Leopard geckos, or Eublepharis macularius, are an excellent species for a child to start with. The geckos come in a variety of colors, patterns and sizes. The gecko has been captive bred for about 30 years are is one of the most commonly kept reptile pets. They can be purchased in pet stores, at reptile shows and online, and they range from $40 to $1,000.
Size and Lifespan
Baby leopard geckos are between three and four inches long. Adult females are about seven to eight inches long, and males can be between eight to 10 inches long. Males of the giant morphs can reach nearly a foot in length. Leopard geckos can live up to eight to 10 years with many males living between 10 and 20 years.
A 10 to 20-gallon terrarium can house one to two leopard geckos from hatchling to adult size. Larger tanks can cause the gecko to stray from its proper heating and hide box. The terrarium should be at least one foot tall. Be sure to secure the screen top on the cage. Provide proper ventilation, and keep our cats and other unwanted visitors. A hide box filled with damp moss or vermiculite is needed so the gecko can shed its skin and lay eggs. Artificial plants can create a natural look.
Lighting and Temperature
The best way to heat a leopard gecko is an under-tank heating pad or heat tape. Heat one end of the cage, and allow the other end to cool to create a thermal variation. Make sure to use a cage carpet when using a heating pad on a glass tank to prevent the leopard gecko from coming in contact with the hot glass.
Avoid heat rocks, as they can become too hot. Use a heat lamp instead. Place the lamp on the screen and leave it on for 12 hours a day. Use the heating pad for nighttime. Since geckos are active at night, they do not need to bask under a UVB light, which can cause damage to the gecko’s eyes.
The hide box should be between 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. The temperature of the room the leopard gecko is housed in should be above 70 degrees.
Leopard Gecko Substrate
Reptibark, cage carpet or flat stones can be used as bedding for the gecko. A young gecko might accidentally consume sand or coconut products on the cage floor. Leopard geckos will choose a bathroom in one corner of the cage. That area should be cleaned without disrupting the entire system. Do not use plant soils that contain fertilizer or pesticides.
Food and Water
Leopard geckos are insectivores, meaning they do not eat vegetables. The best items are crickets, but leopard geckos can eat waxworms or Phoenix worms, as well as mealworms on occasion. Avoid pinky mice. All insects must be given access to for at least four hours before being fed to the gecko. This is called “gut loading” and is essential to the gecko’s health. Use Total Bites or Cricket Drink to avoid “gut loading.” Place the insects in a tub with some of the solution, and let the insects eat before feeding them to the leopard gecko.
Dusting the insects is the easiest way to deliver essential vitamins and minerals to the leopard gecko. The insects and dusting powder can be placed in a plastic bag and shaken gently to coat the insects. You can also keep a small, shallow dish filled with vitamin/calcium powder in the cage at all times. The gecko knows how much it needs and will lick it up.
Offer two appropriately sized insects for every inch of a leopard gecko’s total length every other day. For example, a four-inch-long gecko would receive eight bugs three to four times a week. When a leopard gecko sheds its skin, it is normal for the gecko to eat the skin.
Keep a shallow dish with fresh water at all times. Cage bedding should be kept dry, so be mindful of spillage. Make sure the leopard gecko can climb out of the dish.
Leopard Gecko Handling and Temperament
Do not handle the leopard gecko until it has settled into its terrarium. Once the gecko has relaxed and becomes accustomed to its new home, you can start handling it. Sit on the floor and let the leopard gecko crawl through loose fingers and hand-over-hand for about five to 10 minutes per day for a week until they are accustomed to being handled.
Never grab the leopard gecko’s tail, or it might fall off. If it does detach, spray the tub daily with a pet-safe antibiotic. The tail will grow back in less than 40 days, but it will look slightly different.