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LEOPARD GECKO CARE SHEET






Housing

How you house your leopard gecko(s) depends on how many you are keeping. If you are keeping your leopard gecko as a pet, one or two leopard gecko’s can be housed comfortably in a 10 gallon aquarium (10” x 20”), but a larger enclosure would always be better. The best size to get (IMO) would be the 20 gallon long tank (30L x 12W x 12H). This would give you lots of room for your leopard gecko’s to move around in and also give the heat gradient required from the hot side to the cool side (discussed further in the heating section).

You can keep up to four females with one male in a larger aquartium or terrarium. NEVER KEEP TWO MALES TOGETHER. They will fight.

Most leopard gecko breeders choose to use the rack system to keep their animals. The rack system allows you to keep a larger amount of animals in a more confined space.

As for a top to your new enclosure……..you do not need a top for your leopard gecko tank because they cannot climb glass. If you have items in your tank (ie. Branches, Styrofoam background) then a top is a must. Most people just use the simple metal mesh top that can be purchased from your local pet store. A benefit with a top is that there is a place to sit a light. Leopard geckos should receive about 8 to 12 hours of light a day (just a simple bulb, no UV, UVB required).

It is always good to provide your new gecko with lots of places to hide. It has been recommended that you have at least one warm hiding spot and one cool hiding spot. These can range from the Exo Terra hides you see at your local pet store to a margarine container flipped upside down with a door cut in it (just make sure the edges are not sharp). You can use a number of different products to give your gecko lots of hiding places throughout the enclosure.

Leopard geckos originated from Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. These are dry and arid regions. Research has shown that a moist hiding box of mulched peat moss or coconut fibre for shedding and for egg laying is beneficial to the animal. It is recommended that you not use perlite or vermiculite as a substrate in your moist hideaway. A moist hideaway can be constructed cheaply from any plastic storage container or Tupperware box. Simply cut a in the top, large enough for a full grown gecko to climb in and out. Usually about a 2" diameter hole is good. (See photo below.)





You can see the mosit hideaway on the left, filled with damp moss. The geckos have clearly been digging in it. Geckos also tend to use the bathroom in the same corner every time, so instead of using paper towels for the whole tank simply put a single paper towel in the bathroom corner. It saves on money and time; making cleanup a breeze. The under-tank heater is under the tank on the far right allowing the geckos to stay warm while concealed beaneath the driftwood. There is also a rock hideaway on the left in case a gecko wants to stay cooler and hidden. Giving your pets options will keep their stress level down. The dishes (from front to back) are: Vitamin powder, mealworms (using a glass dish so they can see the worms moving), and water. This tank is an Exo-Terra X-Tall measuring 3' wide x 3' tall x 1.5' deep. It houses 4 females who are all good eaters.





Substrate

Hygene is a very hot topic amongst many breeders and hobbyists.  I am going to tell you what we use with our animals, and which we have found to be very effective, clean and easy. We use Paper Towels! It's readily available to everyone, very inexpensive and very easy to use to keep your tank or racks clean.  Although the paper towel method does have some drawbacks such as not being able to do spot cleaning. It is by far the easiest method for us.

If you do not like the look of a paper towel substrate, you could use Repti-carpet. This comes in a few different colors (green grass and sand) and is also safe to use. As seen above, the economical solution is dollar store hand-towels combined with paper towels (placed in the toilet ares of the tank - Geckos will naturally usually go in the same area.)

Click image on the left to see a larger version.
This example shows the same terraium with paper towel as a substrate.

This photo shows an extreme example of a leopard gecko that died from intestinal impaction caused by ingesting sand.
This gecko was clearly dissected AFTER it was already dead from the sand impaction.






Heating

Most reptiles (with a few exceptions like the Crested Gecko) require some sort of heat source. Leopard geckos are no different. It is always best to provide your gecko with a “heat gradient”. This means that one side should be warmer than the other side of the tank. In order to achieve this, most people will use an Under Tank Heater (UTH). All UTH’s come in a variety of sizes to suit different size aquariums. The rule of thumb when buying a UTH for your tank is to make sure the UTH does not cover more than 1/3 of the tank. You want to make sure the UTH is placed on one end of the tank to allow for that “heat gradient”. The other side of the enclosure should just be room temperature and this will allow the gecko to choose whether or not it needs to warm up or cool down.

You will also need a thermostat to help regulate the temperature of your UTH. There are many different brands you can purchase on Amazon, EBay or your local pet store. It is always best to do your research and decide what thermostat would be most suitable for your needs. Most Thermostats will come with a metal probe that will determines the temperature of the surface it is sitting on. It is recommended that this probe be placed on the substrate under the warm hide. This will allow the thermostat to regulate the temperature right where your gecko is going to be lying (surface temperature). The warm side of the tank (UTH side) should be about 90 degrees. If you find the warm side is too hot or too cool, just adjust your thermostat and recheck the temperature in about 30 minutes.

