The time has come, friends. My 9-year-old is asking for a pet that can be his and his alone. Not just any pet though, a gecko. I should have seen this coming as he has been so responsible with his beta fish, feeds and cleans up after the dogs, and always does his chores. My mama heart knew I couldn’t say no to his request, so after much research, we ventured into gecko pet care. My son is now the proud parent of a gecko and to save you time researching, I am here to explain everything you need to know about caring for a leopard gecko.
Their feeding is affordable and low-maintenance
Leopard geckos primarily eat live crickets and mealworms. It is very easy to find these at any major pet store, and they are cheap (about $3 for a dozen crickets, or 50 mealworms). You should sprinkle calcium powder on the insects before feeding them. This is so the gecko gets the calcium it would normally get from licking mineral deposits in the wild. Fun fact- They store fat reserves from their food in their tail, and a healthy adult gecko will have a fat tail!
My son chose a leopard gecko so it’s important to know baby leopard geckos should be fed about 5 small crickets a day. Interestingly, adult geckos only have to be fed once or twice a week! Give them about 6 large crickets or mealworms each feeding if feeding twice a week, or a dozen if feeding once a week.
They live a long time
A leopard gecko is a long-term commitment – know that they will be your pet for up to 20 years. Caring for a leopard gecko is easy but not something you should rush into unless you are committed.
They are nocturnal desert animals
Leopard geckos must always have a heat source to keep them warm and dry. Heat lamps are a popular, affordable, and easy option. Ideally, one side of the cage will be hot with a heat light above it, and the other side will be a little cooler without a light above it. The cool side should be around 80° F and the hot side around 90° F. (Basic thermostats are sold at the pet store). You should have a “daytime” white light and a “nighttime” purple light that you switch between morning and night. This is so the geckos maintain a regular night-and-day schedule like it would have in the wild. Because they are nocturnal, they do not need UV lights as many other reptiles do. Although they are desert creatures, be wary of using sand substrate because it can cause impaction problems. Reptile carpet is a great alternative to sand because it is safe and easy to clean.
Don’t forget water
Have a water bowl in their cage in case they get thirsty. They also need some moisture when they shed. You can tell the gecko is about to shed when its skin turns a paler, cloudy color. Putting some damp moss or damp paper towels inside a dark hide-rock will help your gecko shed easier and make sure it loses all the skin it needs to.
Don’t stress clean-up
Clean-up is really easy! They go to the bathroom dry (no liquid) and always in the same spot in their cage. They also eat their skin when they shed, so there is no skin clean-up needed. Caring for a leopard gecko has never been easier!
How much you can handle a leopard gecko will depend on your gecko. Some are more tolerant and friendlier than others. If you handle them when they are young, they might be more docile and friendly. But never grab or hold them by their tail! Grabbing their tail can initiate a stress response in the gecko, and they could detach their tail from their body. (It will grow back in time). It’s advised to only handle them every other day for about 15 minutes so they aren’t too stressed or scared.
They are solitary
Leopard geckos can be solitary. If you want your gecko to have a friend, females will usually be peaceful with each other. Do not put males together; males will fight and injure each other for the “territory” in the cage
Are you as surprised as I am? I feel like I had this image of a yucky lizard in my home but instead, I am pleasantly surprised. The leopard gecko is so easy to care for and so clean too! Let me know if caring for a leopard gecko is something you are planning to do!
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