Considering a Leopard gecko as your next pet? Are they right for you?
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- Are Leopard geckos good pets?
- Are they suitable for beginners?
- Reasons why they may NOT be a good pet for you
Are Leopard Geckos Good Pets?
Yes, Leopard geckos make good pets however, they are not low maintenance and can live up to 25 years. You must be prepared to own one for a long time. They are hardy, gentle reptiles and are not nearly as hard to keep as higher-maintenance lizards like Chameleons.
Successful reptile and exotic animal care often rely on strict adherence to species-specific parameters such as lighting, heating, enclosures, etc. Leopard geckos are known to be forgiving when it comes to slight changes in these parameters because they are robust reptiles.
6 Reasons Leopard Geckos Make Good Pets
1. They are easy to care for
Reptile care usually involves specialized housing, heating, and lighting which may be too much for some owners. Leopard geckos require these as well but they are not too sensitive to the parameters required and will tolerate small mistakes in husbandry. Maintaining them is simpler when compared with other reptiles. Their small size also makes caring for them relatively easier. Their tanks, for example, will take a shorter time to clean.
2. They are relatively inexpensive
Since Leopard geckos require a smaller tank and none to low-level UVB lighting, their maintenance costs are lower than other reptiles. They are also insectivores giving owners the option to breed their own insects (e.g. crickets) and save up on feeding costs.
3. They tolerate handling
Leopard geckos are slow-moving, docile creatures that are good for beginners and children (with adult supervision). They tolerate handling better than most reptiles and can get used to it with minimal training. However, you should never force handling.
4. They are hardy lizards that have a long lifespan
Leopard geckos live up to 25 years in captivity with good care. They are also hardy reptiles that are not too sensitive to their environment.
5. They are cute and unique
Leopard geckos, unlike most geckos, have a vertical slit pupil and movable eyelids. They have big eyes that make them look curious and bright colors that allow them to stand out. Several color morphs are also available. Their small size is an advantage making them great for pet reptiles for kids and beginners.
6. They are easy to breed
If you are interested in breeding these creatures, they do not require too much and will usually breed on their own without any special needs. A male can be kept with multiple females, but males will be aggressive toward each other. Maintaining these creatures for breeding is easier due to their small size and ease of care.
Ensure you obtain your Leopard geckos from responsible breeders to ensure they are free from parasites and are of good genetic stock.
Reasons Why Leopard Geckos Don’t Make Good Pets
The usual tradeoffs in caring for lizards such as Leopard geckos are the specific care required for each species. For example, having to spot clean every day and monitoring the tank temperature, so it’s in the correct range may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
1. They shed a lot
Adult Leopard geckos can shed every 6-8 weeks which may be too much to handle for some owners. Shedding issues can come up if your gecko is not well hydrated which can become a serious condition requiring a vet check-up.
Hatchlings and juveniles shed frequently (every 10 days) during their rapid growth rate stage. They shed almost weekly until 3 months of age and then once every two weeks at 3-6 months. Between 6 months to 1.5 years, they will shed monthly.
2. They can drop their tails
Leopard geckos can drop their tails when threatened. When this happens, they will require more attention as they recover and their tails will not look the same when it grows back.
3. They can carry Salmonella and other infections
Reptiles are susceptible to Salmonella and other microbial infections that can affect humans. This happens when their cage is not well maintained or kept clean.
What Type Of Care Do Leopard Geckos Require?
Basic reptile care is required for Leopard geckos, including maintaining a tank, proper lighting, heating, and humidity.
Leopard geckos should have a minimum floor size of about 2 x 2 feet (20-gallon tank).
Ventilation should be a priority so mesh tanks are great for Leopard geckos but glass tanks are usually the popular choice since these are readily available. Wooden enclosures with glass or mesh doors are good for maintaining temperatures but can be hard to keep clean.
An enclosed hide or box should be provided for females to avoid egg retention with a moist towel or substrate to keep the eggs hydrated until removed for incubation. Shedding becomes easier for your gecko if you provide a moist hide it can stay in. Rough-textured object in the tank help as well.
Rocks, branches, or faux caves help replicate their habitat in the wild giving them areas to hide in when shedding or cooling down.
In reptile care, the golden rule is to spot clean daily to maintain tank cleanliness. This is easy to accomplish for Leopard geckos since they only use one corner of the tank to relieve themselves.
