Leopard Gecko Care Sheet provided by Reptifiles

Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularis)

Difficulty: Easy

 Leopard Gecko Care Sheet provided by Reptifiles

Leopard geckos are a crepuscular, ground-dwelling lizard native to semi-desert and arid grassland areas of Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and India. The spotted pattern which serves as their namesake also serves as camouflage among the sandy gravel, rocks, dry grasses, and shrubs characteristic to the area.

Leopard geckos are insectivorous, which means that they eat primarily insects. In the wild, they eat beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, scorpions, and centipedes.

They grow to be 7-10 inches long, with females generally being smaller. With proper care, pet leopard geckos live 15-20 years on average.

Unlike most geckos, leopard geckos are unable to climb vertical surfaces due to the absence of setae on their toes. They also have eyelids, eliminating the need for using their tongue to clean their eyes—another characteristic gecko behavior. However, they are able to detach and regrow their tail if needed.

Fun fact: In Pakistan, there’s a superstition that leopard geckos are related to the common black cobra and are thus venomous. The skin of a leopard gecko is also believed to be poisonous. These superstitions are both false.

 

Shopping List

  • 4'x2'x2' PVC Panel Enclosure by Zen Habitats
  • 8-10” dome heat lamp with a ceramic socket
  • 100w halogen flood heat bulb (white light)
  • infrared temperature gun
  • 22-24” UVB bulb and fixture
  • Substrate (bedding)
  • 2+ hides/caves
  • Decorations (extra hides, branches, rocks, artificial plants, etc.)
  • Food dish
  • Water dish
  • Calcium powder supplement
  • Multivitamin powder supplement

Keep reading to find out which specific products we recommend!

 

 

Terrarium Size

The minimum enclosure size for a leopard gecko is 36”x18”x18”, or about 40 gallons. However, bigger is always better, so we recommend 48”x24”x16” instead to provide optimal care for your pet leopard gecko throughout the duration of its life. The 48”x24”x16” Zen Habitats Reptile Enclosures with PVC Panels makes an excellent leopard gecko enclosure with easy-access front opening doors, a screen top for ventilation, and lightweight construction for convenience.

Can Leopard Geckos Be Housed Together?

Cohabitation is not recommended for leopard geckos. Unlike humans or dogs, leopard geckos are not social animals and don’t need “friends” simply because they don’t get lonely. Multiple geckos housed together often results in dropped tails, severe bite wounds, and even broken bones.

 

Lighting, Temperatures & Humidity Levels

Lighting

There is a common myth that leopard geckos they don’t need any light at all, and providing light will “burn their eyes.” These geckos are most active around dawn and dusk, not just the middle of the night. They will also sleep partially exposed to sunlight in the wild and in captivity. In other words: This is a myth!

For best health, we recommend using a low-level UVB bulb 12 hours/day to provide daytime light. Exposure to UVB light helps your gecko be more active, have better appetite, and be overall healthier. However, certain colors of leopard geckos are more sensitive to UVB than others (kind of how light-skinned people are more prone to sunburn), so which UVB bulb to use varies:

Normal and dark pigmented geckos → 22” Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 5.0 or T5 HO Arcadia Forest 6%

Albino and light colored geckos  22” Zoo Med Reptisun T8 5.0 or T8 Arcadia Forest 6%

For best results, mount the UVB lamp on the underside of the mesh, not on top. Zip ties are very helpful for this!

Colored “night lights” like blue, black, or red bulbs are not needed to help them see at night or provide warmth, and can actually interfere with your gecko’s day/night cycle. Don’t waste your money on one.

