Wondering why your Leopard Gecko is not eating? This guide is for you!
Every leopard gecko has a favorite meal. This could be dubia roaches, crickets, worms, or other insects that are good for reptiles.
If you have been with your gecko for some time, you know the treat to give him to spice up his life.
So, what happens when your gecko won’t eat? What does it mean when this reptile is non-responsive to its favorite mealworm treat?
It’s abnormal for your gecko to go for weeks or months without showing interest in food. A gecko that refuses to eat is trying to communicate a problem you need to solve. Find out what’s responsible for this behavior and take the necessary measures to make your pet’s life easier and happier.
Your leopard gecko may refuse to eat for natural reasons or poor leopard gecko husbandry.
Why Won’t My Leopard Gecko Eat? Natural Reasons
#1 – Your Gecko is Preoccupied with Mating
You’re your leopard gecko’s instinct to make sets in; nothing can stop your pet from responding to this call of nature.
In the gecko’s list of priorities, reproduction comes before food. But, of course, the preoccupation with mating cannot last long because your pet needs to eat to stay alive.
Keep encouraging your leopard gecko to eat and drink during this period. Then, after a few weeks, when the heat of the mating season is over, your pet will resume its regular feeding routine.
#2 – Breeding Season is Here
The female leopard gecko may stop eating just before she lays eggs. This continues for the three days it takes her to deposit the eggs.
Females usually start eating immediately after they have laid the eggs. However, don’t get worried if your pet extends this period by a day or so.
However, you should be concerned if the female does not eat two days after laying the eggs. This could indicate that she is egg-bound and requires a vet’s intervention.
An egg-bound gecko will exhibit other signs, such as lethargy and moodiness.
#3 – It’s Time to Shed
It’s normal for leopard geckos to lose interest in food a number of days before they start shedding. They abstain from food for the entire shedding process, which takes about 1 to 3 days.
This is your cue to take it easy if your gecko’s loss of appetite is associated with shedding. However, if the loss of appetite is still evident 3 or 4 days after shedding, this signifies something else.
You need to examine your leopard gecko for health concerns closely.
#4 – It’s Time for Brumation
Brumation in leopard geckos is similar to hibernation in other animals. However, leopard geckos don’t shut down all their internal systems during brumation, unlike hibernating animals.
Instead, they hide away and ‘sleep off the cold season, which can last about 3 months. During this period, your leopard gecko will not eat.
It would be wrong to force this animal to take for as this would attract dire consequences.
For example, the gecko may not adequately digest the food because of the cold, leading to a raft of health complications.
Ensure that the living conditions in the enclosure at good as your leopard gecko brumates.
It would also be a good idea to seek guidance from your vet on the good gecko husbandry practices to uphold during this period.
Why Won’t My Leopard Gecko Eat? Environmental Reasons
Your leopard gecko does not take to changes in the environment kindly. As such, ensure that the tank conditions are well set to not destabilize your pet.
If you plan to introduce any changes to the enclosure, do it gradually, not to stress the animal.
Here are some environmental issues that may make your leopard gecko refuse food:
#5 – Improper Humidity Levels
When the humidity level in the tank is improper, your leopard gecko becomes uncomfortable and refuses to eat.
Low humidity levels lead to dehydration. A dehydrated gecko does not eat because it doesn’t have the fluids needed for digestion.
Maintain the humidity level in the enclosure at between 30 and 40%. If the gecko is shedding, this can be slightly adjusted upwards.
#6 – Improper Temperature Levels
Being cold-blooded, your leopard gecko needs an external heat source to digest food and carry out other biological functions.
Your gecko won’t eat if the temperature levels are too low. This is because his digestive system is sluggish and his appetite poor.
If the cold becomes deeper and continues for long, the gecko will forget about food altogether and enter brumation.
This is why you should constantly monitor the temperature levels in your leopard gecko’s enclosure.
The ideal upper temperature should be 320 C, while the lower mark is 210 C.
If the temperature level gets too high, your pet may become dehydrated. This quickly leads to constipation and impaction, problems that force the reptile not to eat.
It would be a good idea to install a hygrometer and thermometer in the enclosure to constantly monitor the humidity and temperature levels.
#7 – Small Enclosure
Your leopard gecko becomes stressed when it doesn’t have enough living space. If the tank is less than 10 gallons for juveniles and 20 gallons for adults, this could be the reason they are not eating.
#8 – Bullying from Other Geckos
Bullying is a significant cause of stress and injuries in your leopard gecko, making your pet stop eating.
Bullying occurs when you put two or more competing geckos in the same space. So, for example, it would be wrong to put two antagonistic males together.
These two will keep fighting over just about everything, and may not have the time for proper feeding.
#9 – Attack by Parasites
Parasites interfere with your pet’s life in many ways. For example, internal parasites cause your gecko to lose appetite.
Others are associated with food-related problems such as diarrhea, unhealthy stool, constipation, and impaction.
You’ll realize your gecko has parasites when it starts behaving abnormally. For example, it will lose appetite in the treats you usually give it.
