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Leopard Gecko

Leopard Gecko Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

Table of Contents

Overview

Eublepharis macularius

Small, friendly and generally easy to handle, leopard geckos are popular pets for first-time reptile pet parents. They are found in nature in Asia and the Middle East. Captive-bred, leopard geckos are available in a variety of colors, patterns and sizes. They are insectivores (insect eaters) and enjoy hunting for live insect prey.

Typical leopard gecko appearance & behavior

  •  They get their name from the leopard-like spots that cover the backs of adult leopard geckos
  •  Many geckos lack eyelids but not leopard geckos! They can even blink and close their eyes while sleeping
  •  Leopard geckos have a tail that can detach if grabbed by a predator, giving them time to escape
  •  Nearly all geckos have a voice. Leopard geckos have a small “bark” they use if agitated but are not as vocal as other gecko species
  •  Leopard gecko tails are used to store fat; they can use this reserve in times of famine when food sources are sparse
  •  When hunting, mating and defending territory, leopard geckos shake their tails
  •  Leopard geckos have claws on their toes instead of sticky pads like other types of geckos. They are rarely found off the ground
  •  They are nocturnal (active during the night) and hide under rocks or burrow into their substrate during the day
  •  Leopard geckos will eat their shedded skin

Characteristics

Care Difficulty Beginner
Average Life Span Up to 10-20 years with proper care
Average Adult Size 6-9 inches long
Diet Insectivore
Minimum Aquarium Size 10-gallon tank for juvenile; 20-gallon tank for adult

Habitat

Habitat size

A minimum of a 10-gallon tank is recommended for juveniles and a minimum of a 20-gallon tank is recommended for one adult leopard gecko. Upgrade habitat size as your reptile grows. All habitats should have a secure screened lid to help prevent escape, provide adequate ventilation and protect them from overly curious predatory pets such as dogs and cats.

Building your habitat

Ensure your appropriately sized habitat has a secure cover.

  • Décor – Provide multiple hiding areas with nontoxic live or artificial plants, branches and logs for climbing on, and cork bark for hiding under. Hide boxes should contain moist sphagnum moss or vermiculite to provide humidity essential for proper shedding
  • Substrate – Provide commercially available substrate or reptile carpet. Gravel, wood chips and walnut shells are not recommended. If using a particulate matter bedding such as sand, feed your reptile in a dish or feeding tank to reduce the ingestion of substrate, which can cause potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal tract obstructions
  • Lighting – In nature, leopard geckos are nocturnal, but studies have shown that pet leopard geckos do better when provided with ultraviolet (UV)B light to help them synthesize vitamin D in their skin and absorb dietary calcium for strong bones. UV light should be provided for 10 to 12 hours a day, and UV bulbs should be replaced every six months, as their potency wanes. An incandescent bulb, ceramic bulb or under-tank heater can be used to provide heat. Hot rocks should not be used, as they can get too hot and burn reptiles sitting on them
  • Temperature – Like other reptiles, leopard geckos are ectotherms who rely on their environmental temperature to regulate their body temperature. Therefore, a temperature gradient (85-90°F for the warm end/basking area and 75-80°F for the cool end) should be provided and monitored using thermometers
  • Humidity - Proper humidity is essential for leopard geckos, as they frequently retain shed skin around their eyes (preventing them from seeing their prey and eating) and their toes (constricting blood circulation) when habitat humidity is too low. A shallow water dish large enough for a leopard gecko to soak in should be offered. In addition, at least one humid hide (also called a shed box) should be provided to help with shedding. These can be purchased or made by cutting a door into a plastic storage container. Humid hides should be filled with moist sphagnum moss and be placed in the warmer end of the habitat to encourage evaporation. Moss must be checked frequently to ensure it stays moist and doesn’t become moldy. While humidity levels in the humid hide should be high to promote normal shedding, overall habitat humidity outside the hide should remain below 50% and be monitored with a humidity gauge, or geckos may develop respiratory tract and skin infections

Cleaning your habitat

Thoroughly clean and disinfect water and food bowls daily. The habitat should be spot-cleaned daily to remove droppings and discarded food. Thoroughly clean the habitat at least once a week:

  • Place leopard gecko in a secure habitat
  • Scrub the tank and furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution
  • Rinse the tank and all furnishings thoroughly with water, removing all traces of habitat cleaner or bleach smell
  • When the tank and furnishings are completely dry, add clean substrate
  • Put furnishings and the leopard gecko back in the habitat

Feeding

What to feed

A well-balanced leopard gecko diet consists of:

  •  Insects, including crickets, roaches, mealworms, superworms, hornworms, calciworms and waxworms. Use gut-loaded (recently fed) crickets no larger than the space between the gecko's eyes. Living insects are more nutritious for geckos than freeze-dried ones, plus geckos enjoy hunting and catching living prey.

