Leopard Gecko Care Info
Difficulty Level: Easy to Intermediate
Lifespan: 8 - 12 years
Behaviour: The leopard gecko is a nocturnal ground-dwelling lizard that can be found in the deserts of Central Asia and Pakistan. They can make a great addition to a household. Adult males should be housed separately, as they are territorial and will fight. Adult females can be housed together if they are similar in size, but just know that not all geckos get along and you may have to still separate them. Leopard geckos have to be handled with care. If they are being handled roughly, they may feel that they are in danger and could end up "dropping" their tail. This is very stressful for the gecko as it takes a lot of energy and nutrients to regrow their tail. It can also be scary for an owner! The tail will regenerate but it will not be as large or colourful as it was before. Keep a close eye on your gecko during this time to make sure an infection doesn't develop. If you notice any redness, swelling or discharge, see your Veterinarian as soon as possible.
Housing: The most commonly used housing for leopard geckos are aquariums with screen tops. Screen tops are recommended for ventilation and to protect the geckos from household threats such as other pets in the house. An appropriate sized tank for a young Leopard Gecko could be a 5 - 10 gallon tank but this will need to be upgraded to at least a 20 gallon tank when the gecko is an adult. For young geckos newspaper, paper towel, tiles or reptile carpet are a good choice. Sand substrate should be avoided for young geckos as it may cause intestinal impaction if they consume it. Adult geckos can be kept on sand substrate but it is not necessary and they will need to be watched closely to make sure they aren't eating it. Shelter is essential since leopard geckos are nocturnal and like to hide during the daytime under rocks and other debris. There should be a shelter on each side of the tank, in the warm side and cool side. These can either be bought at petstores or made at home with a plastic container that does not allow light inside. Your gecko also requires a moist hide box to help with shedding it's skin. These moist boxes can be lined with damp paper towels, moss, soil, or sphagnum moss but make sure they are not too wet as they might start to mould. Leopard geckos regularly shed their entire skin, and will actually consume it after which helps them to gain back much-needed nutrients. When they are about to shed their skin, they may seek out a moist place such as the hide to help them shed easier. If your gecko is having difficulty shedding, you can place it in a container with shallow warm water for about 30 minutes. If your gecko is still having difficulties shedding his skin, seek veterinary assistance. Incomplete shedding can be dangerous to your leopard geckos, and around the toes in particular can cut off circulation and cause irreversible damage.
Lighting/Temperature: Your leopard gecko will need to have a warm side and a cool side in their tank. This allows them to choose for themselves what temperature they want. The easiest way to accomplish this for your gecko is with a reptile friendly heating mat that sticks to the bottom of your tank. A thermometer should be placed on both sides of the habitat to judge the temperature. The warm side should be between 86 F - 90 F and the cold side should be between 73 F - 80 F. Infrared heating bulbs can be used to provide additional heat sources. Infrared is recommended over UV because it is invisible to the leopard gecko and will not cause stress. If the warm side of the tank gets to be over 90 F it would be recommended to either downsize your under tank heater or get a lamp dimmer to reduce the temperature that way. UV lights are not recommended because leopard geckos are nocturnal creatures and a constant bright light is an unnatural stressor.
Nutrition: There are a variety of insect choices when it comes to feeding your gecko. Always make sure to feed your insects a nutritious diet and to dust them with calcium before feeding them to your pet so that your gecko can benefit fully from it's diet. This is called gut-loading and these diets can be found at most pet stores along with powdered calcium. Leopard geckos can be fed crickets or meal worms as their staple diet but crickets may be harder to catch for younger geckos so it can be a good idea to alternate between meal worms and crickets. Meal worms can be placed in a shallow dish for the gecko to eat whenever they are hungry. Make sure the insects you are feeding are not larger in size than the length of your geckos head as they may have trouble swallowing something bigger than this. Young geckos will need to be fed once a day (about 4 - 8 insects depending on the geckos size) and adults will need to be fed every couple of days (about 4 - 10 insects).
Health Concerns: Common health concerns for leopard geckos include mouth rot, respiratory illness, and Metabolic Bone Disease. Tail loss and shedding can also be an issue but they were covered above. Mouth rot is a bacterial infection of the gums and sometimes bone in the jaw of a reptiles mouth. It causes a decrease in appetite since it can be painful and the mouth can become swollen. It is recommended that you take your gecko to a Veterinarian as soon as possible if you suspect that it has a mouth rot since they will need to be prescribed a course of anitbiotics. Respiratory infections may occur if your gecko is exposed to prolonged low temperatures or very high humidity. Symptoms can include lethargy, laboured breathing and possibly discharge from the nostrils. To help your gecko, you should increase the temperature in it's room and tank. Monitor both temperatures closely but if there's no sign of improvement seek Veterinary assistance, as it will require antibiotics to aid recovery. Metabolic bone disease is a very serious condition that affects the bones of reptiles and is triggered by a deficiency of calcium and Vitamin D3. Signs may include: swollen and sometimes crooked joints, jerky movements and sometimes a swollen lower jaw. This can be prevented with proper diet, temperature and supplementation with the proper vitamins.