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My two Leopard Geckos, like most of my animals, I took in after the couple who had them could no longer care for them - or that should be did not know, neither could be bothered to care for them. I have a male and a female, both were severely undernourished, dirty and dehydrated. The female looked more like a stick insect than a gecko. I think I maybe should have taken a few photos to show a 'then and now' but at the time my only concern was to get them healthy as soon as possible. Luckily, with some food, water, a clean house and a bit of tlc they soon perked up and 6 years on, still have two plump, pampered and very loved little friends.
About Leopard Geckos
Leopard Geckos are a small lizards, though one of the larger species of Gecko. Adults can get up to around 25cm in length. They are native to the desert regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan and have become one of the most popular types of reptile kept in captivity. They get their name from their spotty 'leopard print' style markings, though with enthusiast breeding, various 'morphs' have been bred to enhance certain colours and even illuminate these markings altogether. They are widely known as very much a 'starter' reptile due to being small and relatively easy to care for. Many have become hooked on reptile keeping after purchasing one or two of these little guys. Unfortunately, this means that as people move on to bigger reptiles, these little lizards might not be exciting enough for some and I have noticed a lot of Leopard Geckos and Bearded Dragons up for rehoming. If only my house was big enough to take them all in.
First thing first... RESEARCH!
So what advice would I give to someone considering taking on a Leopard Gecko? (or any other animals come to that).... DO YOUR RESEARCH! While my case was a little different, I did do all the reading I could in order to get my guys back to health, even though it was after the event of them arriving in my living room. It was quite clear their previous owners had not done any research however as they didn't even think they needed water! Yes, as reptiles go they are easy to keep but getting the right set up is important, as is feeding them correctly and learning about some of the more unusual things they do and learning what is 'normal' and what isn't, after all this isn't a dog or cat. There are so many good books out there and it's worth buying one so you have a basic go to care guide at hand for anything you might need to look up. The internet,of course, is also a great source of info and just typing in 'Leopard Gecko' into Google will bring up pages and pages of care sheets. Be cautious though and don't just read one, read a lot. As with all internet information sources, don't take every word for the truth and read from a range of sources. Enthusiasts post a lot of instructional videos on YouTube which are worth looking at, and there seems to be a bizarre 'pimp my viv' culture going on as people compete with more and more elaborate set up for their lizards and post videos of them online... perhaps for a bit later on! The best source of info I've found though is forums - talk to other people, read their posts, ask questions. The reptile keeping community seem to be a very friendly and encouraging bunch who can't wait to share their expertise with you.
The other important thing is to look ahead - these guys can live up to 20 years in captivity. Can you be sure you can look after them for that long? Also ask yourself honestly, how interested are you? These guys don't rush around and perform acrobats, they are pretty chilled out and whilst I will still happily watch my little babies for hours on end, I do get why they don't keep everyone hooked.
Where to buy?
Again, this comes down to research. Make sure your seller is reputable, and sells captive bred livestock. Ask them lots of questions and you'll work out whether they know their stuff or not. Again forums are a great way of getting some personal recommendations in your area. Of course, there are also those our there in need of rehoming, and if you are not worried about getting baby this is a good way to go. Occasionally rehoming centres will have reptiles in, but more often it's the small ads where you will find people trying to rehome their pets. Gumtree and preloved are examples of sites with this type of ad, but go and see the animal before sealing the deal, and if you have a friend who knows their stuff to come with you, even better.
This is the big bit to get right and the biggest cost you'll come across. Look at it as an investment, and get it right. These guys don't keep growing like some larger lizards, so get a good vivarium to start with and you shouldn't ever need to buy another. Viv Exotic are the biggest manufacturer of ready made vivariums, but they aren't the best quality. If you do go for one, don't get the budget bottom of the range one. My Leopard Gecko viv is 3ft x 2ft x 1.5ft and it suits them fine. As I said, these guys aren't overly active and as long as they have room for a wander around they don't need a huge mansion, though I wouldn't recommend anything much smaller than mine.
In my guys' tank I have small hollow logs for them to hide in and to provide some shade, a pot plant (check which ones are non toxic, though it's unlikely they will ever eat it), an ornamental branch that they sometimes climb along, a food dish, a water dish and a container filled with moss, which acts are their bathroom. I would arrange the set up so that they have a few places to hide if they wish but no too many, after all you got them to look at and encouraging them to chill out where you can see them is good for both of you! On the bottom, they have calcium substrate, this time it's white, but you can get a never ending range of colours, the sparkly black looks particularly good.
In addition to their various bits of furniture, the most important thing in their crib is their heat source. Unlike a lot of other reptiles, this need not be complicated. I have a 60W reflector bulb in my geckos tank, linked up to a habistat so I can control the heat setting. I turn this up high during the day and down and night to mimick the temperature in the wild.
These guys hunt their prey by sensing movement, therefore they can not eat vegetables or anything dead unless you wiggle it in front of them. The most popular food for Leopard Geckos is crickets, which mine will eat from time to time, though it's not their favourite. The other downside of crickets in they are rather noisy and chirp constantly - even the 'silent crickets'! They can also be a little vicious and I have known them to nip my Geckos on occasion - I know, wrong way round!!
My geckos like locusts best of the hoppy variety of livefood. I will never tire of watching them hunt and it provides much entertainment when they both go for the same one and end up in a 'Lady and the Tramp' moment. In addition to locusts, mine also eat mealworms and their absolute favourite - waxworms. These are essentially caterpillars - the larvae of the greater wax moth. They are high in fatty nutrients and should be fed sparingly but are a very useful food source. It's a bit like giving them a Mars bar.
The problem with live food, as you can imagine, is it dies, often before you get to feed it all to you pets and the best thing to prolong it's shelf life is feed it! You don't need to go out buying food for the food, a few vegetable peelings in the container will be fine to keep them going.
This is probably the biggest responsibility with keeping geckos, and it's worth checking out where stocks live feed near you and find out their delivery days - get it as fresh as you can. A pot of live food can set you back between £2 - £3 and I find we need a box a week, depending on the type of food. You can order online and there are some good sites I've used, but it's probably only worth it if you really have no other source, you're buying in bulk with friends or you have numerous pets because by the time you've paid postage it gets costly and you can not guarantee the quality of the food.
I feed my geckos every couple of days and just give them one or two items each, each time. This is plenty. Don't be tempted to put the whole tub of food in a let them eat as they like. It's important to let them hunt their food, and if it's there all the time, they will lose this instinct.
They don't drink a lot but a small saucer of water should be there at all times. Make you keep an eye on this as with the heat in the viv it can evaporate quickly.
Yes, Leopard Geckos can detach their tails. This is in order to distract a predator in the wild. The tail can go on wiggling after it's detached from the geckos body. The idea being the predator will go after the tail, allowing the gecko to escape. Please don't let this put you off handling your pet. The gecko really doesn't want to do this if it can help it, it's really worst case scenario for them. The tail contains a valuable fat store, much like a camel's humps and so a healthy gecko should have a nice fat tail. It takes them a long time to build this up and they don't really want to get rid of it whenever they get a bit nervous. The tail does grow back but it takes a lot of energy for them to do this and it's never as good a the first one. Often a grown back tail is smaller stumpier and will be noticeably different in pattern and texture the the geckos torso.
In order not to freak the gecko out when you go to pick it up let it know you're coming, open the viv, talk to them and slowly and gently pick it up round the middle. Never grab it by the tail for obvious reasons but don't be scared of touching it gently. As with all animals they sense fear so be confident and they will be a lot calmer. They can be pretty wriggly but they do settle and mine like to snuggle round my neck and steal my warmth. Make sure the room is fairly snuggly and don't have them out so long they get cold. Keep handling them and they will soon get used to it. It's worth making them comfortable with you doing this as if you ever really need to get hold of them, to clean them out or to take them to the vet for example, they won't stress about it.
As will all pets, they sometimes get sick. Luckily, mine so far have been healthy since they have been with me, but I do have a card of a specialist reptile vet that was personally recommended to me should I ever need it and I think that is a must have piece of info for any reptile owner.
There are various ailments geckos are prone to and the most important thing is to get to know your animal. Spend time with them, handle them, watch them eat, note when they shed their skin, how often they go to the toilet and then you will know at the earliest stage if anything is wrong. Those books you bought to start with are a good place to start if you notice any unusual symptoms.
Rewards of keeping them
As you have gathered, hopefully, you learn a lot from keeping reptiles. Their fascinating behaviour such as them eating their skin when they shed, to their squabbles over food that happens to land in front of them both or just the way they watch you watching them makes them, for me, a fantastic pet. The initial set up and livefood buying aside, they are easy to care for and fairly inexpensive.
I find myself going to check on them and finding half an hour has passed just like that watching them. Many Leopard Geckos I have seen in zoos and the like are tucked away or asleep and seem on the surface to be a little boring.
