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Leopard Geckos (Eublepharis macularius)

Pakistan & India

The leopard gecko is one of the most widely kept reptile species and was the first lizard species to be commercially bred on a large scale for the pet trade in a variety of colors and patterns. It has been called the koi carp of lizards. The leopard gecko has all the qualities one could expect in a lizard pet: Stout proportions, subtle beauty of pattern and color, fine scaled skin, gold irises, a calm demeanor, interesting behaviors, and easy to care for.

Size

8-11 inches. Most of the larger sized varieties are of the 'giant' morph initially produced by Ron Tremper.

Sexing

Males develop hemipenile bulges and preanal pores, which females will lack. Males develop slightly larger heads and thicker necks.

Social groups

Sexually mature males will fight if kept together so this species is best kept in groups of one male and up to five females.

Housing and Care

Enclosures

Juveniles can initially be raised in a ten gallon enclosure but will need a 20 gallon long after 12-18 months when adult. Larger enclosures will make nicer displays and will allow you to keep groups of this species

Vivarium I: Bare Bones Setups

Leopard geckos can be kept in simple enclosures with newspaper as substrate, a shelter and a shallow water dish. Heat is provided by a subtank reptile heat pad or heat tape. As an alternative to newspaper many breeders use sand such as play sand or a calcium sand that can also provide a source of calcium. As a rule juveniles are best raised on newspaper to eliminate any risk of impaction from sand ingestion then switched to sand when they reach 3 inches svl. This type of setup when combined with an egg-laying container with a moist substrate allows for easy collection of eggs. A problem with using dry substrates is that in areas with low relative humidity, leopard geckos may have problems shedding. One method is to mist the paper or sand under a shelter whenever a lizard appears in shed or to place a container with moist substrate under and oversized shelter.

Vivarium II: Naturalistic Setups

The most enjoyable way to keep leopard geckos is in naturalistic setups with wood or rock as climbing areas. These terrestrial lizards can be housed with other species, such as smaller cordylids, wall climbing geckos, and even some arid adapted treefrogs, such as African foamnest treefrogs and waxy monkey treefrogs. In a well designed vivarium, up to two generations of leopard geckos have been incubated, hatched, raised, and bred (see de Vosjoli and Tremper 2005, for more information on this subject).

Substrates

Use 2-3 inches of a coarse sandy substrate by mixing a peat or coir based potting mix with play sand and a drainage material such as fine gravel.

Landscaping

To the surprise of many, leopard geckos may come out in the late afternoon to bask in the open, and at night will be active and climb wood and rock structures. Cork bark and grape wood are light materials and ideal for landscaping in combination with a few rocks placed on the floor of the enclosure, (not on top of substrate to prevent the risk of crushing should a lizard decide to dig at the base of a rock. Artificial burrows made by inserting curled bark in substrate will also be greatly enjoyed by leopard geckos. Several sturdy succulent plants, adapted to low light can be added, notably sansevierias, Zamiaculcas, and Plectranthus ernstii. At ground level Euphorbia capsaintemariensis and Euphorbia francoisii from Madagascar have performed well with this species.

Heat and light

A subtank heat pad or heat tape is recommended to allow these geckos to thermoregulate. T-Rex Cobra Heat Mats are ideal for this purpose. In naturalistic setups, heat and light should also be provided during the day using incandescent bulbs in reflector type fixtures. At night low wattage red incandescent bulbs will allow for observing nocturnal behavior.

Maintenance

Because leopard geckos defecate in a single area, their enclosures are easily cleaned by scooping out the fecal pile on a weekly or biweekly basis. In naturalistic setups any remaining traces of waste will eventually break down if stirred into the moist layer of the substrate.

Water and Feeding

Water

Clean water in a shallow water container should be available at all times.

Feeding

Leopard geckos are insectivorous and feed readily on supplemented mealworms (regular, not superworms) and crickets offered in a shallow container. All insects should be supplemented with a vitamin mineral dust, such as T-Rex Leopard Gecko Dust. These lizards should also have available a dish of calcium carbonate powder from which they will lick calcium as they require.