I'm an avid herpetoculturist and a lover of books, photography, and zoology. I enjoy life and live with a menagerie of pets.
What Goes Into a Healthy Leopard Gecko Diet?
Leopard geckos are commonly fed crickets, mealworms, superworms, waxworms, and feeder roaches. Along with having the proper staple insects, be sure that your Leo also has access to the proper vitamins and minerals needed to keep it healthy. Failure to do so can cause numerous vitamin deficiencies, some life-threatening.
Many vendors support and push an all-cricket diet or the use of crickets as a staple. Unfortunately, while crickets are a completely viable option, they do have a few downsides. The ease of care mealworms require compared to the work crickets need to keep them alive is enough to make anyone want to get off of crickets for good!
The Lowdown on Crickets
Crickets have been the staple insect for many years, and rightly so. Crickets are a great option for those who require an easy-to-find, active, nutritious feeder for their geckos—as long as they don't mind dealing with their disadvantages.
- Crickets are available at nearly every pet store, even small-town shops.
- They are a very active feeder insect, which helps to increase a feeding response in your animal.
- Crickets are easy to digest and are even more nutritionally superior to mealworms.
- One of the biggest complaints about crickets is the smell! Crickets, even in small quantities, have an awful odor that can't really be masked.
- Crickets are escape artists, and, as we all know, they can be quite loud with their chirping.
- Uneaten crickets will annoy—and can even cause harm to—your gecko by nibbling on their toes or tails.
- Crickets are much more time-consuming and difficult to keep alive and healthy, especially if you buy in bulk.
- It is also believed that crickets are much more likely to harbor disease. Mealworms are a more "clean" feeder insect, and they're less likely to carry potentially harmful bacteria or disease.
What About Mealworms?
The advantages of feeding mealworms are numerous as well, and they're an awesome feeder insect option for many people. They aren't without their disadvantages, though.
- They aren't a very active species, which is a plus since they can be easily fed.
- Due to their low activity, they're a great option for special needs geckos. They can merely be placed into a feeding dish, and your gecko may eat at their leisure.
- Mealworms will not nibble on your Leo, and you don't have to worry about mealworms escaping the enclosure.
- If purchased in bulk, mealworms can simply be refrigerated and kept fresh for a few weeks. They will go inactive and require no water or feed.
- They make no noise and don't generally have any odor!
- As mentioned above, mealworms are not as nutritionally complete as crickets.
- Their exoskeleton is harder to digest.
- If mealworms escape from the feeding dish, they will burrow and can be hard to retrieve.
- Because they are not very active, they are a less stimulating prey item. This may be a problem for certain individual geckos.
Should I Feed My Leo Crickets or Mealworms?
Most leopard gecko fanciers will agree that the choice of insect you choose to feed your Leo is entirely up to you and your opinion. Crickets and mealworms have their fair share of pros and cons.
Crickets are a viable option for many people, but for those who do not want to deal with the smell, noise, and other disadvantages of crickets, a mealworm-exclusive diet may be the way to go! As a quick fact, the majority of leopard geckos who hold longevity records have been fed nothing but mealworms!
How to Feed Mealworms to Your Gecko
Mealworms are quite easy to feed, compared to most commonly used prey items. They can quite easily be placed into a shallow feeding dish (be sure they can't escape) to allow your Leo to free feed at its leisure. Your food dish can be anything from a specially made reptile food dish to shallow crock or a plant saucer.
Preparing the Mealworms
- Mealworms can be kept in a refrigerator until you are ready to feed your gecko.
- At least 24 hours prior to giving the mealworms to your Leo, take them out of the fridge. Bringing them back to room temperature will cause them to become active, and you'll be ready to start gutloading.
- Provide carrots, apple slices or long-lasting types of vegetables for them to eat. You can even put a piece of carrot into the feeding dish with the mealworms to keep them fed until your Leo eats them.
Remember the Vitamin Powder
Make sure you provide your leopard gecko with the appropriate vitamin powder. Your powder should always be available to your Leo. You can also place your mealworms into the vitamin dish so your Leo consumes some of the vitamins while eating the mealworms.
