One of the main concerns that reptile owners have is whether or not they’re feeding their pets the right foods. Figuring out what reptiles can or can’t eat can be really tricky because they’re so different from us.
Even though leopard geckos are easy to care for, a proper diet is essential for keeping them healthy and happy. One question that often comes up is whether or not leopard geckos should be given fruit.
So, can leopard geckos eat fruit?
Even though it might be tempting, you should not feed your leopard gecko fruit. These pet lizards are insectivores and don’t have the correct anatomy to properly digest fruits. Even when offered as a snack, fruit can give your pet gecko mouth sores and indigestion. Unless prescribed by a veterinarian, fruit should be avoided.
In this article, we’ll explain in detail why leopard geckos shouldn’t eat fruit. We’ll also talk about what else you can offer your scaly friend as a treat in place of fruit.
Can Leopard Geckos Eat Fruit?
Technically, leopard geckos can eat fruit, but that’s sort of like saying people can eat styrofoam. Sure you can chew it up and swallow it, but it’s not doing anything good for you. In reality, leopard geckos can’t eat fruits, because they’re not designed to.
In the wild, leopard geckos are found in climates where fruit is a scarce resource. Unlike tropical species of geckos, leopard geckos would never encounter fruit in the wild. Leopard geckos are native to countries like Pakistan and Iran.
The environments these lizards thrive in are hot, dry, and rocky. Most of the food choices available to leopard geckos in the wild are tough desert insects. Naturally, that’s what these geckos have evolved to eat.
Leopard geckos are true insectivores and have all the traits and characteristics of one. We’ll talk more below about how this makes it really difficult for leopard geckos to digest fruit.
Fruits That Aren’t Safe For Leopard Geckos
In general, most fruits aren’t safe for leopard geckos to eat.
Strawberries, apples, grapes, watermelon, oranges, blueberries, lemons, peaches, and avocados are some of the fruits you shouldn’t offer to your gecko.
The main issue with these fruits is that they contain high levels of cellulose. Unfortunately, cellulose is difficult for your gecko to digest.
If you’re wondering if a fruit not on this list is safe for your pet, it probably isn’t, but, there is one small exception!
The Only Exception
In some cases, fruits might be prescribed to your pet by a sick gecko. If that’s the case, your vet will usually prescribe a sort of slurry that’s made with mashed-up bananas and bugs.
This slurry will usually help your pet keep glucose levels high and stay hydrated while they’re sick.
This doesn’t mean that you should feed your leopard gecko bananas regularly, but it is something that can help make other foods more digestible in a pinch.
Why Can’t Leopard Geckos Digest Fruit?
Besides their natural history and food availability, there are other reasons why leopard geckos can’t eat fruit or veggies for that matter.
A leopard gecko’s anatomy isn’t built to consume and digest fruit. There are a few main structures that greatly hinder the leopard gecko’s ability to eat fruit. We’ll discuss these structures now.
Reason 1: Leopard Geckos Don’t Have A Cecum
The cecum is a digestive organ that helps in breaking down plants. Most mammals that eat vegetables have cecum. Some reptiles have a cecum, but leopard geckos do not.
Why is it so important that leopard geckos don’t have a cecum?
Most herbivores have a cecum. Cecums often contain helpful bacteria that aid in the breakdown of plant matter. In many herbivorous animals, the cecum can be larger than the colon.
For carnivores and insectivores, the cecum is either small or completely absent and is often replaced by the appendix.
Leopard geckos don’t have a cecum and so they lack copious amounts of helpful bacteria. They don’t have the ability to easily digest cellulose.
This is one of the reasons why offering your pet gecko fruit isn’t a good idea.
Reason 2: They Have A Shorter Digestive Tract
Another reason why geckos shouldn’t have fruit is that they have an especially short digestive tract.
A short digestive tract is great for efficiency and digesting simple animal proteins. As you’ve already noticed, plant matter is harder to digest and takes longer to break down.
The longer the intestines are, the more time an animal’s body has to break down the food passing through.
This is one of the reasons that cows, who are strict herbivores, have such long digestive tracts and four separate stomachs to digest all that grass!
Leopard gecko intestines are short and don’t have the capacity to fully digest the fruit. What will most likely happen is that your pet gecko will have bad stomach cramps and difficulty defecating.
Reason 3: Their Gastrointestinal Tract Is Alkaline, Not Acidic
Do you know the difference between alkaline and acidic? On the pH scale, a score below 7 is acidic and a score above 7 is alkaline.
An acidic digestive system is optimal for digesting tough plant matter. But, if an animal with an alkaline system produces more acid to help digest plants, it can be dangerous to their overall health.
Acidity can cause inflammation and make animals more at risk for other health issues.
Keeping your leopard gecko’s body alkaline is an important part of its overall health and well-being. If you feed them too much fruit, their stomach may start to produce too much acid.
Plus, alkaline systems are better at digesting animal and insect proteins, which is exactly what your gecko should be eating.