My advice would be to keep them where you spend the most time, that way you don't miss anything they do and they are comfortable and used to you walking past and being around them. Mine are in my living room and are more often then not sitting by the glass, watching me. Who's keeping who here?!
If you give them enough love, they will reward you tenfold. A truly wonderful animal to keep.
I have kept Leopard Geckos for 3 years. Here I will explain a little about them!
Basic Set Up Needed
Leopard geckos are fairly easy to keep. Before you bring your new lizard home you will need to buy the following: (more info on the following later in review)
This is the tank you are going to keep them in. Personally, I think the bigger the better. The minimum size needed is 24 x 12 x 12 inches to house 1 gecko. Obviously you will need bigger vivs if you are intending on keeping more than one.
Calcium Powder and Vitamin D3
Leopard geckos need extra calcium and vitamins as part of their diet, this will be used to dust their food.
Your gecko will need fresh water, mine quite often like to lay in their water bowls!
Such as crickets, mealworms and waxworms.
You can buy specialist lamps from pet stores but personally I use normal household lightbulbs.
This can be either in the from of a heat lamp or a heat mat but I prefer to use both.
Hides - lots of them including a humid hide which will help to aid shedding
Thermostat and two thermometers.
The thermostat will be used to keep the temperature in the vivarium at a regular heat, and the leopard gecko needs a hot and a cooler end to their viv, so you should have a thermometer at either end to keep an eye on the temperatures.
Picking a Leopard Gecko
Always check any animal you are wishing to buy thoroughly. It should be bright and active, with no obviously marks on its skin. The gecko is meant to have a rather fat tail and a fat tail is a sign of a healthy gecko. However, if you are buying your gecko from a young age, the tail will not be as fat while it is still juvenile. Check all its toes as they should all be intact. Ensure the tank they are kept in looks relatively clean and is not overcrowded.
There are many differing opinions on what substrate should be used with leopard geckos. Substrate is what you choose to use as the flooring of the viv. Many people use sand but I can heard that this can cause impactation (where the gecko chases the live food, catches it, and also gets a mouthful of sand). The sand can not be digested and over time it will build up inside your gecko and eventually kill it. My chosen substrate is newspaper. It doesn't look anywhere near as attractive as sand but I believe the healthy of my gecko is far more important that how their viv looks. The other advantage to newspaper is that its free (or at least very cheap) and can be replaced very easily when it gets dirty.
My geckos are kept in 2 foot long tanks which are a foot in width. I have 4 geckos and they are kept in separate vivs. Personally I think the bigger the better with vivs but I am restricted as to how much room I have so 2 foot was as big as I could go which is still suitable enough. As mentioned above, the minimum requirements are 24 x 12 x 12 inches. My vivs are made from wood and have sliding glass doors at the front. There are many style vivs to choose from but I prefer this style as the wood helps to insulate the tank and keep the heat in, and the glass sliding doors make access to the geckos very easy (this is especially useful during feeding time)
My vivs have the odd fake plant in them, which my geckos love to climb on. They also have a piece of slate in there which they use to bask on. They have a waterbowl which I change daily to ensure they always have a supply of fresh water. The all have a humid hide which is necessary to help them with shedding. Their moist hide is filled with vermiculite and I spray this 5 times a week to ensure it stays damp!
Heat and Lighting
Geckos are cold blooded so they require a heat source. This can be provided with a heat mat and heat lamp. I use both heat mats and a heat lamp. The heat mat enables to geckos to absorb the heat through their belly which aids digestion and they are also able to bask under the heat of the heat lamp. I also use 40 watt light bulbs in the roof of their tanks but this is mainly for my benefit, so I am able to see them during the day. During the day I use normal white light bulbs, and then at night-time I switch the bulbs to 40watt red bulbs (Geckos are unable to process red light so to them it seems dark but still allows me to see them). As already mentioned earlier, your gecko will need a hot and cold end to their viv. The hot end should be between 31-32 C and the cooler end should be between 22-23 C. I have heat either end and then the section in the middle varies between the two temperatures. I use a thermometer at either end of the tank so I am able to keep an eye on the temperature. I also have a thermostat connected to the hot end which means the heat source will switch off once the hot end reaches maximum temperature and will them switch on again when it begins to cool down.
As Leopard Geckos are nocturnal, they do not require a UV light.
I have all my tanks on timers which makes my life a lot easier. I used to switch the bulbs manually from day time to night time and found this to be a bit of a pain. I work shifts so this often meant that the times I swopped lights varied each day. The timer, means that the lights come on, and go off at the same time every day which is a lot more suitable for my Geckos.
This was the part of keeping geckos which I used to hate. I used to hate feeding the poor little crickets to my Geckos and watching them eat as to me it just felt so cruel, but I choose a pet which required being fed live food so I soon got used to it (kind of anyway) Geckos can have a varied diet of crickets and mealworms. Personally I prefer to fed crickets as often as possible as mealworms contain a lot of chitchin (hard out skin) which is difficult for leopard geckos to digest. Also, if the mealworm is not killed properly before being eaten, it will eat its way out of the gecko which is a horrifying though.
A couple of my geckos also eat superworms (also known as giant mealworms). My other 2 geckos will not eat them though so these are not the most popular choice.
Waxworms can be given as an occasional treat. They are great for feeding breeding females as the help them to put weight on which is very important during breeding season. Waxworms give geckos the same feeling that chocolate gives to humans so these really must only be fed as an occasional treat otherwise your gecko may get addicted and will refuse to eat other types of food (you then have to starve them to get them hungry enough to except other types of food!)
Pinkies (day old mice) can also be fed to your Geckos. These must only be fed to breeding females though. When I bred my Geckos last year, I gave my females pinkies (which felt rather cruel to me) but it is vital to keep them with as much weight as possible while they are laying eggs.
I buy my live food from eBay (strange but true) and it costs me £2.65 for a tub, this price includes postage. I find this seller looks after the live food to a very high standard and posts it to me which saves me rushing around trying to get live food as my nearest shop is a 40 minute drive away.
I believe it is very important to look after the live food as much as the reptiles. What you feed to the live food, is eventually transferred to your Gecko. It is important to 'gut load' your live food. For the crickets I feed them fresh fruit and veg and they also have fresh water everyday. You can also feed them special granules which include calcium and vitamins.
Live food MUST be dusted with calcium (I use Calypso pure calcium powder) and also vitamin power (I use Nutrobol) I also leave a dish of calcium power in with my geckos so they are able to help themselves to it when they wish.
Watching your gecko shed is truly fascinating. They actually pull their skin off their backs like a t-shirt and then eat it! I was so shocked when I first saw this happening as I had no idea they actually ate it! Apparently it is full of calcium and good for them! When they shed, ensure you check they have shed properly, especially on their toes. If they do not shed properly, skin will eventually build up and restrict the blood flow to their toes and they will drop off. If you notice the skin has not shed properly on their toes, then soak their toes in warm water and help to pull the skin off (this must be done extremely gently though!)
The Leopard Gecko As A Pet
The Leopard Gecko is considered to be a great beginner pet for anyone wishing to own a reptile. This is mainly down to the geckos docile nature, they can be handled (I actually think my Geckos enjoy being handled).
Geckos tend to sleep a lot of the time during the day as they are nocturnal but when they come out they are fascinating to watch, the way they stalk their food and the little characters they all have. Each of my geckos has a favourite food and it's amazing how the same creature can be so different in so many ways. Geckos tend to use one section of their tank as their toilet which means if you put extra paper in that corner you can just take a sheet out every time it gets messy without having to clean the whole tank out.
You can tell your Gecko is healthy if it has a fat tail. Geckos store excess fat on their tail and a healthy gecko will have a big fat tail that comes to a small point at the end
Morphs are basically the different varieties of leopard geckos that are available.
You can get very many different morphs of Geckos and there really are some beautiful colours available now. At present I have a high yellow (lot of yellow colour on body) a normal (just one with normal markings) and a trempor albino (an albino) I bred my geckos last year and the babies were a mixtures of the above. Normal leopard geckos cost around £30 but albinos and some of the rarer morphs can cost anything from £60 upwards.
Leopard geckos are relatively easy to keep as long as you stick to the few basic rules. Vets bills can be expensive if something goes wrong so this is something you will need to bare in mind. It is vital that you do as much research as possible before purchasing one to make sure you are able to keep up with the specialist care they require.
I must admit that before I actually got a leopard gecko, I had never even seen or heard of one. They are not that big and are quite innocuous at first glance. It didn't seem the sort of reptile that would make you or your friends go 'wow'. How wrong I was.
I fell in love my first leopard gecko and have found them to be one of the most rewarding and easiest of reptiles to keep. 90% of leopard geckos sold are now captive bred and not wild caught as many people assume that they are 'wild'.
I got my first leopard gecko as a surprise present and it was a female which was just over three months old and had a beautiful yellow and purple pattern on her back. She was only around 4 inches back then and has since grown to 9 inches which is her full adult size (males can go up upwards of 11"). Leopard geckos are striking reptiles to look at and are expert hunters (when they hunt their tail wiggles through excitement). They are a very interesting pet to watch as they have a range of different behaviours. They don't require much space either which is a huge plus and they also have a couple of other benefits. They don't smell and are extremely clean animals. Everytime they go to the loo - they go in the same place making it quick and easy for you to clean up.
