How Long Can Leopard Geckos Go Without Food?

An adult, healthy leopard gecko can go without food for up to two weeks before experiencing health problems.

While reptiles generally don’t need as much food due to their slower metabolisms, they still require a stable dietary program for adequate nutrition.

Today, we will discuss the leopard gecko’s diet and feeding pattern, so you know how to properly support your reptile’s growth.

Effects of Fasting on Leopard Geckos

Leopard geckos are fairly resilient animals, but they’re not impervious to health problems, some of which stem from improper diets.

One such issue relates to fasting or insufficient nutrients, causing the gecko to experience several health problems.

These include:

  • Weight loss and weakness – The gecko will use its fat reserves at first to make up for the lack of nutrients. Once those are depleted, the lizard will begin to lose weight and display weakness. It will showcase lethargy and difficulty moving, at which point you should know there’s something wrong.
  • Nutrient deficiency – Leopard geckos are prone to calcium and vitamin D deficiency, which is a staple of being a reptile. They need a nutritious and optimized diet to keep their calcium levels in check. If not, the lizard may experience severe calcium deficiency that can lead to weaker bones, a deformed exoskeleton, and even MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease.) The latter has no cure and is deadly in advanced stages.
  • Weak immune system – A gecko with a weak immune system is prone to bacteria, parasites, and infections. Several things can drop your gecko’s immune system, starvation being one of them.

While fasting isn’t necessarily bad (geckos perform fasting on their own during brumation), it is imperative for the lizard to have a stable and nutritious dietary plan in place.

Always consult with your reptile vet to figure out the best meal plan for your gecko, even when you need to leave home for several days or more.

We’ll discuss the latter point in today’s article too.

Normal Feeding Schedule for Leopard Geckos

Adult leopard geckos require 2-3 meals per week, while juveniles have one meal every 1-2 days. Hatchlings usually eat once or twice per day due to their higher metabolism and accelerated growth rate. Feeding frequency is important for leopard geckos because not all lizards eat just as much or as often.

Larger geckos may eat more frequently, for instance, while the type of food and the meal itself can also dictate the lizard’s appetite.

The gecko will eat more often if the meal isn’t as large or filling as it should be. It’s important to provide your leopard gecko with adequate sustenance, preferably under the guidance of a professional, to ensure optimal nutrient intake.

Calcium and vitamin D supplementation are almost always necessary to prevent nutritional deficiencies, which can prove fatal.

Signs of Starving Leopard Gecko

Your gecko will exhibit specific physical and behavioral changes when starving. Identifying these in time is vital for preventing more serious health issues.

These include:

  • Visible weight loss – The gecko will lose fat and muscle mass, causing it to appear skinnier, with the ribs protruding through the skin. This can also be a sign of dehydration when paired with other symptoms, resulting from the skin losing water and causing the reptile to appear emaciated. If the gecko is getting sufficient water, its ill appearance is due to starvation.
  • Lethargy and weakness – Starving geckos appear more lethargic even during their active hours and exhibit weakness when moving. These are not climbing lizards, but you should be able to tell whether they’re weak or perfectly healthy when moving. The gecko may shake, tip over, and drag each move as if they are experiencing some movement impairment. This is a sign that the situation is more advanced than you’d like it to be.
  • Lack of appetite – This is an unexpected symptom, but it makes sense. Because the gecko isn’t eating enough, the body’s metabolism will drop, attempting to keep the gecko alive as much as possible. This results in the gecko exhibiting a low appetite, which can lead its keeper to feed it even less, aggravating the situation. It’s not normal for a gecko to have a low appetite. If that’s the case, investigate the problem and get to the bottom of it. A healthy adult gecko should eat at least 2-3 times per week and have full meals.
  • Digestive problems – Starving geckos end up experiencing constipation and compaction. This is for several reasons, the primary one relating to the slower metabolism. In short, the food already present in the belly may take a lot more time to digest, which can cause it to harden and impact the gecko. Then you have starving geckos eating whatever they find in their habitat in a fit of desperation. This includes them eating things they’re not supposed to, like substrate, bark, rocks, etc. The result can be potentially fatal.

In short, there are no upsides to a starving gecko. This being said, there are some instances where your gecko actually needs some off-time from food. These include:

  • When shedding, in which case the gecko may not eat anything several days before and during the process
  • When being too fat
  • When experiencing constipation and impaction; a short period of fasting will allow the gecko’s digestive system to recover
  • During brumation, when geckos only drink water and fast for the entire period

Other than that, these lizards should have stable and nutritious diets to remain healthy.

