Leopard geckos are one of the most popular pet reptiles around. These little lizards are fun, easy to care for, and beautiful! Even though geckos are easy to take care of, a lot of questions still come up about their diets.
Are these little animals strict carnivores or omnivores? What should you feed them for a snack and how do you make sure they’re getting the proper nutrition?
Can leopard geckos eat veggies?
Sadly, leopard geckos cannot eat veggies. Vegetables are difficult for leos to digest for a number of reasons. If you decide to feed your gecko vegetables, they might get indigestion or other bad stomach symptoms. Instead of giving your lizard vegetables, you can feed those nutrient-dense foods to the bugs they’re about to eat!
This might be a little confusing, but we’ll explain everything you need to know about leopard geckos and vegetables below!
Can Leopard Geckos Eat Vegetables?
Leopard geckos can’t eat or digest vegetables. Well, they can try, but they really shouldn’t.
A lot of this has to do with the natural history of the leopard gecko, and what food is usually available to them in the wild.
Leopard geckos are found in the wild in dry, arid, and rocky climates. They are natural desert dwellers and are used to hot days and harsh cold nights.
In the countries in Asia where leopard geckos are native, you don’t find many fresh vegetables growing out of the dirt. Vegetables just aren’t available for geckos to eat in the wild.
Instead, leopard geckos are well adapted to eating insects and bugs. Insects and bugs are what your gecko would eat in the wild and that’s the ideal diet for them in captivity.
Vegetables That Aren’t Safe For Leopard Geckos
There aren’t really any vegetables that are safe to feed your leopard gecko. Plus, they’re not likely to even try to eat the vegetables that you offer them unless they’re really hungry.
Vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, onions, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, lettuce, and celery are some examples of vegetables that you shouldn’t feed your leopard geckos.
Even as a supplement to their main course, the veggies aren’t good for their stomachs.
There is one situation where you might need to keep fresh veggies around for your gecko. Surprisingly these fresh veggies won’t be for your pet lizard but for their food instead.
The only reason you’ll need to buy fresh veggies for your pet gecko is to gut load their food.
Gut-loading your gecko’s food helps to make the bugs they eat more nutritious. Unfortunately, the bugs you might normally buy from the pet store aren’t usually fed high-quality foods. Some of them might even be feed things like wood or paper shavings!
To gut load your gecko’s food you’ll want to feed the bug you purchase for 24 hours before offering them to your pet. You can try feeding them a commercially available insect diet.
To supplement that, you can also throw in some fresh vegetables. Carrots, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens are great vegetables to add to your bug food.
For more information on gut loading, you can watch the video below.
4 Reasons Why Leopard Geckos Can’t Eat Vegetables
We know that geckos don’t eat vegetables because they’re not in their wild diet. But there are a few other reasons why it just won’t work out.
Most of these reasons have something to do with the anatomy of the leopard gecko’s digestive tracts.
We’ll go into more detail about leopard gecko anatomy and how that affects what they can eat now.
Reason 1: They Have Small Jaws And Sharp Teeth
The first thing that prevents leopard geckos from being able to eat veggies is their teeth and jaws.
Leopard geckos have incredibly small jaws for their head size. They’re not very strong and might even make it difficult for a leopard gecko to eat meat.
Raw vegetables are pretty tough and you need a strong jaw to be able to take a bite out of them.
Leos also have very small, pointy, and sharp teeth. While these teeth are a huge advantage in catching and eating bugs, they don’t do well with grinding up crunchy vegetables.
Leopard geckos have the teeth of a true bug predator. Even chewing vegetables isn’t easy for them.
Reason 2: They Have Short Intestines
Another problem with the leopard gecko’s anatomy that prevents it from eating vegetables is its intestines.
Leopard gecko intestines are relatively short. This is mainly because shorter intestines are more efficient and better at digesting animal proteins.
The intestines are key in digestion. Not only do they produce enzymes and gastric juices that help break down food, but they also aid in nutrient absorption. With a smaller intestine, the animal can be smaller and more energy efficient overall.
Animals with long intestinal tracts are much better at digesting hard-to-break-down materials, like plants, and getting all of the nutrients out of them.
Humans are an example of an animal with pretty long intestines. Because of this and many other factors, we’re able to eat plants without issues.
Leopard gecko intestines aren’t cut out for breaking down veggies.
Reason 3: They Don’t Have A Cecum
Have you heard of a cecum before?
A cecum is another digestive organ. The cecum is filled with beneficial bacteria and is specially designed to help break down plants. Most herbivorous and omnivorous animals have a cecum.
The size of the cecum usually depends on how many plants an animal eats. The cecum is an important part of plant digestion because it processes chyme.
Some carnivorous animals have a very small cecum, or their cecum may be completely replaced by the appendix. Though some reptiles possess a cecum, leopard geckos do not.
Not only is this a dead giveaway that leos shouldn’t be eating any plant matter, but it also shows how difficult it would be for them to digest veggies.
