Guide to Pet Leopard Gecko Care

Take the right approach to leopard gecko care will ensure that your gecko lives a long and healthy life. Never house two male geckos together since they will fight. When two Geckos are put together, make sure they are the same size. When a male and female are put together, there is a high likelihood that they will breed.  The Gecko will grow to an easily managed 10" in length and are recommended for children age 10 and higher with adult supervision.

Leopard Gecko's are considered one of the best lizards for new herpetoculturists (lizard enthusiasts). When bred in captivity and handled by humans as a baby, they will eventually get used to being handled without becoming stressed. The lizard's are nocturnal, but will become diurnal or awake during the daytime if frequently handled during the day. Leopard Gecko care is relatively easy given their small in size.  They are also is relatively inexpensive to care for when compared to the costs of maintaining other lizards.

leopard gecko care
Leopard Gecko Care Begins When Selecting the Pet in the Store. They are the Perfect Lizard for Beginners
Source: Best West Pet Foods

Buying a Leopard Gecko

Geckos can be purchased at Reptile Expos, From Breeders or from a local Pet Store. We do not recommend capturing a Gecko in the wild since they are not used to being in captivity.  Geckos in the wild are also more likely to have lizard health problems.

If buying a Gecko from a pet store, an easy way to check health is to ask the clerk to drop a live cricket into the cage. Buy the lizard that walks over and eats the cricket.
Signs of good health include:
  • Alertness
  • Active behavior
  • Not lethargic
  • Runs around the cage
  • No discharge around the nose or eyes
  • Bright eyes
  • No skin or gums swelling
  • No red marks (sign of malnutrition)

How Long will a Leopard Gecko Live?

With proper Leopard Gecko care, the lizard will live as long as 20 - 27 years in captivity. The average Leopard Gecko lifespan is 19 to 22 years.

Daily Leopard Gecko Care Checklist

The easiest way to remember a pet leopard gecko care routine is to make a checklist.  Daily tasks include:
  • Feeding
  • Provide clean fresh water
  • Mist the gecko cage
  • Check temperature
  • Clean feces

Leopard Gecko Cage

The leopard gecko comes from a desert environment where it is used to living in a low humidity environment with features such as rocks and small crevices as hiding places. When decorating a gecko terrarium, consider the natural environment when choosing any furniture, decor and substrates. Since a desert is a simpler environment, items in a gecko cage can be kept to a bare minimum while still providing the required level of leopard gecko care.

The habitat should be a 10, 15, 20 gallon or 30 gallon cage (30 in. x 12 in. wide x 12 in. wide). Double the size for two Geckos.  Some pet stores recommend a 10 gallon minimum, but since this type of lizard tends to stay on the ground, more room is better than less.  Leopard Gecko cages can be simple or fully decorated. For example, one Gecko can be kept in a 10 gallon terrarium with paper on the floor.

Substrates: The preferred gecko cage substrates are materials that cannot be ingested (avoid ground walnut shells, corn cobs, alfalfa, sand) or that will cause eye damage.  Suggestions include:
  • paper towels
  • old bath towels
  • newspaper
Furniture and Decor: A typical setup will include small climbing limbs, and two hide boxes. Place one hide box in the hotter end of the cage and one in the cooler end. Inside the reptile hide box on the warmer end, place vermiculite or damp peat moss mix inside to aid shedding. If using a smaller 10 gallon tank there may only be room for one hide box.  The hide box should be kept moist via daily water spraying. If only one box, place it at the center of the lizard cage.

Water: Providing fresh clean water is an important part of your leopard gecko care routine. A shallow water bowl that is not easily tipped should be provided, with the water changed every day. Do not clean the water bowl with anti-bacterial soap to avoid harming your lizard. Mist the cage (avoid cold water) to encourage the drinking of water droplets.  Water also helps the Gecko to shed.

Leopard Gecko Cage Temperature:



Cool Area
Hotter Lizard basking area
Daytime
72F - 80F (22C - 27C)
90F (32C)
Night
70F (22C)


Heat Source: To warm the basking area, a thin heat mat is recommended.  Avoid hot rocks (heated rocks) since these can burn and harm the Gecko.

Lighting: Geckos do not need UV lighting like other types of lizards since they are nocturnal. To observe these nocturnal lizards consider a red or black light.  Keep the gecko cage out of the direct sunlight or any cold drafts.

Potted Plants: Plants can add to the look of any gecko terrarium. Be sure to check with the pet store to make sure they are safe for your gecko. Popular plants are snake plants and fig plants.  These have leaves that can withstand climbing by the gecko.

Leopard Gecko Care and Cage Maintenance

Remove any visible feces every day. Geckos are clean creatures and like to go to the bathroom in the same spot every day. Once you identify the spot, one tip is to place paper towel over the spot.  This way feces and urine can be easily absorbed by the paper and disposed of.  See below for information on hatchings.

Leopard Gecko Diet

Like other aspects of Leopard Gecko care, feeding is also a straight forward process. This lizard is an insectivore, which means that the primary source of nutrition are insects. As a nocturnal lizard the best time for feeding is at night.  Babies or juveniles require two small feedings.

It is best that the type of insect is varied, which can include crickets, waxworms, waxmoth larvae, locusts, mealworms and night crawlers. The preferred approach is to only feed crickets or mealworms, and when an adult, provide an occasional wax worm. The wax worm has lower nutritional value since they are fatty. Gut load any crickets or other insects (feed the insects) no more than 24 hours before they are fed to your gecko to maximize the nutritional value of the insect.