Health Problems Related to Poor Nutrition

So, it’s not only fasting that will impact your gecko’s health. Inadequate nutrition is also an issue worth mentioning.

There are several health problems associated with poor nutrition in geckos, such as:

  • Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) – This is the first one on the list because it’s a major cause for concern. MBD is the result of improper calcium and vitamin D intake, causing the gecko to experience severe calcium deficiency. Only a professional can only diagnose MBD accurately, at which point euthanasia is usually the only viable solution. MBD is known to cause pain and suffering and currently has no treatment.
  • General nutritional deficiencies – Geckos can also experience nutritional problems other than calcium deficiency. These lizards require a variety of other vitamins and minerals, the lack of which can lead to weak immune systems, skin and bone problems, etc. You should always ask for a specialist’s guidance to optimize your gecko’s diet nutritionally.
  • Impaction – This is typically the result of the gecko ingesting things it’s not supposed to. So, it’s not necessarily a problem related to poor nutrition but rather the habitat’s layout. Avoid substrates like sand or gravel, which contain particles that can cause indigestion and compaction. As a side note, geckos can also consume substrate and other indigestible materials when starving or experiencing nutritional deficiencies. So, you have that as well.
  • Obesity – This is the direct opposite of poor nutrition. I assume you know the saying, ‘The road to Hell is (at times) paved with good intentions,’ and that’s exactly what we have here. Some gecko keepers are so infatuated with their reptiles that they feed more than they need to. The gecko won’t refuse food because it’s biologically programmed not to. This can lead to the reptile quickly becoming obese, especially since Mother Nature has designed them so that they can store excess nutrients in the form of fat. Leopard geckos will store fat in their tails, legs, and under their chin, so these are the first areas to inspect if you suspect your gecko is overweight.

In the case of an obese gecko, some fasting can actually do the lizard a lot of good. Just approach the process wisely because even fat geckos can experience nutritional deficiencies if subjected to extreme fasting.

Reasons Leopard Gecko is Not Eating

If your leopard gecko isn’t eating as much or as often as it should, consider the following potential causes:

  • Stress – Reptiles are prone to stress for various reasons, including new homes, unfamiliar habitats, improper environmental parameters, etc. Your job is to keep your reptile as safe and comfortable as possible. This begins with 3 basic things: give the reptile space when introducing it to its new home, provide it with a natural-looking habitat with plenty of hiding places, and keep the tank out of direct sunlight and in a calm and peaceful room.
  • Illness – Geckos always exhibit low appetite when sick or infected with bacteria or parasites. If your gecko isn’t eating, assess its physical status for any signs of infection or disease. A professional’s insight can help tremendously in this sense.
  • Inadequate diet – It doesn’t matter that your gecko is eating enough if it doesn’t eat the right things. Leopard geckos thrive on an insectivorous diet and demand different insects to meet their nutritional quota. If the food is not right, the gecko won’t eat it.
  • Old age – Geckos eat less as they age due to their metabolism losing momentum. They will eventually stop eating completely, despite all your efforts to correct the issue; this is simply how nature works.

Tips on Feeding Leopard Geckos When Going on Vacation

If you plan on leaving home for a while, you need to ensure your gecko is properly fed.

leopard gecko eat crickets

In this case, you have 3 options:

  1. Have someone take over the task – I’m talking about a friend or a family member that can take over the task while you’re gone. Make sure you instruct the person properly, so there isn’t any way for confusion to creep in.
  2. Hire a reptile sitter – If you have no one available for the job, hire someone beforehand to care for your gecko in your absence. The person should be trustworthy and should have some experience in reptile keeping.
  3. Ensure sufficient water – In case you’re to have a short vacation, only lasting several days, the gecko should be fine without any food. But it should have sufficient water while you’re gone. Fill up the reptile’s bowl and set up an automatic mister to stabilize the enclosure’s humidity. Geckos can fast for up to two weeks but cannot survive more than 2-3 days without water.

Under no circumstance should you leave larger amounts of food in the enclosure. The dead insects will rot in the warm and humid ecosystem, causing bacterial growth and causing the gecko to fall sick.

If the insects are alive, they may stress the already full gecko who’s no longer interested in eating them for the time being.


Leopard geckos can withstand a fasting period, when necessary, but they should have a stable and nutritious dietary schedule to stay healthy over the years.

Feed your gecko properly and consider my advice in terms of nutritional optimization and feeding behavior.

Robert from ReptileJam

Hey, I'm Robert, and I have a true passion for reptiles that began when I was just 10 years old. My parents bought me my first pet snake as a birthday present, which sparked my interest in learning more about them. read more...