Leopard Geckos

a close up of a Leopard Gecko drinking water

Leopard Geckos are lizards native to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and northern India. They are native to semi-desert areas as well as dry rocky grasslands. They are a smaller reptile, only growing to about 10 inches long. They are very fast moving animals, and are known for their agility and evading predators.

They’re generally not aggressive towards humans, and won’t normally bite unless provoked. They are very territorial and should be kept alone so that they don’t fight with any other Leopard Geckos.

Leopard Geckos make great pets for beginners because they are relatively easy to care for. For the most part they are quiet, and won’t disturb you while you work or relax. There are times where they can be vocal, but they’re very quiet compared to other pets.

Leopard Geckos are very affectionate (by lizard standards) and gentle, and will seek out human contact. They are very easygoing, and will accept just about anyone as a friend. This is why they can make great family pets for families with children. As long as the children can play gently with them they can be a great pet.

If you think that a Leopard Gecko is the right pet for your family you should expect to pay anywhere between $30-$50 for a Leopard Gecko baby. Because they’re fairly common you shouldn’t have a hard time finding them at a pet store or a reputable breeder.

Leopard Gecko Information

  • Average Length: 8 to 11 inches
  • Average Weight: 3 to 3.5 ounces
  • Skin Appearance: Bumps or patternless
  • Skin Colors: Yellow,Tan or Brown with markings; Albino
  • Grooming Needs: Low Need
  • Shedding: Once every few months
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Biting Tendency: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No
  • Good Pet: They allow people to hand them, so yes!
  • Safe with Children: Yes
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes
  • Suitable for First-Time Pet Owners: Yes
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: Respiratory Infections, Metabolic Bone Disease, Weight Gain and Dysecdysis
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: 15 to 20 years

Leopard Geckos live in the desert regions of South Asia, in drier regions of Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Northwest India.

Physical Appearance of Leopard Geckos

a close up of a Leopard Gecko's face and it looks like they're smiling

Leopard Geckos have a long body with a pointed head and segmented tail. When stressed or threatened, the Leopard Geckos can drop their tail. Their tail can regrow but it won’t have the same pattern and texture as before.

Male Leopard Geckos can grow up to 11 inches long while females only grow up to 8 inches long. Depending on the variations caused by selective breeding, their length will vary. The Super Giant Leopard Gecko is the largest and can grow up to 12 inches.

They have slim legs and lack the toe pads that most Gecko species have. Because they lack the toe pads other Gecko species have, they’re unable to climb on glass surfaces.

Leopard Geckos have slit pupils in their eyes with several mutations or variations. One is the ‘eclipse’ mutation that has their eyes filled in solid red or black. The second is ‘snake eyes’ that have the pupils slightly leaking into the iris. The last is the ‘marble eye’, with spotting within the iris.

They have eyelids, a physical characteristic that many Gecko species don’t have.

Leopard Geckos have small bumps on their skin. Some morphs or variations don’t have these bumps, and they’ll have smooth skin. Morphs are used to describe varieties of a species that have been bred to have a different appearance than the wild ones.

Geckos can have a yellow, lavender, tangerine or white base with black or chocolate spots all over their body. Their spots can be rosette, solid or in patches. The underside of their belly and their toes are white.

Leopard Geckos can be Albino or white variations because of selective breeding. These are popular and may be available from a reputable breeder.

Temperament of Leopard Geckos

a Leopard Gecko standing on a rock with their mouth open

Leopard Geckos are nocturnal reptiles that are active at night. They are most active during dusk and dawn. During the day they will spend most of their time hiding inside hide boxes or basking.

They are non aggressive, friendly and receptive to handling but overhandling can stress them. They don’t tend to bite their owners but may drop their tails if threatened or feel stressed.

Always check their mood before you try to handle them. If they try to escape from your hands, gently put them back.

While Leopard Geckos can be kept in groups, 2 males should not be kept together. Males can become territorial and may fight with each other. A male can be kept with multiple females.

We recommend keeping them with the opposite sex only if you want to breed them. Leopard Geckos breed fast and can give birth to several babies in a short period of time.

Their Compatibility with Children

Leopard Geckos are calm and non-aggressive with their family. Children can be allowed to handle them but only under adult supervision until you know how they will play together. The excitement of children may scare your Gecko. As your children start understanding how to handle the Geckos, you can let them play on their own.

Children should always wash their hands after handling their Geckos. This is because most reptiles are carriers of infectious bacteria like Salmonella which can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain in humans. Washing their hands should keep your children from contracting bacterial and fungal diseases.

