The Leopard Gecko

Latin name: Eublepharis Macularis

Leopard Geckos are about 6cm (2.5in) long when they hatch and grow to an adult size of 20-25cm (8-10ins). Their common name comes from the adult colouration of the wild species, which is normally yellow/cream with black spots. Leopard Geckos are one of the few gecko species with eyelids, hence their Latin name (Eublepharis = “Good (True) Eyelid”). A healthy gecko has a fat tail, and you should avoid buying one with a thin tail. Their lifespan is 8 years or more.

Facts & Information

Origin: Leopard Geckos are native to Paki Afghanistan, India and Iran, where they are found in harsh, arid mountain and desert regions. They are nocturnal, ground dwelling lizards and they take cover during the heat of the day. They do not have the adhesive toe pads of other geckos.

Benefits of keeping: Leopard Geckos are ideal lizards for the first time keeper as they do not get particularly big, are very hardy, easy to keep and attractive looking. They are ideal for older children as they are placid and soon become accustomed to handling. They require little maintenance and the overall costs involved are low which also makes them highly recommended for beginners.

Leopard Geckos have been bred in captivity for many years resulting in many interesting colour variations and are the most common lizard kept. Rough handling can occasionally cause a Leopard Gecko to shed its tail and while this will re-grow in time, it will not look as nice as the old one.

Housing: It is possible to start with a small pen such as an Exo Terra Faunarium for a hatchling and then upgrade to a Terrarium or Vivexotic vivarium when they grow larger (see the 'My Perfect Vivarium' web tool for suggestions). They can be kept singly, in pairs, or in groups, but as males are aggressive, only 1 male per group. There is only slight difference between male and females in appearance. Males are slightly more heavy-bodied and have a row of enlarged femoral pores running along the inner thigh.

Substrate and Furnishings: As these geckos originate from very arid conditions it is important to provide a suitable environment. Exo Terra sand is ideal as a substrate. Larger stones can be added to create a more realistic rocky, desert terrain. At least one hide per gecko should be included, as it is important that they have the option to hide and have their own space if required. Remove all droppings and clean the terrarium on a regular basis to prevent disease.

Heating: Leopard geckos need a hot area of about 90 F (32 C) with a background daytime temperature of 80 F (27 C). At night, temperature should drop to about 70 F (21 C). This is when they move about most and feed.

One of the best methods of heating for Leopard Geckos is an Exo Terra Heat Rock. Choose an appropriate size for your terrarium and position towards one end of it, underneath the basking lamp if used. This allows for the required temperature gradient. A digital thermometer should be placed near the hot end and one at the cool end of the terrarium to check the temperatures are correct. A light source, such as a Daytime Heat Lamp Basking Light could also be used as a heat source. This should be fitted to a timer to give 12 hours light/day and this will help with the temperature drop required at night time.

Lighting: Unlike many reptiles, they do not need special UVA or UVB lighting as they have developed to be mostly nocturnal. In fact, too much UVB can cause them eye problems. An incandescent daylight bulb (Daytime Heat lamp) or a ReptiGlo 2.0 fluorescent tube, set on a timer to give 12 hours daylight, can be used. (The Reptglo 2.0 does not have high levels of UVB). A Night Heat bulb could be used to assist nocturnal viewing if desired.

Water: Geckos do not require much water, but a shallow bowl of clean water should be provided. Young ones can be gently sprayed and will drink the droplets.

Diet and Feeding: Feeding Leopard Geckos is very easy. They will take a wide variety of insects - crickets are their main food but they will also eat small locusts, wax worms and mealworms (only feed the latter in small quantities). Feed baby geckos a good meal every other day and adults two/three times a week. It is important not to over feed and to make sure that all the food has been eaten before you offer more. Make sure the crickets you feed are not too big, a good guide is to feed ones no bigger than the distance between the gecko’s eyes.

All insects should be well fed so that they contain maximum nutritional value when fed to the geckos. They normally come with food, such as bran, in the container. Once a week, before offering them to the lizards, insects should be dusted with good quality reptile mineral/vitamin supplement powder. Exo Terra cricket feeders are perfect as a container to dust them in and then use it to allow their slow release into the terrarium. Leopard geckos will benefit from having a small dish of calcium (calcium carbonate powder or grated cuttlefish) available at all times.

Shedding: The most common problem with Leopard Geckos is with skin shedding. Like all reptiles, Leopard Geckos shed the outside layer of skin regularly but, unlike snakes, the discarded skin is normally eaten and is rarely seen. On occasion, however, the skin can become stuck around their toes or eyes. If you see your gecko is having problems shedding give it a spray with tepid water, or place it in a separate box with some damp kitchen roll. If this does not work seek further advice from your pet shop, reptile society or breeder. A shedding box with damp moss or vermiculite should be provided and could also double up as an additional hide.

For further information check out the following websites:
The Federation of British Herpetologists: www.fbh.org.uk
Exo Terra: www.exo-terra.com

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Chris Newman, REPTA and The Federation of British Herpetologists in the preparation of this guide.