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Captive Care of Leopard Geckos

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A gecko's foot, as seen in the BBC One series 'Richard Hammond's Invisible Worlds'

Leopard geckos (Eublepharius macularius) are native to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. Their natural habitat is the desert, so they require a low humidity. Not many caught wild are for sale and they are usually captive-bred.

What do they look like?

Leopard geckos are very popular and are probably the most widely-kept reptiles. They are a base yellow with black/brown blocks or even stripes. Serious breeders have developed striped, high-yellow, 'jungle', 'ghost' and 'leucistic' forms, just naming a few. They grow up to 30cm in length and should have a very fat tail, as this is where they store their fat. They become very tame and enjoy being handled and can live to up to 25 years. They will 'drop' their tail if they think there is a major threat, but this should not be a worry to keepers as long as they don't pick them up by their tails.



Leopard geckos are easily kept in glass or plastic vivariums that offer 30cm of height with at least 60cm by 30cm of floor space for each gecko. Sand or orchid bark work well as substrate. Water should be provided in a shallow lid or bowl. Leopard geckos will also enjoy a hide.

Lighting and Heating

The cage should be kept off the floor at a temperature between 25.5 and 30°C during the day; night time temperatures can drop as low as 21°C with no ill-effects. Heat can be provided by heat mats or heat tape. A 40-watt light bulb placed on top of the cage's screen on a 14-hour time switch is not necessary, but is more natural.


Leopard geckos are exclusively insectivorous, so are best fed live crickets1. They are too small to be fed mice and too big to eat fruit flies or moths. Leopard geckos can also be fed mealworms, but not on their own, as these are very low in vitamins. It is important to 'power feed'2 all live food for a day or two to make sure that the gecko gets a nutritious, balanced diet.


Leopard geckos are not prone to bad health, but can still get worms or mites. If your animal is bleeding from a wound or internally (bloody vomit, or blood in the faeces), is paralysed, has abnormal swellings on any part of its body, may have a broken bone, or has ingested a potentially toxic substance, get your pet to a vet right away. This may sound obvious, but many people don't react quickly enough, with fatal results. Worms or mites can be treated with powder or drops, which are available from good vets.

1These can be bought from a pet shop.2This means feeding them lots of high vitamin foods (most vegetables) and special cricket food called 'gut loader' which can be bought from pet shops selling reptiles.

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