A Guide to Leopard Gecko Care and Breeding
The leopard gecko, scientifically known as Eublepharis macularius, is a nocturnal, ground-dwelling, cathemeral lizard that is a popular pet with many novices and experienced reptile lovers and owners across the world. These reptile captives come in different morphs, are easy to tame, super easy to care and breed, undemanding, and are incredibly hardy.
As pets, Leos are not as aggressive as other gecko breeds and do not need a huge enclosure. This makes them a favorite to many hobbyists and commercial herpetoculturists. But what are some of the leopard gecko care needs? How do they breed? Are all Leos similar? Well, in this definitive guide, we will look at the facts, how to care and breed these geckos and everything else that you need to know about the Leos.
Let’s dive in. Shall we?
But Wait! Do Leopard Geckos Bite?
This is a very common question among many people, from parents looking out for their kids, to people looking to have a pet reptile but hate those that bite. So, really, do leopard geckos bite?
Yes! They can actually bite when they’re scared or threated. However, they will often choose to flee instead of fighting. But there are exceptions. A gecko can bite if:
· They are hungry; they can mistake your finger for food.
· They want to make their territory, especially the male leos.
· They are unnaturally aggressive. Although not too common, some leopard geckos are just overly aggressive.
Their bites are, however, not harmful and will feel like just a pinch. That notwithstanding, leopard geckos are perhaps some of the best reptiles to handle and have as pets since they tolerate handling.
Do Leopard Geckos Make Good Pets?
If you’re looking to get a pet reptile full of character, but you’re worried about the intensive care needed, such as humidity, lighting, and heating, leopard Geckos may be for you.
The Leos are natively from the scrublands, and mountainous deserts of Pakistan, northern Iran, Afghanistan, and India, but have over the years become the most commonly kept lizards today.
But what is it about the Leos that makes them an all-time favorite reptile to so many people?
· There are super easy to care for. While all reptiles need special care to keep, leopard gecko care is not very demanding, and it’s easy to create a home for them that mimics their natural habitat. Their housing – the vivarium or terrarium – is pretty basic and inexpensive. These enclosures feature a 10-gallon tank per gecko, a lamp, and a hiding place. Their enclosure does not need special lighting since they’re nocturnal. This cannot be said of other lizards.
· They are a perfect family pet. Leopard Geckos are full of character and are very entertaining. They’re cute and adorable with their big doe eyes and an ear to ear smile.
They also come in different colors and shades, making them appealing to kids and adults alike. Due to the different morphs, you can pretty much find a gecko of your favorite color.
The Leos have a non-threatening look, have a good temperament, and a calm demeanor. They can, therefore, be ideal pets for older children. You can use them to teach your kids how to care for animals, but care should be taken when handling them. It’s essential to teach the children to never pick them up by the tail.
· They’re easy to breed. With the right conditions, your leopard geckos will breed on their own, without needing you to do anything. Be sure to keep a male amongst a harem of female geckos. It is, however, not advisable to keep more than one male together in one enclosure as they don’t get along very well as they’re overly territorial.
· The Leos have a long lifespan. If you’re looking for a pet that will be with you for years to come, or even grow with your kids, then the leopard gecko is your go-to pet. They can easily live for up to 20 years if cared for properly.
· Since they are tiny, ranging from 6-10 inches long, they just require a small space that is quite inexpensive compared to some more advanced reptile keeping.
· They are easy to feed. The Leos are strictly insectivores and will mostly feed on mealworms, super worms, waxworms, and crickets. Their simple and straightforward regimen makes them a perfect first pet for many beginners.
· They are clean and don’t smell. These reptiles do not have fur or dander, making them a perfect pet for people allergic to dogs, cats or other furry animals.
· They are perfect for busy people since they can be left alone for several days without food. Since they don’t need a lot of attention, you can leave your pet for a few days if need be.
· They are quiet, hence should not be a bother to you or your neighbors.
