How to Properly Care for Pet Leopard Geckos

Leopard gecko - eublepharis mascularius
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A popular beginner's reptile, the leopard gecko comes in a variety of colors and is an easily handled, small lizard.

  • NameEublepharis macularius, Leopard gecko

  • Life Span: Leopard geckos may live 20 or more years in captivity
  • Size: Leopard geckos reach approximately 8-10 inches in length, including their tail

Leopard Gecko Colors

Leopard geckos are commonly yellow, white and spotted with black dots. Hatchlings start out more striped, and gradually change to the spotted appearance.

There are several color and pattern variations (e.g.  jungle) called morphs which include almost every color of the rainbow. Certain colors are more highly desired and valuable while the common wild-type or normal coloration is readily available and very affordable.

Habits and Temperaments of Leopard Geckos

Leopard geckos are nocturnal, ground-dwelling geckos that are generally docile and easy to tame. They do not have the sticky toe pads like other geckos so they do not climb walls but unlike other geckos, they do have eyelids. Leopard geckos are not prone to biting and they are usually slow-moving compared to an anole or racerunner.

Housing for Leopard Geckos

A 15-20 gallon tank is large enough for 2-3 leopard geckos, but there should only be one male per tank (and only keep males and females together if you are prepared to deal with offspring). Half logs provide hiding and climbing space as well as commercial reptile caves and simple cardboard boxes.

A damp hide box can help with shedding. Simple, old fish tanks that don't hold water anymore work perfectly for leopard geckos.

Substrate for Leopard Geckos

Young leopard geckos shouldn't be kept on sand, even if it is calcium sand, as they may ingest it and suffer an intestinal blockage. Paper is absorbent and easy to change, and indoor/outdoor carpet works well too.

Avoid wood shavings, since it can cut your gecko's tiny feet and the oils in the wood may be irritating to them. Whatever is used, make sure it is not being ingested along with your gecko's meals. Some people choose to feed their gecko's outside of their environment in an empty container to avoid this concern.

Lighting, Temperatures, and Humidity for Leopard Geckos

Being nocturnal, leopard geckos do not require special UVB lighting. A regular white light incandescent heat bulb could be used to provide a basking spot during the day and a red heat bulb, blue/purple heat bulb, or ceramic heat emitter can be used to provide supplemental heat at night. Undertank heating pads can be used but they may make it difficult to properly regulate your gecko's temperatures. If your gecko burrows down to the glass surface of the tank, do not use a heating pad, as it could burn your gecko. Never use hot rocks.

Aim for a daytime basking spot of 88 F (31 C) with a thermal gradient down to about 75 F (around 24 C). At night the temperature can drop to a gradient of 70 to 75 F (21 to 24 C). Make sure your gecko is not exposed to any drafts and do not place the tank next to a window or door.

Leopard geckos do not need very humid environments, but if the humidity is too low (below 20%) you may find that your gecko has trouble shedding.

Water for Leopard Geckos

A shallow dish of water should be provided at all times for your leopard gecko. The water will aid in humidity in the enclosure and your gecko will drink from the bowl. You may even find them voluntarily soaking in their water.

Feeding Leopard Geckos

Leopard geckos are insectivores, so you should feed a variety of crickets, waxworms, mealworms (in moderation only), and perhaps an occasional pinkie mouse for large adults. Insects must be gut loaded for at least 24 hours prior to feeding and then coated with a calcium/D3 supplement (every feeding for young lizards, every other feeding for adults). Juveniles should be fed daily (a few crickets), but adults can skip several days between feedings.