The last thing we would recommend, would be to use a couple of thermometers in the tank. We usually have one under the warm side along with the thermostat probe just to make sure we are getting an accurate reading on the thermostats. The second one can sit on the cool side of the tank about 3 inches from the substrate to give you an accurate reading of the cool side.

Hot rocks or heat stones are an alternative heating source that you find at pet stores. We do not recommend using them with leopard geckos (or any other reptiles). Hot stones are ceramic rocks with an electrical cord leading to a central heating element). The hot rock does not allow you to control the temperature of the stone; it just heats to whatever temperature was set by the manufacturer. Leopard Gecko’s require “belly” heat and DO NOT require any type of basking rocks or heating lights.

For those of you that choose to use a rack system, you would still need to use a thermostat to control the heat but instead of using a UTH for the heat, you would use a heat cord or Flex Watt heat tape. Again, both products can be purchased online or through your local pet store.






Shedding

Just like all reptiles and amphibians, leopard geckos shed their skins. The frequency of shedding will depend on the age and the growth rate of each individual gecko from hatchling to adulthood. As hatchlings, they tend to shed more often and they grow to adult size. It is very easy to see when your gecko is about to shed. You will see that they have lost a lot of their colouring and have a very faded look to them. Their skin will appear whitish and somewhat transparent. Not to worry though, this is all part of their shedding cycle.

Don’t be too surprised if you wake up the next morning and find your gecko looks bright and colorful. But where has the skin is gone?? Most geckos eat their own shed. This is done in the wild as a precautionary measure to avoid attracting predators. You also might notice that after the shed, your gecko may not be hungry for a day or two. Again, this is normal due to the amount of shed they just ate. They should return to regular feeding within a day or two.

It is very important to keep an eye on your gecko especially after shedding is complete. You need to make sure that your gecko has successfully removed all of the old skin from themselves. Be certain to check around the face and toes. Usually this is not a problem but sometimes your gecko might need some extra help. This is why it is recommended to have a moist hideaway in the tank (Sterlite plastic storage box pictured left and above) so the gecko has somewhere to hide where the humidity is high. The moist heat allows for easier shedding.

If you find your gecko has some retained skin after shedding, then you will need to assist in removing it. Place the gecko in a small plastic container lined with damp paper towels (using room temperature water). Put a top on the container and let the gecko sit for 30 minutes. The high humidity developed inside the container should loosen the skin enough to allow you to remove it easily with a pair of tweezers. If the skin has not loosened enough for it to be removed easily, leave the gecko in the container for another 30 minutes.



I know we've already mentioned this in the paragraphs above, but it warrants repeating.

IMPORTANT In the right hand photo above, you can see a finger that is being strangled by a piece of stuck shed skin. The retained skin dries and forms an elastic band of skin that gets harder and tighter until it actually cuts off the blood supply, killing the toe or toe nail, causing it to fall off. It is very painful and causes harm to the gecko.  It can be easily prevented by providing your leopard geckos with a "shed box,” "nesting box," or "moist hideaway." (The use of the hideaway was discussed and shown above in the Housing section.

When your gecko has finished shedding,
ALWAYS CHECK TO SEE THEY HAVE
SHED ALL THE SKIN OFF THEIR
TOES AND TOENAILS.








Food and Water

Leopard geckos are native to regions having a very dry climate. Geckos require a source of water. We always keep a fresh water source on all our tubs for our geckos. This is a very easy to do by using a plastic bottle cap from a Gatorade or even a milk cartoon cap. Ensure you clean the cap every couple of days and refill it with clean water. There are many other “decorative” water dishes available to you through your local pet store, but they tend to get dirty quicker and may house bacteria if not cleaned well enough. The bottle cap method is very economical (especially for breeders when so many are needed) and the caps are very easy to keep clean.

There are many opinions about proper feeding of geckos. We have found that a steady diet of mealworms works well. We offer the occasional dubia roach and silk or butter worms for extra protein. The silk worms and butter worms are only given once every few weeks. The fat in these worms is equivalent to you eating at McDonald’s every day!! We feed fresh mealworms dusted with a Vionate/Osteo-Form SA mixture every three days. Super worms are also excellent, but if you're keeping your geckos in a terrarium that has a Styrofoam background, make sure you don't let any super worms escape and live in there. They will eat holes through the Styrofoam. Also, be aware that Wax Worms, if left for more than a week will turn into Pantry Moths, that will infest your cereal boxes and flower etc and will breed like crazy, making more moths. This is an important reason why you should always keep your mealworms covered.

It is very important to gut load your feeders no matter what you decide to give your animal. We generally feed my meal worms a diet of bran, carrots and apple 24 hours before feeding them to our geckos. Gut loading is a great way to pass on nutrients to your gecko.

*Gut Loading – This is defined as the process by which an animal's prey is raised and fed nutritious foods with the intention of passing those nutrients to the animal for which the prey is intended.







