Leopard Geckos (Eublepharis macularius) are extremely popular among reptile enthusiasts because they are easy to care for, docile and hardy. This also makes them ideal for beginners and a great pet to start with. Because they are long-lived, they require a long-term commitment. Overall, caring for a leopard gecko is easy.
Quick Reference Section
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Eublepharidae / Gekkonidae
- Scientific Name: Eublepharis macularius
- Average Adult Size: 7 – 10 inches (178 -254 mm)
- Lifespan: 22 years in captivity
- Clutch Size: 2 eggs
- Egg Incubation Period: 45 – 53 days
- Food: Live mealworms or crickets
- Tank Size: 15 – 20 gallons
- Average Temperature: 95°H/75°L
- Humidity: 10 – 30%
- UVB Lighting: Optional
- Average Price Range: $20 to $100
- Conservation Status: Least Concern on IUCN Redlist
Leopard Gecko Facts and Information
The scientific name of this gecko is Eublepharis macularius. It belongs to the genus Eublepharis that includes other geckos such as the West Indian leopard gecko, Satpura leopard gecko, Iraqi eyelid gecko, and several others.
The leopard gecko also belongs to the family Eublepharidae, also known as Gekkonidae, which include other geckos. The E. macularius occurs naturally in the highlands of Asia specifically Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Northwest India, and Pakistan. The dark spots on their yellow body give them the name leopard gecko, as their coloration resembles that of a leopard.
Generally, the leopard gecko is yellow with irregular dark spots and a white belly/abdomen. Additionally, their tails are segmented and their eyelids are movable.
They have vertical slit pupils, which is uncommon among geckos. Also unlike most geckos, they do not have toe pads and as such cannot stick to walls. Instead, they have clawed toes.
How big are leopard geckos?
These geckos usually grow to be about 8 inches in length but can reach 10 inches although this is uncommon.
What colors are leopard Geckos?
Because of there several other color patterns (morphs) available, it isn’t uncommon to find specimens of E. macularius with purple markings over bright yellow, or leopard geckos that lack yellow and brown color pigments. There are several leopard gecko morphs out there as such you can find them in a variety of colors.
Leopard Gecko Habitat
In the wild, the E. macularius population can be found in arid and semi-arid desert areas and dry grasslands. This gecko is native to dry areas and that should be taken into account when setting up their enclosure (the humidity of the enclosure needs to be low).
Also in the wild when temperatures fall below 50 °F / 10 °C, they brumate which is also referred to as semi-hibernation. Additionally, they spend most of their day in burrows and shaded areas as such make sure to provide hiding spots for this gecko when kept as a pet.
It is best to house these lizards in reptile terrariums. On the other hand, it is ill-advised to house them in aquariums. Terrariums provide the ventilation the gecko needs.
A vivarium with a single transparent glass/ PVC side panel can be used to house these geckos. They are solitary creatures and in the wild, they live out most of their life in solitary. However, housing leopard geckos together is actually quite common.
You can also house them in plastic containers such as Rubbermaid. Ensure that the plastic container is well ventilated. A 15-50 gallon terrarium can house two geckos. It is however not the best as they are solitary creatures and prefer to be alone.
It is important that the tank used to house the gecko is at least a foot tall and the screen top is secure enough to keep out predatory house cats. The top screen also needs to be able to support light fixtures and provide proper ventilation.
It is important that you provide hide boxes as well as humid boxes for the gecko. The humid box should contain moist substrates such as vermiculite or moss. The humidity box will aid the gecko shed its skin when the time comes.
An excellent reptile hide you can use for both a hide box and a humidity box is the Pangea reptile hide box. The Exo Terra Gecko Cave also makes an excellent hide box. You can also decorate the enclosure with plants (live or fake), and some branches.
Substrates to avoid include abrasive materials such as sand, rocks, and stones. Also, avoid cedar, as they can be toxic to snakes.
Since leopard geckos need low humidity to thrive, they don’t require any special substrate, which is excellent at regulating humidity, unlike many other reptiles.
They will do just as well on newspaper and paper towels as they will on aspen bedding, cypress mulch, and many others. The only downside to using newspapers is aesthetics. You can also use flat stones, artificial turf, and pea gravel as bedding. You can also leave the floor bare.
However, avoid fine particle substrates such as sand and soil. Young or sick geckos may ingest this substrate and this can lead to health issues. Similarly avoid substrates, which are toxic to reptiles such as cedar shaving and commercial pot plant soil, which may contain pesticides and fertilizer.
As with other reptiles, the E. macularius regulates their body temperature by moving between cool and warm areas. Similarly, you need to create a temperature gradient in the enclosure. This is when only about a third of the enclosure warmed up by a heat pad or a heat lamp.
This ensures that there are portions of the enclosure that remains cool. As such, the reptile can regulate their body temperature by moving between the warm and cool areas of their enclosure.
It is important that the ambient air temperature of the room within which the enclosure is located never fall below 73 °F. Do leopard geckos need a heat lamp? You can use a heat lamp or a heating pad to regulate the temperature of the enclosure.
The warm end/basking spot should be 88 °F during the day and about 70 to 75 °F during the night. The cool end of the enclosure should be about 75 °F during the day. During the night, the overall temperature of the enclosure should be 70 to 75 °F.
An ideal heat lamp to use is the Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter. An excellent heat pad you can alternatively use is the Fluker’s Heat Mat. You can use the Etekcity Thermometer gun to keep track of the temperature within the enclosure.
As already mentioned, the gecko doesn’t require high humidity to thrive as such you do not need to worry yourself with misting the enclosure or providing substrates that promote for good humidity levels.
You should still provide a humidity box for when the lizard needs to shed. How often do leopard geckos shed? Adults shed once every month while young leopard geckos shed every 7 to 14 days.