Choose the Prey Item That Works Best for You
After doing research and weighing your options, it comes down to you to chose what food item is best for your leopard gecko. Mealworms and crickets both have their advantages and disadvantages. Both of these feeders have been tested and used without an issue over the many years geckos have been in captivity.
Try a Mix of Both!
If you can't decide which feeder is best for you, don't be afraid to mix things up. There is nothing wrong with diversity, and some believe it may be more beneficial than to feed the same prey item repeatedly.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Ollie bing on July 10, 2020:
I am getting a lizard in September and so I know that I’m gonna feed it mealworms sense crickets are loud and if one escapes then all you hear is Chirp chirp chirp chirp
daniel castillo on October 08, 2019:
It is hard for me to keep crickets alive, I mostly use meal worms but would like to incorperate more crickets. But when I keep them in a carrier with lettuce and water they all die. Please help.
Tara needham on June 04, 2018:
I dust the locusts but do i still need to put calcium in the dish when my gecko has mealworms
Please answer on September 09, 2017:
Recommended for You
Can i feed my leo only meal worms? im planning on getting one but i dont know what i can feed it, i dont want crickets because they will be loud.
Copper on March 18, 2017:
About how many babies does a leopard gecko have for its first time.
bobthebuilder123 on October 12, 2016:
First of all you can not put two males together in a cage or they will fight and eventually one could get eaten. You can put a male and a female in the same cage together but the male will pester the female so I do not recommend doing that unless you are breeding. The only thing I recommend is two females in one cage. But if you plan on putting multiple geckos in one cage a 10 gallon is not near big enough. At least a 20 gallon.
Painted platy on August 15, 2016:
Hi can I put 2 leopard geckos in a 10 gallon tank? I have one now and I was wondering if I could ad another. Thanks!
misspeachesx (author) from Northeast, Washington on July 14, 2014:
Some leos are picky with food. I've noticed that leos accustomed to crickets won't be as interested in mealworms since they have far less movement. Phoenix worms are really great for leos (and most any other insectivore). I would save wax worms as a treat or to help out thin or gravid females.
Check out RainbowMealworms on eBay (They also have a website). I buy all of my insects from them. Their prices are the best I've found so far and every order has had healthy insects with very few dead ones. Let them know Savannah H. sent you :D
Faye on July 06, 2014:
I am trying to get my Leo to eat mealworms. We had a stand off of who will win after 9.5 weeks of no eating mealworms, she won. I had to feed her crickets since her tail started to thin out a bit. I am going to Amazon.com to buy phoenix worms, they are high in calcium and moisture and very nutritious. They rank high and crickets second in moisture and calcium. Waxworms is like crack...very addictive and that is 3 waxworms every other month.
Any grub I have to order online except for mealworms and crickets, the local pet store stocks once a every other week.
Faye Green on April 30, 2012:
I feed my Leo meal worms and a few times a week wax worms,
I am looking into phoenix worms (staple) and butter worms (occasion treat). Phoenix worms are high in Cal/P ratio (calcium/phosphorus:2/1). Phosphorus is needed for bone formation , calcium helps maintain bone density and strength, D3 helps break down the calcium for faster absorption.
Crickets are not that nutritional. they are as nutritious as what you gut load them with, and don't feed them spinach or other greens.., they have a way to block the calcium absorption and D3 is rendered useless.
Meal worms I feed is dry mix: natural rolled oats mixed with natural corn meal (slightly rough ground) all mixed with a multivitamin (for leopard gecko). when ready to feed I put in 3 or 4 small mealies in a plastic bag and a small scoop of calcium with D3 and do the shake to coat leave any excess on since my Leo loves the powder. I make sure water is available and fresh at all times.
misspeachesx (author) from Northeast, Washington on September 25, 2011:
You are correct about that. I'm planning to do a more in depth article about the nutrional facts and pros and cons of typical feeder insects.
Thank you for your input!! :)
Kitty on September 25, 2011:
I feed my gecko crickets as a staple and meal worms as a treat. A few times a year, she gets a small pinkie as an extra special treat. I prefer feeding meal worms because like you said, they are quiet and they don't smell. But they are higher in fat and they can cause impaction. Plus, my gecko loves them so much that she will down as many as I put in front of her!