SPECIES: Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis Macularius)
ORIGIN: Middle East (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India)
TERRAIN: Native to dry desert climates. Leopard Geckos are
terrestrial animals (ground dwellers) and do not climb.
HABITS: Nocturnal, sleeping during the day, and active at night.
SIZE: Adults can obtain lengths of 8-9 inches,
and “GIANTS” can reach up to 12 inches.
WEIGHT: “Normal” sized weigh up to 60+ grams, and “GIANTS” can
weigh up to 100+ grams or more.
LIFESPAN: With proper care, and good nutrition, Leopard Geckos
can easily live up to 20 years in captivity! World record age is 28 years!
A 10 Gallon aquarium can easily house 1-2 Leopard Geckos comfortably (1 Leopard Gecko if it is a Giant), but of course, larger is always better, so they have room to roam around. I find that a 20 gallon long aquarium works best for 2-3 Leopard Geckos. Although multiple females can be housed together, only keep one male in a tank, as the males will fight over dominance. Additonally, only keep geckos in a tank that are close to the same size (do not put a baby in a tank with an adult, as the adults will pick on the younger one, and may kill it). You do not need a lid for the tank because Leopard Geckos do not have the pads on their feet that allow them to walk up glass. Of course, if you have other pets, such as a cat, a lid with clamps would be advised.
Hides and Heating:
You will need 2 “hides” in the tank. A hide provides shelter for your gecko, and since Leos are nocturnal, a place to escape the sunlight during day and sleep. Your tank needs to have a hot and cold side to it, with one of the hides on each. The hot side will be regulated by an “Under-Tank Heat Pad”. Provide a hot spot of 88 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit on the warm end with the cool side of the cage in the mid 70’s. It is very important to provide a temperature gradient for the animal. Basically, having a warm end and a cool end that will allow the animal to regulate its own body temperature. As the gecko gets hot, it will move to the cold end of the tank, and vice versa. The heat source will need to be somehow regulated. This can be achieved by using a rheostat or dimmer switch (available at any Home Depot in the lighting department. Lutron makes a good one, and is what I use. It only costs about $10) allowing you to adjust the temperature. Make sure to never overheat your geckos. Excessive heat even for a short period of time can and will most likely be fatal. As geckos are cold-blooded, they need this heat for proper food digestion, and the heat source needs to come from below, since geckos require belly heat.
The best substrate to use is paper, newspaper, paper towel, slate or tile. DO NOT use sand of any kind as the gecko may become impacted. Impaction is when the gecko ingests sand (usually while feeding) which can build up and block the intestine. My animals are all kept on paper towel just for the impaction reason. Additionally, paper towel is easiest to clean up after droppings. You will find that your gecko will designate a “bathroom” area in one side of his tank. When it is determined where your gecko will choose to do his “business”, you can fold a paper towel in half and put it on top of the paper towel you have on the floor of your cage. This way, you don’t have to replace the whole thing. Just lift up the paper towel he went to the bathroom on, and lay a new one down. You may also choose to use “Repti-Carpet”. This is something that can be picked up at most pet stores and usually comes in brown, green, or black. It comes as a roll, and can be cut to the length of your tank, when it gets dirty, just wash it, and put it back in the tank.
