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Old 07-31-04, 10:30 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Leopard Gecko Faq

LEOPARD GECKO FAQ

What temperature should my Leopard be kept at?

A daytime temperature gradient of 82-90F / 28-32C works well. Try and get the warm end around 88F / 31C, and leave the other end cooler so the leo can pick a comfortable temperature. At night the temperature can drop to around 72F/ 22C. Use a reliable thermometer. Stick on thermometers don't work well for long, the pointer can 'stick' after a few weeks. If you buy the ones for aquarium use, buy the stainless steel model, the floating glass kind are fragile. Compare the temperature of several thermometers before you pick one. Some will be way off from what the majority register, so pick one of the ones that register the same temperature. The most accurate way is a temp gun or digital thermometer. Measure the temperature on the substrate surface, not air temperature.


What is the best way to heat my Leopard?

The most efficient from the leopard viewpoint is an under tank heater (UTH). It provides belly heat which is the best for leopards. Most UTH's are made to stay at a safe temperature, but you might still find it too hot, so a dimmer switch will come in handy. At most reptile stores you can buy a 'rheostat' (which in this case is really a dimmer switch) to plug the UTH into, and control the temperature as needed. Lights do work to supply heat, but since heat rises, it's less efficient for getting heat to the gecko at floor level. If you use lights, experiment with the wattage to get one that will provide the right temperature gradient.


What kind of enclosure should I have?

You can use glass tanks, rubbermaid tubs, wood or melamine enclosures, or even converted furniture such as bookcases. The important thing is to make sure any paints, sealers etc., are non-toxic. Floor space is more important than height. Allow at least the equivalent of 10 gallons per gecko, or 12"x 20" / 240 sq inches / 1550 sq cm, adding 50% of this for each additional gecko. More space is better, and gives them more personal space. The height can be 8" / 20 cm for adults. If you use a rubbermaid or similar tub, make sure the lid is secure. Do Not Use Tape! If needed, a bungee cord or the like can be used to keep the lid secure. Tanks should have screen lids to allow for air ciruculation to keep the humidity at safe lower levels. Provide a humid hide box for them, which will help when shedding. This should be in a warm part of the enclosure but does not have to be in the hottest spot. There should also be a dry hide or cave in the cool end. Other cage furniture can consist of bark slabs, rocks or branches to climb. Some geckos love to lounge on reptile hammocks which can be found at most pet stores. Whatever you use, make sure it's made of non-toxic material and can't entrap or injure your gecko. When adding something new to the enclosure, observe your gecko closely for a few days to make sure he can't hurt himself with it.


What is the best substrate?

Do not use pine, fir, cedar or other coniferous wood products since they can contain toxic oils. Bark chips are also to be avoided as they can be swallowed causing choking and/or impaction. The safest choices are paper towel, ceramic tile, slate, reptile carpet, linoleum or other floor tiles, shredded coconut husk (bed-a-beast) or peat moss. Soil can be used but care must be taken to keep it dry or it might become soggy and develop an odour you won't easily forget. Calcium based sand is available for geckos, but they have their own problems. Some people have had no problems keeping adult leopards on sand, but the high incidence of impaction the sand causes makes it unsuitable for hatchling and juvenile geckos. If you use any type of sand, watch your gecko carefully for signs of impaction. Natural sand is somewhat safer, it doesn't have the sharp corners of manufactured sand. Silica sand is to be avoided at all costs, the particles are just too sharp to be safe for even adult leopards.


How big will my leopard get? How long can he live?

The average length for an adult leopard is 8-10 inches/ 20-25.5 cm. and hatchlings average 3 inches/ 7.5 cm. The Tremper Giants can get to 12 inches/ 30.5 cm or longer. A well cared for leopard can live to 15 or 20 years. The world record is 33 years. Females who have been bred don't live quite as long as males, but 15 years should still be possible.


Can I keep several geckos together?

You can have a group of leos if the enclosure is big enough, but never try to house more than one male per enclosure. They'll fight to the death. Females usually get along well, though sometimes there is a personality clash, so be prepared to house one or more separately if need be. Try not to house just one pair together, since the male will try to mate at every chance he gets, which will stress the female. Keeping several females together gives him several choices, and allows each female a chance to escape his amorous advances. If you do not intend to breed your geckos, consider keeping just females. Keeping a mature pair together is guaranteed to produce babies, so be prepared to find homes for them.
Never ever mix species, no matter how similar they seem. Even African Fat-tailed Geckos can't be safely housed with leopards.


What should I feed my leopard?

Leopard geckos eat invertebrate prey, though they are sometimes called opportunistic predators since they can and will take anything that they can overpower and swallow. They readily eat crickets, mealworms, superworms, silkworms, butterworms and grasshoppers in captivity. In the wild they also eat scorpions, spiders, beetles and even smaller lizards. Make sure your feeders have been well fed with a decent brand or home-made gutload. Dust the insects with calcium and mineral supplement several times a week. Leopards will help themselves to calcium/mineral supplement as needed if you leave a small dish or lid full in the enclosure. Vitamins can be added to this once a week, or can be used to dust the insects weekly. Make sure the calcium has added Vitamin D3, and try to use a vitamin supplement that does not have pre-formed Vitamin A, but beta-carotene instead. Breeding females can benefit from a pinky mouse (f/t or live) once a month or so. Don't feed pinkies too often since it can lead to fatty liver disease and several other health problems, but they are invaluable to condition females before and after breeding, and a rare treat to adult males.

Feed your hatchling or juvenile leopard (less than 8-9 months old) as much as he'll eat, preferably daily. When not breeding, adults can be fed every 2 or 3 days, during breeding season females should be fed all they can eat every other day. It's not unusual for adults to stop eating for a few weeks during the winter, a self-imposed fast. This is normal, provided they don't lose too much weight. Always provide clean water in a shallow water dish, they will drink even if not eating.



What are some signs that my gecko might be sick?

One of the first signs is not eating or vomiting. Internal parasites (worms) or impaction from ingesting substrate or other indigestible particles are the most common reasons for not eating. These need veterinary attention. Whether or not you know why your gecko stopped eating, he should see a vet. Take a long a fresh fecal sample to test for parasites.

Another common sign of illness is lethargy (not to be confused with sleeping all day). If your leopard doesn't come out of his hide at night to explore, eat or drink, it could be a sign of a problem. Some leopards are content with being couch potatoes, but they should be active for at least a short time at night when the room lights are out. They might be too shy to move around much while you're watching, so look for signs in the morning that he's been out and about.

If in doubt about your leopard's health, get him checked out. Until you can get him to a vet, keep his temperature in the optimum range and don't stress him out with unnecessary handling. It would make things easier for the vet if you write down all the symptoms you've noticed, any change from his normal behaviour, the set-up, temperatures and diet that he is getting.
If you don't already have a vet who will treat your gecko, ask in the forum, or you can check these links to try and find one close to you:
Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians
Herp Vet Connection
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