When we think of a leopard geckos diet, we think of foods like crickets, mealworms, and sometimes even super worms. But until they’re captured and taken to pets stores waiting to be taken home by a proud owner, what exactly did they feed on while they were in the wild? This is a question that really piqued my interest, so I decided to look more into it and see what I could find.
What do leopard geckos eat in the wild? In the wild, a leopard geckos diet will usually consist of large spiders, centipedes, scorpions, and sometimes even other smaller lizards.
Although leopard geckos eat various types of food in the wild, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily safe to feed them random insects and worms that might be laying, crawling, or flying around outside. They instinctively know what foods to eat and not eat when not in captivity, so it’s always best to only feed them what you know is safe and won’t harm them in order to keep them alive. Aside from that, though, let’s see what else we can find out about wild leopard geckos.
Habitat in the Wild
The reason why a leopard geckos terrarium is set up the way it is is because it’s meant to mimic the environment that they’re used to living in. With that said, it’s no wonder why they live where they live when not in captivity.
Before leopard geckos were captured, they could and most likely can still be found in the rocky and dry grassland and desert regions of south-Asian Afghanistan, north-west India, Pakistan, and even some parts of Iran. Check this source for more information.
Because they live in dry, desert-type areas, many people think that using sand for a substrate is the most ideal type of bedding to have in their tank, but little do they know that that sand can actually cause impaction in your leopard gecko and is never recommended to be used under any circumstances.
Also, just like geckos that go in hides while in their tank to escape the heat, geckos in the wild do this exact same thing for the same reason. But instead of using the hides that we’re used to seeing them go in while in a terrarium, they actually use rocks that provide shade and cover and will even burrow themselves underground in order to escape the scorching temperatures of the sun.
Whenever I hear the names Pakistan and Iran, one of the first words that pop into my head is ” hot “, so I definitely don’t blame them for getting to some cool shelter any way they can. This is why the temperature in their tanks have to be regulated. If they’re unable to escape the heat from a heat lamp or heat map like they can in the wild from the sun, then obviously there’s nothing to come from this aside from harm to its well-being.
If you’d like to learn more about what their habitat is like, then click here to read the full article on it where I go much, much more in depth.
Predators in the Wild
Just like any other living creature on this planet, leopard geckos have predators. The reason why they are so much on the defense when you first bring them home is because it’s in their DNA to naturally want to hide and protect their self whenever they feel threatened by something that they are not familiar with.
This is why all owners go through (or should go through) a bonding process in the beginning stages of having their gecko so that they can get used to their new environment and not be scared or see them as a potential predator whenever they try to interact with them. If you don’t have a leopard gecko yet but plan on getting one and don’t know about the bonding process yet, then I highly recommend checking out this article that I wrote right here.
So, because they are naturally defensive and skittish, it’s good to know why so that you can take the proper steps, with patience, for helping your leopard gecko get used to you.
When not in captivity, though, where we are the predators, there are more aggressive predators out there that they make a great effort to avoid such as owls, foxes, snakes, larger lizards, and even some of the same prey that they go after when it’s time to eat.
These threats may seem small to us humans, but just like the lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) that we used to have to evade back before the world turned into what it is today, foxes, owls, and snakes seem just as big, if not bigger, than us compared to a lion.
Hunting in the Wild
I don’t know about other animals, but when a leopard geckos gotta eat, it’s gotta eat, and when they do, it’s usually at night. The reason leopard geckos come out at night at home is because this is the time where they would usually do all of their hunting when out in the wild.
Leopard geckos have keen senses that help them track, detect, and avoid animals while they are out on their hunt and because they’ve evolved and adapted to doing it for so long, they’re pretty good at it.
You might think that leopard geckos are unable to live as long as they do while in captivity but because of their senses and stealth, they are surprisingly good at holding their own while in the wild and can even live up to 20 years because of this same stealthiness. Do you understand exactly how long 20 years is? That’s over half my lifetime. That’s a long time to be constantly avoiding predators.
Just imagine having to risk your life every time you had to go to the grocery store. That’d just be insane.
But, anyways, as some may know, the rule of thumb when it comes to feeding a leopard gecko is to not give it anything that is wider than the width between its eyes. So the fact that they are hunting and eating lizards and scorpions whenever they do their hunt at night just completely blows my mind.
When they’re under our care, we have to worry about even giving them a mealworm that’s too big in fear that they might have trouble digesting and chewing it up. But in the wild, they seem to be able to take down much larger sources of food without much of an issue. It truly is amazing what the leopard gecko is capable of.
Socializing in the Wild
Surprisingly enough, leopard geckos in the wild are not very social. In fact, they’re what you would call ” solitary creatures “. Or in other words, animals that prefer to be alone. Although this is the case, though, that doesn’t mean that they can’t get along with other geckos, they just really enjoy the loner lifestyle.
So next time you feel that your leopard gecko is getting bored, which is a topic that I covered here on whether they do or not, keep in mind that being alone is what they’re used to and as an owner should be nothing to worry about.
What they do like, though, is being social with you. Yes, it takes time for them to warm up to you as it does with most animals, but once they do, they’re very comfortable being around, interacting with, and being handled by you as well.
