Leopard Gecko Care Sheet and First-Time Owners Guide

The Leopard Gecko is a beautifully unique reptile that is famous for their striking leopard-like appearance and huge fat-storage tail.

Geckos are cute, docile and friendly little lizards with many interesting behaviors and endearing vocalizations.

They very quickly adjust to being handled and are easy-to-care for any first-time owner!

Known scientifically as the Eublepharis macularius this species rattle their tail when threatened, mating, or during hunting.

Want to learn more about the leopard gecko? Keep reading…

Leopard Gecko Feature

What Is A Leopard Gecko?

Native Habitat

The Eublepharis macularius is a lizard from the semi-dry to arid deserts and forest edges of a stretch of habitat ranging from Northwest India through to Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They typically live on the rocks of their desert scrub habitats.

Leopard Geckos have struck the hearts of many with their unique appearance, and are known by several different common names:

They are shy lizards that have fantastic predator-evading abilities and are camouflaged with their leopard print in the dry-desert rocks or tall grasslands.

These species are able to remain hidden for long periods of time because of their fat-storing tails that can sustain them until whatever threat they are facing is removed.

They also shed more frequently than most lizards in order to keep their scent from being detected by predators.

Finally, the Leopard Gecko vocalizes very loudly. He will vocalize during mating, self-defense, or when excited by either chirping, barking, or making a hissing sound.

What We Like About Leopard Geckos

Pros

  • Their docile behavior makes them great for beginners.
  • They only need a very small tank.
  • It is easy for them to be housed in groups.

Cons

  • They will drop their tail (i.e. autotomy) when threatened.
  • This species is very temperature-sensitive.
  • They are nocturnal.

Species Appearance

Portrait Of A Leopard Gecko
Leopard gecko’s have a transparent channel connecting their two ears together, so that light can shine through from one ear to the other.

All Leopard Geckos have a small triangular-shaped head (similar to a crested gecko), a long body, and a chunky, segmented tail. They also have and slender digits with long, extending claws, and are ventrally white throughout.

Interestingly, none of their digits have toe pads, so they cannot adhere to walls to climb like other gecko species can.

Leopard gecko’s eyes typically have slit pupils. However, there many many mutations which are deliberately bred in captivity for:

  • The “eclipse” mutation, which is completely filled in solid black or red color
  • There is also a mutation called “snake-eyes” that have partial leaks of the pupil into the iris
  • The last mutation is “marble-eye,” where there is spotting within the eye’s iris

Typically leopard geckos have skin with a wart-like texture.

Some people breed morphs to remove those bumps, leaving smooth skin, known as scaleless. There are many different morphs, with varying patterns, eye colors, size, and even texture.

Colors

This lizard can be yellow, tangerine, lavender, or white with black or chocolate spotting, patching or striping. There are also albino and melanistic occurrences.

Leopard Geckos have many varying patterns.

  • Some have rosettes, chain-rosettes, or solid spotting.
  • Some have stripes and patches that can present with irregular blotching.

There are some hypomelanistic morphs that have spotting only on their head and tail.

How Big Do Leopard Geckos Get?

Males are larger than females measuring between 7 to 11 inches and weighing 70-100 grams. Females are between 6.5 to 8 inches and weigh between 40-90 grams.

There is a morph called the Super Giant that can be 12 inches long and weigh 175 grams.

Leopard Gecko Care Sheet

Leopard Gecko Drinking Water

Leopard Gecko Diet and Feeding Guide

This lizard is very easy-to-care for because their diet is solely made up of insects.

They like to eat mealworms, crickets, superworms, wax worms, phoenix worms, small hornworms, and Dubia roaches.

Hatchling and young geckos will require insects that are smaller than the width of their head and should be fed every other day.

As seen in the feeding guide below, adults can be fed two to three times a week. Use a rule of one insect per inch of gecko body length.

AgeFrequencyQuantity
Hatchlings (0 to 6 months)Every dayOne insect smaller than the width between their eyes
Juveniles (6 to 15 months)Every other dayOne insect smaller than the width between their eyes
AdultEvery three daysOne insect per inch of gecko

They need a supplement of calcium powder with vitamin D3 each time they eat. You can either dust the insects or gut-load them 48 hours prior to feeding. Just make sure the supplement container says “phosphorus free”.

One of the reasons the leopard gecko is a great family pet is because children can feed them. All they need to do is dust the insects with calcium powder and drop them in the enclosure.

You can then watch the leopard gecko’s skillful hunting technique as he flicks his tail right before he strikes.

