Leopard Geckos are insectivores and eat live mealworms, crickets, cockroaches and beetle larvae.
Leos can go for days without eating, but it is a myth that they will fast for several months every winter.
In the wild they are active hunters and only eat live prey. As pets they must be fed live prey too, feeding dead insects can be the reason behind a leopard gecko not eating. But, there can be many reasons why a leopard gecko won’t eat. Some natural and some because of poor care.
Keep reading to learn 10 common reasons why leopard geckos stop eating and how to get them feeding again…
Table of Contents
- Why Is My Leopard Gecko Not Eating?
- Why Did My Leopard Gecko Stop Eating?
- How Long Can A Leopard Gecko Go Without Eating?
- What Do I Do If My Leopard Gecko Won’t Eat?
Why Is My Leopard Gecko Not Eating?
Leopard Geckos in the wild will enter a dormant period called brumation. This happens when temperatures fall below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, or environmental conditions are harsh. Prey are less active in cooler climates, so Leos brumate to reduce their activity levels and to save energy.
Brumation is similar to hibernation in that the animal is less active and resides in a ‘sleepy’ state.
Other reptile species like Bearded Dragons also brumate. It is a natural phase that can last from a few weeks up to several months. After a week of warm weather, a gecko will start to become active again.
Some pet species enter brumation, while others do not. It is usually caused by prolonged cool tank temperatures (under 70 degrees Fahrenheit) or a lack of food.
Brumation will occur naturally in females before breeding as they need more energy to form eggs. But, males do not need to brumate.
Brumation Signs and Behaviors:
- Stays on the cooler side of the tank in a hide.
- Spends less time basking.
- Slower and less active in the tank.
- Not eating for over a week.
If you think your leopard gecko is brumating, you should:
- Keep the basking area between 85 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Reduce the tank temperature to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Reduce daylight period to between 8 to 10 hours a day.
2. Eating Old Skin
Adults will shed once every four to eight weeks. This is the process they use to replace old skin with new skin. The shedding period starts about a week before the skin is fully shed.
Their skin will become gray or milky in color before a shed.
This milky color is a layer of liquid that forms between the old dying skin and new skin.
During a shed they will scratch, eat and rub off old skin. During this time a leopard gecko won’t eat as they are investing energy towards generating new skin cells. However, some will eat their old skin. This might seem odd, but it is a normal and healthy behavior.
As a result of eating their old skin, and using their energy for skin regeneration, they will generally not eat a few days before and after they shed.
It is critical that the enclosure is adequately humidified during the shed.
A humidity level of 30 to 40% needs to be maintained to ensure a healthy shed. This is easily accomplished by misting the enclosure several times a day and maintaining a clean and full water bowl.
Leopard Geckos will start eating again two to five days after the shed has finished.
3. Lack Of Supplements
If you see a leopard gecko not eating it may be because they are missing calcium in their diet.
They should be fed supplements to prevent calcium and mineral deficiencies. Symptoms of calcium deficiency include:
- Gradual reduced feeding over several days.
- Bowed legs caused by Metabolic Bone Disease.
Leos may become weak, sluggish or show a loss of appetite if they do not have enough calcium.
You should sprinkle powdered calcium supplements with vitamin D3 onto their insects just before feeding once a week. Alternatively, you can leave out a dish of calcium and feed worms directly from that dish.
Calcium-deficient leopard geckos should start regularly feeding after a few calcium dusted meals.
Even if a UVB light is used in their enclosure, reduced activity and a faded appearance are signs of calcium deficiency.
4. Wrong UVB Light
Leopard Geckos and many other wild reptiles synthesize vitamin D3 via direct sunlight exposure. However, in captivity, UVB lighting is needed as an artificial source of sunlight.
Vitamin D3 is important to help them grow and keep strong bones. It helps the synthesis and absorption of calcium in reptiles. This study found that lizards had lower calcium levels when not exposed to vitamin D3 via UVB lighting.
Low calcium levels can weaken bone density causing Metabolic Bone Disease. Species with Metabolic Bone Disease won’t eat and can become weak and inactive.
