Crested Gecko Diet and Feeding Guide
A lot of things come into play when aiming to provide your gecko with the best life it can have. Habitat layout, enclosure hygiene, overall environmental parameters, and diet are defining metrics in this sense.
Today, we will discuss gecko diet and feeding, looking to shed some light on the how what, and why. So, let’s dive straight in!
Crested Gecko Diet
Crested geckos rank as omnivorous reptiles. In the wild, they consume a variety of things, primarily insects, larvae, and fruits. Their diet is incredibly diverse because geckos, as most animals, is an opportunistic eater; it doesn’t let anything go to waste.
For instance, crested geckos aren’t really fond of vegetables, but they can eat them should the situation require it. Any amount of nutrients is better than no nutrients at all.
The problem is that while the gecko’s diet in captivity is similar to that in the wild, there are also several differences to account for from a nutritional standpoint. So, let’s discuss these next.
Feeding Crested Gecko
The first thing to overcome is figuring out the ideal gecko diet depending on the reptile itself and its preferences and needs. Here are some standard feeding-related aspects to write down:
– Live insects are a must
Theoretically, you can replace live insects with gecko-specific foods that contain an optimized cocktail of nutrients. The problem is that geckos are still mostly feral animals, so they need to practice their innate hunting instincts to stay in shape. Both mentally and physically.
I recommend setting up a feeder tank to grow at least 3 different insect species and worms. These will provide your gecko with sufficient variation in terms of live foods and keep them engaged during the meal time.
– Gut-loading and dusting
Gut-loading refers to feeding the insects a nutrient-rich food to boost their nutritional content. This ultimately helps your reptiles take in more nutrients from their food than they normally would. The dusting technique refers to dousing the insects in a calcium and vitamin D3 powder which is critical for proper bone density and adequate calcium intake.
The problem is that the dusting technique isn’t as effective as you might like; the vitamin powder will mostly go away by the time the reptile eats the insect. Still, it’s better than nothing. Keep in mind that gut-loading is necessary, especially for crested geckos with low bone density and predisposed to calcium deficiency.
– Commercial foods are a must
Many gecko keepers stick to live insects and fruits only on the basis of keeping the gecko’s diet as natural as possible. This isn’t a wise move. Crested geckos require a varied diet, and fruits and live insects alone cannot accommodate your gecko’s nutritional requirements.
There are multiple commercial foods available for geckos specifically that contain optimized nutritional blends for proper feeding. Choose the best product that meets your gecko’s needs, and feel free to experiment with others along the way.
– Fruits as treats
Geckos eat plenty of fruits in the wild, but they also consume a fair share of insects and worms. This is important to mention because you can’t maintain the same feeding rate in captivity. You should only feed your gecko fruits in moderation, primarily because they contain more phosphorus than calcium.
Phosphorus prevents calcium absorption, causing the gecko to exhibit calcium deficiency with time. The ideal ratio should be 2:1 for calcium and phosphorus, which is where gut-loading the insects and dusting them with calcium comes in.
This is necessary to counterbalance the phosphorus present in fruits like grapes, apples, pears, cherries, bananas, peaches, and others.
Now that you know what your geckos should eat, let’s see how they should eat.
Adult Crested Gecko Feeding Schedule
Most adult geckos have 3-4 meals per week, depending on the specimen and its dietary needs. Some geckos have higher appetites than others. This feeding frequency is optimal for adult geckos due to their lower metabolic rates, causing the reptile to require less food than its juvenile counterparts.
Baby Crested Gecko Feeding Schedule
Baby crested geckos eat considerably more often than adults, sometimes even twice per day. Their appetite will diminish gradually over time to where they will only have one meal daily. This is necessary to support their more accelerated growth rate.
Baby and juvenile geckos also shed more frequently than adults due to them growing faster. So, make sure you adjust their diet accordingly to ensure optimal nutrient intake and prevent deficiencies.
Crested Gecko Feeding Problems
There are several feeding-related problems that geckos can struggle with along the way. These include:
– Choking and compaction
Choking refers to the food getting stuck in the gecko’s throat. This is clearly a matter of life and death due to the gecko not being able to breathe anymore. Compaction refers to the food getting stuck in the intestinal tract.
That will eventually lead to digestive problems, discomfort, and even death if the situation remains unaddressed. To prevent that, ensure your gecko’s food comes in small portions.
When talking about live insects, the insect shouldn’t be longer than the space between the gecko’s eyes. That’s usually how large the reptile’s esophagus is.
The gecko will display a variety of physiological symptoms when dehydrated, including lack of appetite, rough and dry skin, lethargy, indigestion, and constipation. Mealworms are also known to cause indigestion and constipation in juvenile geckos due to their harder shell, making them difficult to digest.
– Nutrient deficiency
Many geckos experience calcium deficiency, even when the food is plentiful. This gets us to one of the cruxes of proper gecko feeding – nutrient balancing. It doesn’t matter how much food your gecko consumes if the nutrients aren’t there.
For instance, feeding geckos excess fruits provides the gecko with too much phosphorus and not enough calcium. On the other hand, providing the gecko with excess calcium, but not enough vitamin D3 renders the gecko’s system unable to synthesize the calcium. Both of these instances lead to calcium deficiency which can degenerate into Metabolic Bone Disease.
– Environmental hazard
This is less of a feeding-related issue and more of a habitat hygiene-related one. You should always remove uneaten food from your gecko’s habitat, whether it’s live insects, fruits, or other meals. Fruits and commercial gecko food will root pretty fast in the humid and warm setup, while live insects will move around and bug the already full lizards.
Some will also die, serving as the perfect breeding ground for fungi, bacteria, and parasites. You would be amazed how fast the situation can go downhill if you don’t take proper measures.
Crested geckos require varied and nutrient optimization above all else. This is especially important if you consider that this species is particularly prone to low bone density and calcium deficiency. A well-balanced and optimized diet will provide your gecko with optimal nutrient intake and a long and healthy life over the years.