Leopard gecko 

Leopard Gecko, also known by its scientific name Eublepharis macularius, is a native reptile of the Asian subcontinent. It is a cathemeral, ground-dwelling lizard found mainly in the walking highlands of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and North India. In addition to Eublepharis macularius, there are four other species in the genus, namely Eublepharis agramainyu, Eublepharis fuscus, Eublepharis hardwickii and Eublepharis turcmenicus.

E. macularius is the only one out of the five species that are established in the trade. With large heads, big eyes, oval-shaped pupils and thin toes, the average adult leopard gecko can measure up to 18-25 cms and weigh somewhere between 45-100 gms. They, unlike other reptiles, have eyelids, their tail is shorter and their body is covered with numerous wart-like bumps.

Leopard Gecko is a cathemeral creature mainly because it doesn’t fit the quintessential definition of being typically a nocturnal, diurnal or crepuscular creature, often due to the factors that include the availability of food, predation pressure and fluctuating temperature around them.

A newborn Leopard gecko is approximately 85mm long. They have dark bands which metamorphose into spots as the babies grow into adults. Leopard gecko comes in a miscellany of “color morphs” but are normally lavender or yellow in color. “Banana blizzard”, “Blizzard”, “Ghost”, “High Yellow”, “Red-stripe”, “Tremper albino” are a few of the many morphs that are available in the market.

 

THE HISTORY OF LEOPARD GECKO

  • The common Leopard Gecko belongs to the genus Eublepharis. It was first described by the British zoologist John Edward Gray in 1827. The etymology of their name is ‘eu’ – good| ‘blephar’ – eyelids.
  • The toes of the leopard Gecko does not have adhesive lamellae due to which I cannot climb walls or vertical surface like its other Gecko cousins.
  • The Leopard Gecko has been a mainstay in the herpetoculture trade. They have been bred in the USA since the early 1970s but it wasn’t until the 80s that the breeding began extensively. By the 90s, many new color morphs were appearing in the market which led to establishing Leopard Geckos as one of the most noticeable of all lizards in the herpetoculture world today.

Today, it has become a prominent and popular pet in captivity, mostly being captive bred and not taken from the wild.

HOW ARE LEOPARD GECKOS AS PETS?

 

The common leopard gecko is definitely one of the most popular lizards that are captive bred all around the world. They were possibly the first domesticated lizard species. Their small size, distinct features, and easy care make them a good “beginner” reptile pet.

They have earned the eminence of being one of the most uncomplicated pet lizards to keep. If you’ve had the opportunity to ever see or keep one, it’ll be easy to understand how their animated personalities and striking texture have captured the hearts of every herpetoculturists around the world.

  • Leos have yellow, brown, and most recently, leucistic phases with dark brown spots on a white or pale yellow background.
  • The young ones have alternating bands of vibrant colors which gradually transform into spots or splotches as they grow up. Their skin has knob-like bumps which give them a rough appearance when in fact the skin is soft to touch.
  • Males are heavily built with a broader head and thicker neck. They also have a wider tail base, a V-shaped row of pre-anal pores and post – anal swelling.

Since their natural habitat consists of harsh conditions which include high temperature and weeks without food and water, Leos have adapted to survive where other animals cannot. This makes them extremely tough and therefore they are considered as one the easiest to maintain reptile pets.

WHAT IS THE LIFESPAN OF A LEOPARD GECKO?

These hardy saurians are friendly, docile, and come in a variety of colors, patterns, and sizes. They live a long lifespan as compared to other reptiles with an average gecko living up to six to ten years. Many males live up to ten to twenty years while females live a shorter lifespan.

HOW TO BUY A LEOPARD GECKO?

If you’re keen on buying a leopard gecko, you can reach out to a number of sources, both offline and online. Out of these, Pet stores, Herp shows, and online websites are the major outlets which range in price from $20 to $3000.

  • You can inspect the animal before purchasing it at Pet stores.
  • You can meet a number of breeders directly in the Herp shows and inquire about the individual animal prior to purchase
  • The top breeders have online websites where they answer questions via email or phone and you can get in touch with them through the available contact information.
  • Another way to buy a Leopard Gecko is to adopt it for a small adoptive fee or for free through various rescue organizations.

Leopard Geckos are relatively easy to maintain and a good choice for the beginner. Avoid thin, lethargic geckos. Adults are more settled in behavior and therefore easy to pet, whereas hatchlings are dubious and anxious in nature making them a little difficult to control and tame. Healthy adults should have a significant fat deposit in the tail.

HOW TO PET A LEOPARD GECKO?

These stunning creatures are not taken from the wild but are captive bred. They have a long life span, however, one has to be sure and willing to take care of these creatures for years to come.

