You have a new leopard gecko. Congratulations! You are in for many years of fun as you get to watch your little lizard grow and do plenty of silly things.
But, part of having a healthy gecko that is going to flourish in its new home is feeding it a nutritious diet. That doesn’t mean lots of fruits and veggies.
You will have to tailor your new pet’s diet to its species specific needs.
What do Leopard Geckos Eat?
Leopard geckos are insectivores. As you can probably figure out that means they only eats insects.
You should never try and feed your leo non-insect meals like greens or meat because they do not have the enzymes to properly digest such food.
Luckily, you have a fair amount of insect options that will do the job.
The staple of many leopard gecko diets are crickets. These are not the same crickets you scoop up outdoors. These are captive bred crickets free from parasites.
The reason crickets are such a popular food is that they provide fairly good nutrition for the money. In fact, of all the insects listed they are the most financially efficient.
Leopard geckos need a lot of protein and crickets supply a very efficient protein to fat ratio. They are not the best or highest packed protein source, but they are a tremendous bang-for-your-buck option.
One final reason they are so attractive as a feeder is that they provide a good amount of water to your pet as they are quite moist.
Crickets come in a variety of sizes, but most pet shops and online sellers will have the following options:
- 1/8 inch
- 1/4 inch
- 3/8 inch
- 1/2 inch
- 5/8 inch
- 3/4 inch
But, how many crickets do you feed your leopard gecko and what size should you choose?
Both answers depend on how big your particular gecko is.
When choosing the size of the crickets, you will want to ensure that they are smaller than the space between your gecko’s eyes. That will allow your pet to comfortably eat and digest the crickets.
And, most experts agree that your pet’s overall length determines the amount of crickets they should get per feeding. For every inch long they are, you will want to feed them two crickets. For example, if they are six inched long feed them twelve or if they are eight inches long, feed them sixteen and so on.
One last bit of information is that you might want to consider gut loading your feeder crickets. Gut loading is basically feeding the crickets something nutritious before you feed them to your gecko.
Aside from crickets mealworms are next line for most common leopard gecko feeder. Like crickets you will only want to use captive bred mealworms to ensure they are safe and parasite free.
Mealworms are popular due to the fact they they too offer very good nutritional value for your dollar. They are actually much easier to store than crickets as well.
If you plan on bulk buying crickets, you will need a cricket keeper or something similar in order to keep them alive and healthy. And, it’s common to have one or two escape every now and then. That can be very annoying at night when you’re trying to sleep.
Mealworms on the other hand are usually just stored in a plastic tub in your refrigerator. This is because they are actually in the early stages of their lifecycles and if left out in room temperature that will eventually turn into flying beetles.
As worms, they give your geckos lots of protein and moisture.
Mealworms are available in a variety of sizes, but most pet shops and online sellers will have the following options:
- small (1/2 inch)
- medium (3/4 inch)
- large (1 inch)
- giant or extra-large (1 1/2 inches)
Choosing what size and how many mealworms to feed your leopard gecko mostly comes down to how big your reptile is.
Mealworm size follows the same rule as cricket size: they should not be bigger than the space between your leo’s eyes. In general, babies and juveniles will eat small ones and adults can move up to medium. A super giant morph might be able to handle large mealworms. but the larger sizes are generally bred for other reptiles, like bearded dragons.
Also like crickets, your pet can eat on average two mealworms per inch of gecko length.
Superworms are a less common food source for leopard geckos, but they are a great way to introduce a little nutritious variety to their diet. Leos tend to have bouts of picky eating now and again, and if they are getting bored of crickets and mealworms, consider mixing in some superworms once or twice a week.
Superworms, or zophobas morio, are like mealworms a beetle in an earlier stage of its lifecycle. They will eventually become something called a darkling beetle.
Most mealworm breeders also offer superworms. They are typically available in the following sizes:
- small (3/4 – 1 inch)
- medium (1 – 1 1/2 inches)
- large (1 1/2 – 2 inches)
Though superworms are an OK treat, there are a couple reasons on why they are not something you would consider a staple food.
First, while they offer a fair amount of protein and moisture, they also come with a good amount of fat. That fat is why they make a nice alternative snake because it makes the worms tastier than crickets and mealworms. But, it’s also why you don;t want to use these everyday.
Another reason is that they are more difficult to take care of. You cannot store superworms in a refrigerator. They will die. Yet, if you leave them out in a cool place, like your basement, they will pupate in a few weeks before then becoming beetles.
