How Often Do Leopard Geckos Eat?
When I bought my first leopard gecko, I wondered how often they needed to eat. I wanted to share my experience and research through answering this question in depth.
In short, leopard geckos need to eat every day or every other day depending on their size and age. Hatchlings and leos up to 6 months old will need to eat every day to help with growth. 10 month old to a year old adults can eat less frequently, about 2-3 times a week or every other day.
I will go more in depth below on feeding schedules, how long they can go without food, overfeeding, and other topics related to feed frequency. One of the first things you will need to do is determine the age of your leopard gecko. This is crucial in determining how often they will need to eat.
The three life stages of a leopard gecko include:
- Hatchling (0-3 months old)
- Juvenile (3-6 months old)
- Sub-Adult (6-10 months old)
- Adult (12+)
Each age group will have different food intake and size requirements.
Baby Leopard Gecko Food Requirements
Hatchlings are very fragile and will need food regularly to sustain their health. They need to have access to feeder insects every day. It is a crucial time for them as their bodies need nutrients on a daily basis to grow naturally. I allow my baby leos to eat at every time of the day by providing them with a bowl full of bugs. This way, you eliminate the chance of them going hungry. They can choose when to eat and how often or much they want in one sitting.
They will stop once full and carry on with their day. Just place a bowl full on insects in their enclosure. Since they are so vulnerable, you want to make sure to have the right sized bowl to contain their prey items. Otherwise, the feeders will escape and potentially hurt or stress your babies.
I recommend replacing any dead feeders every night. You also want to replace any eaten bugs or empty food bowls. Since they are nocturnal, leopard geckos will hunt and eat at night. I suggest replenishing during this time. Baby leopard geckos should be fed mealworms, crickets, dubia roaches, and red runners every night. You will need to offer appropriate sized insects especially to younger lizards. They have a higher risk of choking due to their small size. I generally feed prey items that are no wider than the space between their eyes. This ensures they will not have any difficulty swallowing.
Juvenile Feeding Schedule
Young Leos from 3-6 months can start to consume less frequently every other day. There’s also no harm in continuing to feed everyday however. If fact, if your gecko can still eat everyday i encourage you to do so. As long as you provide healthy feeder choices and continue supplementing.
My juvenile leopard gecko feeding schedule is:
I tend to clean on Saturdays or Sundays so I do not feed during these days. At this stage you should notice your reptile eating larger or more portions. They essentially gorge themselves on bigger bugs thus eating less frequently. You should notice your Leos being more active at this age. This is due to eating more and having a higher metabolism.
Types Of Foods Good For Mealies
So you may be asking what items are good for gutloading mealworms. I recommend using foods that are organic, high in calcium, low in sugar, and overall accepted as “good”. Also, try to avoid high phosphorus choices as too much can inhibit the absorption of CA.
Too little calcium and your pets can suffer from osteoporosis or metabolic bone disease. You don’t necessarily have to go all organic but I choose to do so in order to avoid pesticides and chemicals. Whatever you choose, please remember to provide consistently for maximum benefits. Gutloading once a year is not as beneficial as once a week.
Adult Leopard Gecko Feeding Schedule
Mature leopard geckos will eat less often with the exception of breeding females. Adults will need to eat every 2-3 days. They can also consume larger prey items and will not need nearly as much food to sustain their appetites. Females getting ready for the breeding season will gorge themselves and can eat every other day. I’ve even had some eat everyday and often times twice a day. They will store nutrients in their fatty tails. This allows them to eat less frequently without having to worry about their health declining.
How Much To Feed a Leopard Gecko
How many insects your leopard gecko will eat in one setting will depend on the size, age of your reptile, and the type of feeder you offer. There are also other factors like time of day and year that can affect how much your Leo decides to eat.
- Hatchlings and babies will consume around 4-6 small mealworms in one sitting.
- Juveniles can eat around 6-12 medium mealworms.
- Adults can eat around 15-20 worms in one sitting.
Again, this is just an estimate but is usually what I see in my colonies. When using higher quality feeders such as dubia roaches and black soldier fly larvae (BSFL), I notice my geckos will not need to eat as often. I believe this is due to the higher nutritional content they contain and also a better meat to shell ratio. Your Leos eat less but their bodies are absorbing more nutrients with these prey items. You should be feeding your geckos at night as they are more active during this time. They will be in hunting mode and hungry.
Lastly, I recommend allowing your leopard geckos to consume as much as they can in a 10 minute period. If you notice that they have stopped eating or no longer show interest, you can remove the food even if it’s under the 10 minute mark. This general rule allows your lizard to consume just as much as they need without the risk of over feeding. During the winter or colder months, your reptiles will consume less often. This is due to the drop in temperature as well as the shortened light cycle.
Both these factors affect behavior and appetite. So don’t be alarmed if your lizards aren’t eating as much they normally do. Some leos will completely stop eating during this time. So long as they maintain their weight they should be fine and back to a regular feeding regiment in no time.
Can You Overfeed a Leopard Gecko?
Feeding your leopard gecko too often can cause obesity and other health issues. Also, offering insects poor in nutritional content can cause your Leos to become picky eaters. Wax worms and other bugs high in fat are line candy to your reptiles. They will get addicted to these particular insects and be very stubborn to wean off of.
Over feeding can cause problems such as impaction, obesity, and fatty liver disease. Not only is feed frequency important but also the quality of diet being offered. Younger Leos are more prone to over feeding and impaction issues. To avoid these problems, just follow the 10 minute rule stated above.
How Long Can Leopard Geckos Go Without Food?
So now that you know how often they must eat, we can look at how long leopard geckos can go without food. Hatchlings cannot go very long without food due to their fragile nature. I wouldn’t risk going more than 2 days of no feeding. Juvies can tolerate up to a week without food until problems start to arise. Mature adults can go off feed from 2 weeks to a couple months during the winter time.
Leopard Geckos usually have voracious appetites and rarely stop eating for no reason. There are a few factors that can affect feeding frequency.
- Winter/Low Temperatures (will stop eating for 1-2 months)
- Stress (can last a few days up to a week)
- Injuries such as mouth rot (will usually start eating once healed)
- Over feeding (can take 3 days for stools to pass and eating normally again)
- Breeding (lasts 2 weeks to a month of not eating)
- Shedding (2-5 days)
As you can see, all of these factors can slow down or even stop your Leo from eating.