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Leopard geckos make great beginner reptiles for people looking into getting their first reptile, or people looking to expand their reptile collection. While it will take a bit of time and effort to set up for your new friend, once you’ve got the perfect set up it will be fairly easy from there on. These gorgeous geckos come in many morphs with various prices, so you’re sure to find one to fall in love with, within your price range. After a quick note below, let’s get started on how to care for leopard geckos!
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Life Span: Around 15 Years
Enclosure Size: 10+ Gallons
Temperature: 87° – 90° F For Basking Side, 74° – 80° For Cool Side
Sleep Pattern: Nocturnal
1. Tank Mates
If you want to have more than one leopard gecko together in a tank, it is possible. However, there are limitations. Two males should NEVER be kept together, as there is a huge chance that they will turn on each other and fight. This can cause damage, and even death to your leopard geckos.
Keeping multiple female leopard geckos together is possible, however it is best left to those who have a bit of experience, and know leopard geckos and their behaviours well. Females who are different sizes should not be kept together, as one may bully the other. You may also want to keep an extra tank on hand in case the cohabitation does not work out, or one becomes sick or injured and needs to be separated.
Keeping a male and a female, or a male and multiple females is also possible. However you will need to be prepared for the possibility of the females becoming gravid and laying fertile eggs. You will also need to be prepared for any added stress this causes to the female, like weight loss and calcium deficiency, or any fights that may occur. Therefore while it is possible, again it is best left to either those with experience, or breeders looking to produce multiple babies.
A good rule of thumb for the tank size is to add an additional 5 gallons on to the tank size for each extra gecko you add. For example 2 geckos would be 15 gallons, 3 would be 20 gallons, etc. However, 20 gallons for two is a better option, as it will allow the geckos more space to themselves. And as always, bigger is always better when it comes to enclosures, and you can absolutely go bigger than that. Just make sure that the bigger you go the more water bowls and hides you add, and make sure the temperature gradient stays correct.
2. How Big Your Leopard Gecko Will Get
Hatchling leopard geckos are around 3 or 4 inches. Once they are mature, adult female leopard geckos are on average 7 to 8 inches in length, and males are around 8 to 10 inches. There is a bloodline of giant leopard geckos, and these can reach up to 12+ inches in length. However giants aren’t as common, so the average leopard gecko will grow to the lengths that I mentioned first.
3. Temperament, Handling, and Behavior
Leopard geckos make good beginner reptiles due to their gentle nature. They also do not jump like crested geckos, who seem to like to jump out into nothingness for the fun of it. This does however mean that falls for leopard geckos can be more serious, so if you’re chilling with your gecko keep it lower to the ground by sitting down while handling.
As with most reptiles, babies may be more wary of you and quicker to “scream”, or gape at your with their mouth open. This is normal, and with regular, gentle handling your gecko will tame down nicely as it grows and matures. Just remember that you are a giant to them, and it will take them a while to realize you mean them no harm.
As with many species of geckos, leopard geckos will drop their tail if you scare them or grab onto their tail. It will grow back, but not as nicely as the original, and it will take extra unnecessary energy to do so. Just make sure you are careful around your gecko, and do not grab their tail. And if they do happen to drop their tail, it’s not the end of the world, just keep the wound clean and your gecko will be fine.
Leopard geckos are naturally found in Southern Asia, and Pakistan to Northwest India. This area is a very dry, hot area, so that’s what you will need to replicate in your enclosure. There are a few different ways you can achieve this, which include a heat mat and/or overhead lamps.
Heat mats like these can be placed underneath or on the side of your enclosure. This will heat the ground and the air, making it a nice temperature for your gecko. As with any heat source, you will need a thermostat. This will control the temperature and prevent it becoming too hot for you gecko. As well as turn off the mat if the heat mat malfunctions and puts out too much heat. This is important for the safety of your reptile, as burns can be serious and painful.
The second option is using a heat lamp. This is a lamp that is put on the top of your reptiles enclosure, with a heat producing light bulb, or ceramic heater bulb. Again, a thermostat will help you get the perfect temperature and keep your reptile safe. You can mix and match between a mat and a lamp, using one, or both if one just isn’t enough.
The proper temperature for a leopard gecko is 87 – 90 ° F on the hot side so your gecko can properly digest their food, and 74 – 80 °F on the cool side. Allowing for a heat gradient will give your gecko the opportunity to regulate their temperature, and sit at the perfect spot for them. Do not allow their temperature to go above 94 °F as that is starting to get too hot for your gecko. A proper thermometer or temperature gun will allow you to do regular checks and make sure things are what they should be.
As always, DO NOT use a heat rock for your leopard gecko. They are not easily regulated and can seriously injure/burn your gecko. Even though they sell them in most pet stores, they are not recommended and it is best to avoid them. You can find many rock decorations to use that do not heat up.
