If you are the proud owner of a leopard gecko, you may have noticed it skipping meals now and again. Of course, the first thing you do in this situation is panic, but you don’t need to!
It is quite normal for adult leopard geckos to go without food for extended periods of time. Unlike warm blooded animals who use up a lot of energy just to maintain their body temperature, cold-blooded animals, like geckos, require less energy.
Therefore they do not need a regular food supply like their war blooded counterparts.
This is one of the main benefits of being cold blooded. Many reptiles can even go for months without any food, especially when in their brumation periods in colder temperatures.
As for leopard geckos, they can go for an elongated amount of time without food but usually not months.
If you’re wondering why your pet leopard gecko is not eating, we’re here to help. In today’s post, we are going to discuss how long leopard geckos can go without eating depending on their age and a whole host of other factors.
We will also find out some potential reasons why your gecko is refusing to eat so you can get to the bottom of the possible issue.
In a hurry? If you can’t wait to find out, here’s the low down – a typical adult leopard gecko can typically go for around 10 to 14 days without any food, sometimes, even months.
In this time, they can survive on the fat stored in their tails. That being said, young leopard geckos can not go any longer than a day or so without food. This is because they do not possess as much fat in their tails to feed off.
Let’s go into deeper detail regarding the length of time leopard geckos can go without food based on their age and other factors.
Leopard Geckos – Different Ages Without Food
Here’s a breakdown of the periods of time different aged leopard geckos can survive without any food:
- Baby leopard geckos (zero to two months) – can not go without food for more than two days.
- Juvenile leopard geckos (two to six months) – can not go without food for more than two to seven days.
- Sub-adult leopard geckos (six to 12 months) – can go without food for seven to 14 days
- Adult leopard geckos (over 12 months) – can go without food for 14 days to over one month.
In general, a healthy adult leopard gecko should be able to go without food for around three months during its brumation period (state of inactivity for extended periods of cold temperatures).
If a leopard gecko is ill, gravid (carrying eggs), or malnourished, then it should have a continuous supply of food.
Here’s how often you should feed a leopard gecko based on its age:
- Hatchling (3-4 inches) – Should be fed daily (should always have a food supply)
- One-month-old (4 inches) – Should be fed daily (can not go without food for more than one day)
- Two months old (5 inches) – Should be fed daily (can not go without food for more than two days)
- Six months old (5 to 6 inches) – Should be fed daily (can go two to seven days without food)
- 12 months old (7 to 10 inches) – Should be fed every other day (can go 14 days to one month without food)
- 18 months (8 to 11 inches) – Should be fed every other day (can go over one month without food)
If a leopard gecko is refusing to eat, there could be a number of factors responsible for its behavior.
Below, we will guide you through the main factors that have an effect on how long geckos can go without eating, some warning signs to keep an eye out for in case your gecko is sick, and why it is not eating.
Main Reasons Why Leopard Geckos Refuse To Eat
As we mentioned above, it is not uncommon for leopard geckos, and other reptiles for that matter, to go for long periods of time without eating any food.
Nevertheless, various factors and certain conditions may be the cause behind them not eating.
Let’s take a look at some of the potential reasons here.
Reptiles are cold blooded animals. Therefore, they do not burn any calories to generate body heat like warm blooded animals do. Instead, they rely on external sources, such as the sun’s heat.
This is why many reptiles are found in hot climates and like lounging in the sun. This simply allows them to increase their body heat.
Yes, being cold blooded means many reptiles can survive for long periods of time without any food. However, without access to an external heat source, the animal could be in serious danger.
Cold blooded animals need to maintain warmth so natural processes can occur, such as digestion. If it becomes too cold, it will struggle to digest its food and therefore, may decide to stop eating altogether.
This is why it is essential that all gecko pet owners keep their tanks at 75 degrees Fahrenheit or above at all times.
If a leopard gecko is stressed, it may refuse to eat anything. Like us, leopard geckos can get stressed for multiple reasons.
The main causes, though, are usually a change in their environment, being housed with another gecko, being ill, and/or inadequate temperatures in their tank or surroundings.
Some common signs of stress in leopard geckos include:
- A display of dull colors
- Frequent tail wagging
- Hiding away for long periods
- Being skittery or fidgety
If you believe your gecko is showing any of these signs, you should take it to the vet to be checked over.
Another potential reason why leopard geckos do not eat is if they are dehydrated. If you think this may be the case, ensure your gecko has a plentiful supply of fresh water.
We also recommend replacing their water bowl every day to ensure the water is not contaminated and your gecko can enjoy a clean, healthy source of hydration daily.
As we have briefly mentioned already, leopard geckos typically do not eat at the beginning of their breeding season.