Leopard geckos also don't require a great deal of space to flourish either. They are a ground dwelling species of gecko so require more width than height. A 45" x 45" vivarium is more than enough room to house one or two adult leopard geckos very happily. this can be a glass vivarium or a plastic one. I prefer a glass vivarium as I find it keep the heat better. The temperature in the vivarium will not go higher than around 85c to 90c in the hot side (leopard geckos like a hot side and a cool side so they can regulate their body temperatures).
One thing that I think is essential is that you hold your leopard gecko as it builds up a huge degree of trust. I have always held 'Gwen' (that's her name) and this has resulted in her to actually enjoy being stoked and handled. Sometimes even crawling into my hand and going to sleep. She also sleeps in a hollowed out rock in full view if I'm in the room for a few hours, as I think she likes a bit of company. Leopard geckos are smooth to the touch and easy to tame after a few weeks of consistent handling.
The most expensive aspect of keeping a leopard gecko is the initial equipment that you need to set up. It costs over £100 for a good vivarium and all the equipment that goes in it. Which sounds a lot but in the long term it works out around the same (if not cheaper) than having a dog or a cat.
Here is a basic list of what you will require in order to get a leopard gecko:
2. Substrate (Not sand as this can cause impaction, use paper towels)
4. Live food
5. Calcium supplement
6. Humid hide
7. Water bowl
8. Heat pad
The only drawbacks to having a leopard gecko is that you may be uncomfortable with feeding them the live food and they only generally come out at night (well most of the time). The initial cost is also a factor to consider too as it is quite high.
If you're interested in getting leopard gecko then there is a lot of literature available. Be careful what you buy however as a lot of books are written from a leopard gecko breeders point of view and I have found myself at odds with what they say in some aspects. The 'for dummies' leopard gecko book is the best I have read about these amazing reptiles.
Overall the leopard gecko is an ideal reptile pet both for novice and advanced reptile keepers. They are also long lived animals - anywhere from 10 to maybe even 40 years according to some stories. the avaerage lifespan of a gecko is around 16 years if card for properly. They are child friendly and can become part of the family as they each have their own personalities. Leopard geckos will both amuse and intrigue you for hours.
Reptiles to a lot of people make very boring pets because they just "sit there" for a lot of the time...but then a fish doesn't do a great deal either! I am personally a huge reptile fan and I'm totally obsessed with one of my latest pets (I have quite a few lol), Whisper the albino leopard gecko.
She's about eight months old, coloured like a fruit salad (lol, ok, peachy yellow and a mauve-ish colour) with a big goofy smiley face. Her skin feels gorgeously soft and she quite happily runs up your arms and sits on your shoulder and grins at you with her goofy face. She's just too sweet for words!
Leopard geckos are an ideal beginners pet reptile. Originally from the deserts around Afghanistan, Northern India, Pakistan and Iran, they grow between 8 and 11 inches in length. As well as being fairly small, they are nocturnal so don't require specialist UV lighting like most lizards do. They tolerate handling quite happily and don't seem stressed out, they seem to quite running around on your floor (or up your arms) when you let them out too. They are easy to feed, don't require particularly huge environments, and like all lizards, look wonderful set up in a naturalistic display in any part of the home.
You can buy a leopard gecko from a breeder or pet shop...breeders are normally cheaper and have more colour varieties. A healthy gecko should be living in a clean tank, have no nasal or eye discharge and be brightly coloured with a fat, chunky tail. They can drop their tails as a defence mechanism, although they do regrow you will spot a regrown tail they aren't as nice as the original tail. Nipped toes are also common in leopard gex, if they live with other geckos. Nipped toes and tails are not a serious health problem, so long as they look well healed.
Geckos can live in a large "faunarium" (plastic tank with colourful lids) as babies, and are best in a 3 foot tank as adults. It is best to keep only one gecko to a tank, although you may keep one male and one female or a group of females, with no male or only one male. They should have rock hides in both ends of the tank, enough for all the geckos, a water dish and decor to climb on and hide behind. It is best not to use a sand substrate as they can swallow it accidentally which can be problematic. Many people do use sand with no problems though, other people use bark, aspen, paper towels, newspaper or special reptile carpeting.
Geckos need to be kept warm as they have no body heat of their own. They need to be kept between 85 and 90 degrees F during the day, and 70 to 75 at night. The easiest way to do this is simply with a heat mat, as geckos don't bask. Some people use a bulb too. Whatever you use, its VITAL to use a thermostat, without it you can essentially fry your lizard.
Diet wise geckos eat insects. Avoid feeding too many waxworms, as they are fatty and addictive. Good diet choices include crickets, locusts and mealworms (again not too often). There are increasing types of livefood available, other good choices include juvenile roaches, silkworms, cutworms and butterworms. Never feed livefood bigger than the space between the geckos eyes. They will eat 4-5 times a week. Prey items should be pre-gut loaded with healthy foods and dusted with calcium before feeding.
The costs for setting up a gecko are:
faunarium for babies: £12-15 ish
vivarium for adults: £50 ish for 2ft, around£80 for 3 foot, £100 plus if you want four foot if you have lots of geckos housed together
11" heat mat: £20 ish
Hides and decor: £20-30 or free if you look around outside for rocks and branches (wash well in a mild bleach solution)
Crickets and mealworms: Standard £2.50 from a shop, cheaper online.
Cricket dust: £7-ish
Gecko: I got Whisper for a bargain £10! Generally prices for normals and albinos from breeders are around 25-30 ish, a bit more from pet shops. If you want a fancy colour you'll pay more.
And thats about it. Obviously you need to clean them out, but leopard gecko care is very easy. They make ideal pets for slightly older, responsible children as they don't have a lot of social needs like mammals do, they don't mind if you take them out to play with them, although they do seem to appreciate it.
Their low maintenance makes them ideal pets for todays busy people. A few minutes of attention every day is enough for your gecko...just feed them, give them fresh water, check the temperature and keep them clean!
As lizards go, geckos are pretty cute. They are a manageably small size and wear cute little grins on their faces, especially whilst eating. They are fun to watch too, they have a funny sinuous way of moving, and they can really motor when they want to!
They also tend to be quite healthy, unless you go for certain colour varieties which may have health problems. They can live a good 15-20 years if well cared for!
They don't have big sharp claws like bearded dragons, which is also a plus! They also don't require as much space or special lighting, and are generally much easier to feed.
They are very cheap to keep. They will cost you a couple of quid a week in crickets and mealworms, or less than that if you decide to breed your own live food for them. And maybe a few pennies on to your electricity bill, but unless you have several tanks of them you are unlikely to see a big difference in your bill.
On the downside, a lot of people find lizards boring pets as they are not as active as mammals. If this is you, geckos definitely wont be the right pet for you, but if you find lizards appealing they are a great choice!
Also, as I have mentioned, leopard geckos can drop their tails. So NEVER EVER grab a gecko by the tail!
Warning, geckos are addictive!!! They come in a huge array of amazing, beautiful colours and once you get one, you'll want more! Possibly you'll also want to start breeding your own geckos too, which is a whole 'nother ball game!
The initial set up cost for any reptile is relatively high, around 100-150 for a leopard gecko. The costs can be cut if you are handy with DIY and can make your own vivarium.
Other than that, I can see no downsides to these cute, hardy, easy to maintain little lizards! Of course ensure that you can commit to caring for them for their whole lives, as they live a long time. Its also a good idea to find a reptile vet before you buy your lizard, as reptile vets are very few and far between in a lot of cities. But these are basic rules you apply to any pet!
Overall geckos are great pets. They are adaptable to your lifestyle...if you are a busy person and only have a little time for them daily they wont mind, if you have half an hour to spare daily to let them run around, they won't mind that either! Unlike a lot of lizards they are not easily stressed and generally make great little pets!
hi i have had leopard gecko's before an seen many of them i was given one buy a family member who has moved away an i am wondering if it is a leopard gecko i have search all the sites on the net looked at thousands of pics an there is not one even like mine he is about 14 inches dark grey with orange dots a crocodile eyes any one no weather it is one or what it could be
Gechos are a family of insect eating lizards, mostly nocturnal and have no eyelids. There skin is soft with little bumps all over it, there toes have hooked membranes on them to allow them to stick to smooth surfaces, there tail is used as a store for fat and can be cast off if threatened by another creature.
My gecho had a glass vivarium with a metal lid, sand as a base in the viv, cork bark for him to hide under, rocks and branches to climb on and plastic plants for decoration.
Your viv needs to be heated to 25 to 30'c
They feed on live insects such as fruit flys, crickets and mealworms.
Like most reptiles they also require vitamin d3. You can buy a powder suppliment for this but a uv light is a better sorce.
