Leopard Geckos: Care and Feeding

By Gregory Rich, DVM

Leopard geckos are small reptiles that are relatively easy to care for . They can reach an adult size of 5–10 inches, and can live 10–15 years with good health care, a clean environment, and proper feeding.

What type of housing is needed for geckos?

A single leopard gecko can be housed in a 10-gallon aquarium or container. The cage should be a minimum of 6 inches high. Screen tops are essential to prevent your lizard from escaping the enclosure.

A hide box or hut should be provided and wet sphagnum moss, cypress mulch, or vermiculite should be provided to help with moisture control and shedding. The cage floor can be covered with reptile carpet, bark, paper towels or newspaper. Coarse sand, corncob bedding and crushed walnut shells must be avoided as these bedding materials can be swallowed and create an intestinal blockage.

Does my gecko need extra heat or special lighting?

Leopard geckos do their best when the environmental cage temperature is in the mid-80s (Fahrenheit; ~30°C). Geckos can take nighttime temperatures as low as 70°F (21°C). Heat tapes, under-tank heaters, or low-level basking lights are great sources for heating the cage. In-tank hot rocks are not recommended.

"Make sure your gecko cannot get closer than 6 inches from a heat light as thermal burns can occur."

Ultraviolet B (UVB) is not required, but it is recommended for geckos. Dome light covers should never be placed on plastic surfaces when the light is on, as they can melt plastic. Also, make sure your gecko cannot get closer than 6 inches from a heat light as thermal burns can occur. UVB lights should be 10–12 inches away from your gecko for the best absorption of ultraviolet lighting.

What should I feed my gecko?

Leopard geckos feed primarily on live, moving insect prey. An appropriate diet may consist of commercially-raised crickets with smaller numbers of silkworms, roaches, mealworms, superworms, waxworms, and other live insects. Juveniles should be fed every 1–2 days and adults 2–3 times per week.

Insects should be lightly dusted with a phosphorus-free calcium powder before feeding. Additionally, prey items should be fed a high-quality diet (“gut-loaded”) for at least 24 hours prior to being fed to your gecko. Commercial cricket diets are available, but fresh greens (e.g., turnip greens, collard greens, parsley, carrot tops/slices, broccoli, cauliflower) can also be fed to crickets and mealworms to improve their nutritional value when fed to your gecko.

Clean, fresh water should be provided in a shallow container and changed daily. A shallow dish containing calcium powder should also be provided, so geckos always have access to calcium, an essential mineral for proper nutrition.

Can I house multiple geckos together?

Male geckos can be very territorial, so care must be taken when two males are in one cage. The more geckos there are, the larger the cage must be.

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