Food and Water
Leopard geckos are primarily insectivorous, so gut-loaded insects should be provided. They eat insects such as small locusts, crickets, silkworms, mealworms, waxworms, superworms, grasshoppers, springtails, and even pinkie or nestling mice. These insects can also be dusted with calcium powder before feeding.
Leopard geckos get their hydration from their food so live insects are best as a staple diet. Though a shallow dish with fresh water should still be included. Replace the water daily to prevent any build-up of bacteria or fungi.
Calcium, vitamin D3, and multivitamins should be given to juveniles daily and every other day for adults, especially if you opt not to have UVB lighting.
📚 Read More >> Leopard Gecko Feeding Guide
Impaction is a concern when it comes to loose particle type substrates such as sand and gravel. Alternatives such as newspapers, mats, tiles, and reptile carpets may be safer but are not exactly aesthetically pleasing.
Sand, wood, or bark chips
There is a risk of accidental ingestion with sand, wood, or bark chips that can lead to impaction. If you opt for sand, choose fine reptile or play sand over coarse-grained sand.
To avoid accidental ingestion, you should feed your geckos in a separate container without sandy substrate or place their food in a deep bowl in their enclosure (crickets and locusts will escape though).
Avoid calcium-based sand even if it is advertised as digestible since impaction is still reported with their use.
Newspapers and paper towels
Newspapers and paper towels are cheap and convenient substrate alternatives. They’re easy to clean and pose no risk of accidental ingestion.
Reptile carpets are readily available in most pet stores and online. They are easily washed but can be challenging to spot clean. Avoid carpets that have looped fibers because they can snag on the toes of your Leopard gecko.
Maintain the humidity at 30-40% RH close to the deserts of their natural habitat and make sure you have an accurate hygrometer to monitor the levels. Moist hides and a shallow water bowl for soaking can also be placed in their tanks to help them during shedding.
UVB lighting is not required for Leopard geckos as long as they get enough calcium and Vitamin D3 from their diet and supplements. All the light bulbs should be on a timer with a 10-12 hours on/off cycle to maintain normal circadian rhythms.
Leopard gecko owners notice health benefits in providing low-level UVB lighting (13-25 Watt or 2-5%). At the very least, it helps ward off metabolic bone disease. During breeding, low-level UVB lighting is important for females since their calcium demands are higher.
The temperature on the hotter part of the tank should be 75-88°F over the mat (heat pad) or on the rock and 70-75°F at the cooler end. Temperatures at night should not drop below 68-70°F.
Leopard geckos do not bask but instead lie on rocks heated by the sun to absorb the heat through their bellies, so a heat mat is the best choice to provide heating. Ceramic heat emitters also work well, especially during the night.
Alternatively, a real rock under a heat lamp or basking bulb (placed at a higher distance) can be used but make sure you monitor the temperature well since rocks can easily overheat.
Leopard geckos make good pets because of their ease of care, small size, tolerance for handling, and calm temperament. They are also perfect for new reptile owners and children.
How long do leopard geckos live?
Leopard geckos can live anywhere from 10-20 years in captivity, depending on care, environmental conditions, and genetic predisposition.
Do leopard geckos like to be held?
Probably not! However, Leopard geckos take to handling better than some reptiles with gradual training and exposure to handling. They will tolerate handling, just be careful with their tails, as they can drop them when they feel threatened.
Are leopard geckos friendly pets?
Leopard geckos are known to be docile and slow-moving even in the wild. Their calm temperament allows for handling tolerance giving them a reputation of being friendly pets.
Are leopard geckos easy to keep?
Yes, Leopard geckos are easy to care for. They do not have strict lighting requirements and only eat insects. They’re also relatively smaller so their enclosures are easier to maintain.
Overview on Leopard geckos:
ADW: Eublepharis macularius: INFORMATION
Excellent short guide on care:
Leopard Gecko Husbandry and Nutrition
Management and care of Leopard geckos:
MANAGEMENT, CARE, AND COMMON CONDITIONS OF LEOPARD GECKOS
A detailed study on Leopard geckos:
Natural history and biology of hobbyist choice leopard gecko Eublepharis macularius
Study on UV patterns on the skin for defense:
Ultraviolet reflectance and pattern properties in leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius)