I have cared for a variety of reptiles, but leopard geckos have got to be one of my all-time favorites.
For over 30 years, Leopard Geckos have been one of the most commonly kept reptile species, as well as the most popular gecko species. Even today, their popularity has not died down for obvious reasons. Leos, as they are affectionately called, are one of the best species for those new to keeping reptiles due to their generally calm demeanor, easy care, and availability.
Even amongst advanced herpetoculturists, leopard geckos have still kept a firm hold as an easily bred, yet diverse species due to the ever changing color morphs that appear. There is also a high demand for them.
What You Need to Know About Leopard Geckos
- Housing and Habitat
- Diet and Nutrition
- Handling and Temperament
Leopard geckos, or Eublepharis macularius, originate from the dry, rocky regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and some parts of India. They are a nocturnal species by nature, and can be quite active at night. Leos can live up to 20 years in captivity, and generally attain lengths of 8-10 inches. Females are generally smaller, and weighing at an average of 50-60 grams. Males are larger, and can weigh 70-80 grams. Their size makes them the perfect size for most beginners since they are large enough to handle without worrying about hurting them, yet not so large that they appear intimidating.
2. Housing and Habitat Requirements
Leos can be housed in a number of ways as long as the basic needs are met. Being a terrestrial species of gecko, floor space supersedes the habitat height.
A typical 10 gallon tank (approx. 20" x 10" floor space) is the absolute minimum for a single adult, with a 20 gallon long tank (approx. 30" x 13" floor space) being a better option. Leos may be housed in tanks, specially made reptile enclosures, custom made enclosures and even plastic storage tubs (Sterilite, Rubbermaid, etc).
Coming from a desert environment, Leopard geckos must have access to a hot spot in their tank. Generally, the hot side of your enclosure should be between 85F and 90F at all times. Just as important as a hot spot, is the ability to cool off as needed. The cool side should average around 75F.
Each side of the enclosure should have an appropriate size hide box. This way your gecko can properly thermoregulate without comprising the feeling of security that a hide box provides. Hide boxes are a necessary cage decoration. You may also use non-toxic plastic plants, rocks, woods, or store bought items to create a wonderful habitat for you gecko.
Another important component of creating a suitable enclosure is the substrate. Newspaper, paper towels, flat stones (tiles) or no substrate at all are the safest options for your gecko. Though visually appealing, sand can be dangerous to use and many have lost their beloved pets from using it. Leos can very possibly consume enough sand to cause intestinal impaction. Many people believe that sand is the "natural" substrate for Leopard geckos. Remember, they come from a rocky region, not from the sandy deserts many people assume.
As long as your Leo's home is the correct size, holds the proper heat, provides a sense of security for your animal, and is free of possible dangers (sand, unstable decorations, etc) you're good to go!
3. Diet and Nutritional Needs
Leopard geckos are strictly insectivores and must have live insects as their diet.
Healthy Insects for Leopard Geckos
- Feeder Roaches
Before feeding your leo, you must "gutload" your feeder insects. Gutloading is a term used to describe feeding your insects a high quality feed 24hrs prior to feeding them to your gecko. The nutrients your feeders gain from the feed is in turn absorbed into your leo after consuming the insects.
Vitamins and Minerals
Another extremely important part of the Leopard gecko diet is the need to have a vitamin-mineral powder available to them at all times. There are many different types of vitamin powders available, but it is generally agreed upon that calcium, vitamin D3 and phosphorus are the most important to your Leo's health.
Water should be provided in a sturdy bowl at all times. The water level, and water dish, should be low enough that your Leopard gecko can climb out easily.
4. Handling and Temperament
Most Leopard geckos are interactive, easy-to-handle pets. After becoming accustomed to being handled, many Leos even seem to crave human attention. Keep in mind that Leopard geckos can drop their tails, and care should always be taken to handle them with care and respect. Leopard geckos are surprisingly personable, and have many endearing behaviors such as cleaning their eyes with their tongue.
Leopard geckos are an excellent choice of reptile to own, whether you've never owned a pet before, or have owned reptiles all your life. Their hardiness, personalities, ease of care, and the huge number of morphs available will continue to keep Leos at the top of the list for the most popular reptiles in captivity. Always continue to research and gain more knowledge of your pet, even after you purchase it. Joining forums, and keeping in touch with those who may be more experienced than you is an excellent way to keep up on the best ways to care for your animal. Remember that when you take an animal into your possession, it relies solely on you for the care it needs. So remember to treat it with respect and understanding.
bookpaw on February 04, 2018:
Some Facts About the Leopard Gecko
The leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius) is a type of lizard native to Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, and northwestern India.
These hardy ground-dwellers thrive in the rocky, arid grasslands and desert regions.
Because they are exothermic, leopard geckos rely on external sources to regulate their body heat.
They will regularly burrow to escape the sun’s heat during the day, and they come out at night to hunt when the temperatures are more favorable.
Leopard geckos have been bred in the United States for more than 30 years, and they are thought to be the first domesticated lizard and the most common reptile pet.
Pet Stores and individual breeders sell leopard geckos, with the more common varieties being the least expensive and the more rare color variations selling for several hundred dollars.
A leopard gecko’s average lifespan is ten years, but they will live for 20 years or more with proper care.
