Leo not eating; have trouble shooted to no avail

corviknight

experienced pet owner
Hi all, my leopard gecko has barely eaten in weeks, perhaps longer. In the last two weeks I have attempted common trouble shooting, such as addressing possible temperature shortcomings, trying different foods, etc.
Here's some basic diagnostic information:

Blue - about 5 years old (got him as a baby), sex uncertain. appears average weight/tail fat and coloration, no signs of physical issues. Normal behavior.
Usual feeding - normally when he's eating properly he gets gut loaded (with lettuce) crickets, dubia roaches, and mealworms. (I switch out which one every few weeks) These also get dusted with Repashy's Superfood calcium plus. He usually eats with gusto. (though is terrible at hunting, so gets handfed)
Habitat - He is in the same 20 gallon long that he's always been. In this, he has a zoo-med "rug" in place of substrate, a screen lid, and three hides. His cool side is usually about 75 degress F. Since addressing temperature shortcomings (more on this later) the floor of his warm side has averaged in the high 80s during the day. His heating is provided by an UTH as well as a UVB bulb. The bulb is elevated appropriately to prevent overheating. His tank is elevated with rubber feet to keep it safe with the UTH. I have a thermometer + hygrometer on his cool side and a temperature gun on his warm, so I always see what the temps are. One of his hides - the one in the middle - is a humid hide.

I have attempted getting him waxworms as a treat to lure him into eating, as well as super worms. I know these aren't normally suitable and I do not feed them regularly. He ate two waxworms but refused any from then on.
About two weeks ago I opted to replace his UTH heater with a new one, because his old one was a decade old (was used on the same tank before I had him). Sure enough, the floor temperature is in a better range now (as listed above). This seems to have roused his spirits, and I was hoping that after a week or two of having belly heat back he would return to eating normally. This has not seemed to happen. I'm really at a loss. I considered that he might have been brumating, but again, with higher heat he hasn't returned to eating as would be expected after that. The only other "recent" (last few months) change I can log is that I am handling him. He was not hand tame beyond occasional petting for years, and now is relatively calm when held in my hands outside his tank. I limit these sessions to 15 minutes long and no more frequent than once a week (with weeks inbetween of no handling - its highly irregular)

Essentially, I'm at a loss of what else to do, besides try and see if there's an exotic vet in my area. (from previous experiences, I'm not hopeful) If any other diagnostic info would be helpful, I can provide. I'll attach pics of him too. (he was out of his tank in said pics) Like I said, he seems to be doing great in every way besides the seeming lack of eating. It's possible but not likely that he's eaten a cricket here and there, as I left a few in his tank when he wouldn't take them from the tongs.
Thanks for looking and for any suggestions or explanation.
 

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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
Hi August ~

"Habitat - He is in the same 20 gallon long that he's always been. In this, he has a zoo-med "rug" in place of substrate, a screen lid, and three hides. His cool side is usually about 75 degress F. Since addressing temperature shortcomings (more on this later) the floor of his warm side has averaged in the high 80s during the day. His heating is provided by an UTH as well as a UVB bulb. The bulb is elevated appropriately to prevent overheating. His tank is elevated with rubber feet to keep it safe with the UTH. I have a thermometer + hygrometer on his cool side and a temperature gun on his warm, so I always see what the temps are. One of his hides - the one in the middle - is a humid hide."

IF both images of leo Blue are current, Blue's weight is great! This leo looks male. I'm only guessing because of the muscular build (more later). He or she could just be brumating. That's when a reptile doesn't eat for long periods, but loses no weight.

