What to do if your gecko won't eat......

Designer Geckos

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Boulder, CO
We get this question often, especially around this time of year when leos are in more of a dormant phase. The experienced leo folks know all this, but here's some info on our method for the newbies out there struggling with a leo that is off food and losing weight.

First off, the usual comments about temperature, good husbandry, etc....I won't address again now, but it is very important of course.

If your gecko is healthy and was eating well but all of a sudden stopped eating....
We are not advocates of force feeding. While it can have its place and can be effective, many cannot master it easily, and it can be very traumatic on the gecko as it struggles in your hand while you try to cram something down its throat. Force feeding can tip the scales dramatically on an already stressed gecko, and you can do far more harm than good if you are not an experienced keeper.

The key is to find out what the gecko might be enticed to eat willingly. All geckos have their preferences, but when off food, they may not even want their favs. Try mealies, medium superworms, nickel-sized dubias (tong-fed)....if those fail, then here's a tried and true magic bullet approach:
Take 4 crickets of appropriate size for your leo, and remove the rear legs and one foreleg with a forceps so as not to injure/kill the crickets. The crickets survive just fine like this, kind of like crabs do. Take the delegged crickets and put them in a small glass petri dish or some sort of clear glass shallow dish so the gecko can see the crickets easily. (We use 60x15mm pyrex petri dishes that are available online.) Place the dish near the warm hide opening and leave it overnight...there's a good chance that after a night or two the leo will eat them. You can also try to tong feed delegged crickets at the opening of the hide, and sometimes the leo will grab them that way.

If crickets fail, try dropping a butterworm (warmed to room temp) at the hide opening. If that fails, the final magic bullet is fresh waxworms dropped at the hide opening. Few leos can resist them. Once you get them eating "treats" for a few days, start to wean them off and get them back on to the staple you had them on previously. You don't want to end up feeding waxies, butters, or crix exclusively.....geckos can get spoiled, especially on waxies, and then you have the problem of getting them off the treats.

What we are trying to do is to stimulate the feeding response and "jumpstart the metabolic process" as Ron Tremper says. When a leo goes a long time without food the stomach shrinks, stomach acid and enzyme production cease, and the gecko can go into a downward spiral of weight loss very quickly.

We want to nip this in the bud ASAP or you can lose a gecko pretty fast as they start to go into shutdown mode and also lose the will to live. Now, in the wild geckos can go for long periods of time without food and water in the dry season. Even in captivity, leos can go for fairly long periods without food. But when they start to drop weight fast and their tail becomes thin, you must act fast or you risk losing your gecko.

Feel free to contact us if you have further questions. Best of luck.
 

Dog Shrink

Lost in the Lizard World
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Very helpful Ray esp. as of late with all the new posts about "my leo stopped eating". Thank you but one question is should you try to entice a leo to eat more than they want during the winter slow down or is eating say 1 super every week or 2 an acceptable amount during the winter months?
 

bradnowell

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This was extremely informative and im sure would eliminate plenty of threads from being made if it were a sticky.
 

Designer Geckos

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Boulder, CO
Very helpful Ray esp. as of late with all the new posts about "my leo stopped eating". Thank you but one question is should you try to entice a leo to eat more than they want during the winter slow down or is eating say 1 super every week or 2 an acceptable amount during the winter months?
Hi Dog Shrink et. al......We do lots of research and networking on many topics and this is a big one for many. Glad to help.

As for how much to feed....many leos slow way down in feeding this time of year. You newbies need not be alarmed, as many of us struggle with this now and then, and in the winter especially. It is fine for your leos to eat less if they don't want to eat, as long as the weight loss isn't an issue. Come Feb, they all start to eat like pigs again as they sense Spring and breeding time approaching. But if weight loss sets in and the tail starts to get thin, you need to take action or the spiral begins and can be dramatic, ending in the loss of the gecko. Get a good digital scale and check weights routinely.

If the weight loss is concerning, follow the feeding techniques to see if you can reverse it before it's too late. There are a few here who are good at assist feeding (HJ comes to mind if you haven't seen his video), but we have found that getting them to eat willingly is the best approach for us.

Best wishes.
 
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Dog Shrink

Lost in the Lizard World
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NW PA.
Thank you again for the clarification Ray. It's nice to see a breeder/enthusiast that does more than just take interest in the breeding aspect of raising herps but moreso the overall care and well being enough to expand their knowledge thru independant research and networking to better assist their herp friends achieve the best level of care they can in captivity.
 

Dog Shrink

Lost in the Lizard World
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NW PA.
You're welcome Ray... I calls 'em as I sees 'em hon :)

One of these days I'm gonna be hitting you up for one of your giants as soon as finances (and my experience with leos increases) allows :) I think your giants are spectacular.

