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Reptiles - Leopard Gecko

Leopard geckos are one of the easiest lizards to keep as a pet, and can make a terrific pet for older children and adults. Most geckos that are commercially sold are captive bred rather than being caught in the wild. There are many morphs that can occur during this type of breeding including different strains of albino, jungle, pattern-less  and giant. Geckos are nocturnal, meaning that they are awake during the night and sleep during the day. Male geckos can determine the sex of other geckos by smelling pheromones on their skin. Males will act very violently towards each other, especially when battling for courtship with females. Although rare, sometimes during mating the female will lose her tail, but don’t worry because it will grow back.  Before purchasing a pet leopard gecko make sure that you have enough time in your schedule to provide it with the best care possible.

Food

Leopard geckos are insectivores that feed on crickets, wax worms, super worms, meal worms and other inspects. In captivity, geckos like to hunt for themselves and most leopard geckos will not eat prey that is already dead. Crickets are the most common food to feed your gecko because they fun to hunt and they provide the nutrients your gecko needs. When food is scarce, a leopard gecko stores fat in its tail. In captivity it is very difficult to mirror the diet they would have in the wild, so most nutritious insects are dusted with a fine coat of calcium powder to add vitamin D3. Most commercial insects can be bought at your local pet store, and many of them will have your repeat order ready on a weekly basis if requested. Geckos also require constant access to clean water, so make sure to provide fresh drinking water daily in a shallow bowl.

Care and Handling for Your Pet

Geckos are known to have temperature dependent sex determination. This means that more females can be produced in predominantly cool temperatures and in very warm temperatures. Females that have been born in warmer temperatures are seen to be more aggressive and are often referred to as hot females and are unable to reproduce. Geckos can reproduce at nine months of age, with the females usually laying two eggs approximately 28 days after mating. The eggs will take at least 45-60 days to hatch. Newborn geckos have a temporary ‘egg tooth’ to break out of the egg. This tooth and their initial skin will shed after 24 hours. Leopard geckos can grow to be 20 to 25 cm. Leopard geckos average lifespan is over twenty years.

Leopard geckos have a very fragile state of health so it is important to take very good care of them including consistent feeding and cleaning schedules. If you notice your gecko exhibiting any odd behavior, not eating, or looking ill make sure to take it to the vet right away because left untreated, most diseases are fatal. A very common health ailment that leopard geckos face is gastroenteritis which causes diarrhea and is due to unsanitary conditions. Leopard geckos can also get Coccidia which causes gastrointestinal problems when a protozoan parasite infects the lining of the intestine. It is very contagious and can be spread quickly.  Anorexia is also common in geckos and may be caused from stress, unsanitary conditions and nutritional diseases. Make sure that you have your gecko looked at by a vet if you think it may have any of these conditions, because if left untreated they will result in death. Geckos may also suffer from Dysecdysis which is a condition that results in the gecko having difficulty shedding its skin. This leaves patches and is usually due to poor nutrition or lack of humidity. Other health issues include Pneumonia, Cryptosporidiosis, and Stomatis.

Leopard Geckos do not require a large amount of space and are usually housed in a terrarium that is at least 10 gallons.  When setting up your terrarium get advice from the pet store to ensure that you are creating the right environment for your gecko. Make sure that you have the right temperature set for your gecko’s new home because they cannot produce their own body heat. The ideal temperature for a gecko’s home is 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and their basking area should be 88-90 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, when your gecko is most active, it should be approximately 72-77 degrees Fahrenheit. To heat your gecko’s cage, you can use heat tapes, underhead and overhead heat sources.  You should mimic the same natural light cycles for your gecko that it would see in the wild, that being 14 hours of light followed by 10 hours of dark in the summer and 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of dark in the winter. Appropriate lights for creating this effect include black and red heat lamps. Geckos also have very specific requirements when it comes to humidity to encourage proper shedding cycles and prevent dehydration. Also make sure that your gecko’s vivarium is in an area of your home that can be easily monitored, keeping it away from unsupervised pets and small children. Geckos also require places to climb and bask in their home. Click here find out more on how to create the perfect home for your gecko.

Accessories

There are many accessories required to make sure that your leopard gecko stays healthy. You will need some sort of enclosure; most people use an aquarium or vivarium. You will also need to provide heat and sunlight that can closely mimic the amount and duration of heat and light that they would see in the wild. Make sure that you provide your gecko with a ‘humified shelter’ to help facilitate shedding. This can contain peat or sphagnum moss. You will also need a temperature to make sure that the enclosure is the right temperature for your leopard gecko. You will also need a place to keep your leopard geckos live feed which will be made up mostly of crickets and meal worms. Geckos also require commercial hide boxes, rocks and plants to create their home. Smooth rocks will also provide a place for your gecko to bask and climb.  Do not use cedar, pine, gravel or cat litter for your gecko’s substrate, rather use artificial turf, paper towel or newspaper. When purchasing cleanser to clean out your gecko’s habitat make sure that it does not contain phenols or pine scent because they are toxic. Contact your veterinarian or pet superstore for advice on how to best set up and maintain your gecko’s shelter.

Having a leopard gecko can be fascinating because they are exotic and fun to watch, but they are also a lot of work. A gecko can be fairly expensive, especially with the startup costs of creating the right habitat. After bringing your gecko home, it is important to clean his habitat often to prevent the spread of disease and keep your gecko healthy. You must also make sure that the terrarium is at the right temperature and that your gecko has adequate light at night because they are nocturnal.  Once you have everything set up and a schedule in place it is time to get to know your new friend!