Posted by on 2/14/2019 to Leopard Gecko Care
Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius)
The leopard gecko is an impressive looking creature, and its docile and easy-to-tame nature makes it an excellent pet. Originally from the desert regions of Southern Asia, the leopard gecko is very common today and has been domesticated in the United States for over 30 years now. Leopard Geckos are nocturnal, land-dwelling and usually move at a pretty slow pace.
Leopard geckos have quirky personalities that make them very exciting to own as pets. They are vocal and make squeaking noises when they are excited or hungry. Leopard geckos also have a tail that rattles like a rattlesnake when they are hunting insects or about to mate. They have vertical shaped pupils, use their tongue to clean their eyeballs and are one of the few gecko species that have eyelids and prominent outer ears.
Leopard geckos come in a variety of different colors and markings, though the one you will see most often is yellow and white with black spots – hence the name “leopard” gecko. The baby hatchlings typically have striped patterns which turn into spots as they get older. Unlike other types of geckos, leopard geckos do not have grippy hands, so you will not find them sticking to the walls and other vertical surfaces of their terrarium.
Average Size and Life ExpectancyLeopard gecko hatchlings measure three to four inches from their heads to the tip of their tails. Males are larger than females, measuring eight to 10 inches long, while females measure seven to eight inches long. Some males even grow as large as a foot long!
Compared to other reptile species, leopard geckos live relatively long lives in captivity. On average, females live six to 10 years and males live longer – 10 to 20 years. There have even been reports of leopard geckos living up to 27 years!
Housing Your Leopard GeckoIf you only have one leopard gecko, a 10-gallon terrarium will be sufficient.
The terrarium should be at least one foot tall and have a secure screen on top for adequate ventilation. You can also utilize the screen to hold a light fixture.
The terrarium should not be too large in size because then the leopard gecko will not spend enough time in the heated area and in its hiding box.
You may be wondering what a hiding box is? A hiding box is a unique little feature specific to leopard geckos. It is essentially a small, moist hiding spot that mimics what a gecko would find in its wild habitat while hiding under stones. For further info on the hiding box, check out the section below titled "Humidity".
Leopard Gecko SubstrateThe substrate is the bottom surface of the terrarium. There are a variety of useful types of substrates to use in your leopard gecko terrarium including:
- Reptile carpet
- Flat stones
- Paper towel
Be cautious, however, if you are housing young geckos. The younglings may accidentally or purposefully ingest sand or small particles which can be bad for their health and cause intestinal impaction. Also, avoid any commercial plant soils or sands that may have pesticides or fertilizers, they would be very harmful if swallowed by your leopard geckos.
Leopard geckos use the same corner of the terrarium every time they eliminate waste or "go to the bathroom". This makes it easier for you to wash. You can just clean the droppings from that corner, at least once a week, and then you can clean the rest of the substrate once monthly.
Leopard Gecko Temperature Inside TerrariumLeopard geckos come from a natural desert habitat and prefer pretty warm temperatures. For your leopard gecko to thrive, maintain temperatures between 88- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit on the hot end of the terrarium. Leopard geckos are ectotherms, meaning they need to have both warm and cool places in the terrarium to regulate their temperatures properly. The cold side of the terrarium should be about 10 degrees colder than the warm side.
You should have two thermometers, one on either side of the terrarium, to ensure the temperature ranges are adequate for your leopard geckos. Keep the heated area on the far side of the terrarium and the cooler side on the other. To provide heat, you can use either an under tank heating pad, heating tape or a heat bulb placed on top of the screen. You can find these supplies at pretty much any pet store or online.
If you notice that your particular leopard gecko likes to bury under the substrate, it is not a good idea to heat from below, as the floor could get too hot and burn the gecko. Though not every gecko will do this, some will. Another thing to avoid is heat rocks, as they too can burn the leopard gecko’s sensitive skin.
Lighting for your Leopard GeckoBy nature, leopard geckos are active at night and rest during the day, so there is no need to provide them a special UVB light to bask in. You will still want to have a light on for about 12 hours a day to mimic the sunlight and keep the gecko’s circadian rhythm on track. This will ensure that they know when to sleep and when to eat. A low-wattage white light can be utilized above the screen for these purposes.
If you want to observe your leopard gecko’s activity at night, you can use a red nighttime bulb. This won’t disrupt them as a bright light would. There’s quite a variety of different lighting solutions available. Do some research before you shop, or talk to employees at stores, to determine the best solution for your particular setup.
Leopard Gecko HumidityLeopard geckos originate in the desert, so they like their habitat to be warm and dry. You should invest in a hydrometer, which is a device that measures the humidity inside the terrarium. Leopard geckos prefer humidity between 10 and 30 percent.
As we briefly mentioned in the section above titled “Housing Your Leopard Gecko”, it is critical that you provide your geckos with a humid hiding area. This area should be enclosed, such as in a small cardboard box, and should be filled with moist moss or vermiculite. If the moss dries out, give it a light misting with a spray bottle filled with clean water.
This moist hiding spot will be useful for the leopard geckos to shed off their dead skin. If you have a female gecko, she will use the hiding spot to lay her eggs in the moisture.
WaterEnsure you provide your leopard geckos with a shallow dish filled with fresh water at all times. The water dish should be stable and should not be able to be knocked over, as you do not want the substrate in the terrarium to get wet. You will also want to make sure that the leopard geckos can get in and out of the water dish easily, as they occasionally will like to take a bath in it.
Leopard Gecko FoodLeopard geckos will not eat greens, fruits or vegetables. Instead, they only eat live insects, which are a critical part of their diet. Feed your leopard geckos daily if they are juveniles, and every other day once they are adults. They should be fed two insects per inch of the gecko's length. So, an eight-inch adult gecko will get 16 insects every other day.
The best insects to feed your leopard geckos are Dubia Roaches, mealworms & crickets, though for a special treat once a week, you can give them wax worms or super worms.
Before you feed the dubia roaches to your leopard geckos, you must gut load them at least 12 hours in advance. This is very important to provide optimal health for your geckos. Gut loading the insects consists of feeding them a nutritious powdered diet. You feed the insects by placing them in a container with the powder, along with a piece of a potato as a form of hydration.
To ensure the healthiest diet possible for your leopard geckos, you should make it a habit to dust the insects with a powder containing essential vitamins, minerals and calcium. To dust the insects, place them in a bag or can with the powder and shake lightly to coat them.
When adding the powdered insects to the terrarium, make sure none of the powder flies into the leopard gecko’s eyes. You can also keep a jar lid or a small dish filled with the powder inside the terrarium. The gecko will naturally know how much subsistence it needs and will lick it out on its own accordingly.
Handling Leopard GeckosLike other reptiles, you should be cautious around handling your leopard gecko until it is fully acclimated to its new habitat. They typically take three to four days to get settled. The same goes for hatchlings – wait until the young leopard geckos are over six inches long before trying to tame them.
A great technique for taming your leopard gecko is to sit on the ground with it and let it crawl around and through your fingers. This motion will help it to get comfortable with your touch. Be careful not to touch or pull the leopard gecko’s tail as it will fall off if it feels threatened. Play with your gecko this way for about 10 or 15 minutes a day, and you will notice it becoming tamer in nearly a week.