· They are inexpensive and can be easily found in most pet shops. Be sure to buy from an accredited animal breeder.
When looking for a healthy Leo, ensure that it has a thick tail, bright eye clean nose, has intact claws and toes, and has its belly above the ground when not resting. It’s advisable to have your newly acquired pet examined by a vet for intestinal parasites that could cause severe infections to you and your loved ones.
Interesting Facts about Leopard Gecko
Here are a few facts and stats about the leopard gecko that makes them popular as pets and make owning one of them even more interesting.
· Scientifically known as Eublepharis macularius
· They’re originally from the dry grasslands and desert areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and parts of northwestern India.
· They are nocturnal. They are often active during the night and early mornings and spend their daytime under rock shelters and in burrows.
· They are docile and tolerates some handling.
· Unlike many lizards, leopard geckos have moveable eyelids, allowing them to close their eyes while sleeping.
· There are over 100 Leo morphs.
· They usually mate during summer.
· Female Leos will lay two eggs, 16-22 days after copulation. The female digs a hole, lays the eggs and buries them.
· They have a 45-53 day-long incubation period.
· The sex of the hatchlings is determined by the temperatures at which the eggs are incubated. You’ll need to maintain temperatures between 84-90 degrees to hatch males, and 79-82 degrees to hatch females.
· Juvenile Geckos reach their sexual maturity after around 18 months.
· Full-grown geckos range from 6-10 inches in body length.
· They can live anywhere between 20-25 years of age. The oldest recorded Leo was over 29 years old. In the wild, they live 15 years.
· They are tail rattlers. They usually communicate by shaking their tails, either when mating, hunting, or even when defending their territory. Their tail is also a defense mechanism that detaches when grabbed by a predator. They can also feed on the fat-rich tail when food is scarce.
· They have a squeaky voice.
· Instead of sticky pads typical with other types of geckos, Leos have little claws that limit them from walking up walls or glass.
· They can see well than other gecko species. Surprisingly, they have superior night vision and can see color even in the dark. Funny though, the leos cannot see color red at night or even during the day.
· They eat their skin every month for nutritional value and to get rid of any scent trace.
Leopard Gecko Care: How to Take Care of your Pet
Leopard Geckos originated from naturally warm and dry environments. To take good care of your pets, you’ll first need to create a perfect home that is similar to their natural habitat. So, how do you set up for your leopard gecko?
Creating a Perfect Enclosure For The Ultimate Leopard Gecko Care
From hatching to adulthood, leopard geckos can be easily maintained in 10-20 glass vivarium tanks. On average, each gecko should have at least 10-gallon, well-ventilated space, meaning that if you have two Leos, then a 20-gallon tank is an ideal sized space for your pets to live harmoniously.
What’s The Best Material for a Terrarium?
Whether you chose to go for a glass, plastic, or wooden vivarium, your tank should be at least 1 feet tall and should have a secure screen to allow light in and keep predators such as cats away. When choosing the material for your enclosure, it crucial to go for a material that is easy to clean and safe for your pets.
Glass is a common preference for many leopard pet owners as it is easy to clean and disinfect; it’s safe and has high visibility levels. Plastic tanks are also a good choice if you’re looking for an inexpensive, durable and highly adaptable vivarium. If you’re a do-it-yourself kind of a person, you can easily make a beautiful wooden enclosure from plywood.
Creating a Perfect Environment in the Enclosure
Since leopard geckos are nocturnal, you’ll need to provide them with cool, dark hiding boxes or hideaways. These can either be wooden, plastic, or rock structures that the pet gecko can crouch under during the day and are a vital aspect for their overall well-being.
You also need to provide a warm and cold environment within the enclosure where your pets can bask whenever they require additional heat and cool down when too hot. To provide a constant warm environment, you can use a heating pad, heat light or ceramic heaters to create a constant temperature gradient along the tank length. For optimum temperatures, ensure the tank is at 24 to 29 degrees Celsius during the day and get it down to 21 degrees at night.
