Leopard geckos are popular pets, but little do people know about their diet. Pet owners usually try to feed their adult geckos a wide variety of food.
However, these geckos are insectivores. They rely primarily on insects for their nutrition. So, can leopard geckos eat lettuce?
Read on for more information about leopard geckos’ proper diet. This article also states the implications of feeding your gecko lettuce and provides you with healthier alternatives.
4 Reasons Why Your Leopard Gecko Can’t Eat Lettuce
Your pet gecko can’t eat lettuce or any other greens. Instead, it needs insects to get the essential nutrients to maintain a healthy body.
As for lettuce and other vegetables, they aren’t fit for the leopard gecko’s digestive system. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t feed your leopard gecko lettuce:
1. Teeth and Jaws
The teeth and jaws of leopard geckos aren’t able to chew vegetables, such as lettuce. Generally, herbivorous and omnivorous reptiles have flattened teeth to grind plant matter.
On the other hand, the teeth of your leopard gecko are designed for dissecting the meats of its prey rather than chewing and grinding.
The bigger problem is that geckos don’t even compensate for this inability to chew greens. Most animals swallow Gastroliths, which are little stones responsible for grinding plants. These stones are usually stored in the animal’s gizzards. However, leopard geckos don’t have gizzards in the first place.
That way, leopard geckos won’t be able to break down veggies and benefit from their nutritional content.
2. Digestive System
The leopard gecko’s digestive system doesn’t allow it to ingest lettuce or any veggies. It’s only fit for insects. That’s due to its size and structure.
For starters, the guts of your leopard gecko aren’t large enough to store veggies. In addition, the gecko’s intestine doesn’t include the cecum. Typically, this part can be found between the small and large intestines of omnivores and herbivores to digest the cellulose in veggies.
Another problem lies in the gecko’s stomach. While the digestion of vegetables needs an acidic medium, your gecko’s stomach is alkaline. That makes it incapable of hosting the microorganisms that produce cellulase, the enzyme responsible for digesting the cellulose in plant matter.
3. Eating Habits
Geckos have interesting eating habits. They aren’t at all attracted to still food like lettuce. Instead, they prefer live prey that moves around.
Leopard geckos are natural hunters that like to tear their live prey with their sharp pointy teeth. That makes it hard for leopard geckos to be interested in non-living food.
Even if you offer lettuce to your gecko, it might not find it very tasteful. After all, these reptiles are used to the taste of meat.
4. Nutritional Value
Lettuce doesn’t offer any nutritional value to leopard geckos. It’s just like feeding your gecko plain water.
However, lettuce may be beneficial in an indirect way. You can feed it to the insects before offering them to your leopard gecko. That way, it can benefit the gecko through its live food.
What Happens If Leopard Geckos Eat Lettuce?
Leopard geckos can’t grind or digest greens, such as lettuce. Thus, they won’t be able to process it in any way.
Therefore, they’ll either throw it up right away or keep it as it is until it reaches the bowel. That undigested lettuce can cause bowel impaction, which is a major health threat to your gecko.
In other words, if your leopard gecko consumes a little lettuce, it’ll probably pass with no problem. However, since your pet’s stomach won’t digest it, a large amount of lettuce might block the intestines or cause constipation.
How Can Lettuce Benefit Leopard Geckos?
Lettuce can benefit leopard geckos in one way; that’s through gut loading. That’s the process of offering food to your feeder insects to increase their nutritious value.
In this case, you can feed crickets and other live insects lettuce. That way, your gecko can benefit from the lettuce’s nutritional value without directly eating it.
Fortunately, there’s a variety of vegetables and fruits you may use to gut load your gecko’s live insects, including:
- Dark leafy greens
These fruits and vegetables are a good source of the vital nutrients you want to deliver to your gecko.
That said, we still don’t recommend using iceberg lettuce or cabbage in gut loading, as they don’t offer much value.
Safe Food for Leopard Geckos
You probably wish to offer your pet leopard gecko a balanced diet. The point is that leopard geckos are insectivores, so this varied diet will rely heavily on insects.
The Safest Gecko Food
To feed your healthy leopard gecko a balanced diet, go for different types of insects, such as:
- Small Grasshoppers
- Tomato Hookworms
- Dubia Roaches
Note that it’s best to give your geckos living insects. That’s more attractive to them as it fulfills their hunting instincts.
You can also feed your gecko mealworm and waxworm. Nevertheless, keep this type of food as a treat as it includes a high-fat content.
Should Leopard Geckos Eat Wild Insects?
Not really! Although wild insects are practically safe, they aren’t the best option. They may pose certain threats to your healthy adult gecko.
We recommend that you purchase the insects you feed your gecko instead of hunting them from the wild.
Wild insects may carry parasites and pass them on to your gecko, which may leave you with a sickly gecko.
Can leopard geckos eat lettuce?
No, they can’t and they shouldn’t. Leopard geckos don’t have the teeth or the guts to process greens. They’re insectivores that need insects to get the nutrients they need to survive.
Instead of feeding your gecko lettuce, you can use it to gut load the insects before feeding them to your gecko. That way, your gecko can get the benefit of veggies without having to digest them.
If your gecko eats lettuce, it may develop an impaction that causes digestive problems, such as constipation. Therefore, you should avoid it by all means.