Longevity: 15-20 years
Temperature Gradient: 68-90f (20-32c)
Humidity: 30-40% (a humid hide should be always available)
Disposition: Do not usually mind handling
Cleaning: Spot clean daily, full clean every 4-6 weeks (unless living in an established bioactive enclosure)
The leopard gecko originates from Iran, South Eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan and South eastern India, where it can be found inhabiting rocky, arid grassland and semi-desert areas. Leopard geckos are crepuscular, meaning that they are usually active during the twilight hours. They are often found hiding or sleeping in burrows and under rocks during the day, until they emerge at dusk and begin hunting for food. They will usually hide away again as the sun begins to rise the following dawn. Wild leopard geckos are usually yellow with black spots however, selective breeding in captivity has so far, seen hundreds of different 'morphs' with variations found in not only bodily colouration and patterning, but also eye colour and patterns too. In the wild they are an opportunistic feeder, taking whatever prey they come across. Their breeding season in the wild usually occurs from January to September, with periods of brumation (a hibernation like state) occurring between October and December.
Leopard geckos usually reach adult lengths of 6 – 10 inches however, some there are Giant or 'Godzilla' specimens available that can attain lengths of nearly 12 inches. For a normal sized leopard gecko a vivarium of 90 x 40 x 40cm will suffice, for a Giant or Godzilla a 120 x 40 x 40cm would be more suitable. Glass or wooden vivariums can both be used successfully, providing that the correct temperature gradients are maintained using the appropriate, guarded heat sources, thermometers and thermostats. Hiding areas will be required to ensure the gecko feels comfortable and safe within its environment and one hide at either end of the vivarium should be provided.
Impaction is a fairly common problem seen within captive leopard geckos where uvb is not used within the enclosure. An impaction is caused when an animal swallows something which becomes stuck in the gut, causing an obstruction. The most common culprits for causing this often lethal problem, are substrates such as calci-sand and beech chips. It is recommended in order to significantly decrease the risk of impaction with this species, to always use uvb with your leopard gecko, as they cannot absorb calcium properly without it. A lack of calcium is what usually causes them to ingest the substrate looking for a calcium boost. With hatchlings, using reptile carpet, newspaper or paper towels is highly recommended until they are approx. 6 months old. Reptile carpet is easily cleaned as it can be hand washed using a reptile suitable disinfectant such as F10 which contains no dyes or perfumes. Paper towels or newspaper can be quickly and easily changed and are undoubtedly the most hygienic way in which to keep a hatchling, convalescing or quarantined reptile, as everything is disposed of and replaced. It is also easy when using these types of substrates to keep an eye out for things such as mites and to collect stool samples, which are recommended to be checked annually for internal parasites. When you are looking to change onto a particulate substrate we would recommend ‘Leo Life’ or ‘Desert Sand’. Providing as naturalistic environment as possible once your reptile is old enough is undoubtedly the best thing you can do for your pets general wellbeing and welfare.
A hot spot/basking area of 90f (32c) should be provided in one area of the vivarium, with cooler temperatures elsewhere being maintained at around 70-75f (21-23c) during the day. Night-time temperatures should be allowed to drop to around 70f (21c). Having these hot and cold areas within the vivarium will allow your pet to 'thermoregulate', choosing to move freely in and out of the heat. Allowing the temperatures to drop at night will provide your pet with a clear day and night cycle, encouraging their natural behaviours. Heat bulbs and heat mats can be used to achieve the necessary temperatures however, they must be guarded and used in conjunction with a suitable thermostat. Thermostats ensure that heat sources reach and maintain the recommended temperatures within the hot and cold areas thus allowing your pet to metabolise correctly. Thermostats save lives and also save your electric! Guarding of the heat sources is an especially important (and often overlooked) aspect of a vivarium set up providing safety for your pet. Unguarded heat sources which are not thermostatically controlled, lead to vets seeing and treating pet reptiles with burns which could have easily been prevented.
With this species of gecko being crepuscular, they are naturally subjected to low levels of UVB at dusk and dawn. A 2.0 compact or strip bulb can be used with a reflector, to ensure that your pet can benefit from the same levels of UVB they would have in the wild. Studies have shown that these lizards will absorb UVB mainly through their tails and they have evolved and adapted to do so for a reason. Like us, a reptiles skin is responsible for producing vitamin D. Upon providing your pet with UVB, you are recreating its natural exposure to sunlight whereby the UV penetrates the skin. Under the influence of the correct temperatures within the vivarium, it allows the pro vitamin D3 which your reptile has produced to change to pre vitamin D3. It is impossible for the body to absorb and use calcium without Vitamin D. It is recommended to provide your pet with a natural way of creating D3 alongside supplementation, to prevent against commonly seen and preventable diseases such and MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) and calcium deficiency.
