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Guide to Keeping a Leopard Gecko
RESOURCE ARTICLE

Guide to Keeping a Leopard Gecko

Introduction

Buying any pet is a big decision but there are several things you may want to consider first to make sure that a Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) is the pet for you:

  • Are all of the people in your household happy with a gecko coming to live there?
  • Can you guarantee that you will have a regular supply of live insects to feed to your gecko?
  • Are you happy to keep live insects in your home?
  • Are you prepared to look after an animal that could live up to 15 years?
  • Is there someone that you can ask to look after your gecko if you are away?
  • Leopard Geckos are nocturnal animals so will sleep during the day and be awake at night

Types of Leopard Gecko

Leopards Geckos come in a range of different colours and patterns

Buying a Leopard Gecko

We recommend buying a Leopard Gecko from a reputable pet shop. The shop will also be able to help you with a supply of good quality live food items to feed to your Leopard Gecko.

Check before purchasing:

The Leopard Gecko is feeding well.
Any reputable pet shop should be able to provide answers on how often the Leopard Gecko is being fed and what type and size of live food it enjoys most. If the gecko has a rotund tail it is normally a sign of it being well fed.
The Leopard Gecko is healthy.
5 point animal health check:
  • Make sure that the animal is alert, responsive and has a rotund tail
  • The mouth should be clear of any thick mucus and should not smell bad
  • The underside of the Leopard Gecko should be clean, free from sores or raw skin and have a clean vent
  • The Leopard Gecko should be able to support itself when handled
  • The Leopard Gecko should be a keen feeder

Caring For Your Leopard Gecko

Overview

  • Ease of Care:Beginner
  • Adult Size:18-25cm (7-9.5")
  • Life Span:Up to 10 years
  • Diet:Insects
  • Temperament:Friendly
  • Background Temp:25.5-30⁰C (78-86⁰F)
  • HOT Spot:32.2⁰C (90⁰F)

Equipment Needed

Top Tips

  • Try using a mealworm dish to keep mealworms in one area for the gecko
  • Use a red or blue LED light at night to allow easy viewing of the gecko
  • Provide night time heat to help this nocturnal gecko digest the insects it consumes
  • If your gecko seems to be licking the substrate this could be a sign that it is lacking certain vitamins or minerals. Ensure that a calcium and multi-vitamin supplement is used when feeding the gecko
  • Provide a moist box to help the gecko shed its skin easily

Housing:

A relevant sized Terrainium or Vivarium is the perfect housing solution for a Leopard Gecko throughout its whole life.

Environment

Heating

Leopard Geckos are ectotherms taking all of their heat requirements from external sources. In the wild they spend most of the day in burrows and become active at dusk when the temperatures are favourable.

Heating a Terrainium

To replicate these conditions in a terrainium, we recommend using a heat mat that is thermostatically controlled as a heat source. The heat mat should be inserted into the glass holder located in the base of the Terrainium to ensure that the Leopard Gecko does not come directly into contact with it.

The heat mat should be used in conjunction with a heat mat thermostat. Heat mat thermostats are designed to regulate temperatures using a thermostat probe (also known as a sensor).

Correct placement of the probe is critical to avoid overheating and injury to the gecko. Insert the probe through the back of the terrainium via the rubber grommet and tape directly onto the glass panel above the heat mat. The probe cable should be taped 2-5cm (1-2”) back from the actual probe sensor to allow for a correct temperature reading and avoid it becoming dislodged. Carefully place the substrate on top.

Heating a Vivarium

To provide an appropriate heat source in a Vivarium we recommend using a ceramic heat bulb that is thermostatically controlled. The ceramic heat bulb should be set up using a ceramic bulb holder, which can be hung from the roof of the vivarium, approximately 15-20cms from one side.

The ceramic heat bulb should be used in conjunction with a pulse thermostat. Pulse thermostats are designed to regulate temperatures using a thermostat probe (also known as a sensor).

Correct placement of the probe is critical to avoid overheating and injury to the gecko. The probe should be positioned on the floor in the basking area and the probe cable should be taped to the floor 2-8cm (1-3”) back from the actual probe sensor. This will ensure an accurate temperature reading and prevent the probe becoming dislodged. Carefully place the substrate on top of the probe cable leaving just the probe above the surface.

