Leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius) or leo for slang originated
from the Middle East - Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan area. Adults can obtain
lengths of 8 to 12 inches long and weigh 60 to 100+ grams in captivity. Babies
are around 3 inches and average 3 grams in weight. Leopard geckos are a terrestrial
animal which means they are ground dwellers. Being nocturnal they are
most active at night. They are one of the most popular and easiest
geckos to keep in captivity. This care sheet will give you the information
you need to keep your gecko happy and healthy. With proper care leopard
geckos can easily live up to 20 years.
Leopards are very easy to house. A pair (1 male and 1 female) can
live comfortably in a 10 gallon glass aquarium but larger is always
better. Most breeders use some kind of rack system. Racks are easier
because one can fit more geckos in a given area than with aquariums.
Aquariums however are clear giving you the opportunity to view them
better and see their natural behaviors. I house my adult leopard
geckos in 28 quart Rubbermaid containers and hatchlings in 6 quart
tubs. Never keep an animal in cramped quarters. This can cause stress
and lead to other health issues.
The best substrate to use is paper, newspaper, paper towel, slate or
tile. I suggest not using sand at all as the gecko may become impacted.
Impaction is when the gecko ingests sand which can build up and block
the intestine. This is usually in an attempt to get calcium (see below
for supplementation). My animals are all kept on paper or paper towel
just for the impaction reason. If you’re looking
for a more naturalistic look and have to use sand make sure it is as
fine as possible. Zoo Meds Repti-sand or Jurassic sand is suitable.
Another option is to go with slate or tile. Don’t ever use aquarium
gravel, walnut shells or calcium sand. These substrates can be fatal
if caught in the gecko’s digestive system. Never use cedar or
pine shavings. These are toxic to reptiles.
Hides - In order for the gecko to feel secure in its enclosure
provide several hiding places. These can be as simple as inverted plant
saucer pans, plants, wood etc. It’s a good idea to put a hide
on both the warm end and cool end (discussed in heat section below)
of the cage. This will allow them to hide and feel comfortable on both
ends of the cage. Along with a dry “dark” hide they need
a humid container. The most popular is using a throw away container
such as a glad or Tupperware container. Cut a hole in the lid and fill
it with moist peat moss, sphagnum moss, forest bed (Coconut fiber)
or paper towel. This will provide enough humidity to allow the gecko
to shed properly.
and Light - Provide a hot spot of 88 to 90 degrees fahrenheit
on the warm end with the cool side of the cage in the mid 70’s.
It is very important to provide a temperature gradient for the animal.
This is basically having a warm end and a cool end that will allow
the animal to regulate its own body temperature. There are several
different ways to provide proper heat. One is using under tank heating.
This is a strip of heat tape or an under tank heat mat that
runs under the cage. This is probably the best heat as it is direct
belly heat. Another way is to provide a heat lamp with a 40 or 60
watt light bulb. This will give off heat and light. Because leopard
geckos are nocturnal there is no need for special UVB lighting. The
heat source will need to be somehow regulated. This can be achieved
by using a rheostat or dimmer switch allowing you to adjust the temperature.
Make sure to never overheat your geckos. Excessive heat even for
a short period of time can and will most likely be fatal.
Quarantine - Quarantining new animals is very important and
should be practiced by everyone. This is placing new animals separate
from established colonies to make sure they are healthy. They should
be in a separate room using their own items that are not shared with
the established animals. This period should last anywhere from 30 to
90 days. Take care of the quarantined animals last and wash your hands
thoroughly afterwards. If there happens to be a problem with your quarantined
animals it’s easier to treat them than it is your entire collection.
Handling - When holding any animal it’s best to take it
slow. When you first acquire a new animal don’t hold them for
several weeks to several months depending on the individual. This will
allow them to adjust to their new environment. Once they have calmed
down gently hold the gecko by letting it walk across your hand as it
is inside the cage. Once the gecko is familiar with you, you can take
it out and hold it. Remember that too much handling too fast or too
rough of handling can cause stress on the animal. Another thing to
remember is to never grab the tail! If threatened, the tail will detach.
