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This Frequently Asked Questions page is dedicated to Leopard Geckos.  It is for the beginning to advanced user.  The page is a culmination of my own experiences and those of others that have experience breeding and caring for leopard geckos.  It is not meant to be all-inclusive, nor to be the one and only answer.  There is much leeway in the care of these animals, so if you do something else and it works, good, that's what makes these little guys so great.  If you have any questions or comments, let me know.  If you add any information, I'll list you at the bottom as a contributor.  Thanks.

Care

I'm getting a leopard gecko, where can I find information on them?

What size enclosure do I need for my gecko(s)?

Do I need a screen for my aquarium?

Do leopard geckos need UV lighting?

What temperature should my cage be at?

Are hotrocks okay? Even if I cover them in a sock, etc?

What's a hide/shed/egg-laying box?

My leopard gecko doesn't shed completely.

Is it okay to feed my gecko (insert food here)?

Do my geckos need vitamins/minerals?

My leopard gecko will not eat.

What's the difference between X phase and X phase leopard gecko?

Where can I get a good price on X phase leopard gecko?

 

Breeding

How hard is it to breed leopard geckos?

I want to be a professional breeder....

What sex is my leopard gecko?

How long between each laying?

How can I tell if the eggs are fertile?

How long until my eggs hatch?

What kind of incubator should I use?

How do I set up an Incubator?

Can I keep my male and female together, or do I need to separate them?

What will I get if I breed X phase to X phase leopard geckos?

 


 

CARE ANSWERS

 

Q: I'm getting a leopard gecko, where can I find information on them?

A: By far the best text reference I know of is The Leopard Gecko Manual, published by Advanced Vivarium Systems, Inc.  The book is available from a number of sources, including AVS Books, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble.com.  It's very reasonably priced, and can answer most of the questions anyone would have on the subjects.  It's written by some of the most knowledgeable experts in the field today, and is a must-have for any leopard gecko owner.

There are a number of sites on the Internet for information, as well.  I frequent the Leopard Gecko Forum on Kingsnake.com, as well as the message board at Serpenco.

 

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Q: What size enclosure do I need for my gecko(s)?

A: There are many schools of thought on this subject, and many of them are just opinions.  Surely most people will agree, though, that horizontal space is much more important than vertical space.  Therefore, a 20 gallon long aquarium will be more beneficial than a 20 gallon high.  A 10 gallon aquarium would be sufficient for a pair of geckos their entire lives, barring any fighting that would cause them to be separated.  In the past, I kept four leopard geckos in a 20 gallon long terrarium, which seemed to be fine for their well being.  They produced over 20 healthy offspring while mating in this size enclosure.  Personally, I wouldn't suggest putting any more in there, though.

 

Many people utilize plastic Rubbermaid and Sterilite shoe and sweater boxes for enclosures.  These containers are inexpensive and easy to store, especially when you have a large number of animals.  They are often put into rack systems, with built in heating.  I've found a 15qt Sterilite to be sufficient for one adult leopard gecko, and the larger 35qt or so suitable for 3-4 leos.  

 

An important thing to remember when setting up your enclosure, is that you should ideally have one hide for each animal, and provide hides on each side of the enclosure, the warm and cool.  

 

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Q: Do I need a screen for my aquarium?

A: I'm speaking from experience when I tell you that you should always have a screen or other securable lid on your gecko's enclosure.  Especially when you have another animal (like a cat/dog), children, or feed your geckos crickets.  Not only that, but you want to keep insects out, like spiders.  I've had a gecko mauled by my cat, and had crickets escape when I left the lid off of the enclosure.  There's always the possibility that the gecko could escape, too.  I've seen countless posts on rec.pets.herp asking for tips on finding their herps, leos included.

 

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Q: Do leopard geckos need UV lighting?

A: It is my contention that leopard geckos do not NEED Ultraviolet lighting to survive and thrive in captivity.  They have been bred in captivity with no special lighting for years with no ill effects.  There haven't been enough studies to say for sure that they wouldn't benefit from it, though. 

 

Leopard geckos are nocturnal animals which means for the most part, they sleep during the day, when the sun is out.  I'm not sure how they synthesize Vitamin D3in the wild, but in captivity, they should be supplemented with a good herp vitamin with Vitamin D3, like Miner-All I for Indoor herps.  They will be fine regulating their circadian rhythm (sleep cycle) by the regular sunlight that filters through the window.  This, and the seasonal change in temperatures will also let them know when the seasons are changing.  Although, I've heard of breeders manipulating lighting and heating to induce off-season breeding in leopard geckos.

