Close-up of a white and brown spotted leopard gecko

Can Leopard Geckos Eat Earthworms?

Leopard Geckos make excellent pets for all pet reptile enthusiasts. They’re available at affordable prices and incredibly easy to care for. They can also get by even if you leave them alone for several days as long as you provide them with basic needs.

When it comes to the Leopard Gecko’s diet, it can eat a variety of live insects as well as some worms, fruits, and vegetables, but can Leopard Geckos eat earthworms?

Technically, Leopard Geckos can eat earthworms, and they’re a great source of low-fat protein. However, their preference level is relatively low among pet geckos, compared to other feeders.

If you want to learn more about whether you can feed earthworms to your gecko, how often you should do it, and other essential considerations, keep reading this guide.

Earthworm on a wet muddy soil

Can a Leopard Gecko Eat Earthworms?

You can feed your Leopard Gecko earthworms. However, you can’t rely on earthworms as the only food source for your pet gecko. 

Instead, you can use earthworms to add variety to your gecko’s diet or as an occasional treat from time to time but never on a daily basis.

As a general rule, earthworms shouldn’t make up more than 20% of your pet Leopard Gecko’s diet.

Earthworms are a good source of protein and other healthy nutrients. However, they’re not commonly preferred among Leopard Geckos.

This is not because geckos are picky eaters, but because there are higher-quality food options out there that should make up the majority of their diet, such as other feeder insects and worms.

Do Geckos Naturally Eat Earthworms in the Wild?

While it’s not uncommon for geckos to eat worms in captivity, it’s not a usual scenery in the wild, especially when it comes to earthworms.

The main reason behind that is that most gecko species are strict insectivores. This means that they would typically prefer eating various insect species over any other type of food.

Geckos typically avoid earthworms because of their relatively large size and the foul-smelling mucus substance they produce.

For that reason, if you’ve seen a gecko eat worms in the wild, especially earthworms, it’s mainly because they’re starving or couldn’t find preferable insects for days.

Nutritional Value of Earthworms

The main factor why earthworms make a great addition to a Leopard Gecko’s diet is the great nutritional value they pack. Here’s a quick look at the nutritional content of the dry matter of an earthworm:

  • Protein: 60 to 70%
  • Fats: 6 to 11%
  • Carbs: 5 to 21%
  • Minerals: 2 to 3%

According to these figures, earthworms can be nutritious food for Leopard Geckos. Keep in mind that earthworms are also around 82 to 83% moisture, so they’re an excellent source of hydration.

Downsides of Earthworms As Food for Geckos

Despite the great nutritional value and availability of earthworms, they come with several potential disadvantages that lower their value as accessible gecko food. Let’s have a closer look at them:

Unfavorable Size

Since Geckos appear almost toothless, they have adapted to swallowing their food as a whole rather than biting and chewing. As a result, Leopard Geckos will typically go for relatively smaller insects and worms. 

However, earthworms can be a little too large for Leopard Gecko’s intestines with the average length of the worm ranging from 9 to 14 inches.

As such, swallowing them whole puts them at risk of blockage and obstruction, so geckos rarely go for them. You can easily solve this problem by feeding them juvenile earthworms.

High Fat and Water Content

As previously established, earthworms are almost 83% water. While this is good for keeping your gecko hydrated, too much moisture results in watery excretion and diarrhea.

Besides moisture content, earthworms have a relatively high-fat content, which also has a role in diarrhea in addition to other health problems, such as obesity and fatty liver.

Slimy Secretions

As previously established, earthworms tend to release a mucus-like substance around their body, especially when they’re stressed to facilitate their movement and help them burrow into the soil.

Being around a potential predator like Leopard Geckos makes the worms secret too much of that stuff, which is also meant to be foul-smelling to deter predators. 

For all these reasons, many geckos end up avoiding earthworms entirely due to the smell.

Inadequate Calcium to Phosphorus Content 

Phosphorus and Calcium are two essential minerals for a healthy Gecko diet. However, Leopard Geckos need twice as much calcium as phosphorus in their diet.

However, on average, earthworms have around 440 mg/kg calcium and 1590 mg/kg phosphorus, which is a ratio of around 1:4. 

For that reason, relying heavily on earthworms in a gecko’s diet means getting too much phosphorus and very little calcium. 

