What Leopard Geckos Eat. A Complete Beginners Guide


Your leopard gecko needs a varied diet that should ideally consist of live insects to remain healthy. Crickets, dubia roaches, mealworms, and superworms are the insects most used as a staple diet for leopard geckos. In captivity, leopard geckos require supplemental calcium and multivitamins provided by dusting their insects.

Leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius) are insectivores, meaning their diet consists mainly of invertebrate insects. Occasionally malnourished adults may eat small animals – including their young. Leopard geckos also eat their shedded skins.  

This article will provide an in-depth look at the what, when, and how much of feeding captive leopard geckos. We also review some commercially available leopard gecko food – from acceptable to excellent. Finally, we will weigh in on feeding your leopard gecko vertebrates, overfeeding, and why it’s essential to supplement their diet.

Food in Natural Habitats

Leopard geckos are opportunistic feeders, not hunters, in their natural habitat and captivity. Any insects that cross their path are likely to become gecko snacks. Wild Leo effectively conserves energy and only needs between four and seven insects a week.

If the rare opportunity presents itself, a hungry leopard gecko may eat baby rodents, scorpions, newly hatched bird chicks, and even other lizards. Still, their basic diet consists of crickets, worms, and smaller grasshoppers.

Leopard geckos are mainly nocturnal, spending their days in the clefts between rocks, safe from birds and other predators.

They generally emerge an hour or two before sunset in their natural habitat, spending their evenings and nights warming themselves on the sunbaked rocks and feeding on what passes by.

They can be very stealthy, remaining still and pouncing on their prey.

Leopard geckos have teeth, mainly for holding on to their caught prey before swallowing them whole. Their teeth also come in handy when facing an intruding leopard gecko, and because their skin is soft, they can hurt each other.

A pet leopard gecko’s tiny teeth will be unable to harm human skin, though larger geckos can cause some pain (if they bite you – which is uncommon for the leopard gecko).

Food in Captivity

Picture of a black soldier fly larvae - a staple for leopard geckos
Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL)

Fast evolution (the rapid adaptation of a species to its environment) is normally expressed over thousands of years – entrenched evolution over millions of years.

Your pet leopard gecko has not become a different creature merely because it lives in captivity.

Everything that contributed to the survival of your member of the Eublepharis (well-made eyelid) macularius (spotted) genus from the Gekkonidae family of the Squamata order in the Reptilia class is the result of small adaptations made over millions of years.

During this time (millennia), their bodies and behaviors adapted to specific conditions, available resources, and procreation elements.

Their continued wellbeing in captivity depends on how accurately you can mimic those conditions, provide appropriate resources, and even allow the opportunity for that strongest of all instincts – procreation.

But this piece is on ensuring keepers know how to provide their leopard gecko with the food they need, are accustomed to, and which will contribute to their health and wellbeing. Key points to note:

  • Leopard geckos are not scavengers – they prefer live food
  • In nature, a variety of insects are available – provide a variety
  • The insects leopard geckos eat in nature are not on a fast – feed your insects before feeding them to your gecko (gut load)
  • Leopard geckos are mainly insectivores in nature but show some carnivorous behavior.
  • In nature, geckos eat their shed skin, contributing to their nutritional needs and safety.

The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe.

Seth Godin

Food Types for Your Leopard Gecko

Your leopard gecko’s diet depends wholly on you. The leopard gecko menu below is the best available on the web – all in one place.

Please note that having a per leopard gecko will require you to invest in ensuring a varied menu – you will see that no insect offers everything a leopard gecko needs for health and wellbeing.