 

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Q: What temperature should my cage be at?

A: It's important to provide the enclosure with a Thermal Gradient, which is a warmer end and a cooler (not-so-warmer) end of the cage.  The purpose of this is to allow the animal to Thermoregulate (control its body temperature).  Normal cage temperatures for leopard geckos (unless you're cycling them for breeding) range from 80-88F in the daytime at the warm end to 75F or so at the cool end.  The easiest way to heat your enclosure is to put a heating pad under one end of the cage, and set it to the desired upper temperature, which will naturally allow the side not on the heating pad to be cooler.  It may be necessary to provide another heat source to attain the upper end of the temp range, depending on your enclosure size and configuration, by using an overhead light, or ceramic heat emitter.

 

I find that the natural cooling of the house at night, with no adjustment to heating pad is sufficient for a nighttime drop that they would experience in nature.  I use human heating pads, available at any drug store, for reasonable prices.

 

It's extremely important that you check the temperatures of your enclosure with a reliable thermometer.  I found a digital one at Radio Shack that even remembers the highest and lowest temperatures.  It's not safe to measure the temperature for your geckos with your hand, as your body is already at 98.6F, if it's warm to you, it may be hot to the geckos.

 

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Q: Are hotrocks okay? Even if I cover them in a sock, etc?

A: Hotrocks are not okay.  They have terribly burnt reptiles in the past and should never be used.  I've heard arguments that they've improved over the years, and they're safe to use, but why risk it?  Some people cover them in substrate or socks, etc., but my geckos, and many other herps, dig, which would put them in direct contact with the device.  I read somewhere that they are incapable of registering when they are too hot on their bellies, which results in them staying on the hot surface too long, and burning themselves, sometimes fatally.  I was in a pet store a few months ago, and read the back of one of these hot rocks, by a prominent manufacturer, and it listed the temp range as 85-105.  If you read above on leopard gecko temperatures, you'll remember that the upper range for them is up around 88 or so.

 

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Q: What's a hide/shed/egg-laying box?

A: Hide/shed/egg laying boxes come in a couple different flavors.  You can provide a simple hide box, which could be anything from an ornate rock cave designed for reptiles, to an overturned flower pot with a chip taken out for a door.  The purpose of a hide is to provide the gecko(s) a place to, well, hide.  They will sleep in there, or just get out of view of your or other geckos.  The other type is a shed box, which usually doubles as an egg-laying box.  This is a hide with some sort of substrate in it that is dampened often to keep humidity up.  It is absolutely necessary to provide this to your geckos so that they don't have any troubles shedding.  The only alternative is to spray down one corner of your enclosure to build up humidity.  These type of shed boxes are great for gravid leopard geckos to lay their eggs in, as well.  These boxes are usually on the warm end and/or in the middle of the thermal gradient, as they may not build up enough humidity on the cooler end of your tank.

 

I've found sphagnum peat moss or Bed-A-Beast to be an acceptable substrate for the hide boxes.  I've read of people using vermiculite or perlite, but I find these to be too chunky and stick to the geckos too much.  If it doesn't hurt the gecko, though, it's a matter of personal preference.

 

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Q: My leopard gecko doesn't shed completely.

A: Leopard geckos shed often.  I've seen a gecko shed within two weeks of its previous shed.  They eat their skin, so don't be alarmed if you see your new pet eating its skin.  Another perplexing issue is when an unsuspecting owner keeps looking for the shed skin like a snake leaves, or when the gecko is really dull when you go to bed and really vivid colored when you wake up.

 

It's important that your gecko completely shed their skin.  This should be accomplished within an hour from the time it starts.  If not, reevaluate your humidity in the shed boxes and/or enclosure.  Don't go overboard and spray your entire enclosure, though, it could cause infections or other maladies.  If you find that your geckos are retaining skin, often around the fingers, here are the steps you should take.

 

1.  get a Tupperware-type (cool whip is fine) container with a few holes poked in the lid for air, and place a folded paper towel in the bottom.  

2.  wet the paper towel with warm water up to a level so that the gecko's hands will be immersed when standing in it.

3.  place the gecko in the container with the lid on it, on top of your heating pad, or in the warm end of your cage for 10-15 minutes.  Monitor the gecko to make sure it doesn't get out or injure itself.

4.  take the gecko out and using a wet Q-tip, gently swab the old skin away from the body towards the fingertips, in a way that will make the old skin 'roll' off of the hands/fingers, much like a doctor takes off his glove.