If this continues unabated, your pet will reduce weight significantly, and his tail will thin.
#10 – Suffering from Impaction
Impaction is a nightmare for most leopard gecko keepers. This is because unless this problem is attended to in good time, it can cause the untimely death of the reptile.
Impaction happens when the gecko’s digestive tract is blocked. This means your pet cannot take in any more food or pass stool normally.
Food cannot be properly digested and egested when the gecko’s pet is blocked. This leads to a raft of other health complications that put your gecko’s life in danger.
You can help your pet resolve the problem and start eating again by gently messaging it with a warm bath.
Also, make available enough drinking water. Finally, periodically mist the enclosure to create conditions conducive for your pet to resume eating.
If the impaction proves stubborn, don’t hesitate to contact your vet.
#11 – Enclosure Improperly Set
As noted earlier, your gecko’s tank needs to be of the correct size. In addition, you need to place the enclosure properly.
A poorly set tank will cause stress to the extent that your gecko will refuse to eat. For example, if direct sunlight falls on the tank, it will overheat and make your pet’s life miserable.
Direct sunlight will cause dehydration, pushing your gecko to reject food.
Also, ensure the tank is placed in a peaceful, quiet place. Leopard geckos do not thrive in chaotic situations.
#12 – Poor Lighting Conditions
Light is a very important aspect of your leopard gecko’s life. Although this animal can see quite well in the dark, it needs light to stay in sync with the day-night cycle, the circadian rhythm.
Also, light produces heat, which is another vital component of your gecko’s existence.
If the lighting system is wrong, your pet’s circadian rhythm gets messed up. As a result, the leopard gecko will not know when to sleep, wake up, or even eat.
Light allows this animal to follow a routine that makes life easier for everyone.
Also, we looked at how poor light can elevate or lower the temperatures beyond acceptable levels.
This is your cue to closely monitor the lighting system to ensure everything is always on point.
#13 – Inadequate Water Supply
Your leopard gecko will refuse to eat if it doesn’t have an adequate water supply. Although geckos are originally desert-dwelling reptiles, they need water to stay healthy.
Water is also required for bathing. Therefore, this animal needs to be bathed in a shallow bowl of warm water every so often.
This makes the gecko’s skin suppler and sheds off more easily. Since leopard geckos are poor swimmers, take care not to leave water in deep bowls in the enclosure.
Additionally, you need water for misting. This involves spraying the enclosure, plants, and gecko with water once or twice a day.
When these conditions are met, your gecko will be at peace and readily adhere to the feeding schedule.
Why Won’t My Leopard Gecko Eat? Health Reasons
Your leopard gecko’s feeding habits will likely change when he gets infected or sick. Therefore, it should be a matter of concern if your leopard gecko refuses to eat because of illnesses.
This is double trouble, and should be immediately referred to a veterinarian.
Here’s a look at some illnesses that can force your leopard gecko to stop eating. Although they are dangerous conditions, they are preventable as well as treatable.
#14 – Mouth Rot
Mouth rot is a bacterial infection that wreaks havoc on the leopard gecko’s immune system. It affects the gums, teeth, and mouth and renders them unable to handle food.
So, although the reptile could be hungry, and cannot put anything in its mouth. Immediate medical intervention is required to save your pet from sure death.
#15 – Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease is a problem associated with obese animals. For example, if you over-feed your leopard gecko for long, it becomes a candidate for this disease.
Animals with the fatty liver disease suffer a myriad of other health complications. For example, they lose their appetite for healthy foods.
The liver function is severely compromised, making the gecko weak and unable to eat and carry out other activities.
You can tell your leopard gecko is becoming overweight by judging from the size of the tail. If the tail is thicker than the rest of the body, there’s a problem with your pet.
Any excess food the gecko does not use up in the body is stored as fat in the tail. Therefore, the fatter the tail gets, the more likely the gecko will suffer from lipidosis – fat liver disease.
#16 – Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
MBD occurs when your leopard gecko does not get enough calcium in its diet. Although this disease is highly dangerous, it is possible to prevent it before it affects your pet.
A gecko with this disease stands the risk of multiple organ failure. This means nothing in its internal system responds as it should.
They have difficulties seeing, breathing, eating, digesting food, and excreting. In addition, this animal’s movements are severely curtailed due to structural weaknesses.
The skeleton and other structures get weaker and weaker as the body pulls calcium from them.
Besides challenges in movement, MBD causes lethargy, deformed bones, weakened jaws, and feeding problems.
Why Won’t My Leopard Gecko Eat? Feeding Problems
Your leopard gecko may refuse to eat because of poor meal presentation. However, this reptile is quite picky when it comes to eating.
As such, you must be very keen on the presentation and delivery of the food.
Here’s a look at some feeding challenges you’ll encounter with your gecko:
#17 – Your Gecko is Full
Adult leopard geckos don’t have to eat every day as humans do. A well-fed gecko can stay a number of days without food.