Changes I recommend, if you'd like to keep his current setup.
1. How tall is Blue's enclosure? IF his enclosure = ~16 inches tall you could use a substrate mix of 70% fertilizer-free, perlite-free soil + 30% play sand.
2. Switch out the rug to paper towels or solid slate. Reptile carpet harbors bacteria from feces & urine. Sometimes leos catch their claws in that carpet! Slate is the best heat-absorbing stone substrate there is.
3. Besides your temp gun, what type thermometers do you use? Temp under Blue's warm, dry hide should = 88-92*F as measured by the probe of a digital thermometer. Nowadays leo folks recommend higher basking area temps.
4. What type UVB bulb? a compact fluorescent? Compact fluorescents are proven NOT safe at all. Arcadia's 12 inch ShadeDweller linear tube is highly recommended for a 30 inch enclosure. (I have lighting charts from facebook's premier Reptile Lighting group to determine distance between UVB & Blue's basking area.) That distance depends upon your mesh grid's UVB blockage. Usually UVB is adjacent to a halogen bulb.
5. How often do you use Repashy's Calcium Plus multivitamins?
6. Common iceberg lettuce only counts for moisture. Check Olimpia's list for ideal gut loading foods. It's best to gut load feeders 24/7/365. By filling feeders' guts with foods from Olimpia's lists, you'll build more nutritious bugs & worms. Think of them as empty pasta shells.

For link 148 click: *** Gutload Ingredients for Bugs & Worms *** . . . . . . Olimpia Martinotti -- January 2023 (update)

Sexing Leopard Geckos

For an image click: Sexing Leopard Geckos
A leopard gecko's sex can be confirmed when that leo is over 5 inches (12.7 cm) in total length. That may happen when a leo nears 6 months old. Males can be distinguished from females by a distinct /\-shaped row of femoral pores above the vent & by two hemipenal bulges below the vent. To see their vents, potential male femoral pores, & hemipenal bulges gently press their bodies against glass. They will squirm IF you turn them over.​
Added 17 November 2022: Giorgos Makrakis shares that males have small black spots on the /\-shaped femoral pore line. At its size (over 5 inches/12.7 cm) males also would have developed at least slight swellings below the vent that indicate 2 hemipenal bulges.​
 

acpart

Active member
I agree with Elizabeth that he looks to be a good weight. Her recommendations for change are good. I've had leopard geckos go on hunger strikes many times (sometimes, but not usually, for months). If you make the recommended changes and he's still not eating, in my opinion, as long as he's not losing weight (i.e. tail getting smaller), it's probably fine, just keep offering. There's always a chance that Blue is female and is ovulating.

Aliza
 

corviknight

experienced pet owner
Thank you both so much for all of your thoughts, reassurances, and suggestions!
I already feel a lot better. The pics I posted are indeed current, so hearing others agree that Blue does look to be healthy is a relief.
In regards to Blue's sex, I have attempted in the past to check if he had the distinct pores, but was unable to tell. The pictures/instructions I was referencing were not nearly as clear as what you just linked - I see no such ^ line on Blue! So he's not actually male in sex, but shh. : P I had no idea that musculature could be an indication, either.

Re: adjustments
1) His tank is only 12 inches tall (30L x 12W x 12H) so no substrate for him! Though I am curious, why does height matter? Is it just about him having enough space? I can't imagine a thin layer of substrate impacting that all that much.
2) Noted! I do switch out and lightly rinse his rug (I have two) every few months, but honestly they're both kinda grody at this point. I've been considering switching to slate anyway. Though I have a fear of it cracking the aquarium glass.. I suppose it's just a matter of being careful when installing.
3) My cool side thermo/hygro is this one. <- link for "Acurite Indoor Thermometer and Hygrometer". I've used this thing for years and love it. On the warm side is this probed digital thermometer by Zoomed. I also use one for my betta fish's tank and find they work well, despite not being the most high-tech. The floor of his warm side is exactly that temp range you listed. He loooves it.
4) I had to check the box, because I did a lot of research trying to make sure I got him the right bulb: It is, to be exact, an Exo Terra 100W Multipurpose Daytime Heat Lamp. Is that correct/suitable? I also have it in an Exo Terra light dome. Lighting stuff seems so complicated and is hard for me to get a handle on. It was bought for supplementary heating purposes, creating a regular day/night cycle (with a timer), and because I read that Leos need the benefits of a certain type of light. I have it on the right (warm) side of his tank.
5) Hmm, maybe about every other feeding? I haven't been as consistent about it lately. Is there a recommended amount - all the time, or less?
6) Got it! I was under the impression that as long as they had some kind of veggie it didn't matter. I will start gut loading more appropriately. How often and how long before feeding sessions should they be gut loaded? The guide says Repashy's gutloading products are good and also lists veggies. Would the Bug Burger for example replace veggies, or should both be used?
 