Happy holidays to you to.
 

prettyinpink

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Good to see it made it as a sticky! I love how Ray makes an effort to help others out, for me I think that makes a great breeder :)

Thanks Ray for the great info, and always loving your leos! :smitten:
 

Pinky81

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Wisconsin
I have a question if I could...first off Ray I also would like to say thank you this thread was very reassuring as I am one of those Newbies:main_laugh: and my first breeding attempt as well. My male and female it seems are in this situation right now. She seemed to slow on the feeding just before her ovulation and breeding and now is in full no eating mode. and now my male is in no eating mode as well. I can get both to take some wax worms but they is not at all interested in crickets (female has never eaten meal worms she refuses) Here is my question...what "treat" food is the most nutritious? Wax worms, butterworms, dubias? I also have tried the cricket next to the warm hide with no legs thing no beuno! :p

Also is there a good website or supplier of some of these other worms to ship them in? I don't know of anyone who sells butterworms or dubias..no local shops even my specialty herp store doesn't sell anything but wax, meal, crix.
This really is a difficult waiting game thats why this sticky is so reassuring!:main_thumbsup:

Thanks in advance
 

Theinfidel

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South Florida
My aptor i got about 3 weeks ago seem to like bigger moving things like large superworms and crickets but crickets are such a hassle to deal with and superworms are alright but id prefer all my leo's being in a stable diet of mealworms and occasionally every other week some crickets and superworms. So my question is if there is any kind of way to get him into mealies, i've already put the mealworms in a food dish with some carrots in there to keep the mealworms alive for about 24 hours and he didn't eat a single one he would prefer the superworms.
 

Designer Geckos

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Boulder, CO
I have a question if I could...first off Ray I also would like to say thank you this thread was very reassuring as I am one of those Newbies:main_laugh: and my first breeding attempt as well. My male and female it seems are in this situation right now. She seemed to slow on the feeding just before her ovulation and breeding and now is in full no eating mode. and now my male is in no eating mode as well. I can get both to take some wax worms but they is not at all interested in crickets (female has never eaten meal worms she refuses) Here is my question...what "treat" food is the most nutritious? Wax worms, butterworms, dubias? I also have tried the cricket next to the warm hide with no legs thing no beuno! :p

Also is there a good website or supplier of some of these other worms to ship them in? I don't know of anyone who sells butterworms or dubias..no local shops even my specialty herp store doesn't sell anything but wax, meal, crix.
This really is a difficult waiting game thats why this sticky is so reassuring!:main_thumbsup:

Thanks in advance
Sorry for the late reply Melissa.....just saw this.

I hope your geckos are eating better now. If delegged crickets in a dish do not work, waxies can be the best method to stimulate the feeding response. The problem is where to get good waxies....the stores all refrigerate them which kills them! I have called the suppliers to tell them NOT to state on their cups to refrigerate waxies, and they ignore me. Waxies should be kept at 60-70 degrees. 60 is best.

The best place to get good waxies is by ordering them online. We have had good success from Grubco, but online is the best way to get them, as the big chains will refrigerate them and 90% will be dead when you open the cup!

Few geckos seem to like butterworms. I would say about 10% of leos will eat dubias regularly. Mealies are best, with medium superworms a close second, though many leos will not eat supers. Mulberry Farms can supply medium supers...don't get the larges unless you are feeding really big leos.

We do not like to use crickets for many reasons, but some geckos will start eating if you deleg them and place them in a dish.

Good luck and let us know if you need further help on this.
 

WulfSC

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Landrum, SC
Ray, and anyone else, what if they're hatchlings/babies? I have two small leos that are about 3grams. They appear to be getting thinner, even though I leave mealworms in the enclosure. Should I still try to entice them with waxmorms? I know waxworms can be hard to ween leos off of... but, I'm concerned about the weight of these little guys. Thanks.

- Wulf
 

Designer Geckos

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Ray, and anyone else, what if they're hatchlings/babies? I have two small leos that are about 3grams. They appear to be getting thinner, even though I leave mealworms in the enclosure. Should I still try to entice them with waxmorms? I know waxworms can be hard to ween leos off of... but, I'm concerned about the weight of these little guys. Thanks.

- Wulf
Try pinhead crickets.....if you use mealworms make sure you use the micro/small size of course.
 

WulfSC

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Landrum, SC
Try pinhead crickets.....if you use mealworms make sure you use the micro/small size of course.
Thanks, Ray. Unfortunately, I loss one of the little guys. The other one is doing a bit better, I started him on pinheads... he appears to be very happy.

Both of them were rescues... one is missing a foot (from knee down). But, seems to be very happy at the moment. I appreciate the help...thanks.
 

fl_orchidslave

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St. Augustine, FL
We really need to post in this thread more often to keep it active! I def agree with what Ray is saying about pinheads, I've used them on occasion with excellent results. Also had no luck at all with feeding butterworms, the gex just didn't seem to care for them at all. When I first started my superworm colony, I got baby supers from greatlakeshornworm.com along with the order of larges. When I sell a gecko, I always tell folks they have been feeding on supers, or if a baby then it's mealies and small supers mixed (the size of mealworms). They can then determine which feeders they prefer to use.

Wulf, sorry one of your little guys didn't make it :( You might try converting to little mealies while you still have some crix, just in case.
 

WulfSC

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Landrum, SC
Thanks, Laney. I was planning on trying to feed him some small mealies tomorrow. I have a bunch of new born mealies that I think is the perfect size.

It sucks that the little albino I had didn't make it...but, at least he had a better life (and a few extra days) while I had him. The guy I got him from (off Craig's List) obviously had no clue what he was doing with the little guy. Not that I'm an expert, but I try to make them happy. And, I did have him in a seperate enclosure. So, if he was sick with something, at least the others won't catch it. I always put my new geckos, even from breeders, in quarantine for 3 months, sometimes more.
 

fl_orchidslave

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It sux that people breed gex and let things like this happen. IDK if its ignorance, arrogance, or greed. Maybe all three. Baby mealies are perfect for the tinies, I use gatorade caps (calci powder added) for feeding dishes at that point, so they can easily find and reach food. If your baby doesn't take to them, plan to get some pinhead crix the next day so he doesn't get weak and starve himself. Poor little thing has already had a rough life, I hope he acclimates soon and begins living large :)
 
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