No matter how hard we try and how many different feeder species we get, we simply can’t replicate the richness of the natural leopard gecko diet.
Try to imagine how a wild leo lives.
- He eats an array of insects and arthropods that is impossible to replicate; these insects also load themselves with wild plants richer in vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients than our veggies.
- He catches an occasional smaller lizard or a baby rodent.
- He drinks rainwater or dew that has trickled down from local rocks and was in contact with the soil, mineralizing itself in the process.
- He can lick various mineral and salty deposits according to his needs.
All of those points are additionally affected by specific climatic, geologic and biotic factors. You simply can’t replicate that in a terrarium.
Luckily, we now have state-of-the-art, specialized vitamin and mineral formulas to help us make up for that.
High-quality supplements will make your leopard gecko care easy and carefree – and yes, it’s a must. Decades of experience in the hobby tell us that they do work.
- What Supplements Do Leopard Geckos Need?
- Calcium Powder for Leopard Geckos
- Vitamins for Leopard Geckos
- How to Supplement Your Leo?
What Supplements Do Leopard Geckos Need?
Vitamin and mineral supplement powders contain everything your leo needs to stay healthy and active for many, many years. They are a breeze to use, and there is a variety of products on the market. Commonly, a leopard gecko requires 2 types of supplements:
- General multivitamin and mineral supplement
- Pure calcium, or Calcium with vitamin D3 (difference explained below)
Calcium Powder for Leopard Geckos
Calcium is an essential mineral for many metabolic processes, and for ensuring good bone density. In their natural surroundings, leopard geckos can lick mineral deposits and salts if they need extra calcium. In a terrarium setting, you can put a dish with powdered calcium to make up for the lack of a natural source.
However, calcium cannot be absorbed in the gut without enough Vitamin D3, which brings us to the next question.
Calcium With or Without D3?
Opinions on this eternal dilemma in the leo community continue to be divided.
One party says that keeping a Calcium + D3 in the tank at all times carries a risk of a vitamin D3 overdose – especially if you are using a UVB lamp too.
The other camp points out that leos are tolerant of higher Vit D3 concentrations and that they can self-regulate when it comes to calcium and D3 that is freely available to them. Many experienced community members claim that they have never witnessed an overdose; on the other hand, cases of Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) we see almost daily suggest that it is easier to underdose that overdose vitamin D3.
Still, there are cases of unspecified organ failures in middle-aged and older leopard geckos. While no one has provenly traced these events back to Calcium/D3 overdose, it is a warning that we should be careful.
I would try to find some middle ground and suggest that if you have a UVB lamp (see more on the use of UVB below), pure calcium in a designated tray is just fine. If you have a simple daylight bulb, Calcium with low D3 is a safer option.
If you are planning to use pure calcium, Repti Calcium is a classic choice – it offers highly absorbable calcium carbonate with no heavy metals or other impurities from sources like oyster shells.
If you are looking for calcium with Vitamin D3, Zoomed offers Repti Calcium with D3 as well.
Repashy has high-quality calcium supplements with varying levels of D3. For leopard geckos, Calcium Plus LoD (Low D3) should suffice.
You can read more about Vitamin D3 in the next section.
Calcium Deficiency Symptoms
It is important to catch calcium deficiency early. The first signs are:
- Low energy
- Lack of appetite
- Twitched toes
If not treated right away, the deficiency morphs into metabolic bone disease (MBD), a partially-reversible, but essentially incurable condition, which has the following symptoms:
- Bowed legs
- Swollen jaws that can’t close properly
- Spine malformations
- Lumps along the spine, limbs, and jaws
- Lack of appetite
Pro tip: How to Get Calcium off Leopard Gecko Eyelid
These days calcium powders are super-fine, and in most cases, leo will easily manage to lick it off from their eyes and eyelids. Wait for several hours, and if the powder still sticks to the eyelids after the gecko had tried to lick it off, use a well-washed, clean sprayer or a syringe and distilled or filtered water to carefully wash it out of your lizard’s eye.
Vitamins for Leopard Geckos
Vitamin (and mineral) powder contains all the vitamins, minerals and micronutrients your leo needs.
Multivitamins can be with or without Calcium and Vitamin D3.
The versions without Calcium and D3 are used together with a compatible Calcium+D3 product. However, I believe it is much easier to dose just one formula that contains all the vitamins than to juggle a couple of products. Besides, if your leo won’t lick Calcium from their tank, you can rely on the high-quality multivitamin with Calcium and D3 to cover all of his needs.
Calcium To Phosphorus Ratio
Since most leopard gecko feeders are rich in phosphorus and deficient in calcium, using a supplement that has a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of 2:1 is essential to ensure proper metabolism.
Zoomed’s ReptiVite is a complete supplement that offers proper calcium to phosphorus ratio and a full amino acid complex along with the essential vitamins. It is an ideal choice for non-breeding, regular pet geckos.
If you plan on breeding your leos, it is advisable to get a more potent formula. Repashy Calcium Plus Vitamin and Mineral Supplement has shown great results in this respect and is recommended by many breeders.
If you, for any reason, prefer to use Calcium+D3 and Multivitamin as separate products, Repashy SuperVite is compatible with all Repashy calcium products.
Vitamin D3 for Leopard Geckos
Vitamin D3 is a component (actually a hormone) essential for calcium and phosphorus absorption and metabolism, as well as other crucial processes such as immune function. Without enough D3, ingested calcium can’t be processed by the body. In a case of deficiency, the body pulls calcium from bones, which ultimately causes bone.
Vitamin D3 Overdose
Vitamin D3 overdose seems to be rare in leopard geckos, and the proofs of overdoses are scarce and anecdotal. In all the years, I haven’t come across a single case of a substantially proven vitamin D3 overdose.
However, as I said before, organ failures (most commonly liver and kidney) happen from time to time and the exact cause often remains unknown. Vitamin overdose is a possibility, though this remains unproven.
Is it necessary if you have a UVB?
The short answer to this question is – no, it is not necessary.
However, the long answer is a bit more complicated.
If you get supplements right, average pet leopard geckos will do just fine without UVB light.
However, I believe that using a suitable UVB light is a more natural and more secure way to synthesize Vitamin D3 then supplementing only.
Although it’s true that leos rarely bask, they do a lot of crypto-basking – they stick out their tail and a leg (or their nose) outside of their hide to receive some UV rays.
Also, not all leos will lick the powder from their Calcium+D3 trays. My two won’t even look at it. Some even dislike powdered feeders. The other common complication is the case of breeding females that lose their appetite, but still require vitamin D3 to help with egg formation. That’s where the right UVB light comes to the rescue.
My recommendation is a UVB light specialized for shade-loving and crepuscular species. Arcadia’s ShadeDweller was designed precisely with leopard geckos in mind. Turn it on in the mornings and late afternoons for 2-3 hours altogether (1-1.5 hours in the morning, the same late in the day) – limited exposure is the key.
ShadeDweller is safe even for albino geckos, who are known to be more sensitive to UV rays and light in general.
To avoid mistakes in dosing the UV light, put your lights on a timer such as this one from ZooMed.
How to Supplement Your Leo?
Supplementing Feeder Insects – Gut loading
Leos ingest everything that their prey has in its gut, so what that gut is loaded with is very important.
Gut loading simply means feeding the daily batch of feeder insects some high quality, nutrient-rich, and fresh food 24-48 hours prior to giving them to your leo.
Your leo’s multivitamin supplement, carrot, cabbage, apples, dark greens, and dehydrated dog or cat food are all fine choices for gut loading.
If you are worried that you won’t be able to provide a proper gut loading mix, you can get a pre-made formula such as Repashy Superload.
What Insects Do I Gut Load?
You can gut load all staple insects: mealworms, superworms, roaches, crickets, and locusts.
Insects you shouldn’t gut load are: waxworms, hornworms, silkworms, and black soldier fly larvae.
How Often Do I Need to Dust Feeders?
Opinions on how often you should dust vary and each case is different.
For all age groups of geckos – gut load the insects prior to each feeding and have a calcium tray (with or without D3) available in the tank. If leos won’t touch the tray, a high-quality multivitamin should be enough.
For juvenile leos that are fed every day, opinions are divided – dusting every meal, or every other meal. I’d go for every other day, provided that the diet is varied and that the all-age-groups recommendations above are respected. For non-varied staple diets (e.g., mealworms only) or for youngsters that won’t touch their calcium tray and don’t have UVB light, dusting every meal is better.
For mature leos that are fed every three days or so – dust at every feeding. If you have UVB light, dust weekly.
For breeding females – dust at every feeding with a potent high-quality supplement such as Repashy Calcium Plus.
How and When To Dust Insects for Leopard Geckos?
All quality modern supplements have a very fine structure, meaning they will stick to the insects well.
The favorite dusting method is “shake and bake:”
- Take a jar or a plastic box with a lid.
- Put the insects and the vitamin powder into a tray, close it, and shake it up and down.
- Pour insects into a feeding tray in the tank.
If you think that your leos are not getting enough vitamins for any reason (not using the calcium dish, beginning signs of MBD, poor appetite during breeding season), spray the insects with water prior to adding them into a dusting tray so more powder will stick to them.
What Happens If I Don’t Supplement My Leo?
If you fail to supplement your pet leopard gecko, he’s at grave risk of getting MBD and other illnesses, and dying as a consequence – after a lot of suffering.
You would think that, because of reliable information just one click away, the malnourishment-related reptile diseases should be a thing of the past.
Unfortunately, MBD and other diseases are still surprisingly common.
Therefore, I plead with you to supplement your pets’ diets properly. Anything else is animal cruelty.
With all the information and products available, supplementing your leopard gecko is quite easy these days. I hope that I have made it even easier for you.
Unfortunately, there are still many novice leopard gecko owners who don’t know how critically important leopard gecko supplements are. Share this article if you think it contains valuable information. Let’s prevent crippling diseases like MBD together!
Do you have anything to add? How do you supplement your leos? Drop a line in the comments and let us know.