How to Care for a Leopard Gecko

Leopard geckos are wonderful pets because of their docile nature and willingness to be handled. They’re also quite easy to take care of if you’re willing to put a small amount of work in and as long as you arm yourself with the knowledge needed to take care of them. On this page, I’ll provide you with an in-depth guide to looking after your pet, it’ll cover all the most relevant areas in detail so that you know exactly how to care for a leopard gecko.

Leopard Gecko Housing

Providing the right type of housing for your leopard gecko is an extremely important part of learning how to care for a leopard gecko; however, by following the advice on this page you’ll be able to set up brilliant leopard gecko housing so that your lizard can thrive.

Firstly, you’ll need to buy a long tank for them to live in. As geckos are predominantly ground-based lizards, they’ll require more space to run around in and won’t require much (if any) real climbing space – ergo a longer tank is more beneficial than a tall tank. The recommended size for a tank housing 1 gecko is 10 gallons, for 2 geckos its 15 gallons and you’re looking at securing a tank of at least 20 gallons if you’re housing more than 2 geckos inside.

A plastic or glass tank is best because you’ll be able to see your gecko inside and they’re also quite easy to clean. On top of this, it’s going to be harder for the gecko to scale the walls if they do decide to try and escape; although, a mesh roof will eliminate this option entirely whilst also allowing fresh air to circulate throughout the tank.

You can add a few different accessories to the tank for your leopard gecko to explore such as wood and plants (however, some plants are toxic so fake plants might be better). Remember to sterilise anything you put into the tank as geckos are susceptible to infection if exposed to outside parasites and/or bacteria from your house or garden.

They’ll also need 3 different shelters (hides) and a place to eat and drink but we’ll discuss this more later on.

Substrate

A key part of knowing how to care for a leopard gecko is ensuring you have the correct substrate (bedding) for them in their tank. Whilst a lot of pets generally require sawdust in their cage or tank, you should try to avoid anything flaky or grainy (including sand) when preparing your gecko’s home. Leopard geckos have been known to eat their substrate and flaky or grainy materials can make them unwell and give them digestion problems.

It’s best to try and use something hard and smooth like tiles or smooth rocks as this will help to replicate the gecko’s natural habitat in the wild. Alternatively, you can also use a reptile carpet that is specifically designed to be used in a tank with animals such as geckos.

Handling the Gecko

As I’ve mentioned, their willingness to be handled is a reason that leopard geckos make great pets, but you’ll have to earn their trust first. Surprisingly, earning the trust of your pet isn’t too difficult and can be achieved in about a week as long as you handle them properly and give them time to settle into their new home first.

It’s very important that you understand how to handle a gecko in the proper manner to avoid any injury to your pet. When I first learnt how to care for a leopard gecko, I felt very nervous about handling the lizard in case I hurt it, but, by following the guidelines below, both the lizard and I were totally fine.

You should always try and lift them from their shoulders so you can support their weight by placing your hand under their body as this is the safest way to handle them. Remember that you should never pick a leopard gecko up by their tail as it might fall off as the gecko can remove its tail if it feels threatened (whilst one will grow back, you don’t want to cause your gecko any undue distress).

Try to handle your gecko every single day whilst building the bond of trust between man and lizard but – until the bond is built – only try and hold them for 15 minutes or so. It’s also extremely important that you wash your hands before and after picking up your gecko so that neither you nor your pet are exposed to germs.

How to Care for a Leopard Gecko: 3 Hides

As I indicated above, your leopard gecko will require three different hides in its tank in order to live happily and healthy.

The three different hides are the cool hide, the warm hide and the moist hide.How to Care for a Leopard Gecko

The Warm Hide

This will be where the gecko digests its food after eating and is also likely to be an area where it comes to lounge. This should be on the warm side of the tank.

The Cool Hide

The cool hide is where the gecko will come to cool off if it’s feeling too hot and should be on the cooler side of the tank.

The Moist Hide

This is where the gecko will shed its skin and might go if its feeling dehydrated because it’s a damper environment. You can help to keep this hide moist by misting it regularly (spraying water vapours into the hide).

You can make your gecko’s hides out of almost anything or you can buy them at the shop if you’re after something more decorative. All they need to be is an area big enough for your gecko to hide in so you can easily make them out of a plastic container – but remember to sterilise whatever you use before putting it into the tank. Also, if you have more than one gecko, you need 3 hides big enough for both of them and/or maybe even separate hides for the geckos as they’re traditionally solitary creatures.

Lifespan

If you follow the advice on this website and take good care of your leopard gecko, then it could be looking at a lifespan of between 10-20 years.