If you feed your leopard gecko veggies, they’ll lack the bacteria that the cecum provides to help them deal with them.
Reason 4: Their Digestive Tract Is Too Alkaline
The last reason why leopard geckos can’t eat veggies is due to the alkalinity of their digestive tracts.
You may have heard about alkalinity before. Alkaline water is a trendy drink that health-conscious people consume when they can. n the pH scale, anything alkaline is above 7 while anything acidic is below 7.
Having an alkaline digestive system only allows for the digestion of certain foods that break down easily. As you can probably imagine, leopard geckos have alkaline stomachs. This isn’t a bad thing, but the problems start when fruit and veggies are added into the mix.
Because these foods are harder to break down, the stomach and other organs produce more acid and bile. Eventually, the whole system might become acidic.
This is a big problem because not only will it cause your gecko short-term pain, but it could cause lasting problems like acid reflux or stomach ulcers.
There are so many anatomical reasons why leopard geckos can’t eat veggies. But, if you’ve been feeding your leo veggies already, you’re probably wondering what you should be feeding them instead.
We’ll talk about that now.
What Do Leopard Geckos Eat?
Many of the pet reptiles that you might hear about are true carnivores. Many species of snakes like ball pythons, California kingsnakes, and rosy boas only eat animal proteins.
Leopard geckos are a little different. Instead of eating animal proteins, leopard geckos are strict insectivores.
That’s right, for every meal they eat, for their entire lives, leopard geckos should be eating bugs. These bugs should never be caught in the wild.
Wild bugs can give your pet parties and might even be toxic to your little lizard. Instead, you can buy all the bugs you need from a pet supply store.
Leopard geckos typically eat bugs like mealworms, roaches, and crickets. These bugs should be no bigger in length than the width of your gecko’s head.
You’ll want to feed your gecko around 2 bugs for every inch of body length they have. That means a 4-inch-long leopard gecko would probably be eating about 8 bugs every meal.
If that’s all a bit confusing, this chart might help makes things more clear for you.
As you can see, geckos need to be fed once a day or once every other day, depending on their age and size.
How Do Leopard Geckos Still Get Enough Nutrients Without Eating Vegetables?
So, if leopard geckos aren’t able to eat veggies or even fruits, how do they get their vitamins?
One of the ways geckos get their vitamins and minerals is through the process of gut loading that we spoke about above.
Gut loading packs their meals with vitamins and minerals and makes the bugs they’re eating a fully nutritious meal. If you don’t gut load your insects, your gecko won’t be as healthy as they should be.
The other way that you can insure that your pet gecko gets enough vitamins and minerals is through supplement powders.
Supplement powders are important for animals living in captivity. It can be difficult to make sure we’re giving our exotic pets everything they need and supplements help cover the bases.
One popular powdered supplement that you can add to your gecko’s diet is Reptical. Reptical is a calcium and vitamin D3 powder.
It’s made so that you can sprinkle it right on top of your gecko’s bugs. That way you don’t need to give them any oral medications or pills. A combination of this supplement and gut loading will give you the most nutritious bugs.
What Happens If A Leopard Gecko Eats Vegetables?
If after all of this, you still want to feed your gecko vegetables, beware. There are short-term and long-term side effects of feeding your pet gecko vegetables.
Issues with the digestive tract are one of the first things you’ll notice if you offer veggies to your pet. Stomach cramping, indigestion, and bloating are all possible symptoms of vegetables for leopard geckos.
Additionally, veggies can cause diarrhea or constipation. While these issues aren’t serious or life-threatening, they’re also not something you want to put your pet through.
Another problem area might be inside your gecko’s mouth. Since raw vegetables are so crunchy, they might start to get small tears on the roof of their mouths.
These tears might fester and even if they don’t will cause your gecko pain whenever they chew for a while. Sores might develop and your gecko’s teeth could even get damaged from the tough chewing.
What Can Geckos Snack On Instead?
Luckily, there are other snacks that you can give to your gecko to show them that you care!
Most leopard geckos love to eat bugs. Even though bugs are their breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they still taste good to them.
You can figure out what kind of bugs your gecko likes to eat by observing them. Try offering two different bugs at once and see which one your pet goes after first. Do this a couple of times and eventually, you’ll know which snack is your pet’s favorite.
You can use these treats to reward your pet for good behavior and to help teach them how to be held and handled.
Plus, you can give your gecko a treat anytime you’re feeling extra loving. Special bugs like waxworms might not make the most nutritious meals but will definitely get your pet’s mouth watering!
Vegetables aren’t an appropriate snack for leopard geckos. These tiny lizards just aren’t built to digest them properly.
If your gecko does eat veggies, it will likely cause both short and long-term effects. Leopard geckos don’t need anything but bugs to live a long, healthy life.
If you feel like they’re lacking in excitement and stimulation, you can always try buying new varieties of bugs next time you’re at the pet store.