Is your leopard gecko not eating? This can be a scary situation for any owner, and it can be difficult to know what to do. Below, we have covered some of the most common reasons this can happen and what to do about it.
Fortunately, the causes of not eating are usually common leopard gecko issues. These include temperature issues, lighting issues, shedding, disease, impaction, stress, ovulation, or breeding. These can often be easily fixed.
Why Your Leopard Gecko Won’t Eat
Stress due to moving to a new tank
Even the healthiest leopard geckos can get stressed if moved to a new tank. The stress can make them unwilling to eat even their favorite meals. After all, leopard geckos can survive on their fat reservoirs for weeks.
Don’t worry, though; leopard geckos who don’t eat due to tank change issues eventually start eating again.
So keep trying to offer food and give the gecko some slurry if things are getting worse. However, ensure that your vet is involved with the process from the start to rule out other causes for the situation.
Stress due to cohabitation
If you place two or more leopard geckos in the same tank, one can be bullied so much that they become stressed and refuse to eat.
The lack of space that this situation causes also exacerbates the situation.
That’s why it’s always best to house your leopard gecko alone in a tank with a capacity of at least 20 gallons.
When your leopard gecko’s tank is colder than it should be, it can become less active and refuse to eat altogether.
These conditions can even make your leopard gecko regurgitate its food.
Interestingly, a leopard gecko can also stop consuming when its tank is too hot.
As such, it’s integral that you check the tank temperatures as soon as you notice these symptoms in your gecko.
Remember, the tank daytime temperatures need to be around 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, while nighttime ones need to be in the 70s.
If your leopard gecko is exposed to cold temperatures for a prolonged period, it can enter brumation.
This is a state of hibernation that leopard geckos can stay in for up to 3 months. While in this state, leopard geckos don’t eat or move a lot.
So if you notice that your reptile has stopped eating at the beginning of winter or at the end of autumn, this is probably what is happening.
The best way to deal with this is to go along with your leopard gecko’s plan to brumate.
Just lower the temperatures in the tanks and start shortening the lighting period.
If you choose lights that produce too much heat for your leopard gecko’s tank, it will overheat, and your reptile may end up dehydrated and unwilling to eat.
Failure to switch off the lights at night can make your gecko confused about whether it’s day or night.
Ultimately, this will make it hard for your reptile to hunt.
As silly as it may seem, some leopard geckos will refuse to eat simply because they don’t like the food that you’re offering.
Unfortunately, it’s usually difficult to change the mind of such a picky eater.
The best you can do is to offer a varied diet; this way your gecko will always find something to eat.
When female leopard geckos are ovulating, they can opt to fast. While this is normal, offering food during this time is advisable.
Anything they eat will help them replenish their strength during this energy-intensive time.
Also, keep in mind that female leopard geckos will ovulate even if they don’t mate.
During the breeding season, leopard geckos can get so preoccupied with finding a mate that they become reluctant to eat.
This is particularly common among male leopard geckos. If they continue to do this for two weeks or more, try to get them to eat through force-feeding or other means.
Sometimes an unwillingness to eat can be the result of impaction. When your leopard gecko is impacted, it will be uncomfortable and unable to poop.
This can make it lose interest in eating. As such, it’s important to monitor your gecko’s bowel movements.
If it hasn’t pooped for days, you must take it to the vet to check for impaction.
Also, avoid exposing your pet to foods and substrates that can easily lead to impaction.
A good example of the former is overfeeding your leopard gecko super worms, while a good example of the latter is sand. It’s best to use sphagnum moss as a substrate.
Leopard geckos usually lose their appetites while shedding. This will last for the whole duration; typically 1 to 3 days.
If the shedding process takes longer, check the tank’s humidity; it might have fallen below the lower limit of 30%.
Fortunately, you can add some moisture to the tank to get back to the recommended 40%.
To aid shedding, add a moist hide and some rough surfaces for your gecko to rub on.
But if you notice that shedding is complete yet your Leo is still not eating, get a vet to check it for any other underlying issues.
When a leopard gecko gets injured, it can lose its appetite. It can also become lethargic and start hiding from you.
So if you notice these symptoms, take your Leo to the vet. While the injury may eventually heal on its own, it can worsen.
If your leopard gecko has an eye condition or its shed skin is covering its eye, it can struggle with seeing its prey.
This can make it difficult to impossible for it to eat.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
This disease results from inadequate vitamin D3 or calcium in your gecko’s diet.
It can make your reptile experience pain, lethargy, bone fragility, and in severe cases, paralysis. These symptoms can make your gecko too weak to eat.
If you suspect your gecko has MBD, immediately take it to the vet.
