Leopard Gecko Care

The leopard gecko is one of the easiest reptile pets to keep, requiring very little in the way of caging and care.  If you keep your pet clean, fed and watered, you should have a long, happy relationship with him.  Here is a basic outline of the generally accepted “best practices”.

Housing:

A 10 gallon aquarium or similar container can provide a home for a single leopard gecko.  A slightly bigger cage will work for a pair or even a trio.  Males can never be housed together after the age of 4 months, but females are typically able to peacefully coexist in the same vivarium.  If you plan to keep several animals, and are intent on breeding, it is better to provide a system of plastic bins, called a rack system, to maximize space and efficiency.  The best substrate for any cage is something that will be easy to clean, and most importantly, not ingestible.  Newspaper, paper towels and carpet will all work.  The former options allow for easy, frequent replacement, and carpet can be vacuumed or shaken quite easily.  Just make sure there are to tatters that can be ingested by the geckos, especially if you’re free feeding crickets.  Clean the cage frequently and you will have a better experience.  Sand is discouraged, as it is just too hard to keep clean, and can be ingested a bit too frequently.

Heating:

Undertank heat is without a doubt the most beneficial way to maintain a healthy gecko.  For an aquarium, there are many choices of stick on heat pads on the market.  In a rack system, heat cable or tape is used along the back of the shelves, snaking through the rack and heating all of the tubs within.  Both options keep one end of the cage warmer than the other, creating a thermal gradient.  The geckos will use all of it over the course of an average day.  Overhead lamps are discouraged, as they typically only serve to force the geckos into hiding, and more importantly, will dry out the cage too much.  You don’t want your geckos to get too hot.  A temperature of around 90 -92 degrees on top of the heat source is ideal.  They will choose where they want to be at any given time, but if they are always on the cooler end of the cage, it is likely too hot for them.  Purchase a good infrared thermometer or use one with a probe to get the temperature just right.

Cage furnishings:

The minimal requirements for your pet are a water dish, a food dish (if you’re feeding mealworms, and still recommended for roaches or crickets as well), a dish for a calcium/vitamin supplement, and someplace for the gecko to hide.  There are numerous cave type hides on the market, or you can simply turn over a cereal bowl with an entrance hole cut into it.  Styrofoam meat trays from the meat counter in the grocery store are great if you have a larger collection.  Many keepers will also use a “moist hide” in their cages, either alongside a dry, cave type hide or by itself.  A moist hide is a plastic container, such as a Rubbermaid food storage container, or even an empty recyclable container from your refrigerator, such as a margarine tub, with a hole cut in the lid to allow access.  Coco fiber, sphagnum or peat moss, and even sand are used to then create a fluffy bed within to hold moisture and allow the geckos to dig, something they do enjoy from time to time, and will facilitate shedding.  Keep the medium moist, but not wet.  Both a moist or dry hide will work, and I’ve had equal success with both.  Although a desert species, these animals are fossorial, meaning they live under things most of the time, in burrows or crevices.  The humidity in such places is surprisingly high.  Go turn a rock over in western Colorado if you want to see what I mean.  They definitely benefit from a controlled source of humidity in their cage.

Food/water:

Keep a dish of water in the cage with clean water at least every other day.  While able to go without water for substantial periods, the geckos will appreciate a chance to drink regularly.  This also raises the humidity in the cage, which can be a good thing to facilitate shedding.  Feed your geckos lively insects such as mealworms, superworms, roaches or crickets.  Most of which are available at any pet store.  Mealworms make a great staple diet, as they are easy to contain in a food dish.  Most breeders are using them today with great results, but don’t overdo it.  They make it really easy to overfeed the geckos, resulting in obesity, and all too common sight these days.  Use common sense, and only feed the animals what they need, not what they will eat.  Typically less than a dozen mealworms two or three times a week is sufficient for adults, with 10 or fewer daily for juveniles.  Make sure the insects are fed with something nutritious, such as carrots, leafy greens and fine grain mixtures.  There are many insect diets available on the market.  You may just want to try a few and see what works for you.  You can dust the insects with a good vitamin/mineral supplement every couple days, and it is also a good idea to have a dish of supplementation in the cage.  The geckos will lick up the powder with regularity.  I use Osteo-form and Vionate for supplements, but any good quality calcium and mineral supplement will work.  A little bit of clean sand mixed in will also help the geckos’ digestion.  Be sure to keep insects contained, especially crickets.  Loose insects can be a problem, and it is best to remove them after a few hours if the geckos decide that they’re not hungry.

Summary:

As with all pets, common sense is the most important practice.  Watch your animals, observe their behaviors and tendencies, and react accordingly.  They oftentimes will tell us what they need or want and it’s our job as herpetoculturists to respond to their suggestions.  There are many great resources on the Internet, so spend some time doing your research, but keep in mind that many different people say many different things.  Find a system that works best for you and more importantly, your animals, and you’ll be a happy keeper with happy animals!

Downloadable Leopard Gecko Caresheet