Aging Gecko Support

This is my leo boy, Gak.
He was a rescue from a middle school animal room about 6 years ago now, and we estimate he is at least 10 years old now. He was not cared for very well for his years at the school, and thus has several severed toes caused by stuck shed.

Recently, it seems his eyesight may be deteriorating a bit, as he misses more strikes and goes for the shadow of the tongs rather than the food. I am working on getting him used to more vitamin dusted insects, but other than that is there anything I can do?
His eyes are bright and clear, no swelling or discharge. Maybe he is just old?

Thanks! Sorry if the photos do not load, my first time trying to upload pics here.


You could try feeding out of a dish instead of tongs. You could also try letting the bugs run around if you change the substrate to something that’s not loose. I would recommend changing the loose substrate. Loose substrate is known to cause impaction and sometimes respiratory problems, shedding problems, and eyesight problems. Leopard geckos can live up to 20 years however I wouldn’t expect that if his care was bad when he was younger.


I highly recommend this as well, paper towels are best.


There are a lot of reasons a gecko could be having vision problems. A 10 year old gecko is a senior, but not super old. Could you give us the details of your husbandry, especially diet and supplementation?


He gets superworms (usually 1-3) every other day or so (whatever he will accept), and also has access to crickets most days. I’m also introduing him to dubia roaches, hornworms, and locusts when available.
I recently started him with calcium and vitamin dust on his food, but he is picky so this will take time.
He has a hot spot of around 80*-85*F with some basking rocks, and a cool spot and hide near his water bowl on the other side.
His current substrate is crushed walnut shells, from I believe ZooMed or RepTerra.
He gets a warm soak for a few minutes before and after his sheds since his toes catch on the molt.

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Alright! You don’t find that this more “unnatural” solution takes away from their quality of life or enrichment?

Thank you!
We did switch from sand to crushed walnut to avoid any ingestion, and he is doing much better about not eating substrate, but I’ll reduce that risk to zero by finding non-loose alertnatives

I’m guessing that, if he has vision issues that are only developing now, it’s probably either from malnutrition (since he hasn’t been getting supplemented food) or xanthomatosis affecting the eye from having a high-fat diet for so long, with possible trauma to both eyes as a much less likely scenario.

You could take him to a reptile vet or veterinary ophthalmologist. They would be able to take a very good look at his eye (cornea, lens, retina, etc.) and check for cataracts/lenticular sclerosis, corneal xanthomatosis, and abrasions or corneal scarring. If they find something, that would be the best way to start trying to figure out what’s going on.

However, most are not willing to spend the money needed for exam/diagnostics for loss of eyesight in leopard geckos. The good news is, so long as the eye issues aren’t a sign of something more serious, a gecko can live a very good life while blind. If the blindness is a result of lack of supplementation or a diet too high in fat, then the condition will often stabilize once the errors in husbandry have been corrected. I have had geckos that have gone blind, and right now I have a gecko that has had an enucleation (eye removal) on one side, and she’s doing fantastic!

Just do what you can to keep his environment free of any pointy/sharp edges. Keep his hides in the same place, so that he can learn by feel where to go. If he is blind I also suggest tong-feeding, to avoid him trying repeatedly to strike prey, then getting mouthfuls of walnut when he misses, which could cause a lethal blockage. With my geckos with sight issues, I started always tapping the edge of the tongs in the same spot before feeding, so they learned that tapping means it’s time to go into ‘food’ mode.

Since he has not been regularly supplemented, I would start off dusting all of his food, at every feeding, with Calcium Plus, for a week or two. Then, for the next 2 weeks after that, I’d alternate: 1 feeding with Reptivite or Calcium Plus, 1 feeding Calcium with D3, 2 feedings Calcium without D3, then repeat. Make sure the superworms, crickets, and dubia are gutloaded for every feeding too. After that, you can switch to a more normal supplementation schedule.

The other thing to do is to make most of his food healthier. A diet high in fat over many years can have negative health consequences for a lot of geckos. It’s possible that a diet too high in fat could be causing corneal opacities in Gak’s eyes, or even tumors inside the globe of the eye itself.

The best food for leos is the black soldier fly larva (BSFL), they require less supplementing than most other feeders. However, they are often considered less palatable by picky eaters, so I’d work on getting Gak to accept dusted ‘tasty’ food before trying to switch to something healthier. Hornworms and silkworms are great for increasing water consumption (important for blind animals that may not be able to drink on their own), and have much less fat than mealworms/supers. Right now, it’s so cold where I’m living, I’m actually feeding almost entirely ‘Grub Pie’ (by Repashy). It’s a powder you mix like you would jello, to make a semi-solid that you can cut little bug-sized strips off and feed via tongs. You can also put powder on it to supplement, like you would a feeder insect. For a few of my guys, it was very difficult to switch them over, but now it’s super awesome not to have to tend to so many feeders.

Related husbandry stuff:

  • Crickets, if gutloaded, can be healthy, but uneaten crickets should never be left in the terrarium with Gak after feeding. Crickets can literally eat through the body wall of a gecko while it’s sleeping, though usually the problems aren’t that severe, I’ve seen it happen with a rescue I tried to save afterwards. Crickets that have not been gutloaded contain very little nutrients and have a very improper Ca:P ratio naturally.

  • Dubia should mostly be fed a low-protein diet, so that they don’t develop crystals of uric acid that the gecko would then ingest. If your gutloading food is high in protein, make sure you only offer it right before feeding.