Many reptiles are capable of this defense mechanism. It will grow back
but will look nothing like the original.
Food & Water:
Leopard geckos are insectivores and the most common items used in captivity
are crickets, mealworms, superworms, silkworms and small cockroaches
as a staple diet. The occasional pinkie mouse (only a few days old)
and waxworms can be given as a treat. Pinkie mice should only be
given to full grown adults and are excellent for breeding females.
Not all individuals will eat them but the majority prefer them live.
Feed waxworms sparingly as they can become very addictive to geckos
and not as healthy because they are very fattening. Only feed as
much as the gecko will consume in a given feeding. Depending on the
size of the gecko this can be anywhere from 4 to 8 crickets. Left
over prey running in the cage can cause stress and the gecko might
get nibbled on by hungry insects. Babies should be fed everyday with
adults being fed every other day. If you’re feeding mealworms,
superworms or anything else that can be contained in a dish they
can be left with the animal at all times without harm. The gecko
will only eat what it wants. As a general rule the prey item should
be no larger than half the width of the geckos head to prevent choking.
Gutloading - Make sure to gutload all food items for 24 hours
prior to feeding. Gutloading is feeding very nutritious, high quality
foods to prey prior to feeding to your animals. These can include but
not limited to fruits, vegetables and grains. There are also many commercially
available products that are in powder form. I make and use Pro Gutload
for all my feeders. Gutloading will ensure a healthier insect and in
the long run a healthier gecko. Remember your geckos are what they
Supplementation - Calcium and vitamins are essential for
reptiles. There are many different products on the market but I use
and recommend Rep Cal calcium and herptivite as
my calcium/vitamin supplements. The most common way of offering this
to them is by dusting the prey just before feeding. This can be done
with the “shake and bake” method. Using a plastic bag or
some type of container, add a small amount of calcium/vitamin supplement.
Add a few food items and gently shake the bag until they are covered
in calcium. When dusting crickets make sure to feed them right away
because they clean the calcium off. They are now ready for your geckos
to eat. If you are dish feeding mealworms or superworms you can add
a small amount of calcium to the dish.
Babies should get dusted prey items at least 4 times a week but preferably
at every feeding and adults 2 to 3 times per week. Egg laying females
should also get dusted food items at every feeding as they are absorbing
large amounts of calcium to produce the egg shells. For all ages dust
with calcium that contains vitamin D3 along with the vitamin supplement
once a week. I also provide a dish of pure calcium (that contains no
vitamin D3) that is left in the gecko cage 24/7. If the gecko wants
more calcium they can lick what they want. You may not see your geckos
doing this but believe me they are. Lack of supplementation will eventually
lead to MBD (Metabolic bone disease) and can cause serious problems
with reptiles that can lead to death. Some symptoms include very weak
and lethargic animals that will display soft limbs and bones.
Water - Offer a dish of fresh water at all times. I use a
2 ounce or 4 ounce portion cup for my babies and adults. Keeping the
water fresh is very important so it should be changed regularly. Water
that is stagnant is a breeding ground for bacteria and can cause illness.
Cleanliness is an absolute must especially when keeping several geckos.
The cleaner the cages are the less chance there is of having diseases
spread. So this should be done on a regular basis. If you’re
using paper or paper towel change it every week or sooner if needed.
Change water dishes and give fresh water. Each month you should deep
clean everything including water dishes, hides, the cage and anything
else that may be in it. Chlorhexidine solution is excellent for cleaning
and disinfecting everything.
Leopard geckos are one of the easiest geckos to breed. However before
you attempt breeding keep in mind the amount of time, space and resources
needed to maintain the breeders and babies. What will you do with
the babies if they don’t sell right away? Can you still house
and take care of them? These are just a few things to consider before
attempting breeding. Most people fail to realize this until they
With that being said your breeders need to be ready. Make
sure they are full grown adults, healthy and at a good weight. I recommend
males a minimum of 8 months old and 45 grams and females being a minimum
of 1 year old and 50 grams. Although those are the minimums I prefer
my females to be no less than 60 grams as it will be easier on them.