Living Space for Leopard Geckos

a Leopard Gecko that looks like they're smiling

Leopard Geckos can be kept in small glass or wooden enclosures. The top of their tank should have a wire mesh to allow enough ventilation. Enclosures with front opening doors and vents on top are also great homes for them.

Several decorations should be added to create hiding spots for your Leopard Gecko.

Enclosure/Cage Size

While juveniles can be kept in a small 10-gallon enclosure, adults will need at least a 20-gallon enclosure. Getting a 20-gallon enclosure from the start can save money and effort. You only need to pay for one enclosure, and you don’t need to set everything up again.

If you plan to keep more than one Leopard Gecko, then a larger enclosure will be needed. As a general rule increase the enclosure size by 10-gallon for every additional Gecko.

The width of their tank is more important than the height. Leopard Geckos don’t spend a lot of time climbing and need more space to move around on the substrate. An enclosure with a good width helps create separate hot and warm temperature zones.

Decorations

There should ideally be 3 hide boxes for your Geckos. Plastic, wooden or cardboard boxes can be used as hiding boxes.

One hide box should be placed in the hot and another in the warm area of the enclosure. Adding coconut fiber or sphagnum moss to one hide box will help keep it humid. The humid hide box will help your Leopard Gecko relax when they shed their skin.

If you are keeping more than one Leopard Gecko then there should be more hide boxes than you have Geckos. The more spaces they have to hide without crowding each other, the less stress they’ll have.

Make sure the hide boxes are dark and large enough for your Leopard Gecko to comfortably get inside and relax. The hide boxes can be placed at different heights to let your Geckos climb a bit.

a Leopard Gecko standing on a branch

Rocks, branches and plants should be added at different places inside their enclosure. While plants and branches are not needed, they will make the tank look more natural.

Substrate

Substrates like paper towels, newspaper or reptile carpet can be used. These are easy to clean and replace. If you want a natural substrate then cypress mulch, coconut fiber or aspen shaving are all better choices. All of these are good substrate options.

Don’t use sand or calcium sand as a substrate because these can cause impaction (a potentially life threatening problem) if your Leopard Gecko accidentally ingests it.

Best Climate for Leopard Geckos

Leopard Geckos need separate warm and hot areas to regulate their body temperature. Keeping the heating equipment on one side of their enclosure will help create the temperature gradient they need. 

A basking lamp can be used as a heat source but make sure it’s not too bright. Use an under-tank heat mat if basking light is not enough to keep their enclosure warm.

Temperature

The temperature should be kept around around 75°F in the warm area, and 90°F in the basking area. The nighttime temperature can be allowed to fall to as low as 70°F.  

Humidity

Leopard Geckos live in dry areas and need a low humidity kept between 30% to 40%. Keeping a water bowl inside their enclosure should be enough to keep the humidity high enough. Misting their tank shouldn’t be needed.

Lighting

They are nocturnal and don’t need a light at night. Natural sunlight during the day should be enough for them. Many people will use some inexpensive LED strip lights that are dimmed so that they can watch their pet at night.

Because Leopard Geckos sleep during the day, a UV light is not needed.

Water Source

Keep a shallow water bowl inside their enclosure. The water bowl should be wide enough to let them soak. 

The Attention a Leopard Gecko Needs

Having 2 thermometers – one on the hot side and the other on the warm side will let you make sure the temperature is high enough. Check the readings regularly to make sure the temperature is within the recommended range.

A hygrometer should be kept in their enclosure to be able to measure the humidity. If the humidity goes above 40%, increase the ventilation to lower the humidity. Some families will use a small fan on a slow setting to pull air out of the enclosure.

Leopard Geckos are hardy and don’t need much care. They also don’t need regular handling, making them great pets for beginner reptile owners.

Health Issues

Dysecdysis

Dysecdysis is the fancy name for when your lizard isn’t shedding their skin correctly. This happens a lot with types of Geckos, but it can happen to any lizard. Usually Dysecdysis happens when a lizard’s enclosure is too dry.

Symptoms of dysecdysis are:

  • Dull patches of skin that never fall off
  • Difficulty walking or climbing if extra skin is around their toes
  • Difficulty catching food, or lack of appetite

If dysecdysis is noticed fairly early it might be easy to correct the problem at home. Some soaks in a tub of warm water should help loosen up skin that doesn’t want to shed. If you suspect that their skin could be constricting body parts like their feet or tail you’ll want to bring them into your vet right away. If left untreated for too long it’s possible that the blood can get cut off, and parts of their body could die.

