Introduction: Leopard Gecko Care
Leopard geckos are becoming more and more popular pets for people of all ages. They are pretty simple to care for and can have great personalities. In this instructable I am going to try and give a complete oversight of what you will need to properly care for your gecko.
This is information that has worked for me, it may not work for you and I can not be held responsible for anything that results from the information provided.
Step 1: Commitments
Leopard Geckos can live up to and over 20 years in captivity so purchasing one is a big commitment. Also while they can be purchased for as low as twenty dollars, to properly keep one, the housing at minimum will cost 150 dollars and about 20 each month in food and supplimentation. If you think your ready, lets get started on it housing.
Step 2: Tank Size
For a single gecko, a 10 gallon is sufficient for a juvinile but as they grow, you will probably want to upgrade to a 20 gallon long. If you want multiple geckos in a single tank, a 20 long is mandatory. The only way multiple geckos can live together is if they are both females, similair sized, and are not aggressive. If you notice the are fighting, separate them immeaditely.
Step 3: Heating Your Tank
Since Leopard Geckos are native to hot dry areas, the require additional heat. There are two main kinds of heat used when housing leopard geckos. Belly heat, and back heat. Belly heat is the best choice. Leopard geckos require heat to digest there food and belly heat is the most direct way to provide them this. Back heat is most commonly used by breeders in rack setups and can be effective but is not recommended. The three most used heaters are under tank heaters, heat cables, and heat tape. My personal favorite is under tank heaters due to the fact that they are easy to install. Heat cable will work but is most useful when heating multiple tanks. Heat tape requires some electronic skill and can easily cause fires if not properly installed so is not recommended for beginners. Many pet stores may try and talk you into using lights as heat sources. These are dangerous to these lizards as they do not bask and these lamps can reach 105 degrees. When installing heating equipment, follow factory instructions so not to cause fire. Always elevate tanks so they do not squeeze the heaters againsts the surface. The pictures included are ZooMed products and I strongly suggest there equipment as its reasonably priced and effective.
Step 4: Regulating Heat
Leopard geckos can get "belly burns" which are similar to sunburns but can be dangerous if not treated. If you notice your gecko's stomach is bright red, take it to a vet as soon as possible and unplug their heat source. To prevent this, a heat regulator is needed. Zoomed make two products that do a great job of this. A rheostat basically cuts electricity to the heater which in result causes the pad to produce less heat. A thermostat works the same except they automatically adjust themselves according to the temperature of the tank. A rheostat is manually adjusted. I suggest the thermostat because of its ease of use and if your are away from the tank for a while and the temperature spikes, your gecko will not be burned.
Step 5: Thermometer
To monitor temperature a thermometer is a necessity. A digital thermometer with a probe is the easiest and most accurate. You will want to measure the floor temperature rather than the air temperature. Zoomeds works great and retails for about 10 dollars. To take a reading, place the probe firmly on the ground, and leave it for several hours.
Step 6: Temperatures
Leopard geckos need to have two sides to their tanks. A warm side which should be between 90 and 94 degrees fahrenheit The other side, you will want be in the mid to low seventies. To accomplish this, you will want to place your heat source to one side. You heater should cover 1/3 of you tank.
Step 7: Substrates
Substrate is simply the flooring or bedding of the enclosure. You have several choices in this matter. Substrate choice may not sound important but improper substrate can injure or even kill you gecko. The best choices are floor tile and paper towel. Tile has virtually no dangers but needs to be cut to size before being used in an enclosure. Tile can be cleaned by simply wiping it with a wet paper towel. Paper towel is personally my favorite due to being able to clean it by throwing it away and replacing it. The only risks with this are it catching on fire due to high temperatures if you heater malfunctions and you gecko climbing under it and burning itself on the hot glass. Whatever you due due not use any type of sand, or other substrate that can be eaten. While stores may tell you to use calcium sand because it is digestable, do not listen to them. Geckos will eat this looking for calcium, or when eating and become impacted over time. Basically impaction is when a substance builds up in an animals stomach and will eventually kill them.
Step 8: Feeders and Feeder Care
Leopard geckos eat purely insects. The two most popular choices are crickets and mealworms. Both are provide about the same nutrients but personally my favorite is mealworms. Mealworms are cheaper, cleaner, quieter, and easier to deal with. I order them by the thousand at grubco.com. To keep them, store no more than two thousand in a rubber maid container. I grind up oats in the blender and pour them in as food and bedding. Drill holes in the lid and store in the fridge. Every week or two pull them out and give them a few carrots. Leave them out and let them out for a few days to eat, remove the carrots, and return to the fridge.
Step 9: Feeding
Everyones feeding schedule will be different. The basics are a juvinile should eat every day and older geckos will can eat every other day. Them amount will vary. I suggest starting with 4 and working your way up until they stop eating all of them then continue to give them this amount. There are a couple ways that are popular for feeding. Personally I just drop them into a food dish but others either remove their gecko and place them into a feeding container, then drop the mealworms in and wait. Others just drop them into the tank. You can purchase food dishes or use a petri dish. I had a problem with mealworms escaping their dish so I made my own. I took a plastic cup and cut the top part off. Then melted the top with a lighter to stop it from cutting the gecko.
Step 10: Humid Hide and Shedding
The humid hide is very important to your geckos health. It will greatly assist with shedding. Every month or so you gecko will shed. You will notice there skin turning pale. When they shed, they eat there skin off themselves. This is an excellent source of protein. To properly shed, they need to provide them with a humid environment. A simple hide can be made from cutting a hole in the side of a tupperware container and putting moist paper towels or eco earth in it. Again make sure the edge of the hole is not sharp. Mist the paper towel or eco earth every day.
Step 11: Other Hides
Leopard geckos need a minimum of 3 hides. One humid, one on the warm side, and one on the cool side. Hides can be anything from reptile hides to cardboard hot glued together. For my warm hides I use a 2 in 1 water bowl and hide. I actually use a separate dish for water because I thought it was too deep for my gecko. My cool hide it a half coconut with a hole in the side.
Step 12: Supplimentation
Like humans geckos need their calcium and vitamins. There are many choices on the market. I use Flukers brand vitamins and Calcium without D3. D3 is a vitamin normally obtained from the sun. Since your gecko's enclosure should not be by a window or in the sun, you will need to give them this. But a D3 overdose can kill your gecko so be careful. Flunkers vitamins include a safe dosage so you do not need calcium with D3. Follow directions on the container. This is typically dust your feeders twice a week with calcium and vitamins. I also suggest leaving a gatorade cap full of calcium by the food dish at all times.
Step 13: Thanks and Credit
I would like to give a special thanks to LZRDGRL and DogShrink for allowing me to use their pictures. Also the product images belong to Flukers and ZooMed.