7 Reasons Why You Should Get a Leopard Gecko as Your Pet
Reptile pets feel scar at first to many people but many of them can be outright adorable. And few are a better example of that than the leopard gecko. Want to know what makes these small beauties special? We’ll explain below!
What are the key characteristics that make leopard geckos special?
The leopard gecko is a beautiful mid-sized gecko that can come in dozens of different color morphs. Usually around 15-20 cm (6.5 to 8 inches) long when fully grown, this lizard is small enough for anyone to play with, including kids. It’s also calm, docile, and harmless both to you, your family, and your other pets.
The 7 things you should know before getting a leopard gecko
1. Leopard geckos are the most popular lizard pet for new reptile owners
This species of geckos is both the easiest lizard to look after and the most popular in the US at the moment. If you want to get the most out of your experience with the leopard gecko you’d still do well through some basic taming and handling training, of course. This will ensure that both you and the gecko feel as good and calm with each other as possible. Here’s a nice instructional video by the Leopard Gecko channel on YouTube.
2. This is a very docile and placid lizard
Leopard geckos are very calm and friendly reptiles. When you learn to handle them properly, leopard geckos can easily learn to love playing with you. Just remember to not bother them when they sleep – the active periods for this lizard are around dawn and dusk, not during the day or late in the evening.
Also, when you play with your gecko, it’s a good idea to be sitting on the ground – this way, even if the lizard falls, it won’t be too high of a fall.
3. You’ll have to feed your gecko live insects only
Leopard geckos must also be fed live insects. If this sounds like too much of a bother, then it’s best to look for a different reptile pet. The best food for leopard geckos includes crickets, mealworms, calci worms, locusts, roaches, and waxworms (as treats). It’s best to alternate a few of those for diversity’s sake. It’s also important to make sure that the gecko’s food is no too large for him – as a rule of thumb, each insect should be no larger than the distance between the gecko’s eyes.
As for a schedule – adults should be fed once every 5 days, growing geckos – every 3 days, and juveniles – every day. If you're curious about some feeding tricks and hacks, check out this video:
4. Make sure that your leopard gecko is captive-bred – wild-caught geckos are illegal to keep as pets
Many breeders and sellers try to sell people wild-caught geckos. Not only is this a bad idea as a wild-caught reptile is much more aggressive and harder to train but it’s also illegal in the US. Always make sure that your future pet gecko is captive-bred.
5. You’ll need to maintain perfect conditions in the gecko’s terrarium for this reptile to thrive
Like all reptiles, leopard geckos are very sensitive to their environmental conditions. The temperature, humidity, and lightning of your gecko’s terrarium must all be carefully calibrated for your gecko to thrive. We’ll explain exactly what you’ll need below.
6. Leopard geckos live for a surprisingly long time!
You’d think that a reptile this small would have a fairly short lifespan but when looked after properly a leopard gecko lives up to 15 years on average. It’s not that uncommon for them to even live up to 20 if you’re lucky. That’s longer than most other reptiles and even mammals their size. While there are other reptiles that can live longer, like certain snakes or larger lizards, the 15-20 year lifespan of the leopard gecko is fantastic for its size.
7. Want to bathe a lizard? Get a gecko
Like all reptiles, leopard geckos will shed their skin from time to time (every four to eight weeks). This shedding may not always go swimmingly, however, and the gecko can struggle getting some bits and pieces off. Picking them out yourself is a bad idea as you can harm your gecko’s new skin.
So, what to do?
Give your gecko a bath! That’s right, prepping a mini bathtub for your gecko can help him finish shedding as easily and effectively as possible. Just remember not to make the bath too deep as geckos can’t swim. Here’s a good video guide:
Speaking of hygiene, you’d also do well to toilet train your gecko. There are actual techniques for teaching your leopard gecko to always go to the toilet at the same place – check out this video by the Leopard Gecko channel:
How to prepare for getting a leopard gecko?
Like other lizards and snakes, a leopard gecko will need a very well-equipped terrarium to stay healthy and happy. Getting the precise lighting, heat, and humidity are all crucial for the longevity and well-being of your little pet, as are its substrate, interior, and other features. So, to give your new pet the best possible conditions here’s what you’ll need:
Leopard geckos are tiny but they like to roam. While you can technically keep your gecko in a small container, the reptile just won’t be happy there. A 20-gallon tank is usually ideal for a leopard gecko – not so small that it’s constricting but not too large so that the gecko gets lost and stressed out.
As for the tank’s material, it’s best to go with glass. Wood, mesh, and plastic can work too but glass is better – easy to clean, to watch through, easy to maintain the right humidity, and glass tanks are easy to find. Plus, sticking things such as thermometers is extra easy on glass.
Note that 20 gallons is the right size for a single gecko. If you want to keep more than one gecko in the same enclosure you should basically increase the size by 10 gallons for every other gecko – 30 for two, 40 for three, and so on. Better yet, just don’t keep multiple geckos in the same tank as that can lead to territorial aggression. If you want more than one gecko, it’s smarter to get separate tanks.
You’ll also need to get a couple of thermometers to monitor the temperature in the tank. As a gecko tank should have a cool-to-warm gradient, using two thermometers is advisable. The temperature on the warm side of the tank should be around 32oC / 90oF (never above 35oC / 95oF) and the temperature on the cool side should be around 24oC / 75oF.
To get the right temperatures in your gecko’s terrarium you’ll need the help of a ceramic heat emitter and a basking light source. There are many great heat emitter models to choose from and as for the light, a standard mercury vapor bulb should do the trick. Just make sure to keep the light on for no more than 10 hours a day.
As for a UVA/UVB light, that’s not as crucial for a leopard gecko as it is for other reptiles because these geckos are crepuscular (they go out around dusk and dawn, not at night). Still, in my experience, a good UVB light is still beneficial and improves the gecko’s general wellness and immune system. Just place the UVB light on the warm side of the tank and make sure that it’s not too bright as geckos’ eyes are gentle.
When you get your terrarium’s thermometers you should also get a hygrometer. This will help you gauge the humidity levels in your gecko’s enclosure. The best relative humidity for a leopard gecko is between 30% and 40%. An easy way to increase the humidity is to put a water bowl under the basking light bulb. Just make sure the water isn’t too deep (not higher than your gecko’s ears) as you don’t want your reptile pet to accidentally drown.
Another key piece in managing your gecko’s moisture needs is a humidity hide or a humidity box. These should be placed in the colder side of the terrarium as you don’t want them to dry up too quickly. The purpose of the humidity hide is to give your gecko a place with extra high humidity where he can go when he pleases.
The good news is that humidity hides are very easy to make so you don’t need to buy them from a store – just check out this instructional video from Jessica’s Animal Friends.
In fact, it’s usually recommended to give your gecko at least 3 hides in three different sections of the terrarium.
As far as the tank’s substrate is concerned, do NOT use calci sand or any other type of sand. Geckos can accidentally ingest some of the sand and it can block their bowels. Instead, you should use almost anything else – standard reptile carpet, shelf liner, or even newspapers are much better for your gecko.