Photos by Jeffrey C. Lim
If you’re ever looking for a cool, docile space-saving and low-maintenance reptile companion who comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, then the Eublepharis macularius or the common Leopard Gecko might just be the friend for you! These hardy and colorful reptiles are generally relaxed in nature so they make excellent reptiles for beginners and experienced keepers alike!
What’s their natural environment?
Originating from warm and dry desert places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, Leopard Geckos love roughly-textured surfaces and lots of small, dark spaced to hide in.
Although thought to be nocturnal, Leopard Geckos are actually crepuscular animals, which means they come out and are most active during twilight when the outside is neither too hot nor too cold.
What’s unique about them?
What makes Leopard Geckos great as companions is that they don’t possess the sticky feet their cousins have, which means they are less likely to stick to the wall or escape from enclosures. They also move quite slowly so that can be quite reassuring for people who get anxious about their new reptile friend running away or escaping all the time.
They come in a lot of patterns and colors (morphs), so there’s a lot to choose from.
They are very clean animals and naturally have their own designated area within an enclosure which they use as a toilet area. This makes it very easy to spot-clean and maintain the enclosure.
Tail-end of the gecko conversation
Tempted to pull on a gecko’s tail? Don’t.
Geckos store all their excess fat in their tails these can easily fall off. Although a severed tail can still grow back after a few weeks, the regrown tail will never look as nice as the original and the leopard gecko will need to increase the amount of nutritious food they eat to help their body heal.
Avoid having very young children handle them, since they may end up injuring the gecko from squeezing too hard, or, as mentioned, pulling on their tails.
What should their set-up be like?
Housing a leopard gecko isn’t very challenging. They are very small reptiles, so they don’t need a lot of space and don’t require large branches to climb on since they are ground geckos. In an ideal situation, however, it’s best to keep one in a 10-20 gallon tank and then add 10 gallons more per additional gecko. The enclosure has to be around at least a foot high so that geckos won’t escape easily yet have enough space to move around.
In terms of substrate (the material used on the enclosure’s floor), some would prefer using paper towels, newspapers, ceramic tiles, or reptile carpet for easier clean up, while others would like a more natural-looking set-up with reptile-grade sand or coconut fiber. All have their own advantages and disadvantages but it’s all a matter of personal preference. Just be sure to stay away from commercial-use soil that has pesticides or other chemicals, or ordinary sand, since these may cause impaction when accidentally ingested and will eventually kill them.
Leopard geckos love small, dark hiding places and it’s important to provide as many as you can within the enclosure (and even more if you house multiple geckos together). In an ideal set-up, it’s best to have one be the designated humidity hide. Although some people prefer using a plastic box that they constantly spray with water to increase the humidity levels inside, having an ordinary hide with moisture-retaining material, like sphagnum moss, can help keep that area slightly humid. This helps them shed their old skin properly when the time comes.
What do they eat?
In terms of diet, Leopard Geckos are strictly insectivores, which means that different types of insects should make up their entire diet throughout their life. You would typically feed them around three to five times a week on average with insects like crickets, super worms, dubia roaches, hornworms or waxworms.
It’s best to gut-load or give nutritious food and powder to the feeder insects before giving them to the gecko. I also recommend dusting the feeders with either vitamin powder or calcium once in a while.
Leopard Geckos are fantastic reptiles to take care of because of their different personalities, shapes, sizes, and colors. Their low-maintenance, docile nature and small stature make them ideal lizards.
When finally deciding to get one, always be sure to purchase a healthy leopard gecko from either a certified legal breeder or at your local reptile shop, and make sure to get all the necessary paperwork to ensure legality. Remember: Always make sure to read about their needs before making the decision to care for one, and continue to observe each individual gecko when possible because they have their own unique personalities.
Are heating lamps needed?
Leopard Geckos are crepuscular and do not require a basking lamp since they naturally would come out when the sun has already set.
They can hear through their underbelly so if you stay in a cold area, it’s best to provide them with an under-tank heater (UTH) and keep the heated area at least 90F or 33C. The cool side of the tank, on the other hand, shouldn’t fall past 70F or 21C.
Make sure to have a thermometer inside the enclosure at all times to monitor the temperature effectively and always provide a shallow dish of water for them to drink no matter how hot or cold it may be.
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s April 2020 issue.