With out vitamin d3 bones will not grow properly.
Water should be available at all times but mine wouldnt drink from a bowl so i used to have to spray his tank and then he would lick the condensation off the glass, strange animal.
Geckos are recomended as a first lizard but i would have to disagree, they are small, fragile so you have to be very gentle when handling them, they are very quick, have suction like feet, can climb walls like spider man and mine also bit quite frequently.
I also found mine very boring as they are nocturnal and sleep all day.
I would recomend a bearded dragon as a first lizard.
I first came across leopard geckos when I met a guy at uni who had about five of them and fell in love with then straight away and when he decided to get rid of one of his geckos as he wanted to buy a new species I was knocking on his door asking if I could buy it and fortunately for me he said yes.
I have had my gecko for nearly four years now and I have to say I love him to bits and he is really easy to look after and great fun to have around.
Now most people don't really know much about these cute little critters however in my opinion they are one of the easiest pets to keep as they are very low maintenance and although they are quite pricey to buy, once you have everything you need they are unbelievably cheap to look after.
What is a leopard gecko????
Geckos are a kind of lizard and therefore are cold blooded animals which means that unlike use humans who can generate our own heat they get there heat from the external environment such as sitting on rocks out in the sun. When you say gecko people usually think of those little lizards that have big pads on the end of their legs and run along the walls and ceilings, however leopard geckos are different and have little claws which mean the cant climb up the side of the tank which means its very hard for them to escape.
The name leopard is due to black and yellow markings on their backs however Murphy doesn't have these markings as he is a leucistic gecko which means he doesn't have any markings he is just a browny green colour with a little purple tail.
Now many people are put of reptiles due top the fact that they hear of the animals growing into monsters well don't worry if you buy a leopard gecko this wont happen they don't get any bigger than about 8 inches once fully grown so they aren't very big at all and makes then easy to handle.
Leopard Geckos are commonly found in the wild throughout Asia and thrive sitting out in the sun and living a carefree life.
Getting your Gecko.
Now as you know I bought my gecko off my friend however they are available in almost all large pet shops that sell reptiles and cost anywhere between £60-£100 depending on the markings that they have. Once you have bought your gecko you will need other things to make sure that it will stay healthy. All of the things below are essential if you are going to buy a leopard gecko.
Tank - a tank can be bought in all pet shops and should be about 40cm by 20 cm and the height of the tank isn't particularly important as leopard geckos don't really climb so I suggest that a tank about 20 cm tall is adequate. A tank can cost anything form £20 right up to £150 depending on size and the features that it contains.
Heat source - Since Geckos are reptiles they need to regulate there body temperature and this is done by providing a heat mat or a lamp. I personally use a mat as its much more discreet as it just goes underneath the tank and warms one end of the tank. A mat cost between £3 and £15 depending on its size. I have also recently bought a heat lamp which provides light and a basking area for him to chill in. the light also helps him keep a daily rhythm as it goes on in the morning and off at night. The heat lamp cost about £12 including a plug and cable.
Somewhere to call home - Everybody needs there own bit of privacy and that even goes for geckos. To make sure your new friend is happy it important that he has somewhere to hide and get a good nights sleep (or day sleep, since they are nocturnal). ,most reptile outlets will sell something called cholla which is the skeleton of a plant which is hollow and geckos just love t hide in it.
Water- Geckos just like people need to drink so a source of water is very important however be careful not to have the bowl to deep as they can drown. I use natural looking rock bowl which he can be seen drinking from in the evenings if I'm lucky
Substrate - Now this is a posh word for the ground. In the tank the gecko needs something on the floor to walk on. I use bark which is about £3 from a pet shop but it must be reptile bark YOU CANT USE GARDEN BARK as this may contain fungus etc which might make your gecko ill and we don't want that. Sand can also be used but the sand must be fine as if the grains are too big then it may injure the gecko which can then lead to infection.
Food - Geckos like their food however the chances are that most people won't. That's because geckos eat bugs.. Yep that's rite our six legged friends. Now geckos prefer crickets and these can be bought from most pet shops and consist of about 30 crickets which cost about £3 and can be keep in a old plastic container with some wheatabix, some water and some toilet roll tubes cut in half as this provides some shelter. I feed my geckos 1 large cricket a day and this seems to be sufficient although depending on the age of your gecko it varies so you should probably ask the pet store how often you should be feeding it. You can also feed them mealworms and waxworms as a treat and cost about the same as crickets.
Vitamins - Now since the gecko isn't in the wild they don't get all the vital nutrients that they would if they were in the wild so vitamins can be bought for you pet shop but make sure they are specifically for lizards it will say on the packaging if it is suitable. A large tub which should keep them going for ages costs about £8 but is important if you want a healthy pet. The vitamins go on their dinner and I dust the crickets in the powder before feeding them to the geckos as this is the best was of making sure they get the required dosage.
So we know have everything we need to have a happy gecko but there are a few more things you need to know about before you rush out and buy one.
Geckos just like snakes and other reptiles shed their skin. This can happen at anytime usually about once a fortnight and once the skin is shed the gecko will eat it. Now the problem with geckos is that they sometimes struggle to get all their deed skin off and they need a helping hand this is done by placing them in a empty margarine tub with warm damp paper towels on the bottom this humidity should help the skin come off on those hard to reach areas such as the toes and around the eyes.
Geckos can be kept by them selves or in groups however it is important to remember that they will require a bigger tank but most importantly ONLY 1 BOY IN A TANK!!!!!!!this is very important as the males fight for dominance.
Some lizards are known to lose their tails when being attacked and this is the same for geckos. If you grab hold of their tails they may snap off. Don't panic they do grow back just in a different shape but it is not advisable to go around pulling your geckos tail.
Like all pets they need to be cleaned out. Now the only reason they need cleaning is to get rid of their poo which is similar to bird poo as it is white with a bit of brown and eventually goes solid this makes it easy to clean by just picking it up with a paper towel and disposing of it. For this reason the tank doesn't need to be cleaned that often but I tend to change the bark in the tank every month.
Leopard Geckos are very placid animals and they are very easy to handle and to be honest I think they like to be handled as it allows then to stroll around an environment a little different from their glass tank. I usually get my geckos out and let him have a run a round for bout 15 minutes before I go to bed and he likes to climb onto my shoulder just to see what's going on.
Well there you go that is just about all you need to know about leopard geckos but I recommend that if you are going to go out and buy one of our reptilian friends that you buy a book about them as there a probably a few little things that I have missed out by accident and also make sure you have a proper chat with the person in the pet shop.
I did find the site so far to be the best with info that is easy to follow.
My sister wants to buy my to be 5yr old one for his birthday.
Any input on whether this would be a good idea???
I am having mixed feelings on this as I am sure I would be the one taking care of it....and I really dislike bugs alot. As for my son he loves bugs and of course wants a lizard pet.
Any input on getting this pet for him would help a great deal.
Me and my partner own two geckos. They are relatively new, just under a year old but we have quickly become attached to our "babies" as we call them and wanted to share the beautiful pictures and experiences of our geckos with all of you.
What do leopard geckos look like?
We actually have one leopard gecko and the other is an albino! Both of our geckos are still not adults so they have not reached full size yet but the leopard geckos are really beautiful usually orange/yellow with spots on their tail and light grey/purple colors on their tail also. Our albino is a pinkish colour and is a bit smaller than the leopard gecko. See above at the photos for the geckos.
How big can a gecko get?
A gecko can reach an adult length of 7 - 10 inches long! Not huge but still a nice size! Our tank isn't huge and we have two of them as long as you have all the right bits their fine sleeping/eating/pooing and looking at you! :P
Are geckos friendly?
It depends really. When they are babies they are very skittery and jumpy and will run a mile at most things. But wouldn't you be if you were a couple of inches long and a giant hand was coming to get you? As they get older I find they are a bit more of ease with you, probably as they are used to you. I find one our leopard one likes to be stroked lightly on the head and sprayed with water while the albino is still a scaredy cat. When they are adults I find they don't mind being handled as much which is a lot better for cleaning the tank out.
Could I have a gecko if kids live in the house?
As long as you keep an eye on them! As I said before they are not too keen on being handled as babies and you have to be careful how you handle them. Never pick up a gecko by it's tail as it falls off as a defense mechanism against predators and can take ages to grow back. I'd say really geckos are not for little hands.
What do I need to keep a gecko?