Superworms are generally too big for baby leopard geckos, but juveniles can handle a few small-sized ones as a meal and full grown adults should be OK with a few medium-sized ones. Large superworms are probably going to be too much to handle.
If you have not heard about using dubia roaches as a leopard gecko feeder, you are missing out. They are arguably the best source of nutrition for your pet.
While they are not as low-cost as crickets, they pack so much nutrition per roach they are absolutely worth their cost. And, believe it or not they are one of the cleanest insects you’ll ever come across.
They are such great feeder insects because they have a ton s of protein and calcium plus they have less chitlin making them easier to digest than other feeders like crickets and superworms.
Like other feeder insects you will often find them for sale in a variety of sizes:
- extra small (1/4 inch)
- small (3/8 inch)
- small (1/2 inch)
- medium (5/8 inch)
- medium (3/4 inch)
- large (1 inch)
- extra large (1 1/4 inches)
Of course every breeder will have their own sizing but the above are fairly standard.
While dubia roaches aren’t as easy to take of as mealworms, they are much easier than superworms and slightly easier than crickets too. As long as you give them some food and water along with some hiding spots, they’re good to go.
You also don’t need to feed as many of them as you would crickets or mealworms because they pack such a nutritious punch. You can usually get away with half the amount, so if you normally would feed your leo 12 mealworms you can instead substittue six dubia roached.
And, just like everything else the size of the feeder should be based the size of your gecko.
Waxworms are weird looking feeder. They are actually caterpillar larvae of wax moths. They look like little living fat blobs.
They are not and should never be used as a staple food. Waxworms are more of a treat and should only be used as such.
This is because they are very high in lipids (fat). And, aside from being the gecko equivalent McDonald’s they can also spoil your retile into turning up their nose at more nutritious offerings if used too often.
They tend to be sold only in one size.
That doesn’t mean you need to avoid them entirely, but just make sure you don’t overuse them as well.
Butterworms, or Tebo worms, are like other worms the larval stage of a moth. In this particular case that would be the Chilean moth.
Like waxworms above, butterworms are not something you should use as a staple food. They are only something used as a treat every now and then.
They are high in fat and don’t offer the same levels of protein and calcium as a feeder like dubia roaches.
Most butterworm sellers only offer one size.
Hornworms are perhaps the oddest looking feeder you might offer your leopard gecko.
Like butterworms and waxworms, they are more of a treat than something you want to make a regular part of your leopard gecko’s diet. That is mainly due to the fact though they have a 3:1 protein to fat ratio, they don’t actually offer much of either.
Most of a hornworms mass is made up of water. That isn’t a bad thing since many geckos get most of the water intake from what they eat and not actually from drinking.
Still, you will want to mainly feed them more nutritious feeders regularly and leave hornworms for a random treat and to break up the monotony. There are especially for for the gecko that has become bored with the normal food.
One very important piece of information to note is that due to their size, hornworms should old be fed to adults.
It does not matter what morph you have, if you own a leopard gecko they can all eat the same things. But, there are a few more tidbits of info you should know to ensure a happy healthy leopard gecko.
In addition to the crickets, dubia roaches, mealworms and other worms you will want to supply your leo with some additional supplements in order to make sure they get all the vitamins and minerals they need.
Calcium with D3 – Leopard geckos can suffer from metabolic bone disease if they don’t get enough calcium. D3 helps your pet absorb the calcium.
Calcium without D3 – This is the same as above but it does not contain any D3.
Multivitamin – Believe it or not, there are multivitamins for reptiles just like there are for humans.
You should dust the feeders with one of these before presenting them to your pet. Only use one at a time and you should be OK using each supplement once a week.
There are a few items that can make storing your feeders and the actually feedings much easier.
Tongs – Using tongs can help teach your gecko that your fingers and not worms, thus limiting accidental bites.
Feeding dish – A feeding dish can help keep worms and roaches in one place. They are especially useful if you are housing your leo in a bioactive enclosure with a natural substrate.
Cricket keeper – Crickets are pesky little insects, but giving them a home of their own can help you keep then in one place and allow them to survive in a healthy state for much longer than trying to store them in a plastic bowl. You can use a similar setup for dubia roaches too.
You should also consider keeping some hand sanitizer available and clean your hands before and after interacting with your leopard gecko and its food. You can also use soap and water.
Feeding your leopard gecko might seem a bit overwhelming at first. But, after you get a few meals under your belt you’ll realize it’s actually pretty easy.
You will mostly stick to a couple of different staple feeders and just rotate the three recommended supplements. Your gecko will do the rest and it chomps away and licks its lips in approval after.