Leopard Gecko Care

Leopard Gecko Care

Leopard Gecko Care Sheet

Leopard geckos make great pets with simple care requirements. Here are the basics for successful leopard gecko care and a summary of all the basic information a new keeper would need to provide proper leopard gecko care and be successful keeping these great little pet geckos.

Leopard Geckos Natural Habitat

The first step in providing proper leopard gecko care in understanding where they initially come from and what their natural habitat is like in the wild.

The natural range for leopard geckos is mainly consist of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. The natural habitat for the leopard gecko is areas of scrub and rocky desert. Leopard geckos are nocturnal meaning they spend the hot days hiding in rock outcrops and natural burrows. These burrows provide the geckos with the required humidity and protection they need.

To provide the best leopard gecko care, it is important to keep the natural habitat in mind and try to recreate the habitat in captivity.

Getting Ready for a Leopard Gecko:

When obtaining a leopard gecko it is important to have everything setup and ready to go before bringing the gecko home. Being prepared ahead of time provides a new keeper with several advantages including:

  • You can ensure you have all the equipment needed for proper leopard gecko care.
  • You can ensure the temperature and environment is stable in the leopard gecko cage.
  • You will minimize stress for the leopard gecko by getting them right into their new home.

Even with having the leopard gecko care requirements and habitat setup ahead of time, the move it its new home may be stressful for your new gecko. This means it is important to initially monitor your gecko in its new habitat.

This initial stress may cause a leopard gecko to not eat for several days. A couple days of refusing to eat will not be a problem for a healthy leopard gecko, and they should quickly settle into their new environment. There are several things that can be done to help acclimate your new gecko.

  • Make sure the leopard gecko has suitable hiding places
  • Feed your gecko the same food source it is used to eating
  • Bright lights can stress leopard geckos
  • Monitor the gecko’s food intake

As mentioned above, it is not uncommon for a gecko to refuse food at first but is they continue to maintain good weight and maintain a fat tail, this will not be a health concern for your gecko.

Leopard Gecko Quarantine

Any new gecko should be kept separate for at least 30 days, preferably 60 days, to let the gecko acclimate and to and so you can monitor the gecko for any illness or health concerns. This is import to minimize stress for the new gecko but also to prevent and illness from spreading to other geckos.

How Big Does a Leopard Gecko Get?

At hatching leopard geckos are only a couple inches long and weigh only a few grams. With proper care and feeding, they will grow very quickly to an average adult size of 7 “ to 10” and weigh approximately 60-80 grams. There are some breeders who have had specimens top out well over 100 grams.

Leopard Gecko Handling:

Leopard Geckos tend to be very calm once they become accustomed to their housing environment and keeper. Leopard geckos will typically not bite unless provoked or restrained. Leopard geckos must be handled gently to avoid squeezing or injuring them.

Leopard geckos may lose their tail if they are grabbed by it or handled improperly. Leopard geckos have the ability to regenerate their tail if it is lost but a regenerated tail will look different than the gecko’s original tail. Regenerated tails can have a wide variety of looks from stubby bulbs to a flat spade look.

Until the leopard gecko becomes comfortable with its keeper and with being handled, it should be handled only in its cage to avoid the gecko falling and becoming injured.

Leopard Gecko Setup

As mentioned, leopard geckos are very easy to keep as pets if their simple care requirements are met. Outlined below the basic factors that go into providing proper leopard gecko care beginning with a proper leopard gecko setup.

Leopard Gecko Tank Setup

The first choice to me made when designing the best leopard gecko tank setup is the required size of the leopard gecko tank setup. Since leopard geckos are primary a terrestrial gecko floor space is more important than height. The necessary leopard gecko setup size depends on several factors including:

  • The number of leopard geckos to be housed together
  • The size and age of the leopard gecko
  • Sex of the leopard geckos, if housing together

Many people start with a standard 10 gallon size aquarium for a single leopard gecko. A 10 gallon size is the minimum appropriate size for a single averaged adult leopard gecko and your gecko will certainly appreciate additional space. A 20 gallon aquarium will be appropriate for a pair of leopard geckos and three to five geckos can be kept in a 30-40 gallon equivalent aquarium.

