This is the Leopard Gecko Care Sheet. This guide contains the essentials needed to begin your Leopard Gecko addiction.
Leopard Geckos come from the Middle Eastern countries of: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Northern India. They make their homes in dry rocky outcroppings and self dug borrows in arid grasslands. As a crepuscular (cruh-puhs-cue-ler) species, leopard geckos hunt for bugs in the early morning and late evening. They sleep during the hottest part of the day (100°F) and coldest part of the night (60°F). In the wild they will eat anything that fits in their mouth. They eat crickets, spiders, centipedes, and scorpions. It is thought that they may also try to hunt small snakes, small mice, or even other lizards.
Leopard Geckos, Leos’ for short, are a hardy, crepuscular gecko that is full of personality. Leopard geckos are very forgiving to mistakes and are very tough little critters. They also potty train themselves; they choose a corner and poop only there.
While leopard geckos are happy to be left alone, they can also benefit from ‘bonding’ with you. They are well known to smile when they are happy, and their big beautiful eye ‘lashes’ makes them just beyond adorable.
Let the Leopard Gecko Addiction Begin!
The minimum amount of space for one Leopard Gecko is a 20 Gallon Long Aquarium or Terrarium. Floor space is more important for these geckos than the height of the enclosure. If something else is used to house them, then the minimum floor space is 2.5 square feet.
Front opening enclosures are the best, but top opening is still acceptable. Side openers are better because the gecko does not feel like a predator is hanging over them.
A minimum of 3 hides is required. They need a hot hide, a humid hide, and a cold hide.
The Hot hide goes on the warmest side of their terrarium (usually positioned over the heat mat). This hide is important for thermoregulation (body temperature control) and food digestion.
The Humid hide needs to be in the middle of their enclosure. Humid hides are important for safe shedding of the toes and tail tip. This hide needs to have a paper towel in the bottom, that must be kept damp at all times, but not soaking wet.
The Cold hide goes on the cold (unheated) side of the terrarium. Having one here is important for thermoregulation.
While 3 hides are the least that this gecko needs, they will always appreciate as many as possible. Clutter is Key.
Leopard Geckos do best with an under tank heater. The heat on their bellies aids digestion. The Heat mat should cover no more than one-third of the terrarium.
The Temperature on the hot side of the enclosure should be no less than 89°F, and no more than 92°F. A good average to go for should be 90°F.
Warnings! Heat mats, or other heating elements of any kind, have to have a digital thermometer. The thermometer will keep the temperature even and make sure the heat mat does not burn your gecko. Heat lights are also not recommended, if used over a period of time, the light may cause them to go blind. Due to the uneven surface heat rocks should not be used with leopard geckos; the risk of them getting burned, even with the use of a thermometer, is too high.
The Best for the Price
The best cheap substrate for leopard geckos is paper towel or shelf liner.
Arid Naturalistic or Arid Bioactive Substrate
This substrate is be good for leopard geckos. They like to dig, it helps to keep their nails trimmed, and it gives them exercise. Either of the below mixes are good bases for a bioactive or naturalistic terrarium.
Here are the two most common recipes.
Basic recipe: 60% organic topsoil, and 40% play sand.
Clay recipe: 50% organic topsoil, 30% sand, and 20% reptile excavator clay.
Either recipe should be prepared in the following manner: Mix topsoil, sand, and if using, excavator clay in the recommended amounts with water until well combined.
In the tank put a one to two inch thick layer of drainage gravel or clay balls, and a layer of fine mesh, to keep the soil from mixing at the bottom. The drainage layer is important to keep the soil dry so your gecko does not get toe rot or respiratory issues.
Next add 3-6 inches of the soil mix on top of the mesh. Wait for it to dry completely before putting your leopard gecko in.
Add your clean up crew, and allow 3-7 days for the springtails and isopods to build up their numbers, before adding your gecko.
Reptile carpet is a hotly debated topic in the reptile hobby. Some say it is perfectly safe as long as it is changed and cleaned every week. But some keepers have reported the carpet has ripped out toenails or teeth. Another concern is that bacteria can build up quickly.