However, regularly administering vitamin D and calcium supplements can eliminate the chances of your gecko getting MBD in the first place.
Fatty liver disease
When leopard geckos are overfed for a long period, they can become obese and eventually develop fatty liver disease.
The main feature of this disease is that the fat accumulated in the body will begin to destroy liver function. In time this will make your Leo diarrhea, become lethargic, and stop eating.
Once this starts happening, your gecko will start losing weight rapidly. As such, fatty liver disease is serious and requires immediate medical attention.
Ultimately, the diet your vet recommends after diagnosis will be different from the one recommended for other underweight Leos.
Parasites like Cryptosporidium can quickly make your gecko stop eating and lose weight. If left untreated, they can even prove lethal.
So immediately you notice diarrhea, lethargy, weight loss, and other symptoms of parasitic infection, take your pet to the vet.
Also, be careful to ensure that it doesn’t spread parasites to other pets.
Such an infection can make your gecko start breathing through its mouth and avoid eating. This can lead to weight loss and should therefore be treated as serious. The sooner you get a vet involved, the better.
Wrong tank placement
Where you place your leopard gecko’s tank can influence its appetite. For instance, a tank placed in direct sunlight can easily get overheated and negatively affect your leopard gecko’s diet.
A tank placed in a noisy area of the house can also overwhelm your gecko and affect its eating patterns.
Lack of water in the tank
While leopard geckos don’t drink water often, they need a bowl they can access when necessary. Without this, they can end up dehydrated, which can cause a loss of appetite. It can even worsen things for a leopard gecko who is not eating.
Feeding at the wrong time
Since leopard geckos are most active during dusk and dawn, this is the time that they usually hunt.
So if you offer them food during the day, they probably won’t eat it; they are typically asleep at this time.
Instead, offer them food at around 6 am or around 8 pm and stick to your chosen time. Sticking to a strict routine is excellent for your Leo’s health.
Offering food that’s too challenging
If you offer prey that is too big for your leopard gecko, it will become overwhelmed and may struggle with swallowing.
That’s why it’s important to only offer narrower insects than the distance between your gecko’s eyes. If this doesn’t work, further reduce the prey that you are offering.
Remember that leopard geckos that have previously relied on hand feeding may also struggle with hunting.
You can continue hand feeding in these cases as you gradually introduce hunting. First, you can place a few live insects around them to interest them.
Once they’re used to this, you can place the insects further away from them and encourage them to hunt. Just remember to refrigerate the insects beforehand to slow them down.
Lack of calcium in diet
Leopard geckos can stop eating if their diet is calcium-deficient. Calcium deficiency can also cause lethargy and bowed legs.
That’s why it’s important to dust your feeder insects in calcium and vitamin D3 supplements before offering them to your leopard gecko.
Doing this a few times is enough to reverse the effects of the deficiency.
How to Get Your Leopard Gecko to Eat Again
Give your gecko a warm bath
If your leopard gecko is not eating because of indigestion or mild impaction, you can help it move things along by soaking it in a warm bath and massaging its belly. You can also feed your gecko a drop of oil when dealing with impaction.
Try offering wounded live insects
To get your leopard gecko to eat again, try offering wounded insects. Some leopard geckos are attracted to such insects even when struggling with their appetites.
Concentrate on your gecko’s favorite food
If your leopard gecko has not eaten for a long time and has lost weight, you can use its favorite food to nurture it back to health.
Once its weight is stable, you can incorporate the other insects it eats.
Offer a slurry
When things get dire, you can offer your leopard gecko a slurry made of nutrients or baby food.
This slurry is best administered using a syringe. If you place some of this slurry at the tip of your gecko’s nose, it will usually begin to lick it.
Doing this regularly can help your reptile gain its appetite and health back.
Fortunately, you don’t even have to create a slurry in this day and age; there are products you can buy that will serve this purpose. You can just order them online and have them delivered to your doorstep.
Force-feeding your leopard gecko should be a last resort when even offering a slurry has failed. Ideally, a vet should do this or guide you on how to do it.
Doing it on your own can seriously injure your pet, sometimes even fatally.
Keep your gecko’s tank comfortable
To avoid stress, ensure your reptile’s tank is comfortable with the following tips:
- House your Leo alone in a tank of at least 20 gallons
- Keep the lighting, heating, and humidity at optimum ranges (see above).
- Ensure your pet gets a diverse diet and adequate water.
If your leopard gecko refuses to eat, it is a sign that something’s gone wrong. So you need to start investigating as soon as you notice this.
If you can’t figure out what is going on or your leopard gecko has lost a significant amount of weight, get your vet involved immediately.
Ultimately, it’s better to be safe than sorry.