Supplements area an important component of Leopard Gecko care. Provide a calcium powder and vitamin supplement for added nutrition. This is needed since the insect diet doesn't provide all of the required nutrients. The supplement can be provided in a dish or bottle cap low enough for the gecko to lick the powder.

The lizard will learn the Leopard Gecko care routine, and will learn to come running at dinner time each night.

Leopard Gecko Skin Shedding

The Gecko will shed 4 times per year. Don't be surprised if the lizard eats the shed skin. Sometimes the shed skin does not immediately fall from the toes.  This is normal and will dry out in a few days.  Soaking the feet in warm water at the end of the shedding cycle will help the skin to fall off.

Gecko Handling

Do not handle the lizard until it grows to 6 inches in length. Be careful when handling a Gecko since dropping them can cause injury. Introduce a Gecko to being handled slowly. At first, simply touch the Gecko with a finger when the lizard is inside the tank. Then scoop it up and when on the floor of a room, allow the Gecko to climb through the fingers and over the hand.  In about a week the Gecko will get used to being handled.

The Leopard Gecko tail can break off.  It it does, don't panic as it will grow back in about 40 days.

Leopard Gecko Breeding

Leopard Geckos are one of the easiest lizards to breed. Geckos being bred should be fed crickets every other day. Provide added calcium and vitamin D3 supplement in a corner of the habitat in a shallow dish so that it is accessible to the gecko and can be consumed as needed. Females can be bred after age 9 to 10  months. In nature, Geckos breed from January to September. To stimulate breeding, after a female is one year old, gradually cool the gecko cage to 74F to 78F for a 4 to 6 week period.  About 10 days before the lower temperatures, do not feed the geckos to allow the gastrointestinal system to clear. Only provide clean water. This cooling will stimulate a hibernation period. If you observe any signs of illness, such as a puffed out pouch at the throat, then slowly warm the gecko and stop the breeding procedure.

After you complete the cooling period, over a few days slowly raise the temperature back up. Once normal temperatures are restored, resume feeding. This will signal to the gecko that it is time to breed.

To be sure that a female gecko has eggs, turn the lizard upside down. The eggs should be visible to the naked eye through the skin vent on the sides of the body. When you see eggs, be sure to put in place the egg box.

When a male and female are together, the male will go through a ritual which involved waving the tail. After eggs are deposited in the egg box, cover the shoe box, plastic Tupperware or plastic cup, adding pin sized air holes.  Separate the eggs by 1/2 inch each, slightly burying them into the moist substrate. If the eggs are not smooth, then the water content of the substrate is too low.  It is important to make sure that the egg box does not get dry.

Leopard Gecko egg incubation lasts for 35 to 89 days. Interestingly, cage temperature will affect the sex of the gecko babies.

  •  80F-86F degrees results in mostly females
  • 88F and higher results in more males
  • 85F-88F results in a mix of sexes

Hatchling Leopard Gecko Care

Raise any hatchlings separate from the parents in a 12" x 6" x 4" cage. They need to be kept separate until they grow to 7". The gecko cage temperature in the heated and hide box size of any habitat should be 90F. Cooler areas should be 73F. Keep the substrate simple such as paper towels.  Baby leopard gecko food is 1 inch mealworms. Place 5 to 10 in a jar lid every other day.

Leopard Gecko Health and Diseases

Any time you notice unexplained changed in your pet lizard, go to an experienced veterinarian for the needed Leopard Gecko care. You can ask our Vet a question for free, or if you can't wait at least a week for an answer, we suggest this online veterinary service that is available 24 hours a day.  Visit the herpvetconnection to find an experienced lizard veterinarian in your neighborhood.

Note that a Gecko can go without food for weeks. Be sure the Leopard Gecko is drinking and eating. Before, provide a place for the female to lay her eggs. This should be a  shoe box or even a cut out plastic solo cup covered with a substrate such as vermiculite or perlite. Make sure the material is moistened with water equal to the weight of the substrate.

After copulation takes place, eggs will be laid 16 to 22 days later. Groupings of eggs are called a clutch.  Each clutch will get larger in size over time. Each female gecko can produce 80 to 100 eggs over their lifespan.

Signs of gecko illness include:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Labored breathing
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Swollen skin or gums
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes

Common Leopard Gecko Care Health Related Problems and Solutions

Gecko Health Problem
Possible Problem
Solution
Low Energy, Lethargic
Cold Temperature
Check thermometer. If temperature is below 75F (24C) adjust heat levels.
Shedding Issues
Moisture, No rubbing objects in cage
Gently soak lizard body in warm water. Provide rocks in gecko cage for lizard to rub against
Appetite
Cold temperature, illness, doesn't like food
Check temperature. Try a different food. Visit veterinarian to check for illness.
Runny Stools
Gastro-intestinal disease
See a veterinarian.
Swollen limbs, deformities, lethargy
MIneral and vitamin deficiency
See a veterinarian.
Labored breathing, bubbles around mouth and nose
Respiratory problem
Check cage temperature. Consult veterinarian.

Leopard Gecko health concerns include digestive tract problems that come from ingested obstructions, mouth infection caused by poor cage hygiene and respiratory infections that are from a gecko cage that is too cold.


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