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Leopard Gecko Care

By: Dr. David Nieves

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A 10-gallon aquarium will house a juvenile or an adult leopard gecko. If you wish to use a larger enclosure, keep in mind that these lizards are terrestrial. Length and width are more important than height. Even though they are not known for their climbing ability, a secure lid should be in place to keep other items out. Since they are nocturnal, overhead lighting is not needed. Leopard geckos do not require full spectrum bulbs and exposure to UVB light. In fact, bright lights intimidate them. If you wish to illuminate the cage, a single cool white fluorescent bulb will work, or if you use an incandescent bulb, make sure it is low wattage.

Heating

Even though leopard geckos come from a dry, hot region, they are found under rocks in cool, damp burrows. A temperature range of 70 F to 85 F is best. If kept too cold they won't eat or will have digestion problems. If kept too hot they will suffer heat stress. To monitor the temperature use a thermometer that can be moved around inside the cage to take readings at different locations. If the lizard is kept in a cool or air-conditioned room then you must have some kind of heat source. Do not use a "hot rock." The leopard gecko has very thin scales on its stomach, which may be burned or scarred by the surface of a hot rock. An under tank heater placed at one end of the cage can provide the necessary heat. The leopard gecko will then have a temperature gradient and can choose the level it prefers. If your heat source is a low wattage incandescent bulb, make sure it is anchored securely on top of the screen lid.

Substrate

Newspaper, paper towels, plastic turf or cage carpet, are the safest choices for the bottom of the cage. If kept on sand, corncob, bark, wood shavings or other particulate substrates, it is possible for the lizard to ingest these items accidentally and become impacted. While not a common occurrence, this is still a serious problem to be aware of.

Substrates that consist of calcium sand may cause long term dietary problems. Hatchlings and juveniles require extra calcium in their diet but adults do not. Adults that ingest excess calcium can have long term health problems.

Water Dish and Hiding Area

Leopard geckos cannot swim very well and a large (or deep) water bowl could be dangerous. They require a shallow water dish with the water level no more than one inch deep. Change the water and clean the dish at least once a week. A leopard gecko requires some type of hiding area. This instinctive behavior can be fulfilled many ways. Paper towel rolls, plastic tubs, hide boxes and artificial plastic caves all work. If real rocks are used they must be glued together and secured in such a way that if the cage is jostled, they will not collapse upon the lizard.

Cage Mates

The ideal situation is to keep one leopard gecko by himself, since they do not get lonely or require social interaction with their own species. In fact, the healthiest, best looking, and longest-lived specimens are those raised and kept alone. If you plan on keeping multiple animals together, there are many situations to watch out for.

All cage mates must be similar sized. A large leopard gecko will eat a small leopard gecko if given the opportunity. There should only be one male per cage, because adult males are territorial and will fight with each other, inflicting serious injuries. Similar sized females usually can be kept together without problems. However, if you see signs of aggression, separate them.

A leopard gecko suffering from another's aggressive behavior may become thin and consistently hesitant to feed; he may sleep outside of the hiding area away from others; or he may have visible bite marks or scuffed skin on its head.

Young leopard geckos should be raised apart. When young geckos fight over food, one of them can lose a tail or a foot. Another reason is that young animals are difficult to sex. You may not realize that you have two males in the same cage until it is a problem. If a male and female are raised together, the male might breed the female prematurely, which can stunt her growth and shorten her life.

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