Whenever a client or friend asks me what type of reptile I would recommend them getting, leopard geckos are always towards the top of my list! They are so fun to watch, generally well mannered, and make good pets. Here is a bit more information regarding their care!
Leopard geckos are native to India and Pakistan, and come as many color varieties. They generally live 10 to 15 years and can grow to be 10 inches in length. They can be housed alone, or can be housed as a group of females. It is difficult to tell their gender until they are older, so it is recommended they are kept separate until then. Most geckos are housed in aquariums, which should be at least 2 feet long and 1 foot wide per gecko in the tank. They are ground dwellers and do not do very much climbing, but you can give them small rocks and logs. They should have at least one area in which to hide. It is recommended that the bottom of the cage is lined with newspaper or artificial turf for easy cleaning. Small substrate is not recommended, as it is not uncommon for geckos to accidently ingest the substrate and it can become stuck in their intestines. The cage can be cleaned with dilute bleach.
A leopard gecko’s tank also needs to be adequately heated. You can use a ceramic heat lamp (no hot rocks or heating pads) which should give a basking area temperature of 90-95°F. At the cool end of the tank the temperature should go down to approximately 80°F. Ideally there are two thermometers in the tank, one on each end. Make sure that the light turns off at night, and the temperature can decrease to the 70s at that time. A red heat lamp can be used at night if needed. It used to be believed that leopard geckos do not need UVB lights as they are generally nocturnal in the wild. This has been found to not be true! UVB light from the sun is reflected off the moon at night, which is absorbed by the gecko. UVB light provides Vitamin D for your reptile so that he can metabolize calcium. Putting your gecko’s tank in front of a window is not enough, as UVB light can NOT go through glass or plastic! The light should be within 18 inches of your reptile and should be placed in his basking area. Read the box when you purchase your light, as most lights expire in approximately 6 months and this date should be noted so it is replaced when needed.
A shallow water dish should be placed into the tank, large enough for him to climb into but not completely submerge himself. This dish should be changed daily. Some geckos have difficulty with the low humidity found in Colorado, so the cage can be misted with water twice daily to help increase the humidity. This is especially important during shedding, as the low humidity can lead to dysecdysis (difficulty shedding), which can lead to retained shed on the digits and tail and can cause damage to these structures. Soak your gecko daily during his shed to help with this process. You can also make a “humidity chamber” for him. Use a tupperware and cut a hole in the side for the gecko to crawl into. Then you can place damp sphagnum moss in the tupperware, which will greatly raise the humidity of that area. Geckos often eat their shed, so you may never see it happen!
Leopard geckos are insectivores. Juveniles should be fed every day, and adults every other day. They should be fed a mixture of small insects such as crickets, earthworms, and mealworms. The insects should be no larger than the gecko’s head. The insects should be gut-loaded and dusted with calcium powder. Remove any uneaten insects after about 30 minutes.
We recommend that your leopard gecko be examined yearly. A fecal examination should be performed for all new geckos. An exam helps to catch infections, organ diseases, behavioral problems, and most importantly husbandry issues. Call to schedule your appointment today!
Julia Katzenbach, DVM