Is a Baby Leopard Gecko the right pet for you?
Leopard Geckos make fantastic beginner friendly pets, they are the most popular reptile for people in the US to own as pets and it’s easy to see why thanks to the following qualities.
1. They’re a family pet.
Due their docile nature they make a great pet for all members of the family, they’re happy to be held by children of all ages and don’t make erratic movements instead just slowly moving across their hands. They are not aggressive but like all animals need to be treated with respect.
2. They’re easy to care for.
We will provide a full guide below on how to perfectly prepare your Leopard Geckos home below, this being said once this is set-up there will be very little demands of you for it’s care. Once this is set-up the main care requirements are ensuring the cage is at the correct temperature by turning on the heat lamp during the day and turning on a heat mat overnight. In addition to controlling the temperature of the cage Leopard Geckos are not fussy about their food and will drink water from a regular water bowl. You’ll find more detail on specific feeding instructions below.
3. They have long lives.
This is important to note and can be seen as both a positive and a negative, we love to have our pets stay with us for as long as possible and whilst Leopard Geckos may not be a big time commitment day to day they will be with you for a long time. We strongly encourage anyone who can’t commit to this timescale to look into pets which they can accommodate for the full duration of their life
4. They’re a beautiful exotic looking pet.
I’m sure this doesn’t come as news to you and is one of the great appeals for the Leopard Gecko, they are beautiful pets that add help bring character and colour to your family. It’s hard not to fall in love when they look at you like this
Your Leopard Geckos Home
This is the most important part of caring for your Leopard Gecko, they will spend a large amount of their time inside their home and it will need to meet specific needs. Below outlines the various components needed what they for and how the need to be placed to ensure your Leopard Gecko can thrive.
There are a large number of different materials available for you to house your gecko in, we strongly suggest that you choose a glass terrarium for the following reasons.
- It maintains humidity levels well, which is important for any reptiles environment
- They are transparent, it’s important to be able to see your gecko
- Easy to clean, glass is very easy to wipe clean unlike wood where smells and dirt can seep in
- Lot’s of Gecko decorations and equipment is specifically designed for glass, most importantly a thermometer to measure the temperature
The obvious downside to glass is it can be more expensive than some other materials, it is worth putting this into context a high-quality glass tank will likely cost you between $100-$200 dollars this works out at roughly $10 a year for your Gecko which is a highly worthwhile investment.
The size of the terrarium should ideally be over 2 foot long for when you gecko reaches adulthood, it will also need to be tall and wide enough for you to place a number of rocks, plants and hides for you to create a varied environment and encourage them to climb, don’t feel you need to purchase the biggest terrarium available as this could cause you issues with heating if you are not careful.
To help you achieve the correct temperature for your Gecko you will want to buy the following three items, I will outline below why each of these are important and the role they play in keeping your Gecko healthy.
Heat Mat – A Heat Mat is incredibly important in helping to replicate the conditions a Leopard Gecko would encounter in their natural environment, you should be aiming to keep a constant temperature that fall in between the following ranges. This is achieved by placing the heat mat at one end of the terrarium covering around 1/3 of the total floor space, it is important when you are measuring the below temperatures that you place the sensor on top of the substrate as this will allow you to measure the temperature in your Geckos environment. Over time you can refine the exact temperature that is right for your gecko by monitoring how much time it spends in the hot zone and the cold zone and increase/decrease in increments of no more than 1F each time.
|Hot Zone||28°C – 35°C (82.4F – 95F)||No lower than 18°C (64.4F)|
|Cool Zone||24°C – 26°C (75.2F – 78.8F)||No Lower than 18°C (64.4F)|
Heat Lamp – Whilst a heat mat will do most of the work in regulating the temperature of the cage for your Gecko it is still important to place a heat lamp in it’s terrarium, this should be on throughout the day and helps replicate the day/night cycle that is found in the wild. we would also recommend this is supplemented with a 2%-7% UVB light, this should be angled towards the back of the terrarium to give your Gecko the ability to adjust it’s exposure. It is also important that this is place towards the Hot Zone in the cage and that hides are available throughout the home for the Gecko to reduce it’s exposure to the lamp.
Thermometer – Whilst your Heat Mat will come equipped with a thermostat and a built in thermometer to regulate it’s temperature it is good practice to have a clearly visible thermometer in place to ensure the climate is suitable for your Gecko, if you want to ensure your cage is correctly set-up you could place on each in the Hot and Cold zone for peace of mind.
Substrate – Bottom of the cage
It is important to pick a suitable substrate for your Gecko and naturally you will lean towards sand as this would appear to best replicate their natural environment. I would recommend against taking this approach due to it’s ability to lead to impaction when ingested by the Gecko. This could lead to your Gecko becoming seriously ill or possibly causing it to pass. Luckily there is an easy readily available alternative that is perfect for your Geckos needs. I would recommend that you put down Vinyl/Lino this is the exact same that you would use for your kitchen/bathroom floors. This protects against the health risks posed by the sand substrate regularly offered in pet stores and is also very easy to clean.
