There are many different food options out there when it comes to what you can feed your leopard gecko, but sometimes for cost, maintenance, or personal reasons, mealworms are a lot of peoples first and only choice when it comes to their gecko’s diet. I personally like to give my gecko a variety of different foods to choose from, but because this is a common question, I decided to answer it.
Can I feed my leopard gecko only mealworms? Yes, but it’s not advised. Mealworms lack in nutrients what other insects, such as crickets, carry. So, it’s always a better idea to have them on multiple different sources of food for a healthier diet.
Just like the great “ sand as a substrate ” ( link to the article I wrote about it if you’d like to check it out ) debate, there have also been many others who have debated heavily over whether or not owners can or should only feed their leopard geckos mealworms. So hopefully, with this article, I can help put this question to rest for those who can’t seem to get a solid answer to it. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of an all-mealworm diet.
Mealworm Nutritional Value
Mealworms by their self are very nutritious and are a food that many, if not all, leopard geckos love. But, when they’re fed to your gecko without any other type of food, they may not be getting everything they need for a healthy, balanced diet. This is why most people like to feed them to their gecko alongside crickets and not just by their self. Check out the chart below for their nutritional value.
|Live Mealworms||Dried Mealworms|
|Protein: 20%||Protein: 53%|
|Fat: 13%||Fat: 28%|
|Fiber: 2%||Fiber: 6%|
|Moisture: 62%||Moisture: 5%|
Thanks to this source, I was able to get the exact numbers. But as you can see, they pack quite the punch when it comes to nutrients. Aside from their nutritional value, though, mealworms do have a downside to them. And it’s not necessarily due to the nutrients they carry, but more so for the fact that the exoskeleton of these little critters can be a little hard for your leopard gecko to chew and digest on a regular basis.
I’m not saying that mealworms are bad for them, but they shouldn’t, in my opinion, be fed to them exclusively. Even if they were a great food without any other feeders, I would still always recommend one other insect so that they can at least have a little bit of a variety. They don’t mind eating one type of food consistently depending on the insect, but it’s always good to switch their diet up on occasion.
Knowing How Many Mealworms to Feed
When it comes to feeding a leopard gecko, it’s always important to keep track of how many insects they’re consuming in one sitting so that you don’t over or underdo it. For example, if you have a feeder that’s high in fat like waxworms, you’ll want to watch how much you’re giving them so that they don’t enter into obesity and pack on a bunch of weight.
Most geckos will stop eating when they’re full, while others will just keep going, so it’s best to at least have a guideline so that you can get a better idea of how much they should eat and how much you should be feeding them. Take a look at this chart for that information.
|Baby Geckos||5-7 Small Mealworms Daily|
|Juvenile Geckos||5-7 Small Mealworms Every Other Day|
|Adult Geckos||6-7 Large Mealworms Every 3-4 Days|
Keep in mind that these amounts and times should not be set in stone as different geckos have different eating habits. But, when experimenting with how much your gecko eats, I would start here first and then play around with these numbers a bit to see what works best for you.
Some owners have trouble getting their geckos to eat enough while others can’t get them to stop eating, so it all just depends. Also, the number of mealworms you feed your gecko will not be the same for, say, waxworms or Dubia Roaches, for example. So keep that in mind when feeding them anything.
Start with the smallest size of food for each feeder insect and work your way up to larger ones as they get older to avoid digestion issues, trouble chewing, and overfeeding.
Dry Food vs Alive Food
The main and only reason live food is recommended for leopard geckos is simply for the fact that they love the thrill of catching their prey or watching them wiggle and crawl. When feeder insects move, it makes the bugs that much more attractive to them and will ensure that they will eat whenever fed almost 99.9% of the time. When it comes to dry food, though, they don’t even want to be near it.
Something about lifeless, non-moving bugs and worms turn leopard geckos off and might even cause them to stop eating altogether until they’re fed something that’s live again. It’s not because food that’s dead is any less healthy for them compared to the food that’s alive, because that’s not the case at all, it’s just that they just simply don’t find this type of food appealing.
There have been specialized food dishes made that vibrate and shake the food within their bowl to kind of trick them into thinking the food is alive, but more times than not, the leopard gecko can’t be fooled by this.
There have been people who have had some success using bowls like these, but to me, it’s just not worth the investment. Besides, I love watching my gecko hunt for his food whenever I put it in his tank. Hunting for their prey is what they do in the wild so it only makes sense that this is what they enjoy doing in captivity as well.
If you’d like to check out a good source for live foods, click here to go to the page where I recommend all my favorite feeder insects. Some of which you may have never heard of.
Other Feeders to Consider
With the many, many different options out there when it comes to feeder insects, I’m not sure why so many people choose the ” mealworm and cricket ” diet. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with this diet. I actually recommend it. But for those who like to give their leopard gecko a change in diet every once in a while, I always suggest trying different feeders from time to time.
With that said, take a look at this article that I wrote here on the MANY different options that are available to you when it comes to feeders. Because crickets and mealworms are so commonly recommended, I didn’t add them to the list within that article, but you can find 11 other foods that you might want to try out with your gecko and see what works for you.
Don’t like crickets because of their smell or constant chirping? Don’t worry, there are foods on that list to replace crickets forever. Although they are very nutritional alongside another feeder such as mealworms, they are quite the nuisance. So don’t be afraid to try something different. You never know what your gecko might like.
Feeder for Lazy Hunters
Let’s face it, there are just some leopard geckos out there that are a lot lazier than others when it comes to catching their food. Especially crickets. But because crickets are go-to feeders for a lot of different people, it can be hard to exclude them from their diet.
