What is a Leopard Gecko?
The leopard gecko, belonging to the scientific taxonomy of Eublepharis macularius, is a type of lizard that primarily lives on the ground and is known to be native to the rocky and arid grassland regions of India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, and Iran.
Over the years, humankind has bred the leopard gecko specifically for domestication purposes. This is probably why this lizard is considered to be the first domesticated lizard species in the world.
The leopard gecko is also one of the easier reptiles to have as a pet. Therefore, it is touted as one of the best reptiles to have as a pet, especially if you are new to having pet reptiles.
How Does a Leopard Gecko Look?
Although the moniker “leopard gecko” is apt because the body color is frequently yellow with sporadic black spots, these endearing tiny reptiles come in a wide range of hues apart from the typical leopard’s yellow and black patterns and sizes.
While most leopard geckos do sport a yellow upper body that is marked by black spots and stripes and a white underbody and a tail with lines running across it, there are other types and colors that you can buy on the pet leopard gecko market.
This is achieved only as a result of selective breeding specifically to preserve certain characteristics and color patterns in these reptiles.
Leopard geckos have the incredibly fascinating ability, like other lizards, to regrow or regenerate their tails. When intact, their tails are segmented, but when revived, they can appear differently.
The juvenile leopard geckos are characterized by the banded pattern that wraps their bodies.
Other physical characteristics of the leopard gecko are its claws at the end of its toes, its extremely long tail and the ability to moisturize its eyes by licking them, and moveable eyelids.
The way you can distinguish between male leopard geckos and their female counterparts is by looking for eggs in the body of the gecko. Suppose they are visible to you through their skin.
In that case, you’re looking at a female leopard gecko whereas, if you can’t see eggs but can spot preanal pores on the gecko, you’re looking at a male leopard gecko!
Young leopard geckos can measure roughly three to four inches long in length when calculated from their nose tips to their tail endings.
This species is categorized as a medium-sized lizard species, with their female adults growing to be as large as eight inches in length and males reaching around ten inches in length.
If the males belong to a giant bloodline, they can grow as large as twelve inches and measure over 150 grams in mass!
Leopard Geckos’ Natural Habitat
The Western parts of the Indian subcontinent, Southeastern terrains of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan are the native lands of the leopard gecko species. The majority of leopard geckos acquired for the pet trade nowadays are from Pakistani lands.
The sand and coarse vegetation that leopard geckos find in arid grasslands and desserts are perfect for leopard geckos as their natural habitat. While an active species in general, these lizards choose to be dormant during the year’s colder months.
Leopard geckos are cold-blooded creatures, and therefore, have to depend on their environment to regulate their body temperature.
However, as pets, leopard geckos prefer to be active throughout the year since the temperature of their enclosures is artificially controlled, which helps them stay warm in their environment despite being cold-blooded!
Leopard Gecko Behavior and Temperament
Leopard geckos communicate with their surroundings through a variety of signals. Remember that in juveniles and young geckos, you’ll see all components of body language more frequently. If your gecko’s actions change as they get older, that’s perfectly normal.
Further, leopard geckos prefer to be alone most of the time. Despite that, their body language tells a slightly different story about their sociability.
Scientists have observed that these reptiles convey decent interaction with body language with other animals and their environment. They also generally engage in other common actions that can indicate their health and happiness.
A gecko owner must understand how to interpret these signals since this will allow you to care for your pet leopard gecko in the best manner.
The tail is the gecko species’ primary means of communication. The leopard gecko wags its tail to show or notify other creatures of its presence in a given space. Slow wriggling will be used to alert others of their existence. When a man wants to introduce himself to a woman, he uses a specific wiggle. When a leopard gecko feels scared, annoyed, or under attack, the more forceful shaking can be defensive. Because a leopard gecko can afford to lose a tail to preserve his life, the tail is used as a diversion in defensive situations. Vigorous shaking can also occur in offensive cases, such as when the gecko is attacking or hunting.
A swaying head
When your gecko swallows a larger insect, he will sway his head from side to side, demonstrating this movement. The movement is perfectly natural and aids your lizard in passing food from his throat to his stomach.
I would recommend giving your geckos smaller insects to avoid digestive issues. Head swaying can occur without regard for food intake, especially if it is followed by vocalization. Something may be lodged in your pet leopard gecko throat.
Climbing the terrarium
It is natural for all leopard geckos to attempt to climb the tank’s glass at some point in their lives. Simply bear in mind that climbing the terrarium’s walls may indicate that something is amiss in their surroundings and that they are attempting to flee it.
All geckos have the ability to make chirping and squeaking sounds. When they are threatened, they usually squeal. A chirp’s abrupt character reveals its evolutionary function. It appears to be designed to frighten away any prospective predators.