Gravid females are even known to refuse food during their whole ovulation process, especially a few days before laying eggs.
If an ovulating leopard gecko is skipping her meals, you should still continue to offer her food. Although they may not want to eat, the female requires vital nutrients to form the eggs and remain healthy throughout.
Calcium is an important part of any gecko’s diet, especially when they are ovulating. This is when the female gecko may lose a few grams and if they do not start eating again soon, their health could deteriorate rapidly along with an increase in weight loss.
If they don’t start eating again, you should visit your veterinarian for help and advice.
During colder temperatures, wild leopard geckos will go through a period of brumation, similar to hibernation. Even in captivity, your gecko may show signs of going into brumation. Look out for the following:
- They stop eating anything
- They do not move around as much as usual
- They spend more time, or most of it, in cooler areas of their tank
- They start to hide for days on end
Leopard geckos will generally stop eating around two weeks before going into brumation. They do this to prepare their bodies and ensure that no food remains in their digestive tracts when they start to brumate.
This is due to the fact that a leopard gecko’s metabolism slows so much that they essentially stop digesting food.
Therefore, any food that is still inside them will start to rot whilst they brumate leading to serious health consequences that can eventually kill them.
As long as a leopard gecko is healthy before going into brumation, they should be fine throughout that period, even if they are not eating.
Nevertheless, you should still keep a close eye on your pet gecko whilst they are in brumation to ensure they do not lose large amounts of weight. If they lose 10 percent or more of body fat, they could become very ill and could be a sign of parasitic activity.
If your pet gecko loses a lot of weight during this period, or at any time, visit the vet immediately.
You shouldn’t overfeed your gecko if they lose weight, though. Wait until they start their usual routine again with normal levels of activity.
Only then should you start to offer them food again. If you find that they continue to refuse food after their brumation period, then you should consult with a veterinarian.
As briefly touched upon above, parasites may cause a loss of appetite in leopard geckos. Perhaps surprisingly, some parasites that infect geckos are regarded as normal (these are usually at low levels).
However, a parasite known as “Cryptosporidia” is very infectious and can cause an array of side effects, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Significant weight loss
- Inability to thrive as usual
If the parasites overrun a gecko, a veterinarian may recommend euthanasia as the only option.
A number of diseases can impact a leopard gecko’s appetite. One of the most common is a respiratory infection.
Such an infection can be avoided, however, simply by ensuring the tank’s humidity is always at the appropriate levels of 30 to 40 percent.
If you suspect your pet gecko has a respiratory infection, consult with your veterinarian.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
Metabolic bone disease (MBD) is another possible cause of a gecko not eating. A gecko may feel too sick to eat anything. If you believe this could be the case with your gecko, visit the veterinarian immediately.
Also known as gut blockages, impaction can have a severe effect on a leopard gecko’s appetite. This serious condition can be tackled through home remedies, but these may not always work.
One home remedy for impaction involves olive oil or mineral oil. You can try giving your leo a small drop of the oil in front of its mouth. Your leo will then lick the droplet off and hopefully receive the benefits.
Don’t worry, though, as olive and mineral oil will not harm your gecko, as long as you apply it very carefully and you don’t administer it through its nostrils.
Another home remedy to try is to try and give your leo a lukewarm bath and then massage their stomach gently. This may help them pass stool.
Just make sure the water is lukewarm and not too hot so test it first so you don’t scold your little pet.
If you find that home remedies are not working, you should take your little friend to the vet. There, the veterinarian will most probably give your gecko an enema. In rarer more serious cases, it may require surgery.
The main symptoms of impaction in leopard geckos are:
- A loss of appetite
- Prolapse of the vent
- Abdomen swelling
- A reduction in activity levels
The Importance Of A Leopard Gecko’s Tail
A leopard gecko’s tail can be critical to its survival at certain moments of its life. The tail stores fat reserves that the gecko’s body can use when they are not eating during brumation or when they are ovulating.
You can check to see if a leopard gecko’s tail is healthy or not by simply looking at it. Most typically, a normal leopard gecko tail will have a peculiar shape and should be the same size or a little fatter than their actual body.
This is why some new leopard gecko owners may worry that their pet is putting on too much weight.
The tail should be slimmer than the gecko’s body at its base and begin to get wider after around half an inch. If the tail is noticeably wider than its body, it could be an indication that the gecko is overweight.
Think of the hump of a camel. This is where the camel stores extra fat and water resources (nope, not just water!)
The leopard gecko’s tail acts in much the same way. The gecko will require these energy deposits when they start to brumate or if they can’t eat.
What Happens If A Leopard Gecko Loses Its Tail?
