Overall the leopard gecko reaches a length of about 10 inches, and gets its name
from the leopard like spots which cover the bodies of adult animals. Baby leopard geckos are born with dark transverse bands,
which lighten as they grow into the spotted adults. Their general background color is yellow and lavender, although a number
of new color phases have arisen through captive breeding. Some of the existing phases are animals with hi-yellow, white or
lavender background color, striped, jungle and other pattern anomalies, and leucistic (actually hypomelanistic) and albino
genetic mutations. Leopard geckos are members of the sub-family Eublepharinae, or the eye-lidded geckos. Many geckos lack
eyelids, but the leopard geckos' are movable, which allow them to blink and close their eyes while sleeping. Toe pads, which
are useful in climbing vertical walls and glass aquaria are not present in the leopard gecko. There are tiny claws on the
end of the toe.
Like many lizards, the leopard gecko has a tail which breaks off readily when grabbed by a predator.
This permits the gecko to get away if attacked, but leaves a valuable food resource behind; the tail is used as a fat storage
reservoir for lean periods. One of the most notable traits about leopard geckos, which has led to their great popularity,
is their unusually gentle disposition. Leopards in captivity appear to recognize their keepers, and are at times content to
sit on a shoulder for hours. It takes a significant amount of provoking before a leopard gecko will bite.
Leopard geckos can be fed mealworms
or crickets, with an occasional meal of wax worms or a pink mouse when they are older. When maintaining a large colony of
geckos, mealworms are significantly less work than crickets. There appears to be no significant difference in health or growth
rate between geckos fed crickets or meal worms. Wax worms are a good supplement or treat, but are too fatty and not nutritious
enough for a regular diet. Start with a feeding schedule of once daily or every other day. Babies seem to prefer to chase
their meals, adults will eat mealworms out of a shallow dish. Feed early evening if possible .The geckos soon learn when it
is dinner time, and will come out of their hide boxes to eat. Some appear to enjoy being hand-fed. Feed as many mealworms/crickets
as they will eat in a single feeding. If the animal eats what is provided, put in a couple more food items to see if they
are eaten as well, to help gauge the correct amount of food. Be sure to remove any crickets that are not eaten in a feeding,
as they will annoy and unduly stress the geckos. Baby geckos that are getting enough food will shed every two weeks or so.
Adults should be hefty, but not obese with a nice, fat tail. Leopard geckos require a shallow dish for water and a calcium
source. With many other species of gecko, crickets and mealworms need to be dusted with calcium; the leopard geckos will lick
the calcium powder right out of a shallow dish if provided.
( WARNING TO MANY MEALWORMS CAN KILL LEOPARD GECKOS)
Leopard geckos adapt well to captivity and have been known to live 20-30 years.
They are not highly susceptible to health problems, and seem to enjoy being handled. Like many lizards, their tails will break
off as a defense mechanism if handled roughly. The tail will grow back fairly quickly, although it will not be as elegant
as the original.
It is very difficult to sex leopard geckos before they are about three months old. At this time, the sexual characteristics
of the male can be seen, especially if a magnifier is used. The male is identified by the presence of hemipenes, seen as bulges
at the base of the tail.The male also has femoral (preanal) pores above the tail.The female has a row of modified cells where
the pores would normally be, but there are no visible pores (see figures).
For breeding, we keep
a ratio of about 8-10 females to one male per enclosure, which is a custom-designed open tub with 2 x 4 foot floor dimensions.
Leopard geckos are found in southern Asia, in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Iran and Iraq.
geckos inhabit arid regions, particularly rocky deserts and sparse grasslands. They avoid sandy deserts. They are strictly
nocturnal, keeping out of the heat of the day, emerging at night from holes and crevices to hunt for food. In the wild they
mainly feed on a variety of insects, including scorpions, but will also eat other lizards. Animal often live in loose colonies.
Leopard geckos are seldom found off of the ground.
Housing in Captivity:
The cage setup for leopard geckos can be as simple or elaborate, as you like.
A single animal can be maintained in a ten gallon aquarium with a paper substrate. If you prefer, they can be maintained on
reptile carpet, gravel or orchid bark. The use of sand as a substrate is not recommended for leopard geckos. They will occasionally
ingest too much sand in their craving for calcium or accidentally during hunting activities, causing a sand impaction that
could become quite serious. Basically, the cage substrate should be too large for them to swallow, and dust-free.
geckos will choose one comer of the tank to relieve themselves, and use it solely. This facilitates cleanup. You can place
a piece of paper towel in the appropriate corner, and spot-clean quickly and easily. Leopard geckos require a cage temperature
about 85F. A heat source on one end, which will provide a thermal gradient in the cage is recommended. This is best accomplished
with heat from above; hot rocks do not provide the necessary cage heat, and have been known to cause severe burns. Red incandescent
bulbs placed above one end of the cage not only provide the needed heat, but also provide light to view the animals in the
evening when they are active. It is important that the nighttime temperature not drop too low (about 80 degrees F at the warm
end) or the animals will not eat. As the geckos are nocturnal, expensive UV lights are not necessary.
to hiding places at both the warm and cool ends of the cage, a plastic shoe box or small freezer container, with a hole cut
in the lid, is provided for the geckos. Inside the box, there is a damp peat moss/vermiculite mixture. This hide box not only
provides a place for females to lay eggs, but also provides the humidity required for the geckos to shed properly. In a ten
gallon tank, there is usually room for just one hide box. This should be a moist box and the box should be placed in the middle
of the tank. An alternative is to spray a warm corner of the enclosure 3-4 times per week. If a moist area for shedding is
not provided, the shed skin may remain on the toes and constrict, eventually causing the loss of the toe.
juvenile or female leopard geckos can be maintained in the same cage. Young animals, however, must be housed with others of
their own size, or the smaller animals in the cage will be dominated by the larger ones, and will not do well.