This is a comprehensive guide to keeping the Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) as a pet. Among lizards the leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius) is one of the most popular as a pet, easy to keep, attractive to look at, low priced for both lizard and setup, ideal for all ages and levels of experience and available in an amazing array of patterns and colours which will captive both the experienced herpetologist and the beginner pet keeper.
Meet the Leopard Gecko
|Common Name||Leopard Gecko|
|Scientific Name||Eublepharis macularius|
|Origin||Texas, northern Mexico|
|Size||8 – 12″|
|Housing||Terrestrial, 24x18x18″ enclosure or larger|
The Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) is an attractive, medium sized lizard that grows from 8 – 12″ and weighs on average 60 – 80g, but some individuals have been recorded weighing upwards of 120 – 150g (often referred to as giant lines). These nocturnal lizards live in high elevation rocky areas and burrows of Afghanistan, Northern India and Asian Highlands.
Leopard geckos have a captive lifespan of around 15 years.
Leopard Gecko Housing
One or two leopard geckos can be housed in a 24x18x18″ enclosure but these lizards can be quite active during the night and will appreciate any additional space you give them, so we recommend a 36x18x18″ setup or larger. We favour wooden vivariums due to the ease of using them and sizes available. Glass terrariums can be used if they offer adequate floor space, are secure and have good ventilation, but there are very few on the market that offer the depth that we recommend.
We have a range of full setups for leopard geckos with a variety of options for full lighting and heating which make it very easy to decide what to buy.
We can also upgrade to a 48x18x18″ Setup. Don’t forget all our setups collected from our store or delivered within the local area come with free assembly, sealing and wiring!
Your geckos will require heating to a temperature of 90F under the spotlight/hottest part, with the ambient in the tank being 82-86F. The night time temperature can drop as low as 70F.
There are some different options you will come across for heating your tank.
Heat Mat – Heat mats are cheap and simple. They should always be controlled with a thermostat. In glass tanks the heat mat goes outside the enclosure whilst in wooden ones it goes inside. Heat mats can usually raise temperature enough for the night time temperatures, but can often not provide a good basking spot in the tank, so can be used in combination with another form of heating if needed.
Ceramic Bulb – Ceramic bulbs are non light emitting bulbs that are now available from 40w up to 250w. They can be left on 24 hours a day and can be used with an on/off or a pulse thermostat. Ceramic bulbs do provide enough heating for both day and night temperatures and we strongly recommend using a Ceramic bulb where possible over heat mats now.
Basking Light Bulbs – Basking light bulbs (light emitting) can provide intense basking heat but must be turned off at night and controlled with a dimming thermostat. For nocturnal species we personally recommend a ceramic bulb and then UVB to provide your natural light photoperiod, see below.
Whatever your method of heating, ensure that it is controlled by a thermostat and that you have a good way of reading it to make sure the tank is at the right temperature – I’d recommend a digital thermometer for the best accuracy.
In addition to these heating elements, we recommend that you use a low wattage white bulb for a rise in daytime temperatures and that you use a low level UVB.
Whilst Leopard Geckos are nocturnal, it has now been proven that nocturnal reptiles in the wild will often be active at dawn and dusk, getting low levels of UVB which help health, appetite, growth and colour. We use the species specific Arcadia Lighting Guide when setting up our reptile tanks, and you can read more about why UVB is important even for nocturnal animals here.
These Geckos require a UV Index of 2-3 in the basking zone. The basking zone is wherever your lizard is likely to stand to bask, which may be the bottom of the tank, or a raised platform. The UVB you want if this basking zone is 10-15″ from the ceiling of the vivarium is the Arcadia T5 7% Shadedweller, or an equivalent T8 bulb such as a 6% Forest bulb. In a larger tank, if your distance is 15-18″ or higher from the basking location (so if your tank is 24″ or higher in total), you can upgrade this to a T5 6% Forest bulb or a T8 12% Desert bulb.
Substrate and Decor
Substrate – Our substrate of choice for leopard geckos is cage carpet or leopard gecko bedding which is a blend of soil, sand and grit to create a natural substrate. Clay substrates are also possible and quite natural. For very young hatchling geckos, we’d recommend cage carpet or paper towel / newspaper until you’re sure that they are accurately feeding and then older geckos can be moved onto a naturalistic substrate with a lower chance of ingesting it.
- Leopard Gecko Bedding£12.99
Hides and Decor – You will want at least two hides in the enclosure, one on the hot end and one on the cool end to allow your gecko to thermoregulate. Additional decor such as plants, low lying sturdy branches, rocks and accessories will help to both make the enclosure aesthetically pleasing, and provide a stimulating environment with lots of cover. Leopard Geckos are not particularly agile climbers and are terrestrial, but will traverse rocky terrain in the wild.
