If your leopard gecko seems to have lost interest in eating, especially if they were previously active and healthy, it is normal for you to be worried about them.
While there are many possible reasons why your leopard gecko may not be eating, it’s important to identify the underlying cause so you can address the issue and help them get back on track.
In this article, we’ll explore 21 reasons why your leopard gecko may not be eating and offer some tips on how to address each one of them, so keep reading below to learn more!
21 Reasons Why Your Leopard Gecko Won’t Eat
1. Inadequate Temperature Gradient
One possible reason is that they’re not getting the right temperature gradient in their enclosure.
Leopard geckos are ectothermic, which means they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature, so if the temperature in their enclosure is too low or too high, it can affect their appetite and metabolism.
To create a suitable temperature gradient, you’ll need to provide a heat source, such as a heat lamp or heat mat, on one end of the enclosure.
This will create a warm area for your gecko to bask in and help them digest its food properly, while the other end of the enclosure should be cooler to allow your gecko to regulate their body temperature.
If the temperature in their enclosure is too cold, your gecko may become lethargic and uninterested in food.
On the other hand, if the temperature is too hot, they may become stressed and lose their appetite. So, make sure you’re providing the right temperature gradient to keep your gecko happy and healthy!
2. Improper Lighting
Another reason why your leopard gecko may not be eating is due to improper lighting (see also “Most Common Reasons Why Your Leopard Gecko Is Shedding“).
Leopard geckos require access to natural UVB light to produce Vitamin D3, which is essential for calcium metabolism, and without sufficient amounts of it, they can become lethargic and lose their appetite.
To ensure your leopard gecko is getting the right amount of UVB light, you’ll need to provide a suitable light source.
You can either use a UVB bulb or a combination bulb that provides heat and UVB light. Just remember that these bulbs should be replaced every 6-12 months as they lose their effectiveness over time.
Another thing you need to keep in mind is that not all UVB bulbs are created equal, so make sure you’re using a bulb that’s appropriate for your gecko’s enclosure size and that’s been tested to provide the correct UVB output.
3. Wrong Enclosure Size
Size enclosure can also be an issue, particularly when it’s the wrong one!
Leopard geckos need enough space to move around and explore, and if their enclosure is too small, they might feel cramped and stressed.
On the other hand, if the enclosure is too large, your gecko might have trouble finding food or feeling secure.
To make sure your gecko is in the right size enclosure, consider their size and age. For example, a baby leopard gecko will need a smaller enclosure than an adult gecko.
If that’s not very helpful then keep in mind that a good rule of thumb is to provide at least 10 gallons of space per gecko, plus an additional 2-5 gallons for each additional gecko.
In addition to that, make sure the enclosure is set up with plenty of hides, climbing spots, and other enrichment items.
This will keep your gecko active and healthy, and they’ll be more likely to eat when they’re feeling comfortable and stimulated.
4. Incorrect Substrate
Have you checked your gecko’s substrate lately?
If you are new to this, substrate refers to the material on the bottom of the enclosure, and if it’s not suitable, it can cause problems for your gecko.
Some types of substrate, such as sand, can be harmful if ingested and can cause impaction, a potentially life-threatening condition.
Other substrates, such as cedar or pine, can release harmful chemicals that can affect your gecko’s respiratory system.
So, what can you do? To make sure you offer the right substrate to your gecko, it’s best to go for reptile-specific substrates, such as coconut fiber, reptile carpet, or paper towels.
Indeed, these substrates are safe for your gecko to walk on and won’t cause any harm if ingested.
In addition to being safe, the substrate should also be easy to clean and maintain, so avoid substrates that hold moisture, as this can create a breeding ground for bacteria and other harmful pathogens.
5. Poor Hygiene
Poor hygiene is yet another reason why your leopard gecko might not be eating.
To be more precise, dirty enclosures can lead to bacterial growth and other harmful pathogens, which can cause your gecko to become sick and lose their appetite.
Therefore, to keep your gecko’s enclosure clean, make sure to spot clean regularly, removing any feces or uneaten food.
Another thing you should do is deep clean the entire enclosure once a month, replacing all substrate and disinfecting any surfaces with a reptile-safe cleaner.
Last but certainly not least, you must maintain proper hygiene when handling your gecko; this means you need to always wash your hands before and after handling them and avoid touching their face or mouth as this can transfer harmful bacteria.
We’re not the only creatures that can be dehydrated: so can your gecko, just like all the other animals!
Dehydration is a severe and typical cause that might make your gecko refrain from eating, so make sure to provide a shallow water dish in your gecko’s enclosure and change the water daily.
This will ensure that your gecko has access to fresh and clean water, which is essential for its overall health.
In addition to providing water, make sure that the humidity levels in the enclosure are appropriate for your gecko’s needs.
Leopard geckos come from dry regions, so it’s important to maintain a humidity level of around 20-40%. And if you suspect that your gecko might be dehydrated, you can try offering water through a syringe or dropper.
