8 Common Reasons Why Your Leopard Gecko is Not Eating

By Frank Miller •  Updated: 09/22/23 • 

If you’ve owned a leopard gecko, you’ll notice they sometimes lack appetite. A leopard gecko going for a day without eating is common. However, if it goes for several days without eating, then it’s the owner’s worst nightmare. If your leopard gecko is not eating, don’t be desperate. Below are eight common reasons that can make a Leo not eat.

1. Cold Environment

The most common reason why your leopard gecko is not eating could be colder temperatures. Leopard geckos, like other reptiles, are cold-blooded. This means they do not generate their own heat, like mammals, who are warm-blooded.

Instead, reptiles absorb heat by basking in the sun or lying in a warm area or surface. The heat absorbed by a reptile is then used to process the food it eats and perform other bodily functions like mammals.

Leopard Gecko Tank

Leopard Gecko Tank

Leopard geckos are nocturnal and usually sleep during the day. This means they do not bask under the sun to get their heat. However, they absorb heat from the ground, which has been heated by the sun. If your leopard gecko is not absorbing enough heat in its environment, its metabolic rate decreases, so it will stop eating.

To fix this problem, you must provide supplemental heat, like a heating pad, to help it absorb heat. The leopard gecko enclosure should also have a heat gradient with cool and warmer parts to help the gecko regulates its own temperature, also called behavioral thermoregulation.

2. Digestive Tract Obstruction

This is another frequent problem you’ll encounter as a leopard gecko owner. Digestive tract obstruction happens when the gecko eats something that it cannot digest. As the indigestible objects travel down their digestive tract, it forms a blockage, which can sometimes be fatal.

Some indigestible objects that your pet leopard gecko can consume accidentally include gravel, bark, and sand. Larger and harder meals, like super worms, can also block your leopard gecko’s digestive system.

Digestive obstruction will cause your leopard gecko to stop eating or passing feces. The gecko may also have difficulty moving or not move at all. If not taken care of, the leopard gecko may become unresponsive or close its eyes for longer.

Some home remedies to help your leopard gecko include forcing it to swim in shallow water and force-feeding mineral oils. If those remedies don’t work, a visit to your local veterinarian is the best course of action.

3. Brumation

In the wild, as temperatures begin to drop, geckos stop eating to have empty stomachs before the weather gets too cold. This prepares the gecko for hibernation or what we call brumation. Even in captivity, your leopard gecko can feel the changing seasons and enter brumation.

If you notice your leopard gecko has stopped eating in late autumn or early winter, this could be a sign of brumation. Apart from eating, another sign of brumation in leopard geckos is hiding most of the time. Stop feeding the leopard gecko and let it clean its digestive system if you notice any signs of brumation.

You can also create an artificial autumn that will mimic what happens in nature to help them acclimate slowly and naturally slow down.
Start by switching off the basking light and allow the vivarium to reach room temperature. After a few days, lower the temperature by about 10°F to about 60°F during the day and leave it at 50°F at night.

During the brumation time, which can last up to five weeks, renovate and clean the vivarium, create new habitat, or take a break. The only thing you can do during this period is check on the freshwater supply. If you notice the leopard gecko starting to look thin or walking around much, you may have to bring them out of hibernation early.

> Recommended Reading: Leopard Gecko Brumation Explained

4. It’s About to Shed

Shedding skin is natural in reptiles, and leopard geckos are no exception. Leopard geckos will molt several times in a year, with younger growing leos shedding more frequently than adults.

Just before they start shedding their skins, leopard geckos will stop being active and also stop eating. However, some leopard geckos tend to eat their skins when shedding, just like frogs and salamanders do. However, most geckos and other lizards avoid eating the skin, so you should remove it when you find it in your gecko’s vivarium.

Leopard Gecko shedding

Leopard Gecko shedding

To know your leopard gecko is about to start shedding, check its skin color. When they are about to shed, lemons become milky and opaque. When the new skin fully forms beneath, the old skin will start to detach and peel off to reveal the new skin.

5. Respiratory & Other Health Conditions

If your leopard gecko has a respiratory infection, that may cause it to stop eating. According to Dr. Juergen Schumacher, respiratory disease is one of the most common diseases for reptiles in captivity, which may cause a loss of appetite.

Other health conditions, such as sickness, injury, visual problems, etc., can also cause your Leo not to eat.

An injured leopard gecko can also stop eating due to pain. Common injuries such as abscesses, tail problems, eye injuries, toe problems, and even difficulty shedding might all cause it not to it. Check for obvious signs of injury from your leopard gecko and act swiftly to control the pain so it can get back to eating.

Mouth infections can also occur in leopard geckos and cause them to stop eating. An unsanitary habitat or injury commonly causes mouth infection in geckos. If you have two male leos housed together, fighting can also cause mouth injury. To spot a mouth infection, look out for swelling around the mouth area and begins treatment before the infection spreads.

6. Stress

Several factors can cause stress in a leopard gecko. These include improperly designed vivariums, outside disturbance from people, noise, inappropriate temperatures, poor diet, and other aggressive leos living together. Some of these factors, such as improper diet, take a long to show and thus may take a toll on your Leo.

A stressed leopard gecko might stop eating; thus, it’s more prone to attack by harmful microorganisms. This is because stress weakens an animal’s immune system over time, leaving it more vulnerable to disease and parasites.

Cohabitation stress is also common if you have several lemons living together under one vivarium, which can cause weaker lemons not to eat.

Male leopard geckos are especially very territorial and can fight others violently to protect their turf. Female geckos can also get territorial, especially when they want to have access to the best food supply. It is always advisable you keep leopard geckos or other lizards separately.

7. Breading/Ovulation Season

Once a leopard gecko reaches adulthood, its body will behave differently depending on the season. The breeding season of leopard geckos starts around January up to around July. During this season, males and females go through heat and may not eat for days, weeks, or even months.

For a beginner leopard gecko owner, you should be aware of these behavioral patterns even if you’re not planning to breed the gecko. A male leopard gecko usually becomes restless and can try to come out of the enclosure. During this time, male leos will stop eating.

For female leopard geckos, ovulation occurs around the same time and causes them to stop eating. Even without a male Leo present, a female gecko will still ovulate; there’s nothing you can do to stop that. However, ensure the enclosure is in good condition to ensure the female leos remain healthy during the long fasting breeding season.

8. You Have a Picky Eater

Some leopard geckos are picky eaters that like one meal more than another. For example, a leopard gecko may dislike mealworms but feed on crickets, while others may prefer mealworms to crickets. If your leopard gecko is a picky eater, there’s very little chance you’ll change its mind.

If you have a picky eater, offer a varied diet of live crickets, mealworms, and other meals. This ensures your leopard gecko will find something that suits them.

That said, those are some common reasons why a leopard gecko is not eaten. Does your leopard gecko have other reasons for not eating, and how did you solve the problem? Comment below to help beginners and other Leo owners.

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.