Elizabeth Freer

Active member
"Thank you both so much for all of your thoughts, reassurances, and suggestions!
I already feel a lot better. The pics I posted are indeed current, so hearing others agree that Blue does look to be healthy is a relief."
Excellent news, August! Glad you're relieved!

"In regards to Blue's sex, I have attempted in the past to check if he had the distinct pores, but was unable to tell. The pictures/instructions I was referencing were not nearly as clear as what you just linked - I see no such ^ line on Blue! So he's not actually male in sex, but shh. : P I had no idea that musculature could be an indication, either."
Mums the word. I won't tell a soul. Perhaps musculature is NOT indicative of males after all since Blue = female.


"Re: adjustments
1) His tank is only 12 inches tall (30L x 12W x 12H) so no substrate for him! Though I am curious, why does height matter? Is it just about him having enough space? I can't imagine a thin layer of substrate impacting that all that much."
Height is sometimes crucial. Height depends upon required distance between UVB tube fluorescent fixture & basking area. I googled your overhead bulb. You have a daylight bulb overhead, NOT a UVB bulb.

For link 157 click: ***** Best Practices using UVB through mesh on top of a 20 gallon LONG enclosure: 30 x 12 x 12 inches TALL for a leopard gecko . . . . . . GU's Marillion, Fran Baines DVM, & Elizabeth Freer -- February 2023 (update) *****


"2) Noted! I do switch out and lightly rinse his rug (I have two) every few months, but honestly they're both kinda grody at this point. I've been considering switching to slate anyway. Though I have a fear of it cracking the aquarium glass.. I suppose it's just a matter of being careful when installing."
Carefully lay slate on the bottom.
IF your slate is a little uneven, a light layer of sand underneath will fill in hot spots. Here are links for Amazon's slate: nearly 16 x 12 inch slate, 6 x 9 inch & 8 x 12 inch cheese boards, 4 x 4 inch coasters, & stackable slate stones from Etsy.

For link 163 click: Slate Cheese Trays 16" x 12" (ACTUAL measurements = 15 & 5/8" x 11.8" x 0.3 inches thick) for Leo Substrate . . . . . . Gutler & Odinsmom -- May 2022 (update)

Seal all slate with this low VOC sealant:
1. Miracle Sealants' water-base, low VOC, sealant: https://www.amazon.com/Miracle-Seal...l's+choice+tile,+stone+&+Grout,aps,161&sr=8-3
2. Amazon also sells 7 x 9 inch slate coasters.
3. Google Etsy for Flat Stackable Slate stones


"3) My cool side thermo/hygro is this one. <- link for "Acurite Indoor Thermometer and Hygrometer". I've used this thing for years and love it. On the warm side is this probed digital thermometer by Zoomed. I also use one for my betta fish's tank and find they work well, despite not being the most high-tech. The floor of his warm side is exactly that temp range you listed. He loooves it."
Many keepers also use a thermostat like a Hydrofarm Jump Start thermostat as a fail-safe in case temps exceed desired highs. The thermostat turns off heat when it reaches a preset number like 92*F.

"4) I had to check the box, because I did a lot of research trying to make sure I got him the right bulb: It is, to be exact, an Exo Terra 100W Multipurpose Daytime Heat Lamp. Is that correct/suitable? I also have it in an Exo Terra light dome. Lighting stuff seems so complicated and is hard for me to get a handle on. It was bought for supplementary heating purposes, creating a regular day/night cycle (with a timer), and because I read that Leos need the benefits of a certain type of light. I have it on the right (warm) side of his tank."
This particular bulb is NOT a UVB bulb. Be sure to use Repashy's Calcium Plus multivitamins every 7-10 days to provide necessary vitamin D3. Without supplementing D3 regularly, Blue will be susceptible to MBD (metabolic bone disease).

