Natural History of the Leopard Gecko
The leopard gecko, Eublepharis macularius, is native to south central Asia from southern Afghanistan, throughout Pakistan and northwestern India. In the wild they are nocturnal and hide under rocks or burrows during the day. Winter temperatures can get down to 50°F forcing them to brumate. They breed readily in captivity and most are now captive born in the United States. Many color variations are available. Leopard geckos weigh 45 to 80 grams, are 20 to 25 cm in length, with males being larger than females, and can live twenty to almost thirty years. Leopard geckos can be affected by a variety of diseases and this article discusses the 10 most common problems.
Diet for the Leopard Gecko
- Crickets should be staple part of the diet for Leopard Geckos, but they can also be fed waxworms, earthworms, mealworm larvae or wild-caught insects such as fruit flies, flies, moths or grasshoppers in small amounts.
- Adults should be fed every 2-4 days and the insects should be dusted with a calcium/Vitamin D 3 supplement twice weekly and every other week with a multivitamin.
- We recommend using “Rep-Cal”, from Zoo-med, as a supplement.
- Insectivore diets are naturally low in calcium and many insects sold as “gut-loaded” are not fed an appropriately calcium rich diet prior to being sold. When purchasing insects, it is VERY important for you to feed them a good meal prior to feeding the insects to your gecko.
- T-rex Calcium plus food for crickets and Mazuri Hi-Ca Cricket diet are two commercially available options.
- As adults, female leopard geckos especially like pink mice. Start with 1–2 day old pinks until they are comfortable eating pinkies. Males prefer pinkies less.
- Train your leopard gecko to eat the crickets from a “feeding station”.
- Place a ceramic crock, or other heavy bowl in the cage and place a few crickets in it for the gecko to eat.
- You may have to move the gecko closer to the bowl the first few times so that he catches on.
- The advantage to a feeding station is that you can easily remove any uneaten insects and the gecko is less likely to consume particulate substrate such as sand (if you are using one).
Water Recommendations for Leopard Geckos
- Offer fresh water daily in a water dish large enough for the lizard to soak its entire body in.
- Additional soaks in shallow warm water for 15-20 minutes 2-3 times a week are helpful, especially during a shed.
- If he will not go into the water on his own, place him in a shallow container 2-3 times a weak to force soak.
Housing and Substrate for Leopard Geckos
- Leopard geckos do well in small 10 or 20 gallon aquariums with built in screen tops.
- Males should not be housed with other males as they fight resulting in serious wounds and mutilation\
- Paper towels, newspaper, indoor/outdoor carpet or a paper pulp product or orchid bark are the safest.
- Avoid sand, as this is very drying to the environment, and many geckos will accidentally ingest sand, causing life-threatening impactions.
- Provide a “moisture station” by placing sphagnum peat moss, soaked in water in the bottom of his hide rock
- Keep this moistened daily, and change the peat moss a minimum of once a week (every 2-3 days, or even daily is ideal).
Heating and Lighting Recommendations for Leopard Geckos
- Provide heat with an under the tank heater and an incandescent light bulb (40-75watt) or a ceramic heater.
- Temperatures should reach 80-88 degrees F on the warm side and 70-75 degrees on the cool side.
- Always measure temperature at the bottom of the cage and/or at the basking site where your gecko actually sits!
We hope this information helps you understand husbandry and care of leopard geckos. Please see your veterinarian for more information or visit us at one of our MedVet locations.
See also, Common Diseases of Leopard Geckos.
Sources and Additional Information for Leopard Gecko Care and Husbandry
- Dr. Melissa Kaplan’s Herp Care: http://www.anapsid.org/leopardgek.html
- Lafeber Vet: http://www.lafebervet.com/emergency-medicine/herps/leopard-gecko-eublepharis-macularius-basic-information-sheet/
- Veterinary Partner: http://www.veterinarypartner.com