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Leopard Gecko Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Leopard Gecko
Scientific Name:Eublepharis macularius
Life Span:12-20 years (captive)15 years (in the wild)
Size:3-4 inches (Hatchlings)7-8 inches (Adult Females)8-10 inches (Adult Males)Nearly a foot (Males of Giant Bloodlines)
Habitat:Rocky, dry grassland and desert regions
Country of Origin:Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan

Physical Description 

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Most Leopard geckos will only reach 8-10 inches, but some can grow up to 12 inches long. Adult Leopard Geckos have yellow and brown spots with light black as the color of their tails. Their underside is completely white. The juvenile ones are usually banded with yellow and dark brown colors, but these will vanish as they reach maturity.

The male ones tend to have a broader head and neck; their bodies are also larger in comparison with the females. Leopard Geckos are also part of the gecko specimens that can move their eyelids. They have long, thin legs that grip well on the ground once it starts running.

Types

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Leopard Geckos of various types and colors are being sold in the market. They also have different price points, but if you are planning to buy one, the ones that are considered to be rare and exotic because of its morph, color, markings, they are the ones who top the pricing game.

Albino Leopard Geckos

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Three different albino species are available: Tremper, Rainwater (Las Vegas), and Bell. You can easily detect an albino Leopard Gecko at an early stage of their lives. Being albino is a result of their recessive traits, and they are known to be very sensitive to bright lights. One good way to know if your Albino Leopard Gecko feels uncomfortable towards light exposure is that you’ll see it closing it’s very tightly.

Striped Leopard Geckos

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These can be easily recognized since they have longitudinal stripes from their heads all the way to their tails. Stripes will often begin forming at the neck area to their tail. Their tails bands are also not solid compared to other Leopard Gecko species.

Leopard Gecko Morphs

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Animals with variations in sizes, colors, marking, and obvious physical features are called morphs. Morphs can be used by random mutations and selective breeding. A good number of Leopard Geckos with morphs are being created for a specific target market.

Giant Leopard Geckos

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These Leopard geckos have become giants, all thanks to their genes. There are two giant classifications: Giant and Super Giant. Giant males may reach 80-110 grams, and the females 60-90 grams at one year of age. The Super Giant males can weigh 110 grams, and the females are over 90 grams at one year old.

Life Span

They can live for a long time in comparison to other reptiles. Their usual life expectancy can reach 6-10 years; however, a male Leopard Gecko can live up to 10-20 years. There was even a study on a male Leopard Gecko who reached 27 ½ years old yet was still breeding.

Eating Habits

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The Leopard Geckos can’t seem to get enough of insects, and they love munching on crickets and mealworms. If you have a captive gecko at home, you may feed it wax worms, beetles, sowbugs, roaches, and silkworms. Insects that have high-fat content such as wax worms and super worms should only be given once a week since frequent feeding of these leads to obesity.

While butterworts will only work as a treat as they are also fattily paired with bad calcium. Your Leopard Gecko can easily get addicted to these and will have the tendency to avoid other food. It’s not advisable to give them dead insects.

What size should you feed Leopard Gecko?

Babies should be given crickets that are estimated to be 3/8 inches in size. The juvenile ones should be fed crickets that are ¼ in size. While the adult ones can feed on a small adult to adult size crickets. A good feeding trick that you can use is that never give your Leopard Gecko food that is bigger than its eye size.

How often do Leopard Geckos eat?

Those who are younger than 1 year old, they should be given food every day. A healthy gecko should be eating every other day. If your Leopard Gecko is sick, you should give it food at least once a day until it fully recovers. Their feeding schedule can be late in the day or early evening because this is the time that mimics their hunting behavior in the wild. You can place a dish with worms if your Leopard Gecko has issues eating.

How much do Leopard Geckos eat?

