Leopard Gecko Care
Table of Contents:
1.1 General Information
3.2 Feeder Options
First things first, you should never house multiple male Leopard Geckos together. They are territorial and may fight each other. You shouldn't house a female and a male together either, unless you want babies. However, you can house multiple females together, but you must watch them carefully because there can be situations where one may be a leader. Some signs of "bullying" would be marks on one of the geckos, one getting more food than the other, or one of the geckos getting a good bit larger than the other.
Next question one might have is, "How big should my tank be?" Well this depends on how many geckos you plan to house in the tank. A 10 gallon tank would be on the small side for one gecko, but it works. My opinion is that a 20 gallon tank works best for 2, maybe 3 geckos, and a 30 gallon tank can fit up to 4 or 5 (this area is debated, so the less geckos, the safer). I do not suggest you ever house more than 5 geckos in one tank. Another thing to consider when purchasing a tank is that Leopard Geckos don't climb as much as other geckos, so it is better to buy a tank with more surface area. For example: A 20 gallon tank (24" x 12" x 16") meaning 24" by 12" surface area, compared to a 20 gallon long (30" x 12" x 12") which has 30" by 12" surface area. You could get those two tanks for the same price, but the 20 gallon long would be better choice.
This first thing I am going to say under substrate is very important. Do not use sand or any other loose substrate, please. The geckos can, and will, eat it. It will get stuck in their throat, called suffocation. If it gets caught in their intestines, this is called impaction! This also occurs with large pieces of substrates such as: wood chips, mulch and other similar substrates. The three most common options used today are: paper towel (newspaper works as well), reptile carpet, and tile. I currently use tile, because you only have to buy it once and it is easy to clean. But a lot of people use paper towels, because you can buy it in bulk for really cheap. And to clean up all you do is pick up the paper towel, throw it away, and lay down more paper towel. I personally don't like reptile carpet, but a lot of people do like it. The reason I don't like the carpets is because the gecko's toenails (yes, they have toenails) get stuck easily. Every day you should “spot check” your tank for poo (black and white, like a bird-the white being pee) and throw it all away. You should clean the substrate about once a week, and do a thorough cleaning of your tanks about once a month. This is when you take everything out and disinfect the whole cage.
The main thing here is that in order to digest their food, Leopard Geckos need belly heat. So using an UTH is key in a gecko's health. UTH stands for under tank heater, a mat that you stick under the bottom of your tank. It is the same thing as a heat mat or a heat pad. On the contrary, air temperature doesn't matter as much, and lights mainly heat up air temperature and they aren't necessary. Although you can use one if you need more heat in your tank.
Your tank should have a "cool" side and a "warm" or "hot" side. This is because geckos cannot control their body temperatures due to being poikilothermic (meaning they have a variable body temperature that changes with the environment). The cool side should be room temperature, or anywhere from 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. The UTH should cover the other half of the tank (they make them so they fit 1/3-1/2 of the tank, which is what you need) and the temperature should be maintained between 88-94 degrees Fahrenheit. As for monitoring the temperature, a digital thermometer with a probe is what you need, and you should have one for each side. The probe should be pinned down with an object in the tank, or taped down, so it measures "true" temperatures. Remember when I said that Leopard Geckos depend on belly heat, well that is why you need a thermometer with a probe (even though it is $5-$20 more!). Now let me put this into scenario for you...You have a plain old thermometer that reads air temperature, and it currently says it is 92 degrees. Perfect! But in reality, the floor temperature is above 100 degrees and burning your gecko...Tragic, and could result in death. There is one more thing in this section. You do not need humidity to keep these geckos. In fact too much of it can result in respiratory problems. But they do need humidity for shedding, so you will need to have what is called a moist hut/hide. I'll talk about this in essentials.
Since Leopard Geckos are nocturnal they need to hide from the light during the day. This means you need to buy hides. You should have at least two, one for each side of the tank. If you have more than one adult housed together, you may want another set of hides so they don't have to sleep together. Since we are talking about hides, I will mention the moist hides. A moist hide is a (mostly) closed hide with wet paper towels or moist moss which creates humidity. Like I said in temperatures, Leopard Geckos don't need humidity except for when they undergo shedding (about twice a month). You can buy moist hides, but it is easier and cheaper to make them. You take a big Tupperware and place it upside down and cut a hole in the side for the gecko to enter. You may want to burn the edges to make sure it isn't sharp (just make sure you give it enough time to air out before giving it to your gecko). Then you put moist moss (this is preferred, so the gecko can burrow in the moss) or wet paper towels. This will keep the Tupperware nice and humid for your gecko. You should replace the moss or paper towels when they become dry (usually after 1-3 days).
Other essentials are a UTH and 2 thermometers with probes. If your temperatures get to low, you may need to buy a light, but if they get to hot you should definitely buy a rheostat. A rheostat is pretty much a light dimmer, and you can get them at your local pet store for about $15-20. You need to buy a substrate like we talked about, remember not to get a loose substrate like sand. One more thing that you need to insure your gecko lives a happy life is a water bowl. It should be low enough that your gecko can get to it, but deep enough that he/she can bathe in it (because some Leopard Geckos like to do that). You have to clean this every day, unless you want your gecko to be drinking mold.
