"Why is my Leopard Gecko Not Eating?"
First off, I want to say some things that may ease your worries if you are new to leopard geckos and even most reptiles in general. For one, geckos will naturally go off food for long periods of time. This is completely normal, and unlike most typical mammalian pets, they don't require food every day, or even every week for that matter. In the wild they will even go the long cold season without eating at all. Naturally, their activity is very low during this time as well. They are well adapted to this process and we must consider this natural behavior when we make assessments to their health. A leopard gecko going a few weeks without food will not hurt them at all. I have seen them go a few months and then bounce right back. Extreme thinning of the tail and pronounced backbone are signs to look out for; not how many mealworms they've eaten this week. All this being said try to relax as stress factors are typically the biggest issues you will face in getting them back on food.
- Did you just recently received a new gecko and it is not eating right away?
- Make sure your temps are correct. For a terrarium get the surface temps about 90-94 and ambient 84-87 on the hot side. If the temps are too low this can cause them to go into a period of inactivity. Too high and it can stress them more, dehydrate, and even kill them.
- Put the moist hide over the heat pad on the hot side. The moist hide is a favorite hang out for geckos so when placed over the cool side it will encourage the gecko to hang out in a colder than ideal location in the enclosure.
- Lighting: If you plan on using lights for heat, it is best to use a ceramic heat emitter or a red/blue nighttime bulb (reptile specific ) on a dimmer. I suggest only using these during daytime hours. This gives them a period at night where all the lights are out. Do not use any bright lights in the terrarium as this will cause stress and hurt the geckos eyes. With proper supplementation UV lights are not needed (don't let the "internet experts" tell you otherwise). Remember that heat from overhead lights should only be used to supplement under tank heating.
- Put temporary "blockers" over all the sides of the enclosure and move the enclosure to a quiet place away from all activity. People and pets are looked at as predators by geckos (especially young ones). It is crucial to block out outside activity with paper (or any type of visual blocker that can be temporarily taped around the outside of the of the glass) to help limit the gecko's view to the outside world. Also eliminating outside activity in general is very important so make sure to move the gecko to a quiet part of the house that also has a long period of darkness provided at some point during the day. Geckos feed during the low-light/nighttime hours so this is also crucial. Also, geckos can hear quite well so loud noises and heavy foot steps should be avoided.
- Food items- Your gecko has been eating mealworms (younger geckos) out of a shallow bowl exclusively up until this point. I recommend not feeding the gecko right away (2-3 days) when first acquired to help with the stress going down and the prey drive going up. If the gecko isn't taking food after a week then I recommend putting the bowl of mealworms (20-30) in front of the humid hide. Leave them in a day and then take them out completely for two. Then put fresh ones in for another day and repeat the process. This keeps the gecko from getting overstimulated by food being constantly in their face. I have never seen a gecko not eventually take to food this way as long as the other conditions and stress factors are correct. Other food items may be tried but it is very important to remove any crawling insects within a couple hours as they can stress your gecko more. Mealworms in front of the moist hide is almost always the most successful approach.
- Supplementation: Although this is very unlikely the problem it still can be a contributing roll and is very important to get right. Buy Vionate and Osteo Form (or Osteo Form SA). Mix them in a 3:1 ratio (Vionate: Osteo) and keep a side cap or petri dish of it somewhere easily accessible. Although, I personally don't use it, the RepCal D3/Herptivite should work fine as well.
- Do not house your geckos together to start. It's always better to keep geckos separate for their entire life but at this time it is very important. More on this on my main CARE page.
- And lastly, I hate to keep going over this but please keep contact and activity to a minimum. No unnecessary; handling, peering into the enclosure, hand feeding, picture taking, vet visits, etc. You should literally only open the enclosure and see the gecko every 3 days or so to change out food and provide a little water. Leopard Geckos can go months without food and weeks without water so this is not the a major concern. Literally, my procedure on receiving a new gecko is put them in their lightly misted and heated tub in a rack, feed them after about 2-4 days, and leave them be for at least a week. Then, I will put them into the normal routine. This hands off approach works for me 99.9% of the time. Stress is the number one problem new keepers face when getting a new gecko!
- Ovulating females
- Food types
- Husbandry Issues
- Parasites and other health issues