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REPTILE / new pets

A Set-Up Guide for New Leopard Gecko Parents

Tips from home to health to food and fun.

Overview

Five things to know about your leopard gecko

  1. Leopard geckos live as long as 20 years
  2. Leopard geckos can grow as long as 10 inches (25 cm) in length
  3. In the wild, leopard geckos live in the desert
  4. Unlike other geckos, the leopard gecko doesn’t have sticky hands, so he can’t climb walls and other vertical surfaces like the many of his relatives
  5. Only the leopard gecko has distinct outer ears and eyelids

Your leopard gecko’s home

Leopard geckos originate from the desert, so naturally, they love a warm, dry environment. But they also need a hiding place that’s moist and lovely—this is where they retreat to when it's time to shed their skin. Up to three leopard geckos can live in the same terrarium—but only one should be male.

Terrarium

You’ll want to keep your leopard gecko in a well-ventilated terrarium with a screened lid. Start with a ten gallon tank. If you’re getting three geckos, think about increasing your tank size.

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Temperature and humidity

Keep your leopard gecko’s habitat toasty, like the warm climate he comes from. You should have a warm side and a cool side of the tank, then let him decide the area he likes best. To do this, put a heat light on one side of the habitat, and measure it with a thermometer at each end.

You’re aiming to keep the terrarium between 85 and 95 degrees F (29 to 35 C) on the warm end, and ten degrees lower on the cool side. It’s also worth getting a hygrometer, to make sure humidity remains in that 10% to 30% sweet spot, which geckos love best.

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Lighting

Geckos require 12 hours of visible light a day. If you want to see what they do under cover of darkness, pick up a night-specific bulb. Then you can see what your reptile pals are up to without disorienting them with a bright light at night.

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What to put in your gecko’s tank

Use a layer of calcium sand (substrate) or reptile carpet 2 to 3 inches deep (5 to 8 cm). For geckos under 6 inches (15 cm), use reptile carpet—these guys are so small they might accidentally swallow the sand, which is bad for them. Scoop the poop at least once a week, and change all their bedding at least once a month.

Lizards like to play hide and seek, so your leopard geckos will thank you for placing a rock, branch or other hiding place on the cool side of the habitat. One hiding spot per gecko is a good rule. Mix in plant leaves and branches to make your reptile friends a desert playpen. Putting some moistened moss in their terrarium will help when they’re ready to shed their skin.

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Keeping your leopard gecko healthy

It’s a good idea to have a veterinarian examine your leopard geckos shortly after you get them. When you first bring them home, don’t handle your new leopard geckos for three or four days—they need to get used to their new surroundings. Keep a close eye on them, in case moving in has stressed them out or caused them to get sick. Even a settled-in lizard can get sick. It’s probably a good time for a check-up at the vet if you notice these symptoms:

  • Hiding more than usual
  • Eating or drinking less; even losing weight
  • Swollen joints
  • Discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth
  • Discolored skin and noticeable shedding problems
  • Droppings that are runny for more than two days

If you have questions about the health of your reptile, talk to a PetSmart store associate, or a veterinarian familiar with reptiles.

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