A healthy and a very active Leopard Gecko can eat as much as it wants in just 10-15 minutes. If you notice that your Leopard Gecko is becoming overweight, decrease the number of times you feed it. You can have an estimate of the amount of food you’re giving your gecko according to their feeding habits and their activities for the day. Most captive Leopard Geckos have the tendency to overeat; you can place them on a restricted feeding by having a set amount of food daily and always stick to that.

Can Leopard Geckos eat Fruits and Vegetables?

Since Leopard Geckos are insectivores, they should not eat fruits and vegetables; their bodies are only designed to digest meats like insects. Cecum, a body part that is solely responsible for digesting Cellulose, is not found in Leopard Geckos. They also have a digestive tract that is more alkaline, while herbivores (plant-eating animals) have the opposite of longer and more acidic digestive tracts.

However, there will be some reports that Leopard Geckos are seen eating fruits and vegetables, and this might be because that’s the only food out there, and they don’t have any other choices. For your captive Leopard Geckos, stick them to their insect diet for natural easier digestion.

Leopard Geckos and Obesity

Leopard Geckos that are kept in captivity will always have a higher chance of getting obese, so a responsible pet owner should always make a way to prevent overfeeding. However, if they live in the wild such as Southeastern Asia is usually dry areas. The food available drastically varies; thus, they have learned how to effectively store their foods.

Overfeeding your Leopard Gecko will place them at a higher risk of regurgitating their food and might even cause them to feel lethargic. Seeing these symptoms will be your indicator that you need to lessen the amount of food and ensure that there are no fatty insects in their diet.

Food that is Toxic to Leopard Geckos

Not all insects are good for your Leopard Gecko, Lightning Bugs and Fireflies are a good example of toxic food that should not be given to them. Their bodies contain extreme chemicals that might be fatal to geckos. The insects that you have just wildly caught by yourself should not be given to your gecko since these may contain harmful traces of parasites and pesticides.

What to do if your Leopard Gecko is not Eating?

There may be a lot of reasons why your pet Leopard Gecko is not eating. Here are some of the things that you can do to find out why. Monitor the tank of your gecko and ensure that it’s not too cold. Good heating temperature is needed for them to properly digest their food, and once their tank becomes too cold, this will affect their eating behavior and might weaken their immune system in the long run.

Observe of your gecko is stressed. If they see changes in their environment, they might refuse to eat. You can put a lot of hiding spots in their tank so that it will not feel insecure, and it might need to retreat once in a while.

Your Leopard Gecko should be well-hydrated an access to fresh and clean water should be always available in their tanks. You can do this by placing a water bowl in the enclosure.

Gut Loading Insects for Leopard Geckos

This method is not entirely new for breeders who keep a Leopard Gecko in their homes. Gut loading is when you feed the insect’s nutritious food first before you have to give them to your gecko. You should do this at least 12 hours before their feeding schedule. Gut loading will give the assurance that the geckos get the needed vitamins and minerals.

Fruits and vegetables can be given to crickets, as this will provide extra nutritional value. Stay away from the acidic ones like spinach and broccoli since these may also cause acidity for your gecko. Avoid mold build-up by changing cricket’s food on a regular basis.

One of the Leopard Gecko’s favorite worms is the mealworm, and you may want to gut load these by feeding it carrots. Do this at least 24 hours before the actual feeding to the gecko. You can leave mealworms in your gecko’s tank, but you should also place food for the mealworm to ensure gut loading.

Dusting Leopard Gecko with Vitamins and Minerals

A good way to ensure that your Leopard Gecko is getting the needed vitamins and minerals is by dusting the insects with vitamin supplements. Calcium is probably the most important for all the stages of the Leopard Gecko. It’s important for their development, especially for producing eggs.

Dusting your insects will mean putting the insects in a bag that has a powder of the needed vitamin or mineral, and their entire bodies should be covered. You should immediately give the dusted insects to the Leopard Gecko.

Sleeping Habits

The Leopard Gecko may look like in a constant sleepy state and being crepuscular; they can be seen being lazy until the evening or night. A breeder may notice that his gecko may look relaxed and peaceful when it’s sleeping. You should be able to distinguish their normal sleepy behavior from the unusual lethargic feeling.

Water

A water bowl filled with fresh and clean water should be readily available in your gecko’s tank. This bowl should be shallow so your gecko can easily drink from it, and they have no chance of getting drowned if it climbs on it. Use a water bowl that is sturdy enough and avoid spilling.

Additional soaking in warm water in 2-3 weeks should be given to your Leopard Gecko. This should only last for 15-20 minutes, and this has been proven to be quite helpful, especially in the shedding stage. If you notice that your Leopard Gecko is hesitant to go into the water on his own, you can gently assist it by placing it in the container for a force soak for 2-3 times a week.

Development and Reproduction

Female Leopard Geckos will reach sexual maturity in just 9-10 months, and they should weigh at least 45 grams. Breeding season for those living in the northern parts of the equator will start in January and lasts up to September. They will also lay eggs by April, and their hatchlings will emerge by the end of the year.

The mating season will start with the male vibrating his tail, and the female stays still. The male will grab the skin of her neck, and he will initiate copulation. The mating process of Leopard Geckos is relatively short and only lasts for about 3 minutes.

How to Breed Leopard Geckos

Successful breeding of Leopard Geckos will require you of a few things prepared. You need to prepare at least 1 male and 1-4 females. A 10-gallon tank is needed for the male while a 20-30-gallon tank is required for the females. You will also need a heating mat and a laying box for the female’s tank. A laying box can be a plastic box that has a hole filled with damp peat moss.

The following is the step-by-step guide for successful breeding.

Step 1: Make sure Leopard Gecko is at the Proper Size to Breed

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Weigh your Leopard Gecko to ensure that it’s in proper weight and size for breeding. They should weigh around 50-75 grams, while others can become larger.

Step 2: Introducing the Male

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Carefully introduce the male to the female, be mindful of possible aggressive behavior from the two species. Gentle bites are usually considered as okay; however, if one of them is getting injured because of this, you should separate them immediately to avoid further issues.

Step 3: Check the Eggs

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Once the eggs were laid, you should do periodic monitoring and quickly place them in a laying box as this might easily dry out.

Step 4: Remove the Eggs

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If you are going to transfer the eggs to the incubation box, you should be careful not to turn them over since one wrong move might kill them. Your incubation container can be a simple deli cup filled with moist vermiculite. You can draw a mark or a symbol on the eggs while they are still in the lay box for you to easily determine which side is up.

Step 5: Incubation and Hatching

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You have the option to incubate the eggs in a commercially-bought or your own homemade incubator. The ones that can be made at home are usually cheaper, but these may compromise the breeding success. Most reptile incubators that can be bought online for a good $30.

Step 6: Results

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Carefully following all the steps listed above should give your successful breeding of baby Leopard Geckos. Females will usually lay 2 eggs at a time but several times in a month. A healthy female Leopard Gecko can lay as much as 2-20 eggs in a single breeding season.

Before you initiate breeding for your pet geckos, you need to give them a good amount of food and supplies that are used to feed and house your geckos.

Common Health Problems

You won’t have any problems with captive Leopard Geckos if you provide them with optimum living conditions. They are also considered to be one of the healthiest reptiles with a life span that can reach 20 years. However, constant exposure to dirt and the unsanitary tank will lead them to have diseases. The following are the common symptoms you can watch out for to find out if your gecko has health issues.

  • They are unusually not alert when handled. They will seem to be stuck in a daze and not observant of their environment.
  • The tail is not that thick. Very thin tails in your Leopard Gecko will often mean that they have are sick or have an illness. If you are housing more than one gecko in a single enclosure and you notice that the one’s tail is getting thin, it might be a sign of bullying between the two.
  • Just like their tails, their bodies should have the volume on it. If you see that their bones are at the brink of getting exposed, this is already a sign of a disease.
  • A healthy Leopard Gecko should not have any bumps or lumps in their stomach; pregnant Leopard Geckos are entirely a different story. You have to confirm that the bulge in their stomach is not caused by being pregnant.
  • Their skin should be brightly-colored (except for the albinos). If you notice that their skin is getting discoloration and they are not shedding for quite some time, this can mean that they are not feeling well. Check that their eyes are kept clear, free of any discharge or swelling.
  • Signs of having a Metabolic Disease are a gaping mouth and soft jaw bone. So, ensure that your Leopard Gecko is not experiencing any of these.
  • A sign of infection can be swelling, and bleeding toes, so ensure that they should not have these.
  • Feces should be in solid form and not watery, as this could be a sign of diarrhea. The normal colors are black, brown with a little hint of white.

The following that has been listed below are the common health problems that a Leopard gecko may experience.

Impaction

Impaction is probably the most common health issue that Leopard Geckos undergo. If not treated, this will definitely cause death. This occurs when the gecko accidentally eats the substrate that is commonly used as the flooring in the enclosure. These can be sand, paper towels, newspapers, carpets, and even tiles

Their stomach will have a difficult time when it comes to digesting these substrates, especially sand. This disease can also happen if they have been fed with prey that is too big for their stomach to handle.

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Prolapse

A serious health problem that happens when the organ of a Leopard Gecko is trapped outside their bodies. This can be difficult to spot, but the usual symptom will be a vent on the tail that looks like there is something sticking out. Being a complicated disease, you need to bring your Leopard Gecko immediately, and if they don’t receive proper treatment, this can be fatal for them.

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Egg Binding

Also called dystocia, this occurs when a Leopard Gecko encounters issues when it comes to laying eggs. Needless to say, this will only happen to female geckos and can be seen when the eggs don’t leave the body when the time comes for egg-laying. Probable causes for this may include not having enough calcium in their diet. This can be fatal and might start off by your Leopard Gecko getting depressed, not being able to properly lay the eggs.

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Metabolic Bone Disease

Leopard Geckos, who have trouble walking with limbs that seem rubbery or broken, are experiencing Metabolic Bone Disease. This also happens by not getting enough calcium. There’s no known cure for this disease, but the symptoms can be slowed down using proper treatment.

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Parasites

Organisms that live on the skin of your Leopard Gecko may be labeled as parasites as they feed on it. They can also live inside the body of a Leopard Gecko, and one of the worst effects of having parasites in them is that the symptoms will never be recognized unless it has grown in numbers. 

The only way to detect that your Leopard Gecko has parasites is to take it to the veterinarian, and he will conduct a fecal examination. Geckos with confirmed parasites will be treated by a medicine taken orally.

Burns

Too much exposure to a heating pad or light provided inside a tank can cause burn in your Leopard Gecko. They experience excruciating pain and will be fatal if they don’t get immediate treatment. Veterinarians can prescribe topical ointments or antibiotics.

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Preventing Illness

Sick or weak Leopard Geckos in the wild are usually an easy target for predators, and because of this, they have mastered how to look healthy in their natural environment. Good owners of these reptiles can easily pinpoint if their Leopard Gecko is not feeling well by noticing unusual changes in their behavior. There are ways that can be of great help in avoiding illness in the future.

  • Monitor the weight of your Leopard Gecko on a weekly basis. Sudden weight loss will often mean that they are housing an illness.
  • Keeping a weekly record of their weight, feeding habits, behavior, shedding, and other information that should be noted.
  • Have a reptile first-aid kit; this is a given for any reptile owner. 
  • The substrate in their tanks should be safe when accidentally eaten. Avoid using sand, newspaper, and paper towels as these may cause impaction and even irritation in the eyes.
  • Every 6-12 months, your Leopard Gecko should undergo a routine physical examination as this will make sure that they have optimum health.
  • Blood tests can also be recommended by the veterinarian to ensure the overall wellness of the gecko.

