The leopard gecko is a good choice for relatively inexperienced or prospective keepers of pet lizards. They are one of the easiest and attractive lizards to keep.
Leopard geckos are popular small lizards that can live as long as thirty years in captivity. If kept in a small tank or terrarium, it is best to keep just a single pet as leopard geckos will be aggressive with each other if having to compete for food and shelter. It is preferable to keep groups of leopard geckos in a larger terrarium, which unusually for pet lizards need not to be as high in this case as it might be for other pet lizards. Leopard geckos generally live on the ground as they have claws on their feet rather than the pads that many other small lizard species use for climbing. Male leopard geckos tend to be aggressive with each other, so housing all females together or a number of females with just one male is advisable.
Originally from the Middle East, Leopard Geckos are now bred and sold worldwide. Uncomplicated care and friendly temperament makes this gecko popular with many people.
Meet the Leopard Gecko. Eublepharis macularius is one of the most common exotic geckos seen in pet stores and sold by breeders. This is due to a variety of factors: it is a hardy animal and simple to care for, has an amiable temperament, and breeds readily. All this makes the leopard gecko a favorite among breeders and enthusiasts. The variety of colors these geckos can come in gives it that much more appeal.
Leopard Gecko Cage (Habitat Requirements for the Leopard Gecko)
Leopard geckos can be kept in a simple desert terrarium setup with either newspaper liner, cage carpet, or calcium sand as a substrate. Calcium sand is the best choice to use since geckos can be subject to sand impaction from the accidental consumption of sand. Cleanup is as easy as a change of paper or a quick scoop of the sand to remove any mess.
An undertank heater, small water dish, a hide log or cave, and a small light complete the rest of the setup. Leopard geckos are nocturnal and don’t require a UV light, however, a small, low watt spot light to provide a warm basking place can be used. Alternate heat sources should be an undertank heater, but never use a heat rock due to possible burns on the gecko’s belly.
The terrarium for keeping a group of leopard geckos should ideally measure at least 60x40x20 inches. Despite their limited climbing ability, the terrarium is best with a secure lid, as if leopard geckos escape they will prove extremely difficult to catch. The terrarium will require flat rocks for the geckos to be able to rest under safely. The base material is usually sand but bark, small gravel chippings or even paper are sometimes used.
There should also be a damp area in a dark tray for egg laying, ideally consisting of moss that is regularly sprayed with water. Plants can be put into the terrarium and can also be used as an alternative for the sheltered egg-laying area. The leopard gecko’s body temperature adapts to the environment, whether in heat or shade. The gecko will generally prefer heat unless it gets too hot.
The terrarium should be able to be heated to around 90 degrees fahrenheit as the norm using a lamp and an under-floor heated pad. The temperature should be reduced at night to around 68 degrees fahrenheit. Leopard geckos will be most active in the evening as the temperature cools.
The heated pad is best placed under one end of the terrarium, as with snakes, so that the gecko can move to a cooler area when it prefers. A water tray will also be required.
Basic Leopard Gecko Care
Geckos are particularly quick to shed their tails so if handled, care must be taken. The process is known as autotomy and is used to evade predators as the shed tail will in many cases continue to shake and move for a short time. The tail will normally re-grow but not usually as well-formed or to the same size as the original.
Leopard geckos feed on insects and baby mice. An occasional treat of small slices of fruit can also be fed for variety and to help balance the diet. Adult leopard geckos are voracious and will easily consume over thirty insects per week. Geckos are very clean reptiles but their droppings should be removed regularly to reduce any risk of infection. They also shed their skin but will re-ingest it. Whether this is for nutritional value or is done as a means of avoiding alerting poredators to their presence is not really known.
Leopard Geckos can be kept in a standard ten gallon terrarium (or aquarium if a terrarium isn’t handy), although a bigger terrarium won’t hurt. As long as the gecko has a place to bask, a place to hide, and food and water readily available, an extra large space is unimportant.
Like all reptiles, leopard geckos need heat to warm their body and function. Placing a heat rock in the terrarium, or a heating pad under the terrarium, are easy ways to provide this necessity. It’s important to make sure neither get too hot, as the gecko could be burned. If going for a more “natural” habitat, UV day lights made especially for reptile terrariums can be used. There are also night lights that simulate the moon’s light, for nighttime viewing.
