What Do Geckos Eat?

Updated Nov. 15, 2023
Gecko on leaf

A healthy diet is crucial when caring for any pet, and geckos are no different. By providing a nutritious, varied diet, pet parents can help their geckos live longer, happier lives.

What Do Geckos Eat in the Wild?

Gecko species are found on every continent except Antarctica—from India to Africa to the Amazon and New Caledonia. They thrive in various habitats and climates, including deserts, rainforests, woodlands, and near riverbanks.

Because of this diversity, wild geckos have varied diets that provide them with vitamins, minerals, nutrients. Many geckos are primarily insectivores (meaning they eat any tiny insect or arachnid that moves), including:

  • Spiders

  • Worms

  • Grasshoppers

  • Scorpions

  • Caterpillars

  • Crickets

As they age, geckos can even be carnivorous, feasting on smaller geckos, snakes, small mice, and young birds. Some geckos, like crested geckos, are more omnivorous and eat nectar and fruits.

What To Feed a Gecko

While all geckos should have access to fresh water in a shallow dish, a gecko’s age and species determine how often—and what—they should eat.

Juvenile geckos generally eat more frequently—sometimes two to three times a day, while adult geckos only need to eat every day or every other day. Pet parents should mimic the specific species’ natural diet as much as possible when feeding a pet gecko and always consult with a veterinarian for the best outcome.

Insects for Geckos

Geckos can consume a healthy variety of the following insects:

  • Dubia roaches

  • Crickets

  • Red worms

  • Silkworms

  • Mealworms

  • Superworms

  • Waxworms

  • Fruit flies

  • Earthworms

Commercial feeder insects are typically devoid of nutritional value. Therefore, these insects should be gut-loaded, which means the insects are fed specialized supplements 24–48 hours before being fed to the gecko. Supplements, such as Repashy Bug Burger, provide vitamins and minerals that help make a gecko’s diet complete and balanced.

Geckos also require additional calcium supplementation, such as Repashy Calcium Plus, to prevent common diseases like metabolic bone disease. Dust insects with a supplement immediately before feeding. Supplement powder alone should never be left in the cage, as too much calcium can also cause problems.

Continuously monitor insects during feedings; never leave them in the cage alone with the gecko. Insects can bite geckos, especially while the gecko sleeps, and cause health issues. It is best only to feed what a gecko can eat within 15 minutes, which is usually four to six food items. Insects should be approximately half the size of the gecko’s head. Any larger may cause issues during feeding.

Can Geckos Eat Fruit?

Pet parents may occasionally offer fruit to species that naturally eat fruit, such as crested, day, and tokay geckos. Some favorite foods include:

  • Papaya

  • Pears

  • Blueberries

  • Mango

  • Guava

  • Cherries

  • Pineapple

  • Plums

  • Grapes

  • Apples

  • Watermelon

  • Bananas

Moderation is key, as these are sugary favorites with relatively little nutritional value compared to protein-packed insects.

Can Geckos Eat Mice?

Some geckos may also eat “pinkie” mice, which are commercially available mouse pups, but this is rarely required for nutritional value. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the best diet and feeding schedule for your gecko’s specific needs.

Gel Foods for Geckos

There are commercially available gel foods that people sometimes use in some juvenile species, sick pets, and some species (such as crested geckos). These should be fed with the approval of a veterinarian.

Best Food for Geckos

Commercially available pelleted, gel, canned, or frozen diets seem like an easy solution for feeding a gecko, but they don’t provide the variety or the health benefits of a live insect diet.

Geckos are natural hunters who like to stalk their prey. Providing live insects also provides mental stimulation and enrichment—essential factors when keeping pet reptiles.

Dried insects are also tempting to feed, as there is no live insect upkeep. However, dried foods lack critical nutrients for geckos. These items may be fed occasionally as treats, but pet parents should not rely on them for the entirety of the gecko’s diet.

Live insects are always the best staple item in a diet for geckos.

What Can Geckos Not Eat?

Offering the wrong type of food can have serious health risks to your gecko. It is best to research the species and consult a veterinarian to determine the best products to feed.

Generally, veterinarians recommend only feeding commercially available insects to geckos. Wild insects are tempting to catch and offer to a gecko; however, the risk of insecticide exposure is considerable and potentially dangerous and may cause severe neurological or gastrointestinal issues and even death. Therefore, most veterinarians recommend against feeding wild-caught insects. Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are highly toxic and should never be fed to a pet gecko.

Truly insectivorous geckos, such as leopard geckos, should not eat fruits or vegetables, ever. They cannot digest plant material, and this can cause serious health problems.

How To Feed a Gecko

Always follow a gecko’s normal feeding patterns they would have in the wild. Some geckos are diurnal (awake during the day), while others are nocturnal (awake at night). Nocturnal geckos do best when fed at night; diurnal animals should be provided food during the day.

Keep live insects in a separate container, such as a cricket pen, with gut-loading supplements as food and a water source. Most pet parents find a water supplement in a gel format the easiest way to supply water to feeder insects.

At feeding time, transfer the appropriate size and number of insects into a separate container to dust with the calcium supplement. Most people find the use of insect tongs useful. Place the insects and the dusting powder in a plastic bag, tin can, or “cricket shaker,” and shake gently to coat the insects’ bodies.

Place the dusted insects in a shallow container or place them in the terrarium with the gecko. If not put in a dish, pet parents should ensure the gecko cannot ingest the substrate in addition to the insect. Most veterinarians recommend solid substrates over sand or soil substrates to prevent this accidental ingestion.

Feeding Geckos FAQs

What do leopard geckos eat?

Leopard geckos only eat insects like crickets, roaches, mealworms, waxworms, and superworms.

What do crested geckos eat?

Crested geckos eat a variety of food—approximately 50% insects and 50% fruit, such as pears, blueberries, and bananas.

What do baby geckos eat?

Baby geckos eat the same types of food that adults eat—only more often and with smaller-sized prey. Young geckos may eat two to three times a day and should only be fed items that are no larger than half their head.

Featured Image: THEGIFT777/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

References

Pollock DVM, DABVP, Christal. LafeberVet. Basic Information Sheet: Leopard Gecko. 2012.

Mede CVT, Erica. Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital. Crested Gecko Care (Rhacodactylus ciliatus)

Mede CVT, Erica. Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital. Leopard Geckos Care (Eublepharis macularius) (Rhacodactylus ciliatus)

Veterinary Information Network. A Quick Reference Guide to Unique Pet Species: Day Gecko (Phelsuma spp.) Pet Care. 2011.

Kramer DVM, Marc. A Quick Reference Guide to Unique Pet Species: Leopard Gecko Pet Care. 2011.

Veterinary Information Network. A Quick Reference Guide to Unique Pet Species: Rhacodactylus Gecko (Rhacodactylus spp.) Pet Care. 2011.

Buono DVM, Michele. A Quick Reference Guide to Unique Pet Species: African Fat-tailed Gecko (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus). 2011.

References


Lauren Jones, VMD

WRITTEN BY

Lauren Jones, VMD

Veterinarian

Dr. Lauren Jones graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2010, after receiving her bachelor's degree...


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