"5) Hmm, maybe about every other feeding? I haven't been as consistent about it lately. Is there a recommended amount - all the time, or less?"
Since Blue is an adult, I recommend every 7-10 days lightly dusting Repashy's Calcium Plus multivitamins on the prey. Here's a link to acpart's Repashy Calcium Plus schedule.

For link 144 click: Schedule(s) 144: Repashy's Calcium Plus (all-in-one) multivitamins for Leopard Geckos

"6) Got it! I was under the impression that as long as they had some kind of veggie it didn't matter. I will start gut loading more appropriately. How often and how long before feeding sessions should they be gut loaded? The guide says Repashy's gutloading products are good and also lists veggies. Would the Bug Burger for example replace veggies, or should both be used?"
Your ultimate goal is to create a more nutritious bug or worm by gut loading. Consistent gut loading is more important than dusting.

Does Blue always have a water dish?
* Veggies are often good moisture sources! Not all veggies are = .
* Follow Olimpia's lists from above link.
* Rotate "best" & "good" veggies in addition to Repashy's Bug Burger.
OR Feed bugs & worms 24-48 hours prior to feeding them to your leopard gecko.

Mealworm Guidelines:
* Remove substrate mealworms are sold upon.
* Change out original mealworm substrate to a nutritious bedding 24/7/365.
* Keep mealworms at room temperature, NOT in the refrigerator!
* Cody Castellanos' already ground Professional Reptiles' Pro Gutload diet makes a great mealworm bedding as well as a 24/7/365 diet for those mealworms.
 

corviknight

experienced pet owner
Once again this is a lot of helpful info, thank you!
In regards to UVB - am I understanding you right that if he gets appropriate vitamin supplements, he doesn't need a UVB bulb? Or should I invest in one?
And yes, Blue always has access to water! When I made the comment about moisture, I meant for the bugs - keeping them alive in a good state.
Okay so, feeding guidelines, to make sure I'm understanding...
1) In the case of mealworms, put them into a better bedding, not the stuff they come in from the store.
2) Mealworms can just go on the complete diet bedding you mentioned. Feed other bugs 24-48 hours before feeding Blue
3) Rotate feeding said other bugs veggies from Olimpia's list and the Bug Burger. So feeding tomorrow veggies, then next time burger, then veggies, etc..
4) Dust bugs every other feeding (which would be about 7-10 days as you said)

This feeding stuff gets confusing pretty quickly for me, so I appreciate your patience!
 

corviknight

experienced pet owner
An update - he is losing weight, it seems. His tail is a bit thinner than before. This definitely has me concerned as he's still refusing food. He just shed again and it's been a somewhat difficult one - I'm going to give him a soak to get rid of some last bits. Much more of his skin is sitting around his tank than usual, making me think he didn't even eat as much of that.
 

Elizabeth Freer

Active member
"An update - he is losing weight, it seems. His tail is a bit thinner than before. This definitely has me concerned as he's still refusing food. He just shed again and it's been a somewhat difficult one - I'm going to give him a soak to get rid of some last bits. Much more of his skin is sitting around his tank than usual, making me think he didn't even eat as much of that."

Both a soft-bristled toothbrush & a small wooden toothpick will help remove stuck shed between Blue's fingers.
Please share a recent image as well as a former image side-by-side of Blue.
What have you tried feeding Blue besides mealworms? I recommend hornworms.
Please make a paste of Repashy Calcium Plus multivitamins to put on Blue's lips. Hopefully he'll lick some off.
What are the high & low temps of his enclosure?

I'll reply to your message #6 as soon as I can.
 

corviknight

experienced pet owner
Images of Blue for comparison. On the right is from yesterday, left is a few weeks ago. It's hard to find good reference photos and now I fear I may be worrying over nothing, but I could swear that his tail is at least a bit thinner now.
I am somewhat comforted by the fact that later on the day I made my last post (Saturday) Blue did eat one super worm! Wouldn't take anymore and hasn't since. For the past few weeks I've been mostly attempting to feed him dubia roaches. The superworm was actually the last one I had. He also got a few waxworms back when I first made this thread, but I've been doing a lot of reading on the links page you made and saw that waxworms can be addictive, so I won't be feeding any more of those. I haven't had mealworms in a while - he stopped eating when I still had those in supply. He's been known to get bored of them in the past, so I moved to dubias.
I have never before attempted hornworms, but I'm willing to try that next.
The low in his tank is 76 during the day (68 at night) and the high at his heating mat is 88.