If using a standard aquarium setup we recommend a lid to avoid any escapes or to avoid anything falling into your leopard gecko’s cage. A secure lid will also help keep out other pets such as a dog or cat.

Multiple male leopard geckos should not be housed together as there is a risk of fighting or aggression. Generally multiple female leopard geckos will get along and can be housed together.

This can be difficult at small sizes as leopard geckos cannot be reliably sexed as juveniles. As males grow they will begin to develop a bulge at the base of their tail. Males will also develop a V-shaped row of pores between the back legs, females will lack these features.

If keeping multiple leopard geckos in one cage it is important to make sure they are approximately the same size to help avoid stress or injuries.

It is important that your leopard gecko tank we large enough that a thermal gradient can be provided allowing for a “hot side” and a “cool side”. This thermal gradient will allow for the leopard gecko to seek out the temperature they want and move between thermal areas.

There are also several cages that are designed specifically for reptiles and will make an excellent leopard gecko tank setup. Exo Terra makes a glass reptile terrarium that has a terrestrial layout making it perfect for leopard gecko care.[link]

Leopard Gecko Substrate Choices

There is much discussion about what is the best leopard gecko substrate. Because leopard geckos have a tendency to ingest granular materials, care must be taken in selecting a safe substrate to avoid a harmful impaction.

Because of their natural habitat, wood based bedding such as pine or aspen are not appropriate choices for proper leopard gecko care. Cedar bedding is also not appropriate for any reptile as it can casue skin and eye irritation.

Many professional leopard gecko breeders choose to keep their leopard geckos on simple substrate such as paper towel or news print. While paper towel bedding is thought of as the safest and most hygiene choice, it does not allow for a naturalistic look to the environment is that is what the keeper prefers.

In the past we have used a combination of very fine sand substrate mixed with Coconut fiber bedding with good success on large adult geckos.  Some breeders will also recommend adding in a clay substrate base into this mix.  We have tried this mix with a few other species of gecko in the past.  This can create an attractive natural environment however, as mentioned, care must be taken to avoid ingestion which can lead to impaction and possibly death with your leopard gecko. Feeding the leopard geckos in a sturdy ceramic feeding dish that will top tip when eating is a good practice to help avoid impaction.  Small geckos should not be kept on any granular substrate.

Two additional substrate options include reptile carpet and slate tiles.  If you decided to use a piece of reptile carpet, we suggest having two pieces for each tank that way you can switch them and properly clean and disinfect the used piece.  Slate tile can be found in a variety of color and texture patterns so you can create an attractive display if you decide to use this option.

Leopard Gecko Decor

There is a variety of options to be used as decoration or décor in your leopard gecko setup. These can be great additions for both the keeper and leopard gecko as they can create a more stimulating and natural environment for your leopard gecko. When selecting décor it is important to select decorations that are nontoxic and will be safe for your leopard gecko.

It is also important to arrange these décor pieces so that they cannot fall and hurt your gecko. If using a substrate that your leopard gecko will dig in, it is best to place decoration items on the floor and add substrate around them to prevent the gecko from digging underneath and getting injured.

There is a wide variety of commercially available decorations that will help to create a fun and attractive leopard gecko enclosure.

Leopard Gecko Heating

Like in the wild, leopard geckos should be kept fairly warm but still have a cool place to hide if they choose. We like to provide a thermal gradient from the low to mid 80s on the cool side of the enclosure to the low to mid 90s on the warm side. Temperatures can be allowed to have a natural nighttime decrease to the mid-70s. For simplicity, we recommend an infrared temperature gun for spot checking the hot spot and cool side temperatures a basic in tank thermometer can also be included in the enclosure.

Because leopard geckos are nocturnal, we prefer to not use a heat lamp for leopard geckos. Instead we prefer and under reptile heat mat such as the Exo-Terra Heatwave. This should be placed on one side of the enclosure to maintain the heat gradient.
When using supplemental cage heat it is important to follow the manufacturers recommendations for sizing and setup. Temperatures need to be monitored and adjusted to meet the geckos needs., this can be automatically done with a thermostat such as the Zilla Temperature Controller.

