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Care of Leopard Geckos

1.Your leopard gecko will need at least a 10 gallon cage and cover, but bigger would be better.
2.You also need a substrate to cover the bottom of the cage.
3.A hidebox is a must. This will prevent your lizard from becoming stressed, sometimes they even loose sleep from not having a place to hide. You can use almost anything as a hidebox.
4.A heating pad under the cage will keep it warm even during the night. Never use hot rocks. They can burn the belly of your lizard without them realizing.
5.Keep a dish of water available at all times. Make sure that its both shallow and large enough for them to run through.
6.Low branches and other similar things for them to climb on and explore. Around dusk leopard geckos are particularly curious so the bigger the cage you get the more they can have to climb on and explore. Don't ever overcrowd the bottom of the tank because they need a flat area to walk around.
7.Give them crickets to eat. They can be purchased at a pet store for a reasonably low price. Vary your geckos' diet by giving them mealworms every once and a while. Don't feed them so many mealworms because they aren't as nutritious. Mealworms can also be obtained at a pet store. Before feeding the crickets to your gecko gut load them.
8.Use Rep-Cal or a simular supplement to coat the crickets before feeding them to the gecko. Coat the crickets every feeding untill they are 6-7 months old. After that only coat the crickets every other feeding.

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Main Category:

Lizards

Sub Category:

Geckos: Leopard

 Care Sheet Submitted By:

GottaLuvHerps

Years Experience:

3 to 5 Years

Species:

Leopard Geckos

Other Species or Phases this Care Sheet May Cover:

none, specific to leopard geckos.

Sexing and Characteristics:

Leos are hard to sex when they are younger. Most can be sexed properly at the 6-9 month age. Males will have pronounced large bumps near the base of the tail with smaller bumps in a "V" like formation; females will not be so pronounced. These smaller bumps are called "preanal pores" and the larger are "hemiphenal bulges."
Leos (and most other reptiles) are "sexed" during incubation. A temp range of 78-82 will produce mostly females, 83-86 will get a mixture, and 87-90 will give mostly males. A "hot female" can be produced at higher temps - this is a female with a nasty attitude that will never be able to produce fertile eggs.

Mostly Active During:

Night

Substrate and Water Needs:

I personally have used shelf liner, paper towel, tiles and repticarpet as substrates. Out of those, I prefer ceramic tiles for adults and hatchlings over 6-8 weeks, and paper towels for sick, impacted or hatchling Leos.
Solid substrate tips - put a piece of paper towel in the corner(s) your Leo chooses as a toilet area for easy cleanup. Make sure to use solid, textured, non-adhesive, light colored/patterned liner (for ease of hunting if using crickets). Most Walmarts, Targets, hardware or kitchen specialty stores carry shelf liner for anywhere from $3-$10 a roll. Once a week, take the liner out, shower off with hot water, wipe with a bleach cleaner towelette (Clorox Wipes are good), rinse with hot water, let drip dry, then put back into the clean cage. I also put a small doubled piece of paper towel underneath of the water bowl to absorb any spilled water.
The main thing is to stay away from any sort of substrate that is particle based, including, but not limited to sand, crushed walnut shells, bed-a-beast (except in a humid hide or lay box, explained below), calci-sand, or anything else your Leo may be able to ingest. Even products marked safe or digestible can cause impaction or illness in a Leo over time.
Others have had much success using newspaper, slate tiles, and indoor/outdoor carpet WITHOUT loops.
Make sure to keep a small, shallow dish of fresh water in the cage at all times that is changed every day. The dish should be shallow enough that the Leo can climb out, but wide enough that the Leo can sit/bath in it if it so chooses.

Lighting and UVB:

Leos do not require special lighting, or any UVB lighting specifically, although this does not hurt them. You can use a night heat lamp in red, blue, purple or black 24/7 for both heat and light. Make sure the Leo does have a good day/night cycle, keeping them in a room with sunlight or a light on during the day. Do NOT put your cage near a window, however, as your cage can become like an oven and cook your Leo from the excess heat.
Leos are nocturnal animals, and are able to see without lighting at night. Some leos will be out during the day, and it is not anything to worry about.

