Your Leopard Gecko is eating like a champ, acting normally, and doing everything it is supposed to do. However, you notice that they are starting to look chunky. Can leopard geckos be overweight?
As it turns out, fat Leopard Geckos are very common.
Recently, I had this experience with mine. I realized that she was gaining weight, especially in her tail and the back half of her body. She was clearly larger than she was three months before! After a few weeks of cutting out treats and extra food from her diet, I was able to get her back down to a healthy weight.
In this article, we will share how to tell if your gecko is overweight and what you should do.
- Overweight Leopard Geckos develop fat deposits along the backbone and rib cage, giving their spine a sunken-in appearance.
- Chubby geckos will also have stubby, sausage-shaped legs with creases in the inner elbows and wrists, a tail that is thicker than the head, skin folds along the sides of the body, and a sagging belly.
- Feeding a diet high in fat (such as mealworms) increases the risk of obesity.
- Obese lizards tend to become more sedentary and reduce their physical activity as their weight can make it difficult to climb and move freely.
How to Tell if Your Leopard Gecko is Overweight?
Leopard Geckos can become overweight, especially adults that have stopped growing.
Some of the most common signs of obesity include:
- Chubby, sausage-shaped legs and arms with visible creases in the elbows, wrists, and knees. These creases are easy to spot when your gecko is lying down or has its legs bent.
- A tail that is thicker than their head and neck is a sign that they are overweight. In my experience, this is one of the best ways to determine if your gecko is healthy.
- A sunken-in spine caused by fat deposits on the upper ribcage. This looks like a “dip” where the backbone should be.
- Sagging stomach, even before feeding, is a symptom of overfeeding. They should have a slightly flattened, cylindrical body with a fairly tight stomach.
There is a common misconception among keepers that these reptiles cannot get too large.
This misconception stems from the fact that this species has a naturally solid build and chunky appearance. They also store fat in their tails to help them survive in the wild. These factors contribute to the inaccurate idea that the more plump a Leopard Gecko is, the healthier it is.
The truth is obesity is one of the most common problems faced by these pets!
I myself have been guilty of spoiling my gecko with treats, causing her to gain too much weight. I used to give my Leopard Gecko waxworms or hornworms once or twice a week because they were her favorite foods. After looking back at older pictures of her, I realized that she looked quite a bit thicker (especially in the tail) and was starting to develop fat deposits on her back.
After doing some research, I decided to stop giving her treats and slightly cut back on the amount of food I was giving her. After a month or so, she was back to her normal self. Now, I make sure not to overindulge her with treats!
5 Signs Your Leopard Gecko Is Fat
1. Tail Thicker Than The Head
One of the most endearing traits of these lizards is their fat tails.
Healthy geckos should have a plump tail, but a tail that is too thick is one of the first indicators of a fat Leopard Gecko.
Gently measure the thickness of their tail at the base, about a centimeter back from where it joins the body. This section should not be thicker than their neck.
Now, measure the thickness of the tail’s widest point. This part of the tail should be no wider than their head (see image above for where to measure).
Leopard Geckos that lose their tails often regrow one that is shorter and thicker than the original. The measurements described above do not work on regrown tails.
2. Sunken Spine
Leopard Geckos deposit fat along both sides of their backbone, usually as a secondary storage after the tail.
These stores are only noticeable in overweight species. They make the spine appear sunken into the body. In reality, the spine is in the same place that it always is; the illusion comes from the excess padding along either side.
Start by lifting your reptile up to eye level and look straight down its back. In fat Leopard Geckos you will see two distinct ridges along either side of its spine.
It is harder to recognize excess back fat in male Leopard Geckos because they have naturally thicker bodies and stockier builds than females. However, this symptom of obesity is usually accompanied by at least one of the other signs listed here, especially an overly thick tail.
3. Fat Rolls
In overweight Leopard Geckos, fat accumulates in the arms and legs.
The limbs of regular-sized, healthy geckos look muscular and defined. These lizards are strong and agile climbers, so you should see some muscle definition in the forearms and legs.