However, always make sure to use water that’s been treated with a reptile-safe water conditioner, and never force your gecko to drink!
Just like any living creature, geckos can become sick and experience a range of symptoms, including loss of appetite.
If you suspect that your gecko might be sick, it’s important to take them to a reptile veterinarian as soon as possible.
The vet will be able to perform a physical examination and run diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the illness and recommend the appropriate treatment.
Some common illnesses in leopard geckos include respiratory infections, parasitic infections, and metabolic bone disease, so it’s important to stay vigilant and monitor your gecko’s behavior for any signs of illness, such as lethargy, lack of appetite, or changes in behavior.
Of course, in addition to seeking veterinary care, make sure to provide a comfortable and stress-free environment for your gecko to aid in their recovery, which would include taking care of things like providing them with appropriate heat and lighting, maintaining proper hygiene, and avoiding any unnecessary handling.
Another reason why your leopard gecko might not be eating is due to parasites.
Parasites, such as intestinal worms or mites (see also “Waxworm Care Sheet“), can cause your gecko to feel uncomfortable and lose their appetite.
If you suspect that your gecko might have parasites, it’s important to take them to a reptile veterinarian who will then be able to perform tests and prescribe appropriate medication to treat the parasites.
As we have already mentioned, it is also essential to maintain good hygiene in your gecko’s enclosure to prevent parasites from infesting the environment.
So, regularly clean and disinfect the enclosure and all accessories and avoid bringing in any new animals or items that might carry parasites.
The next reason why your leopard gecko might not be eating is stress.
These creatures are sensitive, and they can become stressed easily if their environment is not suitable or if they’re feeling threatened.
If your gecko is in a high-traffic area, exposed to loud noises or vibrations, or has other pets in the house, they might be feeling stressed and unwilling to eat.
Additionally, if they’re not getting enough hiding spots in their enclosure, they may feel exposed and vulnerable.
To reduce stress for your leopard gecko, make sure its enclosure is in a quiet and low-traffic area of your home.
You can also provide plenty of hiding spots, such as caves or branches, to give them a sense of security and also avoid handling your gecko too much, especially during feeding time, as this can stress them out further.
10. Change In Diet
A sudden change in diet can also ruin the appetite of leopard geckos who are known to be creatures of habit, as well as very picky eaters.
So, if you have recently changed your gecko’s diet or introduced new foods, you might notice that they are suddenly hesitant to eat.
Hence, while you can and should introduce new foods to your gecko’s diet, you ought to do it slowly and gradually. This will give them time to adjust and get used to the new tastes and textures.
However, if your gecko is refusing to eat, you can try offering different types of food to see if they prefer one over the other. You can also try offering smaller, more frequent meals to encourage them to eat.
Again, remember to never force-feed your gecko, as this can cause more harm than good. Instead, be patient and monitor their behavior for any signs of appetite or interest in food.
11. Wrong Food Size
If a change in diet is not the reason why your gecko stopped eating, then it might be that you are offering them food that is too large for them to eat.
Providing your gecko with appropriately sized food items is crucial, as anything too large can be difficult for them to digest and lead to a loss of appetite.
When selecting food items for your gecko, make sure to choose insects that are no larger than the space between their eyes. This will ensure that the food is small enough for them to eat comfortably.
So, if you have been offering your gecko food that is too large, you can try cutting it into smaller pieces to make it more manageable.
Or alternatively, you can switch to smaller prey items that are more appropriate for their size.
12. Food Type
While appropriate-sized insects are perfect for geckos, another possible reason why yours might not be eating is if they are not interested in the type of food that you are offering them.
As picky eaters, geckos have their own food preferences, and they may not always be willing to eat what you provide.
While these creatures are primarily insectivores and require a diet that consists mainly of insects, not all insects are created equal when it comes to your gecko’s diet.
Some insects are more nutrient-dense than others and can provide your gecko with the essential vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy.
Crickets, mealworms, and dubia roaches are popular food choices for leopard geckos, but you can also try offering other insects such as wax worms or phoenix worms to see if your gecko prefers them.
If you are still having trouble getting your gecko to eat, you can try offering a variety of insects in small amounts to see which ones they prefer.
You can also try offering live prey, as this may be more appealing to your gecko than pre-killed insects.
13. Feeding Schedule
On the subject of food, have you checked your gecko’s feeding schedule?
Leopard geckos have a unique metabolism that is different from other reptiles, and they require a specific feeding schedule to maintain their health.
The most important thing to remember is that they are typically fed every other day, and they prefer to eat in the evening or at night.
This is because leopard geckos are crepuscular, meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk. So if you are feeding your gecko during the day, they may simply not be interested in eating (see also “Giant Day Gecko Care Sheet“)!
Another thing we should note is that leopard geckos are nocturnal creatures, which means they are most active and hungry during the night.
Therefore, it’s best to feed them in the evening or at night when they are most likely to be hungry and active.
Shedding is a natural process that leopard geckos go through to replace their old skin with a new one. During this time, geckos can become more lethargic and lose their appetite.