Normally all that needs to be done to prevent this is make sure that the humidity is within the range it should be for your pet. Make sure you have at least one hygrometer in their enclosure to be able to measure the humidity, and make adjustments as necessary.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections are a common health issue in reptiles. Poor enclosure conditions like excessive cold or humidity as well as stress can lead to respiratory infections or pneumonia. 

Symptoms include:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Bubbles in mouth
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy

Take your reptile to your vet if they have any of the above symptoms. Antibiotics are commonly used to treat the disease. If the infection is severe, they may need to be hospitalized.

Respiratory symptoms can become serious if not attended to in the initial stages. Maintaining the right temperature gradient and humidity levels inside their living enclosures can prevent your reptile from getting respiratory diseases.

Weight Gain

Leopard Geckos can gain unwanted weight fairly easily if they’re not fed well. Make sure not to feed them too often, and not too much food. If it looks like they’re gaining too much weight, scale back how much they’re fed.

Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic Bone Disease is the most common disease found in pet reptiles. The disease is caused by your reptile not having enough vitamin D to properly absorb calcium. Being exposed to UV lighting helps them create vitamin D that they can use to absorb calcium.

 Symptoms include:

  • Lower jaw swelling 
  • Limb swelling
  • Facial bone softening
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy

An X-ray can help identify the extent of the disease. Sometimes MBD can lead to fractures, thin bone tissue or thickened bone shafts. The disease is more common in reptiles less than 2 years old.

If left untreated the disease can also lead to death. Consult your vet immediately if you find any of the above mentioned symptoms in your reptile.

Treatments can range from injecting your reptile with mineral supplements to medication and dietary modifications. To keep your reptiles from having MBD, they should be fed a diet rich in calcium (or calcium supplements) and have daily exposure to UV lighting.

Cryptosporidiosis

Cryptosporidiosis is the name of a dangerous internal parasite that affects a number of lizards and snakes. Unfortunately Leopard Geckos seem to be the most affected by this disease. This parasite will have your Gecko looking like skin and bones in no time.

Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis are:

  • Anorexia
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Slowed growth
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Diarrhea

The mortality rate is close to 50% for animals infected. The danger of this parasite is a big reason why all new lizards should be kept quarantined for the first few months when they’re brought home. The most common way they’ll become infected is through contaminated feed or by being exposed to another animal that is infected.

Unfortunately this disease mimics other types of wasting diseases that Geckos can have. It’s not easy to correctly diagnose, and there appears to be no magic bullet to cure them of the disease. The best thing to do is take your pet to your vet if you start noticing any symptoms of this disease. The key to saving your pet is to catch this early before they’ve lost too much weight.

Grooming and Care

The substrate should be spot cleaned every day. Depending on the choice of substrate, it should be completely replaced when needed. If you are using a reptile carpet, then the substrate should be replaced based on the amount of wear. Newspaper and paper towels should be replaced entirely once a week if not sooner. Replace natural substrates like aspen shaving, coconut fiber and cypress mulch once a month.

Deep clean the entire substrate once a month. Use a 3% bleach solution to wipe the sides of the tank.

Clean and replace the water bowl with fresh drinking water daily. If the water bowl gets dirty then it should be cleaned as soon as it’s noticed.

Feeding A Leopard Gecko

mealworms are great food for Leopard Geckos

Leopard Geckos are easy to feed because they only eat insects. They enjoy eating crickets, small hornworms, superworms, mealworms, phoenix worms or Dubia roaches.

The size of the insects should be smaller than the size of your Leopard Gecko’s head. Gut-load the feeder insects before feeding them to your Leopard Gecko. Gut-loading involves giving nutritious food to the feeder insects. When your reptile eats them, the nutrition passes on to them. Gut-loaded insects should be available for purchase at a pet store near you.

Add calcium and vitamin supplements to their diet regularly. Make sure the supplement you buy is phosphorus-free.

Hatchlings should be fed one small insect every day and adults 4-5 insects every 3 days.

Related Questions:

Are Leopard Geckos Cannibals?

Cannibalism occurs when an animal eats the flesh of their species and Leopard Geckos do eat other Leopard Geckos. While cannibalism has not yet been documented in the wild, lack of food or overcrowding can lead to cannibalism in captive Geckos.

They may sometimes eat small-sized or younger baby Geckos of their species. While this looks strange, Leopard Geckos are not protective of their children and may view them as food.

Feeding them enough food in captivity and keeping them in a large enclosure should prevent cannibalism.

What Sounds do Leopard Geckos Make?

Leopard Geckos communicate by making various noises like barking, chirping or hissing. They will make these noises while mating or when threatened. Leopard Geckos may sometimes chirp when they are hungry.