This can put your gecko at risk of metabolic bone disease, as calcium is extremely essential for a healthy Leopard Gecko.

High Chance of Contaminants

While earthworms aren’t popular carriers of parasites, they can still carry other contaminants that can make your gecko sick.

One of the most popular examples here is heavy metals, which earthworms pick up while crawling through the soil. 

These traces of mercury and lead cause a wide range of health problems to your gecko. For example, heavy metal toxicity can compromise the immune system.

Close-up of leopard gecko on grass

This puts your geckos at risk of respiratory infections, inflammatory diseases, and other health problems that can shorten their lifespan.

Can Baby Geckos Eat Earthworms?

Despite being generally safe for adult Leopard Geckos to eat earthworms, you should typically keep them out of Juvenile geckos’ reach.

Earthworms are far too long for Baby leopard geckos to consume safely. Due to their large sizes, earthworms can obstruct their intestines and cause serious digestive problems.

Things to Keep in Mind Before Feeding Your Gecko Earthworms

Besides preference, there are several points of consideration to keep in mind before feeding your geckos earthworms. In this section, we’ll have a brief overview of them.

Avoid Buying Earthworms in Bulk

If you’re planning to use earthworms to add variety to your gecko’s diet, you shouldn’t buy a large amount all at once, especially at first.

As previously mentioned, not all geckos prefer eating earthworms, and some of them might end up refusing them completely. 

For that reason, start by buying a small amount to test the waters and buy more if you find your geckos interested in eating them.

Earthworms Come in Many Species

Although earthworms usually look fairly similar, they come in a variety of species, and your gecko might prefer one over the others.

For instance, many Leopard Gecko owners found that their pets prefer California Red Earthworms over other species.

This is mostly because they produce less mucus and aren’t too big in size. They’re also rich in proteins and other essential nutrients, so it’s a win-win situation!

Get Your Earthworms from a Reliable Source

You should avoid feeding your geckos wild earthworms or earthworms bought from a shady source. This is because these earthworms have a high chance of carrying parasites, such as:

  • Nematodes
  • Platyhelminthes
  • Amoeba and other protozoa

Wild earthworms also carry higher concentrations of heavy metal traces as they crawl into contaminated soil. 

Instead, you should buy your earthworms from a reputable pet store to lower the chance of health problems and infections.

Consider Dusting the Earthworms with Calcium and Essential Vitamins

As you now know, earthworms are a good source of protein but they heavily lack in terms of micronutrients.

A man holding earthworm with soil

One way to solve this problem is by dusting the worms with essential minerals and vitamin supplements, such as calcium, vitamin D3, and vitamin A.

This will adjust the calcium-to-phosphorus disparity in earthworms, allowing your Leopard Gecko to obtain all the necessary nutrients to grow healthily and thrive.

Avoid Feeding Earthworms to a Sick Leopard Gecko

If your Leopard Gecko shows signs of sickness, you should avoid feeding them earthworms for various reasons.

Earthworms are low in calcium and high in phosphorus, which can make metabolic bone disease worse. 

Also, they may carry parasites or bacteria that can cause further health problems to their already-compromised immune system.

Healthy Diet Alternatives to Feed Your Leopard Gecko

While earthworms are good feeders for your Leopard Gecko, they’re not the best. Here are some alternatives that are much healthier for your gecko:

  • Crickets: These are Gecko’s favorite food and are quite rich in calcium, which is critical for gecko’s growth.
  • Other Worms: Geckos can enjoy a variety of worms that are rich in proteins as well as other minerals and vitamins. These include mealworms, waxworms, super worms, and more.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: Like earthworms, these are also healthy additions that should be consumed in moderation.

Final Thoughts

This marks the end of today’s guide that shows you whether Leopard Geckos can eat earthworms.

As you can see, earthworms are a valuable nutritious addition to add variety to your gecko’s diet. However, they shouldn’t make up more than 20% of your Leo’s diet.

Remember that not all Leopard Geckos will eat earthworms, as some of them may reject them immediately, especially if the worms secret their smelly mucus-like slime. 

If your gecko refuses to eat earthworms, you shouldn’t force them and consider healthier alternatives instead, such as Crickets, Mealworms, Super worms, Waxworms, and Dubia Roaches

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