Leopard Gecko Care 2023: Breeding, Diet, Health, More

OnReptiles Staff
Leopard Gecko Care

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re either a proud owner of a Leopard Gecko or considering bringing one into your life. And let me tell you, you’re making a fantastic choice!

I’ve had the privilege of sharing my home with various reptiles over the years, and amidst my hours diving into books and resources about our cold-blooded friends, Leopard Geckos have always held a special place in my heart.

Why? Simple. They’re charismatic, relatively easy to care for, and, let’s be honest, downright adorable. But as with any pet, understanding their specific needs is crucial to ensuring they live a happy, healthy life under our care.

I’ve crafted this comprehensive guide to provide you with the essentials of Leopard Gecko care, using my firsthand experience and hours of research.

So whether you’re a newbie or just looking to brush up on your gecko knowledge, you’re in the right place. Let’s embark on this journey together and ensure your gecko gets the best care possible!

Natural Habitat & Origins

Alright, before we delve into the nitty-gritty of taking care of these fascinating creatures, it’s essential to understand where they come from and what their natural environment is like. This knowledge not only offers a deeper appreciation for the species but also provides insights into their care requirements.

Geographic Distribution and Natural Environment

Leopard Geckos (Eublepharis macularius) hail from the arid regions of South Asia, stretching from parts of India and Pakistan to parts of Afghanistan and Iran. This isn’t the dense, humid rainforest setting we often associate with many reptiles.

Instead, think of rocky deserts, scrublands, and grasslands. Here, they’ve carved out a niche in the ecosystem, often taking refuge in burrows during the scorching heat of the day and emerging during the cooler evenings to hunt and explore.

Evolution and Adaptations

Over millennia, the Leopard Gecko has developed some fascinating evolutionary tricks up its sleeve to thrive in such an environment.

Natural Habitat & Origins

1. Eyelids

Unlike many other geckos, Leopard Geckos have movable eyelids. It’s a simple yet effective adaptation to protect their eyes from the sandy and dusty conditions of their native habitats.

2. Nocturnal Lifestyle

By being active primarily at night, they efficiently avoid the harshest temperatures of their desert surroundings. It also means their diet is rich in insects that similarly prefer the nighttime.

3. Tail Storage

One of the most distinctive features of the Leopard Gecko is its thick, fleshy tail. This isn’t just for show; they store fat in their tails, which serves as a reserve for leaner times when food is scarce. It’s like their personal savings account for energy!

3. Heat-Sensing Pits

While they don’t have the heat-sensing pits commonly seen in some snakes, their keen sense of taste and smell helps them locate prey, making them effective nocturnal hunters.

Understanding these nuances about their origin and natural habitat sets the foundation for creating an environment in captivity that mirrors, as closely as possible, their natural setting. It’s about respecting and appreciating their natural behaviors and ensuring we cater to their intrinsic needs.

Choosing Your Leopard Gecko

Deciding to bring a Leopard Gecko into your home is just the first step. Now comes another crucial aspect: selecting the right one. Let’s dive into the various considerations to ensure you’re making an informed choice, suitable for both you and the gecko.

Differences between Male and Female Geckos

1. Size

Males tend to be slightly larger than females. It’s not a vast difference, but once they’re mature, it’s noticeable.

2. Tail Base

Males have a broader tail base compared to females. This is because of the hemipenal bulges (essentially, reproductive organs) that are present in males.

3. Pores

Males also have pronounced pre-anal pores, which look like a series of small dots just above the base of the tail. Females have these pores too, but they are less conspicuous.

Why does the gender matter? Well, if you’re planning on getting more than one gecko, it’s worth noting that two males might be territorial when housed together. On the other hand, females tend to be more tolerant of each other. But, always monitor their behavior to ensure they are cohabiting peacefully.

Selecting a Healthy Gecko: Signs to Look For

When picking your gecko, here are some health indicators to keep an eye out for:

  1. Active and Alert: They should be responsive to their environment, especially when gently nudged or handled.
  2. Clear Eyes: Eyes should be bright and free of any cloudiness or discharge.
  3. Full Tail: As mentioned earlier, their tail serves as a fat store. A plump tail is a good sign of a well-fed gecko.
  4. Smooth Skin: While they do shed, you’ll want to choose a gecko with no retained shed or obvious skin issues.
  5. Consistent Movement: No limping or dragging of any body parts. This can be indicative of potential injuries or calcium deficiencies.
  6. Clean Vent: Ensure that the area around the vent (the rear end) is clean and free from any blockages or discharge.

