Scientific Name: Eublepharis macularius
Sexing and Characteristics:
Sexing Leopard Geckos can be quite easily and accurately done by visual differences found between the two different sexes. This however is mostly prevalent in mature adult or sub-adult animals. Males have femoral pores or bumps on the underside of their thighs in a V shape. Females generally lack these pores or bumps. Males show two hemipenal bulges on the base of their tails. Females do not have 2 hemipenal bulges at the base of their tails. Due to these differences only distinguishable in adult or sub adult animals the majority of leopard geckos are ‘temperature sexed’ and sold as such when young. This means they are incubated as eggs at different temperatures. The range varies from 26 ̊C-33 ̊C, 26 ̊C-29 ̊C produces mostly females. 31 ̊C-33 ̊C produces mostly males.
Generally adult Leopard Gecko females reach 7”- 8” inches, males are 8” – 10” inches. There is a particular blood line available which is referred to as the “Giant” strain which has recorded adult males reaching a 12” inches or more.
Substrate and Water Needs:
For bedding you can use a variety of things, Pine & Cedar are to be avoided as these are toxic to reptiles. When it comes to substrate for your leopard gecko there is a lot of conflicting information available as to what is safe and what is correct. Some recommended substrates are newspaper, paper towels, bark chippings. Sand can be ingested and cause impaction and eventual death so sand should also be avoided.
A small to medium sized water bowl will suffice. It is essential that fresh water is always supplied and available to your gecko.
Lighting and UVB:
As Leopard Geckos are nocturnal geckos it is commonly thought that they have no specific lighting requirements. Being nocturnal means they spend most of the day time asleep and hiding and become active and hunt at night. However wild animals have been observed basking during the day so they evidently do utilise UVB in the wild. It is true that Leopard Geckos can be kept without the use of UVB without suffering detrimental health problems as long as they are correctly supplemented, and many keepers do not use UVB. However in light of many studies on the beneficial effects of UVB provision on nocturnal lizards the HSI would recommend that (where possible) UVB is provided for Leopard geckos. If you choose not to use UVB bulb then occasional exposure to UVB for short periods of time can be beneficial to your gecko, even just an hour in the garden on a sunny day.
Spot bulbs or basking bulbs can be used for larger enclosures to provide a heat or a natural light source on a cycle
Temperatures & Humidity:
Your Leopard Gecko needs a temperature gradient throughout its enclosure so that it can thermoregulate as needed. The most ideal way to maintain this is through a heatmat in conjunction with a thermostat. This heatmat should be located at one end of the enclosure so that the gradient can be easily maintained. The floor temperature at the end with the heatmat should not exceed 30 ̊C-31 ̊C. This would allow the opposite end of the enclosure to reach a lower temperature and your gecko can thermoregulate as required. The most ideal options to obtain the appropriate temperature in your enclosure are noted below.
- Basking/Infrared Bulbs
- Ceramic bulbs
The choice of heating system used is a matter of personal choice, however in ALL cases, a thermostat should be used in conjunction with the heater, in order to avoid burns to the animal, and danger of fire.
- Leopard Geckos humidity should be moderate, around 40-60% which can be increased whilst shedding.
- A moss box can be provided when they are shedding to help assist them.
- If help is needed choosing heating/thermostat options, please do not hesitate to contact the Herpetological Society of Ireland & we will guide you in the right direction.
Adult Leopard Geckos should be housed in an enclosure measuring 20”W x 12”H x 10”D or also referred to as a 10 gallon aquarium. Other enclosures of similar size will also suffice such as wooden flat pack enclosures and plastic tubs. Leopard Geckos can be housed in groups of multiple females but always only one male as Leopard Gecko males are territorial and will often fight to the death for dominance. The size of your enclosure should be appropriately increased with each additional gecko.
Young Leopard Geckos are best kept in small tubs with adequate ventilation. Secure hides should be offered as they often have trouble obtaining the correct temperatures in larger enclosures and this could cause them to go off their food.
Two hide boxes should always be available to each gecko one at each end of the enclosure to allow them to easily thermoregulate. One should be supplied as a moist hide to assist in shedding. This is easily done by using Moss, Vermiculite or other substrates that maintain moisture easily. Other decorations such as branches and rocks should be supplied for extra security as well as daily activities. Leopard Geckos are not great climbers so ensure that everything is secure to prevent from injury.
Description of Diet:
Insectivores- Leopard Geckos thrive on a diet of insects. Their primary diet should consist of Crickets, Mealworms and Locusts. Superworms and Waxworms should be offered sparingly or as a treat as they are high in fat. These can also be great for females after laying eggs to help build back up body fat reserves. All food items should be appropriately sized for each gecko. An easy method for this is to ensure the food items are no larger than the space between both of your gecko’s eyes.
Food items offered to your gecko should be high in nutritional value. An easy way to ensure this is to feed your food. This method is known as “Gut Loading”. What this means is that you should offer food to the insects you plan to feed to your gecko. There are many feeder foods now available that contain all the nutrients that will be passed back to your gecko from the insects. Other household food items can also be used such as vegetable matter like Rocket, Broccoli and Carrots are good examples. Adult geckos should be fed every other day and juvenile geckos should be fed every day.
Supplements, Nutrition and Usage:
Supplements and Vitamins are an important part of your gecko’s diet. It is important to use these for appropriate growth and bone development. They should however be used appropriately as too much can be just as bad as too little. If proper gut loading is done you should only need to apply the supplements once a week. An easy way to do this is to use a Ziploc bag or a beaker. Apply half a teaspoon of the powdered supplements to either and then put the insects in and give a gentle shake. A small container of supplements should also be available to your gecko. This can be easily achieved by using a plastic bottle lid. Your gecko will know how much supplements it will need and will take some if needed.
Leopard Geckos are very easy to take care of, probably the reason why they are one of the most kept and recommended gecko for most hobbyists. They use a certain area in their enclosure to defecate which makes cleaning much easier.
They have easily met climate requirements as well as diet requirements. The majority handle well when matured. Care must always be taken though because they have the ability to drop their tail as a defense mechanism. It does grow back but not as attractive as their original tail. Also this process can take a lot out of your gecko as this is where the majority of the body’s fat reserves are kept.
While very easy animals to keep, they are known to have problems shedding their skin correctly. It is very important to check that your gecko has shed correctly, focusing mainly on eye lids, tail and especially the toes. Leave old skin on the toes can cause them severe problems.
Some Words on the species
Leopard Geckos are some of the most kept geckos in the pet industry today. Their ease of care, sturdy and friendly nature has made them one of the more recommended species of reptile to keep as a beginner.
They are also well known for vast amount of ‘Morphs’ that are available. These different traits or genetic mutations allow the majority of the animals produced to have beautiful colors and patterns. This makes for exciting breeding projects.
They are a great beginner species that offer a lot of rewards in terms of keeping and experiences. They have an overall low cost in terms of the animal and equipment.