 

This process may take a few times of placing the gecko in the 'humidity chamber', but it always works, and has never injured one of my geckos.  I would shy away from using tweezers or any kind of ointment, etc, for fear of poking them or causing a reaction to any chemicals.  Sometimes a finger is too far constricted and will fall off, no matter what you do.  I have had to leave these on some geckos.  That's a call you or your herp vet have to make.  

 

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Q: Is it okay to feed my gecko (insert food here)?

A: Leopard geckos can be fed a staple diet of crickets and/or mealworms, and many other insects to supplement them.  There is rumor that mealworms can't be fed as a staple, or that they can hurt your geckos, but they are unfounded.  I've not received any scientific information on the nutrition of all insects, but many people feed super worms, roaches, grasshoppers, hissing cockroaches and wax worms in addition to the above.  People say that wax worms are too fatty to be beneficial to leos, but once again, I have yet to read a comprehensive analysis.  It is important to note, that if you are collecting insects from outside, ensure that there are no insecticides or other chemicals used in the are that may harm your other animal.

 

Pinkie (newborn) mice are often fed to leos who are breeding or leos who have lost a lot of weight in order to fatten them up.  I've found that some geckos will readily chow them down, and others will ignore them.

 

Crickets generally have a lifespan of 8 weeks.  I found the ideal size of cricket to order from suppliers is the 4 week old, or 1/2 inch size.  They almost always send them a little small, and include enough smaller ones to feed to my hatchlings.  They also last for the whole month.  Hatchlings DO NOT need pinhead crickets, as someone was once told by their friendly neighborhood pet store employee.

 

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Q: Do my geckos need vitamins/minerals?

A: It is important to provide your geckos with vitamin and mineral supplementation along with their meals.  This is accomplished by dusting their insects with herp vitamins which include D3 and calcium.  Just put the powder and insects in a plastic baggie and shake.  It's fun!  I use Miner-All I (for Indoor herps), which provides D3.  Other products include Rep-Cal and Herptivite.  I remember a prominent breeder talking about how it is important to provide the Vit/D3 separately from the Calcium supplements, because the two cancel each other out.  I believe she said that she just fed them each on separate days. 

 

I supplement my hatchings and breeding females at every feeding and my other adults every other feeding.  There is some information on the net about over supplementation.  You should research this.

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Q: My leopard gecko will not eat.

A: There are a number of reasons for leopard geckos not eating.  I will go on to say that if your gecko doesn't eat for a day or two, don't worry, but if they go a COUPLE WEEKS, worry, worry a lot.  See if any of the below apply to your situation:

 

1.  hatchlings - hatchlings usually don't eat for 5 days or so until after their first shed.  They will then start feeding on 1/4 inch crickets, and will try to attack anything that moves, including their clutch mates tails and your fingers.

2.  newly acquired/moved geckos - it can take up to 3-4 days for a new gecko to get acclimated to its new surroundings after you bring it home.  Often, they'll start eating right away after being shipped in the mail (after a 24+ hour trip), but they may have just eaten in your pet store before you got there, so may not be hungry right away.

3.  gravid females - in my experience, females who are about to lay eggs will stop eating for up to 36 hours before laying their eggs.  This is often accompanied by digging up the substrate and hide boxes like crazy looking for a good place to lay the eggs.

4.  improper heating - if the temperature is too low (or too high?), the gecko may not eat.  when they are cooled for breeding, they don't eat near as much as when they are at normal operating temperature :).  Think of it as a sort of hibernation.

5.  parasites - while most of the leopard geckos sold in the United States are captive hatched, it is still possible to obtain one that is infested with parasites. This could b e accompanied with runny stools, being lethargic, and regurgitation.  If you have any combination of these, or have any doubts as to your gecko's health, a stool sample can be done by most vets and should cost less than $20.

6.  Impaction - leopard geckos often ingest some of their substrate either while eating their insects, 'tasting' their way around their enclosure, or trying to get more calcium/minerals from their substrate.  Unfortunately, by doing this, they can ingest something that won't pass through their system and get 'plugged up'.  This leads to the gecko not being able to pass any waste, and eventually death.  This is why I wholeheartedly recommend utilizing paper towels or newspaper as substrate until the geckos are over 35 grams in weight.  (I use it for some of my adults, too)

7.  Wrong Roommate - this may surprise some, but another consequence of having two males in the same enclosure, besides fighting, is that one or both of them may fast themselves.  I personally saw a leopard gecko that starved to death even after it was removed from the enclosure that housed the other male.