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Vitamins

Vitamins are a very essential part of your gecko’s diet. Please do not think that just because you are gut loading your feeders that is all your gecko needs!! You would be WRONG. Geckos, especially young geckos and gravid females, definitely require a multivitamin to be added to their food. We recommend Vionate and Osteo-Form SA as a good source of vitamin and calcium. To mix the two, you would use one part Osteo-Form to four parts Vionate. Use a small Parmesan cheese shaker from the local dollar store filled with this mixture. Use it to dust the mealworms when placed in the feeding dish. This is a very simple solution and will keep your gecko healthy and happy.

Another very important factor is Calcium. Keep a bottle cap of calcium (Without D3) in your tubs at all times. Believe it or not, we have seen our geckos lapping up the calcium like a dog at the water dish. Geckos know what they need and when they need it. You just need to make sure you provide what they need.

Leopard geckos also require Calcium D3. The calcium D3 allows them to absorb calcium. We usually dust our mealworms with Calcium with D3 about once every three weeks.






Safe Handling

It's important when handling any leopard gecko, to ensure that you do so by holding them above something soft. Even the most experienced leopard gecko keepers occasionally drop one. This might not seem like a big deal, but a fall of only three feet can kill a leopard gecko by causing internal organ damage. (Pictured left - Roll over image to see gecko after it died less than 24 hours later - This was not my gecko, but a friend’s.)

It is fine to pick up a calm leopard gecko (who trusts you) by the base of the tail. It is always best to offer a hand underneath it and to use the other hand to usher it onto that waiting hand, letting IT make the choice to walk onto your palm. Then, moving slowly, you can hold it, or let it stand on you. Once again, make sure you are above something soft, so that if your gecko does decide to jump, it will not injure itself in the fall.







Brumation (Hibernation)

Just about every reptile on the planet has a yearly hibernation cycle. It’s a very natural and recurring process. However, it’s not actually a necessity. Geckos kept as pets do not need to hibernate.

Many people worry that it is not safe to put heat on their Leopard Geckos during the winter season; but it’s perfectly safe. Don’t change anything. Just keep doing as you’re doing. Ensure you do regular upkeep so the living conditions are acceptable and your geckos remain healthy. Make sure that your geckos are active through the winter and that they don’t stop eating or drinking. This can usually be caused by stress and when stress becomes too much for a gecko, they’ll stop doing everything and die from dehydration.

However, if for any reason you’d like to hibernate your leopard geckos, then it’s actually a very simple process. Perhaps you plan on breeding the geckos or maybe you’d just like to be lazy through the winter months and you don’t want to do any kind of upkeep. Everyone has their own reasons as to why they want their geckos to hibernate.

All you have to do is turn off the under heater tank. You want to be careful and make sure that the temperature they’re in is still 70 degrees though because you don’t want them to freeze. Remember, they’re used to very humid and warm climates, so a cold climate would come at quite a shock and may even kill them. Some owners have reported that they never had any problems with keeping their Leopard Geckos in 60 degrees during hibernation but it’s best to be safe and stick with 70.
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During the hibernation cycle, your Leopard Geckos will be far less active. You’ll notice that they’re eating and drinking much less frequently. When they’re hibernating they’ll lose less weight despite not eating because their metabolism slows down considerably. If you do choose to feed your Leopard Geckos during their hibernation then only do so lightly. Sometimes, the geckos will just flat out refuse to eat for a long period of time and this is fine. Just remove and throw out the crickets they do not eat for your own sanity. Unless of course that noise is something you enjoy hearing, but we don’t like listening to it.






Housing Multiple Leopard Geckos

Most people initially intend on having just one leopard gecko. Once they see what colors and personalities these guys have they soon want two or three or more!! Owning multiple leopard geckos does not necessarily mean multiple enclosures. In a 20 gallon long aquarium (as mention before), you could easily house 3 to 5 females (provided they are the same size). If you were to add a single male with the 3 to 5 females, nature would take over and you would be expecting eggs within the next month or two, but that is a whole other story. Just remember not to house two or more male geckos together because they will fight. Housing multiple geckos is no different that housing one. With that said, it is very important to note that leopard geckos are solitary animals which do not require the company of other geckos.

This leads us to another point when introducing multiple geckos. Like people, sometimes geckos just don’t get along so it is always important to have a backup plan to ensure your geckos are happy and safe. The backup plan would be another tank to house either the “bully” in or the one being bullied. Generally, like most animals, they will get used to one another and live together happily.

Just a few things to watch for when housing multiple geckos:

1) Ensure everyone is eating.

2) Ensure all geckos have access to a heat source.

3) Make sure no one is being bitten or bullied.

4) Do not house a male with females UNLESS you intend to breed.

5) Make sure that the geckos you are introducing are very similar in size.

6) Provide a few feeding dishes and watering dishes to avoid fighting and crowding.

Please remember that this care sheet is strictly based on our experiences and by no means is this the “bible” that must be followed. Most breeders have their own tricks and opinions and may or may not agree with what was written here. The main thing to remember is to ALWAYS keep your gecko’s health a number one priority. Before purchasing your first one, read up on care and see information on the Internet to ensure that this hobby is for you. A great resource is Ron Tremper’s new book entitled “The Next Generation” available on his site www.leopardgecko.com/book.




If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at info@electricgeckos.com