  • With regards to substrate, I’m a big believer in paper towel. If you are going to naturalistic, I have heard good things about Excavator, but I’ve not used it myself. I’m pretty sure I remember walnut shell bedding being linked to respiratory issues, but to be honest I’m having a bit of a brain fart about specifics at the moment. Since Gak has eyesight issues, I’d say a switch to paper towel is definitely warranted, so that his environment stays consistent and he can find his way around more easily. Also, with paper towel, under tank heating becomes an option, whereas very thick layers of another substrate would necessitate the use of overhead heating methods. (Never use heat rocks.) If you are super attached to using loose substrate, see if you can teach him to eat from a dish.

  • It’s more complicated than it sounds to come up with the ideal supplementation schedule, because there are so many different types of feeders with variable Ca:P ratios. I’ve also gotten a lot of different opinions from different reptile vets. I’m still working out what is the best for my own collection. Because I’m feeding the Grub Pie right now, and it’s nutritionally so different from a lot of feeders (it’s mostly made of BSFL), I’m not supplementing as much as I do when I’m feeding hornworms. The trick I’ve learned is that geckos will often get ‘fat armpits,’ little bubbles that form in their axillary region, when they are being over-supplemented. I have quite a few geckos, so if I notice that their armpits are forming bubbles, I know I’m overdoing it.

  • I’d try to raise his hotspot to 85-90*F, 80 is too low.


Oh my goodness thank you for the incredible information!
I have offered him BSFL in the past but they were too small to get his attention, so I will try those again if I am able to get his eyes a bit better. For now I will do my best to lower the fact content in his diet and increase his supplements. I have also arranged for him to get a warmer heat light immediately so he can bask more comfortably.
When I am back home in around 10 days I will inspect his eyes again to insure he still has no visible trauma, and will get him shifted over to paper towels or another non-loose substrate.
Thank you so much! I hope to get my big boy’s eyes corrected through diet if possible. He is still able to drink and walk the enclosure with no issues, so hopefully I caught it soon enough.

Thank you for taking so much time and effort to help me with my boy!!
Have a wonderful holiday season!


I do have one question though. Gak has armpit bubbles, and has had them before the supplements. Can this also simply be a result of high fat content in the diet? I was using his tail thickness to ensure he wasn’t getting too heavy, but maybe it is a matter of fat content compared to other nutrients rather than simply body weight?

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This is gonna sound nuts, but I don’t think there’s any consensus at all about what can cause the ‘bubbles.’ I only put it together about them showing up with over-supplementation after I read a hobbyist say they appear to store calcium (unconfirmed), then I noticed opacities in the ‘bubbles’ on radiographs of my & other peoples’ geckos, then started watching their size relative to my varying of their supplementation schedule. I have definitely seen their size increase when using too much vitamin or too much calcium with d3, it seems slightly less of an issue with calcium w/out d3.

Different geckos have varying tendencies to get the bubbling, and I suspect a lot of the variation is due to life stage changes in metabolism. For example, I see the biggest bubbles on my fully-grown males, but I’ve never seen them in growing babies. I have a wide age range of geckos (from 1- almost 19 years), and seeing the variation has given me a much greater appreciation for how there is no ‘one size fits all’ recommendation re: supplementation that would work for all geckos. I’m working on putting together a description of my own husbandry techniques, but my life has been absolutely insane and I haven’t made much progress recently.

If you are having extreme difficulty getting him to accept any food with supplement powder on it, you could try to ease him into it. If you’re using tongs, offer him the bug with the part that has the least powder on it closest. You could also try starting with just a super-light coating.

Alternatively, you could get a new, basic coffee grinder specifically for reptiles (do not use a used one). Then buy a dry, pelleted diet made for insectivorous reptiles (Mazuri makes one I think, or you could use T-Rex’s Juvenile Beardie pellets) and grind it into a fine powder. Then, you can start just coating with that powder. Once he accepts that, you try mixing in a little bit of the regular supplement powder, but by bit, until he’s switched over.

It’s also possible that he’s actually not turning up his nose at food as often as it appears- he might just be having trouble seeing his prey. Training him to tongs or a dish should help.


I have a small addition to add to the discussion, if you’re looking for a happy medium between paper towel and a more natural “substrate”: slate tile. Safe, natural, transfers heat well, and looks really nice. I use it for my own leos.


Oh that’s perfect thank you! He has some slate to bask on and loves it, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind!


Thank you so much!!
I will try to get the boy on some healthier foods and continue to monitor his eyes, tail size, and armpit bubbles.
You’ve been such a big help, thank you!


Everything already posted is extremely useful information. I don’t think there’s much else to add except crushed walnuts can cause fatal impaction and they are sharp. I think they also are dusty and cause respiratory issues but that might depend on the type. For a natural-looking enclosure you could have a bare-bottomed tank with a picture pattern underneath (if the tank isn’t too slippery and the gecko can move around easily).


I myself made a very awful mistake keeping my leopard geckos on loose substrate and lost a very precious gecko to her ingesting it. One of the hardest things I had to go through. I moved all of my leopard geckos to paper towel as substrate and won’t move them back! I don’t believe it affects the “quality” of their lives at all. They are healthy and happy as before! My geckos used to be on coco fiber.


Thank you so much, I will transfer him as soon as I am able!


Sorry for another question, y’all have been so helpful already.
With the paper towels, do you simply remove them to remove poop, or do you need to clean the whole bottom of the tank due to the ammonia?
Gak poops in the same spot every time so maybe I could fashion him a removable tray of sorts.

A lot of leos will use little bathroom trays, some people even make them that you can buy! Stroodies (on etsy) makes one, if I remember correctly.

I usually spot clean by manually removing the dried stool & urates, then do an all-substrate change less often than I would otherwise. How often to clean an enclosure varies a lot by size and habits. For example, I have a gecko named Lucretia who is absolutely shameless and constantly poops in her humid hide (eeew :nauseated_face:)! So her enclosure gets cleaned way more often than almost all of my other geckos, hehe.


Perfect thank you!

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