You may have seen geckos running around without their tails or noticed yours has become tailless recently. When this happens, the gecko can lose all of its energy reserves in one fell swoop.
Sometimes, this can have a truly dreadful effect on the gecko, particularly if they do not have an adequate food and water supply.
Because the gecko will no longer be able to rely on its fat and water reserves, it will not be able to last for days upon days without food and water.
If this has happened to your little leo, then you should ensure you are giving them enough food and water, as well as supplements to keep them healthy.
Continue to do this whilst their tail grows back (yes, a gecko’s tail can grow back, albeit usually a different color or shape).
In just two months, a leopard gecko can completely regrow its tail. But, even after it has fully regrown, it will take longer for it to develop into a healthy size again and fill with fat and water reserves.
For the first four to six weeks after they have lost their tail, you should maintain a stringent feeding routine for your gecko (see above for feeding schedules based on age).
You should also ensure the gecko’s tail does not get infected during this time. If it does become infected, visit the veterinarian immediately.
You can add silkworms, waxworms, and/or other foods with high calories and fat contents to your gecko’s diet during this time.
This will help them build up the energy needed to regrow that tail, as well as the energy required to build up fat reserves once again.
And, don’t forget to provide your pet gecko with regular fresh water!
The Dangers Of Dehydration
Leopard geckos can go pretty long periods without food but the same can not be said about water.
We now know that leopard geckos have additional fat supplies and water in their tails to use when they are not eating, but there is not enough fluid for them to use for long periods.
If they do not drink enough water, geckos can become dehydrated.
Leopard geckos get some of their liquids from the food they consume. Without food, they will be missing out on valuable hydration.
Take their water source away as well, and they will not have any intake of fluids into their system. The end result? Well, a quick and nasty end to their lives.
You can look out for signs of dehydration in leopard geckos. These are:
- Weakness and/or lethargy
- Dry skin with a certain elasticity to it and a wrinkled appearance
- Impaction (as mentioned above) or irregular defecation
- Issues with shedding their skin
Dehydration can be severe but it can also be mild or moderate. Therefore, different stages of dehydration require different treatments.
If your leopard gecko is suffering from mild dehydration, soak it in a bath of lukewarm water and ensure they have regular access to clean, fresh drinking water.
If they have moderate dehydration symptoms, visit the vet and soak them in lukewarm water. You should also administer water into their mouths, but your veterinarian may advise otherwise.
For severe dehydration, take your gecko to the vet right away and follow up on the information and guidance given. This should prevent such a condition from occurring again.
How To Prevent Dehydration In Leopard Geckos
There are steps you can take to stop the chances of your gecko ever experiencing dehydration. Here are the main rules to follow:
- Provide them with clean, fresh water every day and clean their water bowl frequently.
- Inspect the tank’s humidity levels to ensure it is between 30 and 40 percent.
- Feed them live insects, such as one or two freeze-dried mealworms occasionally (but not if they are already dehydrated). Don’t only feed them dry food so mix it up with squishy worms as well as crickets to give them a balanced gecko diet.
Leopard Geckos And Brumation
As we said above, brumation is a normal part of a gecko’s life and will result in them not eating for an extended period of time.
Even when held in captivity, geckos should be able to brumate with ease. You can help them by providing the appropriate circumstances and temperatures for brumation.
For instance, you should ensure their tank’s temperature is between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and ensure you are providing them with water.
Keep a close watch on them before and during brumation, as well to ensure they do not lose too much weight. If their weight loss is excessive, it can be a sign of an illness or, as already stated, a presence of unwelcome parasites.
You know the drill by now – if your pet gecko loses too much weight, visit the vet as soon as possible. We recommend taking your gecko to the veterinarian before they start to brumate, too.
This check up can confirm whether they already have parasites or any underlying conditions that may affect their health during brumation. This way, you can be better prepared and care for them properly during this time.
Because a leopard gecko is so small and light, it can be hard to notice any weight loss at first. Also, their tails fatty appearance rarely show any signs of weight loss issues.
But, if the tail starts to look thinner, then there could be an underlying issue.
Signs To Look Out For When A Leopard Gecko Is Not Eating
There are a few warning signs that you should keep an eye out for if your gecko is refusing to eat anything or has lost weight dramatically.
Of course, if you notice any sudden changes in their appetite or weight, visit the vet as soon as you can for professional advice and treatment.
The main warning signs to look for are:
- Sunken eyes
- A poorer appetite or loss of it altogether
- Rapid weight loss
- Abdomen swelling
- Lethargy and/or sluggishness
- Prolapse of the vent (its genitalia located at the base of its tail)
It can be difficult to notice any weight changes in leopard geckos at first because they are so small. Also, their fat tails rarely indicate that anything is wrong so pet owners do not think anything is wrong.
