Leopard geckos are low-maintenance lizards that make great pets for new reptile owners. But like all captive-owned reptiles, they have unique needs that must be met in order for them to thrive.
In the wild, leopard geckos are able to hunt for nutritious meals and satisfy their own need for certain minerals. In captivity, however, they must rely on their keepers to provide them with the appropriate nutrients like calcium.
While there are several ways to provide calcium to your leopard gecko, one common approach is to leave a small dish of calcium powder in their enclosure.
But, do leopard geckos really need a calcium dish?
Since insects are not a good natural source of calcium, and some geckos won’t eat insects dusted with the supplement, leaving a small dish or bottle cap with a spoonful of calcium powder in their enclosure is recommended. It will allow your leopard gecko to take in extra calcium when they feel it’s needed.
Throughout this article, we’ll discuss supplementing your leopard gecko with the proper nutrients, along with the debatable topic of leaving a calcium dish in their enclosure. Although there are many opinions on how to supplement geckos, I’ll be touching on the most commonly recommended methods.
Let’s get started with the basics.
Why Do Leopard Geckos Need Calcium And Vitamin Supplements?
Like all animals (including humans), reptiles need vitamins and minerals in their diet to survive. Calcium is vital for healthy bone and muscle growth, and vitamin D3 is essential for the body to be able to absorb and metabolize calcium.
Without these, your leopard gecko could run into various health problems and Metabolic Bone Disease could set in.
The reason why leopard geckos need calcium supplemented is that they are insectivores and insects alone are not a good natural source of calcium.
In the wild, leopard geckos are able to make up for the lack of calcium in their diet by licking mineral deposits off of rocks, catching an occasional baby rodent or smaller lizard, or drinking rainwater that has formed puddles in mineralized soil.
In captivity, however, they must rely on their keeper to provide them with a healthy diet and the supplemented calcium they need.
In order to be able to process their calcium intake, leopard geckos also need vitamin D. The reason they need vitamin D supplemented is that most leopard geckos lack the ability to synthesize their own vitamin D in captivity without UVB lighting.
Leopard geckos are crepuscular, meaning they only come out in the evening and early morning hours when there is very little sunlight.
For this reason, most leopard gecko keepers don’t place a UVB light in their gecko’s enclosure since it’s not necessary for their health (as long as they’re being supplemented with vitamin D).
There are still some who prefer to provide UVB as an additional benefit, but it’s a personal choice for each keeper to make. If your leopard gecko does have a UVB light, then you can lessen their supplementation of vitamin D.
In addition to calcium and vitamin D, leopard geckos also need other vitamins, like vitamin A, to maintain good health. This is why a specialized calcium + multi-vitamin powder is recommended for your leo (more on this below).
How Do You Give A Leopard Gecko Calcium?
There are several different ways to provide your leopard gecko with the nutrients it needs.
When gut loading, you’ll want to give the insects a high-quality mix of fresh greens and vegetables about 24 hours prior to feeding them to your gecko.
The insects will then eat the mixture and absorb the nutrients, which will be beneficial to your gecko.
The best way to make sure your gecko is getting their calcium and vitamin supplements is by dusting their feeder insects with an all-in-one calcium + multi-vitamin powder (Repashy Calcium Plus comes highly recommended).
Just before feeding, place the insects into a plastic bag, a cup, or a container, and put a tiny bit of the multi-vitamin powder in with them. Shake them around for a few seconds until they’re lightly coated in the powder.
But be careful not to coat them to the point that they look like powdered donuts. Over-supplementation can also cause issues for your lizard’s health. A little bit of the powder goes a long way.
Leaving a small dish or bottle cap with a spoonful of pure calcium powder in your leopard gecko’s enclosure will ensure they have access to any additional calcium they might need.
This can be done with calcium with vitamin D or without vitamin D, depending on your gecko’s UVB situation (see below).
Another reason it’s good to leave a calcium dish in their enclosure is that some lizards won’t eat dusted insects.
By leaving the dish in their enclosure, they can use it more like the rocks and other surfaces they would lick in their natural environment.
If you want to see a cute little leopard gecko in action licking calcium out of its calcium dish, this video will show you what it looks like:
Calcium With Or Without Vitamin D?
When leaving a calcium dish in your leo’s enclosure, it’s been widely debated among leopard gecko communities whether it should contain vitamin D or not.
Some believe it could possibly lead to your leopard gecko overdosing, but others believe that it’s ok to do since leopard geckos have a natural ability to regulate their mineral intake.
I leave a calcium dish with vitamin D out for my leopard gecko and she’s perfectly fine and healthy!
Ultimately, it comes down to if your leopard gecko has UVB lighting or not:
If your leopard gecko does not have a UVB light in its enclosure, calcium with vitamin D should be used.
If your leopard gecko does have a UVB light in its enclosure, calcium without vitamin D should be used.
How Often Should You Give Leopard Geckos Calcium?
Leaving a calcium dish in your leopard gecko’s enclosure will allow them to lick extra calcium powder as needed.
However, that should only be considered an extra source and not their main source. It’s still important to dust their insects with a calcium + multi-vitamin powder at feedings.
Baby and juvenile geckos should be fed every 1-2 days, while adults can eat 2-3 times per week.
When feeding baby or juvenile geckos, you can dust their insects at every other feeding (as long as they’re being fed a healthy variety).
For adult geckos, you can dust at every feeding since they’re only eating a couple of times a week.
How Often Should I Change My Leopard Gecko’s Calcium Dish?
There is no definitive answer to this; it’s just at the owner’s discretion.
If your leo licks all of their calcium up or knocks over their dish, then replenish it as necessary. If they walk in it and get substrate or water droplets in there, then I would also consider changing it out.
Otherwise, I would suggest adding a fresh spoonful in there once or twice a month.
Should You Worry If Your Leopard Gecko Doesn’t Have A Calcium Dish In Their Enclosure?
As long as you’re supplementing properly, then you shouldn’t need to worry. Giving your leopard gecko a variety of gut-loaded feeders that are dusted in a calcium multi-vitamin should be enough to keep them healthy.
However, if you want to experiment with putting an extra calcium source in their enclosure, it wouldn’t hurt to try using a dish. You can always keep an eye on your leopard gecko and take the dish out if you feel concerned with its usage.
Adding calcium and vitamins to your leopard gecko’s diet is vital to their health.
One popular way to do this is by leaving a small calcium dish inside of their enclosure. Since leopard geckos are good at regulating their own mineral intake, having these nutrients available to them at all times is beneficial for them.
But there are many different approaches to supplementing leos. Each situation is different depending on the gecko’s diet, whether they have UVB lighting or not, and what vitamins their feeders are being dusted with.
No matter how different keepers do it, leopard geckos need these nutrients to survive. It’s about finding the right combination of supplementation that works for you and your gecko.