In this leopard gecko care guide, we aim to provide all the necessary info so you can confidently start off your reptile-owning journey.
- Getting to Know Leopard Gecko Behavior
- Habitat Basics
- Leopard Gecko Diet
- Health and Wellness
- Buying Leopard Geckos Online
- Leopard Gecko Care FAQs
Types of Leopard Geckos
There are several different types of leopard geckos, and they come in a variety of colors and patterns. Some of the most common morphs include:
- Leopard gecko
- Albino leopard gecko
- High yellow leopard gecko
- Patternless leopard gecko
All leopard geckos have a long tail, and they range in size from 6 to 12 inches long. They typically weigh between 35 and 60 grams. The color and pattern of their skin can vary depending on the type of leopard gecko. Some have spots or stripes, while others are solid in color.
Getting To Know Your Leopard Gecko’s Behavior
Leopard geckos are a popular choice for a pet lizard. They are docile, easy to care for, and have a long lifespan. They typically live for 10-15 years, but some have been known to live up to 20 years. Leopard geckos like to hide in dark places, and will often curl up in a tight ball when they feel threatened.
Leopard geckos are neither nocturnal nor diurnal, instead coming out during dawn and dusk. During the day, they like to hide in their cool spots and sleep. When it gets dark outside, leopard geckos will come out to hunt for food. They are insectivores, which means they eat insects. Their diet should consist of live insects, such as crickets or mealworms.
Leopard geckos are very social creatures and enjoy being around other leopard geckos. They can be kept in pairs or groups, as they will often interact with each other. Leopard geckos will sometimes wrestle or play with each other. If you have more than one leopard gecko, it is important to provide them with plenty of hiding spots so they can have their own space if needed.
Putting two males in the same enclosure can sometimes result in fighting, so it’s best to keep males in separate enclosures. But, you can keep two females together. And pairing a male and a female leopard gecko should only be done once they’ve both reached maturity.
Leopard geckos are easy to tame and make great pets. They are gentle creatures that are not aggressive, and they rarely bite. If you handle your leopard gecko regularly, they will become used to you and may even enjoy being petted. Leopard geckos make great first pets for those looking for an easy-to-care-for lizard.
Leopard Gecko Habitat Basics
The most important part of any reptile care article is the section about habitat setup. After all, that’s where your pet reptile will spend all of its time, so you want to make sure that everything is perfect.
If you’ve had reptiles in the past, then you know the importance of temperature, lighting, and humidity specifications. Get one of those three off by just a little, and it can have a big impact on your scaly friend!
Here’s a quick run-down of how to build a leopard gecko habitat.
Where bearded dragons and frilled-neck lizards require UVB lighting to help regulate their natural biorhythms, leopard geckos don’t. In their natural environment, leopard geckos are crepuscular, which means they are neither nocturnal nor diurnal, thriving instead during low-light times of the day like dusk or dawn.
As such, leopard geckos don’t require additional UVB light to regulate their body functions or anything like that, so lighting in your terrarium is optional.
You could choose to place your leopard gecko terrarium near a window or an area with good natural light, that way your gecko still has a sense of the natural light cycle.
Alternatively, you could provide a small lamp to illuminate around the terrarium during the day and turn it off during the night, but that would only really be for your benefit.
Long-story-short, lighting isn’t entirely necessary for leopard geckos, so avoid harsh lighting, UVB lights, or LEDs that can impact your gecko’s sense of time.
Even though leopard geckos aren’t dependent on light as much as other reptiles, they still need to use their environment to help regulate their internal body temperature.
When setting up your leopard gecko terrarium, you need to have what’s known as a temperature gradient. One end of the tank should be warmer than the other, with a hotspot for your leopard gecko to bask.
It can be difficult to create a good temperature gradient in a small terrarium, but if you use ceramic lights or heating pads, you can easily create a basking area.
To create a cool area, you’ll need to provide some shade. There are some products you can buy to simulate caves or tunnels. A lot of people like to use foliage to create shady cool spots, but leopard geckos come from a primarily arid climate, and too much foliage can impact the humidity.
Ideal temperatures for leopard geckos include:
- 75 to 85°F during the day
- 85 to 90°F basking area
- Around 70°F at night
Despite some misconceptions, leopard geckos don’t only need hot, arid climates to thrive. A small amount of humidity is actually beneficial for them, as it helps regulate their skin conditions. Leopard geckos molt, just like snakes and other reptiles, and humid conditions help to loosen their skin, making it easier to shed.
Leopard geckos should have a tank humidity between 30% and 40%, with an additional wet area that has a higher humidity.
Wondering how to make a higher humidity region? Well, using the same cave terrain you got for the cooler side of the terrarium, you can create a nice, damp area for your leopard gecko to molt. Fill the bottom of the structure with peat moss and spray it with some water. Peat moss will retain moisture, so it will create a nice wet area for your leopard gecko to rest.
Choosing a substrate is a tricky process, especially if you’ve never had to make a reptile terrarium before. There are so many different substrates out there, all of which have different purposes–and, of course, every reptile owner has their preference.
