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?

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:

  • Panther geckos
  • Desert fat-tailed geckos
  • Spotted fat-tailed geckos
  • Fat-tailed geckos

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.

This 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 exited 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 like other gecko species can.

Leopard geckos typically have slit pupils. However, there many many mutations which are deliberately bred 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 juvenile leopard 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.

Age Frequency Quantity
Hatchlings and Juveniles Every other day One insect smaller than the width of their head
Adult Three times a week One 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 skilful hunting technique as he flicks his tail right before he strikes.

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.

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?

In captivity this Gecko 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 indicate 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 10-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 10-gallon tank adults use.

If you are housing two or three, then go for a 20-gallon. When housing more than lizard make sure they have their own hideout area in the tank.

Each enclosure needs to have several hideouts that are large enough to fit an adult gecko and enclosed enough to be dark and snug inside.

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, some where 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 UVB tube light and a basking bulb.

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.

The Leopard Gecko is nocturnal so their lighting must be turned off in the evening for 12 hours of night.

Night-time temperatures can drop to around 70°F but shouldn’t go much lower. Under-the-tank heaters are 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 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, they tend to live in groups and develop a hierarchy. 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.

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 (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.

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 becoming 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 the Leopard Gecko can be anywhere from January to September but it requires the correct temperature.

You can start the breeding process by cooling down their 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 a leopard gecko as early as one month by look 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.

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. Incubation temperature will determine the sex of hacthlings:

  • 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 experience 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 Names Panther, Desert Fat-Tailed and Spotted Fat-Tailed Geckos
Scientific Name Eublepharis macularius
Price $50-$400
Size 6.5 – 10 inches (males are larger)
Weight 40 – 100 grams (males are larger)
Lifespan 15 – 20 years
Diet Crickets, Mealworms, Waxworms, Locusts and Pinkie mice
Tank Size Minimum 10-gallon
Humidity & Temperature Temperature: 70 – 85°F
Humidity: 30 – 40%
Popular Alternatives African fat-tailed Gecko or Gargoyle Gecko

Care Guide Summary

The Leopard Gecko is fantastic choice for first time owners because of their docile and playful nature.

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

Maintenance and husbandry is 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.

Johnathan David Author Bio Picture
Johnathan David leads the editorial team at Everything Reptiles as our Editor in Chief. He brings decades worth of publishing experience. A reptile hobbyist since childhood, he has years' of experience in herpetoculture and has cared for Geckos (2 Gargoyles), Skinks (Blue Tongue) and a Frog (Poison dart). A trusted member of the industry, his work being featured by major publications (e.g. PetMD).

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