If your leopard gecko is not eating and appears weak, make sure you are providing adequate UVB lighting for 8-12 hours a day. Also, make sure you are not using a coil UVB bulb, instead use a larger UVB bulb that is replaced every six months. Place the bulb in a place where it can be well dispersed throughout the enclosure and isn’t blocked by a screen lid.
UVB bulbs for leopard geckos only need to be between 5-6%.
5. Cold Tank Floor Temperature
In warm temperatures (above 75 degrees Fahrenheit) Leopard Geckos speed up their metabolism. This increased metabolism results in more activity and faster reactions which allows them to better hunt prey.
Colder temperatures (below 70 degrees Fahrenheit) have the opposite effect.
Leopard geckos won’t eat in cooler temperatures as their metabolism and activity levels are too low.
Also, without belly heat from an under tank heat mat they will struggle to digest food and may not eat. They need to absorb heat through their bellies.
If a leopard gecko is not eating you should check the floor temperature to make sure it is around 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Impaction is a blockage in the digestive tract of a Leo. It often occurs when Leopard Geckos feed on their prey and accidentally swallow their substrate (e.g. sand, mulch, rocks, and dirt). This substrate then clogs their digestive systems and causes a blockage.
You can prevent impaction by using safe substrates which cannot be eaten.
If you use sand, mulch, rocks, or dirt, immediately switch it out to a better substrate. Use either: reptile carpet, slate/tile or newspaper.
Impaction can happen very quickly and can kill a Gecko within a few weeks. With a blockage in their digestive system they are unable to digest food and can rapidly lose weight.
The most common signs of impaction are:
- Reduced appetite.
- Rapid weight loss.
- Reduced feces.
- Lethargic movements.
Weight loss is most noticeable in the tail and will be apparent as it begins to get thinner.
Feces may be noticeably reduced, or may stop all together several days after impaction.
If you think your leopard gecko has impaction then gently feel their belly. You should be able to feel a hard bloated section of the stomach.
Leos who are impacted can be soaked in warm water for 30 minutes to help loosen it. Use a tub with water lower than their body height. Soaking can be done twice a day and should allow passage of the impacted material. If they do not defecate or feed after two days of soaking, then take them to a vet.
7. Feeding Dead Prey
Leopard Geckos are insectivores and eat mealworms, crickets, super worms, wax worms, silkworms, cockroaches. Prey should be live fed and must be smaller than the width of their mouth. Dead prey can house internal parasites and become ridden with bacteria.
Poor diet diversity and quality can also be the reason behind a lack of appetite.
Feed high quality live meals and vary the prey type you feed each meal time. Diversity in a Leopard Gecko diet is very important.
Different prey should be fed throughout the week. A good Adult Leo feeding schedule (feeding twice a week) may look like:
- Monday: 10 Crickets (calcium dusted).
- Wednesday: 1 Hornworm.
- Friday: 8 Cockroaches (calcium dusted).
Any uneaten live prey should be removed from the enclosure.
Young species should eat once a day and should be kept on a feeding schedule until they are nearing adult size.
A leopard gecko not eating should be fed high fat prey to get them eating again. This can also help to replenish fat stores in their tails. Try feeding: butter worms, wax worms or super worms.
Stress can be caused by a variety of different factors:
- Moving house.
- New enclosure.
- Tank being moved to a new room.
- Tank in a busy area.
- Wrong tank setup or lack of hides.
- Wrong substrate.
- Being housed with other Leos.
- New Décor.
Whatever the reason, stress will cause a leopard gecko to not eat.
Hiding, hissing, and avoiding contact are good signs your gecko is stressed. You will need to identify the source of stress and remove it from their environment. They should feed within a week once they are not stressed.
They often will stop feeding for a few days when they enter a new home and this is normal.
9. Illness or Injury
Geckos can get respiratory illnesses from poor husbandry and dirty tank conditions. Respiratory illnesses can cause lethargy and appetite loss.
Sick Leos may be discolored (i.e. faded color) and can be pale like before a shed.
