Geckos are one of the most common yet least well-recognized reptiles on the planet. They belong to the order Squamata, which includes other lizards as well as snakes and worm lizards. There exist seven distinct gecko families that combined contain almost 2,000 different species.
This makes geckos the most diverse lizards on the planet and one of the most diverse reptile clades. You can find geckos on every continent except Antarctica and in environments ranging from rainforests to deserts.
Geckos get their name from their unique vocalizations, which include clicks, hisses, and chirps. Almost all geckos lack eyelids, which means most rely on a thick membrane to protect their eyes and must lick their eyes to keep them clean and moist. While some geckos are diurnal, meaning active during the day, most are nocturnal, or active at night. However, once they become active, what do geckos eat?
Today, we’ll attempt to answer this question by exploring what common foods most geckos like to eat. Additionally, we’ll examine how geckos hunt and forage for food. We’ll then take the time to compare what geckos eat in the wild versus what they eat as pets. Finally, we’ll end our discussion of gecko diets with a discussion of what baby geckos eat.
So get ready to chow down on some information that answers the question “what do geckos eat?”
What Do Geckos Eat?
What do geckos eat? Like most lizards and reptiles in general, geckos tend to eat a largely carnivorous diet. That said, baby geckos and some species are more likely to be omnivorous and eat both plant and animal matter. Not known as picky eaters, geckos will eat pretty much anything smaller than themselves. The foods that geckos eat typically consist of animals that are abundant in the local environment.
However, there are certain foods that geckos tend to eat more than others and in large quantities. In addition, geckos prefer to eat live prey, and most geckos will never choose to eat carrion. To help you digest this information, we’ve come up with a list of the 12 foods that most geckos eat.
What do geckos eat? The foods that geckos commonly eat include:
By and large, geckos will eat pretty much any type of mollusk, insect, or bug. The only limits to their diet are based upon their size and the foods that are readily available in the area. Therefore, the larger the gecko, the larger the prey it can eat. Based upon this rule, larger geckos will eat a wider variety of prey, while smaller geckos will eat a less varied diet.
How Do Geckos Hunt and Forage For Food?
Geckos evolved highly attuned senses to help them hunt and forage for food. To begin, geckos possess excellent sight. Nocturnal geckos have eyes that are 350 times more sensitive to light than human eyes. This allows them to pick out colors, shapes, and movements that the human eye simply cannot see. Their multifocal optical system enables them to see objects in crystal-clear detail. In addition, geckos evolved remarkable touch abilities.
Many geckos have adhesive pads on their toes that allow them to stick to almost any surface. This aids them greatly in both pursuing prey and running away from predators. Additionally, geckos have decent hearing, which they use to detect sounds and vibrations in their environment. Finally, geckos possess a keen sense of smell to help them detect both predators and prey. They rely on their smell to allow them to sense potential food and locate its whereabouts.
Most geckos rely on ambush tactics when hunting prey, particularly larger, faster prey. That said, geckos may stalk or chase down slower prey such as crickets or beetles. If pressed, geckos can run up to 3 feet per second, which makes them capable of chasing down most slow insects. Once a gecko has its target in sight, it may shoot out its long, sticky tongue to catch its prey. A gecko’s tongue is long and flexible and coated in sticky saliva similar to a frog’s tongue.
Alternatively, a gecko may forgo using its tongue and simply catch its prey with its mouth. Geckos usually have between 50 to 100 teeth, which they use to bite and hold onto prey.
On average, a gecko will regrow and replace most of its teeth within the space of 3-4 months throughout its lifetime.
What Do Geckos Eat in the Wild?
What do geckos eat in the wild? It’s worth repeating that geckos aren’t picky when it comes to their diet. In the wild, geckos will eat just about anything smaller than them that they can catch. That said, due to their relatively small size, most geckos subsist primarily on insects, bugs, mollusks, and small rodents or snakes.
Wild geckos almost never eat the carcasses of dead animals, as they prefer to eat live prey. On occasions, wild geckos will eat their own young or eggs, or the eggs of other geckos.
To add to that, wild geckos may also eat other, smaller geckos when pressed or if other food is not readily available. Given that geckos are ectotherms, they become less active in cold weather. Some geckos that live in cold climates enter hibernation or torpor during winter, and so primarily only hunt for food when it gets warmer.
Common insects that geckos eat include flies, mosquitos, beetles, crickets, cockroaches, grasshoppers, and termites. In addition, geckos will also eat other invertebrates including worms, snails, caterpillars, moths, and spiders. While predominantly insectivores, wild geckos will prey upon anything smaller than them. This means it’s common for geckos to eat small rodents like rats, mice, voles, and shrews. They will even target small snakes and other small reptiles.
Meanwhile, other geckos eat a more omnivorous diet which includes fruits and berries. These geckos will chow down on locally available fruits including grapes, apples, apricots, pears, mangos, and more. Rarely, carnivorous geckos will also eat moss or other vegetable matter. However, this is usually the sign of a nutrient deficiency and is only done in extreme circumstances.
That said, some species, like crested geckos, frequently eat nectar and flowers, and can tolerate common vegetable matter.
What Do Pet Geckos Eat?
Different gecko species have different nutritional requirements. For example, you would not feed fruit to a leopard gecko, which is carnivorous, whereas you could feed fruit to a day gecko. Before starting a diet for your pet gecko, always consult your veterinarian or expert at your local pet store. That said, a pet gecko will eat many of the same foods as a wild gecko.
The difficult part is sourcing the ingredients. Geckos eat many different insects in the wild, which may be difficult to raise or purchase. Furthermore, most geckos don’t do well eating dried or pellet food, even ones made from ingredients they eat. Overall, pet geckos do best on a live and natural food diet.
The backbone of any carnivorous pet gecko’s diet will include crickets and grasshoppers. In addition to being cheap and readily available, these insects also pack a lot of nutrition. That said, it’s important to ensure that insects are mixed with mineral supplements, particularly calcium and vitamin D. Other common foods include mealworms, waxworms, superworms, and flies.
Larger geckos can also eat pinky mice to help them maintain a healthy weight. Remember, insects can bite a pet gecko, so it’s important to remove insects from a gecko’s enclosure if they remain uneaten for an extended period of time. In addition, some species can also tolerate processed gecko supplements.
As for frugivorous geckos, common fruits that you can include in their diet include:
What Do Baby Geckos Eat?
Generally speaking, baby geckos eat relatively the same foods that adult geckos eat. However, baby geckos may eat a more omnivorous diet, especially in the wild, where they have to hunt and forage for food to survive. That said, as soon as they are born, baby geckos can eat many of the same foods as adult geckos. In particular, they will prey on smaller crickets and beetles, which are easier to catch. Pet baby geckos should only be fed insects that are around the size of the gecko’s head.
Prior to starting a new diet for a baby gecko, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian or local pet store expert. That way you can ensure that your pet baby gecko is getting everything it needs to grow up healthy and strong.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Vip_sstock/Shutterstock.com
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