Pros and Cons of Purchasing from Breeders vs. Pet Stores

Leopard Geckos


Specialty Breeds: Breeders often have a wider variety of morphs and colors.Price: Specialty breeds might come at a higher cost.
Detailed Background: You can get information about the gecko’s lineage, age, and specific care details.Accessibility: Depending on where you live, you might have to travel or wait for a reptile show to connect with a breeder.
Expertise: Breeders usually specialize in certain reptiles, offering insights and tips on care.

Pet Stores

Convenience: Easily accessible and you can see the gecko in person before purchasing.Generic Information: Staff might not be specialized in reptiles, leading to generic care advice.
Return Policies: Some stores offer guarantees or return policies.Stock Source: The geckos might come from large-scale breeders with varying care standards.

To round off 🦎

Know that it’s about doing your homework. Whether you’re leaning towards a breeder or a pet store, always ask questions, observe the gecko’s behavior and environment, and trust your gut. You’re not just buying a pet; you’re choosing a companion.

Housing & Environment

Alright, now that you’ve got (or are about to get) your Leopard Gecko, let’s ensure we set them up with a space they’ll love and thrive in. Remember, recreating their natural habitat as closely as possible is key.

Ideal Tank Size and Dimensions

For a single adult Leopard Gecko, a 20-gallon tank is typically recommended. However, if you’re starting with a juvenile, a 10-gallon tank can work temporarily. If you plan to house multiple geckos, ensure you increase the tank size accordingly, providing ample space for each to roam and have their territory.

Dimensions to aim for

  1. Single Gecko: At least 24 inches long x 12 inches wide x 12 inches tall.
  2. Multiple Geckos: Increase length and width by at least 10 inches for each additional gecko.

Substrate Recommendations and Substrates to Avoid


  1. Reptile Carpet: Easy to clean and gentle on the gecko’s feet.
  2. Slate or Stone Tiles: Natural, easy to clean, and excellent for maintaining their nails.
  3. Paper Towels: Not the most attractive, but they are absorbent, easy to change, and great for quarantining or monitoring a gecko’s health.


  1. Sand: While it may seem like a natural choice given their desert origins, sand can cause impaction if ingested and can be abrasive.
  2. Wood Shavings or Chips: These can cause respiratory issues and impaction if ingested.
  3. Calcium Sand: Despite marketing, this substrate can still cause impaction.

Temperature and Humidity Requirements

Leopard Geckos are ectothermic, meaning they rely on their environment to regulate body temperature.


  1. Warm Side: Between 88°F to 90°F. This can be achieved using a heat mat.
  2. Cool Side: Around 75°F to 80°F.
  3. Night: A drop from about 70°F to 75°F is acceptable.


They come from arid regions, so high humidity isn’t needed. Aim for 20% to 40%. To aid in shedding, a moist hide with slightly higher humidity can be added.

Lighting Needs and Day-Night Cycles

Leopard Geckos are nocturnal, so UVB lighting isn’t as critical as with some reptiles. However, a low-output UVB light can be beneficial for a few hours each day.

Day-Night Cycle

They need a clear day-night cycle. 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness work well. If you’re providing UVB light, ensure it’s not on for the full 12 hours—just a portion of that time.

Decoration and Hiding Places: Creating a Stimulating Environment

  1. Hides: At least two hides (one on the warm side and one on the cool side) are essential. This gives them a place to retreat, feel safe, and regulate their body temperature.
  2. Moist Hide: A container filled with moist sphagnum moss or similar can help them when they’re shedding.
  3. Rocks, logs, and non-toxic plants (real or fake): This can enhance their environment, providing enrichment and exploration opportunities.
  4. Climbing: While they aren’t known for climbing like some gecko species, they’ll appreciate some low-level structures to clamber over.

To round off 🦎

Think of their tank as their world. You’re not just creating a living space, but an environment that caters to their physical, behavioral, and psychological needs. When set up correctly, it becomes a joy for both the gecko and the observer—that’s you!