 

  • They do not take umbrage on handling them as much as other reptiles, but it is vital to hold them properly as any kind of mishandling can break their tail. If the tail is broken off, it will usually regenerate, but may not look the same.
  • Hatchlings and young ones are more prone to stress and therefore should be handled when necessary. Their personalities can vary as they grow up but they mostly tame down over a period of five to seven days.
  • Mostly all geckos have a voice and leopard gecko has a ‘bark’ which they use if they are agitated or annoyed.

DIET

  • Common Leopard Geckos typically feed on crickets, mealworms, roaches, hornworms or waxworms while some, even in captivity will prefer hunting for themselves. Make sure you feed them with live worms, as the majority of captive leopard geckos refuse to feed on dead prey. Make sure you don’t offer waxworms too frequently as being rich in fat they are relished by Geckos, as a result, they may refuse other foods. It should only be served as a treat and not a staple diet.
  • Crickets are the best option for adult Geckos as they can hunt them in their enclosure like they would in their natural habitat.
  • A sufficient amount of calcium and Vit. D3 is also very important in their diet. A 3:1 ratio of calcium/vitamin D3 and the multivitamin mixture should be dusted on the insects at least 12 hours prior to feeding the geckos on it. This process is called gut loading.

Place the live insects in a tub of gut-load diet with maybe a piece of potato as a source of water. For adults, use the calcium/vitamin D supplement on every alternative feeding and vitamin supplement twice a week.

  • They need a steady supply of water. You could place a large rock in the water bowl so the crickets do not die in the water bowl and climb out of it. This will prevent them from fouling the water.
  • Obesity is a common issue with Leopard Geckos. Feed the baby Geckos once a day and the adults every other day. You can later figure out the feeding patterns according to your observation or consult the nearby pet shop for more details. Reduce the amount you’re if your Gecko looks overweight but don’t do it drastically, all at once.
  • Avoid feeding them pinky mice as they are insectivorous and don’t hunt on mice.

LEOPARD GECKO HABITAT

LEOPARD GECKO tanks-

 

  • Plastic tubs, Fish tanks or specially designed reptile vivariums/terrarium/tanks, Leopard Geckos can be kept in any of these as long as their basic requirements are fulfilled. A standard 10-gallon aquarium (measuring 20 inches in length, 10 inches in breadth, and 12 inches in height) is sufficient for a single baby Leopard Gecko. These creatures are terrestrial animals and therefore don’t require unnecessary height. Floor space is what matters in the case of Leopard Geckos.
  • Now, a Gecko might survive in this space but may not necessarily thrive. Therefore for adults, a standard 20-gallon tank (measuring 30 inches in length, 12 inches in breadth and 12 inches in height) would be the smallest size recommended for a pair. Therefore choose a spacious tank for your pet with good floor space.
  • Make sure the size of the tank isn’t too big for the size of the Leopard gecko. Large tanks don’t heat properly, as a result, the gecko feels uncomfortable which causes it stress.

Now that you’ve decided the type and size of your tank/vivarium, here are some key elements that should be followed to build a comfortable habitat for your Leopard Gecko.

LEOPARD GECKO Decor

  • The first thing you need is a heat mat which is perfect for leopard gecko with a thermostat to maintain the temperature of the heat mat. Then, you’ll need a digital thermometer, so you can read the temperature easily. Make sure you put the probe of the thermometer wherever your Gecko rests.
    This will give you the exact temperature instead of the temperature of the walls of the tank. The warm side of the tank where the heat mat is placed should be around 32 to 34 degrees. The midsection is usually 22 to 24 degrees and cold section, from 18 to 21 degrees.
  • At least one dry shelter, a humidified shelter, a water container with a rock as explained above and a container for the worms to serve. Lighting is an aesthetic option as Leopard Geckos don’t bask in the sunlight. They are cathermal creatures with traits of nocturnal animals and therefore don’t require Ultraviolet light-B as many other species. Although a 2.4% UVB light can be used.
    Also, a fluorescent daylight bulb set on a timer can be used to keep the day-night cycle in check. A red-light lamp which is specifically designed for nocturnal reptiles can also be considered. Avoid incandescent or full-spectrum heat lamps, as the geckos aren’t fond of bright light.

 

  • You could choose between a more naturalistic appearance and use soil mixture or use either sand or sand and soil mixture as substrate. Although, sand can be accidentally ingested and be risky at times leading to death. Some, therefore prefer simple substrates like paper towels, newspapers, stone tile or carpeting which is specially designed for reptiles.
    These fragile reptiles have a sensitive skin, so one should use non – abrasive, non – irritating substrates. It should be something that you can easily clean and replace without creating any kind of dust. Items like cedar, oine, hardwood chips, gravel, cat litter, sawdust, and corncob bedding shouldn’t be used as substrates.
  • Areas to hide consist commercial hide boxes, overlapping rocks, inverted clay pots and sections of curved wooden barks. These shelters provide the gecko a place to conceal himself and sleep.
  • Dry hides are necessary in order to give the Geckos a sense of security and safety. Objects like plastic plant saucers with a hole can be used as a hide as well. Cork bark which is relatively inexpensive and lightweight is also a good option. It also gives the vivarium a naturalistic appearance.