Is a Leopard Gecko Right for YOU?
If you’re in the market for an easy to care for reptile with a perky personality, look no further than the leopard gecko.
These cute little lizards are excellent beginner pets, and also make ideal companions for breeding reptile enthusiasts to produce rare color morphs.
It is my hope that this care sheet has given you the knowledge and confidence to properly care for your new Leopard Gecko.
Over time, your leopard gecko will bond with you and greet you with a series of chirps and squeaks, grinning up at you for attention and a meal.
If you’re looking for a new reptile to welcome into your home, you simply can’t go wrong with a leopard gecko.
2 thoughts on “Leopard Gecko Care Sheet: Your One Stop Know It All Guide (Must Read!)”
We have a leopard gecko and for the past 2 weeks one eye is closed completely and the other one has a cloudy film in it. I been treating it with Fluker’s Repta Rinse and followed by Terramycin ointment, 3 times a day and the eyes are the same. She’s eating well and is very active.
I pass my finger pass the open eye and she’s doesn’t react. What can I do? Appreciate your advise.
is a 10 gallon ok for a leopard gecko that is taken out multiple times a week
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Feeding Your Leopard Gecko
Leopard geckos are one of the most uncomplicated reptiles to care for because their dietary needs are quite simple. As long as you feed them the right type of insects in appropriate amounts and make sure you are regularly dusting them with calcium and vitamins, your leopard gecko should thrive and maintain a healthy weight. Always watch for signs they are getting too fat and that their feces is normal to ensure they're healthy. If you see signs of refusing food, regurgitating, or unhealthy feces, contact your veterinarian right away.
Natural History of the Leopard Gecko
The leopard gecko, Eublepharis macularius, is native to south central Asia from southern Afghanistan, throughout Pakistan and northwestern India. In the wild they are nocturnal and hide under rocks or burrows during the day. Winter temperatures can get down to 50°F forcing them to brumate. They breed readily in captivity and most are now captive born in the United States. Many color variations are available. Leopard geckos weigh 45 to 80 grams, are 20 to 25 cm in length, with males being larger than females, and can live twenty to almost thirty years. Leopard geckos can be affected by a variety of diseases and this article discusses the 10 most common problems.
Diet for the Leopard Gecko
- Crickets should be staple part of the diet for Leopard Geckos, but they can also be fed waxworms, earthworms, mealworm larvae or wild-caught insects such as fruit flies, flies, moths or grasshoppers in small amounts.
- Adults should be fed every 2-4 days and the insects should be dusted with a calcium/Vitamin D 3 supplement twice weekly and every other week with a multivitamin.
- We recommend using “Rep-Cal”, from Zoo-med, as a supplement.
- Insectivore diets are naturally low in calcium and many insects sold as “gut-loaded” are not fed an appropriately calcium rich diet prior to being sold. When purchasing insects, it is VERY important for you to feed them a good meal prior to feeding the insects to your gecko.
- T-rex Calcium plus food for crickets and Mazuri Hi-Ca Cricket diet are two commercially available options.
- As adults, female leopard geckos especially like pink mice. Start with 1–2 day old pinks until they are comfortable eating pinkies. Males prefer pinkies less.
- Train your leopard gecko to eat the crickets from a “feeding station”.
- Place a ceramic crock, or other heavy bowl in the cage and place a few crickets in it for the gecko to eat.
- You may have to move the gecko closer to the bowl the first few times so that he catches on.
- The advantage to a feeding station is that you can easily remove any uneaten insects and the gecko is less likely to consume particulate substrate such as sand (if you are using one).
Water Recommendations for Leopard Geckos
- Offer fresh water daily in a water dish large enough for the lizard to soak its entire body in.
- Additional soaks in shallow warm water for 15-20 minutes 2-3 times a week are helpful, especially during a shed.
- If he will not go into the water on his own, place him in a shallow container 2-3 times a weak to force soak.
Housing and Substrate for Leopard Geckos
- Leopard geckos do well in small 10 or 20 gallon aquariums with built in screen tops.
- Males should not be housed with other males as they fight resulting in serious wounds and mutilation
- Paper towels, newspaper, indoor/outdoor carpet or a paper pulp product or orchid bark are the safest.
- Avoid sand, as this is very drying to the environment, and many geckos will accidentally ingest sand, causing life-threatening impactions.
- Provide a “moisture station” by placing sphagnum peat moss, soaked in water in the bottom of his hide rock
- Keep this moistened daily, and change the peat moss a minimum of once a week (every 2-3 days, or even daily is ideal).
Heating and Lighting Recommendations for Leopard Geckos
- Provide heat with an under the tank heater and an incandescent light bulb (40-75watt) or a ceramic heater.
- Temperatures should reach 80-88 degrees F on the warm side and 70-75 degrees on the cool side.
- Always measure temperature at the bottom of the cage and/or at the basking site where your gecko actually sits!
We hope this information helps you understand husbandry and care of leopard geckos. Please see your veterinarian for more information or visit us at one of our MedVet locations.
Sources and Additional Information for Leopard Gecko Care and Husbandry
By MedVet's Avian and Exotic Service | Posted In Pet Owners | Tagged Avian & Exotics