New smooth knob-tailed gecko not eating?

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New Member
Mar 30, 2023
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Melbourne VIC
Hi everyone!

I recently bought a smooth knob-tail at the Melb Reptile Expo on the 11/03 after what I was hoping was sufficient research. Not sure on gender but I call him a he and his name is Herbie.
I wasn't told how old he was, however I went for the biggest they had and I'm assuming it's about two months old based on when the store had its first clutches available. No weight sorry, but he's about 8cm long snout to tip.

Herbie has not eaten since I got him, so coming up on 20 days now. Initially I was reading that they may take 7-10 days to settle down before eating, but so far no luck. He is beginning to lose weight visually and I'm quite concerned at this point. I've attached pics of him and his setup.

- He's in a 45x45x45 tank, with natural sand and two main hides, 31-32C on the warm end and ambient temp (about 22C atm) on the cool end. Cool end sand is over 10cm deep and moistened every 2-3 days. He tunnels in there fine.

- I've tried woodies, but gave up because I can't fluon the front vents of the tank and they escape too fast considering he makes no attempt to eat them. Now trying black soldier fly larvae and I have crickets coming in two days. Food is the correct size (between eyes). I'm hoping crickets are more familiar to him? From what I've read now geckos tend not to go for the BSFL?

- I offer him food by tongs (he's terrified of them though) and then leave some near the warm end around 7am and 7pm. If he hasn't touched them in an hour or two I'll remove them. I've tried cutting the BSFL open and rubbing them on his mouth but that didn't work. I also spray the wall a little each day since he does lick it off and I'm worried about him getting too dehydrated.

- Other than one night a couple of days ago when he made one (!) strike at a BSFL he has shown basically no hunting behaviour - he just lets them crawl under his feet or moves away.

- He was pooping every day for the first week, but has slowed down to every 3 or 4 days now. I haven't seen him shed but I'm not expecting to.

‐ I work overnights, so I initially screwed with his day/night cycle by closing the blinds during the day. Since leaving them open and using soft light at night, he's become much more active. I wouldn't describe him as lethargic.

- The first time I've handled him is for the current photos. I leave him alone otherwise.

I know juvies should be eating practically every day - at what point does this warrant a vet checkup? Should I be considering an electrolyte/vitamin soak first? He doesn't seem impacted from what I can tell (seems hard to do without eating first) but should I be concerned about dehydration or vitamin levels?

I'm going to try crickets, whole and then squished, when they arrive, otherwise I'm just trying to avoid stressing him out further. Any other advice for getting new geckos to eat and what my next move should be?
Thank you so much!


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Sounds like you need to calm down a bit, it almost seems like you're panicking.

Yes, obviously there's a problem, but frantically trying everything including things which are definitely not going to work will just stress you and your lizard and make things worse. A scared lizard which already isn't eating is just going to be more scared of food on tongs (once a gecko becomes a bold feeder you may be able to get them to eat from tongs for fun, but it's not an easier way to get them to feed) and putting goo on their face is just going to a stressful for you and scary for them. Geckoes are visual feeders, they respond to movement, not scent or texture on their face.

They don't feed well on soldier fly maggots because of the way the maggots move, which doesn't trigger a feed response. They feed on invertebrates which run, not sort of squirm along. They're very nutritious but the lizards just won't usually recognise them.

If I'm reading correctly, you put in maggots for two hours during the day? If so, that's probably your problem. They're nocturnal, they eat at night. I used to breed hundreds of these things, most of them were exclusively fed woodies (which they don't eat as enthusiastically as crickets but they eat them well enough and I didn't want to faff around with noisy, smelly, high maintenance insects), I'd usually put in enough to last them a few days and feed them twice per week or so, adding more feed as necessary. This was definitely not the best way to do it or how I'd recommend anyone else do it, but it worked for me. My point is, putting in feed for only two hours, especially during the day, especially with insects they generally won't recognise as feed, means you're probably not going to get them to eat.

Find a way to insect-proof your enclosure or change it (I don't know why anyone would keep live insect feeders in a non insect-proof enclosure, I'd never use a front-opening glass enclosure like that for insect feeders... or anything else come to think of it, I puzzle over them being so popular) and leave feed insects overnight (as I said, I put in enough to keep them fed for several days). As long as temperatures etc are good, your lizard should eat. Don't harass your lizard with things like putting goo on their faces, it's not going to work. If you do get desperate enough to intervene in a stressful way, you might as well assist or force feed them - if you're freaking them out anyway you might as well get a feed into their belly.

As for the hydration, I kept hundreds of these (and many other lizard species) on slightly moist sand for many years/generations without ever spraying them or giving them water bowls. Even people who have kept and bred more of them than I have often seem surprised by this. As long as they have moist (not wet, I never put in enough water for there to be wet/soggy sand and certainly not and liquid water visible) sand they should be fine. If in doubt you can certainly give them a water bowl and/or spray them, it won't hurt, and if you don't know what you're doing it's probably a good idea to be sure they have access to water, but it's unlikely your lizard is dehydrated if it is being sprayed and has access to moist sand.

Keep interaction to a minimum especially around feeding time. In a natural situation any animal as large as you which is taking an interest in an animal as small as him wants to eat it and will have no difficulty in doing so. This being the case, when you're around, especially if you're doing things like smooshing goo into his face, he thinks you're a predator and is more interested in fleeing to safety than hunting his own meal when you're interacting with him. Put insects in there in the late afternoon/early evening, don't go anywhere near him after that, and hopefully he'll have eaten by morning.