InsectScientific NameComments
Banded Crickets Gryllodes sigillatusThe main meal but rich in phosphorus, so dust with calcium. Nocturnal, which suits your Leo
Black Soldier Fly LarvaeHermetia illucensHigher calcium than mealworm – also rich in protein. Store at 50 – 60⁰F
Buffalo WormsAlphitobius diaperinusHigh in iron. A mealworm alternative
ButterwormsChilecomadia mooreiAlso called tebo or trevo worms. High in fat and calcium. A gecko favorite
Dubia RoachesBlaptica dubiaSmell better than other roaches. They are not allowed in some states (including Florida). High protein – low fat (like crickets).
GrasshoppersPhymateus saxosusDo not feed your leopard gecko grasshoppers you caught yourself – these may contain toxins.
HornwormsManduca sextaBuy from a reputable dealer – M. sexta from the wild can accumulate pesticides. A Leo favorite.
MealwormsTenebrio molitorAlternate with crickets – high protein. Not Leo’s favorite. Good for pregnant females.
Mealworm BeetlesTenebrio molitorProducers of mealworm pupa. It can be fed to Leo if still small.
Phoenix WormsHermetia illucensSee Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) above. Phoenix worm is a tradename for BSFL, as are BioGrubs, CalciWorms, NutriGrubs, Reptiworms, Soldier Grubs, and many others.
SilkwormsBombyx moriSilkworms are high in calcium, protein, B1, B2, B3, magnesium, and sodium – a healthy meal. Low in fat and calcium-rich.
Sow Bugs (woodlice)OniscideaThey are also called roly-poly, potato bugs, isopods, or pill bugs. They are crustaceans – like shrimps, prawns, and lobsters.
SuperwormsZophobas morioThey are also referred to as king or morio worms. High in protein and fat – like mealworms. Supplement calcium. Digests well.
WaxwormsPyralidaeOne of the few insects able to digest polystyrene and polyethylene plastic. High in fat content.

The listings above and below are alphabetical, and any precedence is incidental.

Banded Crickets (Grylloidea sigillatus)

MoistureFatFiberAshProteinCa:P Ratio
73%6%2%2%18%1:9
Banded Cricket

Compared to European house cricket, banded crickets have a longer lifespan, are easier to keep, and are healthier for your pet reptiles.

Crickets are often the main meal for leopard geckos, but they are so rich in phosphorus that they need to be dusted with calcium before feedings.

Crickets are nocturnal, which suits your leopard geckos hunting patterns. Crickets cannot be the only option your gecko has – variety is the spice of life.

Because crickets are high in protein and low in fat, they make a good choice for overweight geckos.

Suggested Supplier: Banded Crickets with an 80% approval rate

Black Soldier Fly Larva (BSFL) (Hermetia illucens)

MoistureFatFiberAshProteinCa:P Ratio
64%11%6%5%17%Between 1.4 and 2.5 to 1

BSFL are higher in calcium than mealworms and are easier to contain than super worms. A great alternative to crickets, super worms, mealworms, and waxworms. Only BSFL, LMW, and grasshoppers have more calcium than phosphorus in their bodies.

Suggested Supplier: ReptiWorms with a 74% approval rate.

Buffalo Beetle Larvae (Alphitobius diaperinus)

MoistureFatFiberAshProteinCa:P Ratio
65%22%2%4.1%19%1.6:1
Repti-Worms

Also known as the lesser mealworms (LMW) or calciworms, this gecko food source has significant calcium and protein advantages over the mealworm – it is also high in iron. Only BSFL, LMW, and grasshoppers have more calcium than phosphorus in their bodies. Still, the high-fat content makes it inappropriate as a staple diet.

Suggested Supplier: Buffalo Beetle Larvae with a 100% approval rate

Butterworms (Chilecomadia moorei)

MoistureFatFiberAshProteinCa:P Ratio
60%17%1%1%16%1:18

You’d expect a high-fat content with a name like that, but butterworms have a lower fat content than buffalo beetle larvae (LMW) and waxworms.

Butter worms are imported from Chile with strict importation restrictions due to the risks as a pest. Even though butterworms are on the menu, reserve butterworms as an occasional treat.

Their high-fat content and low calcium content can cause obesity and be a challenge to your reptile’s digestive systems (caused by low fiber)

Suggested Supplier: BestBait Butterworms Live with a 71% approval rating.

Dubia Roaches* (Blaptica dubia)

MoistureFatFiberAshProteinCa:P Ratio
65%9%5%1%21%1:3
B.Dubia

Dubias are popular because they are easy to breed, smell better, and are less noisy than crickets. Compared to crickets, they are higher in protein, fat, and calcium – through some dusting will still be needed.

Dubia roaches are low in vitamins A and E, both essential for your leopard gecko’s health – also, dubia roaches don’t contain essential linoleic and linolenic acids.

* Can cause an allergic reaction when handled – wear gloves.

Suggested Supplier: Dubia Roaches with an 85% approval rating

Grasshoppers (Phymateus saxosus)

MoistureFatFiberAshProteinCa:P Ratio
72%2%5%2%20%1.7:1

Only BSFL, LMW, and grasshoppers have more calcium than phosphorus in their bodies. Grasshoppers are low in fat and high in fiber, protein, and protein – a good diet for overweight geckos.

