Can Crested Geckos Eat Mealworms?

By Frank Miller •  Updated: 10/04/23 • 

Crested geckos are omnivores and feed on various insects and plant matter. Although they are generally not picky eaters, vets still get a lot of inquiries about what these geckos can or cannot eat. Among these general inquiries are questions specific to mealworms. Can crested geckos eat mealworms? Can feeding mealworms to a crested gecko cause impaction?

Crested geckos can eat mealworms but not as a staple. Mealworms are the larval form of the darkling beetle and have a hard chitin/shell that hatchlings and juveniles may find difficult to digest. Adults may also suffer digestive problems, including impaction, if fed mealworms in high quantities or too frequently. Still, these worms make nutritious occasional delicacies, especially when dusted or gut-loaded.

Keep reading for more details on whether feeding mealworms to your crested gecko is worth it. We will analyze the worms’ nutritional profile and outline why they are only ideal when offered in moderation.

Let’s begin!

Breeding mealworms is easy, not to mention that the worms are widely available and cost-effective. Before you serve them to your crested gecko, here is what you need to know about their nutritional profile.

Nutritional Value of Mealworms

Mealworms offer numerous perks when fed occasionally to a crested gecko. Among the most notable is that they are a great source of protein and branched-chain amino acids, including valine, leucine, and isoleucine. These nutrients are essential for proper muscle development and help build a robust immune system.

To ensure your pet enjoys all-rounded nutrition, provide dusted or gut-load your feeder insects. Mealworms are particularly deficient in calcium, an essential mineral that helps build and maintain strong bones. These worms also don’t offer notable amounts of Vitamin A, E, D3, and B1, making supplementation crucial to ensuring your scaly friend’s health and happiness.

3 Risks Of Feeding Mealworms To A Crested Gecko

The opinions of pet parents are split right down the middle regarding the benefits of feeding mealworms to crested geckos. These varying sentiments are for good reason because mealworms can pose certain risks, especially when offered as a staple food.

There are three main risks of feeding mealworms to a crested gecko.

1. Risk of Impaction

A mealworm has a rigid exoskeleton that holds its body together. This hard shell is made of chitin, the same material that makes up fish scales. Although chitin is a valuable prebiotic fiber and is quite beneficial in gut microbiology, it is hard to digest. Your pet faces a mild to moderate risk of impaction, mainly if you feed him too many worms in one serving.

Only offer mealworms in moderate amounts to ensure your crested gecko enjoys the benefits of chitin without the risk of impaction. Chitin takes longer to go through the digestive tract, and the more mealworms you offer in one serving, the greater the risk of tummy problems.

If you have a juvenile crested gecko, it is better to offer molted mealworms. They are whiter in color and have softer exoskeletons that should be easier to digest. Alternatively, play safe and reserve mealworms as treats for adult crested geckos.

2. High-Fat Content

There are different types of mealworms, including yellow mealworms, dark mealworms, and giant mealworms. Although there are slight differences in their nutritional profiles, these worms are all rich in fat. For instance, yellow mealworm larvae have 15% fat content. This is relatively high, considering other feeder insects like hornworms have roughly 3% fat.

Offering mealworms too frequently increases the risk of your crested gecko adding unhealthy pounds. You can tell your scaly friend is obese if he has fat folds and a bloated tummy that drags on the ground when walking.

Obesity is a serious concern that puts unnecessary strain on organs and even increases the risk of cardiovascular disease in crested geckos. If unhealthy weight goes unchecked, it can lead to an early death.

3. Incorrect Calcium: Phosphorus Ratio

Crested geckos need foods with a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of 2:1. Mealworms offer a 1:7 calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, which means they are rich in phosphorus but poor in calcium.

You can correct this imbalance by dusting or gut-loading your feeder insects. Still, offering mealworms as a staple food can pose the risk of Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), among other ailments caused by dietary deficiencies.

How To Feed Mealworms To A Crested Gecko

Unlike feeder insects like roaches, mealworms only wiggle. They don’t hop or run, meaning they do a poor job of igniting a crested gecko’s natural hunting instinct. Because the wiggly movement makes them good at burrowing, we strongly recommend against putting the worms directly into the enclosure.

Mealworms are expert escape artists even though they cannot run. The best way to feed them to your crestie is to place them in an escape-proof (slippery) bowl. Alternatively, hand-feed your scaly friend using a pair of tongs or tweezers.

Here is more information to help you feed mealworms to a crested gecko.

1. Size

When selecting feeder insects for your crested gecko, size matters. The ideal-sized mealworm should not be bigger than half your pet’s head. If you’ve spent money on worms that are too big, cut them into more sizable pieces to reduce the risk of impaction.

2. Quantity per Serving

If you are considering offering mealworms to your crested gecko, the first question in your mind likely is: how many mealworms do I feed my crested gecko? Well, it depends on your pet’s age.

Avoid offering mealworms if you have a hatchling because they can cause impaction. Juveniles can digest molted mealworms yet to develop a hard exoskeleton. Start by offering one mealworm per serving and then graduate to two.

Adults can have three to four mealworms in one serving. You can gauge the ideal number to offer based on the size of the worms. Be sure to dispose of any leftovers because a determined mealworm can still crawl out of a slippery bowl and burrow in the substrate.

3. Feeding Frequency

Mealworms make a yummy delicacy, and your crestie may not get enough of them. Still, they are best served as treats once per month. Don’t let your scaly friend persuade you to offer him more than once every two weeks to avoid the risk of obesity.

4. Dead or Alive?

Besides live mealworms, there is also the option of providing dried mealworms. The freeze-dried variety is cheaper, more readily available, and easier to preserve for extended periods. So, which of the two options is better?

We recommend providing live mealworms instead of dried ones. Freeze-drying removes water from the worms, increasing your pet’s odds of getting dehydrated after a meal. Moreover, they tend to be crunchier, posing a higher risk of impaction.

On the other hand, live feeders have better nutritional value. Although they can only wiggle, they are likelier to jog your pet’s appetite than shriveled and lifeless worms.

What Do Crested Geckos Eat?

Crested Gecko Eating Banana

Crested Gecko Eating Banana

Crested geckos are omnivores that eat insects, fruits, and veggies. Hatchlings and juveniles require daily feeding, while adults should be fed 2 to 3 times weekly. Below is a chart showing some but not all staple foods, treats, fruits, and vegetables ideal for crested geckos.

Dubia RoachesMealwormsBlueberries & strawberriesCollard greens
CricketsButterwormsBananasDandelion leaves
Black Soldier Fly LarvaeWaxwormsGrapes & plumsRomaine lettuce
SuperwormsHornwormsWatermelonMustard greens


Final Thoughts

Mealworms are rich in protein, and most crested geckos find them irresistible. While they are a nutritious delicacy, they are best offered in moderation because of their high-fat content and increased likelihood of causing impaction or obesity if fed too frequently.

So, can crested geckos eat mealworms? Absolutely!

Still, we recommend against feeding mealworms to hatchlings and juveniles. To ensure safety, closely examine the worms before feeding them to your crestie. Make sure they are not too hard or too large.

Frank Miller

Frank Miller is the Founder of Lizard Advisor and owns several pet lizards, from leopard geckos, bearded dragons, crested geckos, chameleons, and others. The mission of this website is to make owning a pet lizard very easy for everyone, but mostly beginners. And each year, he continues to help more people learn more about lizard care and much more.