But, if the tail starts to become thinner, this is one of the main signs that something is wrong with your gecko.
Can A Leopard Gecko Starve To Death?
Yes, a leopard gecko can starve to death but it can not starve itself to death. It is quite common for a gecko to stop eating if it already has stored fat and water in its tail as an energy reserve.
But, when this energy has been used up, they will usually start eating as usual once again.
Sometimes, however, a gecko will refuse to eat even with a “full” tail. But, as we have discussed, this can be because of an illness or an incorrect tank setup.
If a gecko is not eating, it will have a reason for it.
Times When You Can Not Feed Your Leopard Gecko
There are certain times when you can not feed a leopard gecko. One of the most common situations is when you are going away, such as on vacation.
If you’re away from your home and gecko for an extended period of time, you may be wondering if you can get someone else to care and feed it whilst you’re away.
Well, this all depends on how long you will be away for and whether you fed your little leo before you left.
Say you’re gone for just a day or two from an adult leopard gecko. In this case, you won’t need to worry about getting someone to drop in and feed your gecko.
But, if it is a baby gecko, then it will need to be fed every day. As for juveniles, they will need to be fed every other day.
If you’re gone for longer than two days and no one is available to feed your gecko, then you might be able to feed them freeze-dried mealworms. These are available in most local pet stores or online.
You should arrange with someone to come and check up on your gecko whilst you’re away if possible. It is also vital that your leo gets a regular supply of fresh, clean water.
This needs to be changed every day or every other day to ensure they stay hydrated.
What To Do If You Can’t Feed Your Leopard Gecko All Weekend?
In most cases, a healthy adult leopard gecko can go without food for a weekend. They will be able to live off their tail’s fat and water reserves during this time, if required.
However, because babies are still growing and they have not developed energy reserves in their tails, they will need feeding every day.
Just make sure your gecko has access to lots of fresh, clean water during your time away. Ensure that the water dish is filled with fresh water and is not contaminated with any substrate or feces.
It is also important to ensure that they have a suitable habitat to explore and hide in. Make sure their terrarium is clean, with a warm side and a cool side, and has plenty of hiding spots and climbing structures.
When you return from the weekend, offer your leopard gecko food as soon as possible. If they do not eat immediately, don’t worry, as it may take some time for them to feel hungry after a few days without food.
However, if you notice any changes in their behavior or appetite, it may be a sign of illness, and you should seek veterinary advice.
Your Leopard Gecko’s Live Insects Died And You Can’t Get Any: What Should You do?
If this occurs, you shouldn’t worry if your gecko is healthy and an adult. As long as it has fresh, clean drinking water at all times, it will do just fine without food for a few days thanks to their tail’s fat reserves.
If your pet gecko is under two months old, however, this can be a cause for concern. If no food is available for a day or so, you must try to find fatty foods, such as mealworms, so your leo baby is receiving enough energy to grow healthily, especially after a short period of fasting.
Remember, a baby leopard gecko should never go more than a day without food as they need as much energy as possible. Visit a local pet store and they should have food sources if you run out.
How Long Can A Leopard Gecko Survive If It Has Run Away?
One of the worst nightmares for any pet owner is losing their beloved pet. This can happen with leopard geckos, too, and because they are so small, it can be very tricky trying to find them again if they are in your home somewhere.
How long they can survive will depend on whether there are other animals in your home and act as predators towards a leopard gecko.
The good news is that if you have no other predatory pets in your house, there is a good chance you will find your pet gecko alive and well again soon.
But, if it has been a few days, its tail may be somewhat slimmer. Even after a few weeks, an adult gecko can be found alive and kicking in your home!
If your leopard gecko has done a runner inside your home, try to make each room the same temperature as the gecko’s tank is. Therefore, it will not suffer from cold temperatures and die due to exposure.
Start searching but be very careful as geckos are so small and delicate. When moving furniture around, do so very carefully as to not crush the gecko.
It is quite normal for leopard geckos to go through periods without eating anything, as long as they are healthy adults with enough energy stored in their tails.
When they stop eating, they will feed off this stored fat for days, weeks, or even months. Also, because geckos tend to brumate from November to February, they will eat very little or nothing during this period.
If your leopard gecko has a thick, fat tail and they are not eating, you shouldn’t worry as they will still be getting energy.
Just look out for more serious warning signs, such as impaction, and possible illnesses as we have pointed out above.
If you are worried about your pet gecko, take them to the vet as soon as possible and get them checked over. The more careful you are, the longer and happier your leopard gecko’s life will be.