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5 Ways to Advance Husbandry for Leopard Geckos

Emma C.

Aug 25, 2023

Looking to improve your leopard gecko husbandry? Here are five ways you can do just that!

Leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius) are a popular species of reptile for beginner and veteran keepers. They are characterized by their small to medium size, different morphs and generally docile personalities. Leopard geckos have been kept in captivity since around the 1970s, and therefore their general care has fluctuated many times until present day. Many larger stores and breeders do not give the proper information when selling these reptiles, which can go wrong for both a new or old keeper as well as the reptile. 

#1 - Cohabitating 

A common misconception within leopard gecko care communities is that two or more geckos can be kept in the same enclosure. In the wild, leopard geckos rarely interact, and when they do it is to reproduce or defend their territory. Leopard geckos can be unpredictable with other animals, and depending on age, can attack and potentially kill other geckos in the same enclosure. Like most pet reptiles, leopard geckos do not “get lonely” or form attachments to other reptiles. 

Many people in defense of cohabitating say that their leopard geckos are “cuddling.” This is when the larger of the geckos lays on top of the others, which is a sign of dominance. The dominant gecko will steal food, water and other resources from any others, eventually leaving the others without anything to eat, drink or hide within. When keeping leopard geckos of the opposite sex in the same enclosure, they will eventually over-breed which can cause fatal repercussions for both the male and female. Leopard geckos of the same sex kept together will fight for territory and resources, which can also lead to death. 

The only time leopard geckos should be housed together is when breeding them in a neutral environment - preferably a 40 gallon or larger enclosure. Even then, keepers should use caution and remember that they are solitary animals that cannot form bonds or emotional attachments to other geckos.

#2 - Tank Sizing

Leopard geckos are often sold with the advice that they can live comfortably in a 10-20 gallon long tank. While this is true for hatchlings and subadults, an adult leopard gecko needs a 40 gallon or larger long tank to live comfortably. These reptiles grow their entire lives, and can live past 25 years with the proper husbandry. A 40 gallon or larger long tank is a perfect size for any age of leopard gecko, but as juveniles (up to 6 months) it is encouraged for them to be kept in a 10-20 gallon, and as subadults (a year), a 20 gallon. Their enclosures need to be long, not tall, as they are terrestrial reptiles unlike most geckos. 

#3 - Proper Substrates

While popular and inexpensive, green reptile carpet is not a recommended bedding for leopard geckos. It can trap and harvest bacteria very easily, and reptiles can get their nails and teeth stuck in it, which can cause them to lose toes and teeth, something they need when exploring and hunting. Instead of reptile carpet, it is suggested to use paper towels when housing hatchlings or sick leopard geckos, and to change it out daily. 

Once a leopard gecko gets to their sixth month of life, you can switch over to loose substrate. Loose substrate is very stimulating and enriching, as leopard geckos love to dig. Loose substrates such as ExoTerra’s Stone Desert line, Reptisoil and Eco Earth are found to be the most similar to a leopard gecko’s wild habitat. If these don’t interest you, it has also been found that mixing 70% topsoil and 30% play sand, both easily attained at grocery or hardware stores. Before using any loose substrate, it is suggested you freeze it for a day to kill off any potential bugs, especially in topsoil.

#4 - Proper Lighting and Heating

Leopard geckos are often sold with colored UVB lights and under-tank heaters. While these were generally accepted as proper lighting and heating sources, new research has proven otherwise. Leopard geckos need both a source of overhead UVB lighting as well as heating.

Proper UVB lighting must be linear, as it can reach to places in their enclosure that coil UVB bulbs cannot. ZooMed’s Reptisun Linear UVB line is recommended as well as the Arcadia ShadeDweller Linear UVB. Colored UVB, and coil UVB bulbs, can cause more harm than good. Colored UVB will interrupt a leopard gecko’s circadian rhythm, cause confusion due to the colors, and have been known to cause burns and even partial blindness. 

Proper overhead heating does not give off any light, only warmth. It is recommended to use deep heat projectors or ceramic heat emitters, but make sure that the tank stays from 80-85 degrees during the day, and always use a thermostat with any heater or light source for your reptile to prevent overheating or burns. 

#5 - Feeding Geckos Properly

When many first time owners realize that leopard geckos eat live bugs, this can be discouraging if you either dislike insects or dislike feeding live insects. While this is understandable, leopard geckos require a diet of only live crickets, roaches and worms. Freeze dried insects are both unattractive and unhealthy for leopard geckos, as they lack the protein and nutrients needed for a healthy reptile. It has been shown that the best way to feed your leopard gecko is by having two “staple” feeders - most commonly crickets and dubia roaches. Mealworms, superworms, waxworms and hornworms should only be fed sparingly, as they contain large amounts of sugar and fat. Overfeeding leopard geckos is quite common, and can cause many health problems that can shorten your pet’s lifespan. 

Hatchlings should be fed small insects everyday, once or twice depending on the gecko’s size. Geckos past 6 months should be fed every other day, and adults should be fed two to three times per week. Live insects should be dusted with D3 calcium and reptile vitamins at each feeding, and calcium without D3 should be provided in a small bowl within the enclosure. Calcium and vitamins can prevent bone disorders and other health risks. 

This article was written by someone who has many years of experience with leopard geckos, as I own 3. I have used my experience as well as other keeper’s, mostly from the Leopard Geckos: Advancing Husbandry and Leopard Gecko Life Facebook groups, which are thoroughly moderated by people with degrees related to animal care and many years of experience.

Always fact check information you read on Facebook Groups.

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