Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Leopard Gecko!
Leopard Geckos are awesome lizards to keep as pets! They are good for beginner reptile keepers and are a good “staple” lizards for seasoned reptile keepers! The Leopard Gecko Eublepharis macularius is one of the easiest lizards to care for, and they are quite hardy. Pet stores almost always carry them as regular stock. If they don’t have one on site they can almost always special order one for you with no problem!
These geckos don’t require much of a time commitment other than basic maintenance and food. Biting is a rare occurrence with Leopard Geckos which makes them ideal lizards for children. (Remember to still supervise young children however!) They are also easy to tame and train. Many people like to walk around with their pet gecko clinging to their shirt! Breeding them in captivity is also generally easy.
Leopard Geckos are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night and sleep or rest during the day. They originate from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Blyth described them and gave them a name in 1854. North America imported these lizards regularly until sometime in the 1970’s when importation became illegal. Today they are a very popular pet lizard and readily available in the pet industry. Leopard Geckos often have a ton of spots (hence their name!) but can also have no spots at all. Juvenile Leopard Geckos have no spots and do not get them until they mature a little. There are many variations in the colors and spots of these geckos. They can even come in albino and tangerine colors! Full grown size for these guys is only around 8 inches long. If you take exceptional care of your gecko he/she may live up to 20 years! Average lifespans are around 5 to 7 years however.
After you have the initial habitat set up for your gecko, they are easy to care for! For one leopard gecko, you can start out with a simple 10 gallon terrarium. You should purchase a larger one if you would like to keep more than one lizard. On the bottom, you can put paper towels, walnut-shell bedding or carpet. Be careful not to use any type of sand because sometimes geckos will ingest it as a source of calcium and too much sand can impact their intestines. Each gecko should be provided with their own hiding place (such as a log). They also love to climb, so branches or other decorations can be added. You should also purchase a lighting source. Put the light source (40-60 watt bulb) on one side of the terrarium so that your gecko can go in and out from it as it wants.
The ongoing maintenance is relatively simple and does not require too much time. Feed your Leopard Gecko mostly crickets and mealworms pretty much on a daily basis. It is suggested that you coat them a commercial calcium powder and/or gut loaded powder to make sure your lizard is taking in enough calcium, vitamins, and minerals. In particular make sure the powder you purchase has the vitamin D3. Or you could provide a UV fluorescent bulb to help provide the vitamin D3. Also give your gecko fresh dechlorinated water daily. Make sure to clean out any uneaten food on a daily basis, and wash their dishes and cage out thoroughly on a weekly basis.
Most Leopard Geckos do fantastic in a captive home environment, especially when well-cared for. One of the most common problems is vitamin deficiency, which can be easily remedied with the proper lighting and food powders. They can also acquire parasites if their cage is not kept clean. Again, this is easily remedied with a proper environment.
Leopard Geckos breed quite readily in captivity. I won’t go into all the details, however, if you are interesting in breeding them read more here on Leopard Gecko Reproduction.
Have you determined that a Leopard Gecko is the perfect pet lizard for you? That’s great! Make sure to read even more on Leopard Geckos before you bring one home!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.