This is because shedding can be an uncomfortable and stressful experience for them, so if you notice your gecko shedding, do your best to keep their enclosure clean and provide them with a moist hide box.
This will help them shed their skin more easily and reduce their stress levels, while you can also make a moist hide box by placing a container with damp sphagnum moss or paper towels in their enclosure.
Moreover, avoid handling your gecko during shedding, as this can increase their stress levels and make the shedding process more difficult.
Another thing you should do is allow them to shed on their own time and be patient with them. Once they have shed their skin and are feeling more comfortable, their appetite should return to normal.
And if you are worried, don’t be! Shedding is a normal process for leopard geckos and should not be a cause for concern unless it is happening too frequently or your gecko is having difficulty shedding.
So, in case you notice any abnormalities during shedding, or your gecko still refuses to eat after shedding, consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.
Overfeeding or underfeeding your leopard gecko can also cause them to lose its appetite. While it may be tempting to feed your gecko more than necessary, over or underfeeding can lead to obesity or weight loss, as well as other health issues.
If you suspect that your gecko is not getting enough to eat, increase the amount of food you offer at each feeding and consider feeding more frequently.
However, do not overcompensate for underfeeding by offering too much food at once; to put it simply, it’s important to strike a balance and monitor your gecko’s weight and overall health.
16. Feeding In The Wrong Location
Sometimes leopard geckos can be picky eaters and may not feel comfortable eating in their enclosure, and if your leopard gecko is not eating, another reason could be that you are feeding them in the wrong location.
Leopard geckos need a comfortable and safe environment to eat, so make sure the feeding location is quiet and free from distractions.
If there are other pets or children around, it might be best to feed your gecko in a separate room. Also, make sure the feeding dish is in a location that is easy for your gecko to access.
One thing you can try is placing the feeding dish in the same location every time you feed your gecko so that they become accustomed to the area.
It may also help to feed your gecko during its active hours, which are typically in the evening and at night.
Finally, keep in mind that leopard geckos can be sensitive to changes in their environment, so if you recently moved their feeding dish or changed the location, this could also be a reason why they are not eating.
Impaction occurs when your leopard gecko’s digestive system gets blocked, usually by ingesting a substrate or a large piece of food that they cannot digest properly, and it can cause discomfort, bloating, and even death if left untreated.
So, to prevent impaction, always make sure to provide a substrate that is safe for your leopard gecko to ingest and keep monitoring them at all times.
Moreover, avoid using loose substrates like sand, gravel, or small particles that can be easily ingested. Instead, opt for substrates such as paper towels, reptile carpets, or tile.
Injuries could be a result of a fall, a fight with another gecko, or even getting stuck in something and they can lead to pain and discomfort, making it difficult for your gecko to eat.
That is why you should always be observant of your gecko’s behavior, as they may exhibit signs of injury such as limping or favoring one side of their body.
Furthermore, check for any visible wounds or swelling. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to take your gecko to a reptile veterinarian for treatment.
Age can also play a significant role in the health of your pet reptile. Different species have different lifespans, and as they age, their health needs change.
Some reptiles may require more specialized care as they get older. For example, elderly reptiles may require a diet with more calcium to prevent bone loss or may be more prone to respiratory infections and require more frequent vet visits.
In addition, the age at which you acquire your reptile can also affect its health. Young reptiles may have different nutritional needs or require more frequent feedings than adult reptiles.
Conversely, older reptiles may have health issues that are not immediately apparent when they acquire them, such as organ damage or joint problems.
20. Breeding Season
Another reason your lizard may be lethargic or inactive is due to the breeding season, which is the time when male and female lizards become more active and may exhibit different behaviors, such as increased appetite, territoriality, or courtship behavior.
During this time, the male lizard may become more aggressive towards other males, and the female lizard may become more selective about mating partners.
These behaviors can be physically and emotionally taxing, leading to fatigue, and decreased activity levels, in addition to hormonal fluctuations that affect the lizard’s metabolism and energy levels.
So, if you suspect that your lizard’s lethargy or inactivity is due to the breeding season, it is important to monitor them closely and provide them with a healthy diet, proper lighting, and a comfortable environment.
It is also important to avoid disturbing them during this time, as it can cause stress and further decrease their activity levels.
Sometimes, a gecko might stop eating because of their personality.
Just like us humans, bearded dragons can have unique personalities, and some of them may not enjoy being handled or eating in front of people.
So, if you have recently adopted a gecko or changed its environment, it may need some time to adjust and feel comfortable eating in its new surroundings.
To help your gecko feel more at ease, make sure its enclosure is set up correctly and is in a quiet area.
Try to handle it gently and give it time to get used to your presence and/or try offering different types of food to see if it has a preference.
The Bottom Line
By identifying the root cause of the problem, you can take the necessary steps to address it and ensure that your pet is healthy and happy.
And if you’re ever unsure or concerned about your leopard gecko’s eating habits, don’t hesitate to reach out to a veterinarian or experienced reptile keeper for advice.