Leopard geckos are the perfect pet for people who prefer a home free of pet dander, litter boxes, and squeaky toys. Leopard geckos are only as large as the palm of your hand and can live to be 20 years old. Even in a 10-20-gallon tank, the smallest recommended size for housing one leopard gecko, that barely takes up space on a wall. Besides the aquarium-sized cage, creating a space for a leopard gecko to thrive is relatively simple.
There are less than a handful of musts when recreating nature for your new pet. First, leopard geckos hail from the deserts and grasslands of Southeastern Afghanistan, Western India, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran. Recreating those arid environments involves constant heat, as the geckos are used to 12-14 hours/day of sunlight.
An arid environment is accomplished by introducing a heating pad; the optimal temperature for the bottom of the tank is 90 degrees F. Although heat is a requirement, burn risks exist if heat lamps are used or if the heating mat comes in contact with the gecko. Heat lamps affect the gecko’s eyes; as the geckos lay low to the ground, heat absorption occurs through their stomachs, so overhead heat sources are ineffective anyway.
Make sure that the tank has a distinct “warm” side and a separate “cool” side. The warm side should be heated continuously and consistently moistened; this is where the gecko will go to shed its skin, so including moss and spraying the area with a water bottle will create a perfect, humid environment. Indirect sunlight, such as a window, can mimic the external features. During the night, the heated tank should drop to no lower than 80 degrees F.
Additionally, the tank must include areas similar to desert climates. Three simulated shelters, made from store-bought rock caves or reptile shelters, must be placed around the tank and the bottom of the tank should be covered in reptile habitat carpet or calcium sand. Calcium sand could be a choking hazard for young leopard geckos, so the carpet is a better idea. Bedding should be changed once a month, and waste scooped every day.
Leopard geckos are relatively simple to feed. Only geckos under six months need daily feedings. The 6-12 months old period incorporates feedings every other day, while leopard geckos over a year only need to be fed approximately once every 84 hours. Calcium is a must. Powdered calcium, in a small bowl somewhere in the tank, is a way for the gecko to get its enrichment around the clock. Calcium can also be dusted onto food sources and fed to the gecko via its insect intake.
Live crickets are the most popular for leopard geckos, but super worms. Locusts, and butter worms also work. A full meal should only be 7-10 crickets, and any uneaten food removed from the tank after 20 minutes. Do not feed your leopard gecko fruits or wild insects. Ordinarily, leopard geckos will refuse dead insects, so store-bought live crickets act as food and enrichment.
To indirectly load your leopard gecko with nutrients, feed the insects fruit and vegetable scraps (think compostable food materials) 12-24 hours before your gecko’s mealtime.
On the cooler side of the tank, place a shallow water dish. This dish is used for drinking and bathing, so it must be large enough for the gecko to lay in. Due to its dual-use, it needs to be cleaned every day; bottled water and water from pet stores, specially equipped for reptile use, can be utilized.
Geckos keep body fat stored in their tails, so a bloated backside is nothing to be worried about. Due to this, the gecko’s tail is an indicator of its health and wellbeing. A tail that is wider than gecko’s body or discolored can be signs of serious health issues, and a trip to the vet should be in order.
Once a month or so, the leopard gecko will retreat to the moist side of its enclosure to shed its skin; the gecko will usually consume the dead skin cells, so there will not be anything to remove from its cage during this process.
Dehydration may also be a problem if the water dish’s status is not consistently maintained. Misting the gecko’s body with water will rehydrate its skin, effectively fending off dysecdysis, but more than a light covering could lead to respiratory complications, like pneumonia. Leopard geckos are also privy to issue like discharge around the eyes, nostrils, and mouth, as well as diarrhea and vomiting. Any of those symptoms require immediate medical attention.
Two common health problems of leopard geckos are metabolic bone disease, stemming from a lack of calcium and vitamin D, and gastroenteritis, a symptom of a serious bacterial infection.