Leopard Gecko Care Guide

Leopard Geckos (Leo) are easygoing reptiles but there are still lots to consider when wanting to own one.

In this article, I am going to talk you through the correct way to care for a Leo. This includes;

  • Habitat Requirements
  • Handling Leopard Geckos
  • Leopard Gecko Diet
  • Leopard Gecko Behaviour
  • Common Health Issues

Habitat Requirements

Terrarium Size

When choosing your Leopard Gecko terrarium, they’re a couple of factors to consider such as; your Leo’s age and size. This is because younger Leo’s can be housed in smaller habitats, I recommend getting the bigger option straight away as it saves on cost and time.

The size options commonly used for housing Leopard Geckos are;

  • 20 Gallons (30”x12”x12”)
  • 40 Gallons (36”x18”x18”)

Other benefits of using the larger terrarium from the start are, this gives your Leo more space to explore and hide if necessary.

When choosing your terrarium, refer to the size chart in my How Big Does a Leopard Gecko Get article.

Temperature Requirements

Due to Leopard Geckos natively being from hot climates, they’ll require their terrarium to have a temperature gradient throughout the habitat. This should be;

  • Basking Area: 94°F-97°F (34-36°C)
  • Warm Area: 90°F-92°F (32-33°C)
  • Cool Area: 70°F-77°F (21-25°C)

Pro Tip: You’ll need to keep in mind, nighttime temperatures will differ from the daytime. Studies have shown that a drop in temperature overnight is greater for your Leo’s long term health.

Leopard Geckos can tolerate temperatures as low as 60°F (16°C). If your home struggles to keep heat in, they’re different ways you can provide heat overnight for your Leo. You can use wood or PVC enclosures instead of glass.

I recommend the use of ceramic heat emitters which can be mounted on the inside of your Leo’s enclosure. This is a great way to keep the ambient temperature stable.

Lighting Requirements

Leopard Geckos are nocturnal, but this doesn’t mean they don’t require any light within their habitat. Good lighting is crucial for them to regulate their day/night schedule. 

During the summer, your Leopard Gecko requires light to be provided for 14 hours a day, throughout the winter you’ll need to reduce the lighting exposure to only 12 hours a day.

Most reptiles require UVA and UVB lighting, this is to help their body function, UVA exposure benefits their eyesight and UVB is for a healthy metabolism, calcium metabolism, and vitamin D synthesis.

Leopard Geckos, however, do not require UV exposure as much, this is because in the wild they’re active during times when the sun is weaker or not present at all. This does not mean you shouldn’t provide this for them in their terrarium. They’ll use the lighting to bask under and will benefit from the UV exposures, they’re just not as dependent as other reptiles.

Terrarium Cleaning

When it comes to keeping your Leo’s terrarium clean, it’s pretty straightforward. You’ll need to do a spot clean daily for feces and any leftover foods. 

I recommend once a month that you do a deep clean. This requires you to take everything out of your Leo’s habitat and disinfect it to avoid bacteria buildup.

Here are some reptile safe products to use when cleaning out their habitat;

Handling Leopard Geckos

Before handling your Leopard Gecko, the rule of thumb is you’ll need to wait two weeks for them to settle into their new habitat.

Throughout this period, they’ll start to get used to you being around as you feed and clean their habitat.

You can start to introduce yourself by placing your hand in the enclosure for a few minutes a day and letting them have a sniff and get used to your scent. You can increase the bond with your Leopard Gecko by feeding them by hand.

Pro Tip: Avoid scented hand cleaning products such as lotions and sanitizers during the introduction phase.

After a week, your Leo should be comfortable with you being around. When handling your Leopard Gecko, ensure you support all four feet and their tail. Never pick them up by their tail as this is detachable.

Leopard Gecko Diet

Leopard Geckos have simple diets, they’ll only want live insects. No fruit, no vegetables just insects. If creepy crawlies aren’t something you’re into, Leopard Geckos may not be the right pet for you.

All insects you feed your Leo should be alive. This is so they can keep their hunting instincts, anything not active will be left alone as they’ll not be interested in eating it.

Feeding your Leopard Gecko as much as it can within 15 minutes will be enough for them. Anything left over after this time needs to be removed from their enclosure. 

Juvenile Leopard Geckos should be fed daily whereas Adults need to be fed every other day. 

Recommended insects;

  • Mealworms
  • Crickets
  • Hornworms
  • Dubia roaches
  • Silkworms
  • Red runner roaches
  • Discoid Roaches
  • Black soldier fly larvae

Pro Tip: Do not feed your Leopard Gecko any insects you have caught from the outdoors yourself. The chances of your Leo getting sick from this are very high and not worth the risk.

For more information on a Leopard Geckos diet, look at my What Do Leopard Geckos Eat article.

Leopard Gecko Behaviour

Leopard Geckos are nonaggressive lizards and can be quite the communicator when they want to be.

A few of their methods of communicating are;

  • Tail Waving – This is either a sign of introduction to other Leos or if intense waving, it can be defensive.
  • Vocalizing (Squeaking) – This is a sign of stress and pain, if your Leo is vocal, check them over and take them to a vet if necessary.
  • Climbing to the top of their habitat sporadically – Could mean their habitat isn’t set correctly and they’re trying to escape. Ensure temperatures and humidity levels are correct.

Learning what these forms of communication mean will tell you a lot about your Leos health and wellbeing.

Common Health Issues

Just like any animal, Leopard Geckos are at risk of sickness. I am going to provide you with a list of the most common illnesses and what to look out for.

Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic bone disease occurs in Leos if their diet is calcium and vitamin D deficient. To help prevent this you’ll want to dust your Leo’s food with supplements to ensure they’re getting the amounts they’ll require.

What to look out for;

  • Unable to defecate
  • Not able to eat for unusual lengths of time
  • Reluctant to move
  • Bone breaks/fractures

Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is caused by bacterial infections. This disease has the potential to be fatal to your Leo so catching this early is paramount. 

What to look out for;

  • Shrunken tail
  • Watery defecation

Pneumonia

Pneumonia affects the respiratory system, the easy way to identify this disease is by checking their nasal passages or listening to their breathing.

What to look out for;

  • Wheezing and rattling sounds when your Leo takes to breathe.
  • Mucus build up around their nasal passage and mouth is a common sign of respiratory related issues.

All of the diseases I have spoken about above require treatment and advice from a veterinary professional.

For more information on bacterial related diseases, read Stephen J. Divers study on Bacterial Diseases of Reptiles.

Summary

Providing your Leo with the correct environmental conditions and care within its habitat will allow your Leo to thrive in their new habitat.