Leopard geckos

If you’re looking for a pet gecko, we recommend opting for a leopard gecko. They are approx 6cms (2.5″) when they hatch and can grow to 20-25cms (8-10″) long. They can live for eight years or more.

Leopard geckos are one of the few gecko species with eyelids. They are native to Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Iran where they are found in harsh, arid mountain and desert regions. They are nocturnal, ground dwelling lizards and take cover during the heat of the day. They do not have adhesive toe pads like other Geckos. Rough handling can cause the gecko to shed its tail, and while this will re-grow, the new one will not look as nice. And while we’re on tails, a healthy gecko has a fat tail - avoid buying one with a thin tail. Leopard geckos are ideal lizards for first time keepers as they do not grow particularly big, are easy to keep and attractive to look at. They are ideal for older children because they are placid and soon become accustomed to handling. They require little maintenance, and the overall costs involved are relatively low.

Housing

It is possible to start with a small pen such as an Exo Terra Faunarium for a hatchling and then upgrade to a Terrarium when they grow larger. They can be kept singly, in pairs or in groups but as the males are aggressive there must only be one male per group. Males are slightly more heavy bodied and have a row of enlarged femoral pores running along the inner thigh.

Substrate & Furnishings

As they originate from very arid conditions it is important to provide a suitable environment for your pet gecko. Exo Terra sand is ideal as a base and larger stones can be added to create a more realistic, rocky desert terrain. At least one hide per gecko should be included as it is important that they have the option to hide and have their own space if required.

Remove all droppings and clean the terrarium on a regular basis to prevent disease.

Heating

Leopard geckos need a hot area of about 90°F (32°C) with a background daytime temperature of 80°F (27°C). At night, temperature should drop to about 70°F (21°C). This is when they move about most and feed. One of the best ways of heating for leopard geckos is the Exo Terra Heat Mat. Choose an appropriate size to provide the right degree of heat - ensure only about half the floor area is covered by the mat and the mat is correctly situated outside the glass. A digital thermometer should be placed near the hot end and one at the cool end to monitor temperatures. A thermostat is essential to control the heat source and prevent your pet from becoming too hot or too cold.

Lighting

Unlike many reptiles, they do not need UVA or UVB lighting as the leopard gecko is mostly nocturnal. In fact too much UV light is detrimental and can cause eye problems. An incandescent daylight bulb (Sun Glo) or a ReptiGlo 2.0 fluorescent tube, set on a timer to give 10-12 hours daylight, can be used because they do not have high levels of UVB. A Night Glo bulb can be used to assist nocturnal viewing if desired.

Water

Geckos do not require much water, but a shallow bowl of clean water should be provided. Young ones can be gently sprayed and will drink the droplets.

Diet and feeding

Feeding leopard geckos is very easy. They will take a wide variety of insects, crickets (which are their main food) small locusts, wax worms and mealworms (only the latter in small quantities). Feed baby geckos a good meal every other day and adults 2 to 3 times a week. It is important not to over feed - make sure all the food has been eaten before you offer more. Make sure the crickets are not too big, a good guide is to feed ones no bigger than the distance between your pet gecko’s eyes.

All insects should be well fed so that they contain maximum nutritional value when fed to the geckos. They normally come with food such as bran in the container. Once or twice a week, before offering them to the geckos, insects should be dusted with good quality reptile mineral/vitamin supplement powder. Exo Terra cricket feeders are perfect as a container to dust them in and then allow slow release into the Terrarium. Geckos will benefit from having a small dish of calcium (calcium carbonate or grated cuttlefish) available at all times.

Salmonella

Like all living things, geckos can carry the naturally occurring bacteria Salmonella, which can be acquired through ingestion (by mouth). Good hygiene is therefore very important when keeping any animal. Remember you are more likely to acquire Salmonella from raw or under cooked chicken, a stale cream cake or a dog so do not automatically assume that your gecko is the only suspect!

Always wash your hands after handling all animals.

Shedding

The most common problem with leopard geckos is with skin shedding. Like all reptiles they shed the outside layer of skin regularly but, unlike snakes, the discarded skin is normally eaten and is rarely seen. On occasion, however, the skin can become stuck around their toes and eyes. If you see your gecko having trouble shedding give it a spray with tepid water or place it in a separate box with damp kitchen paper. If this does not work seek further advice from your pet shop, Dobbies pet centre, reptile society or breeder. A shedding box with damp moss or vermiculite should be provided and could double as an additional hide.

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