Leopard Geckos are popular among reptile enthusiasts. They are easy to care for and tolerate handling quite well. Find out how long they live in the guide below.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- How long do Leopard Geckos live?
- What are their lifes stages?
- How do you prolong their lives?
How Long Do Leopard Geckos Live?
Leopard geckos are a popular pet among reptile enthusiasts, especially beginners. They are relatively easy to care for and are known to be hardy. They are sandy yellow lizards with dark spots native to Northwest India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, and Vietnam.
Leopard geckos have distinct, curious-looking eyes, and are known to vocalize when excited. They grow from 8-10 inches when they mature and can live between 10-20 years in captivity with the proper care.
Leopard Gecko Life Stages
As hatchlings, Leopard geckos will live off their yolk for a few days until their first shed. As hatchlings, they can shed every 10 days. They then eat the old skin to help them survive. This is also beneficial to their growth and development. In the wild, they will hunt for insects a day or two after eating their old skin. Upon hatching, they are about 3.5 inches and weigh roughly 3 grams.
Juvenile Leopard geckos shed frequently (every 10 days) during their rapid growth phase (age 4-6 months). They are about 4-6 inches at this point and weigh up to 30 grams. They are juveniles for about 10 months.
Leopard geckos grow into adults after about 15-20 months. At this time they’ll be about 8-10 inches and can be 50-100 grams. They reach sexual maturity after about 20-25 months. As adults, Leopard geckos shed every 6-8 weeks.
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How To Tell The Age Of Your Leopard Gecko
It’s a bit challenging to determine the age of a Leopard gecko once they stop growing in length after about 18 months. Growth charts can be somewhat useful but not after 18 months when they stop growing. You can monitor their length and weight and if they grow rapidly in 5 months, they are most likely 6 to 10-month-old juveniles.
You can also compare them with a younger gecko of a similar size. If the other gecko has duller coloration, then that is definitely older. Older, sexually mature male geckos may also display aggressive behavior starting at 1.5 years. Female Leopard geckos will start to show signs of nesting at roughly the same age. However, Leopard geckos will remain sexually active for most of their life.
What Are The Main Causes Of Premature Death In Leopard Geckos?
Impaction due to accidental ingestion of loose substrate is a common cause of premature death for most reptiles kept as pets. Substrate choice is usually down to preference though the best way to prevent impaction would be to avoid loose particle substrates. Reptile carpets (with no looped threads), paper towels, tiles, and newspapers work best.
If you have loose substrate, you can opt to feed your gecko in a separate cage or put their food in a shallow bowl to avoid accidental ingestion of substrate when they eat.
Infections that can affect leopard geckos include pinworms, Cryptosporidium saurophilum, and other fungi, bacteria, and parasites. These can affect their intestinal and digestive system. Unfortunately, symptoms show up when it is too late and the disease has progressed significantly. It is, therefore, best to prevent these infections by keeping their enclosure clean and providing good nutrition to keep their immune system up.
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3. Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
Metabolic bone disease (MBD) is caused by the demineralization of bones due to ineffective calcium metabolism. It’s a common health issue with captive reptiles that have poor UVB lighting, Vitamin D3 and calcium supplementation, and heating (leading to digestion problems).
Leopard geckos with MBD have fractures, twisted or deformed bones, and loss of appetite (due to a painful jaw). Leopard geckos can tolerate the absence of UVB lighting but sufficient dietary calcium and vitamin D3 should be met. Low-level UVB light can also be provided as an added precaution against MBD.
Mild cases can be treated with high potency oral calcium and liquid Vitamin D supplements. Unfortunately, euthanasia is often suggested for advanced cases.
4. Shedding problems
Geckos with severe shedding problems, especially on the skin around their eyes, can develop infections that progress to more severe health issues such as secondary infections. Most of these infections are challenging to treat so it’s best to prevent shedding problems by ensuring proper moisture and humidity are met in their enclosure.
How To Give Your Leopard Gecko A Long, Healthy Life
1. Keeping its enclosure clean
Most of the health issues that affect captive reptiles stem from poor husbandry. Parasitic, fungal, and bacterial infections stem from dirty enclosures. These infections give rise to a lot of health issues such as respiratory, intestinal, and reproductive system infections.
The best prevention is daily spot cleaning which is quite easy for Leopard geckos since they tend to use just one area of the tank for defecating. A bi-weekly or monthly deep cleaning should also be done to ensure cleanliness. It’s also a good precautionary measure to disinfect everything new you plan to add into your tank.
