Quick Care Guide – offering step-by-step information for the beginner to intermediate level keeper about leopard gecko natural history, selecting a gecko, size, life span, photos showing how to sex your gecko, caging, food, water, temperature, vitamin/mineral supplementation, handling and temperment and more. PLUS three bonus chapters packed with detailed information on Breeding, Egg Laying, Incubation and Raising Juveniles.
LEOPARD GECKO CARE – Basic
The leopard gecko, (Eublepharis macularius), has been captive-bred in the United States for more than 30 years and is one of the most commonly kept lizards today. These hardy saurians come in a variety of colors, patterns and sizes. This is a great species for the home. Imagine a lizard that can vocalize and wash an eye with its tongue with ease. There is a friendly dinosaur in this small package.
Hatchlings measure 3 to 4 inches long. Adult females are typically 7 to 8 inches, and males are 8 to 10 inches. Some males of the super giant bloodlines reach nearly a foot and weigh over 160 grams.
A 10- to 20-gallon aquarium houses one or two leopard geckos from hatchling to adult size. Larger tanks tend to cause the geckos to stray away from their proper heat and hide box. Although visibility is reduced, many people use plastic storage boxes as housing. Any cage you choose should be at least 1 foot tall. Be sure to have a secure screen top on your gecko cage that will support a light fixture, provide good ventilation and keep out bothersome cats.
A hide box filled with moist moss or vermiculite is needed, so your leopard gecko can shed its skin properly. This secure setting also is needed for egg laying if you plan on breeding geckos.
Lighting and Temperature
The best way to heat your leopard gecko is by using an undertank heating pad or tape. These are available at any pet store or online. Heating one end of the cage is essential. This allows for a temperature variation that your lizard needs. Heat rocks tend to become too hot for leopard geckos and should be avoided due to the risk of burns.
For viewing, a simple low-wattage light can be placed overhead on the screen-cage top and left on 12 hours a day.
The ideal temperature in the hide box is 86 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. The ambient air temperature of the room they are housed in should be above 73 degrees.
Newspaper, pea gravel, artificial turf, flat stones or no floor covering are OK. A young or debilitated leopard gecko might consume sand or fine-particle products on the cage floor, and this could lead to intestinal impaction.
Live insects are a must for your gecko; they do not eat plants or veggies. The best items to use are mealworms or crickets, but you can treat your pet to waxworms or superworms once a week if you wish. We have used regular mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) without health issues for since 1978.
All insects must be first given a nutritious powdered diet for at least 12 hours before being fed to your leopard gecko. This process is called “gut loading,” and it is very important to the health of your pet. Chick or hog mash is available at all feed stores, and several good commercial diets are available for this purpose, as well. Simply place the insects in a tub of gut-load diet with a piece of potato to serve as a source of water.
Keepers can offer two appropriately sized insects for every inch of a leopard gecko’s total length every other day. Therefore, a 4-inch-long gecko would receive eight mealworms three to four times a week
A shallow water dish with fresh water must be available at all times. It should also be stable, so it cannot be spilled. Cage substrate should be kept dry, so be careful about spillage. Make sure that young and adult leopard geckos can climb easily out of the dish you use. Vitamin drops should not be added to the water.
Geckos that have been recently moved often go off feed. Here is a simple procedure that will jumpstart their feeding response.
1) Pre-kill several insects by pinching the head of 2-3 regular 1″ mealworms (not Zophobas) Hold one mealworm in one hand.
2) Pick up your gecko with your other hand – nose up – and tap the eye and/or jaw line with your thumb so that the gecko opens its mouth.
3) Drop dead mealworm into the mouth of your gecko. Keep the nose upwards at all times. If the gecko spits out the mealworm then keep repeating steps # 2 and # 3 until it swallows.
4) Repeat daily so that the gecko gets 2-3 mealworms. Often by day three the gecko will start eating on its own.
This works in 95% of the time. Stay with it. Even if the gecko resists – remember you need to do this to have things go right.
Thank you very much Ron & Helene Tremper
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