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.
Leopard geckos very quickly adjust to being handled and are easy-to-care for any first-time owner!
Known scientifically as the Eublepharis macularius, leopard geckos rattle their tail when threatened, mating, or during hunting. But that’s not all you need to know about leopard geckos.
Want to learn more about the leopard gecko? Keep reading…
|Leopard Gecko Facts|
|Common Names||Panther, Desert Fat-Tailed and Spotted Fat-Tailed Geckos|
|Scientific Name||Eublepharis macularius|
|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|
What Is A Leopard Gecko?
The Eublepharis macularius, known simply as leopard geckos, 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.
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.
Leopard geckos 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
- 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.
- They will drop their tail (i.e. autotomy) when threatened.
- You need to constantly monitor body temperature/
- They are nocturnal.
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.
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.
Pet Leopard Gecko Care Sheet
A Guide to What Leopard Geckos Eat
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.
|Hatchlings (0 to 6 months)||Every day||One insect smaller than the width between their eyes|
|Juveniles (6 to 15 months)||Every other day||One insect smaller than the width between their eyes|
|Adult||Every three days||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 skillful hunting technique as he flicks his tail right before he strikes.
When it comes to drinking, they will get most of their water requirement from their food supply, 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 leopard geckos thrive in a dry environment.
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 their hiding spot 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 as 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 leopard geckos live in an enclosure with 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 droppings of your pet leopard gecko. Runny matter indicates illness or a need for a diet change, and endoparasites will lead to blood in feces.
Leopard Gecko Habitat and Cage
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, so you should prepare a cool side, a warm side, and a hot side.
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
Leopard gecko tanks need a UVB light for a basking area for the daytime and a ceramic bulb for the 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 dish 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.
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.
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 gecko 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.
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:
- Start by placing a flat hand down and ease him onto your palm.
- Hold him with a flat hand, supporting his legs and tail. If he feels insecure, they may emit barking sounds and move their tail.
- Walk slowly with him (don’t run or make fast movements).
- Start with small five-minute handling sessions.
- Continue this daily until he is comfortable.
Multiple Leopard Geckos
Most people start with one but you may later think about getting other geckos. The only time you should consider caring for multiple geckos is if you intend to breed them. In every other case, you should keep your new leopard gecko apart from other geckos and other lizards, such as bearded dragons.
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
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.
A female leopard gecko reaches sexual maturity at 50 grams and males at 18 months. After doing the deed, it will take between 16 and 22 days before the female lays eggs, after which the baby leopard geckos will hatch after 35 to 89 days.
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.
Gravid female leopard geckos 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.
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 Care Guide Summary
Leopard Geckos are a popular 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!
Leopard geckos 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.