Temperatures

Unlike humans and other mammals that produce their own heat, leopard geckos are cold-blooded, which means that they need to get their body heat from external sources. But they also need a way to escape the heat when they reach the right temperature. So, they require a range of temperatures within their enclosure for best health:

  • Basking area — 90-94°F
  • Cool zone —72-76°F
  • Nighttime — No lower than 60°F

In nature, warmth is delivered to reptiles via the sun, and they retreat underground to get cooler, not warmer. Many leopard gecko keepers use and will recommend heat mats, but this is an outdated practice that ignores nature. Heat lamps are the best way to mimic nature in captivity. We recommend using the Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot paired with a piece of flagstone or slate tile placed underneath to absorb heat. The exact wattage you will need varies depending on several factors, but generally speaking a 100w should do the trick. If it’s too hot, plug it into a lamp dimmer to dial it down.

How do you make sure you’re doing it right? Don’t get a cheap gauge-type stick-on thermometer — these aren’t very accurate and only measure air temperature. Instead, use an infrared temperature gun like the Zoo Med Reptitemp or Etekcity 774 to measure the heat that your gecko is feeling.

On that subject, do not buy your gecko a heat rock! Heat rocks are notorious for burning pet reptiles.

Humidity

Leopard geckos are desert animals, so they need a fairly dry environment to stay healthy. Ideal humidity will be between 20%-40%, which should match the humidity naturally in your home. However, they do need higher humidity for shedding. Instead of bumping up humidity in the whole enclosure, provide a humid hide containing moist sphagnum moss or a moistened paper towel on the middle of the tank.

 

Substrate

Loose substrate vs solid substrate for leopard geckos is a controversial argument due to the issue of impaction, or substrate-induced constipation. Loose substrate is safe, but the gecko must be healthy and well hydrated with correct basking temperatures for it to be so. If you would like to avoid all risk, a solid substrate will be your best bet. It’s your choice.

  • Paper towels
  • Stone tile or unpolished ceramic tile
  • Zoo Med Excavator Clay
  • Lugarti Natural Reptile Bedding
  • DIY Naturalistic Mix: 50% organic topsoil + 40% play sand + 10% excavator clay

Leopard geckos have a convenient habit of designating one corner of their terrarium as a “toilet,” making cleanup and health monitoring easy. Replace soiled substrate as needed.

 

Feeding Your Leopard Gecko

Leopard geckos are insectivores, which means that they eat bugs. No vegetables, fruit, or meat – they’re just crazy for bugs! Offer 2 appropriately-sized bugs per 1 inch of your leopard gecko’s length. Juveniles should be fed daily, and adults fed every other day or every third day.


  • Mealworms
  • Crickets
  • Hornworms
  • Dubia roaches
  • Silkworms
  • Black soldier fly larvae

Always offer live insects. Dead or canned insects don’t trigger your gecko’s “hunting mode,” so they most likely won’t get eaten. Also, make sure to offer more than just 1-2 kinds of insects. Offering a variety provides enrichment for your gecko, as well as varied nutrition to prevent nutrient deficiency.

All feeders should be gut-loaded and lightly coated in a high quality calcium powder without vitamin D, like Miner-ALL Outdoor, at every feeding. Once a week, mix the calcium powder 50/50 with a multivitamin powder like Repashy Supervite.

 

Handling Tips

Once you’ve brought your gecko home, it’s tempting to start playing with him or her right away. But wait 2 weeks after buying before beginning handling — your gecko needs time to settle into their new home, and handling on top of that can cause additional stress.

After the waiting period is over, introduce yourself to your gecko by putting your hand in its enclosure every night for a few minutes so it can get used to your scent and presence. They should already be relatively familiar with you, since you’ve been in their space replacing water, offering food, cleaning up, etc. Avoid putting on lotion or other fragranced products before introducing yourself.

When you begin handling, start with 5 minute sessions every other day, gradually increasing the length of the sessions and escalating to daily. Support the feet, body, and tail. Never grab the tail, as it may fall off if the gecko feels threatened. Consistency is key to successful taming.

Stay close to the ground in case the gecko jumps. You want handling to be a positive experience, and injury is not a positive experience. You can also talk to your gecko and offer it treats. It doesn’t matter whether you handle during the day or night, although the gecko might be less skittish during the day.

 

 

Care information courtesy of ReptiFiles. Visit ReptiFiles.com to view the full version of this care guide.