What to Do If Your Leopard Gecko Stopped Eating
Leopard geckos are one of the best beginner reptiles that you can find. They're a smaller reptile and they take up less room. They come in bright colors and have fairly simple habitat and husbandry requirements.
For the most part, if you are caring for a gecko properly, you should not have any problems with its diet or it eating, but there are exceptions to that. Just make sure that you know how to properly care for your gecko in order to prevent health concerns and mishaps.
Make sure that you know the species' proper dietary requirements before you start to panic about them not eating. Maybe you're just not feeding it the right diet. Leopard geckos are insectivores, which means that they eat insects. Don't feed insects from your backyard, and make sure to buy insects from an online source, pet store, or even bait shop.
A good staple diet can consist of crickets, mealworms, or silkworms. All are nutritious feeders that leopard geckos will readily take. You may also want to consider small discoid roaches as a good staple. Waxworms and butterworms are good treats, but should never be fed on a regular basis to prevent reptile obesity. Phoenix worms are a good alternative but remember that they are pricey, so I'd recommend just keeping them as healthy treats.
Now, if your gecko quits eating, you really don't need to worry unless it's losing weight. It's not uncommon for geckos to skip a meal every now and then, so unless you see weight loss, don't panic just yet. That being said, if you are having problems getting your leopard gecko to eat, there are many reasons and solutions.
Reasons a Leopard Gecko Stops Eating
When you start to notice that the tail shows signs that it is losing mass, you then need to figure out what's wrong. There can be a number of reasons why your gecko has stopped eating which may result in a loss of tail mass.
- Temperature: Check the temperatures in the enclosure to make sure that they are the right degree. The hot side needs to be between 90 and 92F. Measure the temperatures in the enclosure with a digital thermometer with a probe. The stick-on thermometers are NOT accurate by any means, and that includes if you place it on the floor of the tank.
- Substrate: Consider what substrate you're housing the gecko on. Loose substrates such as play sand, calci-sand, vita-sand, silica sand, wood chips, bark, potting soil, gravel, crushed corn cob, walnut shells, or any other substrate that is sold in a bag that you could find at a hardware store. Loose substrates can cause impaction, which is potentially fatal.
- Cage mates: Are you housing multiple geckos together? If so, the larger gecko may be bullying or stressing out the smaller gecko. This can occur in geckos of the same age and nearly the same size- one will always be just a little bigger than another. Remember just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Leopard geckos are nocturnal, meaning most of their activity occurs at night, while you sleep.
- Changes in habitat: Have you recently changed the geckos enclosure, added decorations, removed decorations, rearranged your room, moved the leopard gecko's cage, or anything that would involve changing the environment in or around the leopard geckos enclosure? If so, this could cause the gecko to stop eating for a few days to a week or so, depending on the gecko and the amount of change. Change doesn't affect all geckos, but it does affect some.
- Change in home: Is the gecko new to you home? New geckos may not eat for a few days and even up to a week due to the stress of changing environments.
- Feeding: What was the gecko being fed prior to you bringing it home? If you change what the gecko is used to, it might not take to the new feeder too well.
- Supplier: Where did you purchase the gecko? The most common and most convenient place to buy reptiles is the pet store, but this isn't always the best place. Pet stores commonly have ill reptiles that either suffer from parasites, bacteria, and fungus. Many times reptiles at pet stores are housed on sand or other loose substrates, which means that the gecko could come home with an impaction for you to deal with. Many reptiles at pet stores are housed inappropriately, such as too many reptiles in one enclosure, multiple males in an enclosure, sick reptiles with healthy reptiles, inaccurate temperatures, and multiple species in an enclosure. All of these things can contribute to illness.
How to Get Your Gecko to Eat
If your temperatures are 90 to 92 F (on the hot side), then temperature is not the problem. If it's not the substrate and your gecko is housed alone, consider these other potential areas of concern.
You want to first rule out parasites or any other underlying health concerns, so take a trip to the vet. Your average cat and dog vet isn't going to be able to help you, so make sure to have a vet who specializes in reptiles. If the vet finds that internal parasites are the culprit, they will prescribe medicine to rid the gecko of its parasites.
Change the Food
If the gecko still refuses to eat, you can try a different food item. I have had one eat mealworms for as far as I could remember and suddenly stop eating them. They didn't have parasites or worms, but they drastically lost weight. I decided one day to throw in a few crickets in the enclosure, and they were quickly eaten. To this day, my two geckos prefer crickets over mealworms. I don't know what caused the change in taste buds, but something did. It could be as simple as that. Try changing to a different feeder insect.
If that doesn't work, you may need to try a special leopard gecko diet. This is a formulated slushy concoction, created to help leopard geckos gain weight and get the proteins and vitamins that they're not getting by not eating. This is not a quick fix or a solution. The slushy mix, created by Marcia at Golden Gat Geckos, is only to help provide essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins to your gecko. You still need to find the problem so that you can decide on the proper solution. The slushy mix will hopefully buy you some time to figure out the problem.
Slushy Mix Recipe
I have used the slushy mixture created by Golden Gate Geckos and successfully gotten leopard geckos eating on their own again. It took some time and work to do so, but they've been eating on their own since.
Remember, this slushy mix is not a full diet and is primarily used to sustain geckos while trying to get their appetite back. It's most commonly used on geckos who are on an antibiotic or medication that is causing loss of appetite and to stimulate feeding. If your gecko has stopped eating for no apparent reason, it's most ideal that you have it checked by a vet before trying to force-feed this slushy mix.
- 1 small can of Hill's a/d pet food (available at most vet's)
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup of Ensure (any flavor but chocolate; I prefer vanilla for my geckos.)
- 1 jar of squash baby food
- 1/4-1/3 cup Pedialyte
- 2 tablets of milk thistle (herbal supplement, liver purifier, found at drug stores)
- 2 tabs or contents of 2 capsules of Acidophilus (GI system probiotic, found at most drug stores)
- 1/2 tsp calcium powder
- 1/2 tsp vitamin powder
- 1 large handful of mealworms (I've also used crickets)
- Blend ALL ingredients in a blender or food processor, slowly adding the mealworms as you blend
- Puree all ingredients until completely smooth
- Pour into ice trays and freeze
- Store the cubes in ziplock bags
When you use a cube, thaw it out in a small container; this is where the empty baby food containers come in handy. Use a small eyedropper and filling it full, put a drop at a time on the gecko's nose, letting him lick it.
I fed my gecko one eyedropper twice a day to start. After a few days to a week, I decreased it to once a day. I continued with once a day, offering a full eyedropper of slushy mix for about a week or so more. Then I stopped giving it.
I would wait a day or two, the gecko not being provided food, and then attempt to give the gecko either crickets or mealworms, whichever it was used to eating. Usually, this method was successful, as the gecko had been used to eating daily then going without food for a few days, made it hungry enough to eat on its own.
If you decide to try another feeder insect or the slushy mix first. And the gecko isn't gaining any weight, you should DEFINITELY pay a visit to the vet before something happens to the gecko.
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- Treating a Leopard Gecko Dropped Tail
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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.