The Leopard Gecko
There's something about the leopard gecko that endears it to even the most reptile
phobic person. Maybe it is the feline like qualities, the perpetual "smile", or just that they are truly "cute".
Whatever the reason, Leopard Geckos are arguably the most popular reptile "pet". They make a perfect beginner's
reptile and still hold fascination for jaded old-timers.
The leopard Gecko we know today bears little resemblance
to it's wild counterpart. As the result of years of selective breeding strong, beautiful, and healthy Leopard Geckos are being
produced by hundreds if not thousands of breeders worldwide.
gecko is a member of the gecko family collectively known as the Eublepharids. The most notable characteristic of the Eublepharids
is that they have moveable eyelids (most other geckos don't). Other Eublepharids include the Banded Geckos of the southwest
United States and Northern Central America, The Fat Tail Gecko of Africa, The Cat Gecko of Indonesia, and the Cave geckos
At hatching Leopard Geckos are strongly banded in purple/brown and yellow, and 2 1/2"- 3 1/2"
in length. Soon after hatching the banding begins to break up and in adulthood Leopard Geckos are most commonly Yellow with
Brown spots. Some adult Leopard Geckos display a dramatic reduction in the number of spots and are an almost solid beautiful
bright yellow. There are many other colour phases of Leopard Geckos with new ones appearing every year. These include but
are not limited to Striped, Albino, Leucistic(Patterless), Snow, Silver, and Jungle.
Adult Leopard Geckos reach lengths
of 8"-10" with the occasional exceptional specimen reaching over 12" in length. Males are generally larger
and more heavily built than females.
Caring for Leopard Geckos is simple in the
extreme. Hatchlings are best housed in small aquaria, or ventilated plastic storage containers (2.2 litre rubbermaid storage
containers are perfect for this). Hathling are best kept on a substrate of papertowel or a bare floor. Use of sand or other
particulate substrates is not recommended because the young geckos will often eat these which results in impaction and death.
Small hiding areas, such as an overturned plastic dish with an entrance hole should be offered
Adult geckos can be
housed separately or in small groups. Only one male can be kept per group though. An enclosure equivalent to a 10 gallon aquarium
can house up to three adult geckos with larger caging required for larger groups. Adult Leopard Geckos should also have hiding
area available. When multiple geckos are housed together multiple hiding areas should be offered. A substrate of paper towel,
sand or bark chips will work well.
Leopard Geckos of all ages should have fresh water made available to them either
in a small bowl or by lightly misting a small part of the side of the enclosure.
Leopard Geckos also require heat
to digest their food and function properly. The geckos should be offered an opportunity to bask at temperatures of 85-90 degrees
F. This can be provided with an under tank heater under 1/4-1/3 of the cage or by a light bulb over one end of the cage. The
geckos should also have access to a cooler area of the cage with temps. of 75-80 degrees F.
Leopard Geckos will eat
a large array of vertebrate and invertebrate food. We feed our Leopard Geckos almost exclusively on mealworms. The mealworms
themselves are fed a healthy diet before being offered to the geckos (Bran, Skim Milk powder, calcium powder, and oatmeal).
To prevent the escape of the mealworms they are offered to the geckos in a shallow bowl. We try to always have mealworms in
the bowls so the geckos can eat as much and whenever they want. We also sprinkle a little calcium powder in the bowl with
the mealworms so the geckos will ingest a little calcium when they eat the worms.
We also occasionally offer wax
worms and pinkie (1-3 day old) mice to our adult females. We most often do this during the breeding season to help the geckos
replenish fat stores lost due to egg production.
Baby Leopard Geckos are nearly impossible
to sex reliably. Adult can easily be sexed. Simply look at the underside of the gecko at the area where the tail joins the
body. Males will have prominent bulges at the base of the tail. These bulges are caused by the sexual organs (the Hemipenes)
which are inside the tail. Males also have prominent pre-anal pores. These are a row of small dark spots located between the
back legs. During the breeding season you will often notice a hard waxy excretion protruding from these pores for 1/16"-1/8".
Females will lack the hemipenal bulges and have very faint preanal pores.
are one of the easiest and most rewarding Lizards to breed. Well fed female Leopard Geckos will generally reach sexual maturity
at around 9 months of age (Usually January-April). At this time the male will begin showing interest in the female, and if
you see small bite marks on the female this is a good sign that breeding has been taking place. We often house of males separately
from groups of females, and every few weeks beginning in January we introduce the male to the females for a period of a few
days. This allows us to keep better track of when breeding is taking place. Female Leopard Geckos only need to breed with
a males a couple of times to be able to lay eggs all summer. Our Leopard Geckos generally begin breeding in Mid January with
egg laying starting in February. The females if well fed will continue to lay eggs well into the summer and early fall. Females
most often lay pairs of eggs. Occasionally at the beginning or end of the egg laying season females will lay single eggs.
We have had females lay from as few as 6 eggs to as many as 25 eggs in a season. Larger older females tend to lay more and
larger eggs. We provide the females with a nesting box. This is a lidded plastic container with an entrance hole cut in the
lid. Inside the box is either damp soil, or damp cypress mulch. The females will bury their eggs in the medium, from which
they can be removed for artificial incubation.
All day geckos are in the genus Phelsuma, one of the
many genera in the family Gekkonidae. There are over 68 known living species and subspecies of day geckos, most are from Madagascar
and the surrounding islands of the Indian Ocean. Phelsuma andamanensis (Andaman Islands day gecko) is native to the Andaman
Islands in the Bay of Bengal which is a considerable distance from the Western Indian Ocean habitat of other day geckos. Also
one species occurs in South Africa, and another has been introduced to Tanzania.
Members of the genus Phelsuma
are diurnal (active during the day), while most other members of the family Gekkonidae are active only at night (nocturnal).
Phelsuma Day geckos have a clear, fixed plate covering their eyes and do not have eyelids. All day geckos have flattened toe
pads that are covered on the bottom with dead, keratinized scales called lamellae. The lamellae scale surface is made up of
long hair-like structures called setae, and each setae is divided and subdivided along its length making the setal tips very
small. Because of the setae, day geckos are capable of climbing up glass walls and, across ceilings, making them great escape
In the wild, day geckos feed on insects, other invertebrates, nectar and pollen. In captivity the most
common foods are crickets, wax moths, houseflies, papaya and baby-food fruits. An important factor in nutrition is calcium
and vitamin supplementation. Vitamin D3 is required for the effective absorption of calcium. Calcium and phosphorus, in correct
ratio, are required for a number of metabolic functions. Day geckos need ultraviolet lighting in order to synthesize vitamin
D3. Mesh screen is recommended under the lights because plastic and glass block a large percentage of the UV lighting from
reaching the gecko.
Most day geckos come from habitats with humidity levels of 50-85% however day geckos from Southwestern
Madagascar prefer it dry and hot. I am a firm believer in naturalistic cages simulating the species natural habitat as close
as possible and providing plenty hiding places to reduce stress. A well planted vivarium will also help maintain the humidity
levels between mistings. If the correct environmental and nutritional needs are met, a number of day gecko species will routinely
breed in captivity.