The leopard gecko (Eublepharis Macularius) may be the easiest, most docile gecko to keep. They require a small cage, will rarely, if ever bite, and are inexpensive. Ages 8 and up can keep them without a problem. This is a great beginner reptile, but before getting one, do you know how to care for it?
Leopard geckos come in hundreds of different shades, patterns, and colors. They could be bright orange, or snow white, but they all have the same care. Baby normal leopard geckos start off with solid yellow and black stripes that with each shed will break into more and more spots. Soon they will be yellow with black spots everywhere. Leopard geckos will grow up to 6-10 inches long within their first year. Most leopard geckos are 7-9 inches long when mature. These geckos will live up to and over 20 years with the right care.
You will not find a more docile gecko than the leopard gecko. You can hold these geckos for long periods of time, and they won’t mind. These reptiles would drop their tail before they would bite you most of the time. When picking them up, make sure they feel supported. The first few times they are picked up, they will be quick. If you hold them once a day though, they will calm down.
If they ever do bite, that means you did something wrong that scared or upset them. If you respect geckos, they will provide you with hours of amusement.
Crickets make a great staple for these voracious eaters. They will eat anything that moves, and love silk worms and super worms. Super worms should only be offered to adults because of their size. Mealworms are also great for babies. Baby geckos can have 3/8” crickets, juvies ½” and ¾” crickets for adults. Feed juvies every day and adults every couple of days. Be sure to dust all the food items with 100% calcium.
When feeding leopard geckos put 5 to 10 crickets in the tank at a time or as much as they can eat within 10-20 minutes for them to hunt. Before you feed them, check the tank to make sure at least most of the crickets have been eaten from the last feeding.
Leopard geckos take up very little space compared to most reptiles. A juvenile can live happily in a 10-gallon tank. Adults need a bare minimum of 10 gallons, and I recommend housing one per 20-gallon tank.
Leopard geckos cannot climb walls, therefore height is not needed, but length is. Make your purchase a 20-gallon long, instead of high. Make sure you have a secure lid on your tank, as these guys can get out if you don’t. This will also prevent crickets from escaping.
Shelter is a must since leopard geckos are nocturnal. You should have at least three hide boxes in the tank. A hide box on each end of the tank, and one in the middle. The one in the middle should be the humid hide that can double as a lay box if you plan on breeding. The humid hide should be misted as needed, and filled with moss, paper towels or vermiculite.
Make sure that all hides are stable and study. If a hide tips over or collapses on your gecko, it may die or be seriously injured. The hide boxes you use do not have to be fancy. They could be nothing more than cardboard boxes or plastic containers with a hole big enough for your gecko to crawl through.
Leopard geckos are active at night, and if you use a loose substrate, at some point leopard geckos will swallow it when hunting and catching crickets or food items. This is more of a concern for baby geckos than adults. Using paper towels makes it easy to clean up and replace, and the geckos do not have a chance of becoming impacted.
The worst possible substrate for a leopard gecko in calci-sand. When a gecko swallows it, the sand partially dissolves leaving goo in their stomach, and increases the risk of impaction.
If you have your heart set on a loose substrate, use fine grain sand. It works well, but use it for adults only. The sand should be 2-3 inches deep in the tank, allowing them to dig. Other substrates that work well are newspaper, tile, or reptile carpet.
Leopard geckos are from Northern India and Pakistan, so they need fairly high temperatures. Their basking spot should be around 90F, and under tank heaters (UTH) work best. Leopard geckos absorb heat through their bellies more than from their back. Using a UTH will also let your gecko become heated without leaving a hide. Heat lamps work fine as well, but you will have to replace bulbs frequently.
Heat lamps should be used if you have paper towels because leopard geckos will get burned from a UTH. When using a UTH, make sure that you have at least 10 layers of paper towels or enough loose substrate.
Leopard geckos are nocturnal, so they will hide during the day. This means that UV bulbs are not necessary.
Water and Humidity
Leopard gecko tanks do not require to be misted because their natural habitat is mostly desert. Providing a water bowl is enough to keep your gecko hydrated. Make sure that you mist that humid hide though.
Cleaning a leopard gecko’s tank is extremely easy. Be sure to spot clean and remove feces when they appear, or 3-4 times a week. If you are using a loose substrate, replace it every 6 months. Wash or replace reptile carpet every 1-2 weeks.
Breeding leopard geckos can be entertaining and exciting if you know what you are doing. They should be housed in a 20+ gallon tank. Never keep two males together because they will fight to the death. You can have two females and one male though.
The females will need a lay box that can be a plastic box filled with vermiculite or perlite. Make sure that the female can easily make it through the entrance, and that there is plenty of room for digging.
Female leopard geckos will lay their eggs in clutches of two. After laying a clutch a week, you will receive on average, 12 eggs. You could get as much as 20 though. Once the eggs are laid, don’t rotate them when removing. Doing so will kill the embryo inside.
When you place them in the incubator, you can decide whether you want males or females from the temperature. If you want males, incubate at 87-88F, if you want females, the temperature should be set at 81-83F, and a mix can be incubated at 85F
Be prepared for the babies before they hatch. Make sure that you have food, housing, shelter, and substrate.
Alright, you got your geckos to breed and your eggs to hatch. Babies won’t eat before their first shed, which will be about a week. Once they do eat, feed them pinhead crickets or small mealworms. Be sure to feed them everyday. Monitor that they are all eating because you do not want any to be left out.
Hatchlings can be kept separately in plastic shoeboxes properly ventilated until they grow four inches. Another way to house them is have five per 10 gallons until they are four inches long. Once they are four inches, two can live in a 10 gallon. Once they hit 6 inches, they should each get their own 10 gallons.
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Julio - November 21, 2012
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