- Cork Bark – Round, Flat or Tubes£1.50
- Exo Terra Buffalo Skull£4.99 – £12.99
- Exo Terra Dinosaur Egg Fossil Hide Out£13.99
- Exo Terra Gecko Cave£10.49 – £22.99
- Exo Terra Reptile Cave£4.19 – £13.99
- Exo Terra Reptile Hiding Cave£4.19 – £13.99
- Exo Terra Silk Hanging Plants£4.99 – £9.99
- Zoo Med Plastic Plants£3.49 – £7.49
Moss Box – Although the humidity in a leopard gecko enclosure is low, your leopard gecko will benefit greatly from a moss box or damp hide to enable them to shed. This is also essential if you have a female who may have eggs, as if she cannot find somewhere suitable to lay them, she may end up being eggbound.
Water Bowl – A small shallow water bowl should be provided and changed daily.
Social Needs and Housing Together
Leopard geckos have no social needs to live with their own species and they will live a happy solitary life.
Sexually mature males are territorial and will fight. Males and females will mate readily which can result in health problems if you don’t separate them. If you do breed, we recommend multiple females to one male, as in a single male to female ratio the female is likely to be chased and harassed by the male. Males will mate earlier than females; so a female should not be placed with a male until she is at least 50g in weight or there could be serious health problems with egg laying as well as stunted growth. Overall for the healthiest animals it is best to either keep them alone, or with two females.
You should never mix leopard geckos with other species.
Leopard Gecko Diet
Leopard Geckos will eat a variety of livefood in captivity – crickets, locusts, mealworms, roaches and waxworms. Waxworms should be fed in very small quantities as they have a high fat ratio. Livefood should always be gutloaded first; either by feeding with a variety of fresh greens or by using any of the powder or gel food available. Juveniles should be fed every day, as many as they will comfortably eat. Adults can be fed every other day.
Your livefood should be supplemented with a multivitamin and D3 supplement twice a week and straight calcium once a week.
Handling Leopard Geckos
Very young leopard geckos can be jumpy and can even emit a high pitched squeaking noise which can be very startling if you don’t expect it – intended to startle or scare a potential predator when the gecko is at its most vulnerable age. With regular handling leopard geckos quickly learn that people are not a threat and become a very docile lizard. In some circumstances if they believe their life is in danger they can drop their tail – this doesn’t happen that often in captivity with leopard geckos, but it is possible. It will regrow but will never look the same as the original. You should always avoid gripping the gecko too hard and never, ever grab them or lift them by the tail. Hold them firmly around the body if you need to hold them secure, but when handling it is best to let them walk out onto you and cup them from above.
When handling, ensure you’re sitting on a low surface in case they move quicker than anticipated, for example sitting on a sofa, bed or sitting on the floor rather than standing and holding them up.
Leopard Gecko Morphs
There are a great deal of different colour morphs of leopard geckos. Most of them are genetic, but some are recessive whilst some are co-dominant. Many morphs mix together to create new morphs, whilst some don’t compliment each other at all. When breeding leopard geckos you definitely want to calculate the genetic offspring.
We don’t sell enigma leopard geckos due to this genetic trait having a genetic neurological disorder that affects balance and cognition.
Albino leopard geckos – of which there are several different genetic strains – can have more sensitive eyesight than normal leopard geckos and you will find under very bright lights they close their eyes as the light can be uncomfortable for them and this may need to be taken into consideration when you choose your setup.
Otherwise leopard geckos morphs are primarily about the looks you prefer, and other than the above, the care remains the same. Here are some of the leopard geckos we’ve sold this year.
Leopard Gecko Breeding
Leopard geckos breed very readily in captivity. It’s important to have separate enclosures to separate your male from your female if needed. Females should be a very minimum of 50g in weight, but 60-75g is more ideal. This usually takes around 18 months to 2 years, although a gecko can breed younger than a year. Breeding at too young an age or too low a weight can result both in eggbinding or other problems during egglaying, or stunted growth.
Breeding season tends to run from February to September and the female will always lay two eggs, every two to five wees throughout the season. You will need to ensure you’ve provided an egg-laying box with a damp substrate and moss to give her a suitable egg laying site.
After she has laid her eggs you will need to remove them and put them in an articial incubator. We use perlite or vermiculite as our incubation medium.
Leopard geckos are temperature sex determined. Incubating at 82F will give you mostly females, 85F will give you an even mix of male and female, whilst 88F will produce mostly males. Higher temperatures can also produce very dominant and aggressive females, so we recommend incubating at 82-85F, especially since females are more in demand than males.
Hatchlings will hatch after 40-60 days (faster at higher temperatures) and will need to be housed separately so you can monitor their feeding and growth.
Leopard geckos are one of the easier reptiles to breed and it’s a very rewarding process, but you should always be sure that you’re going to be able to sell the geckos to a responsible home at the end of it. As with any animal, there can always be problems, and you’ll want to have set aside enough money to cover vet bills if required.
Should I get a Leopard Gecko?
Overall leopard geckos are very easy to care for and make an excellent pet for any age or experience level.