Leopard Geckos are indigenous to Eastern Iran, Southeast Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northwest India. The preferred habitat consists of mountainous areas to an elevation of 6,888 feet. In the wild, burrows and rocky terrain are utilized as hiding areas during daylight hours. Leopard geckos emerge at dusk to hunt for prey. Leopard Geckos can attain a total length of 10 inches, possesses movable eyelids, and have strong claws on the end of the toes. Water and fat are stored within the thick tail.
Housing for captive leopard geckos can be customized to best suit the individual gecko keeper's needs. All-glass tanks can be adapted to provide effective enclosures. An adult pair of leopard geckos can be maintained in as small as a ten-gallon tank. For a breeding group ofeight geckos a forty-gallon tank is suggested.
Leopard geckos are quite hardy and adaptable captives, and will tolerate a variety of substrates. I prefer a fine calcium based sand, but turf, paper towels, or gravel (too large to ingest) can be used. Stay away from barks and wood types of substrate. Leopard Geckos are fairly tolerant of temperature fluctuations, but a heating device must be incorporated under the tank. Some people use heat rocks, but there is a possibility of your gecko getting burned. A galvanized heat pad or heat tape should provide substrate heat by covering one third to one-half of the enclosure. The heated portion of the enclosure should reach temperatures of 80°F to 85°F, with the cooler side being in the mid 70s. Nighttime temperatures in the low-to-mid 70s are acceptable.
Hide areas must be provided for captive leopard geckos. Commercially manufactured hide boxes can be used as shelters. One small size hide box is adequate for a single gecko When groups are being housed in larger enclosures, two or more large hide boxes should be provided. By locating hide boxes at both ends of an enclosure, shelters can be provided both on the warm (heated) end, and cool end. This allows geckos to thermoregulate without compromising their security. A shallow water bowl two-thirds filled with clean water should be provided at all times.
Adequate relative humidity must be provided to insure proper shedding. Avoid a wet enclosure as this can lead to health problems in leopard geckos. 40 to 45% relative humidity is a good average.
Crickets are a recommended staple in the captive leopard gecko diet. Hatchlings can be fed at two-to-three days after emergence from the egg. One-third to one-half-grown crickets can be offered. Wax worms can also be fed. Juvenile leopard geckos can be fed three or four small crickets or wax worms every two-to-three days. In addition to adult crickets and wax worms) adult leopard geckos will also accept pink and small fuzzy mice. Adults may be fed two-to-three times per week with a typical meal consisting of four-to-five large crickets and/or wax worms, once in a while a pinky or fuzzy may be offered.. Mealworms may also be offered periodically. It is beneficial to dust food items with a small amount of vitamin and calcium powder prior to feeding. Calcium supplementation can be especially important for gravid female geckos. During this period a small, low dish of cuttlebone powder can be placed in the female leopard gecko enclosure.
Leopard Geckos are sexually dimorphic with males having a larger and wider head and an overall stockier build. Males also possess a well-developed angular row of nine-to-fourteen pre-anal pores. Leopard geckos are capable of reproduction at one-to-two years of age. In captivity, breeding can occur at any time of the year by manipulating photoperiod and temperature. Two breeding strategies are commonly employed by herpetoculturists. One is to form a breeding group, or groups, by housing a single male with a number of females within an enclosure of appropriate size. It is important to keep adult male leopard geckos separated, or vicious fighting will occur. One male has the ability to successfully mate with several females.
The other widely used method is to individually house all adult leopard geckos, and rotate a male, or males (one at a time), through the various female gecko enclosures. When this method is employed, it is easier to observe copulation with the various females, and should result in a higher percentage of fertile eggs.
Female leopard geckos become quite robust when gravid, and developing eggs can be seen through the abdominal wall. At this point a nest box must be provided within the female gecko enclosure. A nest box can consist of a small lidded food storage tub with one or two holes cut out which are large enough for the gravid female gecko to enter [approximately 1½" in diameter]. The nest box floor should be covered with damp sphagnum moss.
Female leopard geckos lay clutches of eggs per year. A typical clutch consists of one or two soft-shelled eggs. Females will protect their eggs for a few hours after they lay, by jumping at, hissing, and attempting to bite, predators.
Leopard gecko eggs can be placed in a container with vermiculite mixed one-to-one by weight) with water. Damp foam rubber or damp paper towels also work well as an incubation medium. The container should have a couple of 1/8" diameter holes drilled at opposite ends to allow for air exchange while retaining proper humidity. The egg placement should be such as to prevent rolling. Eggs should be viewed periodically to insure proper moisture levels are being maintained.
Herpetoculturists have been incubating leopard gecko eggs to produce desired sexes for years. The rule of thumb among commercial breeders is that eggs incubated at 80°F result in female hatchlings. Male hatchlings will be produced at 90°F, and at 85°F a percentage of both sexes will be realized. Female hatchlings produced from high incubation temperatures, termed "hot females," will be unusually aggressive and unsuitable for breeding (de Vosjoli, 1990). Incubation time ranges from 39 to 62 days with hatchlings measuring 83 to 90 mm in total length, and weighing an average 3.6 grams.
Hatchling leopard geckos are typically banded. Aberrant pattern hatchlings are periodically produced, emerging from the egg dorsally striped. Hatchling. Hatchlings should be housed separately in shoebox cages. This will insure that all hatchlings are feeding, and will prevent injuries caused by sibling aggression.
At this time the leopard gecko is the most popular pet lizard in the United States. Its hardiness (ability to live twenty years), tolerance to being handled, and willingness to reproduce make the leopard gecko an excellent captive lizard.