How to Care for Your Leopard Lizard

Leopard Lizard Care Sheet

Long-nosed leopard lizards (Gambelia wislizenii) are 9-11” long, diurnal, terrestrial lizards native to the western US and northern Mexico. They prefer arid habitats such as desert scrub and dry grassland with rock terrain. Although they are dependent on the presence of clump grasses and shrubs in their environment, they avoid areas with dense plant life.

Long-nosed leopard lizards tend to have a fairly slim and athletic build, with a large, blunt head; a rounded midsection; fairly long, muscular legs; and a long, slender tail. Color is generally light to dark tan with a pale belly and darker markings, but exact patterning varies depending on locality. 

Leopard lizards are not common pets, and not very handleable, but they do make a good display species for someone looking for a small, active lizard. With good care, they may live up to 7 years or possibly beyond.

Minimum terrarium size for leopard lizards

The absolute minimum enclosure size for a single leopard lizard is 36” x 24” x 24”. However, leopard lizards are very active, so if you can provide larger, such as a 48" x 24" x 24", your pet will absolutely use the extra space!

It is possible to successfully house multiple leopard lizards together. For best results, do not house leopard lizards of different sizes together, as they are cannibalistic. You also must provide a significantly larger enclosure than the minimum. However, cohabitation is optional. Your lizard will be just fine having the terrarium all to itself!

Do leopard lizards need UVB?

Yes! Leopard lizards require UVB lighting for their survival. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits.

The best UVB bulbs for a leopard lizard housed in a 36” long enclosure are:

For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture by Arcadia or Vivarium Electronics. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp. The UVB should be mounted over mesh, 11-13” above the basking platform.

Leopard lizards are also likely to benefit from plant grow lights as part of their environment as well. Add a ~6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent grow lamp to provide extra illumination, as well as help any live plants in the enclosure to thrive.

Lights should be on for 10 hours/day during winter and 14 hours/day during summer to simulate seasonal changes in day length. All lamps should be turned off at night.

Best temperature for leopard lizards

Leopard lizards need a basking air temperature between 90-105°F, and 75-80°F on the cool side. Average air temperature in the middle of the enclosure should be around 85°F. Temperatures should be measured via digital probe thermometer. For best results, use a flat piece of stone such as flagstone, paver stone, or unpolished stone tile as the basking surface.

Provide heat for your lizard with a halogen heat bulb placed above the basking branch. Halogen bulbs are the best way to imitate the warmth of sunlight indoors, 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.

Best humidity levels for leopard lizards

Humidity isn’t something to worry about too much with this species. A good average is between 30-40%, but as long as you have a humid hideout or burrow available, they should be fine. Keep track of humidity levels with a digital probe hygrometer placed in the middle of the terrarium, and mist occasionally with a spray bottle.

Best substrate for leopard lizards

Substrate (aka bedding) covers the floor of the terrarium and helps make the enclosure more attractive, but it also helps maintain healthy joints and provides something for your lizard to dig in (which they love to do!)

We recommend the following substrates for leopard lizards:

Substrate should be at least 8” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.

For best results, keep the substrate slightly moistened and make sure the enclosure is well ventilated.

How to decorate a leopard lizard terrarium

An empty enclosure makes for a bored leopard lizard, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet  entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!

Since leopard lizards are a terrestrial species that prefers sparse terrain, at bare minimum you will need a flat basking stone and a couple of reptile caves. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:

What to feed to a leopard lizard

Leopard lizards are carnivores, and they need both vertebrate and invertebrate prey to get the right nutrition for their bodies. Prey (preferably live) should be offered every morning, as much as your lizard will eat in one day. No more than one vertebrate prey should be offered per day, ideally no more often than 1x/week.

Variety is the key to a balanced diet, so make sure to offer as many different types of foods as possible!

Feeder insects for leopard lizards: dubia roaches, discoid roaches, red runner roaches, crickets, black soldier fly larvae, hornworms, silkworms, mealworms, superworms, darkling beetles, grasshoppers, scorpions

Vertebrate feeders for leopard lizards: young mice, young rats, anoles, house geckos


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


Of course, don’t forget a small water bowl for your lizard 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 lizard

Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. When it comes to leopard lizards, it’s best not to try to handle them very often, as handling really stresses them out and they are likely to bite. If you want to bond with your leopard lizard, try hand-feeding it with feeding tweezers instead.

*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!


"Baby leopard lizard" by blmcalifornia is marked with CC PDM 1.0


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.