 

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Q: What's the difference between X phase and X phase leopard gecko?

A: The Leopard Gecko Manual is a very good source of information on the different types of leopard gecko morphs and color patterns.  I will point out some of my pet peeves in 'I've got this GeeWhizPurpleMalachite phase Leopard Gecko' craze we have sometimes.

 

1.  For a leopard gecko to be Jungle Phase, it MUST have an unringed tail, according to Ron Tremper in The Leopard Gecko Manual. I believe he created the first Jungle Phase Leopard Geckos, too.

2.  Tangerine, High Yellow, Hypomelanistic and Snow are products of selective breeding, and are therefore usually more expensive than others that are a product of a simple recessive gene, such as patternless.

3.  Some people are selling 'Tangerine' leos based on what their parents look like.  Insist on seeing a picture of the gecko you are buying and if possible the parents.  It doesn't always breed true.

4.  Some breeders will advertise a Lavender gecko that is simply in the midst of its color change where the dark bands break up into spots.  When this happens, there's a little bit of purple that comes out, but it is normal.

5.  The Albino Debate - It has been all but proven that the two strains of leopard gecko albinos that have surfaced in the last couple years are different.  Tim Rainwater bred the two together and came up with normal offspring that have to be het for each type of albino.  There has been much debate as to which animals are better, or prettier, or which ones brown with age, etc.  I've seen both albinos in person and they're both awesome.  There are better pictures on the net all the time from both dealers and they're amazing.  I will buy some in the future, and it won' t be based on 'Brand Name', it will be based on which individual gecko I like the best, period.

 

Here are links to the albino breeders' sites:

Ron Tremper

Tim Rainwater

 

Here are a couple links to pages with pictures of leopard gecko pattern and color morphs:

Boulder Reptiles Leo Phases Page

White Sands Reptiles Leo Phases Page

Golden Gecko

 

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Q: Where can I get a good price on X phase leopard gecko?

A: Where to get the best price on whatever animal.  I've seen this a lot on the Leopard Gecko Forum on Kingsnake.com.  The best bet is to look around. There are a number of dealer/breeders online, with links to their sites all over the place.  There are also classifieds posted on Kingsnake and other sites, such as Rich Zuchowski's HerpWantAds.  I'll be building another herp links page here on Herpcam, as well.  Something to consider, too, is that some breeders are offended by people contacting them and asking them for a discount on whatever animal they're producing.  They work hard to stay ahead of the competition, and some of them don't have other jobs, so it's kind of an insult when someone asks for charity.

 

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BREEDING ANSWERS

 

Q: How hard is it to breed leopard geckos?

A: Leopard geckos are extremely easy to breed.    They are probably one if the easiest, if not THE easiest to breed.  There are so many bred in captivity, that there needs be no more brought in from the wild anymore.  Some people do to breed in 'New' blood to their breeding stock.  It's probably unnecessary, but the albino leopard geckos originated from wild caught animals, so maybe there's a good side... 

 

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Q: I want to be a professional breeder....

A: So you want to be a professional breeder.  I'll tell you it's probably not as easy as you think it is.  Most breeders don't do this as their only source of income.  Sure, there are the lucky few, but chances are we aren't them.  Most people don't have the time, money, or space required to do this for a living.  

 

If you are new to Leos, I suggest you start out with one or two, learn to care for them and enjoy them, and then if you are ready to make a commitment to them, maybe try breeding.  I think that everyone who allows their animals to breed accepts the responsibility for them and their offspring for the long haul.  They can live over 20 yrs.  If no one will buy your babies or your customers give them back, you should be able to provide for them.  It's a responsibility issue, in my opinion.  If you don't want to, or are not sure if you do, don't allow your geckos to breed.

 

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Q: What sex is my leopard gecko?

A: Leopard geckos can be sexed at about 3-4 months of age, if you're semi-familiar with what they look like.  The males possess a pair of bulges, or lumps (hemipenes) just in back of the vent at the base of the tail.  They also have a row of V-shaped preanal pores before the vent.  The females have no bulges and only a slightly visible row of scales that look like pores, but are actually just modified scales.  Once you see the bulges of a male, it is pretty easy to sex one that is of age.  Here's a pic of a male.  Notice his hemipenile bulges and that the preanal pores are not really noticeable, yet.  He's about 4 months old in this picture. 

 

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Q: How long between each laying?

