How to Care for Leopard Geckos as Pets: A Guide

leopard gecko

Due to its ease of handling and low maintenance requirements in comparison to other lizards, the leopard gecko is a popular reptile for beginners. They are from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northwest India. The lively personality and fascinating movements of leopard geckos make them fascinating to observe. They often have yellow, white, and black spots on them, and their hatchlings initially have stripes before developing spots. Numerous vibrant and patterned or varieties exist.

Species Overview

Common Name: Leopard gecko

Scientific Name: Eublepharis macularius

Adult Size: 8 to 10 inches including tails

Life Expectancy: 20 or more years in captivity

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Leopard Gecko Behavior and Temperament

Leopard geckos, affectionately called leos, are generally easy to care for. They do not require a lot of cage maintenance, but you should still give their environment a lot of attention.

Leopard geckos are typically nocturnal, ground-dwelling, gentle, and simple to tame geckos. They cannot climb walls because they lack the adhesive toe pads that other geckos possess. However, they do have eyelids, unlike other geckos.

Leopard geckos are not prone to biting and are usually slow-moving. They are known to be very vocal, especially when they are hungry, and they make chirps and squeaks.

You may socialize your leopard gecko by gently petting it when you first bring it home. While they will take a limited amount of touch, avoid overdoing it to avoid stressing out your leopard gecko.

Geckos communicate by flicking their tails. Watch out for tail-waving if you have more than one leopard gecko in an enclosure. It moves slowly back and forth. The gecko also raises it often. Separate them as soon as possible since this signal indicates that a leopard gecko feels intimidated and is going to strike.

Leopard geckos also are tail rattlers, similar to rattlesnakes. If you see your gecko rattle the tip of its tail rapidly, that means your leopard gecko is excited to eat or to mate.

Leopard geckos may also as a kind of protection, much like many other lizard species can.

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6 Ways a Leopard Gecko Can Stand Out from the Crowd

Housing the Leopard Gecko

Although a 20-gallon tank is substantial, it is best to have a larger tank as there should only be one male in each habitat. If you want to deal with breeding, only keep men and females together. Leopard geckos thrive in outdated fish tanks that are no longer capable of holding water.

Provide half logs as hiding and climbing space. Commercial reptile caves and simple cardboard boxes are also good options. A damp hide box can help with shedding.

Once a day, spot-clean the cage to get rid of waste. Take everything out of the cage about twice a month, discard the substrate, and clean and sanitize the cage and all of its contents to help prevent the growth of bacteria.

Additionally, it's crucial to bathe your gecko once or twice a week for around 10 to 15 minutes in a small pan of warm water. Both humidity and hydration will benefit from this. If your gecko is shedding, you might need to repeat this technique more frequently.

Heat

To create a basking area throughout the day, use an ordinary white incandescent heat lamp. You may add more heat at night using a ceramic heat emitter, a blue, purple, or red heat bulb.

Undertank heating pads are functional for heating, however they might not be the best for accurately controlling the temperature of your gecko. An undertank heating pad might result in burns if your gecko digs down to the glass surface of the tank. Use cold rocks only.

Reptiles must control their own body temperature because they are cold-blooded species. In order to control their body temperature, reptiles prefer a temperature gradient or range of temperatures. Provide a daytime basking spot of 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) with a thermal gradient down to about 75 Fahrenheit (around 24 Celsius). The temperature can dip to a range of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit at night (21 to 24 Celsius). Make sure your gecko is not exposed to any drafts, and do not place the tank next to a window or door.

Light

Leopard geckos do not require a lot of UV illumination because they are nocturnal and are most active at night. These animals are active in the wild at dawn and dusk and are exposed to UV rays during those brief periods of sunshine. Leopard geckos can benefit greatly from a modest quantity of UVA and UVB radiation (between 2 and 7 percent), which may also lower their chance of developing metabolic bone disease.

To replicate sunshine, your lizard will require incandescent lights and heat from that source. Give them roughly 14 hours of "sun" every day in the summer. The lizard will also require around 12 hours of that light throughout the winter. You may automate the lighting in the cage for ease of maintenance by setting the lights on a timer.