For leopard geckos, the kind of substrate you need depends on the age of the gecko. Juveniles need a substrate that’s easy to clean and isn’t enticing to eat.
Brown packaging paper or paper towels are good starter substrates because they’re easy to clean up and readily accessible.
As your leopard gecko grows, you want to acclimate them to a more natural environment. This can include creating a bioactive environment (mimicking natural soil patterns and native foilage) or laying down a sand-mat. Of course, you can go the other route and lay down stone slabs or composite materials as a solid base and add foliage on top.
In general, you want to make sure that you’re not providing any substrate that could be potentially harmful. Loose sand is dangerous because it can cause impaction, and gravel is hard on your reptile’s skin.
To learn more about what kinds of reptile substrates are available, check out our Substrate Guide!
Leopard Gecko Diet
Live insects should make up the majority of your leopard gecko’s diet. They can eat crickets, mealworms, grasshoppers, and other small insects.
It is important to dust the insects with a calcium supplement before feeding them to your leopard gecko. This will help prevent health problems associated with a lack of calcium in their diet. A good cadence for this practice is 3-4 times per week.
You can also offer your leopard gecko occasional treats, such as wax worms or pinkie mice. These should be given sparingly, as they are high in fat and can cause health problems if eaten too often.
When feeding your leopard gecko, it’s important to mimic their natural eating habits as much as possible. In the wild, geckos can go a few days without food, sustaining themselves on the fat stored in their tails.
As such, we recommend feeding your gecko once every two days. On their feeding day, give them crickets, dubia, or mealworms a few times during the course of the day, but don’t mistake your gecko’s eagerness for hunger. Baby leopard geckos in particular are quite greedy, and if fed too often will become obese.
Fresh water should be available at all times. A water bowl that is big enough for your leopard gecko to soak in is ideal. Leopard geckos will often drink from their water bowl when they are shedding their skin.
Leopard Gecko Care: Health and Wellness
Leopard geckos are generally healthy animals, but they can be prone to a few common illnesses. Some of the most common illnesses include:
Infections: Infections can occur in any part of the body and can be caused by bacteria, fungus, or parasites. Symptoms include swelling, redness, discharge, and itchiness.
Calcium deficiency: A lack of calcium in the diet can lead to health problems such as weak bones, soft teeth, and muscle spasms. Symptoms include poor appetite, weakness, and seizures.
Metabolic bone disease: Also known as malnutrition, metabolic bone disease is caused by a lack of essential vitamins and minerals in the diet. It can lead to stunted growth, deformed bones, and muscle weakness.
Impaction: Impaction occurs when your leopard gecko eats substrate that is too big for them to digest. The substrate can block their intestines, causing constipation, weight loss, and lethargy.
If you suspect your leopard gecko is sick, take them to the vet as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent serious health problems.
To prevent most of these issues, you have to be attentive with your leopard gecko’s diet. Plus, cleaning their tank regularly can decrease the chances of impaction and infections from bacteria.
Buying Leopard Geckos Online
Buying anything online can be a hit or miss, but a lot of people get especially worried about ordering reptiles online. It’s understandable! We certainly wouldn’t want to be trapped in an enclosure on the move, either.
But, all of the places to buy leopard geckos online have been verified for integrity, animal safety, and on-time delivery.
All reptile outlets worth their weight offer a live-arrival guarantee, which means expedited, overnight shipping so you have your new pet the next day!
The online reptile store we recommend for buying leopard geckos is XYZReptiles. They feature high-quality pets at a very affordable price.
Leopard Gecko Care FAQs
Not particularly. Albino leopard geckos are more sensitive to heat than other reptiles, so it’s important to have a distinct warm side and cool side of their enclosure. Other than that, make sure to monitor the humidity (should be between 30-40%) and feed your albino leopard gecko a diet of insects.
If you happen to have a malnourished leopard gecko, it’s very important that you consult with your veterinarian. There might be a specific cause of their malnourished behavior, but generally the vet will probably tell you to feed them a diet of crickets, dubia, and mealworms, along with some reptile calcium (with D3) and reptile multivitamins (without D3). But, check with your vet before using this feeding method.
Yes! Leopard geckos often only need a 10 gallon tank, which makes set-up easy. Plus, they live primarily on insects, so feeding them is an easy routine. Compared to other reptiles, like bearded dragons or chameleons, leopard geckos are pretty easy to care for.
Leopard geckos in general are fairly inexpensive, usually under $100. But, getting the right tank, heating elements, humidity and temperature gauges, as well as food and vitamins, you can expect to pay at least $300 for initial set-up. As far as pet lizards go, leopard geckos are some of the least expensive to care for.
Leopard geckos are social creatures, so it’s a good idea to keep them in pairs or groups of three. When housing leopard geckos, don’t keep more than one male in the enclosure. Two or even three females can live together, also.
You should only pair male and female leopard geckos together once they’ve both reached maturity. When they’re young, the male will often steal the female’s food to assert his dominance, which can negatively impact the female’s development.