The Leopard Gecko, Eublepharis macularius, comes as close to being a perfect pet as a reptile can get. No wonder it is the world’s most commonly kept lizard. Leopard Geckos possess distinct personalities, accept handling readily & are easy to breed. They are content with modestly sized terrariums. “Tangerine”, “Jungle”, “Lavender” & an array of other unique color phases have been produced. Pet Leopard Geckos have reached 20+ years of age. Read on for more details!
Leopard Geckos are classified within their own family, Eublepharidae, along 29 related species, including the Fat-Tailed and Banded Geckos. Leopard Gecko ears are unusual, you can look in one ear and see right out through the other!
The Leopard Gecko is found in the desert fringes and arid grasslands of South Eastern Afghanistan, Western India, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran. Its habitat is characterized by sand, gravel, rocks, tough grasses and low shrubs. In the course of the year, temperatures may range from 41-104°F.
Leopard Geckos usually take handling in stride, & rarely try to bite. However, they will defend themselves by biting if handled roughly. Although mainly active at dusk & dawn, Leopard Geckos are nearly always ready for a daytime meal. Reptile night bulbs are a great help in observing their crepuscular activities.
Leopard Geckos are not overly-active, but should be given as much room as possible. They are best housed singly. Females & youngsters sometimes co-exist, but dominant individuals may prevent others from feeding. Males will fight viciously & cannot be kept together. Pairs or a trio (1 male & 2 females) may get along in a large terrarium but their behavior should be monitored closely. Please note that there is never a guarantee any two or more animals will co-habitate peacefully therefore owners need to be careful & watch for signs of aggression at any time.
Setting up the Terrarium
Leopard Geckos will do fine in simple homes, but naturalistic terrariums landscaped with sand, rocks, wood and plants make for stunning displays. Aloes, Ox Tongue, Snake Plants and other arid-adapted species may be used.
Large enclosures are necessary to establish a thermal gradient. Thermal gradients, critical to good health, allow lizards to regulate their body temperature by moving from hot to cooler areas. A 15-20 gallon terrarium is preferable for a single gecko, 20-55 gallon terrarium will accommodate a pair or a trio. As mentioned earlier, your gecko’s behavior should be monitored closely if you are housing more than 1 together.
Leopard Geckos are ground-dwelling but will utilize rocks and stout driftwood. Rocks should always be placed on the terrarium's floor so that lizards cannot tunnel below and be crushed.
Air flow is important for animals native to arid habitats. Your terrarium should be equipped with a screen top.
Reptile sand mixed with eco earth is often used although some keepers prefer keeping geckos on reptile carpet. No matter what substrate you use we recommend feeding the gecko outside the enclosure, doing so allows you to guarantee that the geckos are not ingesting sand while feeding and allows the keepers to actually see how many insects are being ingested.
Heat, Light & Humidity
Habitats should have a temperature gradient with one end heated & the other end cooler so your reptile can thermoregulate. In the daytime, the ambient air temperature should range from 85-90°F for proper digestion & body function. A combination of ceramic heater, below-tank heat mat or heat bulb should be positioned so that one corner of the tank is warmer (to 88°F) than the rest.
Night temps can be in the mid 70’s & that can often be achieved with the under tank heater alone or with the use of a ceramic heat emitter.
Extra caution should be taken with the use of below-tank heat mats. Your substrate should be thick enough so your gecko will not burrow directly to the glass & come in contact with the heat mat; this could cause a burn. It is important to use combination of heat sources to maintain a proper air temperature, this should keep your gecko from feeling the need to burrow down to reach the heat.
Watching your reptile’s behavior & movement are great indicators for whether or not your temperatures are correct– for example, always staying on the heated side means it’s never hot enough, always staying on the cool side means the heated side is too hot.
For lighting, UVB lamps will be essential for your setup. Many years ago we did not realize the importance of exposure to sunlight rays (UVB) for reptiles, we now understand they all benefit from it. The UVB lamp will provide necessary rays for the animals to properly use vitamins & minerals from their food to keep their bones healthy. Only use your UVB bulbs during the day hours to provide a normal night/day schedule.
Low humidity and a dry substrate should be maintained. However, to avoid shedding problems, provide a cave stocked with moist sphagnum moss. A dry hiding spot should also be available. Caves or homemade shelters can be used.
Your Leopard Gecko's diet should consist of a mix of roaches, crickets, sow bugs, butter worms, waxworms, silkworms, tomato hornworms and other commercially-available invertebrates. Use super and regular mealworms sparingly. Food size should be no larger than the space between the geckos eyes.
In order to increase dietary variety, try feeding canned grasshoppers and other insects. Wild caught moths, beetles, grasshoppers and many others insects should also be offered as long as you can recognize dangerous species and avoid pesticide contaminated areas. A pink mouse may be offered every 2-4 weeks to females being readied for mating, but they are otherwise unnecessary. Fuzzies should not be used, as hair impactions may result.
Adults require 3-4 meals weekly, while juveniles should be fed on a near daily basis.
A shallow water bowl should be available, but some individuals will prefer to lap water that has been sprayed onto terrarium furnishings.
Daily Care and Maintenance
Check your pet for signs of injury and disease. Things to look for include missing toes, mites, bite marks and white/gray patches of skin.
Always check eyelids, toes and tails carefully because if conditions are overly dry, the shed skin may stick to the body and cause infection to set in. The retained skin is thin, but visible, so check your gecko carefully after it sheds.
Daily care includes misting with water over the water bowl (as some geckos prefer to drink droplets instead of standing water) and on the moss inside of the cave ONLY. Humidity needs to stay low--below 40 except for the moss cave.
Salmonella bacteria, commonly present in reptile and amphibian digestive tracts, can cause severe illnesses in people. Handling an animal will not cause an infection, as the bacteria must be ingested. Salmonella infections are easy to avoid via the use of proper hygiene. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any animal. Please speak with your family doctor or veterinarian for more tips on preventing Salmonella, or please read our care guide
Cleaning and Disinfecting Recommendations for additional instructions.
When it comes to your new pet, knowledge is the best way to choose an appropriate addition to your family. Learn as much as you can about your new friend before you bring him home to ensure your pet enjoys a long, healthy life.
Please enjoy this video on Leopard Gecko care from one of our pet experts!