Beginners Guide to Keeping Leopard Geckos

Leopard Geckos are a very popular first reptile. These small crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) lizards are native to India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, where the environment is dry and rocky. Unlike other gecko species, Leopard Geckos don’t have sticky toepads on their feet to climb walls.

These cute little creatures are relatively easy to care for. In captivity, they may live up to 20 years or more.

Here are some tips and guidance to help you create the perfect home and care for your new reptile.

Housing

Due to being specialised and adapted species, it is extremely important to provide your new gecko with the correct environment to support its wellbeing. The correct space, substrate, temperature, and humidity are essential for optimal health.

Vivarium

An adult Leopard gecko needs a tank that is at least 60cm long, 40cm high and 30cm deep. It is important to pick a suitable tank which is specifically designed for reptiles and with suitable ventilation.

Lighting and Temperature

Geckos, like other reptiles, use their environment to regulate their body temperature. Therefore, it is essential to provide the perfect gecko habitat by creating a thermogradient within the tank – a heated area at one end and a cooler area at the other. Fitting a thermostat will help you to keep track and keep the temperature stable within the environment. The best way to heat one side of the tank is by using a heat lamp or heat mat.

The heated basking area should be maintained at 28 to 30 degrees Celsius during the day and the cooler end between 24 to 26 degrees Celsius.

Geckos need a dry environment. To avoid creating too much humidity, place the water bowl at the cooler end of the tank. Use a humidity monitor (hygrometer) to keep this stable. The ideal humidity is around 20%. Avoid it going any lower than this, or your gecko may struggle to shed its skin effectively.

Your gecko will need ultraviolet light to make essential vitamin D in their body, just like us, they would usually get this from exposure to the sun. You can provide this by fitting a 2 to 5 percent UVB bulb in the tank.

As they are nocturnal, when it is dark, avoid turning on lights in the area where the tank is being kept.

Substrate

It is important to provide the right substrate for your gecko to ensure they are safe and the environment is suitable. For example, if you incorrectly used soil, you would risk increasing the humidity in the tank, causing health problems for your lizard. Use a specialised gecko substrate, which you can get in most pet and reptile stores, this is usually small, sterilised woodchips.

Hides

To help create a safe, enriching and natural landscape for your Gecko, you’ll need to provide hiding places like half logs and low and sturdy rocks for climbing. As with the substrate, these need to be steralised before being put in the tank, to avoid contamination.

Feeding

As with all pets, providing the correct diet is at the heart of effective leopard gecko care. They need to eat a variety of live insects such as crickets, waxworms and small locusts. It is important to provide the correct size food, so be sure to provide food that is no bigger than the size of your gecko’s head.

Adult geckos can be fed every other day by putting a few of the live insects lose in the tank. Check the tank daily to make sure your lizard is eating. If you have a juvenile gecko, you should feed it daily until it matures.

Like most reptiles, to ensure they are getting all of the nutrients they require, you will need to sprinkle a supplement onto the live food before you put it in the tank. Ask a specialist to advise on the best brands to use for supplements.

Provide a shallow water dish and place it in the cooler end of the tank. Clean and fresh water must be provided each day as they may use this to bath or defecate in occasionally.

Handling and Temperament

Geckoes are generally very docile and easy to tame. They are usually slow moving and not prone to biting, making handling easy. As with most reptiles, avoid handling too long or leaving them outside the vivarium for extended periods to avoid a sudden drop in temperature, which could cause harm to your lizard.

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