Staying in hiding
The fact is leopard geckos exhibit crepuscular sleep patterns. What this means is that they are most active around sunsets and sunrises. Therefore leopard geckos generally stay in hiding for the better part of their days.
However, if you find that your leopard gecko spends excessive time hiding in its terrarium, it might be because the temperature of its home is far too low. It would be ideal if you increased the temperature a little bit.
Things to Know About Leopard Geckos
Before you consider buying a leopard gecko as a pet, there are some fundamental facts about these fascinating lizards that you must remember. Understanding these facts will make it substantially easier for you to make your decision about bringing home a pet leopard gecko.
Leopard geckos live long.
You should only buy a leopard gecko if you are certain you can provide it with proper care for a considerable amount of time. The fact is that leopard geckos can exceed twenty years of age when kept as pets.
While they aren’t exactly high-maintenance pet animals, they still require a certain level and standard of care.
As we mentioned, leopard geckos follow a crepuscular sleeping pattern. Therefore, you need to be able to be proactive and present to care for your pet around the time of transitions from daylight to night-time or vice versa.
If your daily routine involves being out of the house during these hours of the day, the leopard gecko may not be the ideal pet for you.
Leopard geckos need live insects.
Leopard geckos are insectivores, which means they eat live insects. Yes, this means you’ll need to keep real bugs in the house in addition to your leopard gecko. Therefore, a regular supply of live crickets, dubia roaches, and/or mealworms should be kept and cared for.
Your leopard gecko will be happiest if there is some variation in his environment, so you should keep a range of bugs in your home. Some folks go even further and start breeding their own.
How to Care for Your Pet Leopard Gecko?
Leopard gecko terrariums
You can use a tank that measures about 20 gallons in volume and can comfortably accommodate about three leopard geckos in it. The thing to remember is that the bigger your terrarium, the better it is for your pet leopard gecko.
Preferably you should restrict one male leopard gecko to one tank. If you want to deal with breeding, only keep males and females together. Leopard geckos thrive in old fish tanks that have lost their ability to hold water, so don’t hesitate to reuse them.
Other things you can add to your leopard gecko’s terrarium are half logs, cardboard boxes, and artificially constructed caves. All of these items will serve as perfect hiding spots for your leopard gecko. You can tackle shedding with a damp hide box.
To remove excrement, thoroughly clean the cage once a day. To reduce bacteria buildup, take everything out once a month, clear out the bedding and thoroughly disinfect the terrarium.
The required temperature for leopard geckos as pets
These reptiles have to depend on their environment to maintain an ideal body temperature. Since they are cold-blooded animals, they can’t regulate their own body temperature.
Reptiles generally enjoy a gradient of temperatures to keep them comfortable at different times in their regular day.
You can treat your pet leopard gecko to an artificial sunbathing experience in the afternoon by cranking up the temperature of its terrarium to roughly 25 to 30 degrees Centigrade.
You can help your pet gecko get comfortable by reducing the temperature to a pleasant 24 degrees Centigrade at night. Make sure your gecko isn’t exposed to any gusts of unpredictable wind and that you have placed its terrarium in a secluded location in your home.
During the day, You can opt for a standard white light incandescent heat bulb to offer a basking place. At night, supplementary heat can be provided by a red, blue, or purple heat lamp or a ceramic heat emitter.
Heating pads kept under your pet leopard’s terrariums are good for heating. Still, they may not be the best choice for appropriately managing your gecko’s temperature.
In fact, if you underpin your pet leopard gecko’s terrarium with a heating pad, it could burn your pet gecko if it digs its way below the substrate or bedding of its terrarium down to the tank’s glass surface.
Lighting needs for your pet leopard gecko
Another thing you will have to remember is that leopard geckos are crepuscular reptiles and prefer being active around dawn and dusk. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about specific UV lighting arrangements or actual sunlight reaching their terrariums.
Placing their terrarium in a manner that allows them to get the bare minimum of the sun at dawn and dusk serves their ideal intake of these rays of the sun.
However, it would help if you attempted to meet the bare minimum of your pet leopard gecko’s UV requirements since this has been linked to keeping their bodies and metabolism healthier for longer periods of time.
To meet this requirement, you can make use of incandescent lights that are effective enough to serve as a replacement sun for your pet geckos.
Consult your veterinarian about how much time you need to expose your leopard gecko to the light and heat since that will depend on the weather too!
The proper amount of humidity that your leopard gecko needs
Now, simply because leopard geckos are predominantly desert creatures doesn’t mean that you need to keep their cages absolutely dry to mimic their natural habitats. On the contrary, you will have to ensure a very strict level of humidity for their terrariums.
Either extreme of the spectrum might prove to be detrimental to your pet leopard gecko’s health. In fact, too little humidity can even create issues for your leopard gecko’s skin shedding process.
