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Feeding Leopard Geckos – Beyond the Cricket and Mealworm Diet – Part 2

Male Leopard Gecko Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Please see Part I of this article for Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) feeding basics.  Today we’ll cover 2 of the “finer points” you should keep in mind when feeding your pet.

Mice

Perhaps the biggest mistake pet keepers make regarding Leopard Geckos is to use pink mice as a regular food source.  This is a bad idea and will eventually lead to eye, kidney and liver problems.  While these aggressive predators certainly take the occasional rodent or lizard in the wild, research has shown that insects, spiders and other invertebrates form the vast majority of their natural diet.  Their digestive systems are not designed to handle frequent rodent meals.

A pink mouse may be offered every 2-4 weeks to females being readied for mating, but they are otherwise unnecessary. Fuzzies and sub-adult mice should not be used, as hair impactions may result.

Collecting Insects for Your Gecko

Wild caught insects, collected from pesticide-free areas, should be offered whenever possible.  Zoo Med’s Bug Napper is an excellent insect trap.  Sweeping a net through tall grass and searching around outdoor lights will also yield a wide variety of tasty treats.  Avoid using spiders, fireflies and stinging/brightly-colored insects, and do not collect during times when your area is being commercially sprayed for mosquito control.

Leopard Geckos relish katydids, grasshoppers, beetles of all types, moths, tree crickets, caterpillars and most everything else I come up with, and these form the bulk of my collection’s diet in the warmer months (and it gives me an excuse to run around with a butterfly net at this advanced age!).   

Further Reading

Please see Collecting Live Foods for further tips.

A video of a Leopard Gecko eating a wild caught insect (Cicada) is posted here.

Leopard Geckos of the World provides a wealth of information on this and related species’ natural diets.

Please write in with your questions and comments. 

 

 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

30 comments

  1. avatar

    Awesome! Its always good to find people telling others to feed more then the standered crickets and worms,

  2. avatar

    Hello Amber, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest and kind comment; much appreciated.

    I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    I agree with Amber, a broader diet has helped mine a lot!

  4. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. Please let me know what worked for you…always interested in new ideas.

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Happy Holidays, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Hello again, and thanks for your sage advice.

    What about earthworms? I have been seeing some smaller, thinner (younger?) Earthworms recently and wondered about their suitability as gecko food. I’ve heard they may carry parasites.

    Have you written about cross-species vectors, parasite infestation, and illness/disease contacted from wild caught food items?

  6. avatar

    My pleasure…thanks for the note.

    Earthworms are a great herp food in general, one of the best, but most arid-habitat lizards reject them. Temperate zone skinks, legless lizards and such gobble them up, but leopard geckos usually will not.

    Here is an article I wrote addressing parasite and pesticide concerns. At the Bronx Zoo, we used thousands of earthworms, crayfish, snails, minnows and others (most from bait trade dealers), and maintained insect traps for both the bird and herp departments. All animals are necropsied upon death; while we do not know all that much about cross-transmission in herps, we would have found some evidence of problems upon necrospy, I believe.

    Many parasites are specific in host selection, and many need a second host to complete their life cycle. Pesticides may be a more serious concern, depending upon collection site, but we did not note any problems during my years in zoo work. That being said, all inverts, farmed or otherwise, have parasites, as do all reptiles, captive or wild. I believe the risk is worthwhile in most cases.

    This article describes a simple technique that can be used to collect many inverts favored by geckos (this week, with my little nephew, I hauled in tree crickets, small kaydids, crane flies and caterpillars – fun as well!

    Enjoy, Frank

  7. avatar

    Hi Frank my name is Dan and we recently got 2 geckos . One is supposed to be fancy and one is standard. I am reading all I can about these. Do you have a general questions page? Your sites so far have been of an awesome help. Just have some other questions I can’t find the answeres for. Thanks Dan

  8. avatar

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks very much for the kind words. Just scroll to the end of any article and post your questions; I’ll get right back to you. Best, Frank

  9. avatar

    Hi Frank Dan Alexander again. Thanks for helping us out. Our geckos are about 3 and 4 inches long. One is pink spotted and one is more the common color. What I am trying to find out is how long a mealworms for them is the correct size. I saw where you can judge crickets by how long their head is. But can’t find an info on mealworms. The other question is how old ours are? How much and how often to be feeding them at this size. We don’t have a scale to weigh them. We have been feeding them 3 insects of whatever size we can find small enough, but its getting colder and we will have to be switching to worms. I know this is a lot but we really find this site and your info extremely helpful. Thanks Dan ,Nicole ,Chase,and Morgan.

  10. avatar

    Hi Dan,

    Nice to hear from you again. Best not to use mealworms on a regular basis, unless you establish a colony and pick out newly molted grubs and pupae; intestinal blockages are a concern. Please see this article for details on setting up a colony (quite simple). Crickets should be fed for 2 days or so before use, especially if they will form the bulk of the diet over the winter. Please see this article.

    Flightless housefly cultures, small silkworms, butterworms and calciworms are available via the internet and should be alternated with crickets on a regular basis.

    Frequency/meal size depend on temperature; please send some details re day/nite temps and basking site temps. Geckos can modify their metabolisms in tune with food intake (within reason!) and so no need to be overly concerned. 2-3 small insects every other day or so is fine. Best to include fast days each week.

    Some geckos slow down or cease feeding during winter, even if kept warm; we can discuss this if it appears to be a concern.

    Enjoy, best, Frank

  11. avatar

    Thanks for all of the help so far. We are currently using a basking bulb during the day and a red 40 watt bulb at night. We are going to be adding an under the tank heater with a remote thermostat switch. Where should the thermostat be placed in the tank? I know on the warm side but should it be on the ground , mid way , or top? My guess would be about 2 inches off the bottom with the thermostat set for about 83. We are doing away with the basking bulb and going to go with the repti compact flourescent during the day and only the red one at night when we are watching. This is a great helpful site keep up the great work. Thanks Dan

  12. avatar

    Hello Dan,

    Thanks for the kind words. The thermostat placement sounds fine; be sure to monitor temps by day if you remove a bulb, as the under tank heater will not likely warm the air very much.

    Best, Frank

  13. avatar

    Hi Dan here with yet another question. We have not changed anything yet as far as the heat sources go. Pinky the real pale pink gecko has been acting really strange. She will go to the warm side of the tank and go behind the cave and just continually try to climb the wall. We have a bonsai type tree near the middle with tires so they can get as close to the bulb as they want. I don’t know what she needs or wants. She does this only in one corner on one wall . She stands straight up on her tail and tries to climb up with all 4 legs on the glass. Is she ok or is her home lacking something. Thenks Dan

  14. avatar

    Hi Dan,

    Check temperatures…they may try to escape if too warm; gravid females will also become restless, provide a nest box as described here . Check also that she is getting enough to eat, and not being harasses by another animal (this can happen at night, even though all appears fine by day>

    Please keep me posted, best, Frank

  15. avatar

    Thanks for the help. I don’t think the temp should be an issue. On the left side of the tank it is 86 degrees f. It is 72 on the right side of the tank. She never goes to the cool side. Unless 86 is not warm enough. It is close to 89 on top of the tree. This tank has 4 thermometers 2 digital and 2 stick on strip kind. We observe them for 3 or 4 hours in the evening with the red light on and again early before the white light gets turned on. The more normal looking one stays in the top of the tree from shortly after the red light goes on until we turn the red light off again in the am. Food, we feed them 2 or 3 small insects every other day. Sometimes they are ” small” crickets from the local pet store. The geckos heads are about a half inch across. I don’t know if this is enough food or not. They are about 5 or 6 inches long. I don’t know if they are old enough to breed? Would you suggest more food first? How much more? Thanks again Dan.

  16. avatar

    Hi Dan,

    Hard to say when sexual maturity is reached, as captivity affects that a great deal, but she may be too young. Try upping the food…temps are fine, and individual needs vary. Try also providing additional hiding spots.

    Best, Frank

  17. avatar

    Will do was headed out tomorrow to see if I can find a nice hollow log or something she could crawl up in to get higher. Will keep you updated. Thanks so much again. Dan

  18. avatar

    Hi Dan again. I have increased their diet to several small insects every day and added a new hide cave. She is no longer trying to get out and climbing the walls. I would have never thought of feeding more. I just assumed she had more issues than very bad sight. Thanks again! Dan

  19. avatar

    Very good to hear, Dan, thanks for the feedback…once in awhile there’s a simple solution (but don;t count on it if you plan to keep herps long term!). Best, Frank

  20. avatar

    Hi Dan again. I have a question as to how long my geckos can go with me away. We leave at thanksgiving for 4 days. The. Again at Christmas time for almost a week. Should we take them with us and put them in a similar home or can we feed them before we leave and when we get back. I don’t know which would be less stressful for them. My wife and kids have becom VERY fond of them and would be devastated if something happend to them. It is a 2 hour ride in which they would be in a much smaller transport container. I know this may sound silly but I want to do what is best for the geckos.

  21. avatar

    Hi Dan,

    Assuming they are in goof health, 4-7 days without attention will be fine. Occasional fasts are normal in the wild, and they are well-adapted to such. Just be sure to have lights and heat on timers, and leave a shallow water bowl. Best, Frank

  22. avatar

    Dan here again. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was warned against putting a dish with calcium and vitamin D3 in the tank. I have searched all the little and big pet stores for plain calcium and can’t find it. My geckos lick at the calcium dish fairly frequently but since the warning I have removed it. There is quite the difference in opinion here on the net. So I would like your opinion. Is the constant d3 bad for them? I use flukers with vitamin D3 in it. I know that they need the availability of the calcium. Thanks in advance Dan and Family.

  23. avatar

    Hi Dan,

    We do not have any specifics as to their actual Calcium or D3 requirements; but as leopard geckos have long been bred in captivity and are often long-lived, we can make some assumptions. For adults, powdering food with Calcium 3x weekly, and with a Vitamin supplement containing D3 1-2x weekly, will suffice. Using Calcium with D3 3x weekly has also been effective. There seems to be a good deal of leeway, considering that When powdering food or leaving out a bowl of calcium, we really have little idea of how much they are consuming. The diet provided to feeder insects, the species used, the lizard’s health and reproductive state, etc., also comes into play. We know less about the effects of leaving a bowl out for them to consume at will. Some folks report success with this method. I’ve not checked recently, but interest in controlled experiments in captive reptile nutrition, published in peer reviewed journals, has been low in recent years. Until this changes, we’ll need to rely on long-term experience.

    There is evidence that some lizards sense D3 levels and adjust their diet and/or basking time in response, Nothing on leopard geckos that I know of, but please see this article on chameleons and D3.. If the same hold for leopard geckos, then leaving supplements available might be a good idea.

    Best, Frank

  24. avatar

    Hi Frank. Dan here once again. Our one gecko we call pinky has always been light pink and white. She has recently started to get some very yellow places on her ( it). I have seen some morphs with yellow on them but have assumed ours was going to remain pink. I know in humans yellow can mean jaundice or kidney issues. Do you think this could be an issue? She has also been spending a lot more time in the moist hide? My wife and daughter would be devastated if something happens to her. Especially if I could have prevented it. Thanks for your advice in this matter. Dan and Family.

  25. avatar

    Hi Dan,

    Past matings between the various morphs can result in some unusual coloration changes over time; all of the various colors and shades are not always present from birth. Yellowing is not a cause for concern, unless fungus (fuzzy or rough area; not common) is seen.

    They typically spend time in moist areas prior to shedding; sometimes the animal selects a spot because of the shelter value alone, either in response to an environmental change or simply as a matter of course. Best to provide a dry shelter as well, so that the lizard has another option.

    Please let me know if you need further information, Best, Frank

  26. avatar

    Always so helpful and with educated answers. Your site has been so helpful. Please keep up the great site. There are 4 hides in their home. One wet three dry stretched out from the warm side to the cool side.

  27. avatar

    Thanks for the kind words, Dan. Your shelter set-up sounds ideal. Enjoy and please keep me posted, Best, Frank

  28. avatar

    Hi my name is Dan and when we first got our geckos you were so helpful. Now I have another DILEMA. They have been doing great and getting so big. We decided to add a new food item for them. We feed crickets and a few mealworms and super worms every now and then. We had heard about dubia roaches and did a lot of research on them. We read almost nothing negative about feeding them. We bought some of all sizes but only fed the ones smaller than a dime. They loved them more than anything else we feed. Feed them every third day roaches and the other days crickets or something else. Nothing else has changed. Our female pinky is 57 grams. The male is 77 Zoltan. They both within a day of each other have completely stopped eating. It has been over 3 weeks since the female ate. The male ate once in that time but only one insect small. She has not lost any weight and only puts out a very small white stool. The male has lost 1gram and has put out maybe 3 stools in this time. We are VERY worried about them. I thought originally he was constipated but after soaking in warm water he has not changed. Soaked him 4 days in a row and he did poop but nothing out lof the ordinary. We are worried that some how the roaches have made them sick. Any thoughts or advice at all. They have truly become part of the family. Their general habits have not changed much if at all. Thanks in advance Dan and family.

  29. avatar

    Hello Dan,

    I’ve not run across or read of problems with roaches; mealworms have been associated with intestinal blockages, and the symptoms are as you describe; blockages can be tricky…taking time to build up, and affected by calcium levels, hydration and other factors; insects that are usually fine can then wind up causing problems; or a mild blockage, i.e. mealworm related, can worsen if they suddenly begin taking more food, larger meals. Sand/substrate can also be involved. but other medical problems can elicit the same symptoms; only way to diagnose is via visit to experienced vet; please let me know if you need help in locating a vet, best, Frank

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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