Another amazing reptile for the beginner is the leopard gecko. The color and pattern morphs in recent years has broadened the choices, but the simple care has remained. A beginner may start simple but still have access to some pretty cool looking animals at a reasonable price. These guys make delightful pets for all ages and most come to enjoy being handled if they are given time to adjust to their new home. They are also a joy to
watch, gotta love the cute little faces and the way they lick their lips after eating and wiggle their tails while on the hunt.
So, if you think a little leo is in your future here are a few things I have learned about their care…
A good beginner setup is a 10 gallon tank for one or a 20 long for two, about 10 gallons per gecko or there about. (Always remember only one male per tank). For the true beginner I do recommend a least starting with just one. They are a territorial species and bullying can happen even with all females and it is also easier to work with one at a time to win their trust.
The easiest way to heat the aquarium is with a undertank heater of the proper size on one side of the tank (on the exterior of the bottom of the tank). You can use the adhesive backing or just secure with duct tape. The duck tape method allows for easy removal if you need to replace the tank for some reason. What you want is a hot side temperature in the high 80s and cool side in the mid 70s and most commercial heat pad work great for that.
Extra lighting or heat bulbs are really not a good idea. These little guys are nocturnal and live mostly in caves, too much light is stressful for them. They do need a bit of light to help regulate day/night cycles the ambient room lighting is usually fine for that. If you desire a light to improve viewing use a low wattage fluorescent lamp that is left on for 12 hours or less per day. If your home is cooler and you are having trouble getting the warm side hot enough a low wattage night time bulb (black preferably) may be used.
I like to use white printer paper for my substrate, since it’s cheap, easy keep clean and tends to resist holding moisture. Many keepers use cage carpet, or if you want to get fancy tile or ceramic. Best for newbies to stay clear of sand and other loose substrate where there is a risk of compaction. Some geckos will accidentally eat some of it with the insects and others may eat it on purpose looking for more calcium or sometimes out of boredom.
The decor can be as simple or as elaborate as your taste and budget allow, but it needs to include a dark hide, a humid hide, a water dish and a supplement dish. A mealworm/dubia dish is also a good idea if you feed them since they tend to crawl into places the gecko may have a hard time finding. The supplement can also be put into that worm dish. I’ll post more later on ways to make some of these essentials so you can save some money.
The supplement I prefer is
Rapashy’s Calcium Plus, but any good quality reptile calcium and vitamin supplement will work, One of the nice things about a leo is that they lick the supplement as they need it. Still, not a bad idea to dust the insects too, but it’s nice to know they can add more when they feel the need. If you dust with a calcium only powder only dust once or twice a week, since they can get too much calcium.
Which brings me to their diet. In my opinion the best thing you can do for these guys is to give them as much variety as you can. Not an easy thing sometimes with an insectivore like the leopard geckos. A simple way for beginners is to buy a feedings worth of crickets at the pet shop and a tub of mealworms to keep in the refrigerator for later. Although best to gut load all feeder insects, it can be difficult for a beginner with crickets. So, dust the cricket feeding, but when it comes to the mealworms use your imagination and give your gecko some variety in his food by the food you feed the worms. In the morning take the worms you want to feed that night out of the fridge and put them in a small covered dish with some food. Carrots, greens, sweet potatoes, squash, apples, and pears are some of my favorite choices. Let them chow down on this while you are at work or school and you will have nice plump gut-loaded worms to feed your gecko that evening..
If you are lucky enough to have a pet shop that stocks dubia roaches they are one of the best insects you can feed. They give much more real food than worms or crickets (Crickets and worms both have a lot more indigestible shell to them) and are almost as easy to gut load as meal worms. They are a great addition to the mix, but I still recommend switching it up on them regularly since they are known to go off feed if they get bored with their diet.
Can’t make it to the pet shop and you're out of insects? Raphasy has developed a product called Grub Pie Reptile for insectivores, a powder you mix with hot water and it turns into a jello like food. Almost all my leos really seem to enjoy it and they get it with there other insects about 2-3 times a month. The first ingredient in this food is black soldier fly larvae, also known as calci worms, which is one of the best insect choices around. Unfortunately they can be difficult to find and keep and are just a little on the creepy side. Offering the Grub Pie Reptile gives you an easy way to add them into your gecko’s diet as well as the convenience of always have a food source in house.
I think I hit the important points, so will end for now. As always please contact me if you have any questions.
See below for some more information on these wonderful critters.