They can also do good with other pets such as cats and dogs, but because of a cat and dogs instinctive nature ( especially cats ) to attack smaller creatures, it’s not recommended that you bring them around your other more aggressive pets unless you know for a fact that they are tame enough to not attack your leopard gecko.
There have been too many incidents where unattended leopard geckos, or small creatures in general for that matter, have been viciously attacked by other household pets. In which some have luckily survived while others haven’t. So it’s our job as responsible owners to keep our geckos safe.
If you want to go the extra mile, you can train your animals to not attack your gecko, but realize that this can be a very hard thing to do and that it takes a lot of time and training to get your pet to that point. Like stated above, it’s in their DNA to attack small creatures, so getting them to ignore what they’re born to do can be quite the challenge.
Obtaining Calcium and D3 in the Wild
We often talk about how important it is to supplement your gecko with calcium and D3, but when it comes to leopard geckos in the wild, it can be a bit unknown to reptile owners on exactly how they get these supplements.
But basically, they get most of their calcium from hard-shelled insects and even from licking minerals in the environment for a little bit more. As you may know, calcium is detrimental to a leopard geckos survival, so whenever they find a chance to get some, you better bet that they’ll take it.
As for D3, they get that from the sun. This is why some owners have UVB lights in their tank. It plays the role of the sun and gives them what they need to properly process the calcium. Without D3, they might get too much calcium, which can be just as bad as having too little. So just like calcium, D3 is an essential supplement for leopard geckos even in the wild.
A huge part of why a lot of owners end up losing their pets is because they don’t supplement them properly with what they naturally get themselves out in the wild. It’s not that they need a lot of special care, because they’re able to live a very long time by themselves when not captive, it’s just that while they’re in the tank, they lack the resources that they need to survive and without assistance and supplementation from their owners, their overall health suffers and certain diseases and illnesses form because of it.
To get a full rundown on just how important it is for them to be getting D3 and calcium along with the consequences of not getting enough of it, check out this article here that I wrote that goes a little more in-depth on the topic.
Difference Between Captivity and Living in the Wild
When using the word captivity, it almost makes it seem like they are being forced upon their will to live in an environment in which they really don’t want to be in, but that’s not the case at all. Leopard geckos don’t mind at all, their only goal is to survive and get what they need nutritionally. As long as they can do that, they’re completely happy with their lives.
But the difference between living in captivity opposed to living in the wild is not that much different, aside from a few factors that serve more as pros rather than cons while being in a terrarium.
The first huge difference, though, is protection. They may see you as a threat at first, which is completely normal in the beginning as they get used to you, but as far as having to protect themselves from huge, aggressive animals that are out to eat them on a daily basis goes, living in captivity is surely a huge stress reliever for them.
Another difference is supplementation. Now it doesn’t matter how or where they get their calcium, as long as they get it. So this one isn’t a huge difference, but in the wild, they will get all their nutritional needs from other wild bugs that you might not be familiar with while also getting their D3 from the sun, as stated above.
Also, instead of hideouts, they use well-hidden, shaded areas to keep themselves safe and out of the blazing hot sun in some of these much hotter countries. So with all that said, the question now is which one do they like more. Wild or captivity.
And after taking everything into consideration, I’m going to have to say that they like living in captivity more. They don’t have as much freedom, which doesn’t bother them much because all they want to do is survive, but they do have a cozy environment, personal care from their owners, a less stress-free environment where they don’t have to risk their lives in order to eat, and different pieces of tank equipment to keep them satisfied and ” entertained “.
I know some people are really iffy about keeping pets inside enclosed areas out of fear that they won’t be happy. And even though this may be true for some animals, it isn’t for the leopard gecko. They don’t need all the space in the world to run around, but they do need adequate room to live comfortably.
So getting them a large tank at least 10 to 20-gallons along with the equipment and supplements they need to live will be more than good enough for keeping your leopard gecko happy and healthy.
As far as their tank equipment goes, I’ve made a list here of everything they need in order to survive and live comfortably. It includes everything I use down to the brand and will be just what you need to get yourself a decent setup going if you haven’t yet bought a leopard gecko or just simply want to upgrade from the current equipment that you have.
It’s very interesting to know exactly what leopard geckos are eating when they’re not in the comfort of our homes, but it’s also interesting to see what their other behaviors are while in the wild as well. From their diet all the way down to how they socialize, the leopard gecko is a really interesting pet and with the knowledge of how they live outside, this can help us understand why they do the things they do and need the things they need while under our care.
Don’t be worried about whether they prefer your tank or being in the wild more, just make sure they have one that’s big enough to be comfortable in and they’ll be happy. Keeping the stress down will eliminate worrying and keeping them away from hostile animals will help them to feel safe and not freaked out in their own environment as if they were in the wild still protecting their self from larger predators.
Making sure you provide them with the right amount of calcium and D3 will ensure that they live a very long life and will prevent them from falling victim to certain diseases and illnesses that come from not having the right amount of nourishment and supplementation in their diet.
Aside from how they live in the wild, there’s a lot to be learned about leopard geckos. And with limited resources out there that cover the topic of this particular species, it’s wise to take in all we can about them so that we can be the very best owners that we can possibly be with the information that we do have.