When a leopard gecko is hiding during the day in the wild under a rock or in a burrow, it is in a humid microclimate within its natural semi-desert environment. This microclimate can effectively be recreated in a vivarium by simply cutting a big enough hole in the front of an appropriately sized margarine container. Sphagnum moss placed inside any such lidded container will hold its moisture much more efficiently than if just placed under an open bottomed hide. It will aid your gecko in not only shedding, but also staying adequately hydrated as geckos have very thin skin which easily absorbs moisture. Another quite common problem seen in captive leopard geckos is shed stuck round their digits, or worse, the loss of their digits completely. This happens when a humid hide is either not provided at all, or the moss is not sprayed regularly enough to keep it damp and alive, therefore maintaining high levels of humidity within the hide. The stuck skin around the digits acts like a torniquet and restricts the blood flow to the digit and eventually the digit falls off. If shed is stuck around other parts of the body for long periods of time and left it can cause infections. If stuck around the eyes, it can cause the gecko to lose their vision or even lose the eye completely. A healthy gecko with an adequate humid hide should never need assistance shedding its skin.
Hatchling geckos will require daily feeds of appropriately sized insects, juveniles 4-6 times a week and adults can be fed 3-4 times a week. The general rule is to offer the gecko live food no bigger than the gap between his/her eyes. Live food should always be dusted with a good quality straight calcium supplement one day, and then a calcium/multivitamin plus D3 the next day. The reason for alternating the supplements is to prevent against hypervitaminosis which can be caused from excessive amounts of synthetic vitamins. Live food should always be gut loaded before being fed to your reptile. In the wild the insects a lizard eats will in turn have been off eating its own food, resulting in both fresh and partially digested food in the insect gut. Your reptile will benefit from these extra nutrients. Fish food, crushed dog/cat biscuits and fresh fruit and vegetables can all be offered to your crickets, mealworms and morio worms. Locusts prefer plenty of fresh leafy greens and waxworms will only eat a honey-based feed. Recipes for waxworm feed can be found online and this can be made in bulk, frozen and thawed.
A bowl of fresh, clean drinking water should always be provided and refreshed daily. Ensure your dish is not too deep as your lizard could drown. Filtered water and spring water can be offered.
Regular cleaning or your pets enclosure is of course a very important aspect which will ensure your pets health. Daily ‘spot cleaning’ of the enclosure will be necessary to remove any faeces etc. Full cleaning of the enclosure where the substrate is removed, and the decoration is thoroughly cleaned, should also happen on a regular basis. When cleaning the décor or glass, use a reptile suitable disinfectant such as F10 which contains no dyes or perfumes. Ensure fresh clean water is always available to your pet. Food bowls and water dishes should be disinfected and wiped daily.
As previously mentioned, two supplements will need to be used to coat the live food before it is offered to your reptile. One should be a straight calcium carbonate powder (with no extra added vitamins), the other should be a multivitamin with D3. The latter is essential in preventing against metabolic bone disease (MBD). You can feed a reptile as much calcium as it'll take, but unless it has D3 either made naturally under the influence of its UVB light, or artificially in the form of supplementation, your reptile will be able to absorb its calcium. It is advisable to put a pot of calcium powder in a shallow dish in the vivarium to allow your gecko to take a lick as and when it feels the need. You may only very occasionally see your gecko take the powder, if at all, but it is important that your gecko, especially growing hatchlings and adult females, always have access to calcium. If you use a good quality UVB light however, ensure that this is replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and gut load your insects really well with a nutritionally complete feed, you should only need to use a straight calcium supplement. It is much better for your reptile to be able to metabolise D3 naturally under the influence of a UVB light, than to be given artificial D3.
This species does not mind regular handling. Being crepuscular, they are best handled in the evenings when their vivarium lights switch off and they would naturally be awake. Geckos can drop their tails if they feel threatened (known as caudal autonomy, an evolutionary defence mechanism), therefore gentle handling is recommended, avoiding the tail. If dropped, their tail will regenerate, however it will most likely be much more stumpy than the original tail.
An annual vet check is recommended so that a qualified, reptile specialist vet can give your pet a thorough examination. Your reptile can pick up internal parasites from their live food, therefore it is advisable to take along a fresh stool sample with you to your annual vet consultation so this can be lab checked for internal parasites. As previously mentioned, a weekly health check should be done at home to ensure that none of the following are observed: Prolonged failure to feed in conjunction with weight loss or loss of condition Unresponsiveness/lethargy Dull, sunken eyes, or discharge of the eyes Discharge or bubbles from the nostrils Redness, swelling, scabs or discharge from in or around the mouth Gasping, popping or wheezing when breathing Redness, swelling, lumps or open wounds anywhere on the body Dirt or discharge around the vent If any of the above are noticed, either contact us here at Riverview Reptiles or contact a reptile specialist veterinarian for further advise. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch