Leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius) are one the most popular reptile pets. They have gentle demeanor, striking appearance and very low maintenance requirement that make them great companion of new and experience owners. However, like all other lizards leopard geckos need proper care. Within this blog you will get comprehensive tips about your pet gecko their ideal habitat health and wellness, nutrition advice. It will also help you in becoming an informative gecko owner who will learn everything about these lizards.
Leopard geckos are naturally found in the regions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and northwestern India. They are famous for their exceptional characteristics that include vibrant leopard spots on their body, capability to detach their tail from body and their distinctive eyelids. Gecko lizards are very famous among reptile enthusiasts because of their small size and docile nature and their length of 7 to 10 inches. Leopard geckos are bred in captivity from a long time and they are one of the common pet lizards in the world.
Getting a healthy Leopard Gecko lizard
When you are getting a pet gecko there will be different options that you will come around like local reptile store, online breeders and different rescue organizations but the most important thing is to select the healthy gecko lizard. Some important features to look for when selecting the pet gecko lizard are:
- Their eyes should be bright, clear and free of any kind of discharge.
- The gecko should be active and alert moving easily and calmly in the enclosure.
- Gecko lizard skin must be free of lesions, sores and any sign of shedding issues.
- The gecko must have good body condition, a plump tail, well rounded body is an indication that the gecko is in good condition.
- Leopard gecko lizard shed its skin periodically and there must be no complication in the process.
Morph and coloration
Leopard geckos have various morphs each have different pattern and coloration. Some of the well-known morphs are Tremper Albino, High Yellow, Jungle, Blizzard and Mack snow. Consider your budget and preferences when selecting a morph but always prefer the health and well-being of leopard gecko over aesthetics.
Leopard geckos are relatively small creatures and they show a great amount of activity in the crepuscular period that occurs at dawn and dusk. During this time they go in search of food and bask in UVB light of the setting or rising sun. As a result it is important that you provide them proper space for movement and make sure that they are getting the proper enrichment. In case of adult leopard geckos enclosure size must be (3 x 2 x 2ft), 90 x 60 x 60cm.
Geckos are the lizards that like to live alone and also show territorial behavior, especially if there are other male geckos around. Therefore it is advised to not keep them in pairs as this always leads to competition and conflicts, sometime you will see fighting as well.
Naturally, in the natural conditions, leopard geckos live in temperature of almost 90°F under the sun. To make exact same conditions, we need to create a thermal gradient in the enclosure, by keeping the one third of portion heated and the temperature of remaining portion should be kept around 70°F. TO achieve this temperature you need to install basking lamp along the ceiling of the enclosure typically on oneside of enclosure. This lam is controlled by a dimming thermostat and it will help in making sure that the temperature stays constant throughout the day. Leopard geckos are able to get to the top of their enclosure without the help of any climbing structure so it’s essential to enclose the lamp with a guard. Normally the basking lamp is kept on for 10 to 12 hours every day.
During the night, there should be no light on, making sure that there is complete darkness in the enclosure. This is important for maintaining a clear cycle of day and night for geckos.
Even when the sun has gone down there are still paths, rocks and other surfaces that have some heat in them from the daytime. To make sure that there is heat throughout the night and no light, place a heat mat beneath the baking area. The heat mat will keep the objects warm and make sure that place is warm for leopard geckos to get rest. To make sure that heat mats always keep the temperature correct, it should be controlled by a thermostat and set around 80°F. The heat mat should be positioned an inch below the bedding and the thermostat should be kept on the bedding to check the surface temperature.
During the daytime there is no need to use the heat mat thermostat as the daytime temperature is already high. The heat mat should only start working when temperature goes below 80°F.
While the thermostat available in the market are very reliable but it is good practice to measure temperature with thermometer.
Leopard geckos have desert dwelling nature and have modest humidity needs. The optimal humidity range falls between 30-40%. You can easily maintain this humidity level with a little effort. To make sure that the humidity level should not increase this limit always place a shallow water dish on the cooler side of enclosure which helps in reducing evaporation. If still it is difficult to maintain humidity than a small fan can be installed to enhance ventilation.
Their humidity requirement is very low, so a good gecko substrate will not holding any excess moisture. Therefore it is recommended to use the sandy substrate or a mixture of sand and soil. It is advised not to use the reptile carpet as it harbor bacteria and their claws also get stuck in the caret causing injuries.
You may have heard a controversy to not use sandy substrate for the reptile species because they suffer from intestinal impaction by eating sand. However, the usually occur because of improper husbandry, your gecko will not look for any nutrition from san if all the requirements are met. Therefore meet the dietary requirements of leopard and maintain good husbandry conditions as sand resemble the natural habitat of geckos.
Leopard geckos are not natural basking species so they will not need a UVB bulb as a light source. The best UVB source for them is the one that fall between the range of 2-7%, however individual geckos have special demand. There are geckos with less pigmentation also known as albinos, they love the lower end of the range, On the other hand a typical gecko get benefit of UVB tube ranging from 5% to 7%.
Regardless of whatever UVB lamp you have selected, it is recommended to position it near the warm end on the backside of the ceiling. This will create a favorable UV setup from the rear to the front end of enclosure. In this setting you will achieve a temperature gradient along the whole length and width of the enclosure which means that whatever is the requirement of the gecko it will be met in the enclosure.
Additionally, you will also have to provide hiding sots inside the enclosure to attend the geckos need in the period without light. This is easy to achieve with both partial and full hiding spot in the enclosure.
Leopard geckos love a fondness for the heat that comes from the basking lamp, but they also like the comfort of heat that comes from the secondary heated objects. Some materials like artificial decoration and slate act as an excellent source of secondary heat. You can place these items under and around the basking area to provide them warmth. However the height of the lam should be monitored and it should be not close to proximity and may lead to more heating of rocks, leading to sunburns. That’s the reason regular monitoring of the surface temperature is recommended.
As discussed above there are some chances when leopard geckos don’t like to come under UVB light and look for shade. To fulfill their need for the shade it is important to provide both full and partial hiding sot throughout the enclosure. Examples of decoration that can provide full coverage includes, flat cork pieces, caves, or any decoration that provide shaded spot. Partial shading decoration option include trailing and tall plants, where geckos can also get benefit from the light whenever they want.
Leopard geckos are carnivorous creatures, primarily consuming a diet of insects. For this species, we highly recommend brown crickets as they offer a nutritious and cost-effective choice that is relatively easy for geckos to capture. Brown crickets are readily available and widely used. In case your gecko does not favor brown crickets, black crickets and locusts are excellent alternatives.
Occasionally, you might want to treat your gecko to a more varied diet. In such cases, you can consider feeding them waxworms, calciworms, cockroaches, mealworms, or beetle grubs. However, it's important to note that grubs and worms tend to be higher in fat content, so it's advisable to offer them no more than once or twice a week. Mealworms, morio worms, and cockroaches, on the other hand, can be harder to digest, so it's typically reserved for mature geckos (those aged 12-18 months or older), and again, only once or twice a week.
In every gecko enclosure, it's essential to include a small or medium-sized water bowl. While you may not observe your gecko drinking directly from it, the water bowl serves as a crucial backup water source. Sometimes, you may notice your gecko using the water bowl for bathing, which typically serves the purpose of cooling down or assisting in the shedding of their skin. To prevent rapid evaporation, it's advisable to position the water bowl on the cooler end of the vivarium.