All I really have to talk about here is that the gecko might like to climb on something, although they are non-climbers. A fun thing to do that your gecko likes and adds more room is to add a second layer to your tank. This can be done by placing a wooden slate held up safely by 4 cylinders. Make sure it is safe, and that there is a way to get up there. If you don't see your gecko using this platform you should check to see that he/she can get up there. Also, if your gecko usually stays on the warm side, maybe he wants more warmth, in which case you would need to buy a UTH and another thermometer. If he/she still doesn't you can put a hide up there so he/she is encouraged to sleep up there. There are many more things you can build or buy. One popular thing to do is make a complete makeover of your tank using Styrofoam. It adds a very naturalistic view to your tank, and it is a lot of fun to make. The last thing I am going to talk about is taking stones and logs from outside and placing them in your tank. This is a great thing to do, but take great caution when getting rid of the bugs and bacteria. If you don't get rid of everything, it could end up fatal to your gecko. You should boil sticks and rocks in hot water for a good 10 minutes, or you can place it in the oven for about 5 minutes. Make sure you put the oven on a lower temperature and watch it to make sure it doesn't burn. You can find many more natural looking sticks outside than in a pet store, and save money!
This section is short, but very important. You should clean the cage every week. If you are using tile as your substrate, you can clean it with a wet paper towel. If you use paper towels as substrate, just replace them. And finally, with reptile carpet, you should always have two of them for each tank. So you just remove one and put it in the washing machine to get cleaned, while the other one goes in the tank for a week. About once a month you should take everything out of your tank and do a thorough wash and cleaning of the glass and everything. This will help keep away harmful bacteria.
When it comes to feeding, babies/juvies eat more often than adults because it is important for them to grow a big healthy tail. A good rule of thumb to go by is once a day for any gecko 1 1/2 years and every other day for older geckos. You should let your gecko eat as much as he or she can in 15 minutes. They have good judgment and will not eat more than they can. When they are younger, they may eat too much and regurgitate the food. This is just a learning process and doesn't hurt your baby, it should teach them not to eat that much. When your gecko grows older you should keep feeding it as much as he/she can eat in 15 minutes, but only feed it every other day. A good rule of thumb to use is don't feed anything longer than the width between your geckos eyes (or 3/4 of their head). This will keep your gecko from swallowing something too big and choking, although they usually regurgitate. To learn more about what to feed your geckos, continue reading through the next couple of sections.
You have a good amount of options when it comes to feeding your geckos. The most common are crickets, mealworms, and dubia roaches. Some other choices are silkworms and superworms. These can be used separately as staple diets, or combined to have a mixed diet. Either way is fine. Some geckos are picky and won't eat all of these. Special treats like waxworms and pinkysshould be fed infrequently, at a maximum of once a month. They can also be used to fatten up small/underweight geckos or to keep an ovulating female a healthy weight. For more information read my feeder page.
You have a lot of options when it comes to reptile foods to feed your reptile. It is important to find something your pet likes and feed him or her that reptile food on a daily basis to grow close with him or her. From personal experience, my leopard geckos and bearded dragons have always preferred live reptile food. You can always purchase reptile food online and have them shipped to you on a weekly or monthly basis, what ever suits you best.
One of the most important things related to feeding is offering supplements. Supplements are a powdery substance that contain calcium and other vitamins that geckos usually obtain from natural sunlight. But in a tank they don't get them naturally, so you have to use fake nutrients (supplements). The most common one is RepCal and you can get it and other brands at your local pet stores or online. The best way to "dust" your feeder insects, is to put about 15 feeders in a plastic baggy with a little dab of supplements, and shake it until every bug has an even coat of supplements. Than you can feed them to your gecko as you usually would. You should do this about once every 3 days. Another important thing is to have a little dish (an upside down milk carton lid works) full of supplements in your tank. This way if your geckos need supplements, they can go there and lick the calcium. These two routines should keep your gecko nice and healthy.
As I mentioned in the essential section,, you should buy a water dish that is low enough for your gecko to get to, but deep enough that he/she can bath in (about 1-2 inches). The water has to be cleaned once a day to prevent mold from growing.
Health is an important part of your gecko's life, of course. Some positive signs of a healthy gecko are:
- Feeding well.
- Growing (if a baby).
- Is active at night.
- Has a fat tail (it is ok if younger geckos don't have fat tails, as they are still growing).
- And is acting normal.
You should always check for signs of unhealthiness. Also, if you get a new gecko (or geckos) and you are planning to house them with another gecko that you already had or you just bought, you should "quarantine the new gecko(s). This is a process where you take the new gecko and put him in a tank by himself for about 3 months. If you don't do this, and your gecko came with a disease, the disease would spread to the other gecko and both of them would have died. After the 3 months you can safely house that gecko with another one. This is just a safe way to determine if a Leopard Gecko is "disease-free".
Leopard Geckos are very stable animals and a lot of time don't require even 1 vet visit in there life. But when a disease occurs you need to know where to go. So please find out where the vet nearest to you is in case of an emergency. Leopard Geckos give you a lot of signs before they get critically sick. Some signs are:
- A thick white substance in the mouth.