When a Leopard Gecko gains weight, this muscle definition is lost under a layer of fat. They develop stubby, sausage-shaped arms and legs. When they bend their limbs, you will be able to see creases and chubby rolls in their inner elbows, wrists, and behind their knees.
These chubby rolls make it harder for your gecko to climb. When I first noticed that my Leopard Gecko was overweight, I realized that she had not been climbing as much as she used to.
4. A Sagging Belly
Leopard Geckos don’t store much fat around their bellies.
Instead, these lizards use their tail, back, and legs to store fat.
Their stomach can tell you if you are overfeeding them. Overfeeding causes their bellies to have a droopy appearance, especially near the back legs.
This tip was something I overlooked when I was feeding mine, I didn’t realize her belly was too distended after meals. Since I didn’t realize I was overfeeding her, she ended up gaining weight.
A Leopard Gecko’s belly should bulge slightly, but not visibly sag after meals. If you see this in your adult, cut back how much you are feeding.
Author Tip: It is very hard to overfeed babies and juveniles! This sign of being overweight applies more to adults.
5. Armpit Bubbles
In Leopard Geckos, bubbles behind the front legs can appear for various reasons, including obesity.
These soft bubbles form under the skin and look like blisters, but are harmless and painless. Bubbles are used by obese Leopard Geckos to store extra fat.
Never try to pop these armpit bubbles!
You can treat armpit bubbles by helping your lizard lose extra weight.
To help your gecko lose weight and return to a healthy size, reduce the amount of high-fat foods in its diet. If you are feeding mealworms, switch to a lower-fat option like crickets or dubia cockroaches. If you are already feeding a fairly low-fat diet, slightly reduce the amount by 1 or 2 insects.
Obesity in Leopard Geckos
Leopard Geckos are well-adapted at storing food as fat.
In their natural environment, prey can be scarce and unpredictable. As a result, they have evolved to build fat reserves from extra calories in their diet, and are very efficient at turning food into fat. A healthy and happy Leopard Gecko can survive during times of food scarcity by living off of its fat stores for up to two weeks.
This strategy works well for wild species.
There is rarely enough food in the wild for geckos to become overweight. This is not the case in captivity.
Pet lizards do not experience these “boom-and-bust” food scenarios.
Over the course of 6-12 months, pet Leopard Geckos can gradually become fat when regularly overfed.
The two main causes of obesity in Leopard Geckos are overfeeding and feeding too many treats.
It is relatively easy for Leopard Geckos to gain weight as pets, especially as they mature into adulthood and their metabolism slows down. As an example, juveniles need to eat every day, while adults only need to eat 2-3 times each day. Feeding an adult the same amount and frequency of food as a juvenile results in weight gain.
Author Tip: Feeding fatty foods like waxworms or pinkie mice on a regular basis can contribute to weight gain. Limit these treats to once per week or less. You should also avoid high-fat superworms or mealworms as a staple feeder insect.
Most will stop eating when full, though this is not always the case.
My gecko loves food and will eat as much as I am willing to feed her! She will eat more than what is appropriate for a gecko her size and age. This makes her prone to gaining weight.
Keep an eye on their weight, especially if they are an enthusiastic eater (like mine).
There is a myth that being overweight is not harmful for these lizards.
Obesity in Leopard Geckos can lead to a host of different health problems:
- Fatty liver disease
- Heart issues
- Increased risk of injury
Weight charts can be handy tools for beginners to track if their gecko’s growth is on track. However, keep in mind that every individual is different.
Don’t rely solely on weight to judge obesity.
|Age||Healthy Male Weight||Healthy Female Weight|
|0 – 1 month||3 – 20 grams||3 – 20 grams|
|1 – 2 months||18 – 30 grams||15 – 25 grams|
|2 – 4 months||25 – 45 grams||20 – 30 grams|
|4 – 6 months||30 – 50 grams||25 – 35 grams|
|6 – 9 months||40 – 70 grams||30 – 50 grams|
|9 – 18 months||50 – 110 grams||40 – 60 grams|
|18+ months||60 – 120 grams||50 – 70 grams|