One of the most common problems that new crested gecko owners encounter is getting their geckos to eat. The first thing to consider is appropriate husbandry: good food, correct amount of space, proper heat and humidity, following quarantine protocol, etc. Then you want to make sure whether or not your gecko IS eating before you make any changes.
Note that it may take a gecko over a month to start eating once in a new environment. This is normal.
Weighing your gecko is the best way to know if there is a problem. Weight loss of less than a few grams (depending on the size of a gecko) is not usually a concern. Tracking every month or so should let you know if there is a problem. You can weigh more often (once a week) for sick or newly acquired geckos. Always weigh before feeding so the weights are more consistent, but there will always be variations. The best scales to use for crested geckos are ones that weigh in the tenths (.10) of a gram. Geckos hatch out around 1.5g, so it’s important to be as accurate as possible!
What should my Crested Gecko eat?
In the wild, crested geckos eat a variety of rotting fruits, flowers, and insects, so it’s important to give them a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats that differ from the diets of most reptiles. What do crested geckos eat in captivity? An all-cricket diet is not acceptable, and neither is a diet based on baby food. These are both out-dated and harmful to your gecko. Any feeding regimen must be supplemented to provide nutrients lacking in a captive diet.
Repashy Crested Gecko Diet is a top-rated commercial diet for all Rhacodactylus/New Caledonian geckos, and we recommend it to be the staple. Pangea Crested Gecko Fruit Mix Complete is also a good line of food. Dusted and gutloaded insect feeders can be offered as well once or twice a week but are not necessary with Repashy foods. Fruit treats should be fed once a month or less. Homemade diets should be avoided for novice gecko keepers.
We’ve heard complaints that the recent version of Repashy CGD is not as palatable to some crested geckos, enough so that they refuse to eat any whatsoever and begin to lose weight and have issues with egg production. If you suspect it’s from switching from an old version to a new one, you do still have options. There are still supplies of Repashy Day Gecko Diet that are the older formula, and some areas still have T-Rex brand CGD. If the below tips don’t help, you can try a new brand and find a food that’s right for you and your gecko. We also recommend Pangea Fruit Mix Complete. After all, some people like burgers while others prefer pizza! Some people are very picky, while others eat almost anything. Geckos are the same way. Like human children, they can even learn to be picky if they are rewarded for being finicky if given their favorite treats too often.
Our geckos actually love the new Repashy version and we often see them chowing down as soon as we put the food in! Some empty their bowls and get seconds.
Is my Crested Gecko eating?
Crested geckos in general do not eat much, so it may be difficult to tell if they are eating at all. Small geckos especially so. The easiest way is to check for poo – if they’re pooping, they’re eating! It’s easiest to check for poo in a quarantine basic setup with paper towel substrate. Be sure to look under hides, in toilet paper tubes, on plants, etc.
Feeding in a smaller cup may let you see lick marks, as will feeding on wax paper for hatchlings. Note that cresties tend to walk through their food so you may have to clean up after they “finger paint”.
It is nearly impossible to tell who is eating/pooping and who is not when you have more than one gecko in an enclosure. Separating them is the only way to tell unless you are watching them 24/7.
Why isn’t my Crested Gecko eating?
Crested geckos may take some time to settle in to a new home or a new enclosure. Any kind of stress can make a gecko go off feed, including cagemates, mating distraction, improper husbandry, etc.
When temperatures drop below 70, these geckos tend to eat less. Most people will see a slowdown in winter months and this is completely normal. If you are concerned about a new arrival during the winter you can bump their temps up to the 70s.
If you KNOW that your gecko isn’t eating and haven’t seen feces for over 2 weeks, you can start taking steps to encourage them to eat.
Some geckos like old, fermented CGD. Some eat more the second night after you put it in their cage, assuming it hasn’t dried out. Similarly, some may like the texture more runny and some may like it more thick, like a milkshake.
Try misting your geckos after you put in their food; many seem to eat after spraying. Dehydrated geckos may also be reluctant to eat, so pay attention to humidity and provide a water dish.
A small gecko under 10 grams may feel more secure in a a large Kritter Keeper or a 6 quart plastic tub. Many keepers have found that they eat more and grow faster in a slightly smaller enclosure. An adult gecko (30+ grams) should be fine in large enclosures as long as there are multiple feeding spots.
