How do I take care of my leopard gecko?

Leopard Geckos are one of the most popular pet lizards in the pet trade today. Easy to care for and simple to house, leopard geckos make great pets, and are often a first pet reptile for many new keepers.

Trade Name(s)

Leopard Gecko

Family & Scientific Name

Gekkonidae; Eublepharis macularius

Range & Origin

Leopard Geckos are native to Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Iran, where they live in dry grassland and desert regions.

Adult Size

Most leopard geckos measure 8-10 inches in length at maturity, with some females approaching 12 inches.

Life Span

The average lifespan of a leopard gecko in the pet trade is approximately 10 years, although leopard geckos can live over 20 years if properly cared for.

Enclosure

Leopard geckos are very easy to house. Commonly kept in plastic bins by breeders, most owners of leopard geckos will house their lizard wards in glass enclosures, such as Exo Terra Glass Terrariums. Standard glass aquariums with screen tops work well, too.

Exo Terra Glass Terrariums are fantastic housing for your pet leopard gecko.

Substrate

Opinions on substrates differ greatly among keepers, and a wide range of leopard gecko appropriate substrates are available on the market. For younger animals, cage carpet or paper towels work well. For older animals, the 2 previously listed substrates will suffice, or fine reptile sand can be used to provide the leopard gecko with a more naturalistic environment. If you choose to use sand, it is important that your leopard gecko is adult sized and has access to fresh water – a small or dehydrated leopard gecko can become impacted on sand.

Temperature

Leopard geckos are desert animals, but are active primarily at night, when temperatures are cooler. At the warm end of your leopard gecko cage, aim for a temperature of 85-90F. This can easily be accomplished by using a heat pad or heating lamp. Ambient temperature in the enclosure should be about 75F. Temperatures should be measured closely with a thermometer.

Lighting

Leopard geckos are not active during the day, so specialized lighting is not required. A red bulb ornight heat lamp may be used as a heat source if desired (and an alternative heat source is not provided), but UVB lighting is not needed. A day/night cycle is required, but ambient room light can provide this.

Red Heat Lamps are commonly used as a heat source for Leopard Geckos.

Social Structure

In the wild, leopard geckos are solitary creatures. In captivity, they are best housed singly to avoid conflict, but can be housed in groups consisting of one male and multiple females. Young, immature leopard geckos can be housed together as long as care is taken to insure that all geckos are getting enough food.

Diet

Leopard geckos eat a wide variety of insects in the wild, and their diet is no different in captivity. Common staple foods are mealworms or cricketsPhoenix wormssuperworms, or waxworms are great treats for your pet lizard. All prey items should be dusted with a vitamin/mineral supplement.

Mealworms are a common staple food for captive Leopard Geckos.

Cleaning

Keeping leopard geckos clean is a simple task. Spot clean your leopard gecko’s enclosure daily. If paper towel is used, replace it completely at least twice a week. Cage carpet should be cleaned once a week. Reptile Sand should be sifted with a sand sifter frequently, and replaced every couple/few months. A 5% bleach/water solution works well as a disinfectant. If this is used, rinse well with water and allow the enclosure to air dry.

Handling

Leopard geckos can be a bit nervous when young, but quickly settle down into easily handled pet lizards. Handle new purchased infrequently, in order to allow your new pet to settle into it’s new environment. Ensure you support the gecko’s entire body, and never pick it up by the tail. Leopard geckos can easily drop their tail when they feel threatened. Tails will quickly be regrown, but the resulting replacement will never look quite the same as the original tail. Additionally, leopard geckos store fat in their tail – loosing this can put additional stress on your pet leopard gecko.

Additional Reading

Josh’s Frogs always recommend thoroughly researching the needs of your pet before making the purchase. Here are some helpful care guides and books concerning leopard gecko care:

The Leopard Gecko in Captivity by Robbie Hamper

Leopard Geckos – Complete Herp Care

Leopard Gecko on Wikipedia

Leopardgecko.com

Leopard Gecko Care Sheet

Leopard Gecko Care by Melissa Kaplan

It’s important to research your prospective pet before you bring it home.

Conclusion

Leopard geckos continue to grow in popularity. What was once a simple yellow and black gecko is now available in a dazzling array of colors and patterns, as herpetoculturists strive to create new phenotypes of leopard geckos. Easy to keep and widely available as healthy, captive bred animals, leopard geckos are sure to be common reptile pets for years to come.

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