Behavior

Careful observation of your pet gecko will give you an idea of what is considered healthy for them as normal behavior usually differs according to species. The common and known behavior of a Leopard Gecko is the following:

Alert and Active

When your gecko is awake, they should be active and alert. Manifestations of these will include responding quickly to stimuli when presented. Climbing and exploring their tanks or even outside in a calm manner is also a good indicator of this. The usual signs of stress are jumpy or freezing.

Tail Wiggling or Rattling

Leopard Geckos, in particular, the juvenile ones, will often wiggle the tip of there quickly before they munch on their food. Wiggling their tail upon the sight of food is normally a sign of excitement.

In the wild, they wiggle their tails in order for them to distract the predator. Predators will usually attack the tail first rather than attacking the body. If a male gets attracted to a female gecko, they can be seen vibrating their tail in a rapid way, thus making a rattling sound.

Pupil Dilation or Constriction

Dilation or constriction of pupils normally happens when the Leopard Gecko is adjusting to the light intensity. If you have observed that your Leopard Gecko is not responding to light changes regardless of how intense it becomes, this is a common sign it’s sick.

Yawning

They are usually seen yawning after eating or when they have just woken up. This looks like a wide gape that might last for a couple of seconds. Symptoms that should be taken seriously are gaping with shaking the head; this is a sign that they might be choking or they are trying to vomit.

Eating

Leopard Geckos are usually enthusiastic and even aggressive when eating. Most of them will also have varying feeding techniques that include feeing from a dish, feeding on tongs, or hunting for prey while inside the cage.

Females might not eat properly during the breeding season. Brumation during the winter season can also be a factor in why your Leopard Gecko refuses to eat. You can monitor their weight during this time because even though they are refusing food yet they are not losing weight, there’s really nothing to worry about.

Eye Licking

This may seem like a surprising behavior for most people, but Leopard Geckos do this if they have dry eyes or there is something stuck around it. This is completely normal, but continuous licking will mean that there is an actual object stuck inside their eyes. Morphs like eyelid kinks and deformities may also cause your Leopard Gecko to lick their eyes more.

Vocalization

Surprising right! Your Leopard Gecko is highly capable of vocalization or making sounds. However, you should be informed that they will usually do this when they feel unhappy or even stressed. Small ones can be heard, making banshee-like screams while the adult ones will produce squeaking or quacking sounds.

Foot Shaking

You might observe your pet Leopard Gecko walks slowly, and their foot is shaking. You don’t have to worry as this is normal, their behavior. However, if you see their feet shaking despite them not moving slowly, this may a sign of calcium deficiency.

Sneezing

They will sneeze to get off any debris that got stuck on their nose. Constant sneezing, however, can be a sign of respiratory infection.

Glass Dancing

Also called glass surfing, this happens when the gecko is at the wall of the tanks, and it’s trying to climb out. This may have different implications like they feel bored, stressed, or in general, not being happy with their small cage.

Monitor the temperature and ensure that the levels are kept optimum. Place additional covers as they might feel too exposed, and they might need a good spot to hide. If they are always trying to climb out of their tanks, you might consider getting a bigger one.

Lethargy

This may look more than the usual sleepy behavior. They can be seen being inactive, slow, fatigue, and you should bring the gecko to the veterinarian immediately.

Constricted Ear Hole

When they feel stressed out, they will constrict their earholes, and it may look like they are trying to close them, but they can’t.

Stiffness

Manifestations of stress can also make your gecko rigid and stiff, observe them carefully as this can be easily misinterpreted as chilling.

Tail Waving

Waiving their tail high up in the air will often mean that they feel scared or they don’t want to be touched. If you see them waving their tails with their backs arched, leave them alone for a few hours.

Trying to look bigger

Startled or scared, Leopard Geckos will try to make themselves look larger; they will puff up and stand tall. This is also paired with their backs arching and waving tails.

Rapid Breathing

Their bodies will take in large gulps of air, and the bottom of their neck will be quickly inflating and deflating. The key term for this is rapid, as having slow deep breaths is considered normal.