Leopard Gecko Lighting:

Because Leopard geckos are nocturnal and spend the days in their hides, UV light is not mandatory for proper leopard gecko care. There are some keepers who prefer a natural enclosure setup that will use a UV light and this is perfectly safe and acceptable. If you decide to use a UV light that emits heat along with an under tank heater you just need to make sure your temperatures don’t get too hot when the light is on.

Humidity for Proper Leopard Gecko Care

Humidity in a leopard gecko enclosure should be maintained at a low level. Ambient humidity in their natural habitats is low and leopard geckos can develop respiratory issues from constant high humidity. For this reason we recommend a good hydrometer be used to measure the humidity in the enclosure.

Like in their natural environment, these geckos do like a moist burrow or hiding spot. This smaller area with a higher humidity allows the leopard gecko to use this area as they need to help regulate and avoid shedding issues. Moist hides for leopard geckos are discussed further below.

Leopard Gecko Moist Hide

There are several methods for creating a Leopard Gecko moist hide. One simple way to provide the moist hiding place is to use a small plastic container filled with moss or coconut fiber that has a hole drilled in either the side or the lid. This method is not the most naturalistic but does allow for easy cleaning and can be cheaply replaced.

There are also some commercially available reptile hides that can be utilized to achieve the more natural look in your leopard gecko enclosure. Moist Peat moss or coco fiber can be added to these hides as well to achieve the desired higher humidity.

Either leopard gecko moist hide setup should be located on the cooler side of the leopard gecko enclosure and should be sprayed with water a couple times a week to keep the substrate moist but not wet.

Leopard Gecko Feeding:

Leopard Gecko feeding is fairly simple in captivity but they do require a diet of live insects. The main staples for leopard geckos in captivity are crickets and mealworms. Many keepers have also expanded their feeder insects to other insects including dubia roaches, wax worms, and super worms. These can make a great addition to your leopard gecko feeding schedule to keep a nice variety but are not necessary.

Many leopard gecko breeders will feed their juvenile leopard geckos either crickets or mealworms as a staple. When getting a young leopard gecko from a breeder or pet shop, its best to ask what they gecko is currently eating. Feeding the same food source at first will make the gecko’s transition to their new home easier. We do recommend adding variety to their diet as they become established.

Insect prey should be dusted with calcium powder and a quality a multivitamin powder every other feeding. We like to mix these two supplements together for simplicity and “dust” this mixture on the feeder insects. We recommend Rep-Cal for Calcium and Herpitive for a multivitamin.

 

For mealworm feeding we like to keep maintain a shallow side dish of mealworms in the leopard gecko cage at all times. This dish is also used to provide to provide calcium supplement to the geckos.

Other feeder insect prey items should be offered several times a week. These insects should be of appropriate size, measuring approximately the same length as the distance between the leopard gecko’s eyes. Be sure to monitor the leopard geckos feeding to ensure that uneaten crickets do not remain in the enclosure, as these have the potential of injuring a small gecko.

Cricket can be purchased from your local pet shop by the dozen or can be purchased online by the 1000’s depending on your needs. For a single gecko or a couple geckos we recommend buying the crickets locally to avoid having to maintain a cricket colony.

Bulk live mealworms can be easily kept in bulk and can even be ordered off Amazon for convenience!

As with all reptiles, feeder insects should be gut-loaded to provide proper nutrition for your leopard geckos.

Water for Leopard Geckos

Leopard geckos need access to clean water in their enclosure. We prefer to use sturdy shallow dishes such as planter saucers but there are a variety of dishes that could be used. You just want to make sure the dish is shallow enough the gecko can easily access it, sturdy enough it count be tipped over when the leopard gecko climbs on it, and can be easily cleaned and disinfected. Fresh water should be added daily.

Final Thoughts

Leopard Geckos are great little geckos that make a perfect first pet reptile because of their simple care requirements.  With all the color and pattern morphs they are also very popular with experienced keepers and professional reptile breeders.

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