Leopard Gecko

Common Group: GECKOS

Common Name: Leopard Gecko

Scientific Name: Eublepharis macularius

Distribution: Southeast Asia

Size: 6" - 8"

Natural History

Leopard geckos are indigenous to the deserts and semi-arid grasslands of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Nocturnal by nature, these geckos spend their days hiding in rock crevices or in deep, moist burrows to escape the blazing heat.

This species has been a pet shop staple for many years, and for good reason. They are very hardy, small sized, attractive, and friendly lizards that can be maintained in the average home or apartment cheaply and easily.

Within the last decade or so, leopard geckos received a renewed surge of popularity with the introduction of many new and exciting color morphs including albinos, blizzards, and patternless. Regardless of the color or pattern variant that you end up with, the care requirements will remain the same.

Recommended Reading

Novice: The Leopard Gecko ManualExperienced or Advanced Keeper: The Herpetoculture of Leopard Geckos

Size and Longevity

Baby leopard geckos are just over 2 inches when they hatch, but grow rapidly, reaching sexual maturity at 9 to 12 months of age. Adults range in total length from 8 to 10 inches, with males being heavier bodied and more bulky than females.

Leopard geckos are well known for being long-lived. A baby gecko that you by today could easily live 15 to 20 years, although even longer life spans are not unheard of!

Housing

This species can be easily kept for its entire life in a 10 gallon or 15 gallon. Larger enclosures will not hurt, and are highly recommended when housing multiple individuals together (but never more than one male per cage).

As these geckos are strictly terrestrial, and rarely climb, attention should be paid to providing ample floor space, with height of the enclosure being secondary.

Heating and Lighting

Leopard geckos hail from dry deserts, and require basking temperatures around 90 degrees. The ambient, or background, temperature in the enclosure should be kept around 80 during the day, and can safely drop to the mid 70's at night.

The use of heat pads in conjunction with basking bulbs or ceramic heaters (if needed) is the ideal way to provide heat for this species.

Use of a low output UVB light can be somewhat beneficial in providing a day/night cycle for your gecko, as well as help display it to its best colors. A 5.0bulb may help with the absorption and metabolizing of calcium, a vital part of a geckos life. As a nocturnal animal, though, it is not absolutely necessary for the gecko to survive.

Substrate and Furnishings

Dry, dust free substrates work best for leopard geckos. Heat-treated aspen chips (Sani Chips) are highly recommended. Sand may be used, but it is somewhat of a risk for the average gecko keeper. Most problems with impaction and dehydration are seen with animals housed on sand, and as such it is not recommended.

Leopard geckos need to be able to hide during the day. Cork bark flats, cork rounds, and flat pieces of driftwoodwork well. Provide a variety of hiding places in the both the warm and cool regions of the enclosure. Artificial desert plants as well as live ones (without spines) may be used as well, but certain lighting consideration must be made when incorporating living plants into terrarium designs.

Water and Humidity

As desert dwellers, leopard geckos are not big on drinking from a dish, and usually get most of their water from their food or by lapping up dew droplets. However, in captivity a water bowlshould still be provided. It does not need to be very big or deep, just large enough to allow your geckos to get a drink should they choose to do so.

For the most part, your geckos cage should be kept dry. However, in the wild, they spend their days in moist burrows. To simulate this in the terrarium, some keepers stuff small amounts of moss or other moisture retaining bedding under a few of the hide spots and keep it damp via regular mistings. These "humid hides" will aid in hydration and the shedding process.

Nutrition

Leopard geckos should be fed a variety of insect prey dusted regularly with a high quality calcium/vitamin supplement. Babies will eat small crickets, while larger animals will eat larger crickets, mealworms, giant mealworms, waxworms, and the occasional pinky mouse.

Food should be offered daily for babies and for geckos up to 6 months of age. After that, you can safely offer your lizards as many food items as they will likely consume in 24 hours every second or third day.

Another option is to have a small dish of mealworms always available to your geckos, and then feed them crickets as described above, only less often.

Handling

Baby leopard geckos can be a bit jumpy, but begin to calm down quickly with age and regular handling. Animals that are handled regularly from a young age turn out to be among the calmest lizard pets you can own.