How to Care for Your Leopard Lizard
(photo credit Reptiles Of AZ)
Leopard Lizards (genus Gambelia; the most commonly kept as a pet is G. wislizenii, commonly called the long-nosed leopard lizard) are medium-sized (10-16”), diurnal, terrestrial reptiles native to the arid western United States and Mexico. They are very active reptiles but also spend their time basking in bushes and on rocks in order to increase their body temperature. Leopard Lizards have a cream base color with pale gray spots and/or bars on their dorsal surface. The females may also display pink or orange spots during the mating season. Leopard Lizards should be considered as intermediate level pets due to their high level of activity, voracious appetites, and heating and lighting needs.
A single Leopard Lizard may be housed in an enclosure of at least 48”x24”x18” high; keeping more than one together will require a larger enclosure. Most Leopard Lizard keepers recommend some sort of rough, particulate substrate such as wood bark, sand, and rock mixture or excavator clay, in order to approximate their natural habitat and allow them to burrow as desired.
Leopard Lizards bask during the day in order to maintain their body heat and require a structure they can climb on to bring them closer to their basking light source. This can be a branch, rock, or other platform. Structures should be securely anchored to prevent them tipping and injuring the lizard. Desert plants can be added to the enclosure, as well as a small water bowl. The enclosure can also be lightly misted weekly to allow the Leopard Lizard to lick water drops from the surfaces.
Heating and Lighting
Since they are diurnal reptiles, Leopard Lizards require two kinds of lighting: a source of UVB throughout the cage to provide vitamin D3 for metabolizing calcium, and a focused basking light to provide heat and mimic the desert sun. By placing the basking light at one end of the enclosure, it’s possible to establish a heat gradient with a range of temperatures throughout the enclosure.
The recommended UVB light is a full-spectrum 10.0 florescent bulb that runs most of the length of the enclosure. The fixture can be placed inside the cage underneath the cover or on top of a mesh cover. If the fixture is placed on top of the cage, a glass cage cover should not be used, since the UVB will not penetrate through the glass. Florescent bulbs decrease in the amount of UVB emitted with time. It’s safest to replace the bulb every 6 months, though a more accurate schedule can be determined if a UV meter is purchased and used to check UV levels.
The basking light can be a flood light or halogen light and should provide a heat level of approximately 100-110 degrees F when the lizard is on its perch. The daytime temperature of the enclosure should be in the 80’s with a night time temperature drop into the high 60’s allowed.
Food and Supplementation
Leopard Lizards are known to be carnivorous and cannibalistic and have large appetites. In the wild, they frequently eat other lizards and have been observed jumping quite high to catch prey or running it down. Adults should be fed a variety of bugs and worms every other day, including roaches, crickets, hornworms, silkworms, superworms, butterworms, or NutriGrubs (black soldier fly larvae, also known as phoenix worms). Some keepers feed their lizards live pinky mice though this is not required. Needless to say, Dubia Roaches are a wonderful staple food for Leopard Lizards!
Leopard Lizards 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 at least once a week.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. If you are new to Leopard Lizards, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.