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    Default ***THE*** Leopard Gecko care sheet

    LEOPARD GECKOS IN CAPTIVITY
    By Gregg Madden

    The leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) is one of the most popular reptile species to be kept in captivity. There are many reasons for this. They are very easy to maintain in captivity, they breed readily, they are very calm, and come in a wide variety of color and pattern morphs

    Some Natural History

    Distribution

    Leopard geckos are found in the Middle Eastern part of the world. They can be found in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and other Middle Eastern Countries, and into India. They live in and around rocks, short grasses and a variety of soil types that range from sandy soils to packed dirt. Yes there is sand in their environment.

    Taxonomy

    Leopard geckos were described in 1854. The name Eublepharis means true eyelid and macularius means spots.

    Captive Care

    As mentioned, Leopard Geckos are very easy to care for in captivity. They can be a very rewarding species to keep as long as their husbandry requirements are met.

    Caging

    Finding the proper housing unit for your gecko is easy. Your options are as follows.

    1- AGA or glass terrarium
    2- Solid bodied reptile cages with sliding or swinging front opening doors
    3- A rack system

    The AGAs are great for fish but not for reptiles in my opinion. The glass walls and screen top let out too much of the valuable heat and humidity our reptiles need in order to stay healthy and thrive. With some slight modifications, they can be used as a somewhat proper cage.

    The solid bodied type cages that you can find on the internet made for reptiles is a great option. They hold heat and humidity very well and the proper thermo gradient can be easily attained, and they are much nicer looking than an AGA.

    Rack systems are the best hands down if you are breeding or even just housing multiple leopard geckos. They also hold heat and humidity very well and the proper thermo gradient can be easily attained.

    Leopard Geckos should be housed individually. There are many good reasons to keep them singularly. You can keep better track of how much an individual is eating. Sometimes leopard geckos that are hosed together will fight over optimal spots in the cage or over food. Two males should not be housed together for any reason.

    Substrate

    Oh no, the dreaded substrate issue!
    I will keep it simple. Natural sand DOES NOT cause impaction. Bad husbandry causes sand impaction. If your gecko is heated properly, well fed and hydrated, it will not become impacted if it ingests some sand. It will pass very easily through its very short digestive tract and out its cloacal opening. If you are not sure of your husbandry or just want to play it safe, you can use paper towels, newspaper, or tiles.

    However, I will say that you should NOT use Calci-sand, Vita-sand, corncob, crushed walnut shells, or gravel as these can cause impaction and death.

    Heating

    This is a very important and sometimes misunderstood topic. There is a lot of conflicting info out there on the internet. Leopard geckos need a proper heat gradient. There needs to be a hot side with a basking area and a cool side.

    Basking spots should be in the mid to upper 90s. I find that my leopard geckos do their best when the hot spot is up around 97 and 98 degrees. No, your gecko will not burn or melt with a hot spot in the high 90s. If you think about it, your body temp is 98.6 degrees F. Does your gecko burn or melt when you hold it in your hands? Didnt think so. If you offer your gecko the hot basking spot it needs it will stay on it long enough to raise its core temperature and will not spend the day trying to heat up. They will be more active and will digest and metabolize their food intake much quicker. This equates to healthier, faster growing geckos.

    Some keepers are under the impression that belly heat is what helps your gecko to digest. This is actually not the case. What helps you gecko digest its food is its core temperature which controls their metabolic rate. At rest, most reptiles want to have a core temperature of about 85 degrees and leopard geckos are no different.

    Ambient air temperatures are just as important as the Basking spot temperatures. A leopard geckos cool side should never drop below 80 degrees. There simply is no reason for it to be any lower. Even with a basking spot well into the 90s, low ambient air temperature can cause your gecko to slow or stop feeding.

    Now on to lighting. Yes, Leopard Geckos are a nocturnal (active at night) but they are not little vampires that will burst into flames if a ray of sunlight hits them. In fact, like all reptiles they still bask in the day to thermo-regulate and to acquire UV to produce vitamin D3 in order to process and absorb its calcium intake. So if you want to provide your gecko with a heat light or a few minutes of UV once a day, that would be fine.

    Hide spots

    Leopard geckos need hide spots. An individually housed leopard gecko should have at least two dry hides depending on your housing type. In cages, they generally need a warm side hide and a cool side hide. If you are housing them in a rack, they really do not need too many hides as the rack draw acts as a hide on its own. One hide in a rack would be good enough.