Aquariums and virvirum's will do fine for geckos. We keep ours in a pretty glass tank and lay it with sand. Don't just buy any sand though as they eat it and it makes them ill. We get sand from our breeder and as a shop called Cold Blooded for the sand. You'll notice the difference in it from normal sand when you get it. You also need to buy a heat mat that sits at one end of the tank, the other end needs to be kept cool for the geckos to shed. You can buy heated mats from most pet stores as they are used for lizards/tarantula, etc. They are quite ugly but you can cover them up with your sand/paper what you choose to lay the bottom of your tank. You'll need a hide for your gecko, well two hides. I keep a cave like hide on the warm end and I keep a box for them to shed their skin in the cool end. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. We use a box with a small hole in it, line it with kitchen roll and spray it a couple of times in the day to keep it moist for when they shed. You can decorate the outside of it with leaves like we do to make it look a bit better as a margarine case/ice cream case like we have isn't that attractive! You'll also need a bowl for the food for the geckos and another one for their water. You'll also need an empty spray bottle to keep near by spraying their moist hide every so often (and them if they like it!) Leopards are nocturnal and do not require full lighting but we do have a 15w bulb in our tank for them as it does make the tank stand out more.
What do I feed a gecko?
Geckos will eat mealworms and crickets though ours don't seem to keen on the crickets which I suppose is a good thing as they are noisy buggers though you can buy "silent" crickets now but they cost more, and beware, I bought a box once and some of them still made moist! Geckos can also have waxworms for a treat which we get and pinkies (baby mice) but we have never tried this with them yet. Be sure to top off your mealworms with a supplement like Calypso which you can buy from pet stores that supply reptile foods and keep a jam jar lid in the tank (we keep ours on top of the moist hide) with another supplement in it. (We use Nurtobol for this) We also find that if we find house spiders we feed it to the geckos and they eat this. 
Where can I buy Geckos from?
I got mine off my step-father who breeds lizards (shameless plug coming up!) www.reptilebreeder.co.uk has a wide range of reptiles including geckos, Rankins and monitors and you can order these from delivery. You can also go to www.yell.com and look for some reptile shops near your area!
How much will it all cost me?
A general list for all you people thinking of getting a gecko
Can I breed leopard geckos?
I don't do them but my family breed geckos/reptiles but you need a license for this. If you want information go www.reptilebreeder.co.uk
Gecko: £40 - £120
Tank: £40 - over a £100 - depends on how big you want it! Ours was £45. If your getting a plastic one you can buy as low as a tenner but the glass tanks look better.
Heat Mats: £7 - £12
Nurtobol and Calypso supplements about £4 each, they last ages!
Box of mealworms £1.50 - £2.00
Box of Crickets: £2.00 Silent Crickets are about £2.50
Big bag of Sand: I don't pay for mine but expect to pay about a tenner for a big bag, this is good as it lasts ages, you don't have to change that much.
Empty water spray: £1.00 (Asda in the Garden section!)
Hide: We have a cave which was £5. But you can buy more natural looking things like logs can cost up to a tenner, depending on the size I've found.
Small bowl for food/drink: £1.50 each. The bowl for the food has to be slippery so the mealworms can't crawl out!
---- Tips and handy things to know! ---
I find that a lot of geckos poo in one corner of the tank which is handy for cleaning! Our two have their own corners so we lie a bit of kitchen roll in each corner and change it every day! Also found that all most of my Step-Dad's ones choose a corner for their "loo" but some might like to poo in their hides!!
Keep kitchen roll near by always. Good for tidying out and moistening with water for inside the hide.
Buy some natural leaves to decorate the tank with. Ours seem to be fascinated by it when we first put them in and stood staring for ages!
If you want to see your geckos in action, best become a night owl! Ours do come out in the day time sometimes but mostly are out during the night!
Leopard geckos are the only geckos that have eyelids!
When geckos shed you will notice you won't find the skin in their hide - it's because they eat it!
Make sure your gecko's tail is nice and fat - they store their fat here so if that starts to get skinny it's a sign they might be ill.
You can house females together but not males as they will kill each other.
You must have a license to breed lizards so you can't keep a female and a male together.
You can keep geckos if you have cats or other animals. Just be sure to either keep the tank covered if the animals have access to where they are or not allow them in that room. We have four cats and keep our room closed at all times.
Geckos can live up to the age of 8 years old!
All geckos are different so like our gecko she will go through about 8 mealworms a day and a wax worm and maybe a cricket but our albino only eats about 6 mealworms and isn't too keen on the waxworm. Keep their bowls topped up with food and power and as long as their not getting skinny (tails should also be thick) they are OK.
Once you have lizards it's hard not to become attached to them! I have also been getting attached to a Rankin at my Step-Dad's house and all these lizards I just want all of them! Perhaps when I have a bigger place I will have enough room for another tank for a Rankin and I will write a review on him too!
Good luck if you are getting a gecko and I hope it helps!
As a keen leopard gecko keeper I have owned a large number of geckos in the past and have a passion for them and their welfare. I am also a worker in the animal care sector and have qualificaitons within Animal care, management, development, breeding and many other subject matters. I will go through the basics of the leopard gecko in this review, though if you have any further questions feel free to e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Here we go!
Leopard Gecko Welfare
The geckos enclosure should be set up before getting the gecko to ensure that an ideal environment is achieved. Important rules if keeping several leopard geckos: Leopard geckos do not require company, but they will tolerate company. Only one male per tank- males are territorial and will fight to the death. Only similar size geckos can be housed together- smaller geckos will often get stressed/bullied or eaten.
It is important that the students within the educational establishment can see into the environment to allow behavioural studies to take place, but the accommodation given must also allow the students to see the gecko in a large environment otherwise this will limit the behaviour and activity of the gecko.
A vivarium or aquarium tank is appropriate, providing there is adequate ventilation. Being terrestrial the tank length is more important than its height. The minimum recommended size for 1 leopard gecko is 2ft (length) x 1.5 x 1.5 ft, this would also be suitable for a pair, however, 3ft (length) and the same other proportions would be more comfortable for 2 leopard geckos.
It is more interesting for students to see interactions between two geckos so the larger accommodation may be more suitable for the leopard gecko to suit the needs of the customer. However as they may fight sometimes one is appropriate. It is best to offer numerous geckos in an educational establishment so that differences which occur can be noted and further studies may take place.
The only substrate which can be used without any risk of impaction is kitchen roll. A more natural look requires vigilance. A leopard gecko less than 6 inches in length is more at risk and should therefore be kept on kitchen roll. Commonly used substrates for adults include fine sand and childrens play sand. Substrates to avoid include wood, corncob, bark, and crushed walnut.
A temperature gradient is essential because geckos, like all other reptiles, are unable to regulate their body temperature. Instead they will find a position in the tank which is at the temperature they require. Correct temperature is essential for digestion. A temperature gradient can be achieved by placing an under-tank heat-mat at one end of the tank to create the warm end. The substrate temperature at the warm end of the tank should be approximately 28-29°c. Room temperature (around 20-25°c) should be ok for the rest of the tank. Hot rocks are not recommended they can over heat the leopard gecko and cause burns. It is advisable to use any heat sources in combination with a thermostat to more-precisely regulate the temperature.
UV lighting isnt needed for leopard geckos as they are nocturnal, proper supplementation of their food should be sufficient to provide the necessary minerals. A day/night cycle can be established using a normal bulb (these should be positioned outside of the tank pointing in) and have the added benefit that they heat the air slightly during the day, and being off at night, they offer a night time drop in temperature. A consistent light/dark cycle can be achieved using a timer device.
Furniture: Hide boxes are where the gecko will spend most of its time. Hides can be bought from pet shops or made from over-turned plant pot bases or halved coconut shells with some entrance holes cut into it. Hides should be at both ends of the tank. A moist hide should also be provided at the warm end to aid in shedding. Secured rocks, cork bark and fake plants look nice and give your gecko something additional to climb on.
It is important to try to offer the students a look at what geckos naturally have in their environment although the environment should not be overcrowded or the students can not see the gecko.
It is essential to clean the geckos accommodation out at least once a week and to remove left over food daily. This is important so that the gecko will not attempt to eat the dead food and they do not decay in the environment and harbour bacteria. Also this is off putting for students to see so accommodation should be kept looking nice to promote good management skills.
The gecko should have all vaccinations done and be clear from any disease. It is likely that within the collection I have chosen the gecko will be handled so it is humans who are at risk as well. Protection against parasites must be given. This is usually given every 3 months and some is every 6 months.
It is also important to have easy access to the cage, whilst also ensuring that it is secure. The gecko must not be able to escape to prevent stress to the gecko and to the students, but students must be able to gain entry to the accommodation and remove the gecko with ease for handling purposes.
Leopard Gecko Behaviour
A lot of the leopard geckos health can be monitored by noting changes to the leopard geckos behaviour. The gecko often does not have obvious health problems, but the behaviour is a clear sign of a problem which may be occurring. It is important to recognize this so that treatment can be given if there is indeed a problem.
The leopard gecko will show normal behaviour by being lively and active whilst it is awake. When the gecko is being handled it is common for them to run between hands and try to climb up arms and run between fingers. It should not be thought of as abnormal if the leopard gecko does not do this occasionally as the gecko may be shedding or it can be due to hormones or when the gecko has been woken, however if lethargic behaviour lasts for longer than a week or is common and regular then it should be checked out.