The only real use for the carpet (that I as the author have seen) is as a temporary tank liner for sick geckos. Specifically ones that are having trouble with walking or keeping their temperature regulated.
However reptile carpet (or the soil mix) should never be used to house a gecko that has lost its tail. The only acceptable liner for tail loss or other open wounds are paper towels or shelf liners. When it comes to the reptile carpet, it could shed fibers into the wound and/or buildup bacteria that will cause infection.
Like a lot of geckos, the leopard gecko likes to drink drops of water off the side of their tank or off an object. However they also have no issue drinking from a water bowl. Their ability to drink from a water dish makes it the default way to give them their water. The water dish should be big enough that they can get in it, but not deeper than an inch. They should always have access to water.
Juveniles: under 6 months
Adolescents: 7 months-1 year
Adults: 1 year+
Juveniles need the lots of protein. They should be fed Everyday with small to medium insects.
Adolescents should get appropriately sized insects Every Other day.
Adults should get appropriately sized insects every Two to Three days. If they are fed too often they may gain too much weight.
Calcium with D3 is the most important supplement for leopard geckos. A leopard gecko that is not provided with calcium, will eventually develop a disease called Metabolic Bone Disease(MBD). Calcium with D3 is used to dust their bugs with every meal.
Calcium without D3 is the calcium that is placed in a small dish in their terrarium. It is important that the calcium placed in their terrarium is the calcium without D3.
Multivitamins are dusted on the bugs with the D3 calcium once a week. Multivitamins are important to keep the gecko in optimum health. It also provides many health benefits including easier shedding.
Dusting is done by putting the powder in a plastic zip-lock sandwich bag. Add the bugs, then shake them around in the bag until they are thoroughly coated. The bugs need to be coated with the dust, as the dust shouldn’t be put directly in the geckos bowl.
MUST be fed LIVE bugs. Never feed dried or canned insects. Don’t feed insects found outside as they can carry parasites.
Mealworms – All bugs need dusted
Crickets – Dust half the total number for the meal
Dubia Roaches also known as Tropical Spotted Roaches – Dust half the total number of the meal
Black Soldier Fly Larvae – Does not need to be dusted, some geckos don’t like them and should be fed in moderation with other insects
Silkworms – may not need dusted, tons of protein, will need mulberry leaves to keep silkworms alive
Hornworms – High in calcium, fat and water, should be used as a treat
Super worms – High in calcium and fat, should be used as a treat, must have head crushed as they can bite
Wax worms and Butter worms – Should ONLY be used as an occasional treat, Leopard Geckos have been known to become addicted to them and may refuse to eat anything else
A good general rule of thumb is that Leopard Geckos should only be fed bugs that are as wide as the space between their eyes.
2 appropriately sized insects per 1 inch of the geckos length, is a good starting place when deciding how many bugs to feed.
Gut loading is where insects are fed for 24-48 hours before being fed to the gecko. Gut loading provides optimal nutrition. This practice is essential for the health of the gecko. Insects used for treats should also be gut loaded.
They can live anywhere between 10-20 years.
10 years is the average in wild.
15 years is the average in captivity but it is also common for them to reach 20 years old.
Hatching 3-4.5 grams
1 month 15-20 grams
2 months 18-30 grams
4-6 months 25-60 grams
9-18 months 40-110 grams
3 inches – Hatchling
4-6 inches – Juvenile
7-8 inches – Young Adult or an Adult Female
7-11 inches – Average Adult or an Adult Male
One Leopard Gecko is the social group size. Leopard Geckos are primarily solitary animals (they like to live alone). The only time they get in close contact in the wild is when they are mating or fighting for space. While some people have had success with keeping two or more females together, oftentimes one gets bullied too much and they start to fight.
The dominance behavior can look like ‘cuddling’ to us. One gecko putting its head on top of another is a sign of passive bullying. Oftentimes the bullying can get so bad that one dies before it even reaches ten years old.
The only exceptions to this rule is breeding, or preparing young geckos for their own terrariums.
While they can be found in colonies in the wild they also have miles of space to get away from each other.
Young animals under 9 months will shed their skin about every one to two weeks.
Adults shed their skin every four to eight weeks.