5. What To Feed Your Leopard Gecko
Feeding your leopard gecko a proper diet is important. They are insectivores and will not eat anything else like plants or fruit, only live insects. The first thing to decide on is what insects you want to feed your gecko. The main ones to choose from are: crickets, mealworms, dubia roaches, and the occasional silkworm or wax worm as a treat if you wish. Some geckos may prefer one over the other, or enjoy a variety, just experiment and see what makes your gecko happiest. A quick note: do not feed your gecko insects you found outside, as you dont know if the bug had any chemicals on it or in it.
Young leopard geckos should be fed every day while they are growing to ensure proper growth. Once your leopard gecko has grown into a healthy adult, once every other day will be fine. It is hard for a leopard gecko to become overweight as they store extra fat in their tail, but it is possible, so beware of overfeeding. A nice fat tail is a sign of a healthy gecko, so don’t worry!
Food should be gut loaded and dusted with calcium to ensure a healthy gecko. Gut loading is when you feed the insects you will feed to your gecko nutritious food. Dusting is when you take the insects and shake them in some calcium powder so that your gecko will eat the calcium when they eat the insect. This is an important part of keeping your gecko healthy.
There are an array of different substrates to pick from for your leopard geckos enclosure. However, when they are young the best substrate is paper towel as there is no chance of impaction, and you can make sure your gecko has healthy poops.
When your gecko is older you can choose from substrates such as paper towel, tiles, reptile carpet, and playground sand mixed with reptile safe soil.
If you do use reptile carpet, make sure to keep an eye on any loose threads and your geckos toes, as they may become caught and be injured. And while the sand mixed with soil is fine as long as your setup is perfect, make sure you do NOT use calcium sand or the plain sand often offered in pet stores. This can cause impaction and infections in your gecko and is best to avoid it altogether. And if you do go with the mixed substrate, make sure you feed your gecko their food in a bowl to avoid them accidentally eating the sand/dirt.
7. Setting Up The Perfect Enclosure For Your Leopard Gecko
The main list of things you HAVE to have for your leopard gecko are: water bowl, hot hide, cool hide, heat source, and substrate. However, you can add much more than that if you’d like!
You will need two hides so that your leopard gecko can chill on either the hot side or cool side of the tank while having the option of hiding to feel safe. Being out in the open with nowhere to hide will stress out your leopard gecko, and make them feel unsafe. You can make a simple hide from an opaque plastic container with a hole cut out for your gecko to enter through, or you can buy one such as this. Either is fine, it’s up to you. You can make either hide the moist one for shedding, or you could add a third hide in. Again, the choice is up to you.
If the plain look isnt for you, there are many ways you can decorate your leopard geckos enclosure. You could set up a live vivarium, with live plants, rocks, dirt, wood, and all that. Just make sure the plants you pick arent toxic to your gecko, and the substrate isn’t too lose.
You can also use fake plants to liven up your geckos enclosure, put in rocks, reptile safe wood, ledges, and really anything that isn’t sharp or toxic to reptiles. The sky’s the limit, use your imagination and create the perfect home for your new pet!
8. Humidity & Water
As mentioned above, leopard geckos are from a desert area. This means that they will need a fairly low humidity, 30% – 40% will suffice, which is around the average house humidity. A hygrometer will help keep track of the humidity so you can be sure. You will not need to spray down your geckos enclosure.
As with any pet, a water bowl is important to keep in their enclosure. Nothing too deep or big will be enough water to drink from, but won’t spike the humidity. Clean the bowl out regularly and replace with filtered water.
Setting up a moist hide for your leopard gecko to help with shedding will be helpful for them. A hide or plastic box with some damp paper towel or damp sphagnum moss will help your gecko with shedding. Just make sure the material you use is damp, not soaking wet, and you change it out when dirty.
9. Determining the Sex of Your Leopard Gecko
Determining whether your leopard gecko is a girl or a boy can help you pick a name for your new little one, and is also just something every pet owner should know. The earliest that you can start to determine the sex of your leopard gecko is around 3 or 4 months, but to be able to really tell 6 months is the best age to check.
As demonstrated in the photo above, what’s under your gecko’s tail will tell you their gender. Males have a row of pores just before the start of their tails, as well as two bulges at the top of the tail. Females have neither of those things, and have a fairly smooth area under the tail.
10. Leopard Gecko Morphs
Leopard geckos come in a huge variety of morphs for you to choose from. No matter your budget for your new friend, you are sure to find a leopard gecko that you love within your price range. The one thing I recommend you do before you purchase a specific morph however, is to research any problems that may come along with it. Two examples of these morphs are the enigma and the lemon frost. Enigma morphs tend to cause balance issues (neurological problems), and lemon frost geckos have a way higher rate of developing tumors and cancer.
Don’t let this frighten you, there are MANY healthy morphs out there. Just do your research into the morph you want, pick a reputable breeder, and you will have a healthy pet for many years to come.
You can see our article on 10 beautiful leopard gecko morphs here.
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