If you have multiple geckos in one enclosure, you can run into instances of bullying. It causes a gecko more stress to be housed communally than separately, but some tolerate it better and – dare I say it? – some appear to enjoy the company of a special buddy. If you have a gecko that isn’t eating or is losing weight you should separate. If a cagemate is outweighing them by more than a few grams you should separate.
Crested Gecko diets come in multiple flavors and formulas (we prefer Repashy and Pangea brands), and you may find a gecko with a specific preference. You may also use 100% papaya powder to entice them into eating. Papaya has a good Ca:P ratio so use this instead of mashing banana or other high-phosphorus fruits. Honey may be used as well but not often. By mixing the CGD sweeter than normal, geckos may become picky and refuse the unadulterated CGD.
Do not mix babyfood into the CGD unless your gecko is sick or severely malnourished and must eat immediately. In most other cases, it’s better they skip a few meals in order to get them on CGD than risk an improperly balanced diet which can lead to MBD and other health issues.
How often should my Crested Gecko eat?
Some geckos eat every night, but most tend to eat only a few times a week. Provide food every other night or every third night. Low Winter temps will reduce their feeding frequency, and conversely higher Summer temperatures increase appetite, activity and metabolism. Be careful to keep them under 82 degrees! Feeding more dusted bugs in the warmer months may spur growth and help breeding females get enough fat, protein and calcium.
Do not be alarmed if your crested gecko goes off food for a little while. Their metabolisms are different from mammals. A healthy crested gecko can go for several weeks without eating. But always have food available during this time. Take them to a vet if you don’t see signs of eating for three weeks, or if they are lethargic or show other signs of illness.
How much should my Crested Gecko eat?
Again, this varies among individual geckos. Some will eat less more often or eat larger amounts less frequently. If you use a soda bottle lid to feed, filling it up may be more than enough (around 1-2 teaspoons) for a juvenile. A larger cap may be needed for adults or groups of adults. A 1.5 or 2 ounce deli cup serves our breeding trios every other night, sometimes we add an extra deli cup during the summer.
A great way to use these deli cups is in magnetic feeding ledges, which have been crafted for replaceable deli cups or metal condiment cups. Some geckos prefer to perch up high while they eat, rather than feeding from the ground. Having two cups in a large enclosure is fine and helps when you have multiple geckos in an enclosure.
My Gecko eats crickets but not CGD
A healthy gecko can be encouraged to eat CGD by cutting out the bugs & grubs. While insect feeders, when properly gutloaded and dusted, are a good snack for cresties, the majority of the diet should be CGD or other Meal Replacement Powder.
If you have the opposite problem, if your gecko eats CGD but not bugs, you really don’t have to worry. Repashy MRP is formulated to be a complete diet. However, a bug night every other week or as a treat once a month may stimulate the appetite.
My Crested Gecko STOPPED eating!
Most geckos stop eating as much in the winter, so increasing temperatures will help, but not necessary. Weight loss of more than a few grams (depending on the size of the gecko) is sign of concern. A single poop may be up to 2 grams!
Be especially observant of breeding females, as they have a tendency to not eat right before laying eggs and it’s crucial to make sure they maintain a steady weight throughout the breeding season.
Unless your gecko is being housed with others, is sick or experiences a sudden and dramatic weight loss, changing its enclosure may set you back in terms of getting them to eat.
Always consult with a qualified reptile veterinarian when you believe your gecko is ill!
Make sure you are housing your geckos appropriately for their age, avoiding any of the risky substrates that might cause impaction. This can cause a loss of appetite and constipation.
Should I hand feed my gecko?
You can try hand-feeding them if you are worried about weight loss, but this can lead to them only eating when you “baby” them. Any kind of handling will cause stress to a gecko or other reptile, but each gecko tolerates handling differently.
Hand feeding does NOT mean force feeding!
Dab a little CGD on the side of the gecko’s mouth using a small spoon, toothpick, or syringe with needle removed. Do not force their mouth open and do not hand feed more than every other night to reduce the stress of the procedure.
If you are rehabilitating a sick or rescued gecko, consult a vet on how to properly administer food via a feeding tube. It is NOT recommended for anyone other than those who have had medical aid experience with reptiles. Geckos and other reptiles can easily aspirate their food and die.