Leopard Geckos will eat their shed. They do this because it contains good nutrients, and in the wild, eating it (getting rid of the evidence) prevents predators from finding out where they live.
These are the health concerns that most affect beginners (not a full list of illnesses). Please do as much research as possible, as many illnesses can be cured if caught early enough.
MDB – Metabolic Bone Disease occurs because a Leopard Gecko has not received enough calcium in their life. The gecko’s body, especially when growing, requires a lot of calcium to function. When they do not receive the calcium they need, their body starts taking it from their bones. The stripping of calcium then causes the bones to become soft and squishy. This is the most preventable health issue.
‘Crypto‘ (Cryptosporidium saurophilum) or stick tail is a common, but horrible disease. The animal wastes away and eventually starves to death. Crypto is very contagious and deadly. If one animal in your collection is found with it, they need to be quarantined and seen by a vet.
Stick tail is generally known as extreme weight loss, but is commonly associated with the crypto parasite. Crypto usually stems from poor animal husbandry like fecal and dead bug build up. It also could be introduced from an un-quarantined or improperly quarantined animal.
Malnutrition can be prevented, in most cases. Not gut loading your geckos insects before feeding is the number one cause of malnutrition. Not providing good calcium and multivitamins may also be a contributing factor. If you are gut loading your insects, and giving proper supplementation and your gecko is still losing weight, then it is time to take them to a vet.
Impaction is an issue usually caused by keeping the gecko on a heavy substrate, like sand or gravel, for a long while.
Geckos explore their environments with their tongues, so when kept on something like sand, they tend to ingest a lot. The sand will stay, and gather in their gut, until they succumb to either a burst organ or malnutrition.
Impaction can also occur from a blockage of food, or another foreign object that they ingested. Bugs such as mealworms or super worms have an exoskeleton made of chiton. Chiton can sometimes be hard for leopard geckos to digest and pass. Rather than feeding only mealworms, feeding a variety of insects will help prevent food impaction.
Mouth rot and Stomatitis stems from improper hygiene of the terrarium or objects within. It causes the geckos’ lips and mouth to become red and swollen. In advanced stages puss will begin emerging, and the gecko may start salivating. It is very painful for the gecko. Cleaning the terrarium and the things in it will need to be increased in frequency. Visit your vet as soon as you notice the symptoms.
Eye Issues occur with improper terrarium hygiene or from a foreign object in the eye. Vitamin A and E deficiencies may also be the cause. Do not attempt to medicate extra vitamins without a vet. You can give your gecko too many vitamins. The condition is called (insert vitamin name here) toxicity. A vet visit is needed for determination and proper treatment.
Retained Shed or Stuck Shed on the toes or tail tip is a common issue. During shedding the humidity needs to go up from their normal 30%-40% to 70%-80%. This much needed higher humidity is achieved by putting a humid hide in their enclosure. If their entire enclosure is kept above the 30-40% humidity they start getting skin rot. If they can’t get the shed all the way off, then every shed afterwards will build up. That buildup will eventually cut off the blood supply to the affected appendage, and will cause it to fall off.
Respiratory Infections are common when fecal matter is not cleaned in a timely fashion. Due to their high protein diets, their urates (the white part in their poop) are concentrated and have a very strong smell. While the poop can usually wait a week to be cleaned, most keepers try to take it out when they see it.
Sharp, frequent temperature spikes cause the geckos immune system to weaken. A lowered immune system increases the chances of not only a respiratory infection, but many other illnesses.
Too high of humidity outside the humid hide may also be a contributing factor.
Tail Rot is where blood flow is obstructed to the tip of the tail. The tail will appear shriveled and black. A vet should be consulted about what to do. Either the vet will cut the necrosis (dead or dying tissue) off or instruct you to wait to see if it falls off itself.
Coccidiosis is very contagious. The only real way to diagnose this is to see your vet as soon as symptoms are noticed. Symptoms may include little to no appetite, lack of energy, and inactivity. Your vet will have to take a stool sample and send you home with a treatment. The treatment may take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple months.
Disclaimer! This was not written by a vet. The Intension of the article is to see animals receive the best care possible. The information in this post is written with only good intentions. If a piece of informations is found to be wrong, the information will be updated.