It’s good to have an extra set of substrates and tank furniture that you can use alternately in the enclosure every month while you deep clean the other one. This way you can thoroughly clean everything. For example, having an extra reptile carpet will make cleaning day faster since you can quickly replace it in the enclosure while the other one is cleaned and dried.
2. Providing the correct tank conditions
A minimum of 20 gallons is required for Leopard geckos, furnished with multiple hides. An aquarium is a good enclosure but screened cages work best to ensure good ventilation.
Proper tank conditions for Leopard geckos are 30-40% relative humidity which can be supplemented by a shallow soaking dish or a bowl of fresh water. A moist hide will also help ensure the correct humidity and aid in shedding. Make sure you have an accurate hygrometer to monitor the humidity.
The temperature should be between 75-88°F on the hot or warm side and 70-75°F on the cool side. Temperatures at night should not drop below 68-70°F. An under-tank heating mat and/or ceramic heat emitter is best. Leopard geckos do not bask like other reptiles but instead, get heat ventrally by laying on top of rocks heated up by the sun.
Leopard geckos can survive with low-level UVB lighting (13-25 Watt or 2-5%) or none at all as long as enough calcium and Vitamin D3 are obtained from their diet and supplements. But providing UVB lighting helps ward off metabolic bone disease. Lighting should be on a timer with 10-12 hours on/off cycle to maintain normal circadian rhythms.
The health benefits of UVB lighting for Leopard geckos were confirmed in a recent 2020 study on vitamin D3 synthesis in Leopard geckos. They found that a Leopard gecko synthesizes vitamin D3 when exposed to UVB light. Low UVB level (UVI ≤ 1.6) exposure for 2 hours daily increased the vitamin D3 levels in their blood by 50%.
Multiple hides in their enclosure will help mimic their natural conditions and provide shaded areas for hiding and cooling down.
3. Providing proper dietary and nutritional needs
Leopard geckos should get live feed such as small locusts, crickets, worms, silkworms, mealworms, waxworms, superworms, grasshoppers, springtails, and even pinkie or nestling mice since they don’t usually drink water from dish bowls. They get most of their hydration from their food. However, providing fresh water in a shallow water dish daily can also help hydrate them.
Gut loading their food will ensure proper calcium and vitamin D3 nutritionary needs are met, especially if you don’t provide UVB lighting. Calcium, vitamin D3, and multivitamins should be given to juveniles daily and every other day for adults. Sometimes Leopard geckos are observed to eat calcium carbonate powder from a dish left in their enclosures.
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4. Ensuring proper shedding
Leopard geckos can suffer from shedding issues when skin dries around the limbs or toes, shrinks, and constricts blood flow leading to necrosis. This happens when the skin is too dehydrated during shedding and is similar to tail rot in beardies. A warm soak during shedding season can help ease out the skin fragments.
To prevent shedding problems, make sure the humidity in the enclosure is 30-40% RH and provide a moist hide or a shallow soaking dish in their enclosures. Vitamin A can also be provided in long-term, low-dose oral supplements (but make sure to get the dosage correct because there’s a risk of overdose) to help proper shedding.
5. Avoiding stress and observing your gecko’s behavior
Though Leopard geckos tolerate handling well, it’s still best not to overdo it. These are naturally solitary animals so they are usually best left alone. Handling them incorrectly, especially on their tails, can lead to stress and tail autotomy. Leopard geckos can drop their tails when threatened which uses up a lot of their energy. Recovery from dropped tails is also quite long.
Make sure their enclosures have lots of hides so they can cool down in them and they have a place to feel safe in. If you have multiple geckos, make sure their tank is big and provide multiple hides so each has its own territory. However, it’s not recommended to keep multiple geckos together since aggression, especially between males, can develop. Aggression can lead to stress which can lead to health issues and lowering of their immune systems.
It’s also good to observe your gecko’s behavior so you can familiarize yourself with its normal disposition and easily spot it if something is wrong. Catching any signs of illness such as lethargy and loss of appetite early is key to a swift recovery. If you notice anything off about your Leopard gecko’s behavior, bring it to the vet as soon as possible.
Leopard geckos can live up to 20 years both in captivity and the wild with the average lifespan at about 10-15 years depending on how healthy they are and how well their needs are provided for. As with all captive reptiles, proper care and the correct enclosure conditions will ensure they reach their life expectancy.
Forum on a Leopard gecko’s life cycle:
What are the stages in a leopard gecko’s life cycle?
Short article on care:
Leopard Gecko Husbandry and Nutrition
Overview on Leopard geckos:
ADW: Eublepharis macularius: INFORMATION
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