INTRODUCTION TO LEOPARD GECKOS

Available in a wide assortment of colors and patterns, leopard geckos are a well known species of lizard naturally found in Afghanistan, India, and other parts of the Middle East.

Written by Andrew Aldred & Alex Green

ENCLOSURE

GoHerping recommends keeping your leopard gecko in a 15-20 gallon plastic tub or glass aquarium, with an additional 10 gallons for each gecko. An important note is male leopard geckos should never be housed together, as it's very common for individuals to fight or kill one another. Females can generally be housed safely together, however, they should be supervised until you are assured they can co-exist in the same enclosure safely.

 

 

 Substrate 

You have many options when it comes to leopard gecko substrate, including various loose substrates, carpets, and a few others. Some of the easiest substrates include simple materials, such as newspaper and paper towels. If you want something more aesthetically pleasing, "reptile carpet" comes in multiple varieties and colors. The downside of reptile carpet is it requires thorough cleaning to ensure that all bacteria is removed, which can be caused by droppings, dead feeder animals, and simply spilled water. Excavator clay is another great option, and also offers a naturalistic feel.

As mentioned earlier, loose substrates are also available, for example, coconut fiber. However,  it is important that the loose substrates you use are digestible, as indigestible substrates can cause impaction--a potentially deadly problem that can happen to any reptile on poor substrate choices.

 

GoHerping recommends to always avoid sand, calci-sand, pine, cedar, and walnut shells with most reptiles, and all amphibians. Learn more about poor substrate choices here.

 

 

 Hide 

Leopard geckos, being nocturnal creatures, need places to escape the light associated with day time and to feel Comfortable. This is where hides come into play. Firstly, they require a simple hide like any other reptile, preferably over their heat mat (learn more about heating below). This hide is must be available to allow the gecko a safe place while providing heat, which reptiles need to digest their food. Secondly, they require a "humid" or "moist" hide. This hide mimics a burrow in the wild, which typically are more humid than the surface of the area in which they live. The purpose of this hide is to provide an environment where the gecko will be able to shed its skin without any problems, as well to hydrate, if they drink the droplets from the walls of the hide. This hide can be as simple as a plastic container, or as elaborate as a burrow dug from excavator, both filled with moss, paper towels, coconut fiber, or moisture holding materials. This hide should stay damp all the time, even if you don't think your gecko is in shed. Some people also recommend a third hide, on the cool side of their enclosure. This allows the leopard gecko to thermo regulate, which basically means adjust their internal temperature so they are always comfortable, just as humans do with thermo stats in houses.

 

 

 Water 

Leopard geckos aren't good swimmers, so make sure your water bowl is small enough for your leopard gecko to get in and out of safely. Unlike some other reptiles, leopard geckos do not need to soak in their water bowl, meaning a smaller size is adequate. Tap water often has chlorine and other chemicals, which can be dangerous to reptiles. However, there are many ways to ensure your water is safe for reptiles. Filling a jug of tap water and leaving it out for 24 hours will allow harmful chemicals  to evaporate. You can also use "ReptiSafe" water drops made by ZooMed, or similar products, to remove these chemicals.

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contents
1. Introduction
2. Enclosure
     a. Substrate
     b. Hide
     c. Water
     d. Heat pad
3. Temperature & Humidity
4. Feeding
5. Handling
6. Overview
TEMPERATURE & HUMIDITY

The humidity in your home is generally fine for a leopard gecko, as they do not require much. Since you should have a moist hide available, as mentioned above, you won't need to increase their humidity, even if they are in shed. Do your best to avoid humidity surpassing 30-40%, as high humidity can cause problems, such as respiratory infections. 

 

To allow your gecko to properly digest food and avoid impaction, a hot spot around 87-91 degrees Fahrenheit, do not exceed temperatures over 91, otherwise you run the risk of burning your gecko. The cool side of your enclosure can drop down to as low as 75 degrees F. This cool side temperature is also adequate for your night time temps. Stick a heat pad to the outside bottom of your enclosure below the hide to allow your gecko to stay warm, as belly heat is extremely beneficial to leopard geckos, since they are adapted to absorb the heat retained in the rocks they crawl on, although some may say otherwise, basking bulbs and other top-down heat sources are not ideal for leopard geckos. The easiest way to ensure your enclosure is heated correctly is by purchasing a thermostat made for reptiles. GoHerping uses the reptile thermostat made by "Zilla".

Temperature & Humidity

FEEDING

A common myth is leopard geckos do not require supplements or calcium. This is incorrect, and can cause long-term health issues, some being deadly. However, their diets are still rather simple because they are strictly insectivores. The most common choice is crickets, however, they are not very nutritious compared to alternatives. Some people choose waxworms and superworms, however, both of these worms are very high in fat and could potentially cause your gecko to become overweight. However, they are good options if you are trying to increase the weight of your leopard gecko. Mealworms are a great choice, and dubia roaches are arguably the best. Learn more about why crickets are a poor choice here. You can simply refill a bowl with the live insect of your choice, daily or every few days, or tong feed if the insects can climb out. Setting the insects loose in the enclosure is typically not a good idea, as some insects can Harm your gecko, such as crickets, which have been known to chew on toes.

Supplements are also an important part of their diet, as mentioned above. Calcium and reptile multivitamins should be added to your leopard gecko's meal. A common schedule to follow is to add a multivitamin supplement to every fourth meal. The three others should be supplemented with calcium. Following this pattern is a good way to get your gecko the vitamins and minerals it needs, without overdosing.

HANDLING

Most leopard geckos have good temperaments, but not all. Regardless, every gecko can eventually become comfortable enough around people to be handled easily and stress-free. It's best to give your gecko a few days to adjust to the new enclosure after acquiring before handling. Once the gecko is more comfortable in the enclosure, you're probably just fine handling him/her for short periods of time. This may be 5 minutes the first week, then 10 minutes, once they are comfortable, then 20 and more once your gecko is used to you. However, if you gecko shows signs of stress, such as not eating, drinking, or being active, you should handle for shorter periods of time or stop completely until your gecko returns to normal.

OVERVIEW

You really can't go wrong with leopard geckos. They're very interesting, enjoyable, and inquisitive reptiles. Each leopard gecko is very unique, whether you're talking about their colors and patterns, or their personalities and habits. Make sure you keep doing research to compare information across various care guides to give your reptile the best care possible. Good luck!

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