When choosing substrate for the leopard gecko terrarium, keep in mind that younger geckos sometimes ingest smaller particles and this can lead to a blockage of the animal’s intestines. Leopard geckos don’t need a substrate, although if using a heat pad it’s probably best to use something to prevent burns. Newspaper, artificial turf or cedar chips all work well. Make sure to keep any type of substrate dry.
Leopard Geckos are insectivores; they don’t eat plants of any kind. Live crickets and mealworms are both good meal choices. Each gecko will eat somewhere between two and three crickets a day, and five or six mealworms. Dusting the food with Reptivite will ensure the geckos are getting enough calcium. Local hardware stores usually carry crickets (for fish bait) at a cheaper rate than a pet store will.
Wait until the gecko adjusts to its new surroundings (or reaches about six inches if it’s a hatchling) before handling it. Letting the gecko crawl through fingers for ten minutes a day is enough for it to get used to being held. Handling any gecko for too long a time though will stress the animal. Never pick a leopard gecko up by its tail! This just serves to stress the gecko out even though its tail will grow back if it falls off.
Leopard Gecko Morphs
For the more aesthetically inclined consumer, there is a wide range of colors Leopard Geckos can come in. These colorations are known as phases. Leopard gecko prices range from $20 for your standard yellow-and-black phases, to a few thousand of dollars for a “red stripe” morph, a gecko with a yellow background and orange to red colored stripes running down its back.
Just follow this Leopard Gecko check list below to keep happy, healthy Leopard Gecko.
- Dry substrate.
- Shallow water dish.
- Rock, reptile light or terrarium pad for heat.
- A hide box.
- Supply of crickets or mealworms.
One of the Easiest to Care for Reptiles Available
Leopard geckos are beautiful, easy to care for, social, and friendly. Owning one Leopard gecko may very well encourage the ownership of two… or even more.
For someone wanting to get an easy to care for pet, a Leopard Gecko, Eublepharis macularius, may be just the answer. Leopard geckos are amiable creatures that don’t mind being handled by their owners. Some will even exhibit signs of recognition, readily approaching their owners to take a cricket from their hands, or to be stroked gently on the head and held.
Feeding Leopard Geckos
Correct terrarium temperature is essential for proper digestion of food, and should remain somewhere between 80 and 90 degrees during the day. Captive gecko diets generally consist of crickets, small mealworms, wax worms, and for larger geckos, baby mice, more commonly referred to in the reptile trade as “pinks”.
Many gecko owners avoid feeding their geckos giant mealworms due to intestinal injuries sustained by geckos that ingest partially killed mealworms. An undamaged mealworm can remain alive for several minutes and do severe damage to the stomach and intestines of a leopard gecko.
Leopard geckos should be fed 1-2 crickets or meal worms daily, always have a shallow drinking dish available, and be kept at the proper temperature to aid with digestion. They are subject to very few health problems, but conditions such as metabolic bone disease and bowel impactions can occur. Mineral supplements added to their diets and the use of correct substrate in their enclosures can usually prevent most of these problems.
Breeding Leopard Geckos
When properly cared for, leopard geckos can live upwards of 20 years or more. They make wonderful pets and are easy enough to care for that they can be suitable pets for older children, although adult supervision is recommended. Advanced hobbyists may enjoy the amazing array of color variations in the leopard gecko and decide to further pursue the hobby by breeding them.
Leopard geckos reach lengths of 8 to 12 inches. Males over the age of six months will have a “V” shaped line of visible pores on their underside positioned between the hind legs just above ventral sack. Females have pores, but they are much smaller and more difficult to see.
Female leopard geckos will usually lay one to two white leathery eggs several times during the breeding season. Most breeders will remove the eggs to a medium of vermiculite, perlite, and sphagnum moss for hatching, and also to protect the hatchlings from a premature demise such as being eaten by the parents.
Reasons to Have a Leopard Gecko
There are a variety of reasons to keep a leopard gecko as a pet. Ease of care, color varieties, they are an excellent choice for someone with allergies, and they’re fun to watch as well. If thinking about getting an exotic pet, try starting with a leopard gecko. It’s well worth the effort.