount averaging 3-4 times per week. Dust with calcium + D3 powder 1 feeding per week. Monitor weight closely.
The exact amount to feed will depend on the individual gecko’s size and appetite. Gauge this based on their body condition, and make diet adjustments as needed.
Providing proper leopard gecko nutrition requires offering a variety of gutloaded and supplemented insects on a regular feeding schedule. Crickets and dubia roaches make excellent staple feeders. Mealworms, waxworms and others can be fed more sparingly for variety. With optimal diet and nutrition, leopard geckos can stay healthy and thrive for years to come. Be sure to monitor each gecko’s weight, appetite and stool quality, and make diet adjustments as needed. With the right diet, these fascinating lizards can make engaging pets for reptile keepers of all experience levels.
FAQs About What Can I Feed My Leopard Gecko
Can I offer commercial gecko food to my leopard gecko?
Yes, you can offer commercial gecko food to your leopard gecko. High-quality commercial gecko diets are available and can be a convenient and nutritionally balanced option. However, it’s essential to supplement their diet with live insects like crickets or mealworms for variety and enrichment.
What are the signs of an unhealthy diet in a gecko?
Signs of an unhealthy diet in a gecko may include weight loss, lethargy, constipation, irregular bowel movements, and a lack of appetite. These indicators suggest that the diet is lacking in essential nutrients or is imbalanced. It’s crucial to monitor your gecko’s health and adjust its diet accordingly.
How can I provide a balanced and nutritious diet for my gecko?
To provide a balanced and nutritious diet for your gecko, offer a variety of gut-loaded insects such as crickets, mealworms, and dubia roaches. Dust the insects with a calcium supplement, and occasionally provide vitamin and mineral supplements. Include occasional treats like waxworms, but maintain a balanced diet to ensure all nutritional needs are met.
Is it necessary to provide a calcium supplement for leopard geckos?
Yes, it is necessary to provide a calcium supplement for leopard geckos. Calcium is vital for their bone health and overall well-being. Dusting insects with a calcium supplement before feeding them to your gecko helps ensure they receive an adequate calcium intake.
What do baby leopard geckos eat compared to adults?
Baby leopard geckos have slightly different dietary needs compared to adults. They require smaller prey items, such as tiny crickets and appropriately sized mealworms. As they grow, their diet shifts to larger insects. Additionally, baby geckos may need more frequent feedings due to their rapid growth.