You can add a UV light fixture in your terrarium. This will help the geckos to make vitamin D3 that helps them control their calcium levels.
While leopard geckos do not require too much water, they still need hot and adequately humid conditions for their health. A perfectly humid environment is vital for skin shedding, laying eggs and burrowing, and hatching.
You can use hydrophilic substrates such as reptile carpet, peat moss, coconut coir or eco-earth to provide a humid spot for your geckos. Be sure to check the substrate regularly to avoid it drying up. Extra care should be taken on the size of substrate used as small-sized substrates such as sand could potentially kill your pet or put it at risk of impaction (blocked intestines).
Your pet leos will be drinking water a lot like cats do. Have a shallow water tray in the terrarium that is accessible for your pets to lick and change the water every other day. Go for a tray made of natural, inert materials such as porcelain, rock, or thick glass.
Finally, if you’re looking to add more character and aesthetics to your vivarium, adding decors such as flat stones and substrates will provide a textured surface for your pet to walk on. Live or artificial plants can also be added for a nice, chic touch.
How Often Should I Clean The Leopard Gecko Enclosure?
Well, there is no silver bullet answer to this question. Ideally, it should depend on the substrate used. But as a general rule, it is ideal to clean the enclosure whenever you notice dirty parts as this will keep your pets away from toxins. It’s important to also:
· Clean and refill the water bowl every day.
· Remove any dead insects from the enclosure
· Clean your pet’s carpet once or twice a week.
As with other pets, your leopard geckos can fall ill and should be taken to a veterinarian in case you suspect a problem. Be observant of the following tell-tale signs of a sick Leo:
· Swollen joints
· Hiding all the time
· Minimal or no eating or drinking.
· Irregular shedding
· Skin discoloration
· Eye, nose or mouth discharge
· Persistent liquefied droppings
· Belly touching the floor when not resting
Feeding Your Pet Leopard Gecko
A proper diet is probably one of the most important factors for keeping your pet happy and healthy. Leopard Geckos are insectivores by nature and, therefore, feed on live insects almost entirely. They do not eat veggies or fruits.
The most common feeds for geckos include captive roaches, crickets, and mealworms. However, you can treat your pets to some superworms and waxworms once a week.
But how do you ensure that your pets get the most nutritional value from their insect meals? Well, there are several ways.
· First, you can gut load the feeder insects. This is a simple, yet highly effective method where you feed the insects with a richly nutritious powdered diet, 12 hours before you feed them to your pets. This can be done using supplement-rich chick or hog mash, or other commercially available diets.
· The second option to feed your leos with the much-needed vitamins such as Vitamin D3 and minerals is through dusting. To do this, you’ll need to place the mineral-rich powder and the insects in a plastic bag or a tin, then shake them gently so that the insect’s body is covered with the nutritious powder entirely. When feeding the powdered insects to your leos, you should take care not to get the dust in your pet’s eyes.
· You can also give your pets the powdered supplements directly. Put the supplements in a small jar lid and place the lid in the terrarium. The geckos will then lick the nutrients directly.
It is advisable to feed your pets with 2 insects for every inch of the leos body length, 3-4 times a week. That is to mean, if your leos are around 5 inches long, you will need to feed them with ten insects every other day.
Their meal should include some vitamin and mineral supplements with a focus on vitamin D3 and calcium. However, hatchlings, juveniles, and ailing geckos should be fed with supplement-rich food every day for proper growth.
To get the insects, you can breed your own feeder insects or buy them from your local pet store. Some breeders might even advise you to feed your geckos with wild insects collected at home. However, caution should be taken when feeding the leopard geckos with wild insects as they can introduce parasites and diseases to your pets.
They could also be pesticides and pollutants ridden, posing a health risk to the geckos. Other brightly colored insects such as lightning buds are also poisonous to the geckos and would lead to potential death if ingested. Also, spiders and caterpillars have chemical defense mechanisms that can harm your lovely pets.
