Why Leopard Geckos Make Good Exotic Pets
They are fun to handle and fun to watch and they make a good pet for a responsible child!
Leopard geckos are easy to care for and they take to humans well. Most people that own them really enjoy them. They are fun to handle and fun to watch.
They are easy enough to care for that they make a good pet for a responsible child, as long as the situation is monitored and the child is taught how to care for the animal.
What's his biological name?
The biological name for leopard geckos is Eublepharis macularius. The first word in the name means "true eyelid." The second word means blemish or spot, which refers to the natural decoration of the gecko, as does the term leopard.
What does a leopard gecko look like?
The leopard gecko looks similar to any other lizard, with a few characteristics that separate them in appearance.
For example, their thick, triangular-shaped heads are larger than those of many lizards, and their tail is fatter.
That's because it stores the fat the gecko needs to live on in colder months.
Their coloration is usually darker in their native habitat than it is in captivity.
Pets tend to develop brightly colored spots and patterns. They have a tough, bumpy skin that protects them from the elements and the landscape.
They have relatively short legs. There are claws on their feet that help them climb around on logs, twigs and rocks
The leopards are one of the largest geckos. When they are born, they are around 2 to 3 inches in length.
When they mature, they will grow to be around 6 to 8 inches, but some people have reported them to be up to 11.
Where do leopard geckos come from?
They are native to central and southern Asia and northwest India, more specifically in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
They favor deserts, dry grasslands and rocky places.
How long do they live?
Most people say 8 to 10 years; however, there are many reports of well taken care of leopard geckos living 20 to 30 years.
What's unique about leopard geckos?
They have moveable eyelids. Most other geckos don't. Also, they have claws.
Most lizards have pads, not claws.
Another distinctive thing about them is their ability to shed their tail when in danger and then grow it back.
It has sections in it, so the gecko can break it wherever it wants. There is varying thoughts about how long it takes the tail to grow back. Some say a few days, some say up to a couple years. The majority of the owners say about two months.
Yet another interesting thing is that temperature determines what sex a leopard gecko will be:
- If the eggs are incubated at 90 degrees F., the geckos will be mostly male.
- At 80 degrees, most of them will be female.
- The middle produces 50/50 results.
What kind of things do they do?
They like to hide under rocks or burrow underground and sleep during the daytime heat, and then come out in the cooler evening to find insects for food.
During cold months, they go into a semi-state of hibernation called brumation.
That means they don't go totally to sleep as some animals would, but they wake up to drink water. They won't eat during this time, but they must take fluid.
They eat enough in advance of brumation so that they can live on their fat reserves during that time.
These creatures love to climb. It does more than just provide activity for them: It helps them to control their body temperature.
They move around to different elevations to warm up or cool down.
They even do this in captivity. A couple of degrees of temperature makes enough difference to them to motivate them to move or climb.
What do they eat?
In the wild, leopard geckos eat insects such as mealworms, mosquitoes, moths and spiders.
Larger ones have been known to eat a lizard, mouse or scorpion.
They like to do their own hunting for food, so even as pets they prefer to find the food themselves rather than have it fed to them directly.
They won't eat dead insects. In captivity, they will eat crickets, which is one of the most common things to feed them. See feeding details below for more specific information.
How do they defend themselves?
They will shake their tails to when looking for a mate or as a warning to a potential predator. They may also hiss, bark or chirp.
They can break the tail off if they need to so they can escape danger.
They also have keen hearing and excellent vision, which helps them hunt and stay away from danger in the first place.
The coloration of their skin makes for good camouflage in many surroundings.
Do leopard geckos shed?
Yes, they do. Youngsters may shed twice per month, and adults will shed monthly.
You will know this is coming because their skin starts to change to a white or gray color.
It is good to help them with this by providing a humid atmosphere.
The way to do this is with a hide, such as a shoebox with a hole cut in one end, that has moist sphagnum moss in it. You could also use moist paper towels.
After shedding, the gecko will eat the skin to retain the protein and other vitamins.
How to Take Care of a Leopard Gecko
Good housing for one of these critters is a 15-gallon aquarium tank for one or two pets. You can use a screen top if you like, but unless you have other pets that may threaten the gecko, it's probably not necessary because they can't walk up the sides of a glass tank. The housing needs to be well ventilated.
You can set up a habitat for them with an aquarium/terrarium and some lighting to provide heat. They need things to go into, like caves, and things to climb on, like limbs (buy accessories).
In captivity they are mostly fed live insects such as meal worms, silk worms, super worms, roaches and crickets. They also need a small container of water, such as a dish.
Substrate is the flooring that needs to go into the tank. It is best to use a commercial reptile carpet to make sure there are no toxins in it.
You can also use newspaper, but it's not as attractive.
New owners should avoid sand because it can impact the gecko's digestive system.
After you get more experience, you may be able to use it.
You will need to provide some furnishings inside of the tank. These will give the pet some places to hide and to crawl and climb around on.
You can buy hides from a pet store or Amazon, or you can make some out of plastic containers or cardboard boxes.
Remember, they will shed, so make one of the hides humid as described above.
You can put some fake or real plants inside the housing.
Succulents are good choices. Put logs, twigs and rocks for the pet to climb to a higher elevation in case it wants to change its temperature.
Leopard geckos like it warm, so keep the temperature at 85-95 degrees F. on the floor of the housing. Then can climb up a branch or something if they want to get cooler.
If you need to heat the floor, you can use an under tank heater, commonly referred to as UTH.
These are better than overhead lights, which will heat up the whole tank rather than just the floor. If you keep a humid hide inside the housing, you shouldn't have to worry about humidity.
During the time the pet sheds, you can mist the inside of the tank to help it shed. No special lighting is need for UVB, etc.
Feed your 'leo' every day or every other day.
Mealworms and crickets are the most common thing to feed pet geckos. They will also eat roaches, silkworms and super worms.
Food must be presented live or it won't be eaten. Do not feed them insects caught around the house, indoors or out, because those may be diseased or have pesticides on them.
Insects should be gut-loaded 24 hours before being served to your gecko. That means that you need to feed the insects food that is laced with vitamins and minerals, which will be transferred to the gecko.
You can find gut loading supplements at a pet store. You should also dust the insects with calcium that has vitamin D3 before serving.
Also, keep a small dish of a calcium supplement that does not have vitamin D3 in it in the housing for the pet to lick up. A good supplement is Repashy Superfood's (Sandfire Superfoods) Calcium ICB.
Always keep a dish of fresh, chemical-free (including chlorine) water available all the time. This must be cleaned and refreshed daily.