Reason 4: Leopard Geckos Have Small Jaws and Sharp Teeth
In our last example, we compared our leopard gecko to a cow. For the sake of extreme contrast, let’s do that again.
When you think of a cow’s teeth and jaws, they’re very different from a leopard gecko’s. A cow is such a classic vegetarian and a great example of why your gecko shouldn’t eat fruit.
Cows have large jaws that are super strong for repetitive chewing motions. They also have very flat teeth that are helpful in grinding up their tough food.
Leopard geckos, on the other hand, have pretty small jaws. Their jaws aren’t great for actually chewing anything very tough. They might not even make great carnivores with their tiny jaws!
Leopard geckos also have super small and sharp teeth. These teeth are great at slicing through small insects but don’t do a great job with mushy and stringy fruits.
What Happens If A Leopard Gecko Eats Fruit?
It’s pretty clear that leopard geckos just aren’t cut out for eating fruit. So, what can happen to your pet if you decide you still want to feed them fruit?
Things can go south inside of your gecko’s mouth if they eat too much fruit. The high sugar content in the fruit can cause a buildup of plaque.
This plaque can eventually lead to cavities or sores in a gecko’s mouth. Since their gums aren’t accustomed to the high sugar levels in fruit, their gums can become irritated and swollen.
But, the biggest problems you’ll see if you feed your gecko fruit all center around their digestive system.
If a gecko eats fruit, all sorts of things can happen to its tummy. Your gecko might get bloating, cramps, or gas. They might also experience diarrhea or constipation.
While none of these problems are life-threatening, they’re still probably not something that you want to see your pet go through.
It’s safe to say that even though it’s cute to watch them snack on fruit, your pet will suffer from the consequences of consuming that treat.
What Is An Appropriate Diet For A Leopard Gecko?
We mentioned a few times earlier that leopard geckos are insectivores. Although many reptiles are carnivores, these little lizards have an even more specific set of rules for their diets.
Leopard geckos should eat a diet made up purely of insects. Mealworms, roaches, and crickets are great reptile choices for your pet gecko.
You can find these bugs at your local pet stores. Try not to feed your gecko wild-caught insects as they might be toxic to your little lizard.
This video will give you some ideas about what bugs are appropriate to feed to your gecko.
The number of bugs you give your gecko depends on their age and size. Essentially, you’ll want to feed your gecko two bugs for every inch of body length they are.
You’ll either feed them once a day or once every other day depending on their age.
This table can help provide an easy guideline for you if you’re new to gecko care.
No matter how often you feed your gecko, the meal should always be made of bugs! No fruit is needed for the care of this reptile.
What Should Leopard Geckos Eat As A Snack Or Treat?
So, if geckos can’t have fruit, what can you give them as a treat?
Even though it sounds a little foreign to us, the best treat that you can give to your leopard gecko is a nice, juicy, bug!
You can find out what your leopard gecko’s favorite bugs are by observing them while they eat. If your leopard gecko eats bugs immediately and doesn’t leave any bugs behind, that’s a good sign they’re your pet’s favorites.
You can also try offering two bugs at once and seeing which bug your pet goes for first. You’ll notice a trend eventually and figure out what the best treat for your gecko is.
You can even try new bugs like wax worms for treats that aren’t nutritious enough to feed as a meal.
Once you figure out which bugs your gecko loves the most, you can use them to help with things like training and handling.
Using the most desired bugs as incentives is just plain smart and will help you get your gecko’s attention.
How Do Leopard Geckos Get Nutrients From Their Food?
One of the biggest questions people have when learning about a gecko’s all insect diet is how they’ll get there vitamins and minerals.
Most of the time, it’s recommended to sprinkle a supplement over the top of your leopard gecko’s bugs. You can buy a calcium and vitmin D powder formulated for reptiles to fortify your pet’s bugs.
Even without the supplement powder, insects are actually packed with vitamins and minerals, but it’s up to you to ensure that they’re quality specimens.
When you buy bugs straight from the pet store, they’ve usually been eating a pretty low-quality feed. Heck, some of the mealworms may have been eating paper for the span of their lives.
As soon as you get your gecko’s food home from the store, you’ll need to gut load it to make sure it’s nutritious.
How Do You Gut Load Insects?
To gut load insects, you’ll need to feed them 24 hours before offering them to your gecko.
You can buy commercially available insect food at your local pet stores. Put a couple of cubes of insect food in with the bugs you just bought. Give the bugs a day to chow down.
You’ll have insects that are packed full of nutrients and calorie dense for your pet reptile. You’ll want to do this with pet reptiles that eat bugs, not just leopard geckos.
Leopard geckos require a diet made up of solely insects to live their healthiest lives. If you want your pet to stay with you for as long as possible, you won’t feed them any fruit.
Even though it’s cute to think of a lizard eating a berry, the consequences just aren’t worth it.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to find your gecko’s favorite insect treat. That way, you can give them a healthy treat whenever you’re looking to spoil them, and not just fruit!