Diet & Nutrition

Proper diet and nutrition are foundational to your Leopard Gecko’s health and longevity. These little creatures have specific dietary needs, which, if met, will see them thriving under your care. Let’s break this down.

Comprehensive Food List: What They Can and Can’t Eat

Leopard Gecko Common Health Issues and Treatments

Leopard Geckos are insectivorous, meaning their diet consists primarily of insects.

What They Can Eat

  1. Mealworms: A staple for many Leopard Gecko diets.
  2. Crickets: Another staple, just ensure they’re gut-loaded (fed nutritious foods) before offering them to your gecko.
  3. Waxworms: Treat these like candy – tasty but should be given in moderation due to their high fat content.
  4. Superworms: Larger than mealworms and suitable for adult geckos.
  5. Dubia Roaches: Nutritious and often favored by geckos.
  6. Hornworms: Good for hydration and can be an occasional treat.

What They Can’t Eat

  1. Fireflies: Highly toxic to Leopard Geckos.
  2. Wild-Caught Insects: These can carry pesticides or parasites.
  3. Plant Material: They aren’t equipped to digest plant matter, so stick to insects.

Importance of Calcium and Vitamin Supplementation

Just eating insects won’t suffice. To prevent common ailments like Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), it’s crucial to supplement their diet.

Calcium Powder

Lightly dust the insects with calcium powder in most feedings. Ensure some feedings include calcium with D3 if you’re not using UVB lighting.


Once a week, replace the calcium dusting with a reptile multivitamin to ensure they get a range of necessary vitamins and minerals.

How Often and How Much to Feed

  1. Juveniles (up to 6 months): Daily feeding. Offer as many insects as they can eat in 15 minutes.
  2. Juveniles (6-12 months): Feed every other day. As with younger juveniles, offer as much as they can consume in a set period.
  3. Adults (over 12 months): Feed every 2-3 days. Typically, this equates to 6-10 insects per feeding, but it can vary based on the gecko’s size and the insect type.

Hydration: Water Bowl and Misting Needs

Water Bowl

Always have a shallow dish of fresh water available. This should be changed regularly and kept clean. The dish should be shallow to prevent drowning risks.


Leopard Geckos don’t typically drink from standing water. Instead, they might lick droplets from their surroundings.

A light misting every other day can provide drinking water and aid in maintaining humidity, especially during shedding. However, avoid making the enclosure too wet, as overly humid conditions can lead to respiratory issues.

In Summary 🦎

A balanced diet, appropriate supplements, and adequate hydration are key to your Leopard Gecko’s health. Monitor their appetite and weight, and if you notice any significant changes, it may be time to consult with a reptile veterinarian.

Handling & Socialization

Having a Leopard Gecko is not just about creating the perfect environment and ensuring a balanced diet; it’s also about building a bond of trust. Proper handling and understanding of their social behaviors can make the difference between a skittish pet and a relaxed, trusting companion.

The Right Way to Handle a Leopard Gecko

Start Slow

Especially with a new gecko, give them some time to acclimate to their new environment before trying to handle them. A week or so is typically recommended.

Approach Gently

When you’re ready to begin handling, approach the gecko slowly and deliberately. Avoid sudden movements that might startle them.

Lift from Below

Instead of grabbing them from above (which can mimic a predator’s approach), gently scoop them up from beneath. Use a flat hand or let them walk onto your hand.

Short Sessions

Start with short handling sessions, gradually increasing the time as your gecko becomes more accustomed to you.

Stay Low

When handling, it’s a good idea to be close to the ground or over a soft surface to prevent injuries if they decide to jump or fall.

Frequent, Consistent Handling

Over time, with regular gentle handling, most Leopard Geckos can become quite tame and comfortable with their human caregivers.

Social Behaviors and Cohabitation

Gender Dynamics

As mentioned earlier, housing two males together can lead to territorial disputes. Females are generally more amicable but always monitor for signs of bullying or aggression.


If housing multiple geckos together, ensure the enclosure offers enough space, hides, and resources for all to avoid competition.

Breeding Consideration

If housing a male and female together, be prepared for potential breeding. Ensure you’re equipped to care for eggs and baby geckos.