    Humid hide

    In addition to the dry hides, Leopard Geckos should have a humidified hide as well. This is important to aid in shedding and to provide a place for females to lay eggs. The humid hide should not be kept on the warm side. You do not want your Leopard Gecko to use it as a thermoregulatory area. The humid hide should only be used for shedding and egg laying. Any extended period of time spent in a humid hide can lead to URIs and skin problems. The humid hide does not have to be steamed up to do what it is ment for, so it is advised that the humid hide is set up closer to the cool end of the cage or rack bin.

    Feeding

    A healthy, well cared for Leopard Gecko will feed through out the year without slowing down. They should have food and water available daily. In the wild, Leopard geckos constantly hunt for insects. In captivity they rely on us to offer them their daily meals.

    Prey items that can be used to feed Leopard geckos are as follows.

    1- Crickets
    2- Meal worms
    3- Super worms
    4- Roaches
    5- Silk worms
    6- Wax worms
    7- Butter worms
    8- Locusts
    9- Phoenix worms

    Some keepers and breeders keep their geckos on a staple diet. Staple diets of crickets, mealworms, super worms, roaches, or locusts is ok and will sustain your collection, but a variety of prey items is always best.

    Some think wax worms are addictive or they are the Leopard gecko twinkie. This is not true. They are not a drug or narcotic and they are not a sugar filled cupcake. They are moth larva that are higher in fat than most feeders and should by no means be used as a staple, but they can be offered for more than just a snack once a month. A few a week is fine and will not cause fatty liver disease.

    Contrary to popular belief, fatty liver disease does not come from what they eat. Reptiles have a naturally fatty live because of their way of life. Fatty liver is almost never a cause of death in reptiles. What causes the fatty liver disease is what causes death.

    When reptiles go off feed for whatever reason, the fats that are stored in the body get mobilized in the bloodstream and deposited into the liver to be used up in times when they are not eating. For example, this happens in reptiles every season when they go into brumation. When they brumate, a fatty liver is not an issue because they use their fat reserves in the liver, they come out of brumation, and start feeding regularly again. But when an animal goes off feed for a different reason like sickness, stress, and improper husbandry, this is where the problem lies and where the confusion kicks in. A reptile that dies from any type of sickness that causes it not to eat for a long time will have a fatty liver, but the fatty liver clearly is not the problem. It is easier to blame something you can see right away instead of looking into what the real issue or problem is.

    A quick note on pinkies.
    Leopard geckos are mainly insectivorous. They do not require mammalian prey. If you offer your gecko a properly balanced diet of various insects, there will never be a need to give them a "boost" by using pinkies. Pinkies are high in mammalian lipids and almost always have lactos in their intestinal tract from feeding on milk. Lactos or lactic acid can be harmful to reptiles that are not "made" or have not evolved to ingest mammals.

    Supplements

    There is a variety of good vitamin and calcium supplements out there for reptiles. Here is what you need to know.

    Always have a small dish of calcium without D3 available at all times in your geckos enclosure. Your gecko will lick the calcium as it needs it. You should dust your feeders once a week with a multi vitamin formulated for use with reptiles. Vitamin D3 should only be offered once or twice a month. It is a fat soluble vitamin that can build up in your geckos system. An overdose of D3 can cause kidney and liver damage as well as hypercalcaemia.

    Hydrating

    This goes without saying but I will say it anyway. ALL living things need water and your Leopard gecko needs clean, fresh water every day.

    So now you have an idea on how to keep your gecko, Its time to make the plunge and buy a gecko.

    Buying your Leopard Gecko

    First you should always be sure you buy from a reputable source. Breeders that specialize in Leopard Geckos would be your best bet. Make sure you research the breeder you plan on buying from. Most leopard gecko breeders are up front and honest but there are some shady characters who breed reptiles. A quick check or inquiry on fauna classifieds BOI will help you weed through the Bad Guys. Try to stay away from chain pet stores.

    You want to pick a gecko that is alert, active, has good body mass, and a nice healthy tail.

    I may add a breeding section to this and add some pics in a couple of days.
    Last edited by Gregg M; 01-06-2010 at 01:05 AM.
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