Water

They will get most of their water requirement from their food but you could provide them with fresh water in a shallow water dish. Not too deep as it may be a hazard for them.

Remember that their native habitat is very dry.

***

Eublepharis macularius
This Gecko has 100 teeth since hatching, and he replaces them every 3 to 4 months for the rest of his life.

How Long Do Leopard Geckos Live For?

A captive-bred Gecko or one raised in captivity has a long lifespan of 15-20 years.

They are very healthy and common diseases such as Metabolic Bone Disease, or medical problems like impaction, can be prevented by following correct husbandry advice and managing their environment and diet.

A happy Leopard Gecko should be active at night and for a small portion of the day.

If their enclosure is warm enough, at the correct humidity, and your reptile has no stressors present, they should have no problem being alert during the evening.

Stressed Geckos do not come out of hiding and may:

  • Vocalize a hissing sound.
  • Wave their tail slowly when approached.
  • Drop their tails if driven to extreme fear.

Leopard geckos have autotomy, where they can drop their tails when threatened.

Their tail will regenerate, however, it will never grow back the same, it will differ in shape, texture, and pattern. The process of regeneration is very energy-consuming and any thinning of their tail indicates illness.

A sick leopard gecko will not eat.

Temperature and humidity values outside of their natural range are dangerously fatal:

  • If they live in an enclosure with a high humidity (over 70%) they can develop respiratory infections.
  • They will become dehydrated if the humidity is too low.
  • If tank temperatures are too low they will become unable to metabolize and will lose bodily functions.

Finally, be sure to observe your Leopard Gecko’s feces. Runny matter indicates illness or a need for a diet change, and endoparasites will lead to blood in feces.

Leopard Gecko Habitat and Cage

Leopard Gecko On A Branch

You will need, at a minimum, a 20-gallon long vivarium for one adult Leopard Gecko.

A wooden or glass vivarium is ideal.

Unlike some lizards that need different sized tanks as they grow. Many owners choose to start their baby and juvenile Geckos in the same 20-gallon tank adults use.

If you are housing one male and two females for breeding, then go for a 40-gallon. When housing more than one lizard make sure they have their own hideout area or hide box in the tank.

Each enclosure needs to have three hideouts that are large enough to fit an adult gecko and enclosed enough to be dark and snug inside. Each hideout has a different purpose and should be either moist, warm, or cool.

Within some hideouts, place coconut fiber or sphagnum moss in order to create a micro-humidity chamber to help with shedding. Bathing leopard geckos is not necessary if they have soaking bowls and micro-humidity chambers.

Place the hideouts at varying levels of the cage; somewhere they can climb to and some on the ground floor.

You can also choose to add branches and rocks in their enclosure and non-toxic pants will make the tank look fantastic.

Lighting and Heating

Their tank needs a basking bulb for the daytime and a ceramic bulb for nighttime.

They need a heat gradient in the tank with one side that reaches 90°F and the cool side can be around 75°F. Ensure their basking bulb is not too bright as they prefer cool-white lights.

Leopard Geckos are nocturnal so their lighting must be turned off in the evening for 12 hours of the night.

Night-time temperatures can drop to around 70°F but shouldn’t go much lower. An undertank heating pad is a good solution to regulating temperature if their basking lamp is insufficient.

Because their natural habitat is a desert, humidity should stay in the range of 30-40%.

This can be achieved by having one soaking bowl in the enclosure. Make sure the soaking bowl is large enough for your lizard to fit in, but not too deep so that the water level comes above their ears.

You should install digital thermometers and humidity gauges to check the temperatures of the warm side and cool side of the tank.

Substrate

Many owners use reptile carpet, paper towels, or newspaper for their Leopard Gecko’s substrate. Some prefer bedding such as aspen shaving, cypress mulch, or coconut fiber. Any of those choices will work as a suitable substrate.

You should avoid using sand and calcium sand because it will cause impaction if swallowed.

If you choose a reptile carpet it will need to be spot-cleaned daily. Each month it will need to either be deep cleaned with bleach or replaced entirely, depending on its level of wear.

Newspaper or paper towels will need to be replaced weekly.

Any choice of bedding (e.g. aspen shaving, cypress mulch, or coconut fiber) will need to be spot scooped daily and entirely replaced monthly.

When doing a monthly deep-clean, use water and bleach (1:30 solution) and allow for the solution to dry out completely and evaporate before returning your lizard or any décor to the enclosure.

Typical Behavior

Leopard Gecko

Leopard Geckos are scrubland and grassland reptiles.

Contrary to popular belief, Geckos tend to live in groups with a single male and multiple females. In the wild a single male will protect the females and fight predators.

