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The Beautiful Leopard Gecko
Member Name: MollyWH
Advantages: fairly easy to keep, facinating to watch, easy to handle
Disadvantages: Nocturnal so may not see them too much
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.
Summary: The Beautiful Leopard Gecko
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