Temperatures and Humidity:

Leos need a heat gradient in the cage, meaning a warm and cool side. Leos do not need a daylight basking spot, and do not use heat rocks of any type. The warm side of the cage should range from 85-90, the cool side from 75-80. You can achieve this using heat lamps, heat tape, under tank heaters or a combination to acheive proper temps. Temperatures should be measured by a digital thermometer/temperature gun at ground level consistently. Stick on or non-digital thermometers are unreliable, and have been shown in some cases to be as much as 15-20 degrees low.
Humidity should be low, and you should not mist/spray the cage at all. A humid hide should be provided at all times, which can simply be made by using a Tupperware container filled with moist bed-a-beast or paper towel with a hole cut in the side. Mist the substrate daily if needed, keeping it moist. Put the humid hide on/near the warm side of the tank to produce the humidity.

Heating and Equipment:

You can use a UTH, heat lamp, heat tape or combination to achieve proper temperature gradients in the cage.
If using a UTH, only have attached to 1/3 to 1/2 of the tank so that the other side can be cooler. Most UTH�s and heat tape must be attached to a rheostat/dimmer to control temperatures properly
If using a heat bulb, start with a smaller bulb first then work upwards until a proper temperature is achieved. Only use a red, blue, purple or black night bulb, as day bulbs do not meet the lighting requirements (even if colored). Only use a day bulb on a 12 hour on/off cycle if the cage is not in a room that gets enough light for the leo to get a good day/night cycle.
If using heat tape, make sure it is wired properly and controlled by a dimmer or rheostat, and is only attached to the back/bottom of the cage. Check temperatures constantly, and watch for burns, tears, frays, etc in the tape consistently.
Do not EVER use a heat rock, as they can cause burns to any reptile.
Leos do not need a basking spot, so a basking lamp is not required, although it does not hurt if temperatures are kept correct.

Caging Provided:

1 Leo can live it�s entire life in a 10 gallon aquarium. I personally prefer a bigger cage (at least a 20L for 1-2) if using glass aquariums. I have also used large sweater box containers with holes drilled in the lids/sides for ventilation for my adults and juveniles. Rack systems are also very good if keeping multiple leos.
For hatchlings, keep in a 6-12 qt plastic shoebox container with moist paper towels, a moist hide and a regular hide, dish of water and calcium, and a feeding dish if using worms. Keep the paper towels moist for 6-8 weeks to keep the babies hydrated, then it is safe to switch to shelf liner or another solid substrate.
In all juvi/adult cages, there should be a humid hide, 2 regular hides (one on the warm side, one on the cool), a dish of fresh water, a small dish of plain calcium powder, and a feeding dish for each Leo if using something besides crickets. Hides can be very simple (paper towel or toilet paper rolls), or very expensive, depending on the owner’s taste.
It is recommended to keep at least 1 side, up to 3 sides, covered with some sort of background, even if it is plain colored or white paper. This gives the Leo a sense of security, and can make your tank look much nicer.
Lids are not necessary, but highly recommended. Leos are not climbers (for the most part), but lids are good to keep out other critters (cats, dogs, small children, flies, etc), and as extra security for the Leo. Use a screen top, or make sure you drill holes in the lid if using a solid top (i.e., sweater box lids).
Keep Leos of similar size together only, as adults can/will eat or nip at babies, or bully them so that they cannot have food. Also, keep hatchlings separate until at least a few months old so that they can eat and grow properly. Leos are solitary animals, and do not NEED a mate or friend.

Diet:

Carnivorous

Description of Diet:

Leos are strictly carnivorous animals, and prefer live prey. Crickets, meal worms, silkworms, and lobster roaches are all good staple diets. For adults, you can also use super worms (not super meal worms). Leos do not and should not have fruit or vegetables available at all. Wax worms can be offered occasionally as a treat, but it is not recommended to offer more than 3 a week, as wax worms can cause fatty liver disease if fed as a staple.
For impacted or sick Leos, you can use a mixture of chicken or veal baby food, calcium powder, pedialyte and water fed from a syringe. It is not recommended to try to force feed a Leo unless shown how by a veterinarian, as Leos can choke or aspirate (food goes into the lungs) and die. A drop or 2 of mineral oil/olive oil in the mixture is good for impacted Leos to help pass the impaction. Medications may be appropriate for impaction, and are necessary for parasites. Another good supplement for sick or impacted Leos is ReptiAid or Jumpstart, which can be found at most pet stores or online. It is recommended to keep some around just in case. You can also get Critical Care mix from your veteranarian to help with appetite stimulation and adding weight.
Leos can stop eating a few days before and after shedding, as they eat their sheds for the protein. If a Leo does not eat for a week, you should arrange a vet visit to check for any issues. Once a Leo goes off of live food, it can be difficult or impossible to bring it back to live food.

