Feeding leopard geckos doesn’t tend to be very hard. Most are excellent feeders, willing to hunt and eat live food in their own time. However, numerous breeders and keepers are adopting tong feeding, where live insects are presented to leopard geckos on tongs for the gecko to eat.
In this article we will look at the benefits/disadvantages of tong feeding a leopard gecko.
Advantages of Tong Feeding
There are numerous advantages of tong feeding. These aren’t always applicable to the hobbyist. For example:
Ensures Everyone Gets Food
According to UK standards, pet shops can keep up to four individuals inside a single enclosure. Breeders may also do this for hatchlings to save on space, though most breeders are moving away from this practice. At DJL exotics, leopard geckos are kept on their own which is appropriate for the species.
As leopard geckos are competitive with each other, just adding food to the enclosure can mean that one or two individuals within the enclosure could be eating the food of the others. Over competition can cause stunted growth and poor nutrition in the leopard gecko.
To get around this, pet shops may tong feed leopard geckos to ensure everyone gets the right nutrition for proper growth.
Monitoring of Eating
Leopard geckos feed on live prey, and that live prey is pretty good at escaping food bowls and hiding in the enclosure. This behaviour makes it challenging for the keeper to know whether the gecko has eaten.
So similar to the above point, it allows the keeper to monitor eating, but this is more for the individually kept leopard gecko. And it also means that food isn’t allowed to escape and hide in the enclosure.
Tong feeding is probably best for an ill leopard gecko as it can help the individual recover.
There is no doubt that feeding time can be rewarding for the keeper. Scientific studies have found a relationship between improved mental health and taking care of a reptile, including feeding. This interaction time can also improve trust between the keeper and the individual.
Using tongs can help leopard geckos learn when it is feeding or handling time. But leopard geckos very rarely bite – if at all.
Disadvantages of Tong Feeding Leopard Geckos
There are also some disadvantages to tong feeding leopard geckos. These are listed below.
Harm to the Gecko
The first thing to consider is that geckos aren’t always accurate hunters. They can sometimes miss the prey and catch the tongs instead of the insect. Using plastic tongs would limit the damage, but some people use metal tongs, which can cause cuts in the mouth of the leopard gecko.
What if their teeth were to get damaged and fall out? Leopard geckos have 100 teeth and they’re replaced every three months. You would not want teeth to fall out due to your feeding preference!
Lack of Hunting Skills
When tong feeding extensively, leopard geckos can lose the necessary hunting skills to track down and feed themselves. Instead, they rely on the keeper. If a keeper decides to return to natural feeding techniques, it can mean that the gecko struggles at first as it has to hone its hunting skills again.
A tong-fed leopard gecko can become lazy, not moving unless they need to drink, change their environment or go to the toilet. Lack of movement causes health problems such as obesity or excessive fat reserves that lead to liver diseases and shorten the life of the leopard gecko.
It can also be disappointing for the keeper as the leopard gecko spends more time hiding. Some keepers are encouraged to feed more to see their leopard gecko more, which causes health problems.
Lack of Enrichment
We often consider the physical health of the leopard gecko, but we don’t often talk about their mental health. Leopard geckos are true hunters and spend a significant amount of time hunting. But tong feeding takes that away from the leopard geckos.
Therefore, they can suffer mentally. They can be bored in the enclosure, and this can irritate them.
Final Word: Should we Tong Feed Leopard Geckos?
There are times when you might want to tong feed leopard geckos. But this is when we’re looking at healing an injured or ill leopard gecko and then restricted only to those not interested in feeding.
Any other time, it is probably best to let leopard geckos be more natural, feeding them in a bowl or allowing feeder insects to roam the enclosure. For keepers, watching them hunt can be very rewarding, but the leopard gecko gets the most rewards, able to demonstrate natural behaviours and encouraging mental stimulation.