Remember that fat is essential for several biological functions, like managing body temperature, hormonal production, and vitamin absorption.

Suggested Supplier: Fluker’s Grasshoppers with a 73% approval rating.

Hornworm (Manduca sexta)

MoistureFatFiberAshProteinCa:P Ratio
85%3%1%1%9%1:3

Though liked by your leopard gecko, Hornworms are hardly nutritious (think candyfloss). Require a humidity of between 30 and 50% and temperatures between 45 and 80⁰F.

Suggested Supplier: Josh’s Frogs Hornworms at a rating of 83% approval.

Mealworms and Beetles (Tenebrio molitor)

MoistureFatFiberAshProteinCa:P Ratio
66%10%2%2%18%1:7

The live mealworm comprises 18 – 20% protein, 13 – 18% fat, 2% fiber, and 62 – 66% moisture and is simple to breed. Store in wheat bran at temperatures between 33 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels of between 30 and 40%.

Suggested Supplier: Josh’s Frogs Mealworms at an approval rating of 83%.

Silkworms (Bombyx mori)

MoistureFatFiberAshProteinCa:P Ratio
79%2%3%1%13%1:2.4

Silkworms are low in fat and average in protein but can spin you a silk bookmarker for free. They are tropical insects and require temperatures above 65⁰F.

Suggested Supplier: Josh’s Frogs Silkworms is rated at a mere 72% by other gecko owners.

Superworms (Zophobas morio)

MoistureFatFiberAshProteinCa:P Ratio
625%16%2%19%1:18

Superworms, for taste, is not a leopard gecko’s favorite food. Require relatively higher temperatures between 65 and 75⁰F and humidity levels between 30 and 40%—dust with calcium and multivitamins before feeding morios to your pet leopard gecko.

Suggested Supplier: Josh’s Frogs Superworms – 80% of other buyers rated the product 4 or 5-star.

Waxworms (Pyralidae)

Moisture`FatFiberAshProteinCa:P Ratio
62%18%3%1%14%1:7

Waxworms should be an occasional treat for your Leo – only the buffalo beetle larvae has a higher fat content.

Protein levels are also relatively low – but your leopard gecko will love them. Keep at temperatures between 35 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and between thirty and forty percent humidity levels.

Suggested Supplier: Josh’s Frogs Waxworms rated at a high 85% satisfaction among other leopard gecko owners.

Feeding Your Leopard Gecko

Keep various feeders on hand and rotate through them; variety is the key to a healthy diet. Insects should be “gut-loaded” before feeding, meaning they should be fed a nutritious diet before feeding them to your gecko.

They can be gut-loaded with a nutritious powdered diet or fresh vegetables.

Juvenile and adult leopard geckos eat at different frequencies and amounts. Juvenile geckos who are still growing should eat 4-7 days a week, with newborns eating daily. 

For a growing gecko, feed two appropriately sized insects per inch of leopard gecko each feeding. I feed three to four times a week for adult geckos and offer three to five insects per feeding.

Adjust the quantities based on their body condition; some adults can be prone to obesity, so keep an eye on their weight. 

An appropriately sized insect is approximately the same length as the space between your leopard gecko’s eyes. Adjust your leopard gecko’s diet based on their weight – they store food well and can easily become obese.

Food Supplements for Your Leopard Gecko

In captivity, leopard geckos require supplemental calcium and multivitamins provided by dusting their insects.

We recommend dusting twice a week with calcium with D3 and once a week with a multivitamin powder. Alternatively, you can use a product like Repashy Calcium Plus, which includes calcium and multivitamins.

We also recommend keeping a small bowl of calcium without D3 in the enclosure. If you are using a UVB light (and your gecko spends time under it), your leopard gecko should be producing its D3. In this case, you may want to dust most of their insects with calcium without D3 instead.

Other Nutritional Needs

A small bowl of clean water should always be available and cleaned regularly.

FAQs On What Leopard Geckos Eat. A Complete Beginners Guide

Conclusion

Dietary requirements vary greatly among lizard species, depending on whether they are herbivores, omnivores, insectivores, or carnivores. It is important to offer a wide variety of food.

Leopard geckos are insectivores, and they will eat a wide variety of insects such as beetles, mealworms, waxworms, or grasshoppers.

Leopard geckos are opportunistic feeders and prefer not to go looking for their food.

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