How to Care for Your Leopard Gecko
Leopard Geckos (Eublepharis macularius) are mid sized (7’10”), nocturnal, terrestrial geckos native to Pakistan, Afghanistan and surrounding countries. They can be found at a variety of elevations in these mountainous countries and generally prefer an arid habitat with hard packed earth, though they likely spend time in more humid microclimates on occasion. The original leopard gecko was mustard yellow with copious black spots, hence its common name. Leopard Geckos are called “Eublepharid”, meaning that they have eyelids and can close their eyes. They have been bred in captivity for many generations and currently exhibit a wide variety of colors and patterns. Leopard Geckos are generally considered to be a beginner pet.
Although individual Leopard Geckos have been housed in 10 gallon tanks (20”x10”x12”), it is generally considered preferable to house 1-2 leopard geckos in a 20 gallon long tank (30”x12”x12”) or equivalent sized plastic tub. Although Leopard Geckos generally don’t climb, it’s important that the enclosure have a lid to keep other animals or curious children out. Sand or other particulate substrate is not recommended for juvenile Leopard Geckos, and calci-sand is not recommended for any Leopard Gecko due to danger of impaction. For adult Leopard Geckos, if sand is desired (note that their native habitat is not sandy) play sand should be used. Eco earth is a more typical substrate for those housing their geckos on a “bioactive” substrate. The most common non-particulate substrates include paper towel, newspaper, repti-carpet and ceramic tile. Leopard Geckos require at least one dry hide per gecko placed on the hot side of the enclosure (see below) as well as a humid hide, which is usually a plastic container with moist paper towel, eco earth or sphagnum moss. In addition, a basic Leopard Gecko setup has a water bowl and a bowl for mealworms if that is part of their diet.
Heating and Lighting
Leopard Geckos are nocturnal, and consequently don’t require overhead lighting as long as the room in which they are kept has ambient light to distinguish night from day. They require belly heat, usually provided by means of an under tank heater (UTH), which is placed on the bottom of one side of the enclosure to create a “temperature gradient” from hot side to cool side. The temperature on the floor of the enclosure on the hot side should be in the low 90’s. A UTH will require a thermostat or a rheostat to regulate the temperature. Leopard Geckos will thrive in an indoor environment that is comfortable for humans and will spend more time in their warm hides when the ambient indoor temperatures are cooler in the winter.
Food and Supplementation
Leopard Geckos are primarily insectivorous (insect eating), though some are fed newborn “pinkie” mice on occasion as adults. They are generally attracted only to live food. Most Leopard Geckos in the United States are fed a staple diet of mealworms, crickets or Dubia roaches. Hatchlings can start with 1⁄4” crickets or Dubia roaches, or small mealworms and progress to full-sized mealworms and crickets, and medium sized Dubia roaches after about 6 weeks. As is the case for most reptiles, Leopard Geckos will thrive on a variety of other bugs and worms including, superworms, hornworms, silkworms, NutriGrubs (black soldier fly larvae, also known as phoenix worms), and locusts. Care should be taken to feed appropriate sized prey and not to leave prey in the enclosure for long periods of time. Leopard Geckos require calcium to build strong bones, vitamin D3 to metabolize the calcium and a variety of other vitamins and minerals. It’s generally recommended to dust their prey with calcium, vitamin D3 and other vitamins using a commercially available product every feeding for juveniles and every other feeding for adults.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. If you are new to leopard geckos, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.