Food and Water:
Leopard Geckos are insectivores, and require live prey. Live prey stimulates them and triggers their instinct to eat. Baby Leos should be fed daily, and adults every other day. The most common food items used in captivity are crickets, mealworms, and superworms. I use superworms, as they are nutritionally the best for your gecko (as a regular staple diet). They have one of the highest protein, water, and fat contents of any food. Of course there are other food items that are available to feed your animal, such as waxworms (only feed these to a sick gecko to help them bulk back up, or to a gecko before, during, or after a breeding season to plump them back up, and not as a regular diet because they have the highest fat content, and are very addicting – I’ve heard them called “Gecko Crack” before, lol), phoenix worms, butterworms, silkworms, hornworms, etc. but you will be paying a lot more for those. Only feed as much as the gecko will consume in a given feeding. Depending on the size of the gecko this can be anywhere from 4 to 8 crickets. Left over prey running in the cage can cause stress and the gecko might get nibbled on by hungry insects. If you’re feeding mealworms, superworms or anything else that can be contained in a dish they can be left with the animal at all times without harm. The gecko will only eat what it wants. As a general rule the prey item should be no larger than half the width of the geckos and no longer than the length of the head to prevent choking. Additionally, a water dish must be kept in the tank at all times. Leopard Geckos do not require much water, as they are a desert species, and get the majority of their water intake from the food they eat, so nothing big is needed. Keeping the water fresh is very important so it should be changed regularly. Water that is stagnant is a breeding ground for bacteria and can cause illness. Change the water out about every 2 days, and run the dish under warm water to clean it. Do not use tap water, as this contains chlorine and other chemicals not healthy to your gecko, and may cause it death. Only use purified water. I use “Dasani”, and find it to be the best.
Make sure to gutload all food items for 24 hours prior to feeding. Gutloading is feeding very nutritious, high quality foods to prey prior to feeding to your animals. These can include but not limited to fruits, vegetables and grains. There are also many commercially available products that are in powder form. I make and use Pro Gutload for all my feeders. Gutloading will ensure a healthier insect and in the long run a healthier gecko. Remember your geckos are what they eat.
Calcium and vitamins are essential for reptiles. There are many different products on the market but I use and recommend Flukers Calcium without Vitamin D3. The most common way of offering this to them is by dusting the prey just before feeding. This can be done with the “shake and bake” method. Using a plastic bag or some type of container/cup, add a small amount of calcium/vitamin supplement. Add a few food items and gently shake the bag until they are covered in calcium. When dusting crickets make sure to feed them right away because they will clean the calcium off themselves. They are now ready for your geckos to eat. If you are dish feeding mealworms or superworms you can add a small amount of calcium to the dish, and the worms will coat themselves with it when moving around. Babies should get dusted prey items at least 4 times a week but preferably at every feeding and adults 2 to 3 times per week (I dust their food with Calcium WITH D3 powder once every 2-1/2 to 3 weeks). It is also important to provide a small dish with Calcium (w/o D3) in it for your gecko. Your gecko knows how much its body will need, and will take a few licks of it as they need. You may not ever see your geckos doing this but believe me, they do and will. A Gatorade cap works best for this. Lack of supplementation will eventually lead to MBD (Metabolic bone disease) and can cause serious problems with reptiles that can lead to death. Some symptoms include very weak and lethargic animals that will display soft limbs and bones.
Remember, a Leopard Gecko is a pretty small animal, so they can be fragile, and should be handled very gently. The following is VERY IMPORTANT… NEVER, EVER PICK UP YOUR GECKO BY THE TAIL!!! They do not like this and see it as an attack to them, and may cause them to break their tail off as a defense mechanism. If threatened, the tail will detach. Many reptiles are capable of this defense mechanism. It will grow back but will look nothing like the original.
Also, remember that too much handling and too fast or too rough of handling can cause stress on the animal. Babies can sometimes be a little rambunctious, and can be very quick, but they grow out of this, and as they get older, calm down and become very tame and docile, and very slow. Babies can sometimes be “jumpers”, so make sure that when holding your gecko, you are not holding it too far above a hard ground, because if they jump, it can be a long way down for them and may hurt them.
Like most reptiles, geckos shed their skin as they grow, however, geckos are unusual in that they actually eat their shed skin, as it provides many essential vitamins and nutrients. If you see your gecko’s skin start to fade or get a white shade to it, it is important to moisten the “hot side hide” as this will aid in the shedding process and help your gecko to remove all it’s skin. This can be done by adding a wet paper towel or wet moss to the inside of the hide. If moisture is not added during this process, some skin may remain stuck on your gecko, for instance on it’s feet, and as the gecko grows more, may restrict blood flow to that part and cause it to fall off. I think geckos are happier with all their toes, so remember to do this. While your gecko is in shed, leave it alone and let it do what it needs to do, and do not interrupt this natural process.