 

Things to remember when feeding your leopard gecko:

  •  Fresh, clean water should be available at all times
  •  Feed juvenile leopard geckos daily. Adults may be fed every other day
  •  Sprinkle food every other day with a small pinch of powdered calcium supplement with vitamin D3, alternating with powdered calcium supplement without vitamin D3, plus a small pinch of multivitamin supplement once a week
  •  Offer insects to geckos just one or two at a time, and be sure insects are eaten as you add them. Never leave uneaten insects in the habitat with the leopard gecko as they may chew on the gecko’s skin if they are left uneaten

 

Care

  • Juvenile geckos can be easily stressed when handled a lot. While handling helps acclimate a gecko to their pet parent, leopard geckos should not be handled often until they settle into their habitats and are at least 6 inches long
  • Never grab them by their tails. Leopard geckos can release their tails if they are grabbed by predators or if their tails are held too aggressively. Although their tail may regrow, it will not resemble their former tail
  • Leopard geckos regularly shed their skin. To aid proper shedding, ensure the humidity of their habitat is at the appropriate level and that humid hides and soaking dishes are available

Where to buy

Leopard geckos are available for purchase at your local Petco location. Please call ahead to check availability.

Habitat mates

Do not house male leopard geckos together or with males of another reptile species, as they will likely fight. Female leopard geckos may be housed together. A single male leopard gecko may be housed with one to three female geckos if you’re prepared for them to breed.

Health

Signs of a healthy leopard gecko

  • Active and alert
  • Clear, bright eyes without swelling or discharge
  • Full, muscular tail
  • Does not hide for extensive periods
  • Supple skin without sores, swellings or discoloration
  • Droppings are firm, not runny or bloody
  • Eats and passes stool regularly
  • Clear nose and vent

Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.)

  • Weight loss or decreased appetite
  • Discharge or bubbles from eyes, mouth or nose
  • Lesions, swelling or discoloration of skin
  • Retained shed on toes, eyelids or limbs
  • Lethargy
  • Labored breathing
  • Paralysis or weakness of limbs
  • Runny or bloody stool or lack of stool

Common leopard gecko health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health Issue Gastro-intestinal disease Symptoms or Causes Runny stools, caked or smeared stool around the vent area, weight loss and loss of appetite; may be caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infection or nutritional imbalance. Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian.
Health Issue Metabolic bone disease/vitamin deficiency Symptoms or Causes Inability to absorb calcium due to insufficient UVB light or inappropriate diet or supplementation. If untreated, can lead to skeletal deformities, soft or fractured bones, decreased appetite, weight loss, seizures and death. Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian and provide ample UVB lighting and proper calcium/vitamin supplements.
Health Issue Respiratory disease Symptoms or Causes Labored breathing, discharge or bubbling from eyes, nose or mouth, decreased appetite and lethargy. May be caused by inappropriate temperature, humidity or lighting in habitat, predisposing to infection. Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian and ensure habitat has the proper temperature, humidity and lighting.
Health Issue Eye problems Symptoms or Causes Retained shed or pieces of substrate stuck on eyes can cause eye irritation and discharge, plus decreased appetite from inability to see insect prey. Caused by too low humidity in habitat and dusty particulate matter bedding. Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian and ensure proper habitat humidity.

FAQs

  •  Is a gecko a lizard? Yes, there are more than 1,000 lizard species, and geckos are one of six families of the suborder Gekkota.
  •  How long do leopard geckos live? Leopard geckos can live up to 10 to 20+ years with proper care.
  •  What do leopard geckos eat? Leopard geckos eat crickets, roaches, mealworms, waxworms, hornworms, calciworms and superworms dusted with calcium and vitamin supplements.
  •  How big do leopard geckos get? Leopard geckos can grow 6 to 9 inches long.
  •  How often do leopard geckos shed? Most leopard geckos shed every four to eight weeks.
  •  Where are leopard geckos from? Leopard geckos are native to Asia and the Middle East.
  •  How often do leopard geckos eat? Juvenile leopard geckos eat every day, while adults eat every other day.
  •  Can leopard geckos eat fruit? Leopard geckos are insectivores and do not eat fruit or vegetables.
  •  Can leopard geckos swim? Leopard geckos cannot swim.

Additional care sheets

Notes & sources

Ask a Pet Care Center employee about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases such as salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider having a pet other than a reptile.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about geckos and disease.

The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.