Temperatures And Lighting
Leopard geckos are native to the rocky, dry highlands and grasslands of Asia, Northern and Western India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. Their natural habitat includes sandy gravel, rocky outcrops, and drought-resistant shrubbery.
Average lifespan for a female leopard gecko is 7-10 years and 10-15 years for a male. This is because males aren't put through the stress of producing and laying eggs, which takes a toll on the animal's body.
When they are born, hatchlings measure 3 to 4 inches long. As adults, females will reach 7 to 8 inches on average, and males are 8 to 10 inches on average. If it is from the giant genetic bloodline, an adult male may reach nearly a foot in length.
Appearance & Genetics
Leopard geckos come in a wide variety of colors and patterning, called "morphs". These morphs are determined by the gecko's genetic makeup and are achieved by breeding geckos with certain genetics. Some examples of common genetics & morphs include RAPTOR, Sunglow, Diablo Blanco, Black Night, Blizzard, Blazing Blizzard, Murphy's Patternless, Mack Snow, Hypo, Super-hypo, Tangerine, Emerine, Bandit, Eclipse, and Enigma.
Minimum recommended tank size is 10 gallons for 1 adult leopard gecko. Ideal tank size is 20 gallon long (30" L x 12" W x 12" H) and can house 1-2 adult geckos.
Leopard Gecko Care Info
Ideal temperatures range from 84-90ºF (28-32ºC) during the day and 69-74ºF (20-22ºC) at night. Heat pads are ideal for leopard geckos, as they provide belly heat to help the gecko digest their food and also require less wattage than heat bulbs and coils. It is recommended to use a thermostat with heat pads to help monitor and control their heat output. Heat lamps also work but are less energy efficient, more expensive over time, and can be hard on their eyes, especially if they are albino.Leopard geckos do not require special lighting as long as proper temperatures are maintained.
You'll want at least 3 places for your gecko to hide, called "hides". The recommended setup is 1 warm/dry hide right next to their heat source, 1 moist hide further away from the heat source, and 1 cool/dry hide as far away from the heat source as possible. These hides are extremely important to your gecko's well-being, as they help it regulate its body temperate to digest food, feel safe and comfortable, and the moist hide also helps it shed its skin by providing extra humidity. You can use a variety of things for hides: rock caves, logs, and tupperwares are all fair game and work well.
Cohabitation is the practice of housing more than 1 gecko together. It is appropriate only under the right circumstances and will only work with laid-back geckos that are not aggressive. Two adult male leopard geckos should never be housed together, as they will fight until one is badly injured or dead. Adult females that are not aggressive can usually be safely housed together, but not always. If any aggression between geckos occurs, separate them immediately! If you are planning on trying to cohabitate your geckos, make sure to provide plenty of hides for them to choose from.
DIET & FEEDING
A leopard gecko's diet should mostly consist of live mealworms, superworms, small dubia roaches, crickets, and wax worms. Wax worms should only be offered occassionally as a treat, as they are very fatty and addictive. Leopard geckos usually will not eat freeze-dried worms or crickets and prefer live food that moves. Small/medium dubia roaches are the most nutritious food (see chart below).
Make sure to "gutload" your leopard gecko's food by feeding it carrots, spinach, or special gutload mix found at pet stores before feeding to your pet. When feeding, also make sure to dust your feeders with calcium + vitamin D3 powder. This is essential for their health and prevents MBD (see Common Health Issues below). It is often helpful to use feeding tongs when offering live prey to your gecko. This reduces the chance of your gecko accidentally biting you and also promotes better hygiene.
SELECTING A GECKO
When picking out a healthy gecko, make sure it has a nice fat tail, which indicates it is healthy and has been eating well. All of its toes & toenails should be intact, which indicates it has not been having trouble shedding. It should walk straight and without a limp or wobble, confirming that it does not have MBD (metabolic bone disease). It's eyes should be clean, fully open, and alert; indicates no diseases, trouble shedding, or past fights with other geckos or animals. It is also suggested to make sure the gecko tolerates handling before purchasing it, if you plan on handling it. This is especially important if children are handling the gecko! If you are looking for a gecko, make sure to browse our list of gecko breeders.
HANDLING, TAMING & BEHAVIOR
Placing your hand in your gecko's tank and letting it crawl on you is the best way to start taming your gecko and getting it used to your presence. This can also be used to gauge its temperament towards you. If your gecko arches its back slightly and starts to draw its head back, this is a sign of aggression or fear. When handling your gecko, make sure to minimize the distance between your hands and the floor, especially if it is a hard wood or concrete floor or if you have a jumpy gecko. Never close your hand around the gecko! This can cause internal injuries. Always sanitize your hands both before and after handling your gecko.
When transporting your gecko while driving, remove the gecko from its tank and place the gecko in a tupperware or critter keeper with holes. Do not transport the gecko inside its regular tank, as the contents can shift during transport and injure your gecko.
COMMON HEALTH ISSUES
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) occurs when a gecko does not receive enough calcium in its diet. This leads to a softening of its bones, making it easier for the gecko's bones to break. Once severe, the damage will become permanent and the gecko will have trouble walking and shedding. Make sure to gutload & dust your feeders with calcium + vitamin D3 to avoid this!
Stuck shed can cause loss of circulation to toes & eventual loss of toes after a few days. Normally this is caused by not having a moist hide in the gecko's tank to help it shed and can also be exacerbated by other diseases and conditions like metabolic bone disease (MBD) and poor husbandry. This common problem is usually easily fixed with 10-15 minute soak in warm water. If the stuck shed persists, try gently tugging on it when it's wet.
Tail loss is a defense mechanism for leopard geckos and is somewhat common. If grabbed or if something is dropped on it or if they are feeling threatened in general, a leopard gecko can drop their tail by flexing special connecting tissues that connect it to the rest of their body. Very little blood loss occurs, if any, because the blood vessels leading to the tail are constricted during this process. The tail will wiggle on its own for several minutes. If your gecko drops its tail, it is very important to practice clean hygiene to prevent infection. Paper towel substrate changed daily or every other day is recommended, as well as additional feeding since the gecko no longer can rely on fat deposits stored in its tail for nourishment. Its tail will grow back, but it will take time and a clean environment is needed to ensure that its stump won't become infected as the new tail grows in. The new tail will also look slightly different, but function just the same.
(Read more on leopard gecko tail loss)
Cryptosporidiosis ("Crypto") is a diarrheal disease caused by the microscopic parasites cryptosporidium. Characterized by black stomach and very foul-smelling stool. Luckily not communicable to humans. Almost always untreatable, but symptoms can be minimized with clean hygiene techniques (i.e. paper towel substrate, changed daily) and rehydration. Most reptile vets will suggest euthanasia to help prevent the disease from potentially spreading to other reptiles and since it is virtually untreatable.
Pinworms are the Enterobius parasite and are contracted usually by contact with surface covered with their microscopic eggs. Symptoms include discomfort and red, swollen vent. A visit to your local reptile vet is recommended.
Mouth rot (infectious stomatitis) is a symptom of multiple diseases. It can be caused by cricket bites or poor tank hygiene. A visit to your local reptile vet is recommended.
Leopard geckos are not known to carry Salmonella, as it is usually only found in aquatic animals.