Temperature and Monitoring

As a rough guide, daytime temperatures should average between 23.8-32.2⁰C (75-90⁰F) with the hot end being 32.2⁰C (90⁰F) going down to 23.8⁰C (75⁰F) at the cooler end of the vivarium. Night-time temperatures should be 23.8-26.6⁰C (75-80⁰F). Make sure temperatures are checked regularly to ensure that there are no extreme fluctuations. 

Lighting

In the wild, Leopard Geckos sleep in a safe and secure area during the main part of the day so are not exposed to high levels of light and UV. A UV light can be provided but it is not essential to the Leopard Geckos wellbeing. If a UV light is used, ensure that it is fitted correctly and securely to avoid any injuries to the gecko. LED lighting can also be used to provide a day and night light cycle for the Leopard Gecko.

Substrates and Decoration

Personal choice will dictate how you decorate your vivarium but we recommend the following as a guide:

Diet and Water

Hatchlings through to Adults should be offered appropriately sized insects. As a general rule, the distance between the gecko’s eyes will give you the approximate size of live food to feed your gecko. Leopard Geckos will also readily eat pre-dusted mealworms. These can be offered in a mealworm dish, making it easier for the gecko to find its food.

Leopard Geckos are well adapted to living in areas that are prone to drought and have the ability to store fluid and fat reserves in their tails to access when needed. In captivity it is important to make sure fresh water is always available for the gecko to drink.

Access to a moist area in the enclosure will help the gecko to shed correctly and provide a safe area for the gecko to hide in. A moist hide can be bought or a moist box built using a small plastic box with a hole cut in the lid with a moist substrate inside such as sphagnum moss or coco fibre brick.

Supplementation

Leopard Geckos need additional supplementation to their diet to help them to flourish and maintain healthy and productive lives. We recommend using a calcium Magnesium mix and a multi-vitamin powder. A small dish of calcium powder in the geckos’ enclosure will give the gecko the opportunity to take in calcium whenever it wishes.

Health & Hygiene

Always wash your hands, surfaces and equipment with warm water and disinfectant immediately before and after handling your gecko, their enclosure and any other equipment.

Additional Information

A young leopard gecko may sometimes make a squealing noise, this is a defensive behaviour and normally means they are unhappy about something.

When a Leopard Gecko sheds the process will begin by the gecko rubbing its face against an object to loosen the skin around its face. Once this has been achieved, the gecko will take the loose skin in its mouth and begin to eat the skin as it is shed. The gecko will normally shed its skin in one piece and eat it all. It is worth checking the gecko’s toes to ensure that all of the old skin has been shed as if any is left it will begin to constrict the blood supply to the toes and will eventually cause the gecko problems.

If a Leopard Gecko feels threatened or in danger it is able to shed its tail if grabbed. The process of shedding the tail is known as autotomy.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • My Leopard Gecko waves its tail when eating, why is this?

    Leopard Geckos are keen insect hunters and focus on their prey item with intent. The tail waving is thought to be a mixture of excitement and a natural defensive mechanism to direct any potential predators towards the tail end of the gecko.

  • How big will my Leopard Gecko get?

    They will normally grow to 18-25cm (7-9.5”) with males normally being larger than females.

  • Is it okay to only feed my Leopard Gecko locusts?

    It is best to feed a range of different insects to your Leopard Gecko. Locusts are fine for your gecko but it may get bored of eating the same food every day and refuse to eat.

  • How often should I handle my Leopard Gecko?

    Leopard Geckos are normally docile creatures who can be handled regularly. Short handling sessions are more appropriate for younger Leopard Geckos as they tend to be more skittish to start off with.

  • How long will my Leopard Gecko live for?

    Leopard Geckos can live up to 10 years in captivity, if cared for correctly.

  • How can I tell what sex my Leopard Gecko is?

    We have put together a video to demonstrate how to sex your Leopard Gecko.

    Click here for details.

  • What other types of beginner lizards are there?

    Bearded Dragon, Crested Gecko and Yemen Chameleon.

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