Food

Giving your lizard the right food is an important part of understanding how to care for a leopard gecko.

Geckos are insectivores, meaning they’ll only eat insects so you need to have a good supply of food for them. They can eat either live or dead insects and (whilst live insects may escape) I personally think it’s better to give them living food so they can fuel their nature desire to hunt their prey.

Crickets are a popular and common food source for leopard geckos and are very nutritious for them. Alternatively, many people prefer to feed their leopard geckos mealworms because they’re less likely to escape and cause less problem for the gecko if they’re not eaten straight away.

Whilst the insects are a great food source for your gecko, it’ll also require vitamins and minerals that they don’t naturally provide. In order to ensure your gecko has the right nutrients it needs you can either dust their prey (place them in a bag with calcium powder and shake it to coat them in it) or gut load them (feed them food with the nutrients in it before you feed them to the gecko) as this will ensure that your gecko receives the correct nutrients when eating them.

Most geckos only need to be fed every couple of days but hatchlings and breeding females will require food every day.

To learn more about feeding your gecko and helping it thrive please click here.

Water

You must always make sure your gecko has access to clean water as bacteria can easily grow if the water isn’t fresh. Some geckos use their water bowl as a toilet but you can alter this behaviour by frequently changing the bowl and replacing it with fresh water that they can drink. It’s very important to pick out any waste produced by the gecko or any dead insects to ensure your gecko doesn’t get ill from drinking its water.

I’d advise using a solid container as their water bowl so that they can’t spill it very easily as leopard geckos have been known to knock their water bowl over and spill everything into their tank – ruining their natural dry climate.

Heat and Light

Geckos are predominantly nocturnal creatures so they don’t actually require a strong artificial light source. In fact, leopard geckos have eyes that are extremely sensitive to light so you have to be careful about which light you put into their tank – I’d personally recommend infrared light as this will allow you to see the gecko at night (when it’s most active) without causing your gecko any distress.

Try to give your leopard gecko about 14 hours of daylight in summer and 12 hours of daylight in winter because this will mimic the lighting conditions in its natural habitat. Although, when you begin giving your leopard gecko less light, you should do so gradually over a number of weeks so that it can adjust accordingly.

How to Care for a Leopard Gecko

Top Tip: It’s not easy to regulate the amount of light your gecko is exposed to because you’ll have your own life to live as well (sleeping, eating, socialising, working) so putting the lights on a timer can make a huge different to the happiness of your gecko because the amount of light will automatically change even if you’re not around.

Part of knowing how to care for a leopard gecko is recognising that you need to be specific with the levels of heat and light they’re exposed to at all times.

With regards to the amount of heat you should expose your gecko too, it’s recommended that your warm side is about 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the cool side is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, at night, you should be looking to reduce the temperature to about 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit so your gecko doesn’t get too hot. It’s advisable to purchase heaters that you can put underneath the tank as this will help you adjust the settings accordingly, which you can then easily maintain using a thermometer or thermostat.

Remember, a lightbulb will also give off heat and if your gecko is too hot it can become both ill and unhappy as it may have problems shedding its skin, so you have to choose your bulb very carefully.

Understanding the necessity for a consistent level of humidity is also a key part of understanding how to care for a leopard gecko. The lizards require humidity levels of between 20-40% in their tank in order to shed their skin properly (you can easily monitor this with a hygrometer) and this can be maintained by misting or by creating more space for warm air to circulate from the tank.

Shedding

Like other reptiles, leopard geckos will shed their skin as they grow (babies will shed more often) and the process is normally easy and natural. Many geckos will eat their skin during the shedding process but sometimes it can get stuck between their toes – being able to solve this is a key part of understanding how to care for a leopard gecko. Basically, if this happens simply wash a cue tip and gently help them to remove it. Shedding is an important part of the gecko lifecycle and they require the humidity levels (mentioned above) in order to do this successfully. If you’d like to either watch or record your gecko shedding their skin, you can recognize when it’s about to happen because they’ll turn pale and fade in colour just before the shedding process begins.

Temperament

When people are learning how to care for a leopard gecko, they often consider factors such as their food and housing, but understanding their temperament is equally important.

It’s advisable that you don’t house two males together because they can fight, so if you want to have more than one gecko in a tank it’s advisable that they’re female or you only have one male. Most geckos like to live alone but will co-exist, however, you can try to manufacture a bond between your geckos by raising them together from when they’re babies.

On their own, leopard geckos make great pets because they will learn to trust you and let you handle them which can help to create a strong bond with them. Now that you have the information you need and understand how to care for a leopard gecko you’ll be able to enjoy watching your gecko grow and develop throughout its long and happy life.