Quarantine New Additions

Before introducing a new gecko to an established tank, quarantine the newcomer for a few weeks to monitor for signs of illness and prevent potential spread.

Common Mistakes to Avoid


Especially when they’re new, stressed, or shedding, give them space. Too much handling can lead to stress, which can affect their health.

Ignoring Signs of Stress

Tail waving, mouth gaping, or vocalizing are signs your gecko is stressed or frightened. Respect these signs and give them space.

Forcing Interaction

If a gecko is hiding or fleeing consistently, don’t force the interaction. Building trust takes time.

Handling After Feeding

Wait for a day after feeding to handle your gecko to prevent regurgitation.

Not Washing Hands

Always wash your hands before and after handling to prevent the spread of germs or oils that might be harmful to the gecko.

In Summary 🦎

Handling and socialization are about respect and understanding. By being patient, observant, and gentle, you can foster a rewarding relationship with your Leopard Gecko. They’re more than just a pet; with the right care, they become a companion.

Health & Wellness

Ensuring the health and well-being of your Leopard Gecko involves being observant and proactive. Recognizing signs of potential issues early can be the difference between a minor problem and a major health crisis.

Recognizing Signs of Illness or Stress

Lack of Appetite

While it’s not uncommon for geckos to skip a meal occasionally, a prolonged lack of interest in food can be concerning.


If your gecko is less active than usual or seems weak, it could be a sign of an underlying issue.

Shedding Issues

While shedding is a natural process, any retained shed, especially around the eyes, toes, or tail, can be problematic.

Weight Loss

A noticeably thinner tail or overall weight loss can indicate a health concern.


Any discharge from the eyes, nose, or mouth can be a sign of infection or another health problem.

Irregular Feces

Watery, discolored, or foul-smelling feces might indicate digestive or parasitic issues.

Behavioral Changes

Sudden aggression, frequent hiding, or other behavioral shifts can be signs of stress or illness.

Common Health Issues and Treatments

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)

Caused by a lack of calcium or vitamin D3, signs include soft or deformed bones. Ensure a proper diet and supplementation to prevent it. Once developed, consult a vet for treatment.


Caused by ingesting substrate or oversized food items, it results in a blockage in the digestive system. To prevent this, ensure appropriate substrate and food size. If suspected, seek veterinary care.

Respiratory Infections

Signs include wheezing, mouth breathing, and nasal discharge. Often caused by improper humidity or temperatures. Consult a vet for diagnosis and treatment.

External Parasites

Mites or ticks can latch onto geckos. If noticed, consult a vet for treatment options.

Internal Parasites

Diarrhea, weight loss, or swollen abdomen can be signs. Veterinary diagnosis and treatment are essential.

Veterinary Care: When to Seek Professional Help

  1. Regular Check-ups: Just like other pets, regular check-ups (at least annually) are a good idea to ensure everything’s in order.
  2. Unexplained Behavioral Changes: If your gecko’s behavior changes drastically without a clear reason, it’s worth a vet visit.
  3. Visible Injuries: Any cuts, abrasions, or injuries should be checked by a vet to prevent infections or complications.
  4. Prolonged Symptoms: If any of the symptoms or signs mentioned above persist, it’s crucial to seek professional help.

Having a trusted reptile veterinarian in your contacts can be invaluable. Not only are they equipped to handle and treat specific reptile issues, but they can also offer guidance and recommendations to improve your gecko’s overall well-being.

Remember, proactive care and keen observation are your best tools to ensure a healthy, happy life for your Leopard Gecko.

Breeding & Reproduction

Understanding Their Behavior and Body Language

Breeding Leopard Geckos can be a rewarding experience, offering a unique opportunity to witness the life cycle of these fascinating reptiles.

However, it’s essential to approach the process with a strong foundation of knowledge to ensure the health and well-being of both the parents and the offspring.

Basics of Breeding Leopard Geckos


Before considering breeding, ensure that both geckos have reached sexual maturity. This usually occurs around 8 to 10 months of age, though many breeders prefer to wait until they’re at least one year old.

Healthy Parents

Only breed healthy geckos, have a good weight, and show no signs of illness or stress.


Before breeding, females should be well-fed and supplemented to ensure they have enough calcium and nutrients for egg production.

