Leopard Geckos are very picky eaters. They exclusively eat live insects and enjoy a little variety in their diet. Deciding which type of food to feed your leo can be tricky, so we decided to compare them to see the pros and cons of each type so you can make the best decision possible for your pet.
Before we jump right in, you’ll need to understand gut loading. Gut loading is the process of feeding the insects nutritious supplements which sit in their gut before your leopard gecko consumes them. Generally speaking, it’s recommended that you gut-load your insects about 8-12 hours before you feed them to your leopard gecko.
There are many different variables when dealing with gut loading – some insects, like crickets, gut load better than others. There are also a variety of different products you can use to give your pet the nutrient boost he’ll need.
For gut loading we generally recommend the Fluker’s High-Calcium Cricket Diet which helps supplement the natural protein and fat content of your feed stock with necessary vitamins and minerals.
Dusting is the process of dousing your live insect in a vitamin rich powder designed to supplement your geckos diet. To dust, simply place your feed stock and a small amount of powder in a resealable zip-lock bag and shake until the insect is covered in powder. Then, simply feed as normal and you’re good to go. For adult geckos, coat the insects 1 to 2 times per week. For babies, juveniles, and breeding females coat the insects daily prior to feeding.
The two main ingredients of an effective dust supplement is the calcium and vitamin D3. Both of these ingredients are in the Repti Calcium dusting powder which should help simplify the dusting process.
- Live banded crickets.
- Species: Gryllodes sigillatus
- Variety of counts, generally from 250-1000.
Crickets are an excellent source of food and nutrition in your leopard gecko’s diet. While crickets are commonly purchased from local pet stores, you can often find much better bulk prices when ordering online. Regardless of where you get them, most leopard geckos absolutely love them and will eat anywhere from 3-8 crickets per day.
It’s important to understand that there are several different species of crickets, but some were discovered to have more positive traits as a feedstock. The most impressive cricket species was called the banded cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus). The primary reason this species was chosen was because it can survive shipping conditions very, very well. In addition to surviving shipping, they also stay alive much longer once they arrive. They survive temperature fluctuation very well, chirp quieter and even smell better than the tradition cricket varieties. If you want to go with crickets, definitely go with banded crickets.
There are also some advantages inherent to all crickets, primarily when it comes to gut-loading. All you have to do is feed the crickets 12 hours before you feed your leopard gecko and you should be good to go. If you’re looking for some good gut-loading cricket feed, we recommend the Fluker’s High-Calcium Cricket Diet. This practice will help the crickets to pass on the maximum amount of nutrients to your leopard gecko.
In addition to any gut-loading you do, you’ll want to feed the crickets on a steady diet of potatoes, oats or commercial cricket food. Oats and potatoes should be readily available in most homes and are less expensive than cricket food which is why it’s the most common feed. Also remember that if your terrarium is too large the crickets might be able to evade your leo for quite some time. If you notice that he’s is having trouble catching crickets, you may have to remove the rear jumping legs of the cricket prior to putting them in the tank.
You should put a few crickets into the terrarium each night, depending on the age of your leopard gecko. Usually about 5 crickets per day is a good amount, though it tends to fluctuate. If you purchase in bulk then keeping them is pretty simple, just make sure the container they’re kept in has air holes and a small bit of food. You can also put a small piece of food in the terrarium to help draw out the crickets and make them easier to catch.
- Small dubia roaches.
- Size: 3/8″ and under.
- No flying or climbing.
- No smell.
- No noise.
Dubia roaches are quickly becoming a favorite among leopard gecko owners. They’re much easier to handle than crickets thanks to their inability to fly or to climb steep surfaces. Additionally there is no annoying smell and they don’t make any noises, unlike crickets.
There are a few caveats here – if you have to ship to locales that are lower than 40 degrees or higher than 85 you may need to have the post office hold the shipment to prevent too many of them from dying. They are very susceptible to temperature fluctuation so if you want to make sure they arrive still living I definitely recommend having the post office hold the package. Once they arrive, however, they live very long lives.
This feedstock is massively gaining in popularity primarily because they are very easy to breed. If you want to breed your own, be sure to pick up male & female pairs.
- Variable sizes, from .25″ to 1″ inch.
- Ships in sizes of 250-2100
- They stay alive for weeks while refrigerated.
