One of the most commonly kept lizards, the leopard gecko is hardy, friendly, and full of personality. This interesting saurian can vocalize, lick its eyes, and “wink” its ears! They come in dazzling array of colors and patterns, their price varying according to rarity. Housing and feeding a leopard gecko is relatively simple. However, there are a few rules that you must follow in order to keep your pet healthy.
- Leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius)
- Usually live 8-10 years; life span >20 years of age has been reported
- Terrestrial animal from a desert environment
- Hatchlings measure 3 to 4 inches long. Adult females are typically 7 to 8 inches, and males are 8 to 10 inches.
- Store fat in the tail for times of low food availability
- Able to live alone or in pairs
- Generally docile animal that tolerates some handling
- Will drop their tail as a defense mechanism if frightened. If lost, the tail will usually regenerate in a matter of months.
- Geckos normally eat their shed skin.
- Mostly insectivorous – feed a variety of prey items such as crickets, mealworms, superworms, phoenix worms, flies, roaches, etc., can eat an occasional pinkie mouse.
- Prey insects should be “gut loaded” with a nutritious diet for at least 12 hours prior to feeding to your gecko. This powdered gut loading diet for feeder insects is available at most pet stores.
- Dust feeder insects with a calcium supplement 3-4 times per week. You may also provide the calcium powder in a shallow dish.
- Preferably feed smaller more frequent meals (3-4 insects per day) rather than larger meals less often.
- Provide a shallow water dish for drinking and soaking.
- 10-20 gallon aquarium or similar cage is usually sufficient for 1-2 individuals.
- A shy, nocturnal species that requires a hide box. This shelter should be designed so the gecko can be easily removed from its hiding place, if necessary.
- Requires appropriate humidity for proper shedding – provide a moist hide box (with moistened peat moss, vermiculite, or paper towels inside it), mist the tank daily, or provide a humidifier or reptile misting system.
- Heating one end of the cage allows for a temperature variation that your lizard needs. Provide a temperature gradient of 85-90°F (29.4-32.2oC) on the warm side and 78-80°F (25.6-26.7oC) on the cool side. Cage temperature can drop into the 70’s at night.
- The best heat source is either a heat lamp or ceramic heat emitter placed above the enclosure. Under-tank heaters and hot rocks are not as safe or effective.
- UVB lighting is recommended – 5.0% UVB or greater for 12 hours a day. The cage should be dark at night. Although leopard geckos are nocturnal, direct and indirect exposure to UVB radiation will benefit overall health.
- Recommend a non-particulate substrate such as newspaper, paper towels, or reptile carpet; sand, walnut shell, etc. can cause impactions if ingested and irritation of the eyes.
- Routine physical examination every 6 to 12 months
- Consult a veterinarian with experience treating reptiles if you have any questions or concerns about your leopard gecko’s health.
- Annual fecal examination for parasites
- Blood tests as recommended by your veterinarian
Common Medical Disorders
- Retained shed leading to loss of toenails, digits, or tail tips
- Retained shed or foreign material in the eye leading to infections and vision loss
- Hemipenal casts (males only)
- Egg binding (females only)
- Calcium deficiency (“metabolic bone disease”)
- Internal parasites