Luckily, though, there is an insect in particular that some owners prefer over crickets and these insects are called Dubia Roaches. You may have heard of them before, but because crickets and mealworms are the two main recommendations when it comes to leopard gecko food, it might not have been something that you thought of considering.
The nutritional value of these amazing little critters can differ depending on the size, but to give you an idea of what their nutritional value is compared to crickets, check out the chart below from the information found on this source.
|Protein: 23.4%||Protein: 15.4%|
|Fat: 7.2%||Fat: 3.3%|
|Fiber: 2.9%||Fiber: 2.2%|
|Moisture: 65.6%||Moisture: 77.1%|
As you can see, they have a little more protein and moisture than crickets, but for everything else, it’s pretty balanced. Also, for whatever reason, some leopard geckos just don’t find crickets to be that attractive. So in that case, Dubia Roaches are definitely the best alternative.
Leopard geckos love them but owners love them ever more simply for the fact that that they aren’t as annoying and smelly as crickets as well. So, if these are two problems that you’d like to avoid or get rid of, then I highly recommend checking out some of these Dubia Roaches on Amazon.
I personally get the larger ones because my leopard gecko is fully grown, but to make it more simple, I decided just to link to the page that gives you more options to choose from. If you do decide to buy any, remember to take your gecko’s size into consideration before doing so. This will ensure that you’re not feeding them roaches that are too big or too small for them to handle.
Where to Buy Your Geckos Food
I hate to say it, but there are more untrustworthy sites out here than I would like to admit. I’m talking about sites that don’t care for their feeder insects that well, deliver horrible customer service, and don’t screen their insects for any deadly parasites.
Because of that, we should only be buying our geckos food from places that we know are safe, like Amazon. They may not specialize in reptile food and their needs, but they’re well-trusted and carry good quality feeder insects that many people have bought.
With that said, that’s always my first choice and recommendation for reptile food and other various products. I’ve had nothing but good experiences buying food from there and will continue to until I can’t anymore.
If Amazon isn’t your thing, though, and you’d like to buy from somewhere else, then there are plenty of other trustworthy companies out there that are great when it comes to the quality of their food.
I can’t give a specific recommendation because I’ve never bought outside of Amazon, but in forums like Reddit, for example, there are plenty of people who offer great sources for food and whatever else you need for your gecko.
Also, when it comes to online shopping, there’s nothing but advantages. Some people don’t have local access to some of the foods that I recommend, so being able to get online and buy whatever your gecko needs with a few taps is amazing.
With that said, I suggest buying online from a reputable site instead of in-person. There are just so many more options available and a lot of the times, online stores are a lot more trustworthy than some local stores as well. Trust me, I know this from experience.
How Much Food to Buy
Depending on how much food you buy will depend on a few things. Your budget, what type of feeder insect your getting, how many geckos you have, and how much your leopard gecko(s) eat(s). Some insects last for a long time while others are hard to keep alive for even a week, so it’s best to know what type of bug you’re dealing with and what they need to eat to survive when determining how much or what to buy.
For example, some feeder insects require special leaves from a certain kind of tree in order to survive, and without them, they will die fairly quickly. It would be a shame to buy insects like these in bulk just to find out that you can’t even keep them alive due to the fact that you don’t have the requirements that they need in order to keep on living.
I can’t stress this enough, but really research what each insect needs and how to take care of them. I wish it was as easy as just buying them and then storing them in a room hoping that they’ll stay alive. But like your leopard gecko, they also need certain things to survive. It’s almost like you’re taking care of two pets.
As far as the feeder insects that need special leaves to survive goes, though, that’s just with one insect that I’ve seen, so don’t think that it will be that hard to take care of all your feeders. But keep in mind that each one has their own needs and will be harder to take care of depending on what type of bug they are.
It may sound intimidating if you’ve never cared for bugs, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not that hard. As long as you do your research, you’ll be good to go. On top of that, there are tons of online resources that provide you with more than enough information that you need. Sometimes whenever I have a question that I’m not sure what the answer is, I’ll ask in a forum.
You’ll sometimes get mixed answers depending on each person’s experience, but with enough experimentation, you start to know what works best for you. Certain things like making sure the temperature in your tank is properly regulated and providing your gecko with the proper supplementation are things that you will have to get right from the very beginning.
But with other things, such as exactly how much food to feed your gecko and how to care for your feeder insects will take a little trial and error.
Feeding your leopard gecko only mealworms isn’t exactly detrimental to its health, per se, but I wouldn’t say it’s the most beneficial thing to do either. In my and many other peoples opinion, they need variety. And I know a lot of people don’t want to buy crickets because they stink and make too much noise, but there are alternatives out there.
But to just have them on mealworms only isn’t the best idea. If your main concern is simply for the fact that you don’t want to have crickets in your house, then go with Dubia Roaches. Some people praise these insects and will never touch another cricket a day in their life because of them.
I love feeding my gecko crickets and Dubia Roaches, but I can totally understand where people would be on the fence about having crickets in their environment. They can work up quite the smell and make it hard for you to sleep at night.
Remember that whatever you do, though, to make sure that you’re getting all of your food from places that are trusted. People have had bad experiences in the past with feeding their gecko food from a bad vendor and then they end up getting parasites because of it. So, to avoid this altogether, please make sure you’re taking that extra bit of time to do your homework so that your gecko doesn’t meet the same unfortunate fate.