A: It can be between 14-28 days (give or take) between egg laying.  Each leo is different.  It seemed to take my young females on their first breeding season a little longer than the older ones.  During their first season some just stop, too; they'll have a couple clutches and just stop.  The first clutch ever laid by a lot of leopard geckos often has only one egg, not the normal two.

 

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Q: How can I tell if the eggs are fertile?

A: Fertile eggs are soft and wet when they're laid, but firm up to about the toughness of a stale marshmallow within a little while.  Usually no more than a day.  After a few days or a week, hold the egg up to a penlight and shine the light through it.  If you see veins or a reddish glow, chances are that your egg is fertile.  The only way to know for sure, though, is to incubate it and see if it hatches.  

 

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Q: How long until my eggs hatch?

A: I incubate my eggs at a temperature of 82F, and they take an average of 52 days to hatch.  If you use a hotter temperature, they will generally take less time, and cooler temp take longer.

 

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Q: What kind of incubator should I use?

A: The type of incubator you use is really a matter of preference, time, ambition and money.  Leopard geckos have been hatched in just a Tupperware container full of vermiculite on the top shelf of a closet.   I have personally used a Sterilite container of vermiculite under a red bulb in a hooded clamp lamp. The drawback is that this provided a less constant temperature.

If you only breed a few geckos, I suggest purchasing a Hovabator or a Little Giant.  They are both poultry incubators, work basically the same way, and do a very good job at it.  You don't need the incubator with the air fan in it.  These can be ordered online or purchased at your local feed store and usually run from $35-$40.  

 

If you want to try building your own, I've assembled a few links in my Incubator Article.

 

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Q: How do I set up an Incubator?

A: Setup is pretty easy for the Hovabator or other similar poultry incubators.  Follow the following steps:

1.  Set the incubator to your desired temperature, BEFORE your pet lays her eggs.  If the temps in the house fluctuate a lot, the incubator will too, so you'll have to check every once a while.

2.  Put the eggs in a Tupperware container filled with an inch or so of either Vermiculite or Perlite (this is called the incubating medium).  Make the medium damp enough that it sticks to your hands when you squeeze it, but it doesn't drip any water out.  The eggs should be halfway in and halfway out.

3.  It's important that the you put the eggs in the medium exactly as you found them.  I mean, that you don't lay them upside down or anything.

4.  Put the top on the Tupperware with a couple holes in it.  Or, better yet, just put a piece of saran wrap over the top with a hole or 2 in it.  It will keep the humidity up.  You'll probably have to add a little water every few days or so.  Just add it down the side of the container, as you don't want to drip water directly onto the eggs.  You could also put water in the bottom reservoir of the incubator, or in a small cup inside.

When the eggs are a little too dry, they will start to dimple and dent in.
To counteract this, you should up the moisture in the incubator and in an
emergency, you can cut a little section of paper towel about 1-2inches
square, wet it and lay it directly on the egg that's dimpling.  This will
plump them back up. 

 

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Q: Can I keep my male and female together, or do I need to separate them?

A: Sometimes, the male leopard gecko will continue attempting to mate with the female even after she is gravid.  This is likely to happen in enclosures that have only one female for the male.  In this case, the female may reject his attempts and they could fight.  I've never had this problem, but if she's really rejecting him, and he doesn't leave her alone, you may have to separate them.  Otherwise, there's nothing wrong with leaving them together all the time. 

 

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Q: What will I get if I breed X phase to X phase leopard geckos?

A: Here's the general lowdown on breeding for different phases of leopard geckos.  Phases or color morphs that are NOT genetic, such as Tangerine, Snow, Hypoxanthic, Hyperxanthic, High Yellow and Lavender are all produced by selective breeding.  That is, they were created by breeding parents who also had those traits, but the offspring may or may not exhibit these traits.

 

Phases such as Patternless, Albino, Blizzard, and Jungle are recessive genetic traits and will be passed down from two parents who are carrying AND exhibiting this trait, (homozygous).  This is not the case when you breed one parent who has and exhibits the gene with one that carries but doesn't exhibit (heterozygous), or a normal leopard gecko.  The following are statistical outcomes of breeding pairs of Albino leopard geckos:

Albino to Albino = All Albino offspring (provided they are same strain of albinism)

Albino to Het Albino = 50% Albino / 50% Het for Albino

Albino to Normal = All Hets

Het to Het = 25% Albino / 50% Het / 25% Normal

 

This is very basic genetics, but hopefully it answered some of your questions about breeding different phases together.
 
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