Humidity

Since they are desert lizards, they don't require a habitat with a lot of humidity. The gecko could struggle to shed if the humidity is too low (below 20%). Keep the humidity between 30 to 40%, which is the same as the humidity in your house. To keep the area dry, utilize a standard screen top in conjunction with the heat source. Get a hygrometer or humidity gauge for the cage to check the humidity level.

Substrate

Even calcium sand shouldn't be used as a substrate for young leopard geckos. If they consume the sand, they might get an intestinal obstruction. Both indoor and outdoor carpet and absorbent paper are good options. Reptile carpet is another excellent choice; it's simple to maintain and provides wonderful mobility for your gecko. Additionally, there is a small chance that your gecko may consume this product.

Wood shavings should be avoided since they can damage your gecko's small feet. The wood shavings' volatile oils may irritate people. Make sure your gecko is not consuming the substrate you choose, whatever it may be.

Food and Water

Leopard geckos consume insects. Feed several kinds of crickets, waxworms, and occasionally mealworms. You could occasionally try giving a pinky mouse to an adult gecko. You may feed your gecko in an empty tank to make sure it doesn't consume any substrate.

Young animals require daily feedings of numerous crickets. Adults are able to go many days without eating. The insects must be or given a nutritious diet 24 hours before feeding to your pet. Prior to feeding the insects to your lizard, you must cover them with a calcium/vitamin D3 supplement. Put some of the powder supplement and the crickets or worms in a ziplock bag to do this. Drop the bug into the tank with your lizard after briefly shaking the bag. Adults only require the calcium/vitamin supplement every other feeding; hatchlings and juveniles require it every feeding.

You can also provide your gecko with a lick dish of the vitamin.

Give your leopard gecko a small dish of fresh water at all times. The water dish will help the cage become more humid, and your gecko will drink from it. Even geckos have been known to intentionally soak in their water bowls.

Common Health Problems

Metabolic bone disease is one of the most serious illnesses that may afflict leopard geckos. Geckos get sick if they don't have enough calcium and vitamin D, much like people do. Painful limb and spine abnormalities are a result of metabolic bone disease.

Armpit bubbles, if they appear on your gecko, are not harmful. They indicate that your lizard is keeping something in reserve. These bubbles, which are frequently seen in obese geckos, may contain fat, vitamins, protein, calcium, or other elements. These bubbles often disappear as the lizard regains a healthy weight.

Additionally susceptible to gastroenteritis, which is brought on by a bacterial infection, are leopard geckos. Gastroenteritis symptoms include your gecko's tail shrinking or having watery feces. Although this ailment has a deadly outcome, if detected early, it is curable.

Leopard geckos who are malnourished or kept in cages with insufficient humidity risk developing dysecdysis, much like other lizards. This disease, which resembles dry skin, makes it difficult for the gecko to shed, and it can also impair its vision or restrict its fingers or toes.

Last but not least, pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses can affect leopard geckos. If your leopard gecko is wheezing or has mucus bubbles around its mouth and nasal passages, it may be suffering from respiratory issues.

All of these conditions should receive treatment from an exotics veterinarian who specializes in reptiles.

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Choosing Your Leopard Gecko

Make sure you're prepared to care for a leopard gecko for a considerable amount of time because they are long-lived reptiles. Although it's easy to get these very popular pets, it's always preferable to buy geckos from a reliable breeder, which may cost $20 to $40. Rare mutations can run as much as $100. At a local reptile expo or reptile exhibit, you might be able to identify a reliable reptile breeder.

Consider your pet's tail before making your decision. It need to be swollen and fatty, ideally broader than the area between the gecko's shoulders. Its mouth, nose, and eyes should all be clear and dry. Its aperture for urination and feces should be clear and not bloated.

Different Species of Geckos

If you are interested in pet geckos, check out:

FAQ
  • How long do leopard geckos live?

    Leopard geckos can give up to 15 years!

  • What do leopard geckos eat?

    They love a mixture of gut-loaded crickets and worms.

  • How big do leopard geckos get?

    Including their tails, geckos grow to be 8 to 10 inches long.

  • How often do leopard geckos shed?

    Leopard geckos shed every four to eight weeks.

CITATION

"Metabolic and Endocrine Diseases in Reptiles. Merck Veterinary Manual.", "Providing a Home for a Reptile. Merck Veterinary Manual.", "Disorders and Diseases of Reptiles. Merck Veterinary Manual." ;

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