Do leopard geckos need light? While the leopard gecko does not require special UV lights, an overhead normal law -wattage fluorescent bulb is required.
The light needs to be on for 10 to 12 hours every day. During the night, the light needs to go off. It is important you provide a day-night cycle. Don’t leave the light on during the night, as it stresses the gecko. If you are forgetful, you can use an automatic timer.
Feeding the Leopard gecko
What does a leopard gecko eat? In the wild, leopard geckos primarily eat insects. However, they are adaptable and eat beetles, spiders, centipedes, and scorpions.
Similarly, in captivity, they will eat a variety of foods such as springtails, grasshoppers, locusts, waxworms, mealworms, crickets, and even pinkie mice. They do not eat plants or vegetation. As such, don’t feed them with any plant-based food.
Leopard gecko food list doesn’t contain hard to find foods. The best foods to feed your pet include crickets and mealworms. Waxworms and superworms should be given as treat now and then (at most once a week). Before feeding the leopard gecko, keep the insects in a tin with a nutritious powdered diet for a minimum of 24 hours.
This is called gut loading and ensures that the insects the gecko eats are packed with essential nutrients. Also, for young geckos, dust the insects with calcium/ vitamin D3 supplement such as the Zoo Med Reptile Calcium with Vitamin D3 supplement.
You can use commercial diets or chick/hog mash to gut load the insects. This can be found in feed stores. Similarly, pet shops have the commercial diet needed to gut load the insects. Place the insects in rub/tin of gut-load diet and a slice of potato (which serves as a water source) for 24 hours or more.
You can also dust the insects with the nutritional powdered diet. Place the insects and the nutritional powder inside an inflated plastic bag and shake gently. Ensure that the powder does not get into the eye of the gecko when you feed it the powdered insects.
You can also spray the insects with a multivitamin spray such as the Zilla Vitamin Supplement Food Spray. Also, you can provide an additional powdered supplement source but placing a lid filled with nutritional powder in the enclosure at all time. The gecko will lick it up occasionally.
Feed adult geckos every other day. This is about 3 to 4 times a week. Younglings should be fed daily. Feed the gecko two insects for every inch of its body length. As such, an 8-inch gecko should be fed 16 crickets per feeding.
Provide fresh water at all times. The dish needs to be very shallow so the gecko doesn’t accidentally drown in it. The dish also needs to be stable so the water doesn’t spill. The gecko should be able to easily climb out of the water dish.
Leopard gecko’s Temperament
The leopard gecko is a docile and hardy creature that doesn’t mind being handled. However, ensure the gecko is over 6 inches before you start handling it regularly.
For the gecko to become used to you, you can let it crawl through your fingers and hands for about 10 minutes while you are seated on the floor. This is to prevent the gecko from dropping from a high height. It takes about a week to tame the gecko. Picking the gecko by the tail can cause the tail to come off so don’t do that.
Leopard gecko’s Lifespan
Leopard geckos are long-lived. Males can live for 25 years. How long do leopard geckos live? Both domesticated male and females have an average life span of 22 years. However, it isn’t uncommon for them to live for just 8 years.
Breeding Leopard Geckos
These are popular reptile pets and as such, they are bred regularly and successfully. The gravid female produces just two eggs per clutch although some females have been known to produce more. Females lay about six clutches every year.
The females will seek to bury the eggs in a damp humid substrate so provide a secure hide box with moist substrate in which the gravid female can lay the eggs. The eggs incubate for about 50 days at 28 °C or 82 °F.
The leopard gecko reaches maturity between 16 to 24 months.
Popular morphs include the albino gecko, “high color” or “yellow phase” leopard geckos, melanistic leopard geckos, aberrant leopard gecko, and the super-giant leopard gecko. Currently, there are over 100 different morphs available.
Check out our leopard gecko breeding guide for a step by step guide.
While many pet reptiles such as turtles carry salmonella, pet leopard geckos don’t. This is because they prefer to live in very dry conditions. However, several health complications can affect the leopard gecko. Most of these health issues can be prevented with good care. Regardless, your leopard gecko can fall ill. If your leopard gecko is not eating, you should visit your nearest herp vet.
Here are some common diseases that affect this creature –
- Gastroenteritis – this is caused by bacterial or protozoan infection. Symptoms include loss of appetite, watery or bloody stool, weight loss especially in the tail and undigested food. Because the disease causes the gecko to stop eating, it can die.
- Dysecdysis and Metabolic bone disease – when geckos aren’t properly fed, they may develop metabolic bone disease as a result of calcium and vitamin D3 deficiency or dysecdysis as a result of poor nutrition.
- Respiratory infections such as pneumonia are also common. Pneumonia is usually as a result of their environment being too humid or cool. You can resolve this issue by ensuring the temperature is about 82 to 85 °F or 28 to 29 °C and humidity levels are below 30%.
- Sand impactions and prolapse may also occur when geckos ingest fine particle substrates such as sand.
Pricing and Availability
As with reptiles that have morphs, leopard gecko price varies significantly, with rare morphs fetching as much as several thousand dollars. However, on average, the cost of acquiring a leopard gecko is $40 to $200.
The leopard gecko (E. macularius) is not an endangered or threatened species. The species is of least concern according to the IUCN Redlist. Although they are one of the most popular geckos kept as pets all over the world, the wild population of the E. macularius is good.
Leopard Gecko Overview Video
Are leopard geckos good pets? The leopard gecko is probably the best gecko and reptile to start with. They are hardy, gentle, and rarely bite. Even when they do bite, this is painless.
Additionally, there are many several color patterns available. Their hardy nature makes them ideal pets for beginners as well as seasoned enthusiasts. If you have any comments on the leopard gecko, we will love to hear them.