Supplements, Nutrition and Usage:

For babies and juveniles, you should dust the food every day with a plain, no phosphorus calcium powder. For adults, dusting can be done every other feeding. Twice a week (for adults and babies), substitute with a calcium powder with D3 for dusting. Do NOT use the D3 powder for every dusting, as Leos can not absorb that much D3 and remain healthy.

Maintenance:

Leos are fairly easy to maintain. Make sure to keep the cage clean and free of feces daily, offer fresh water and food every day.
Housing - Leos are, for the most part, solitary animals, but can live in groups. Males should never live with another male, as they can/will fight to the death. Females have been known to live together, and 1 male can live with a group of females (only recommended if breeding). Some females will not tolerate other Leos, and it is best to watch them closely for results of fighting. Introduce new possible cage mates in neutral territory, and keep a close eye on them both. Keep new Leos separated for at least 90 days before introducing them, and make sure they both come back from a vet with clean fecal samples before introducing them.
Breeding - Females can lay 6-10 clutches of 2 eggs each season from one breeding time, and males should be separated after breeding due to stressing out the females with constant breeding attempts. Keep a lay box (can be the humid hide) available at all times to gravid females with moist substrate (bed-a-beast, vermiculite or perlite works best). Make sure gravid females are offered extra calcium, and feedings should be dusted daily at that time. Breeding season usually runs from around January until approximately August.
Health - Make sure that there is a good herp vet in the area before purchasing a Leo. Leos can and do require checkups, medications when sick, and fecal samples twice a year to rule out parasites. Be prepared for any emergency by having a good vet in your area. See above for help with treating impacted or sick Leos, but also make sure to make an appointment if you suspect any health issues.
Handling - Handling should not occur with a Leo until they are about 4-5 inches, but if necessary can be done before then. Some Leos will not ever tolerate handling, some seem to enjoy it more than others. Be sure to handle your Leo carefully, and supervise children at all times with a Leo. As babies, Leos are very fast, and can escape if dropped or they jump into an open area very quickly. Make sure to respect the personality of your Leo, and do not try to handle a Leo if it is not willing - this can thoroughly stress the Leo, sometimes to the point of dropping it’s tail.

Some Words on this Species:

Leopard geckos are great starter lizards, and are good around children. They are relatively easy and cheap to set up compared to other reptiles, and the maintenance is simple if kept up. Remember that Leos are nocturnal animals, and should be treated as such when handling, feeding or cleaning so as not to stress them out.
When considering a Leo, remember that their lifespan is the same, if not higher, than a dog or cat, so it is a huge investment of both time and money. Most Leos can live 10-20 years if kept properly, and the oldest living gecko on record to this date is about 27+ years old. Be sure that you and your family are ready for the responsibility and care for a long time, just as you would when thinking of buying a puppy or kitten.
Make sure to pick a healthy looking gecko, and it is recommended to purchase a Leo from a reputable breeder over a pet store chain. Healthy Leos have bright eyes, tails are about as thick (or thicker) than their necks, active and preferably are not kept on sand before purchasing. Their legs and jaws will be solid, and do not look mushy or curved strangly. Remember that if purchasing from a petstore, that the leos may seem less active because they are nocturnal.
Make sure to have your living area set up for your Leo for about a week before purchasing, experimenting and settling temperature gradients before putting the Leo in the tank. Once purchasing the Leo, it may not eat for several days to a week because of stress. Also, do not try to handle the Leo at all for at least a week when bringing it to the new home.
As stated previously, make sure to have a good herp vet in the area before considering a Leo (or any reptile). Within the first week, try to have a fresh fecal sample tested for parasites AND bacteria (called an acid fast stain), and make sure all is clear before introducing a new Leo to a previous pet.
There are many different opinions on substrates, diets, heating, caging, and almost all other aspects of keeping a Leo. Read many care sheets and decide for yourself what the best care is from those sheets. Also, talk to reputable breeders, and ask a lot of questions. Research and constant education are the best tools you will have to provide your Leo with a long, healthy, happy lifestyle!