Leopard Gecko Mealworms – Can they Eat Just This?
Many Leopard Gecko owners are told to fed their Leo’s just mealworms or crickets, but is this best practice? This was the question in my head, and the reason why I will explain why this is not correct.
Can you feed your Leopard Gecko just mealworms? No, it is not advisable. You need to provide additional supplementation so they get enough vitamins and minerals. This can be provided alongside the mealworms to make them easy for your Leopard Gecko to consume.
Now you know what they should be eating, let us look into mealworms and understand exactly what they are, if they are better than other insects, such as crickets, issues with crickets, and more.
What is a mealworm?
— 🏳️🌈 Cara Santa Maria 🏳️🌈 (@CaraSantaMaria) September 4, 2016
In this section I’m going to explain to you exactly what a mealworm is. A mealworm is effectively a beetle mealworms which is in it’s larva state, which is its very early stages of physical development.
Beatle mealworms have 4 key stages as they grow, as follows:
They start off his eggs they then move onto larva, then pupa and finally they will grow into the adult mealworm beetles that you may know of.
As discussed earlier, the mealworm that is given to your leopard gecko is the mealworm Beetle in its larva state, and this is effectively what is provided for food to your lizard.
In its adult size the mealworm (click here to see what types of worms you can feed Leos) beetle grows up to 2 cm in length. However, while they are in their larva form, which will be feeding to a leopard gecko, you can usually see them anything up to 2.5 centimetres in length.
What can leopard geckos actually eat?
In this section I’m going to explain some of the common foods that your leopard gecko should eat.
As you may or may not know, your leopard gecko is an insectivore. Meaning that their primary food source is insects. In particular some of the following: Mealworms, Crickets, superworms and waxworms.
Even though this is their primary food source they still need supplementation to maintain the best nutrition, vitamins and minerals, to keep them healthy and happy. But I will go into this in more detail and how you can keep on top of this later on the article.
When it comes to supplementation I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to maintain this nutritional profile.
Because if you do not supplement correctly you will find that your leopard gecko, in time, will start to deteriorate and can actually turn into deficiencies or even life-threatening situations.
You may find that pet stores or people that you talk to you about leopard geckos will always attempt to recommend a complete cricket based diet for your Leo. Whilst there is some benefits of this, in the next section I’m going to explain some of the disadvantages of this approach. And why mealworms are, in my opinion, a better choice to consider.
Why should you consider mealworms instead of crickets?
Firstly let’s discuss why crickets are really so popular amongst lizard owners, in particular leopard gecko owners.
Crickets are high in nutritional value and they are also a very active feeder insects for your Leo, which they really do love. Another great advantage of crickets, which makes them quite popular is there availability.
You can find them in many pet stores and they are easily available, so that you can keep your leopard gecko fed well.
On top of these advantages, another great thing about crickets is that they are easily digestible by a leopard gecko. However, in the next section I’m going to explain some of the disadvantages of crickets and why I feel that mealworms can be a better choice.
Disadvantages of crickets
There are a few disadvantages of crickets. First and foremost is the actual smell of the crickets. I’m not sure if you’ve ever smelt them before, but they have a really strong odour. For some people, this can become quite overwhelming.
They are a very active insects, which is good for your Leo. They like the challenge and movement of these actives, but for a lizard keeper, they can be quite hard to manage.
On top of this weird smell, and their high activity, they are also very loud. They create a lot of noise when you have them.
Another issue that you may find is that, if there are uneaten, the crickets left behind by your Leo have a tendency to start to bite and nibble on your pet lizard. Meaning they can start to cause issues, which can lead into bigger health issues and infections from the open wounds.
It is believed that they have a high tendency of carrying diseases. Also they are quite difficult to keep alive and happy while you wait to feed your Leo.
What is so great about mealworms?
— Sweetiethebeardeddragon (@sweetiebeardie) May 3, 2018
Mealworms are less likely to carry bacteria and diseases which is good for your leopard geckos health. They are also a cleaner insect substitute.
When it comes to their activity level, they have quite a low activity, especially when compared to crickets. This is ideal for a lizard keeper because when you are providing this food for your lizard you do not have to worry about them moving all over the place, running away and jumping like crickets do.