Leopard Gecko Video by Snake Hacks
How To Breed Your Leopard Gecko Pets
Once you’ve housed and fed your geckos to the recommended size, you might want to breed them. As we had pointed above, your juvenile geckos should be ready for breeding 18 months after birth. Leos’ breeding is very simple and easy since:
· They have an extended breeding season, running from January and going through September.
· They don’t require any special conditions to initiate the breeding.
· Hatchlings are easy to care for and feed.
However, breeding your pets doesn’t come without its challenges, including:
· Breeding is exhausting to the females and may leave them emaciated or even kill them in case of complications during the breeding season.
· Breeding reduces the lifespan and life expectancy of breeding females.
· It requires a substantial amount of your time, resources, space and dedication.
But still, breeding can be quite profitable and presents an exhilarating and fulfilling experience to leopard gecko enthusiasts. Here is a sneak peek at the breeding process.
i. Get your pet pets ready
If you’re just beginning to breed your pets, you’ll first need to pick a healthy male and at least 2 or 3 healthy females that are in pretty good shape. They should be at least 50-75 grams heavy to be able to breed. Introduce the male to the female tank for mating. This should not cause a lot of troubles besides the normal aggression, and no major human intervention is required during the mating season.
ii. Checking of eggs
Check the eggs on the moist hideaway box often and remove them before they dry out. You can tell if a female is about to lay eggs if it is digging excessively, when restless, when it has an increased calcium consumption or when it has tensed back legs.
When removing the eggs, you should be careful not to turn them as this may kill them. You can mark the eggs to keep track of the topside. A single female lays two eggs at a go and can lay up to 20 eggs in a season.
iii. Incubation and Hatching
You can use a commercial or homemade incubator to incubate the eggs. Remember to control the temperatures to determine the sex of your hatchlings.
By following the steps above, you should have several baby leopard geckos. Keep the hatchlings in enclosures similar to those of their older counterparts. But don’t feed them immediately. Instead, wait until they shed their first skin, usually after 4 days, before you give them their first insect.
1.7 Leopard Gecko Morphs, Their Names, And Prices
Leos, the most popular reptile to have as pets, come in an array of color mutations, also known as morphs. With over 100 different color morphs, leopard gecko prices will vary from color to color, and the prices can range anywhere from $20 to $3000 upwards depending on the breeder and how rare the morph.
Here are some of the most popular Leopard Gecko Morphs:
· The normal (wild) gecko morph. It is yellow and has black spots. They are quite cheap since they’re widely available.
· Highly yellow: Unlike the normal morph, this has more yellow and fewer spots.
· Blizzard: It is patternless and can either be plain yellow, white, or even purple.
· Aberrant: This morph has a broken pattern.
· Hypo melanistic: These geckos have 10 or fewer spots on their bodies.
· Hyper Melanistic: This is a darkly pigmented Leo with enhanced melanin levels.
· Carrot tail: This morph has at least 15% of its tail covered in orange.
· Tangerine. These geckos are predominantly orange in color.
· RAPTOR. It has an orange color, no black spots and has red eyes.
· Halloween mask: This morph has bold head patterns that become more enhanced as they mature.
· Lavender: This morph has light violet or lavender on it.
· Super Giant: These are the largest leopard geckos with some reaching up to 12-inches in body length.
· Reverse Stripe: This morph has a stripe that runs down their back.
· Baldly: This is a super hypo leopard gecko that has no spotting on its head.
· Enigma: These gecko morphs have speckled patterns and have white tails.
· Marble eye: this is a rare morph that has a marble-like, 3-dimensional eye.
Bringing It All Together
If you’re looking for a fantastic pet with a charming character, the leopard gecko makes for an excellent reptile pet. They are lovely creatures to own as pets and come in a variety of morphs and color combinations. You’ll, therefore, find a gecko of your favorite color without much hassle. Handy, placid nature, low maintenance and easy to care and breed; these features make the leopard gecko a perfect family pet that will bring you years of joy.