gecko-care

Leopard Gecko Care Sheet

January 29, 2021

leopard gecko

Leopard Geckos (Eublepharis macularius) are 7-10” long, nocturnal geckos native to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and surrounding countries. They prefer semi-desert and arid grassland habitats, and are primarily terrestrial (ground-dwelling).

Leopard geckos are stout lizards with a large, blunt head, large eyes, a robust body, segmented tail, and long toes. Unlike most other geckos, they have eyelids, and they do not have sticky feet. Their pattern is typically mustard yellow with small black spots, although thanks to captive breeding, they are now available in a wide variety of colors and patterns (morphs).

Leopard geckos generally make good pets due to their docile temperament and high tolerance of humans. With good care, a pet leopard gecko can live 20+ years.

Minimum terrarium size for leopard geckos

The minimum terrarium size for a leopard gecko is 36”L x 18”W x 16”H, or a 40 gallon breeder tank. Of course, larger is always better — if you provide, they will use it!

Housing multiple leopard geckos in the same terrarium is not recommended, and may result in fighting and injuries if attempted.

Do leopard geckos need UVB?

Technically they can survive without it, but they are healthier when it is provided. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your gecko needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits. 

The best UVB bulbs for leopard geckos in a 36x18x16 enclosure are:

For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp, 12-14” above the basking area.

UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window isn’t “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!

Lights should be on for 14 hours/day during summer and 10 hours/day during winter. This should be done gradually to simulate seasonal changes in day length, and helps regulate your gecko’s hormonal rhythm for better health.

Best temperature for leopard geckos

Leopard geckos should have a basking surface temperature of 94-97°F, warm hide temperature of 90°F, cool side temperature between 70-77°F, and nighttime temps no lower than 60°F. Heat sources should be turned off at night.

You can provide heat for your gecko with a heat mat (no larger than 1/3 of the floor space) or halogen heat bulb. Halogen heat bulbs are better at imitating sunlight, and considered to be a superior form of reptile heating by experts. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective.

For best results, place a hide box under the heat lamp, covered with a flat piece of stone to act as a basking surface. Measure temperatures with a digital probe thermometer, with the probe placed inside the warm hide. 

Best humidity levels for leopard geckos

Leopard geckos do best in an environment with 30-40% average humidity, as measured by a digital probe hygrometer with the probe in the middle of the terrarium. However, they also need access to a humid hideout lined with moist substrate or sphagnum moss to give them a place to go when they need more moisture, such as when they’re shedding.

Best substrate for leopard geckos

Solid substrates like slate tile and terrarium mats are popular with leopard geckos because of the myth that geckos will get impacted if housed on a “loose” substrate. However, this is only a danger with unhealthy animals. If you’re nervous, you can certainly use a solid substrate, but it’s best to use a naturalistic loose substrate.

“Loose” substrates that mimic a reptile’s natural environment present a low impaction risk, cushion the animal’s joints, and offer a place where they can exercise natural burrowing behaviors.

We recommend the following substrates for leopard geckos:

Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity.

Substrate should be at least 4” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.

How to decorate a leopard gecko terrarium

An empty terrarium leads to a bored gecko. Keep your gecko entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors.

At bare minimum, you will need at least three hides/“caves” for the gecko to use. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:

What to feed to a leopard gecko

Leopard geckos are insectivores, which means that they need to eat a variety of insects to get the right nutrition. Juvenile leopard geckos should be fed every day, young adults should be fed every 2-3 days, and adults should be fed every 3-5 days depending on body condition.

Offer 2 insects per 1 inch of your gecko’s length, or however much they will eat in 15 minutes. Insects should be roughly the size of the space between the gecko’s eyes.

Feeder insects for leopard geckos: dubia roaches, discoid roaches, red runner roaches, crickets, black soldier fly larvae, hornworms, mealworms, superworms

Supplements

You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to help keep your gecko healthy. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all of your gecko’s feeder insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.

Water

Of course, don’t forget a small water bowl for your gecko to drink from! Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.

How to handle your leopard gecko

Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. That being said, leopard geckos tend to tolerate human interaction well. Here are some tips for success:

  • Don’t grab the gecko from above. Instead, scoop from below.
  • Support as much of its body as possible, especially the feet.
  • Start with short handling sessions at first, then gradually make them longer.
  • Put the gecko back in its enclosure only when it’s calm.


*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet! Here are some great sources we recommend:

  • The ReptiFiles Leopard Gecko Care Guide
  • Der LeopardGecko
  • Leopard Gecko - Advancing Husbandry

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