The leopard gecko is a natural climber and if there is suitable enrichment in the accommodation given then the gecko should be seen lively and climbing up anything which it can climb up on. Naturally the gecko should be keen to kill and eat the live food which it is given in its diet. The gecko will no eat dead food and it is its natural behaviour to catch live food to eat.
Occasionally the leopard gecko may display abnormal behaviours. This can include the example of becoming lethargic as talked about above as well as not wanting to climb ever and not wanting to eat food or catch food. This can be monitored by checking the amount of food left after the gecko has been given food. The gecko may also sleep more often than usual or less often than usual and may put on or lose weight due to activity or inactivity as a result of some behaviour problems.
If there is a problem with a leopard gecko it will commonly emit a thin squeak which is often not distinguished as coming from the gecko as it does not typically sound like a gecko! If the gecko is making lots of noise then it is likely it is distressed and the temperature, food, water and enrichment should be reviewed and a vet contacted.
A gecko will not often show obvious signs of aggression, but can make a squeak when afraid or unsure of a situation. The gecko may also cling to the thing which it is holding onto or arch its back to try to appear larger to the handler or animal which it is with. Leopard geckos which fight will commonly bite and cling onto the opposing gecko.
To help with behaviour of the gecko the gecko should be given sufficient enrichment. As the gecko enjoys climbing the gecko should be provided with thick branches or rocks for it to climb on. There should also be some fake or real plants and often sand will be put down for the gecko to dig in. Giving live food provides stimulation for the gecko and helps to encourage natural behaviour.
Leopard Gecko feeding
Size and weight: A Leopard gecko can live for up to 20 years, reaching its adult size (and sexual maturity) at 8 months to 1 year old. They reach, on average, 8 inches in length (nose to tail tip) and weigh anything from 50-100g. Variations occur depending on sex as the female is slightly lighter in weight and smaller in size, any sudden weight gain or loss should be noted and so it is important to look at the animals diet to ensure its health.
Food type and preparation: Crickets provide a stable diet for the leopard gecko and are the most popular choice for most owners. For variety, silkworms and wax worms can be offered though this would not be recommended as a regular food type because they are more fattening than the crickets. Most leopard geckos wont eat pre-prepared dried foods like can-o-crickets. The crickets should be kept together in a small tank which does not need heating; a basic plastic carrier will be suitable. They should have sliced fruit put into the tank in small pieces. Tap water must be left to sit for 24 hours prior to use and is offered in a shallow water dish. The dish should be cleaned and water should be changed every other day.
Feeding behaviour: The leopard gecko will generally not pounce on the cricket when it is put in the cage or anything which some owners may expect. It is more casual like with any already dead food which other animals eat. They will simply approach it, sometimes with caution and then flick the tongue out to grasp the food.
Supplementation: Live food is needed to suit the geckos natural diet. To improve nutritional content, crickets should be dusted immediately prior to use. This is done by adding a pinch of vitamin/calcium powder to a sandwich bag and shaking the crickets in that to coat them with powder. Use the calcium and vitamin powder once or twice a week and calcium-only powder for all other feedings. Giving access to a dish containing a small amount of calcium only powder may be beneficial- this allows the gecko to regulate its own intake of calcium.
Stock tasks: The only stock tasks are to feed the crickets by putting in some fruit and veg and to clean out their own tank at least once a week.
Storage of foods: The crickets are kept in a tank as mentioned before and should be put in with twigs, branches, leaves and soil to help with their environmental enrichment.
Disposal of waste: Any debris, dead crickets and faeces should be removed from the tank on a daily basis. Bedding used as kitchen roll can be placed in the toilet area and removed and replaced as soon as it is soiled. Any soiled kitchen paper or sand should be removed and put into a common bin, if a leopard gecko is infected with any disease, which is unlikely, the waste should be disposed of into a sharps box or bag, to be collected and disposed of correctly.
Leopard Gecko Breeding
It is important before attempting to breed to make sure that the female has enough calcium between February and August when mating will occur and that she is being fed well. The calcium should be given in a dish and the gecko will take this when she needs it. It is not necessary to force feed, but dusting crickets is good way to give calcium to female geckos.
The cage which the gecko is in should have a laying box put in and this should be left there for her use. When a gecko has been mated and is near to passing the eggs you can see the eggs through the skin of the gecko. The gecko will lay once every 2 to 4 weeks and will refuse food just before she is going to lay.
Once the eggs have been laid they should be moved without touching them into an incubator. The eggs should be kept in the same position which they were laid in when moving them. The eggs should be incubated in a container which is secure and able to provide the eggs with warmth. A heat mat is often used to provide the warmth needed. It is important to use a thermostat to continually check the temperature is ok. A large Tupperware or plastic box should be put into this and vermiculate which is slightly moist should fill this. The top of the box should be put on, you must put holes in the top of the box first. The box should remain humid, but not soggy. A thermostat should also be placed into this through a hole.
The temperature I the environment should be 81 f for females or 97-88f for males. 85f can get half of each, but these are unlikely to breed well and can suffer from problems. It is important therefore to chose a sex you would like the gecko to be. The eggs should be buried in the vermiculate and will hatch after between 6 and 8 weeks.
this is a lovely little pet he/shes is gorgeus the pic is fantanstic and everything about it !!!!im going to be getting one of these the wonderful spote brings out the inside of this little living creature they are not feirce and bite rairly .they would not harm a fly actually thy would lol !the pic is lovly showing you all the different side of her/him . so there you go thats my reveiw !i would suggest for a first time reptile owner !!
A BASIC SHOPPING LIST TO GET STARTED WITH!
Vivarium or tank (minimum of 24x12x12 for one adult)
Thermostat and two thermometers
Calcium/vitamin powder (with D3)
Gutload for live food
Light and timer
Leopard geckos are a great beginners reptile as they are very cute and docile, tolerating an amount of handling, and are reasonably hardy and easy to keep. They are also available in several different brightly coloured morphs such as albino, patternless, tangerine, blizzard, hypotangerine, carrot tail etc. Normal coloured leopard geckos are yellow with lots of black, brown and grey spots. Despite all the beautiful colour morphs available, normal leopard geckos are still my absolute favourite!
Leopard geckos are long-lived, with a life expectancy of 15 years or more. Some records exist documenting leopard geckos that have lived in excess of 30 years! So do take this into account on buying the animal it is a lifetime commitment and not something to be considered flippantly.
SETUP AND HEATING
Since leopard geckos are a terrestrial species, they require housing which is longer than it is high. A minimum of 24x12x12 is recommended for housing a single adult. You shouldn't ever house two males together as they will fight, causing horrible injuries and sometimes death. Also, if you keep a male and female together they *will* breed. If you plan to breed then you still shouldn't keep males and females together permanently as the male will constantly pester the female, stressing her out a lot.
You can keep pairs or trios of females though. Minimum tank size for a pair of females would be 30" long, or 36" long for a trio.
Like all reptiles, leopard geckos are ectothermic and rely on an external heat source in order to regulate their body temperature. A heat mat provides the best source of heat for these geckos as they are nocturnal and do not tend to bask under lamps; instead they absorb heat through their abdomen which helps digestion. The required temperature for a leopard gecko is between 31 and 32 degrees Celsius (88 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit) on the ground of the warm side of the enclosure. In order to provide this stable temperature a suitable thermostat is required; otherwise there is a risk of the heat source failing by becoming too hot. In order to allow the animal to thermo-regulate effectively, a warm end and cool end of the enclosure is essential. The heat mat should only cover a third to one half of the enclosure floor, the other half should be left unheated, but be no less than around 22 or 23 degrees Celsius (71 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit). A small digital thermometer should be placed on the ground at each end of the enclosure to monitor these temperatures.
There is much debate concerning the ideal substrate for leopard geckos to be housed on due to the risk of impaction. Whilst one is inclined to become a bit neurotic about impaction risks, it is still not something to be taken lightly. It is important to remember that ALL loose, particulate substrates carry a risk of impaction as the gecko may scoop some up at swallow some when it is striking at insects. Substrates to completely avoid at all costs are the calcium based sands that are marketed as being digestible. Calcium sands are not digestible, especially not for smaller reptiles like leopard geckos. When ingested the sand causes a blockage in the digestive tract that can lead to lethargy, weight loss, vomiting and eventual death. The calcium content of the sand also actively encourages the leopard gecko to ingest it, which makes it the worst kind of the substrate you could possibly keep the animal on. Other very bad substrates are wood chips/shavings, powdered walnut, gravel and paper granules (these will expand in the gut if ingested causing serious blockages).
Paper kitchen towels or newspaper makes an excellent substrate and that is currently what I use. Paper towels are not loose and carry no risk of impaction. They are cheap, soft to touch and therefore comfortable for the gecko to sleep on and they make cleaning out time a breeze! All you need to do is remove it all and replace it simple! Whilst they may not be much to look at, paper towels are convenient, safe and cheap.
Many people successfully keep their leopard geckos on play sand, but as I previously mentioned it still carries an impaction risk. Tiny amounts of play sand that are ingested do not pose too much of a problem as a few grains should pass through without causing a blockage, unlike larger amounts. An argument for keeping leopard geckos on sand is that it looks more natural. However, the leopard gecko is native to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran and can be found in arid, rocky areas. They do not naturally live on loose sand, which is why the loose dune-like sand that is provided in a tank or vivarium puts the animal at risk from impaction. The natural substrate of a leopard gecko is rocky, hard and compacted earth with the merest dusting of loose particulate on the top. They are found during the day hiding in rocky crevices and under dead wood. So whilst sand may look more natural and appealing than paper towels, in reality it really isnt much more natural at all. An ideal naturalistic substrate for leopard geckos would be slate tiles. Slate looks great, is easy to clean and conducts heat so your heat mat is still fine underneath it.
Leopard geckos require a staple diet of live invertebrates such as appropriately sized (approximately the size of the gap between the geckos eyes) black or brown crickets, locusts, mealworms, roaches and silkworms. Waxworms may be offered as an occasional treat or to gravid females, but care must be taken to ensure that not too many are eaten. Some geckos may experience obesity due to their very high fat content and will often begin to refuse other food altogether in favour of the moth larvae as they are somewhat addictive. It is also extremely important to gutload (i.e. feed) the live food for at least 24 hours before they are consumed to ensure that the insects are healthy, fat and of the highest nutritional value possible. Commercial gutloading products are available, but a high quality fish flake (take care to avoid those with added growth hormones just take a quick look at the ingredients on the label first) with vegetables for moisture is also extremely effective. I like to vary the sort of veggies the bugs get to try and get as many beneficial vitamins into them as possible. For crickets, roaches and mealworms I use carrot, apple, sweet peppers, squash, marrow and courgette. For locusts I use green, leafy vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, spinach and pak choi. Waxworms dont need to be fed as the grubs you buy are in the advanced stages of development and do not require food at this stage.
Due to the high calcium requirement of geckos, additional supplementation of the food is needed to make sure they are healthy and do not develop bone disorders. Food must be dusted with a calcium/vitamin powdered supplement intended for carnivorous reptiles once every week (such as Nutrobal or T-Rex 2:0) and at all other feedings the food should be dusted with a pure calcium powder (such as Calypso calcium) or crushed cuttlefish bone. A small dish of pure calcium powder or crushed cuttlefish bone can be placed in the tank at all times if you wish so that the gecko can help itself. With proper supplementation of the live food this is not a necessity. A small, shallow dish of water should be available at all times. Place this dish on the cool side of the enclosure so that it doesnt evaporate too quickly and cause humidity to rise.
Despite what many pet shop employees will have you believe, UVA/UVB lighting is not necessary for leopard geckos as they are nocturnal and have lost the means of using light absorbed through the skin to synthesise vitamin D3 (vitamin D3 aids the absorption of calcium and D3 can be provided in vitamin powder form or in many reptiles it is synthesised in the body by UV light exposure). Instead, they rely on it being present in their food. In the wild the enormous variety of invertebrates the leopard gecko would feed on would be sufficient to provide the correct ratio of vitamins, but in captivity there are a limited number of invertebrates on offer so adequate supplementation of the food is essential.
However, it is recommended that an obvious photoperiod is provided in order that the gecko may behave naturally. If the room that the gecko is to be kept in is a dull room and doesnt receive much natural light, a good sort of artificial light to use for leopard geckos is a low-output fluorescent tube or low wattage light bulb (the energy saving economy bulbs are good for this purpose ). If the enclosure is to be placed near a window or in a room with plenty of natural light then artificial lighting is not a necessity. Take measures to avoid direct sunlight so that the enclosure is not turned into a mini-greenhouse and bake your gecko! However, if lighting is used it is wise to fit a timer so that a photoperiod can be created with ease. 12 hours on and 12 hours off is fine. You can get very cheap timers from most DIY shops.
Due to the nocturnal nature of leopard geckos, they need to be provided with hiding places to sleep in during the day. Cork bark, slate arrangements, Tupperware containers with a cut out entrance hole and commercially produced reptile caves are all excellent hiding places. Whilst leopard geckos require low humidity in general (ambient room humidity is usually just fine anything thats roughly 60% or lower), they will need to be provided with a small localised area of humidity in order to facilitate the skin shedding process. Use empty live food tubs, Tupperware containers or margarine tubs with a cut out entrance hole filled with a damp substrate (paper towel, vermiculite, moss or coconut fibre are effective. When using coconut fibre the entrance to the humid hide should be cut in the top or lid of the container or the gecko will take great pleasure in digging it all out and spreading it all over the enclosure! I learnt this the messy way.
You should avoid handling and disturbing your new gecko for at least a week after bringing it home. It will need time to settle in and adjust to its new environment. Do not attempt handling or feeding the gecko during the first week, just make sure you change the water in the water dish every couple of days.
Bear in mind that most leopard geckos require an amount of time spent on them to get them used to you before they feel comfortable with you picking them up, especially if you get a juvenile. Young geckos are more fragile and skittish.
To do this you can slowly place your hand in the tank with your palm flat on the floor for about 5 minutes every day without trying to grab or touch the gecko. After a while (maybe as long as a few weeks) your gecko will start to become curious and may walk around your hand, flicking its tongue at you to find out what youre all about. Eventually the gecko should become confident enough to walk onto your hand of its own accord. Around this time you can start to slowly move your hand about to allow it to explore you, then you can try to gently scoop it up taking particular care not to grab at the tail. Geckos are able to drop their tails when threatened, which is traumatic as the tail is where the fat reserves are (a healthy leopard gecko should have a nice fat tail) and it leaves an open wound that is vulnerable to infection. The tail will slowly be grown back, but it is never as beautiful as the original since the bones running through the centre are gone and the structure is now made up of a cartilaginous material. Therefore the tail is often turnip-shaped and can sometimes branch off to form a fork. Dont let this put you off though! The risk of tail dropping is small provided that you handle the animal gently. If this does happen though, you should make sure the enclosure is extra-clean and use paper kitchen towels as a substrate so that no loose bits get stuck to the wound. Also make sure that all live food is eaten immediately. If you leave bugs running about in the tank they might nibble at the wound, which is obviously not something anyone would want to happen, least of all the gecko itself! I personally only handle my leopard gecko when it is necessary as I dont believe that she enjoys physical contact with humans. She tolerates it at best and quite enjoys the change of scenery, but she doesnt actively enjoy human contact or cuddles.
I’ve always had conflicting feelings about pet reptiles. The animal activist in me tells me it is a horrific business…pet shops selling specialised creatures to twelve year old kids who often are clueless as how to care for the poor little buggers. Then of course, there’s always the chance that Iggy the Iguana might not have come from a nice captive bred home but may have been wild caught…with all the horror that entails (It is often the case that reptiles, amphibians and birds with captive bred documents are in fact wild creatures with fake documents. The wild animal trade is too detailed to go into here, but it involves poisoning, sedating and terrorising animals, killing mothers so the babies can be taken, them cramming the little creatures five to a box about the same length as their bodies. For every one wild-caught animal on sale in a pet store, five have died in transit and the remaining one will often die of disease and trauma anyway). Fortunately, leopard geckos, which are the number one choice for a starter herp (a herp is not an STI by the way, it’s a blanket term for reptiles and amphibians kept as a hobby), are so easy to breed in captivity that you can pretty much guarantee that your gecko is captive bred, and as a result will become much tamer than other lizards. The other half thinks reptiles and amphibians are extremely beautiful and interesting animals to keep. I’ve managed to wriggle around this dilemma by only every buying lizards from rescue centres…this way, I’m not contributing to the international trade in endangered wild species, but I’m still getting hold of an animal I love. A few notes on the general keeping of reptiles-gecko and non-gecko Lizards are not like dogs, cats or mice. No matter how big their terrarium, how good your heat and lighting set-up, you cannot give a reptile the environment it would have had in the wild. It will not learn to
love you. It will at worst tolerate you and at best enjoy being handled, but it will never be a ‘pet’ animal. The best place for a reptile is running around in the wild, not trapped in a cage. So if you really want a reptile, be it an iguana or a gecko or a pit viper, firstly, AVOID your local pet shop, or any pet shop for that matter. You will never know for certain if the animal is captive bred, and pet shops usually have no clue about how to care for such exotic creatures. Often they put two or more different kinds of herp in the same cage…they might get on ok, they might fight or they might eat each other. I have seen one Cuban milksnake attempting to eat another one in a pet shop cage. You could buy from a reputable dealer, but as is my advice with all animals, fuzzy and non, first check out your animal shelter. Hundreds of lizards are given away all the time because their owners are now bored, or cant care for them, or because Iggy has now reached six foot and is eating a mountain of cabbage a day. Phone around your local shelters to see if you can adopt a lizard, if not, check out ad papers for baby geckos on sale. Please do not buy them from a pet shop. Which leads me on nicely to the next point…reptiles are not things, they are animals. They make look less cute than dogs, but they should not be treated with any less respect. The laws in many American states concerning mammal welfare often don’t stretch to reptiles, which mean they are open to massive abuse and neglect. Please have some consideration for them…they feel pain and fear just like your dog and they deserve respect and the best treatment they can get. Do not buy them as a ‘fad’ pet. The latest trend seems to be the chameleon, aided by the Budweiser adverts that used to be on TV. The problem is, chameleons are among the most notoriously finicky and difficult reptiles to care for, and completely unsuitable for the virgin r
eptile owner. Do not assume they can all be treated the same way. Some are vegetarian; some eat insects, some mice. They need different temperatures and light sources from each other, and some have to be kept alone, others prefer lizard mates. Read up on your chosen species until you know everything you need to know. Right, rant over, ethics aside, here’s my experience of keeping leopard geckos and how to look after them… Choosing a gecko The usual rules of animal buying apply here. The cage with the animals for sale should be clean, of a good size and well kept and it goes without saying there should be no dead animals in the cage. The skin of the lizard should be clean, clear, free of spots, abscesses and bites, and should not be excessively wrinkled (this suggests starvation). Make sure the belly is, in particular, free of burns. There should be no evidence of dried waste around the backside of the lizard either…this is very important as it suggests parasites. Of course all limbs, toes and tails should be intact with no nicks or cuts. Check there are no hard knots in the legs, this suggests either calcium deficiency or broken bones. No hip or backbones should be visible, tails should be thick. The eyes, nose and mouth should be clear and clean. If you can convince the gecko to open its mouth, it should be pink, not greyish pink or pale, and there should be no white, yellow or green patches. If the reptile doesn’t resist when you move its limbs, it is very sick indeed. If there are any black, brown or orangish moving dots on the gecko it has mites. Housing My rule of thumb is the bigger then better when keeping anything in a cage, and never choose a tank smaller than 20 gallons for a single gecko. 25-30 is suitable for a pair. Glass tanks are better than plastic in my opinion, because they don’t scratch so easily, hold the temperature easier and just look better. You can pick up an old aqu
arium in a car boot sale…it doesn’t matter if there is a leak in the tank because you aint keeping fish! You can also get special tanks for herps Tanks in themselves generally aren’t too expensive anyway, it’s the lighting and heating that tends to be the bigger problem when it comes to geckos. Make sure the tank has a tight fitting lid. While leopard geckos don’t have the special toe-pads that most geckos have, which means they can cling to everything, including glass, they are still quite little Houdini’s, so a snug lid is essential. Substrate In other words, the floor covering of the cage. First of all, you are probably best to stay away from sawdust and wood shavings, as geckos commonly swallow them, and this can be fatal. A mixture of sand and heavy peat is another choice, and this looks attractive, although again, there is a smaller but still possible chance of the gecko accidentally swallowing it. Many keepers use plain paper or newspaper, some use carpet…which I don’t recommend as it is difficult to clean. Another choice, strange as it may sound, would be Astroturf. I housed mine in sand without too many problems however. Cage fittings You may make the setup of the cage as elaborate as you like. Real or fake soft woods add an attractive ‘natural’ edge to the cage…however you will need to soak any woods taken from outdoors because of the possibility of bugs in them. Real or fake plants and rocks can also be used, but the geckos will climb and try to dismantle them so make sure they are sturdy, also make sure all wood and greens in the cage are made from non-poisonous plants…geckos are carnivores but you can never be too safe. Water should be provided in a shallow, but heavy, dish, and must be changed daily, and the dish scrubbed with animal-safe disinfectants. Geckos are really drip-feeders, that is, they often lap water from leaves in the wild, so they
might enjoy the odd misting of the cage with a plant-mister. Very important is one or more ‘basking spots’ for the lizards to soak up heat on…these should be placed near the heater and there should be enough so that the lizards aren’t competing for space. Feeding Here comes the icky bit. When I first decided I would like a reptile, I asked the nice lady at the animal shelter if I could have a vegetarian one as I didn’t fancy feeding it day-old chicks and baby mice. Much to my dismay I learned the vegetarian lizards were usually the big ones…such as the green iguana who clocks in at six feet. Leopard geckos, being fairly small, do not eat rats or mice, although the larger ones will accept pinkies (day-old mice). You can get these poor creatures frozen from your larger pet shop. You need to thaw them before you feed them to the geckos, but to be honest with leopard geckos it isn’t really necessary. Now for more ick…they eat insects. The two most common reptile food insects are mealworms and crickets, both of which are available from pet stores. You can buy them, as they are needed, which is what I did with mine, or get some and breed them. This is a much cheaper course of action, but depends on you being able to stomach having a tank-full of creepy crawlies in your home…and also bear in mind the consequences if there should be an insect escape. A word about mealworms. These are often touted as the perfect food for lizards, but in reality you are better with crickets…mealworms have an extremely tough outer skin (which I think is known as chitin), which is indigestible and stays in the lizards gut. Living off these will kill a gecko; so as a rule don’t feed them too often. Geckos will also accept king mealworms (a better choice as they have less chitin), wax-worms and even earthworms, plus any creepies you might find roaming your house…flies, spide
rs, moths and the like. All food should be dusted with a special vitamin supplement you can buy from pet shops, and must be placed live the gecko’s cage or he won’t eat them. Baby geckos should be fed daily, as they get larger, they might prefer to be fed less often, or they may still want daily feeding. As a rule, feed four live food items per gecko per day. Light and heat Geckos are nocturnal so do not need any form of UV lighting in their cage, in fact it will probably distress them. However an incandescent can actually be used to heat the tank as well, if it is kept in a reflector, it should also be well out of the geckos reach so they cant get burnt. Geckos require a temperature of around 85 degrees F. placing the heat source to one side of the cage is a good idea as a heat gradient will occur and allow the geckos to cool down a little by going to the other end of the cage. Aside from bulb heating, you can get special heat mats, which go underneath the substrate. There should be a few inches of substrate between these and the geckos, and it is often hard to regulate the heat with these because of the awkward position. Also, the mats don’t provide a gradient so light heating is probably best. You can also get special ‘hot rocks’, which do pretty much what they say on the tin, but by all means steer clear of these because they often overheat and burn the lizard. Also, lizards have different ways of sensing temperature, and they relate to the top side of the body, the one that would be in contact with the sun, so as they have none of these ‘receptors’ on the lower body, they can literally fry themselves on these rocks without even noticing. All in all, bulb heating is probably the best way to go. Invest in a thermometer, which can be stuck to the cage to make sure the temperature is suitable. Handling As I’ve said, geckos don’t bite unless provoked (and I mean SEVERELY prov
oked, they’re the chilled stoners of the reptiles world) so you wont need gloves to handle them. Chances are, if you’ve followed my advice and gone to a breeder and not a pet shop, your gecko will be tame already. When you first get them, allow them a few days to get used to your hands in and out of the cage, and then pick it up around the middle. It is bound to scamper about at first, but with regular handling it will enjoy being held. Notes of caution though…leave its tail WELL alone and never grab on to it. Leopard geckos are capable of dropping their tails. It will grow a new one but it wont be as nice as the first. Signs or sickness As I’ve said, geckos are remarkably hardy, but if they should become shaky or sluggish you have a problem. When reptiles get sick they tend to become stationary, although the problem might be temperature related, so try upping the heat a degree. If this doesn’t work, find a vet who specialises in herps and make it snappy. The pros of keeping geckos- If you are intent on keeping a lizard, a gecko is the best bet because- It is very hardy and can withstand things that other lizards couldn’t…but nonetheless it should have the best care you can give it. They are cheap and readily available. They are so easy to breed that no one really bothers catching wild ones so you don’t need to worry whether or not your gecko is wild caught. Being the most common pet lizard, your average vet will probably know enough about them to help if something goes wrong. They have become virtually tame, or as tame as such a creature could be. They very seldom bite and don’t mind human handling. Of course, being non-venomous and small, they are fairly harmless…do remember however, that lizards often carry salmonella, so wash you hands before and after handling it. They also, unlike most animals carry a lot of dis
eases that humans CAN contract. Take your new pet to a specialist vet to see that it is in good health. They really are very cute as far as cold-blooded things go. The cons of keeping geckos Having to keep crickets and mealworms in the house isn’t fun…your mum/dad/spouse/flatmate probably will not be impressed You’re still keeping what is essentially a wild creature. You can recreate its natural habitat as much as you are able, but it will never be the same. Buying them from a pet-shop encourages a multi-million pound trade in which live creatures are treated as inanimate objects. In conclusion… To be honest they are quite lovely little things. They may not learn to love you but they will learn to like you (even if its just because you’re the cricket-dispensing-machine) and get along fine with you. I’m still in mixed feelings about the trade in animals, which in general aren’t suitable as pets, but geckos seem to be the ones that do quite well in captivity. If your planning on buying something slightly scalier and scarier than a kitten, I’d go for a gecko, you wont find a better starter lizard anywhere.