It just needs to be supplied with fresh water to keep the body well hydrated.
Don’t be worried if your gecko stays a day or two without food. This reptile stores an ample supply of nutrition in its tails.
As long as your pet’s tail is plump and healthy-looking, you can be sure it can go for some time without feeding.
#18 – Your Gecko is New
It takes some time to acclimate to your home environment if you have just acquired a new leopard gecko.
During this time, it will behave somewhat abnormally. For example, it may remain hidden for most of the time.
It may also refuse to eat or poop. This is a normal reaction when geckos are made relocated. They also get stressed when encountering new people and interacting with new feeder insects.
Give your pet time; it should start feeding normally again within 2 or so weeks.
#19 – Poor Diet Choice
Your leopard gecko may reject your choice of diet for two reasons. One, the insects you offer may not be tasty or succulent enough.
Geckos have a soft spot for delicious meals. Suppose you expose your pet to mealworms and other insects they consider a delicacy. In that case, they may refuse to take any other diet.
This can be quite a problem, considering that mealworms and other tasty foods are laden with fat.
Two, your gecko will reject your diet because you offer boring insects. You see, geckos are predatory by nature.
They hunt insects to fulfill their dietary needs. Therefore, if the food you present hardly moves, your gecko will lose interest.
The good news is that there’s something you can do to reignite the interest. This includes:
- Prod the feeder insect to start jumping around
- Puncture worms to spill some juices
- Warm the insects a bit to make them run around
- Avoid presenting dead insects to your gecko
As you go about this, remember not to handle the feeder insect with your bare hands. Use tongs instead.
#20 – Wrong Feeding Time
Your leopard gecko’s activities are ordered by the day-night cycle. Being crepuscular animals, geckos are most active at dawn and dusk.
While they spend most of the day either sleeping or lazing around, geckos hunt and feed at dawn and dusk.
As such, don’t be surprised when your pet hardly touches its food during the day. This indicates you have presented the food at the wrong time.
Unless the leopard gecko is really hungry, it will not change its routine activities and start eating during the day.
Try offering your gecko food at 6am or 7am to entice him to start eating again. If this does not work, consult your vet for further guidance.
#21 – Appetite Loss
There’s an interesting phenomenon that leopard geckos experience when they stop eating for some time. They find it difficult to regain their appetite.
Suppose your gecko had stopped eating because of disease, brumation, shedding, or trauma. Your leopard gecko may find it hard to take food down the gut after recovery.
You need to rectify this by stimulating the gut with a little juicy food. Choose something your gecko usually takes as a treat.
Use small bits of it accompanied by some fluid. Appetite loss can be corrected through assisted feeding.
Also, you can re-introduce food in the form of formula approved by your vet. The vet will also guide you on how best to give your gecko liquefied food.
Although your leopard gecko may be evidently hungry, avoid feeding it too much at once.
#22 – Drastic Changes in Feeding Culture
Are you to introduce a new way of feeding your gecko? This could be the reason it is not so keen on eating.
For example, if your leopard gecko has been hand-fed for its entire life, it may find it strange to fend for itself.
You’ll have to be a bit creative for the gecko to take up the new feeding method. But the good news is that your gecko’s hunting instincts will soon be ignited, and he’ll be able to hunt insects.
Additionally, your gecko may refuse to eat if it is being introduced to bigger insects. Conversely, if your pet has been used to smaller meals, he may perceive the bigger insects as a threat.
Give your leopard gecko an edge by disabling the bigger insects before presenting them to your pet.
Also, help your gecko adapt to new feeding habits by introducing the changes gradually.
How Long Can My Leopard Gecko Stay Without Eating?
The period your leopard gecko can stay without eating depends on two things. One, how healthy was it before it stopped eating? Two, what has made it stop eating?
A leopard gecko with a fat, healthy tail can go for a relatively longer time than one without. Your gecko’s tail is one of the standards used to determine its health.
This is because leopard geckos store extra fat and nutrition in the tail. Rapid tail fat loss indicates your gecko is sick and needs medical intervention.
If your gecko has stopped eating because it is sick, he can’t go for long before developing complications.
This is because a sick gecko is weak and requires additional supplements to boost its immune system.
Also, if this reptile has been attacked by parasites, it will be further weakened if it doesn’t eat.
A shedding gecko can go for up to two weeks without food. Although shedding takes a couple of days, these pets stop eating a few days before the actual shedding begins.
Additionally, leopard geckos can go for a considerably long period without food during brumation.
They actually don’t need food during this period, and any food they take is likely to do more harm than good.
Has your pet stopped eating, and you don’t know how to proceed?
Any caring keeper would be worried if this happened to their gecko. However, you need to do more than worry when your pet doesn’t eat.
Take measures to find out the cause of this behavior, and come up with the best way to resolve it.
Most of the reasons your gecko won’t eat have to do with the environment, health, feeding habits, and nature.
You’ll know the best course of action to follow by identifying the reason from among these. Of course, you should understand that your vet needs to be part of this equation.