Written by The Bug Guys, adapted from Reptile Magazine by Ron Tremper
- Lifespan: 10-20 years, record 27+
- Size: female 7-8, male 8-10 inches
- Insectivores: Crickets, phoenix worms, mealworms, butterworms, insectivore gel diets
- Wild habitat: arid desert environment
A spacious front opening terrarium such as 18x18x12 or larger is recommended, or a 20-gallon aquarium, for one leopard gecko or two females from hatchling to adult size (Do not keep males or aggressive hatchlings together). Any cage you choose should be at least 1 foot tall. Be sure to have a secure screen top on your gecko cage that will support a uvb light and heat fixture, provide good ventilation and placed to keep them secure from cats or unsupervised children etc. Multiple hides and a hide box filled with moist moss or vermiculite is needed, so your leopard gecko can shed its skin properly. Live or artificial plants can be added for a nice decorative touch or creating an arid bioactive vivarium.
Lighting and Temperature
The best way to heat your leopard gecko is by using a deep heat projector or daylight basking lamp with supplementary ceramic heat emitter or heat mat if needed. It is best to heat one end of the terrarium to allow for thermoregulation. Never use heat rocks as they tend to become too hot in concentrated areas and can cause burns. Despite being most active at night leopard will crespuscularly bask under UVB light, we recommend the Arcadia shade dwellers as they have shown to improve health and activity in leopard geckos and similar nocturnal and crepuscular reptiles. Leopard geckos also historically suffer from MBD (metabolic bone disease) from improper supplementation and a lack of UVB exposure. Providing a shade dweller uvb lamp, daily calcium and infrequent D3 supplementation with gutloaded feeder bugs can lead to a healthy thriving gecko.
The ideal basking temperature on the hot side is 88 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and ambient air temperature of the room they are housed in should be above 73 degrees. (The thermogradient should range from 88-90 to 75).
Leopard Gecko Substrate
A young or debilitated leopard gecko may be housed in a nursery enclosure with paper towel to monitor health and growth. For healthy geckos with proper husbandry a molded excavation clay substrates provide great natural enrichment and digging opportunities. Calcium carbonate sand can be used but tong or dish feeding is recommended to avoid ingestion, as well as providing flat rocks and sticks for climbing and to avoid muscular stress. Leopard geckos typically have a “bathroom” in one corner of their cages, and that area can be spot-cleaned regularly. Do not expose your gecko to commercial plant soils or sands that may contain fertilizer or pesticides. Reptile safe bioactive soils are sufficient for growing arid plants in a vivarium.
Live insects are a must for your gecko as they are insectivores; they do not eat plants or veggies. The best items to use are phoenix worms, mealworms or crickets, but you can treat your adult gecko to superworms once a week if you wish. Hornworms, butter and waxworms can be used as well especially for hatchlings but feed sparingly as adults to avoid obesity. Do not feed leopard geckos pinky mice. All insects must be first given a nutritious powdered diet for at least 12 hours before being fed to your leopard gecko. This process is called “gut loading”’ and it is very important to the health of your pet. Simply place the insects in a tub of gut-load diet with a liquid gel or a piece of veggie or potato to serve as a source of water.
Dusting your insects is essential to deliver important vitamins and minerals to your leopard gecko. Insects and the dusting powder can be placed in a plastic bag or tub, and shaken gently to coat the insects’ bodies. Another way to give the extra powdered supplements to your gecko is to keep a small jar lid filled with vitamin-mineral powder at all times. The gecko knows how much its body needs, and it will lick up the powder accordingly. If you use UVB lighting, ensure your main calcium/multivitamin is D3 free, and give a calcium with D3 once a week for hatchlings, twice a month for adults. If you do not use UVB lighting (discouraged), dust regularly with calcium/multivitamin with D3.
Keepers can offer two appropriately sized insects for every inch of a leopard gecko’s total length. A meal every other day is fine. Therefore, a 4-inch-long gecko would receive eight mealworms three to four times a week. Varying the diet and amount is fine so long as overfeeding is avoided and active hunting and foraging is encouraged.
Leopard geckos can also occasionally have insectivore complete gel diets like Repashy Grub pie or Arcadia Insectigold.
It is normal for leopard geckos to eat their shed skin.
Water and humidity
A shallow water dish with fresh water must be available at all times. It should also be stable, so it cannot be spilled. Cage substrate should be drier and have good drainage. Keep humid huts dry and geckos and their terrarium can be misted a few times a week as needed, and spot watered for any live plants. Vitamin drops should not be added to the water.
Handling and TemperamentIn general, do not handle leopard geckos on a regular basis until they settle in and are more than 6 inches in total length. Once your gecko is large enough, it is best to sit on the floor, and let your gecko crawl through loose fingers and hand-under-hand for 10 to 15 minutes per day until they are accustomed to your touch. Never grab a gecko as it causes severe stress, and never grab the gecko’s tail, as it might be dropped. Often the tail regenerates in less than 40 days but is a cartilaginous stumpy structure just used for fat storage.