Leopard Gecko FAQs
Leopard Geckos (Eublepharis macularius) frequently asked questions.
Do Leopard geckos make good pets?
Yes! In my 25 plus years of experience with lizards, I have not seen a better beginner herp (reptile or amphibian) than the leopard gecko. They have gentle dispositions and are easy to care for. They also may live up to 25 years or more (de Vosjoli, 1990). They are also great pets for people who have fur and feather allergies, or people who do not have room or time for cats and dogs.
I have decided to get a Leopard Gecko. What book should I get?
Leopard Geckos: A Complete Guide to Eublepharine Geckos by Merker, Merker, Bergman and Mazorlig (2006) Julie Bergman, owner of Gecko Ranch,is a contributing author. This book is very thorough and easy to read. Ideally you should read this book before actually bringing your gecko home. You may buy this inexpensive book right here at Gecko Ranch.
Where should I get my Leopard Gecko?
From a breeder who offers health guaranteed captive-bred leopard geckos. The breeder should also be able to supply you with a book and/or care sheet with the gecko and you should be completely educated as to the care and set-up of the gecko BEFORE you receive the gecko. If you are using a mail order breeder such as Gecko Ranch, make sure the breeder will guarantee live arrival. It is safe to ship geckos as long as conditions are within certain temperature parameters, which the breeder should be well aware of. For example, check the Gecko Ranch Ordering Information. Do NOT accept anything less!
What kinds are there, and can you breed the different color phases together?
Leopard geckos, Eublepharis macularius are one kind of gecko from the genus Eublepharus (Eye-lid geckos). Other Eublepharines are banded geckos(Coleonyx sp.) found from North to South America, the Japanese insular gecko (Goniurosaurus kurowae) and African fat-tailed geckos Hemitheconyx caudicinctus (de Vosjoli, 1990) . You may breed different leopard gecko color phases together, the results are sometimes very interesting with different colors and patterns emerging (see my photo galleries).
Can I handle Leopard geckos?
Yes. How often depends on the gecko's comfort level. If they struggle much, put them back and try again another time. Young leopard geckos generally do not like to be handled until they are about three months old. When acclimating a new leopard gecko, let them taste your finger first, then gradually work towards picking them up. NEVER grab them by the tail. Their tails can come off if they are stressed. The tail will grow back, but it will not look as nice as the original.
How big are leopard geckos?
Adult leopard geckos are about 6"-7" in length, including tail. Full size may be attained in about 18 months. An average adult weighs 45-60g and can weigh as much as 100G (de Vosjoli, 1990).
What do Leopard geckos eat?
A main dietary staple of crickets and/or mealworms works best. Wax worms should be offered only as a snack food as leopard geckos can become "hooked" on this very high fat food item. Wax worms are best thought of as "twinkies" for geckos! Adult leopard geckos can be offered "superworms," a very large variety of mealworm. Only offer freshly shed mealworms or superworms that are soft to the touch. Worms about to shed have a thicker, harder layer of skin that is harder to digest. Some adult leopard geckos will eat pinkie mice. Food items should be coated with a vitamin supplement such as the Repashy Calcium Plus (also sold as T-Rex Leopard Gecko ICB - Insect Cricket Balancer) or RepCal with D3 and Herptivite (use 50/50 mixture). If you find yourself using 500 or more crickets a month, you are going to save money by buying from a cricket farm instead of the local pet shop. Go to Kingsnake.com for suppliers in your area.
What size cricket or mealworm will my Leopard gecko eat?
A good rule of thumb for all geckos is to feed them a food item that is about 90% the size of their head. Food items much smaller than the gecko's head tend to be ignored in favor of larger food items. Hatchling leopards can be fed 2 week old (1/4") crickets, older juveniles(year or less old) and adults can be fed 3 week old (3/4") crickets or larger depending on the size of the gecko. Feed hatchlings 3-5 crickets or small mealworms daily, juveniles and adults at least 5-10 crickets/mealworms or more- adults 3 times weekly.
During warm weather juveniles and adults may be fed more often as the warm weather increases their metabolism. Be sure to remove all uneaten crickets after a few hours as these food items are losing their nutritional value as time goes on and may chew on and stress the geckos. Be sure to gutload all insect food items with a quality gutload such as Repashy Insect Gutload ILF.
Read my Gecko Supplementation and Insect Gutloading Clinic to learn more important details!
What kind of terrarium set-up do I need for a Leopard gecko?
Terrarium set-up depends on how many leopard geckos you are keeping and how old they are. Horizontally oriented aquariums or equivalent well ventilated terrariums made out of wood and glass or some other combination work best as leopard geckos spend most of their time on the substrate (ground). They do not have adhesive lamellae to walk up the sides of the terrarium, so use a full screen cover only if there are creatures in your home such as cats that may bother the geckos. CAUTION: Do not keep more than one male leopard gecko in a terrarium and only keep similar-sized leopard geckos together.
Here are some different scenarios:
- 1-2 hatchlings: plastic shoebox with holes drilled in sides or 5-10 gallon aquarium.
- 1-2 juveniles: 10 gallon aquarium.
- 1-2 adults: 15 gallon long aquarium or larger.
You can make your own screen cover by going to the hardware store and getting a heavy gauge hardware cloth. This is much sturdier and cheaper than buying expensive terrarium covers that usually warp from putting heat lamps on top. Remember to put duct tape around any sharp edges so you won't get cut from touching them. Cut a hole so you can put your arm through the terrarium and you are finished! While you are at the hardware store pick up a reflector lamp for a heat source.
How do I heat the Leopard gecko's terrarium?
I suggest using a reflector lamp(8-1/2" diameter works best, smaller is not as stable on top of cage) place on top of your screen cover, set to one side of your terrarium to create a "thermal gradient," that is, a cool to warm temperature from one side to the other. This way, your leopard gecko can choose to be where it is most comfortable. The warm side should be 84-88F (de Vosjoli, 1990).
Use only a mercury-type thermometer or infrared measuring device to measure temperature - dials or tapes are not as accurate as you need. Measure on the bottom of the terrarium where the gecko lives. Thermometer tapes may be placed at gecko height in opposite ends of the terrarium to verify a temperature gradient has been established. Incandescent light bulbs work fine as a heat source, I suggest you buy a few different wattages for different times of the year when seasonal temperatures change. You may set the reflector lamp on a timer so it goes on with sunrise and off with sunset.
Heating a terrarium correctly is not always that easy, especially if you have a small terrarium that is 10 gallons or less. In these cases you do not have enough horizontal surface area to establish a thermal gradient of warm to cool using overhead lighting, so UTHs (undertank heaters), are likely your best solution. If your temperatures are just not working the way you want them to or you could use a pro to help you, I send folks to the experts at The Bean Farm. Tell them your situation and they will set you up right with the latest and best technology available.
What do I put inside the Leopard gecko's terrarium?
For substrate (ground material), I recommend reptile-specific carpet (common pet store item, non-reptile specific types may give off toxic fumes when heated) or newspaper. If you are an experienced leopard gecko keeper, sand is OK if you use a fine grade reptile sand. I do not recommend sand as a substrate for new leopard gecko keepers because new hobbyists may not recognize the signs of sand impaction (gecko eating substrate) which can be fatal. Sand impaction may occur as a result of inadequate calcium supplementation or use of coarse sand (de Vosjoli, 1990). While new hobbyists are perfecting their husbandry regimen they may make mistakes in supplementation or other aspects of leopard gecko care and not realize a serious problem like sand impaction is occurring. I suggest keeping the set-up simple while in the learning stages.
Hiding places are a necessary ingredient in any terrarium. There should be hiding places in both the cool and warm parts of the terrarium. Rocks and cholla cactus big enough for the gecko to crawl through are also desirable, as are succulent plants (real or fake!). Paper towel rolls are a nice low-budget hide! Include a margarine tub with a leopard gecko-sized hole in the top to help the geckos with shedding. Fill the margarine tub with about 2" of moist vermiculite or spaghnum peat moss and the leopard geckos will go in there to shed and lay their eggs. My beginner leopard gecko kit contains many of the items you will need to complete your set-up (hidebox, water dish, food dish vitamins,insect gutload, leopard gecko book), see my online store.
When can I breed my Leopard geckos?
At approximately nine months of age if females are at breeding weight of 40-45g. Males may breed as soon as seven months of age. CAUTION: breeding a female that is too young and/or underweight may result in premature death! It is best to hold back and even isolate underweight adult females to maximize their size and be sure of their health before breeding.
My Leopard gecko is not eating. What do I do?
Many circumstances can lead to decreased appetite in leopard geckos. It is sometimes very stressful to new owners when their previously very hungry juveniles slow down in appetite as they approach adult size and weight. This is normal. Cut back feeding times per week and the gecko should eat within a week or so. Occasionally geckos like a different food item for variety's sake and may stop eating for that reason. How would you like it if you got the same thing for dinner every night! Improper temperatures in the terrarium (too hot, too cool) may also result in lack of appetite. Sometimes leopard geckos may fight and that too may be the problem. If your gecko at any age has not eaten in two weeks and appears to be losing weight (pelvic bones becoming prominent, tail getting thinner), then a visit to a non-domestic veterinarian is necessary.
Do I really need a vet for my Leopard gecko? Where do I find one?
The answer is yes, a specialist called a non-domestic veterinarian who has been specifically trained in reptile medicine along with that of other exotics. Ideally you should locate one right when you get your gecko. This way if any problems arise you have a handy phone number to call. Leopard geckos live a long time in captivity and if problems are caught soon enough many times the gecko can still enjoy a long life. Many people simply don't consider non-domestic veterinary services because they feel they cannot afford treament; call and check prices to see what typical exams and services cost for your leopard gecko so you can plan ahead. Many vets work with "what you can afford," and if a non-domestic vet does not work in your area many do phone consultations for a fee. To locate a non-domestic vet Check the yellow pages or call your dog/cat veterinarian for a referral. Other resources: Herp Vet Connection
How do I tell what sex my Leopard gecko is?
Turn your leopard gecko over and look for femoral pores in the area before the vent. Females have reduced femoral pores, mature males have enlarged femoral pores. Males also have hemipenal bulges after the vent, females have a "coke bottle" tail (indented where hemipenes are absent). The leopard gecko is sexable at about three months, but sexing takes experience so keep looking and ask an experienced herper (one who keeps reptiles and or amphibians) for help.
Do Leopard geckos need companions?
After keeping leopard geckos for many years I have observed the following: Leopard geckos kept with another leopard gecko of compatible sex (no two males) and weight (should be similar in size) sit together and interact, making the leopard gecko pet experience more enjoyable for themselves and their human owners. Leopard geckos should not be mixed with other species of geckos.
Leopard Gecko Supplies
Leopard Gecko Pack - Basic
Basics only, one hidebox (5"x4"x2.125") big enough for 1-2 leopard geckos and Calcium Plus supplement 3.0oz for mealworms and other live food items.$11.99 Add to Cart
Leopard Gecko Pack - Deluxe
All you need at a discount! Two hideboxes (5"x4"x2.125") big enough for 1-2 leopard geckos (one for cool side, one for warm side), Julie's book "Geckos" with her Leopard Gecko section, one Calcium Plus supplement 3.0oz for mealworms and other live food items, and Grub Pie ( "meat" gel non-live food).$27.99 Add to Cart