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Leopard Geckos as Pets
Special thanks to Cameo Behr, gecko owner, who narrated a large portion of this article.
According to Reptiles Magazine, "The leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius) lizard has been captive bred in the United States for more than 30 years and is one of the most commonly kept lizards today." Sammi and Steph came to us after a stint with a beautiful ball python named Candace who got loose a time or two and decided to strike one day while being watered. When the time came for a more docile reptile pet, we made a quick trade - one ball pythons for two baby geckos. As with the ball python, we had no idea how to care for geckos so it was back to the start for us setting up their habitat.
How big? For baby geckos, a 10 gallon aquarium is sufficient. You start by lining the bottom with paper towels or newspapers. According to leopardgecko.com, you want to avoid sand or fine particles on the cage floor as the gecko may consume it and suffer intestinal impaction.
How warm? Creating a hot and cold side of the tank is satisfactory. Be sure to double the paper towels or newspapers on the hot side of the tank so the gecko doesn't get burnt. The best way to heat the tank is with a heat lamp and an under the tank pad. The temperature should be kept around 86 to 90 degree Fahrenheit at all times.
A screen over the top of your tank provides safety for your geckos. It does not need to have screen clips, but you can do so if you have other pets or curious children or your gecko becomes bigger and turns into an escape artist.
The gecko will need a shallow water container. This should be filled only about an inch or two so the geckos do not drown. Keep your water fresh everyday since it will dry out due to the heat lamp or heat pad. Additionally, you may wish to add vitamin drops to the water.
A friendly natural feeling habitat will be good for your geckos so you may need purchase some fake plants available at your local pet store so that your geckos have a place to go for cover as they would in the wild. Other hides (or shelters) consist of plastic or wood and come in various shapes such as logs or rocks.
For baby geckos, you can purchase a cheap plastic container and cut a hole in the side. A moist rag or paper towel should be put it inside the container where the geckos crawl. This aids in the shedding process. It is best to put this container on the cool side of the tank.
Here's a few tips: Keep your tank clean. Whenever crickets are used as food - they will excrete in your tank. You must replace the napkin or paper towel and discard any feces.. You should mist at least once or twice a day whenever you see that the tank is looking dry. This will help keep humidity, coolness and moisture for the geckos at proper levels. Also, at least once a week, give the tank a good thorough cleaning by removing the paper towels or newspaper and wiping down the sides and bottom with a wet cloth absent of any unsafe cleaning product.
Geckos feed on crickets, meal worms and wax worms. Most reputable gecko sites recommend something called "gut loading" for the feeder insects which means you give the feeder insects a nutritious meal before feeding it to your gecko. You will know how much your gecko is eating by simply counting the crickets or worms when you put them in the tank and checking back later. At around 9 months, your geckos will be full grown and may require a larger tank, At this point you can add sand. Your geckos should eat about 5 or 6 crickets a day. it is not unusual for a gecko to eat their own shed skin.
Baby geckos tend to be skittish and can easily drop out of your hands so you want to be careful. It is okay to hold your gecko so they get used to you and become more docile, but also be careful not to stress your gecko out. If it is new to your home, you will want to let it get used to its environment.
As they grow and as you hold them, you will find the bond between you and your pet grows as the gecko calms and learns to trust you.
Size and Life Span
According to Reptiles Magazine, "Hatchlings measure 3 to 4 inches long. Adult females are typically 7 to 8 inches, and males are 8 - 10 inches." This makes the gecko an interesting pet that you can have in a dorm room or apartment without any problem.
The magazine continues by saying that, "Leopard geckos are long-lived compared to some reptiles. On average you can expect your gecko to live six to 10 years, but many males live 10 to 20 years."
We look forward to many happy years with Sammi and Steph and this fall they actually go off to college for their first time.
Shown in the video above, Sammi is coaxed to ingest a small cricket. The yellow tweezers aid in helping to catch a fast little crickets so your lizard can snatch up it's snack. Be careful, crickets do bite!!!! If you see a couple of red marks on your geckos, watch carefully to make sure the bait is not injuring you gecko.
Leopard Gecko Care. (n.d.). LEOPARDGECKO.COM. Retrieved July 23, 2014, from http://www.leopardgecko.com/leopard-gecko-care
Leopard Gecko. (n.d.). Leopard Gecko. Retrieved July 23, 2014, from http://www.reptilesmagazine.com/Lizard-Species/Leopard-Gecko/