Therefore, maintaining a humidity level around the range of 30% to 40% is ideal for the long-term health of your pet leopard gecko.
Using or placing a bowl to soak itself in, in its terrarium along with tools such as hygrometers and automated humidifiers can be extremely helpful in maintaining an ideal humidity level in your pet gecko’s terrarium.
Leopard gecko substrate
Even if the sand is calcium sand, young leopard geckos should not be housed on it. Why? Well, there is the risk of your pet gecko consuming the sand and suffering from intestinal and digestive issues as a result.
If you pick it as your pet leopard gecko’s terrarium bedding, a reptile carpet will need to be spot-cleaned daily. You will also have to pay attention to its wear and tear condition and take steps to maintain or replace it accordingly.
Having said that, these carpets are a good option as your pet gecko’s substrate. An extremely safe and effective alternative to go with is paper. The reason is that paper can absorb things extremely well and is not at all cumbersome to clean or replace.
You should also avoid using wood shavings as the substrate or bedding for your pet leopard gecko’s terrarium since the splinters or sharp edges could end up injuring it.
It would be best if you remember the thumb rule that regardless of what bedding you choose to use for the terrarium, your pet leopard gecko should not be eating it.
Leopard gecko diet
Leopard geckos are insectivorous reptiles. This means that these reptiles eat insects almost exclusively as a part of their regular diet. Therefore, you must make it a point to include insects such as mealworms, crickets, and waxworms into its staple diet.
Every once in a blue moon, you can also treat your pet leopard gecko to a baby mouse. You will also have to take extra care to ensure that your gecko doesn’t eat the bedding of its terrarium while eating its meal.
Typically, feeding them their food in a bedding-free tank or terrarium is a safe option to choose.
As a juvenile reptile, your pet leopard gecko will need to eat large numbers of crickets regularly. However, this trend decreases as your reptile grows older. Once they grow into adults, you will have to feed them once every few days rather than once every few hours.
One way to ensure that your leopard gecko sources high-quality and wholesome nutrition from the insect-based diet that you feed it is to simply provide the insects before you drop them into your pet gecko’s terrarium.
You can also dip them in vitamin D3 and calcium supplement powders to safeguard your pet leopard gecko’s health. You can do that by shaking the insects with the supplement powder in a baggie before you feed your gecko.
Now, bear in mind that adult leopard geckos don’t require you to provide these supplements with every meal but feeding them to juvenile and young leopard geckos is ideal for their overall development.
Further, it would be best if you always kept a small dish of fresh water nearby for your leopard gecko.
The water bowl will assist in keeping the enclosure damp and your pet leopard gecko’s thirst quenched. You might even come across a gecko who is willingly soaking in its water bowl.
Common Health Problems
Considering the fact that leopard geckos are essentially an exotic species of reptiles, they will have to deal with some common health problems that are observed in the species.
Now, before you bring home a pet leopard gecko, you must ensure that you have access to a veterinary practice that specializes in the treatment of exotic species like leopard geckos. This will help you ensure that your pet reptile stays at the top of its health.
Here are some of the most frequently observed health issues that leopard geckos face:
Leopard geckos are prone to malnutrition. The reason is that in captivity, leopard geckos are fed a limited diet. While that has its advantages, these diets often lack essential nutrients.
For example, crickets and mealworms that are not accompanied by nutritional supplements will usually result in critical nutritional deficiencies in leopard geckos. It is essential for you to feed your leopard geckos an insect-rich diet that is also accompanied by supplements for calcium and other vitamins and minerals.
One illness that often results due to such deficiencies is hepatic lipidosis. While this illness is treatable, it naturally results in a lot of discomfort for your pet leopard gecko.
Generally, veterinarians prefer a course of treatment that involves feeding the leopard gecko with the held of a long tube inserted into the stomach for a period of roughly six weeks.
Geckos kept on sand, fine jagged gravel, or broken walnut shells are prone to chronic or acute forms of intestinal issues.
While you can use smooth gravel as a bedding material for your pet leopard gecko’s terrarium, it would be ideal if you ensured that the size of the gravel is too large for your pet gecko to eat.
To further ensure that your pet leopard gecko does not eat the bedding that you leave in its terrarium, you should avoid using sands that are rich in calcium.
Eating undesired things can result in symptoms like constipation, anorexia, and chronic lethargy. Intestinal blockage can also lead to more severe issues such as colonic prolapse.
This condition is basically what happens when your leopard gecko hasn’t been able to shed its skin entirely and has retained it on its extremities. Phalangeal dysecdysis is not a particularly common issue in leopard geckos in the wild.
Still, it is quite common in pet leopard geckos. Typically occurring due to poor humidifying practices or simply a lack of appropriate levels of humidity in the leopard gecko’s terrarium, this issue leads to further problems like the development of avascular necrosis as a result of inhibited blood circulation.