If you are planning on having more than one leopard gecko, ensure that only one is male. Males become territorial with one another and will fight. Really, you should only house multiple leopard geckos together if you are are breeding them.

In the wild they spend most of their time either climbing or burrowing:

  • They use their claws to climb up shrubs, trees, or rocks
  • They burrow in soil or rock caves to absorb heat and evade predators (larger lizards, snakes, birds of prey, and foxes).

With many predators it is not practical for a Leopard Gecko to bask out in the open (as many other ectotherms do). Instead, they find hidden rocks or branches that indirectly transfer the sun’s heat.

When nighttime arrives, they come out of their hiding spot to feed.

They are opportunistic hunters so will wait for prey to come to them – using their hearing and olfactory senses they can easily strike nearby prey.

This reptile is not picky and will eat most live organisms within their proximity. They are known to eat any insect, some bird eggs, and can even be cannibalistic.

Leopard geckos live in habitats with cooler winter temperatures. During the cooler winter temperatures, they cannot regularly metabolize so they go into what’s known as brumation (i.e. reptile hibernation).

In captivity, your gecko may or may not engage in brumation.

You can induce brumation for healthy adults by providing less food and lowering their tank’s temperature.

Nearing December, provide less and less food and lower tank temperatures to room temperature (68 – 77°F). Bring heat back up to 85°F in March, and offer food a few days after they wake up.

Handling Advice

Handling A Leopard Gecko

Leopard Geckos enjoy climbing and exploring.

It is very important that they have a habitat to climb and explore with branches and rocks. However, they should also be taken out of their enclosure.

They love to climb on arms and are known for being a docile reptile so will rarely bite.

Before handling, remember this species has tail autotomy. Never pick up a leopard gecko by the tail – it will fall off.

Make sure to use the tips below when handling:

  1. Start by placing a flat hand down and ease him onto your palm.
  2. Hold him with a flat hand, supporting his legs and tail. If he feels insecure, they may emit barking sounds and move their tail.
  3. Walk slowly with him (don’t run or make fast movements).
  4. Start with small five-minute handling sessions.
  5. Continue this daily until he is comfortable.

Multiple Leopard Geckos

Most people start with one but you may later think about getting other geckos.

If you are planning on having more than one leopard gecko, ensure that only one is male. Males become territorial with one another and will fight. Really, you should only house multiple leopard geckos together if you are breeding them.

Feeding multiple geckos can present challenges if one is more food-grubby than another.

If you notice dominant behavior during feeding you should provide separate “feeding containers”. These can be small and made of plastic and should have a lid with air vents so that insects cannot escape.

Leopard Gecko Baby

Leopard Gecko Smiling

Baby leopard geckos are born with bands on their body and translucent, smooth skin.

As Geckos mature the bands become detailed patterns of spotting and more vibrant colors appear. They will also form bumps as a scale texture all over their bodies.

Breeding season for Leopard Geckos can be anywhere from January to September but it requires the correct temperature.

You can start the breeding process by cooling down their environment to 72-75°F (65°F at night) eight weeks prior to breeding.

Females reach sexual maturity at 50 grams and males at 18 months.

You can determine the sex of a leopard gecko as early as one month by looking at the base of their tail. Males will have evident hemipenal bulges or bumps that create a V-shaped row and pre-vent pits by the entrance of the vent.

A gravid female will have two bulges by the abdomen.

During pregnancy they need a higher intake of food and enjoy moist micro-humidity chambers with moss and vermiculite.

Adult females will produce 4-5 clutches per season each with two eggs. Once laid, carefully move the eggs into incubators without changing the eggs’ orientation.

Selective Breeding

Incubation temperature will determine the sex of hatchlings:

  • 80-82°F will produce all females
  • 85°F will be equally split
  • 89-90°F will be all male

How Much Does A Leopard Gecko Cost?

Common leopard geckos sell for $50. However, some morphs are significantly more expensive at $400 because of their unique appearance.

Whatever Gecko you purchase make sure it is from a reputable breeder and looks healthy.

Leopard Gecko Facts
Common NamesPanther, Desert Fat-Tailed and Spotted Fat-Tailed Geckos
Scientific NameEublepharis macularius
Price$50-$400
Size6.5 – 10 inches (males are larger)
Weight40 – 100 grams (males are larger)
Lifespan15 – 20 years
DietCrickets, Mealworms, Waxworms, Locusts and Pinkie mice
Tank SizeMinimum 10-gallon
Humidity & TemperatureTemperature: 70 – 85°F
Humidity: 30 – 40%
Popular AlternativesAfrican fat-tailed Gecko or Gargoyle Gecko

Care Guide Summary

Leopard Geckos are a fantastic pet choice for first-time owners because of their docile and playful nature.