Hibernation Cycle

Reptiles that are older than 1 year old will experience a slowdown in their metabolism naturally. They will usually brumate in the colder months of the year, usually from December to the end of February.

Some of the indicators that might notify you that your pet Leopard Gecko is already near the brumation phase are: not as active as the usual, loses appetite, hides for weeks, and will have a strong preference on the cold part of their tanks. 

Shedding

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Leopard Geckos will shed their skin in one piece rather than in small pieces. This will also vary depending on factors like age and maturity, but this is expected to occur frequently in young ones compared to adults. A rule of thumb is that the faster they grow, the quicker for their skin to shed.

A good indication that your pet leopard gecko will shed soon is that their colors are getting dull, and it will turn completely white right before shedding happens. This is a natural process, and they’re required to undergo this one, but there will be cases wherein they might have difficulties in shedding like when they don’t get the right level of humidity. 

Their tanks should always have the right humidity level, especially during the shedding process. When they encounter issues in shedding, you might notice that their skin will get stuck to their toes. This might not pose a serious problem during the first few sheds, but the continuous pile-up of dead skin will cause restricted blood flow and might even lead to amputation.

If your Leopard Gecko has not successfully shed its skin, you can offer help by doing the following:

  • Use small plastic containers wherein you can place wet towels. These need to be warm and not dripping, so humidity level is at optimum for shedding.
  • You can place a cover on top of the container and place your Leopard Gecko inside it for half an hour or longer if you think that they are not getting the right humidity level.
  • Once you have achieved the right humidity, it should be easy enough to remove the skin by using tweezers. Place them inside the container for another 30 minutes is you need to remove lots of layers of dead skin.

Availability – Where to Get One?

They are readily available for purchase in pet stores, especially the ones selling reptiles. They are widely available in local stores and even online sellers. It’s always recommended that you purchase from a reputable Leopard Gecko breeder.

FAQ Section

Are Leopard Geckos Nocturnal?

Yes, the Leopard Geckos are nocturnal geckos, which makes them more active during the nighttime as they can be seen hunting and exploring during these hours.

Can Leopard Geckos live together?

Generally, male Leopard Geckos should never be housed together as they become aggressive and fights constantly. However, it’s a different case for the females since they can easily get along, and pet owners can have them placed in one enclosure. The juvenile ones can be kept in one tank as long as they are the same size, and they are given ample space to play around.

How to Tell the Gender of a Leopard Gecko?

Telling the gender of a leopard Gecko will never be accurate until they reach about 4-6 months old. During this time, the male Leopard gecko begins to develop a very obvious V-shaped row of pores near their tail. They will also develop two bulges at the bottom part of their tails.

Do Leopard Geckos Bite?

If they feel threatened or restrained, they might resort to biting. They can be very docile and friendly; that’s why they make the best pets; they also have a lower chance of biting. Owners will also have no problem handling them as long as they are given time to get accustomed to the owner and their new environment.

Do Leopard Geckos eat their own skin?

Yes. They have been seen eating their own skin after shedding. They will do this because of two reasons: so, no one will know their exact location, thus avoiding predators in the wild. The second one is that their shed contains good amounts of proteins and vitamins; these are considered to be very helpful for growth, and if they live in the wild, they might not get a good source for this.

Do Leopard Geckos eat their own eggs?

There will be instances that a leopard Gecko will eat its own eggs. Some of the eggs that the female has laid are infertile, meaning these have been made without male interaction, and there is no baby inside. Cases like this will make them eat their own eggs. There will also be Leopard Geckos that eat their eggs if they feel threatened, or they have a calcium deficiency. The best way to avoid this is to ensure that the eggs are placed in a separate tank from their mothers and always have different tanks for adults and hatchlings.

Do Leopard Geckos eat their own poop?

The general idea for this is that they will not eat their own poop, but they might bury it from time to time. You need to check their tanks and replace their substrates immediately if you see that it has been soiled.

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