Feeding Bowl/Water Dish
It is important that you provide your Gecko with food, water and also an option of calcium. Below there are a few tips as to what to look our for in each of these to ensure they are fit for purpose.
Feeding bowl – A feeding bowl should have smooth surfaces as this will both allow your Gecko ease of access and it is also ideal for keeping mealworms in place which is a vital part of their diet.
Water Dish – It is important that it does not contain too much water and is too deep that your Gecko could get stuck and drown within, on the flipside it is important that it is not too shallow as due to the heat within the terrarium it could lead to it drying out. There is a simple step to avoiding this problem and that is to find a dish that literally has some shallow steps for your gecko to access and also escape if needed.
Calcium Pot – Whilst this isn’t necessarily going to be part of your Geckos day to day feeding cycle it is important this is available to keep your Gecko in good health, you can simply use a bottle top for this purpose and place next to the Feeding Bowl.
I recommend having three different shelters within your Geckos Terrarium, each of these will serve a different purpose and help provide suitable environments for all of your Geckos needs. I’ve outlined the three different types of shelters and their purpose below.
Warm Hide – This is where your Gecko will spend a lot of his time during the day and allows them to recharge their batteries and get their body temperature up to the right level for the night. This should be a simple shelter with no bottom and it will need to be placed on the heat mat to ensure the Gecko gets the warmth it needs.
Moist Hide – Whilst the majority of the article refers to regulating your Gecko between it’s ability to move between warm and colder environments like other reptiles it will also shed it’s skin, your Gecko will seek out a moist area to do so and I would recommend that it contains damp moss to add extra moisture. The shelter itself should be placed away from the heat mat either on the cool side or in the middle of the enclosure, I’d also recommend that this shelter is more enclosed than the Warm Hide to help retain the necessary moisture.
Cold Hide – Whilst not as important as the shelters above I always recommend having a spot on the cold end of the terrarium where your Gecko can both find shelter and cool, this is achievable by using some of the decorations in the next section so don’t feel the need to buy a specific hide for this.
There are a number of different decorations you can use throughout your Geckos cage you will want to use a combination of wood, rocks and artificial plants to achieve this. There are a large number of products available for use and do not feel you need to buy specific pet products to achieve this, if you are building height into the enclosure using decorations I would try to ensure using materials which are sturdy enough to support their weight (60-80 grams) and smooth rocks for them to easily navigate.
Feeding Your Baby Leopard Gecko
A Leopard Geckos diet will remain largely the same from when it is a baby through to when it is an adult, a leopard Geckos diet will consist of Crickets and a variety of different worms. You should try to vary what you feed your Gecko each meal time there are also a range of supplement worms you can add into your Geckos diet such as waxworms, these should not form a regular part of your Geckos diet but be used more as a treat.
Baby Leopard Geckos feeding routine
You should feed your Leopard Gecko once a day until it grows above 4 inches at which point this should be changed to feeding every other day, a good rule of thumb for calculating the amount of food to feed your Gecko is 2 insects for every inch in length. This will translate to you feeding your baby between 5-7 small insects until it reach 4 inches in length. The ideal food for your baby Leopard Gecko will be crickets, it is important that they are small in size as to not be a choking hazard, a good rule of thumb for judging the correct size is that they insect should be no bigger than the space between your Geckos eyes.
Adult Leopard Geckos feeding routine
Similar to a Baby Geckos diet when it becomes an adult it should largely consist of crickets with worms mixed in on occasion for variety, once your Gecko is over 4 inches long it will be in it’s Juvenile phase and will follow the same eating pattern as when it is an adult the only difference is you will need to maintain the correct size of crickets by following the rule that they should not bigger than the width between it’s eyes. Leopard Geckos diet is very dissimilar to that of humans and is important that you do not try to feed it any food that you would normally consume, Leopard Geckos do not have the ability to digest fruit/vegetables and therefore will need to stick strictly to their diet of insects.
Leopard Geckos and Obesity
It is important you monitor your Leopard Geckos weight as due to their natural environment and the scarcity of food they do not regulate their own bodyweight and will usually consume food when available. A general rule for monitoring your Geckos weight is that their tail should be wider than their body and also their stomach should be flat apart from straight after eating, if you do have concerns over your Geckos weight then ensure you stop feeding anything higher in calories such as waxworms and return purely to staples such as crickets.
How to spot if your Leopard Gecko is sick?
Signs to look out for
If your Gecko shows any of the below signs you should contact your specialist exotic vets for professional advice.
- Respiratory Problems
- Prolapses from the Cloaca (Underneath the tail)
- Drooping head or limbs
- Gaping mouth
- Thinning tail
- Lethargy and weakness
- Loss of weight or condition
- Detectable lumps or swelling
- Discharge from the eyes or nostrils
This article lists some of the most common illnesses you may find with your gecko.
Whilst looking after a Leopard Gecko may seem like a large undertaking the main challenge and resources of time are needed when first setting up for your new pet, I hope that the above resource will help give you confidence in providing a great home for your Leopard Gecko and we hope it becomes a beloved member of your family as it has ours.