Having read around information links, I now have a clear schedule to reference for feeding when things return to normal, so you can disregard that question of mine! That being said, the UVB/lighting debate still has my head spinning. I opted to turn off his (supplemented heating) light, having read that leos don't like bright light, which makes sense. He doesn't need the added heat anymore since I replaced his old heating mat that wasn't working.
 

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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
Thanks for checking out my linked thread, August!
I suggest re-reading your thread here. You might have missed some things.


1. Images of Blue for comparison. On the right is from yesterday, left is a few weeks ago. It's hard to find good reference photos and now I fear I may be worrying over nothing, but I could swear that his tail is at least a bit thinner now.
Blue has lost weight. Blue's a better weight now. She shouldn't lose more weight! She's 'chunky' in the older image.

2. I am somewhat comforted by the fact that later on the day I made my last post (Saturday) Blue did eat one super worm! Wouldn't take anymore and hasn't since. For the past few weeks I've been mostly attempting to feed him dubia roaches. The superworm was actually the last one I had. He also got a few waxworms back when I first made this thread, but I've been doing a lot of reading on the links page you made and saw that waxworms can be addictive, so I won't be feeding any more of those. I haven't had mealworms in a while - he stopped eating when I still had those in supply. He's been known to get bored of them in the past, so I moved to dubias.
I have never before attempted hornworms, but I'm willing to try that next.
The low in his tank is 76 during the day (68 at night) and the high at his heating mat is 88.

88*F is a bare minimum high! Even though overhead heat/light is bright, leos DO adjust over time. Something needs to increase your 88*F current high to about 92*F. Re-add your overhead bulb or add a 50 watt DHP (deep heat projector), IF you keep Blue in her 20 long (minimum). You also need a thermostat. A thermostat controls heat.
*** For link 12 click: Superworm (Zophobas morio) Feeding Caution . . . . . . cricket4u -- Jan 2012
*** For link 33 click: Hornworm Care Guidelines -- April 2023 (update)
Hornworms are an occasional feeder that have excellent calcium content & 85% moisture! :)
Waxworms are full of fat! :(


3. Having read around information links, I now have a clear schedule to reference for feeding when things return to normal, so you can disregard that question of mine! That being said, the UVB/lighting debate still has my head spinning. I opted to turn off his (supplemented heating) light, having read that leos don't like bright light, which makes sense. He doesn't need the added heat anymore since I replaced his old heating mat that wasn't working.

>>>>> Insect & Worm Feeding Guidelines:
*** A high quality dry diet/gut load is required 24/7/365. A high quality dry diet/gut load = Blue's basic diet & her most important food! (What dry diet do you have? Did you buy some Professional Reptiles' Pro Gut Load in a 1 pound bag? I recommend keeping any unused product refrigerated in an airtight container. )
*** Then, in addition, rotate 'best' & 'good' veggies from Olimpia's lists + that dry diet.
/\ That's different than what you mentioned before!

>>>>> UVB Info:

You could give Blue Arcadia's 12 inch long ShadeDweller UVB + 50 watt DHP within his current 20 long tank: 30 x 12 x 12 inches tall.
First determine Blue's screen mesh grid's UVB blockage by knowing the screen mesh's brand or by sending FB's premier Reptile Lighting group a close up image.
The current go-to enclosure size = 36 x 18 x 18 inches tall.

>>>>> For link 157 click: ***** Best Practices using UVB through mesh on top of a 20 gallon LONG enclosure: 30 x 12 x 12 inches TALL for a leopard gecko . . . . . . GU's Marillion, Fran Baines DVM, & Elizabeth Freer -- February 2023 (update) *****
 
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