Apart from these utilitarian setups, there are a variety of options available in the market. Place the warm hide on top of the heat mat and you’re good to go.

  • The more natural items you put in the vivarium the better it is. Substances like rocks and logs will provide your pet to climb and take shelter. It will also create a natural space for him to live in. You can also use succulent plants for decorating the vivarium. It gives a more naturalistic look to the tank and is easy to maintain, unlike other natural plants.
  • The basking area can be a flat smooth rock or wood under the light. Make sure it’s not high enough for the Gecko to come in close contact with the light source. This can burn the skin and cause damage to it. If you’re planning to keep rocks, avoid using sharp, pointed rocks as they can injure the Gecko during shedding.
  • These reptiles perform ‘Thermoregulation’, which means that they will move into hotter or cooler areas to raise or lower their body temperature as required. Therefore, their tank is set up in such a manner that they get a different pressure gradient throughout the vivarium.
  • Leos shed regularly, therefore ensure that the humidity in the tank is enough to allow proper shedding. To enable the shedding process, provide a shed box with sphagnum moss. This will aid in the shedding process.
    With the right habitat and environment, your Leopard Geckos will thrive.

 

HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR LEOPARD GECKO?

 

  • This is the holy rule, don’t house two male Leopard Geckos together. They will end up fighting and injuring each other. Increase the tank size if you add females to the tank with the male. Also, never house an adult and a baby Gecko together.
  • Always have the Gecko examined by a vet before purchasing it. They could have parasites in their intestines that could cause serious disease.
  • Gastroenteritis is a condition caused by a bacterial infection due to unsanitary conditions. This leads to symptoms such as diarrhea. As a result, geckos may excrete watery and/or bloody stool.
  • Never feed your Leopard geckos with insects from the wild or your garden. Only breed them with captive bred insects.
  • Dust the insects with the corrects supplements as mentioned above. Feed them with vegetable scrap and hydrate them with water-based foods. If your insects are healthy, your pet will be healthy.
  • Leopard Geckos are friendly and docile creatures. The scoop technique is mostly suggested to pick them up as it helps them tame easily.
  • Rough handling can have opposite effects. The gecko won’t trust you very much. It can even eject its tail, it will eventually come back but won’t be the same.

Avoid handling your leopard gecko your friends, especially the ones that don’t have an idea of how to handle one.

  • Never handle a Leo by its tail.
  • Don’t get them in front of cats or dogs, basically anything that will expose them to too much stress.

CLEANLINESS

A healthy habitat is a must when you domesticate a Leopard gecko. An unhealthy surrounding will cause various diseases and litter the substrate which comes in direct contact with your pet.

  • Remove the waste, dead insects and shredded skin and change the substrate occasionally. They tend to eat the skin they shed on a monthly basis. Although, some experts believe that the skin is a rich source of vitamins and protein necessary for growth.
  • Avoid any sort of chemical disinfectants like phenyl, pine scents. These items are toxic for the geckos and can cause damage. If you’re unsure of the products to use consult a Vet. Clean and disinfect the habitat at least once a week with a 3% bleach solution. Rinse it thoroughly with water and remove all traces of bleach smell. Dry the tank completely and add clean and fresh substrate.
  • Keep a constant check on their water containers for any dead worm or cricket that might be floating on it. Change the water regularly to prevent it from fouling.
  • Avoid using deep bowls for serving water as the baby geckos can drown in them.

SIGNS OF A HEALTHY LEOPARD GECKO

 

  • Active and alert
  • Clear eyes
  • Body and tail are rounded, filled out
  • Healthy skin
  • Clear nose and vent
  • Eats regularly

SYMPTOMS OF AN UNHEALTHY LEOPARD GECKO.

  • Weight loss and decreased appetite
  • Mucus in mouth or nose
  • Any kind of abnormal swelling
  • Retained shed on toes
  • Lethargy
  • Bumps, soars, or abrasions on the skin
  • Labored breathing
  • Paralysis of limbs
  • Runny or bloody stool.
  • If you notice any of these signs, contact a Veterinarian.

COMMON HEALTH ISSUES RELATED TO LEOPARD GECKO

  • Gastrointestinal disease: If your pet is excreating runny, bloody, caked or smeared stool around the vent region, and there is a loss in its appetite it could be due to a bacterial or parasitic infection in the intestine. Consult the vet immediately.
  • Metabolic bone/vitamin deficiency: Inability to absorb calcium due to insufficient UVB light or due to lack of Vitamin D/calcium supplements. If untreated, it can lead to deformities and softened bones, lethargy, and swollen limbs. Provide ample UVB lighting and proper calcium and vitamin D supplements.
  • Respiratory disease: Laboured breathing and mucus in the mouth or nose. It is caused due to an unstable habitat which is too cold or damp. Ensure that the habitat is of proper temperature with separate dry and humid hides.