Meal worms have been a common staple in many pet reptile diets for decades. Perhaps the most appealing part of meal worms were how easy they were to both find and breed making them an excellent way to add diversity to the diet of your gecko. Feeding your gecko mealworms can also be easier than crickets as worms can be placed in a food bowl and cannot escape. Just make sure the food bowl is smooth or they might climb out. Simply placing a couple meal worms in a bowl will allow your pet to eat them whenever they get hungry.
Unfortunately meal worms don’t gut load as well as crickets or roaches and contain a high amount of fat and low calcium, meaning they’re most effective when mixing meal worms with other feed stocks.
Unlike crickets, meal worms are easy to manage and cannot escape. You can easily keep them alive for weeks in the refrigerator with minimal food or interaction. They are shipped with potato flakes which they seem to love, so keeping a few in the container will help keep them alive for even longer.
- Species: (Galleria mellonella).
- Comes in 250-500 count.
- High fat content.
- Must keep refrigerated.
Leopard geckos love eating wax worms, but they’re too fatty to be the primary insect in their diet. Therefore, wax worms make perfect gecko treats and are also a good way to fatten up a female once she has laid eggs.
Wax worms are just like meal worms – they’re high in fat, must be kept refrigerated (or between 55-60 degrees) and leopard geckos seem to love the taste. Unfortunately, they don’t gut load very well and have shorter lifespans which makes them less desirable than other options.
The big draw to wax worms are how leopard geckos respond to them. If you’re having trouble feeding your pet with meal worms, then wax worms may be a good option as they always jump at the chance to munch one down.
- Size: 1/4″ to 3/8″.
- Can be kept refrigerated.
- 50 Count.
Butter worms share a lot of similarities with wax worms, with the primary exception that they’re much lower in fat content. They’re not often used as feed stock for leopard geckos primarily due to their higher cost and the fact they cannot be gut loaded.
Still, you’ll find butter worms survive much longer than wax worms but don’t really seem to stimulate the gecko in the same way as wax worms. They aren’t a particular popular choice, but I thought I’d include it in this list.
- 300 count.
- Zophobas beetles larva.
- Free shipping.
- No refrigeration required.
- AKA king worms.
Super worms are a great option for people looking for a cheap and long lasting feed stock. They’re simple to breed and keep and don’t even require refrigeration. That, coupled with their high protein and low fat content makes them an ideal candidate for daily feeding.
The worms will last quite some time in even modest conditions – but be aware that if you wait too long they can turn into beetles. It won’t matter much to your leo, though, as they’ll eat both all the same.
Unfortunately, like all other types of worms they aren’t very effective at gut loading. As a general rule, nothing can compete with the gut loading capabilities of the roach or cricket, but the natural healthiness of the super worm certainly makes up for it.
Regardless of which you choose, we don’t recommend you feed your pet with insects you find in or around your home. They could be infected with parasites or disease that may adversely effect your leopard gecko. If you want to save money on feeding, then we recommend buying and breeding Dubia Roaches.
And as far as when to feed your pet, it really depends on it’s age. Juvenile leopard geckos usually eat between 3 and 6 insects daily, while adult geckos will often go days without eating before gorging themselves on up to 10 insects in one day.
It’s important to always keep a shallow dish of water in the leopard gecko’s habitat at all times. Just make sure the water is shallow or your little leo could get trapped and drown or the live feed could get stuck and drown. So make sure to always use a shallow dish in order to give the insects and your leo a better chance of escaping the water dish. It’s also important that you clean the dish every few day to help prevent bacteria and fungus from growing in the water and clear out any debris that might get left behind.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are an important aspect of a leopard gecko’s diet. Calcium is the most important mineral to a gecko and needs to be available to your gecko at all times by placing a dish with calcium powder somewhere in your terrarium. This is all in addition to dusting your crickets/roaches prior to feeding. Vitamins are also a necessary part of a healthy gecko diet, but should not be used as frequently or on the same day as calcium. It is recommended that insects be coated with vitamins once every 7 to 10 days. To coat insects with vitamins or minerals, place them in a bag or cup with the vitamin or mineral powder and then simply shake the container around until all the insects are dusted with powder. Our standard recommendation for gecko supplements is the Repti Calcium.