What Do Geckos Eat?
Not all geckos eat the same thing.
Geckos are some of the most popular pet lizards in the world and are loved for their quirky personalities and beautiful colorings. But before you dive in and bring home a gecko yourself, you’ll want to tackle a few basic care needs, including your lizard’s nutritional requirements. But what do geckos eat?
Unlike feeding your dogs and cats premade kibble or wet food, gecko feeding requires a lot more preparation. As you’ll see, when you commit to a gecko, you’re also committing to handling live insects, preparing insect meals with powdered supplements, and setting up a feeding schedule that isn’t as routine as your typical pet’s.
So, here are a few basics you’ll need to grasp about a gecko’s diet before adopting a gecko.
What do geckos eat as pets?
Leopard and African fat-tailed geckos
“Leopard [and African fat-tailed] geckos feed primarily on live, moving insect prey,” Dr. Rassin told The Dodo. “[Their] diet may consist of dubia roaches, silkworms, phoenix worms and other live insects.”
Dr. Rassin said that insects should be fed a high-quality diet for at least 24 hours before feeding them to your gecko — this is called “gut loading.”
“Insects should be gut loaded with either a commercial gut load product or a mix of leafy greens, such as endive, dandelions or romaine lettuce,” Dr. Rassin said. “Gut loading ultimately means that the prey insect is acting as a vehicle to pass on beneficial nutrients to your gecko. Food items should be gut loaded with calcium powder 24 hours before every feeding, and a supplementary vitamin should be used once a week.”
Geckos should also receive supplementation, both calcium and a multivitamin, which are sold in powders that can be dusted on your gecko’s food before eating.
You can also purchase freeze-dried or dehydrated insects that have been pre-gut loaded, though your gecko’s natural hunting instincts won’t kick in during feeding time, which might be an issue — but each gecko is different!
“In the wild and according to field studies, we learned that crested geckos are known to eat a variety of foods such as pollen aggregates, berries, various insects, fruits juice, remains of other lizards and other prey items,” Dr. Rassin said.
“In captivity, it's widely known that cresties can live solely on premix powder foods,” she continued. “However, it is absolutely appropriate and in my opinion necessary to have the mental stimulation with some live insects and fresh fruits.”
Dr. Rassin recommends offering your crested gecko dubia roaches, silkworms and occasional locusts/crickets. And for fruit, you can give him small quantities of mashed mango, pear, banana, grape, fig, apricot, strawberry, watermelon, dates, peach, plum, or blueberry.
Here are a few food options your gecko might enjoy:
These freeze-dried crickets from Fluker’s are gut loaded with a high-calcium diet and contain a healthy balance of crude protein, fat, fiber, moisture and calcium.
These black soldier fly larvae are high in calcium and have a balanced calcium-to-phosphate ratio, making them a great staple food to add to your gecko’s diet.
You should not feed your gecko insects you find in your house or in your yard, as these insects can make your gecko sick.
The dehydrated mealworms from Zilla are great for leopard geckos. They’re high in protein and provide the necessarily added fats geckos can’t get from a cricket-only diet.
Dr. Rassin recommended this powdered mix for crested geckos. It contains all the vitamins and minerals your crested gecko needs and is super easy to feed — just add water!
When stored between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, these live wax worms from DBDPet will become dormant and ready to be fed to your gecko. Just be wary not to feed your gecko dead worms, which will be black compared to the live ones.
Dubia roaches are loved by gecko parents because they’re packed with more nutritional value than crickets, making them a great diet add-on. These live roaches come in a cotton bag and arrive with a 10 percent overcount to compensate for any roaches who may not make it through the trip.
How to feed your gecko
“Live prey should be offered in shallow plastic containers outside of the normal enclosure, which will reduce insect escape in the environment and prevent accidental ingestion of substrate by the gecko if loose substrate is used,” Dr. Rassin said.
Juvenile geckos (under 12 months old) should be fed appropriately sized insect prey items every one to two days. Adult geckos (over 12 months old) should be fed two to three times per week.
And juvenile and adult crested geckos can be fed every other evening with a quality premixed powder and given live food once a week. “When crested geckos are under 6 months old, you may offer fresh premix food every other day,” Dr. Rassin added. “They usually eat at night, but you may leave it during the daytime just in case. You may offer live food once a week.”
“As a general rule, feed insects with a body length no greater than the length of the gecko’s head and about half the width of the head,” Dr. Rassin said. “Feed no more than what the animal will consume within 15 minutes.”
And, of course, have a dish of water available for your gecko to drink from at all hours of the day to stay hydrated.
Get in contact with a veterinarian who specializes in geckos in your area to make sure you’re prepared with all the right foods, supplements and care needs before you become a gecko parent.
Geckos can be a bit picky, so finding out which food they like best may be a trial-and-error process. But stick with it, and your gecko will eventually show you what he likes best.