Aside from the furry critters you see during your pet store visit, such as cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs, reptiles are a popular choice to have as a pet. One of the most popular pet reptiles is the leopard gecko. These reptiles make fantastic pets due to their docile nature, which makes them easily domesticated.
Leopard geckos are native to countries like Pakistan, Northwest India, western Nepal, Afghanistan, and certain areas of Iran. They come in many different shapes, sizes, colors, pigments, patterns, and eye colors, thanks to the various breeds that have been created through selective breeding.
Generally, geckos are small critters that can fit in your hand. They can grow to be around 5.9-7.8 inches.
The variations of gecko lizards are known as morphs. Morphs vary mostly in color and pattern, and while selective breeding has resulted in the occurrence of many varieties, some gecko morphs have formed naturally. While there are many types of geckos, crested and leopard are the most popular in terms of pets, and have the most variety of morphs.
Leopard Geckos as Pets
While it’s true that geckos make wonderful house pets and are quite popular to keep, you must understand how to properly care for them. Like all living things under human care, geckos must be kept happy and healthy, so ensuring they have the proper habitat and food is essential.
Here are some quick tips for leopard gecko care.
Caring for a Leopard Gecko
Leopard geckos are solitary creatures that prefer to be alone. However, if you proceed cautiously, your leopard gecko can adjust to human interaction.
Owning a leopard gecko is a big commitment, as the average leopard gecko lifespan is around 10 to 20 years in captivity. Healthy geckos will have big eyes that are clear and bright, a thick tail, and a belly that only rests on the ground when the gecko is resting.
Leopard Gecko Habitat
The type of habitat that you buy for your gecko is known as a vivarium. While you may purchase a starter kit for your new friend, your gecko will quickly grow and require new equipment. If you don’t mind spending extra money upgrading the enclosure within a few months, starting out with a starter kit is fine. However, for the most part, getting a big enough enclosure from the beginning is prudent.
Your final enclosure must be big enough to hold your fully grown gecko, so a tank around 23-24 inches long, 15-16 inches tall, and 11-12 inches deep should be enough.
Leopard geckos are used to rocky terrain with a mixture of clay-gravel soil and sand, so you should attempt to imitate this habitat in your gecko’s enclosure. Geckos prefer to hide out through the day and are more active at night, so be sure to provide your new pet with some burrows and shaded areas.
They prefer a climate that is not too hot but not too cold either. The ideal temperature for a leopard gecko is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures may cause your gecko to enter a semi-hibernation state.
Because they prefer a warmer temperature, it’s important to include a warm basking area, with access to climbing structures and plenty of food and water in your gecko’s enclosure. You should also consider providing your gecko with a heat lamp at one end of its enclosure and a cooler area at the other end. Also, use a thermometer to track and regulate the temperatures.
Some tips to keep in mind when setting your gecko’s enclosure include:
- Basking area should be kept between 82 degrees Fahrenheit and 84 degrees Fahrenheit at the warm end, and between 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 78 degrees Fahrenheit on the cooler end.
- At night, the heat lamp can be turned off, but a heat mat or ceramic heat lamp should replace it to ensure that temperatures do not drop too low.
- Leopard geckos require a drier environment, so keep the humidity at around 30-40% at the cooler end. You can measure this with a hygrometer.
- You should have two levels of ultraviolet lights in your gecko’s enclosure. The UV bulb should be around 2-5%. This light will provide your gecko with what it needs to make natural vitamin D inside their body. Vitamin D is important to your gecko. It allows your gecko to use and store calcium.
Leopard Gecko Diet
Leopard geckos need a continuous water supply, so ensure that there is a dish with water in their enclosure constantly. Some geckos may also need a calcium supplement to support their growth.
As for food, leopard geckos are primarily carnivores with a diet based on insect consumption. Some insects that leopard geckos are fond of include spiders, centipedes, scorpions, and beetles. However, in captivity, leopard geckos eat various types of worms such as mealworms, wax worms, and super-worms, as well as crickets.
Leopard Gecko Appearance
Unlike many other varieties of geckos, the leopard gecko has eyelids that are moveable and enable them to shut their eyes and blink. Another difference between leopard geckos and other geckos is that they lack adhesive, or sticky pads, on their feet, and instead have tiny claws.
Male and female leopard geckos are similar in appearance, but males tend to be stouter with a thicker neck and head when compared to their female counterparts. Male leopard geckos also have a row of pre-anal pores used to create a waxy secretion and a hemi penile swelling at the tail’s base.
If you notice that your leopard gecko loses its tail, don’t worry. Leopard geckos can regenerate their tails after some time, usually after four weeks of being without one. The shedding of their tail is used to help them escape from predators.
Types of Leopard Gecko Morphs
Leopard geckos have more than 100 types of morphs. A typical leopard gecko will have yellowish-brown skin with black spots. However, morphs can vary in color and pattern, depending on the dominant gene.
Some common leopard gecko morphs include:
- Albino geckos: Albino geckos are sometimes called amelanistic. They lack black pigment, dark markings, and spots. However, they can come in many colors and patterns. Despite being an albino, albino geckos aren’t required to have red eyes to be categorized as an albino gecko.
- Blizzard geckos: Blizzard geckos have no patterns, but are available in various colors such as purple, brown, yellow, and white. Many blizzard geckos have blue eyes.
- Tangerine geckos: Similar to their name, tangerine geckos are bright orange with different colored tails. Patterns on tangerine geckos are rare.
- Jungle geckos: Jungle geckos have been bred to have an assortment of exotic patterns and colors, including stripes, spots, and other patterns. They are also the only gecko morph to have diagonal stripes. Their tails also have dark stripes that stop short of going all the way around.
This leopard gecko morph list is minimal, many other variants exist.