You can simply present these mealworms to your pet on a dish. For example, simply lay them in the enclosure (Click for the best lizard enclosures) and they will happily eat away at their leisure, without any risk of these mealworms escaping.
Another great advantage of the mealworms is that they do not present any dangers to your Leo. For example, they will not try to nibble at your lizard like a cricket will. They also do not carry any noticeable odours like crickets do.
Great for Storage
When it comes to storage, again they are ideal. They can be stored away for weeks and become quite inactive in this period of time. It is then quite easy to keep them alive. You can then simply take them out of storage and present them to your leopard gecko, but more on this process later in this article.
Disadvantages of mealworms
Whilst the mealworms have a lot of clear advantages that I have listed above they are not perfect, like anything in this world. So in this section I’m going to explain some of the disadvantages that you have to consider, when you are thinking of substituting mealworms for crickets.
Lack of Nutritional Value
Mealworms do not have as much nutritional value as a cricket does, that is a fact. Therefore they need to be accompanied with good supplementation, to make up for this gap in the nutritional value.
Harder to Digest
Unfortunately they are harder to digest for your leopard gecko than a cricket is. Also, if they do escape even, though they are quite inactive this is possible, they are quite hard to find. They tend to borrow them self away and make it quite difficult to get them back. Even though this is quite a minor thing
Practical, but Not Exciting for your Leo
Due to their inactivity they are not as exciting for your leopard gecko to eat as a cricket is. A cricket is a real challenge, it jumps around and is very active and is quite pleasing for your leopard gecko. Where as the mealworm is quite inactive, and sometimes is not as enjoyable for some Leos.
Best practice for feeding your leopard gecko mealworms
As discussed earlier, these mealworms (Click here to see the difference between Mealworms & Superworms) are very easy to feed. To be honest you can quite literally lay them on a plate for your leopard gecko and they will happily just help himself without any issues.
If you have mealworms in bulk and you have stored them away in refrigeration. Before you can give these to your leopard gecko there is some preparation that you need to do first.
At least 24 hours before planning to give them to your leopard gecko, you should remove them from the fridge and let them return to room temperature. You should notice after this 24-hour period they will become warmer and start to become active.
The next thing that you need to do, after you’ve taken them out from the refrigeration and giving them ample time to become active, is to “gut load” these insects.
This is so that they are prepared and fed for your leopard gecko. This effectively means feeding the mealworms so that they are full of nutrition and will be a good asset for your leopard gecko, are you with me?
When it comes to gut loading, you can feed them a number of different things, in particular carrots or other vegetables. In addition to this you’ll need to provide some supplementation so that this is passed onto your leopard gecko.
A good method for supplementation is to mix the vitamin supplementation with the mealworms. In some cases you can dust the mealworms with the supplementation so that when your leopard gecko eats them it will consume the vitamin supplementation at the same time.
You can also consider giving your leopard gecko the supplementation in a dish on its own and it will likely feed itself this supplementation, but in all honesty mixing it with the mealworms is a good tactic.
Because they will be so excited to eat the mealworms, they won’t even notice that they’re getting the extra benefit of the supplementation at the same time.
What foods should you Not be feeding your leopard gecko?
As discussed before leopard geckos are insectivores therefore do not try to feed them vegetables, fruits, vegetables or any kind of vegetation, because this is not how they eat.
They will indirectly get this supplementation, as discussed, through the mealworms that they have eaten, that have been fed the vegetables. Or through the supplementation that you provide to them.
Also it is not a good idea to feed your leopard gecko pinky mice.
So how often should you feed your leopard gecko? Ultimately you should be feeding your leopard gecko 3 to 4 times a week. A good indication of the amount of food to feed your leopard gecko depends on the size, this is the best way to gauge it.
A good way to do this is to work out the size of your leopard gecko. Then provide it with at least two insects for every inch in length of its body, are you with me?
So, let’s look at a working example: If your leopard gecko is 5 inches in length, and that is from tail to the nose, then you would provide 10 insects.
And in this example, where we have calculated that you would give them 10 insects, you would provide 10 insects to them three to four times a week. You should check out this article on how to handle an aggressive Leopard Gecko.