They are very beautiful lizards with their famous leopard-like appearance and lips that shape the perfect smile when they look up at you.

Maintenance and husbandry are very simple with easy diet and cleaning requirements. As long as you are gentle and feed them correctly they will gladly jump into your palms!

They have many special qualities that you will discover after adopting!

Do you have a Leopard Gecko at home? Let us know how life is with one below.

About Johnathan David 215 Articles
Johnathan leads the Everything Reptiles’ editorial team as our Editor in Chief. He has been a reptile hobbyist since childhood and after years in herpetoculture he has cared for many Geckos and Frogs.

36 Comments

    • this article recommends coconut fiber as a substrate. Please font use this in your gekos tank. it can hold too much moisture if the humidity is high(and cause infection) or become very dusty in a lower humidity and cause breathing issues. just because it doesn’t usually cause impactio doesn’t make it safe. Also, be careful with any wood/mulch. q lot of it had toxic oils that can harm your leo. loose substrate is good for digging and 3nrichment, but DO YOUR REASEARCH.

      • As long as it is changed regularly (every 2-3 weeks) and as long as humidity inside the tank is maintained below 40%, coconut fiber works really well as a substrate for leopard geckos. Ventilating the tank through small holes is another important feature to increase air circulation and reduce humidity build-up.

        • Good morning my name’s Raina and I have purchased my first leopard gecko and I’m trying to gain his or hers trust so that I can handle him or her do you have some advice on how I can be successful in doing that….

          • Hi Raina, I’m very happy you approach me with this question because when deciding how to handle their animals, people often just ‘go for it’, which can be a traumatic experience for our geckos (and sometimes, the keeper too!).

            I would say time is the number one factor to get him/her to trust you is time. Nonetheless, you can try some of these techniques to speed up the process: when you’re in his field of vision, especially when dealing directly with him or his enclosure (cleaning, changing water etc..), move very gently and in an unthreatening way, talk to him, and do not make excessive eye contact: they are hard-wired to run away from a ‘predator’s staring eyes’. Spend time where he can see you, and do not mind him. He will eventually understand you’re not a threat. Do not mix feeding/handling/cleaning experiences: they should be done at different times. Get on a schedule, so he can get into a habit.
            In terms of handling, little by little you can stick your hand in the enclosure (again, no eye contact and hand in a fist would be better than staring eyes and a flat, snake-shaped hand), with no other expectation than getting him used to your smell and presence in his space. Progressively, you will be able to touch him (if his curiosity doesn’t win him over first).
            One of the finer techniques involve feeding: while you should avoid a full handling experience, when he’s very hungry and has noticed the prey item, you can hold it a little bit high up and then place your hand as a step to the insect you’re holding. Trust is a complex experience, one could write a book on it! The most important thing is to learn how to read out the signals he sends you, as this will greatly improve communication between you two.

  1. I Love my Leopard Gecko. She is called Georgie and is 2 and a half months old now. Got her when she was two weeks old.

  2. I have had my LG for years now, and she’s become a very unexpected favorite of mine. My son picked her out as a birthday gift for me 🙂 Riley has a 15 gallon. Her “hideout” is on the warm side and her water dish and “poop corner” are on the cool side with her feeding dish in the middle.

  3. We recently got a LG and she’s so shy!! And so cute! We love her. We have only had her about 5 days and have yet to see her eat, or poop. She finally drank water today. I’ve been checking the temps/humity and such, and all seems fine. She has been exploring her 50 gal enclosure more and more. I expected an adjustment period, but should I be concerned about the not eating? We have tried small pieces of dried mealworm, and live mealworm. Any advice for us?

    • Hi Maggie,

      Your Leo is probably still a bit stressed after the move. Make sure you give her lots of space and quiet over the next week or two. Avoid disturbing or trying to handle her. Make sure the feeding bowl is not in the middle of her tank, ideally place it where there its lots of cover. Also make sure there are lots of plants/décor for cover. She will only eat once she feels relaxed in her tank.

      • uhhhm so i just got mt leo and her humiditey is kinda high its a 60 is that good her temp is 80 on the warm

        • I would try to lower the humidity to 50 at the highest, at 60 they start to be at risk of respiratory issues. it might be okay if it’s shedding, but really 30 to 40 is best. Also, during the day the warm side should really be 85 to even 95 with the cool side no lower than 70. at night cooler would be fine though.