- Heavy breathing.
- Blood in its poo.
- Swelling in the joints, or other areas.
- Discharge from nose, mouth, and eyes.
- Weight loss, loss of appetite.
- Wrinkles in skin.
- Any other abnormalities in personality or physical appearance.
Shedding is a natural process that occurs about every 2 weeks. Your gecko will get very pale, almost a white color the night before he sheds. A moist hide is essential for thorough shed. Refer to the essential section to see how to make your own moist hide. Geckos should finish the shedding process within 2 days. A lot of times, especially as babies, Leopard Geckos don't always complete their shed. The hard areas to get shed off are the toes and head (sometimes around their eyelids). I let my geckos attempt to get the shed of for about 4 days before I help them. You should soak your gecko in 1 1/2 inches of lukewarm water for 15 minutes (even though he/she won't like it). Then take a q-tip and slowly rub off the "stuck shed". Your gecko will become nice and bright after shedding.
Many people decide to breed just a few years after buying their first gecko. Since I haven’t breed Leopard Geckos yet, I don’t want to give you any misleading information that could risk a gecko’s life. So, below are many good, reliable care sheets on just how to breed. I will still include my Morph section, as I am pretty good with the different types of geckos.
VMSHerps – How to breed Leopard Geckos
ReptileCare – Leopard Gecko Breeding Advice
HubPages – Breeding Leopard Geckos
WestCoastLeopardGeckos – Leopard Gecko Breeding
One very neat thing about geckos is that fact that they have morphs. You may have noticed when looking around at pictures, that all of them are different looking. The different morphs are created genetically during breeding. The “normal” Leopard Geckos are yellow with a lot of black spots on his/her body, head, and tail. I am going to list many of the popular morphs and give a short description.
APTOR - Albino, Patternless, Tremper, ORange colored.
Banana Blizzard - Yellow body, white head, white tail, and blue eye shadow.
Bell Albino - A ranging amount of small brown spots on the body, some can have lavender colorings, and pinkish eyes.
Blazing Blizzard - Usually pure white body, head, and tail with a red eye.
Blizzard - A range of white, shades of gray, or even yellow colorings on their body, head, and tail. Shades of gray can change depending on mood.
Bold Stripe - An usually yellowish color with two black lines running along the outside of their ventral surface.
Carrot Head - An orange head is described as a carrot head.
Carrot Tail - An orange tail is described as a carrot tail.
Creamsicle - A whitish body with orange or yellow blotches (spots).
Diablo Blanco - A white body and solid red eyes (mix between blizzard and RAPTOR).
Eclipse - This affects the eyes only and creates a solid eye color, usually red or black.
Enigma - As a hatchling, their spots are usually blotches. As an adult they tend to grow more spots, and they sometimes turn into speckles.
Giant - Affects the size of the gecko.
High Yellow - Less spotting on a bright yellow body.
Hybino - A mix between a Super Hypo and an Albino, creates a pure yellow body without spots, and albino-colored eyes.
Hypomelanistic (Hypo) - A gecko with reduced black or dark spots on its back, if less than 10, it is considered a Super Hypo.
Jungle - Lack bands around the body and tail, creating a completely random and unique design on each gecko.
Lavender - Bolder bands around their body, all spots/stripes are purple (lavender) instead of black.
Mack Snow - A gecko with a white and black spots, body coloring sometimes yellow.
Mack Snow Patternless - A mix between a Mack Snow and a Murphy Paternless, completely white with no markings.
Melanistic - Almost pure black coloring.
Murphy Patternless - A body consisting of colors ranging from yellow to purple, "baby spots" disappearing around the age of 10 months.
Normal - The only "natural" morph consisting the look of a wild Leopard Gecko. A yellow color with black spots, spot size and number varies.
RAPTOR - Ruby eyed, Albino, Patternless, Tremper, ORange colored.
Rainwater Albino - (A.K.A. Las Vegas Albino) Smaller, darker, and lighter than the other albinos.
Reverse Stripe - Unlike the Bold Stripe, this gecko only has one stripe running directly down the center line of him/her.
SHT - Super Hypo Tangerine, tangerine color (orangish) with no body spots.
SHTCT - Super Hypo Tangerine Carrot Tail, tangerine color (orangish) with no body spots and an orange tail.
SHTCTB - Super Hypo Tangerine Carrot Tail Baldy, tangerine color (orangish) with no body spots or head spots and an orange tail.
Stripe - A lighter stripe runs down the center of the back, and two darker, larger stripes running along the sides. The tail has no pattern, just random coloring.
Super Hypo - A gecko with less than 10 spots on his/her body is considered a Super Hypo.
Super Snow - Hatchlings tend to look like blizzards, but around one to two months old, they get a very high contrast between black and white coloring. Usually a solid black eye.
Super Snow Enigma - White bodies, solid black eyes, and tiny, black speckles.
Tangerine - An orange colored gecko.
Tremper Albino - Light color eyes and tend to have light colored brown markings on them. The first and most common kind of albinos.