By simply providing a moist hide/nest box, you can readily prevent this issue from affecting your pet leopard gecko. In some severe cases, you might have to amputate your pet leopard gecko’s extremities surgically.
Veterinarians prefer treatment options that include easily implementable changes to your pet leopard gecko’s terrarium and administering a course of antibiotics.
Regrettably, many leopard geckos are still suffering from secondary hyperparathyroidism even though it can be easily avoided and prevented with a healthy diet.
The most commonly observed symptoms are chronic lethargy, unwillingness toward any physical activity, anorexia, deformed limbs, weakness, softened mandible and maxillae structures in the skulls, and kyphoscoliosis.
You must consult your vet regarding treatment options and a diagnosis if you notice these symptoms since treating this condition takes a long time and effort.
Poor terrarium hygiene coupled with a bad diet also manifests as gastroenteritis in leopard geckos. Usually, this digestive issue is caused by the ingestion of harmful bacteria. This, in turn, results in loose motions.
Now, if you can spot the symptoms and make sure your leopard gecko is treated for it right away, your gecko will be safe. However, if ignored, gastroenteritis can often become severe enough to take your leopard gecko’s life.
Your leopard gecko can also be a victim of respiratory issues such as pneumonia. This can put your leopard gecko in a lot of physical distress since its symptoms include wheezing and excessive production of mucus.
Choosing Your Pet Leopard Gecko
Choosing your pet leopard gecko depends on a few factors. We have compiled some things that you must consider before you buy a pet leopard gecko for your home!
Type of leopard gecko
Leopard geckos can generally be found in two variants in the pet market. The first type includes leopard geckos that are naturally bred and sold. At the same time, the other concludes geckos that have been specifically bred for some physical characteristics.
Most regular leopard geckos look, more or less, similar to what they would look like in their natural habitats. Still, the other type of leopard geckos might sport some varying pattern on their skin.
As a rule, selectively bred leopard geckos cost more than most regular leopard geckos in the pet market.
Young or old?
Leopard geckos live substantially long lives spanning about 20 years. Therefore, you will also have to choose what age you would like to bring your pet leopard gecko home.
If you want to get home a baby leopard gecko, you need to be sure that you can commit the effort and the time required to care for it.
The obvious advantage of bringing home a baby gecko is that you get to enjoy the maximum amount of time possible caring for it and loving it.
Older geckos mean that you won’t have to dedicate 20 years to caring for it. Therefore, if you are looking for a short-term option, giving a home to an older leopard gecko might just be the right pet option for you.
While the leopard gecko itself doesn’t take up much space, you need to set it up in a large terrarium that is placed away from windows and areas that are commonly disturbed.
Therefore, you will also have to consider the amount of space that you can dedicate to your gecko’s terrarium and the availability of the ideal location for it.
Choose healthy geckos
When buying your leopard gecko at a pet store, you must pay attention to whether the leopard gecko of your choice is healthy or not. Healthy leopard geckos often display alertness, cleanliness, and a thick tail.
If the gecko lacks these signs and shows trouble in breathing, missing digits, loose skin, and poor hygiene, it most likely points to the ill-health of the leopard gecko.
You must also pay attention to the health of the geckos that live in the same terrarium like the one you’ve chosen. If any of them are ill, you should avoid buying a gecko housed with it.
Even though you may not see any symptoms, certain illnesses can flare up at a later point in time.
Leopard geckos make for excellent pets if you know how to take care of them. While not exactly low-maintenance pets, you still won’t have to work an excessive amount to keep them comfortable. This article will help you prepare for bringing your new pet leopard gecko home. One thing to remember is that once you’ve bought your gecko, make sure you pay your vet a visit for a thorough full-body checkup of your pet gecko.
Is a leopard gecko a lizard?
Yes, a leopard gecko is a type of lizard that can primarily be found on the ground.
What do leopard geckos eat?
Being insectivorous reptiles, leopards eat live insects as a part of their regular diet. Crickets, waxworms, mealworms, and other locusts are common foods to include in your pet leopard gecko’s diet.
How much does a leopard gecko cost?
Depending on whether the leopard gecko is naturally bred or selectively bred for some physical traits, its cost can vary from $15 to $3000.
How often should you feed your leopard gecko?
When your leopard gecko is young, you will have to feed it every few hours, but as your pet reptile grows older, you will have to feed it once every two days. Be sure to discuss the ideal frequency with which you need to feed your pet gecko with your veterinarian.
How big do leopard geckos become?
On average, leopard geckos grow to be roughly 18 cm to 28 cm in length. Male leopard geckos and female leopard geckos are slightly different in size, with the males growing bigger than their female counterparts.