Leopard Geckos will not eat until they have recovered from their illness. As they eat more they will become more active.
Injured individuals may have a ‘limp’ when walking or a raised limb. When injured they may not eat due to the pain. They will need time to heal and recover, therefore less time will be spent feeding.
Depending on the severity of the injury or illness they may not eat for a few days to two weeks.
Parasites can cause disease, diarrhea, rapid weight loss and a reduced appetite. Unlike impaction, parasites infect and often feed on the blood of a lizard. This saps their energy and nutrients. Parasites will not cause the bloated belly seen with impacted Leos.
This study found that parasites such as cryptosporidium can infect their digestive tracts and disrupt their appetite.
Parasites are most likely to happen when the enclosure is dirty, or if their food is already infected with a parasite. Prey infected with a parasite can be eaten by a Leo, transmitting the parasite to them.
Internal parasites such as nematodes, pinworms and coccidia are most likely to be the reason behind a leopard gecko not eating.
If internal parasites are suspected then take your Leo to the vet. The vet can analyze the feces under a microscope to see whether or not parasites are present.
Once parasites have been removed, they will start eating again within two to four days.
To avoid parasites maintain a clean enclosure and do not purchase or use wild caught prey.
Why Did My Leopard Gecko Stop Eating?
There are many reasons for why a leopard gecko won’t eat. Some of these reasons are common and natural, some are not.
The four common reasons behind a lack of appetite are:
- Cold tank temperatures (i.e. lack of belly heat).
- Seasonal changes (i.e. brumation).
Most of the reasons are related to enclosure setup and its position in the house. You can read more about our suggested enclosure setup here.
Some more serious reasons for why a Leo might not be eating include: not using a calcium supplement, wrong UVB lighting, impaction, parasites or a bad diet.
Meal diversity is key to a healthy diet!
To get a leopard gecko eating again you should try to feed high fat prey like butter worms, wax worms or super worms.
How Long Can A Leopard Gecko Go Without Eating?
There are many natural reasons for why a leopard gecko won’t eat. Shedding and brumation can cause a Leopard Gecko to not eat for up to two weeks. Surprisingly, some individuals have survived without eating anything for over two weeks at a time.
This lizard has a very fat tail which stores fats as reserve energy. When leopard geckos stop eating, they start to live off the fats in their tail.
Rapid weight loss is an indicator that they are sick and unhealthy. There may be an underlying health issue (e.g. impaction or parasites) causing the weight loss and loss of appetite.
What Do I Do If My Leopard Gecko Won’t Eat?
If your Leopard Gecko has not eaten for the last week, you will want to quickly find out why. You should start by using our checklist below to make sure that any obvious mistakes have been avoided.
Q: Is The Tank Temperature Above 75 Degrees Fahrenheit?
If a leopard gecko is not eating you should check the floor temperature to make sure it is around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Without belly heat they will struggle to digest food.
Q: Is Their Skin Beginning To Fade?
Leopard Geckos will stop eating during their shed. Their skin will become gray or milky in color before a shed. If they are pale and not shedding, check for respiratory illnesses from poor husbandry and dirty tank conditions.
Q: Are They Stressed?
Changes to their environment, tank and diet will cause stress. They will only start eating again once the source of stress has been removed and they have gotten comfortable with their setting.
Q: Are Your Using Supplements and a UVB Light?
If you see a leopard gecko not eating it may be because they are missing calcium in their diet. Leopard Geckos should be fed calcium & vitamin D3 supplements to prevent deficiencies. They also need a 5 to 7% UVB bulb, not coil.
Q: Are You Using A Safe Substrate?
Impaction is one of the most common reasons for Leopard Geckos not eating. It is a blockage in the digestive tract that can be caused by accidentally swallowing sand, mulch, rocks, or dirt. This blockage can happen very quickly and can kill them.
Q: Do They Have Fresh Water?
Dehydration will make digestion slow and difficult, so keep fresh water available. Repetitive and low-energy meals can decrease the appetite of your Leopard Gecko. Poor food quality can disrupt your Leos digestive tract.