Leopard geckos are one of the easiest lizards to keep, making them ideal pets for anybody new to reptile care. Popular for their beautiful mottled skin and docile nature, they don’t need as much space as many other lizards and can live for up to 20yrs, sometimes more! They can reach sizes of up to 10”, some with ‘Giant’ in their bloodlines can reach up to 12”.
An individual can be housed in a 2ft wooden vivarium, though if keeping more than one then it is recommended that a pair or trio be housed in a 3ft vivarium minimum. A hide box filled with moist moss or vermiculite is also needed, so your leopard gecko can shed its skin properly, always check the toes after a shed to make sure there is no skin left hanging on. The moss hide is also needed for egg laying if you plan on breeding your geckos. An infrared heat lamp at one end will create a thermal gradient within the vivarium, it is recommended to have the moss hide at the warm end and a second hide at the cooler end. Sand is an excellent substrate for leopard gecko’s, avoid any calcium sands as these contain ingredients that clump together in the stomach and can lead to impaction. All other sands are safe to use and there are now substrates specifically designed for leopard geckos to simulate their natural environment. A water bowl at the cool end of the tank is a must, décor is optional but live/artificial plants, rocks, branches etc create a more realistic environment that both you and your gecko will benefit from.
Live insects are a must for your gecko as they do not eat plants or veggies. The best items to livefoods to feed are locusts, crickets and mealworms, but you can treat your gecko to waxworms or superworms once a week if you wish. Avoid feeding leopard geckos too many waxworms, they contain a high ratio of fat and reptiles can become addicted to them and refuse to eat anything else. They are excellent as an aid to weight gain in poorly reptiles though and in these cases can be fed more frequently. Insects should be dusted 3 times a week with calcium dust, this is particularly important for growing youngsters to aid proper bone growth and development. Insects should be offered in the evening so the gecko can hunt them while it is active. Any uneaten insects should be removed in the morning.
In general, do not handle a leopard gecko on a regular basis until they have settled in and are more than 6 inches in total length. Once your gecko is large enough, it is best to sit on the floor, and let your gecko crawl through loose fingers and hand-over-hand for 10 to 15 minutes per day until they are accustomed to your touch. This taming process takes only five to seven days and they will quickly calm and get used to you. Never grab or hold the gecko’s tail, leopard geckos can drop their tails if they feel scared or threatened. It is not the end of the world if they do drop their tail, it doesn’t cause them major pain and often the tail regenerates in less than 40 days. It will grow back looking slightly different and is normally a little shorter than the original.
Lighting and Heating
The best way to heat your leopard gecko is by using either an under tank heat mat, or an overhead infrared heat lamp. These are available at any pet store or online. Heating one end of the cage is best, this allows for a temperature variation that your gecko needs. Whether you choose a heat lamp or a heat mat, these will need to be left on 24hours, the geckos will need the heat during the evening when they are active. Heat rocks tend to become too hot for leopard geckos and should be avoided due to the risk of burns. Because leopard geckos are nocturnal (active at night), they do not need to bask under a special UVB light. Regular dusting on food with calcium/vitamin powder will give them all the nutrients etc they need. UV Lighting is particularly harmful to the eyes of albino leopard geckos or ones with albino traits.
The ambient air temperature of the room they are housed in should be above 73 degrees.