Leopard Gecko Care
Leopard geckos are one of the most popular pet geckos in the industry. Their array of colors, ease of care and wonderful personalities make them ideal pet lizards. They originate from Pakistan and India, and thrive in a hot, dry rocky terrain.
The lifespan of an average Leo is around 10 years, but many live longer with proper care. They require a very different type of set-up and care than crested or gargoyle geckos! Leos are insectivores and require insects in their diet as well as specialized heating.
Leopard geckos are a ground dwelling species and do not require the height in their enclosure other types of geckos do. A 10 gallon aquarium with a reptile lid is suitable for a single adult, although they will always appreciate more space.
Many pet stores sell sand as the ideal substrate for a Leo, but experienced breeders and keepers strongly advise against sand or any other kind of loose substrate. Leos are lickers, and hunters...both of which can lead to extreme and serious impaction if kept on sand. Stay away from crushed walnut or any type of wood shavings or loose soils.
We recommend reptile carpet, paper towels, or tile for the bottom of your cage. Tiles can be purchased at home improvement stores and are very inexpensive. They look nice, are easy to clean and are ideal. Paper towels, shelf liner, newspaper or butcher paper also works very well. Reptile carpet looks nice and can be removed and washed, with spot cleaning in between. Leopard geckos often pick a corner to use as a potty corner, making spot cleaning much easier.
HEATING and LIGHTING
Leos have heat requirements in order to thrive. Under the tank heaters work best and should be placed on one side of the tank so the geckos can move away from the heat if needed. Make sure to use rubber stoppers to raise the tank off the ground so the heat does not remain trapped under the glass and cause cracks. A light with an incandescent bulb can be placed over the tank as well, but is not necessary. Leos prefer belly heat to basking heat as they need heat on their bellies to digest their food, so over the tank basking bulbs are not recommended. UVB is not necessary as they are nocturnal and are most active in the night time. NEVER use heat rocks as they can cause serious burns and injuries. Ideally the hot end of the tank should be around 90 degrees F and the cool end in the 70's.
You can use a thermostat or rheostat to control the temperature of your heat pad if the hot side is getting too hot. These devices allow you plug your heating element in and control how hot it gets. A digital thermometer or a temp gun is recommended to monitor temperatures.
Leos prefer rather simplistic setups. A rock hide or cave placed over the heated side of the tank and a humid hide to aid in shedding on the cool side of the tank is all that is needed for decor. You can add fake plants, logs or rocks for enrichment and to decorate the tank. A shallow bowl of clean, fresh water needs to be available at all times.
Leopard geckos do not require much humidity other than a humid hide to aid in shedding. They shed often as they grow, be sure to watch for stuck shed, especially on their feet. Stuck shed can result in more serious and harder to fix health issues. You can tell when your leo is about to shed as they often become less social, hide more, and their bodies take on a lighter, grayish hue. They consume their shed, and will look much brighter in color after shedding. You can avoid shed issues by providing a humid hide.
Humid hides can be filled with moist eco-earth or sphagnum moss as leos love to dig, and laying females will use this as an egg lay box. A tupperware or baby wipe box with a hole cut out and filled with damp moss or dirt works well. Be sure to re-hydrate the moss often.
Be sure to have a fitted screen lid on the top of the tank. Even though leos are poor climbers, they are social and smart and can often devise ways to escape! A lid also protects them from other pets in the house. Screen clips can be purchased to secure the lid in place if cats or dogs (or small children...) are present in the household.
Multiple females can usually be housed together with no problem as long as they are of the same size. Remember to add at least 10 gallons of space for every additional gecko. Watch closely for signs of fighting or dominance, and separate them if needed. Males should NEVER be housed together and males and females must not be kept together unless you are an experienced breeder. Laying eggs too young or too often can cause a serious strain on your geckos health and is best left to the experts.
Leopard Geckos are insectivores, meaning they require insects in their diet. Crickets, mealworms, superworms and dubia roaches all make excellent foods. All insects should be "gut loaded" prior to feeding. Gut loading refers to the practice of feeding your insects a high quality diet before feeding them to your gecko. The nutrients absorbed by the insects then gets passed on to your gecko for a balanced diet. You can feed fresh vegetables, rolled oats or a slice of potato to the insects 24 hours prior to feeding to your gecko. You can also buy commercially prepared insect gut load powders which are easy to use and a perfect choice.
Crickets are a favorite of leos as they love to hunt, but they can be messy and smelly. If left in the enclosure uneaten, they can bother and even injure your gecko. Be sure if you feed crickets, you only put as many in the tank as your gecko can consume in a short amount of time, and remove any uneaten crickets.
Dubias are much less smelly, but they are also harder to find and more expensive. They are not very good climbers, so a small bowl of dubia roaches can be kept in the tank for a longer period of time to allow your gecko to eat at leisure.
Mealworms are the easiest to keep and easiest to feed. They are very inexpensive, readily available and can be kept dormant in the fridge for up to three months. Feed them in a shallow, smooth bowl so they cannot crawl out. They have no odor at all and leos love them. Wax worms can also be fed, but only as a treat as they are very high in fat.
Calcium is an important part of any geckos diet and should be kept available in powder form in a small dish at all times. Leos will lick the calcium as needed. You can also dust insects "shake and bake" style in a baggie prior to feeding.
Be sure to provide clean water in a bowl at ALL TIMES!
Leos are pretty easy to sex once they are mature. Males will form rows of pores near their vent under their tail that are usually visible to the naked eye. They will also develop a bulge. Females have very faint pores and no bulge. Leopard geckos are unique in that their sex can be influenced in the egg based on incubation temperatures. Breeders will often be able to tell you whether your young baby is a male or female.
If you do decide to breed your leo, be sure they are at least 45 grams and over a year of age. One single mating can result in many clutches of eggs. Research, research, research! Breeding is not to be taken lightly.
Leopard geckos come in many many colors and patterns, and new ones are always being developed! Spots and patterns and stripes and solids...leopards have them all!
Hatchling leos will change color as they grow, so don't be surprised if your baby leo gains pattern, spots and color as they mature.
Newly acquired geckos should be given at least 2 weeks without little handling to adjust to their new homes. Handling stressed out geckos can result in dropped tails, lack of appetite or other stress related illnesses. Once your gecko has had a period of time to settle in, handle them by picking them up carefully under their bellys, supporting the whole gecko in your palm. Sit on the floor and allow them to walk from hand to hand or within a supervised area next to you. Leos have poor depth perception and will walk right off your hand or a table if allowed, so watch them carefully. They may lick you to check you out. An upset or angry gecko will often gape and hiss in warning. It is best to leave them alone and respect their warnings as they can and will bite if provoked. Dropped tails will grow back in time, but they will never look the same as the original tail.
Most leos are very sweet and love to beg for food. They have very quirky, fun personalities. Remember, leopard geckos do not have the "sticking" or climbing ability some other geckos often have, so care needs to be taken when handling them to prevent dropping them and breaking a limp. Young geckos that are handled for short periods of time daily are very easily tamed.
At a Glance Care