    • Leos are insectivores, feeding them dried is not something you should feed. Stick to live.

  4. I’m having trouble feeding our new Leo. We have had her for two weeks and she has only ate once. What should I do?

  5. We just got a juvenile Carrot Tail last Saturday, and we are just wondering when we can start holding it. It had its first shed tonight, so we must be doing something right.

  6. I just got a male leopard gecko yesterday. He only eat once. My kids keeps holding him. When should they be holding him?

    • Hi Amber, it is great he has already eaten. What did you feed him? You can check out our feeding guide for more info. In terms of handling, each species has its own personality. If he is confident and your children handle him gently, then short handling sessions can be fun.

  7. Hi!! So I’ve had my guy Draco since May and I’ve noticed a couple times he’s turned a grayish color but I’ve never seen him actually shed? Is it possible I’m just missing it or does that sound abnormal? Otherwise he is acting very normal and nothing seems different or off with him.

    • It is possible to miss the shedding process yes, because it might happen mostly at night and inside his enclosure where he has humidity and a surface to grind up against.
      However grayish color might also be caused by a variety of other causes: cold temperature, dietary deficiency or sub-optimal lighting exposures. Please refer to our guide for a correct setup of your enclosure.

  8. my leopard gecko stays inside his rock enclosure most of the day, rarely comes out to climb in his leaves or branches, is this normal, he seems healthy, his tail is nice and fat and he sheds normally.

    • This is completely normal for a crepuscular/nocturnal species like the Leopard Gecko: no need to worry. At dusk and during the night is when he will be most active, so as long as he eats, goes out at night and looks healthy, he should be fine.

  9. I love my LG. He is so cute but I’ve been feeding him everyday, is that too often? He is quite large and has shed once. He doesn’t come out very much and I’m concerned. He does come out to eat. I alternate crickets and worms.. live. Should I put a bathing dish with a heater in it. He has a heating pad inside the tank in his hideout and he loves it. So I need to put some stuff in there to climb on I think. Would he benefit from his tank being in the sun sometimes?

    • Don’t worry! Leopard geckos are classified as nocturnal and only start being active at dusk. They rarely venture into the midday sunlight. This means that they can easily spend the whole day inside their enclosure. He probably just really likes what you have built for him. It is good to provide shrub-like branches in the enclosure, as these geckos love to climb small plants and cannot (like most other geckos) stick to vertical flat surfaces to get to a higher ground.
      Eating habits ultimately depends on their age: if your gecko is younger than 1 year old, daily feeding is appropriate, but as he grows old you want to transition to feeding him only once every 3 days.

      You can put a bathing dish inside the tank, but most of its water intake comes from its food (they live in very arid habitats, and might not use the dish at all).

      Placing the tank in the sun does not provide a clear benefit, because UVB is filtered by glass (that is why you need UVB bulbs inside the tank). On the contrary, it might greatly affect your temperature and humidity inside the tank so as a rule of thumb is best to just avoid it.

  10. We are planning to get a leopard gecko soon. They say not to handle your gecko for the first couple of weeks. Do you still handle the gecko to move it out of the terrarium so you can clean it, or what do you do in the beginning.

    • As you said, rushing your gecko into trusting you is not ideal. At the same time, you can do a lot to have him trust you. Move slowly, no sudden movements, never touch its tail, spend time with him. By the time you have to clean the terrarium, you can start placing your hand and see if he climbs on it, or gently guide him to it. The most important thing is to handle the animal with the right amount of care.
      If you have the right setup you can even have a feeding enclosure where he could go, directly from his terrarium, without you having to touch him.

  11. I am looking for leopard gecko beginners guide information that will help me my my female leopard gecko that will also help with the breeding process as well as well as other things Like terrariums ideas, feeding charts,that I can print out for free,breeding them,hummity levels an other tempures, an so on please.
    Can you please help me with this please? I am also on a fixed income per month.
    So is there any way that I can keep in touch with you only an if so can you please give me your contact info please , I will give you mind below meaning my email contact.
    That if I have any other questions for you.

    Thank for taking you time in reading my message.

    Cathy

    • I’m not sure what printable guide you could find. In my opinion you should make your own with a mix of printed and written words, starting from this article here and perhaps moving into more specific issues. If you want to leave your email address below I will contact you, but as I’m sure you’ll understand, I won’t be able to reply promptly when an issue arises. You need to study your animal: read all articles on here (we have an excellent one on feeding problems), read some blogs and watch some videos. Interact with him, observe his behavior and signs. You’ll be much more confident in no time!

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