Introducing the Pair

While Leopard Geckos are relatively easy to breed, introductions should be done cautiously. Monitor their interactions to ensure there’s no aggression. Once mating has occurred, they can typically be separated.

Post-mating Care

Ensure the female continues to get a nutritionally rich diet, as egg production can be taxing on her body.

Incubation and Caring for Eggs

Laying Site

Provide a laying box in the enclosure. This can be a container filled with damp sphagnum moss or a moist substrate where the female can lay her eggs.

Egg Removal

Once eggs are laid, they can be gently transferred to an incubation box. This is typically a container with a substrate like vermiculite that’s been moistened (not wet).

Incubation Temperature

The temperature during incubation will determine the sex of the offspring. Temperatures between 80°F to 86°F generally produce females, while 87°F to 90°F yield mostly males.


Keep an eye on the humidity within the incubation box. The substrate should remain damp but not wet. Eggs typically hatch in 35-89 days, depending on temperature.

Rearing Young Geckos

Separate Housing

Baby geckos, often referred to as hatchlings, should be housed separately from adults and typically from each other to prevent aggressive interactions and ensure they all get enough food.


Begin feeding 3-4 days post-hatching. Offer small crickets or pinhead crickets and tiny mealworms. As with adults, supplementing with calcium is vital.

Monitoring Growth

Track their growth, weight gain, and shedding process. Young geckos will shed more frequently than adults due to their rapid growth.


Limit handling during the initial weeks to reduce stress. Once they are a bit older and more robust, short and gentle handling sessions can help them acclimate to human interaction.

Breeding Leopard Geckos is not just about producing offspring; it’s a commitment to the health and welfare of every gecko involved in the process. Ensure you’re prepared for the responsibility and have the resources to care for the babies, whether you intend to keep them, sell them, or rehome them.

Tips for Longevity & Happiness

Leopard Geckos can lead long, fulfilling lives under human care, often living up to 15 years or more with proper attention. Ensuring their longevity is not just about basic care but also about understanding their needs on a deeper level, promoting both physical health and psychological well-being.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Gecko Care

  1. Inadequate Diet: Ensure a balanced, varied diet with the right supplements. Lack of calcium or vitamin D3 can lead to severe health issues.
  2. Incorrect Temperatures: Both overly cold and too warm conditions can be harmful. Always monitor tank temperatures.
  3. Ignoring Humidity: While they are desert creatures, too little or too much humidity can cause problems, especially during shedding.
  4. Overhandling: Especially with new or stressed geckos, give them space. Let them dictate the pace of interaction.
  5. improper Substrate: As discussed, certain substrates can cause impaction or other health concerns.

Enrichment Ideas to Keep Your Gecko Stimulated

  1. Varied Diet: Occasionally introducing new safe insects can provide both nutritional and behavioral enrichment.
  2. Tank Exploration: Rearrange or introduce new hides, climbing structures, or safe decorations every so often. This mimics the changing environment they’d experience in the wild.
  3. Interactive Toys: While they won’t play fetch, introducing things like reptile-safe balls or moving toys can pique their curiosity.
  4. Safe Handling: Regular, gentle handling not only builds trust but also provides a change of scenery and tactile exploration for the gecko.
  5. Natural Behaviors: Encouraging natural behaviors like digging or hunting can be enriching. Consider a dig box with a safe substrate for them to burrow in.

Understanding Their Behavior and Body Language

Tail Waving

This can be a sign of mild agitation or a warning. It’s often seen in younger geckos as a defensive behavior.


While Leopard Geckos are generally quiet, they might squeak or bark if startled or threatened.

Gaping Mouth

This can be a sign of stress, overheating, or a respiratory issue.


They often lick their surroundings, food, or even you. It’s a way they sense and explore their environment.

Shedding Behavior

Before shedding, they might become reclusive and lose their appetite. You might also notice them rubbing against objects to help remove the shed skin.


If a Leopard Gecko closes its eyes around you or during handling, it could be a sign of trust, relaxation, or on the contrary, a sign of irritation.

Remember, every Leopard Gecko is an individual with its personality, likes, and dislikes. The key to their longevity and happiness lies in observing them, learning from them, and continuously adapting to meet their needs.

With dedication and understanding, you can ensure your scaly companion leads a long, joyful life.

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