If your female can be around 2 years old that would be even better
Sexing - Before you can start breeding you’ll need
a sexually matured pair. The good news is that leopard geckos are easy
to sex. There are a few different methods to do this. The easiest way
is to look at the under side of the gecko. The male will have two pronounced
hemipenal bulges behind the vent on the tail side. You can also look
for pre-anal pores that will be in a "V" shape just above
the vent between the hind legs. Females will not have the hemipenal
bulges but may have pre-anal pits rather than enlarged pores. If a
female is obese she may appear to have bulges but it’s just fat.
If you are raising them from a hatchling you can easily sex them (and
know for sure) when they are 20+ grams and around 3 to 4 months old.
Another way to tell is just by looking at them. Males are heavy bodied,
have thicker necks with their heads being broader than a female.
Breeding - Some breeders give a brief cool down period others
Either way works so it’s just what your preference is. Personally
I don’t cool mine. If you do cool them stop feeding a week prior
to a cool down. Gradually lower the temperature until it is 70 to
75 degrees fahrenheit as a high. Do this for about 4 weeks then gradually
raise the temperatures back to normal. Once they are warmed up offer
the pair as much food as they’ll eat so they can gain back the
weight they lost during the cool down. After a few weeks, put the male
with the female. The geckos may mate right away or it might take a
little time. Leave the male with the female for several days and then
take him out. You may need to do this several times until you have
a successful mating. If you don’t cool them just place the male
with the desired females and use the same method as above. It also
if you place the male with the female or visa versa. Both ways will
have the same result.
When you place the pair together the male will be aggressive toward
the female. He will start biting her and if she is not receptive she
will bite back. It may appear as if they are fighting but this is normal
behavior. The male will also shake the tip of his tail very quickly.
This can be loud at times but again it’s normal behavior and
nothing to worry about.
Eggs - Up to 4 weeks after a successful mating the female
will lay her first clutch of eggs. Each clutch will consist of 1 to
2 white oval eggs. Leopard geckos have been known to easily lay 8 clutches
a year with each clutch being laid in 2 to 4 week intervals. Make sure
to provide a suitable container for the female to lay her eggs in.
This is basically the humid hide filled with moist but not saturated
Incubation - After being laid the eggs need to be removed and placed
in an incubator. Leopard gecko eggs are temperature sexed dependent.
This means that you can decide what sex baby you want just by incubating
at a certain temperature. The text below shows the results with the
Female = 80 degrees fahrenheit
50% mix of both sexes = 85 degrees fahrenheit
Male = 90 degrees fahrenheit
The eggs will hatch in 30 to 105 days. Males generally hatch faster
because of the higher temperatures. Females take longer because of
the cooler temperatures. On average incubation for females lasts around
60 days and males around 35 days. For detailed instructions on incubating
leopard gecko eggs visit my “leopard
gecko incubation” page.
Color morphs - One thing that makes leopard geckos so popular
with keepers and breeders alike is the vast amount of colors available.
This has happened over several years and generations of breeding. Some
of these morphs include tangerine, carrot-tail, tremper albino, bell
albino, las vegas (rainwater) albino, stripe, reverse stripe, red stripe,
jungle, giant, APTOR, RAPTOR, mack snow, line bred snow, patternless,
enigma, eclipse, and blizzards just to name a few. All these morphs
plus many others have been crossed with one another creating so many
different variations. They all have their own unique look making the
leopard gecko one of the most majestic species in captivity.
Leopard geckos have become one of the most popular geckos in the world
and have won the hearts of thousands of people. From the novice keeper
to the experienced breeder they create joy and excitement. As time
goes on they are just gaining in popularity and will continue to
be one of the most kept reptiles in captivity. I hope this care sheet
has given you a good idea of what leopard geckos are about and I
hope you take as much pride in keeping these creatures as I do.
The Herpetoculture of Leopard Geckos by Philippe de Vosjoli, Ron Tremper and