WHEN AND HOW DO LEOPARD GECKOS REPRODUCE?

 

These domesticated lizards reach sexual maturity by the age of one to three years. They usually mate during the rainy season. During the period of courtship, the male walks next to the female, licking and biting her lightly. He grasps her neck in his mouth and if she accepts to mate with him, she will lift her tail as an indication for the male to insert one of his paired copulatory organs which are called hemipenes.

  • The female can store the sperm in her reproductive tracts for a period of 15 months or even more. They can deliver up to five clutches of eggs during the five-month breeding session. The eggs then hatch after a span of 55 days.
  • Formatting the male and the female, place the male gecko with at least two or three females in the same tank. These reptiles become sexually active after a year after their birth. They rattle their tails like a rattlesnake when they are excited or have the urge to mate.
  • You’ll require a healthy male and female gecko for fertile eggs. Also, there isn’t any particular requirement for initiating the breeding process.
  • Breeding season lasts from January to September/October. During this time, females lay around 6 to 16 eggs, two in each clutch. The mating usually happens at night so it rarely observed. One male gecko can breed with up to six females.
  • Never breed Leos that have any genetic disease. Start breeding them in smaller amounts like 1-2 females in the first season to gain experience.
  • Don’t breed too young or old Leos, wait for the right time.
  • Since there are a variety of morphs available, you’ll have to research about both the genders before breeding them. Different combinations will result in different offsprings. Study about the different leopard gecko genetics before deciding the breeding pairs. For mating, you should take one male and minimum 2 females that are healthy and in good shape.
  • The sex of the hatchlings is determined on the temperature at which the eggs are incubated. Females are hatched between the temperature of 79F to 84F (26-29 degree Celcius), while males are more likely to hatch from incubation temperature of 88F- 91F (31-33 degree Celcius).

POPULAR VARIETIES OF LEOPARD GECKOS.

There are a total of five officially recognized subspecies of leopard geckos. The subspecies have all different names after the taxonomists separated the reptile species into subspecies in the 1970s and the early 1980s. There is no common basis or information on the basis that they were classified except for the fact that they all are found around the Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and North India.

Today, the subspecies with common names include the leopard gecko (Eublepharis mascularius) and the Afghan leopard gecko (Eublepharis m. afghanicus).

The subspecies, Eublepharis m. smithi, Eublepharis m. fasciolatus and Eublepharis m. montanus are the ones which don’t have a common name.

THE AFGHAN LEOPARD GECKO

 

This subspecies was first discovered in 1976 by entomologist Carl Julius Bernhard Borner. It is much smaller than the common leopard gecko. They are native to South-Eastern Afghanistan, more specifically the Kabul river and its tributaries and extending into the Hindu-Kush mountains. Its habitat includes the rocky desert and the sparse grasslands, avoiding sand. It doesn’t dwell in large colonies and is primarily active in April and May.

They can be recognized by their smaller, more slender body with a tail that lacks fat, unlike the common leopard gecko. The adult is pale to a shade of bright yellow, with blue or black spots scattered on its body. The male is about 15 cms long, while the females are 14 cms long from the snout to tail-tip.

HOW TO DOMESTICATE AN AFGHAN LEOPARD GECKO?

This subspecies of the leopard gecko is domesticated as well. It too requires the similar enclosures as the leopard gecko. The 20 – gallon aquarium is appropriate for one gecko as the male makes it difficult to keep more than one in a tank.

  • Avoid using sand as the substrate in the tank, as the gecko resents it in its natural environment. It can also lead to impaction issues which may lead to the death of your pet.
  • Provide a moist hiding shelter in the tank as it helps the gecko to shed easily. Along with that, place rough surfaces around the tank where your pet can rub against and remove old skin. You could assist it in removing the skin from between the toes by dipping its feet in warm water. This will loosen it and make the whole process easy.
  • You should offer them with as many crickets as it will eat per day. The water bowl should contain one to one and a half inches of water for adult geckos and less for the juveniles as they can drown is under 2 cms of water.
  • The Afghan geckos are solitary animals, soliciting other geckos only during the mating period.
  • Little or no acting breeding is done in captivity.

Eublepharis m. montanus

 

Next in the list of subspecies of Eubleoharis macularius is the Eublepharis m. montanus.They are light skinned and fairly slim as compared to the other varieties of geckos. The adults weigh about 28 – 32 gms and males are bigger than the females. They grow rapidly from babies to adults on a diet of roaches, crickets, mealworms etc.

The species are active in both day and night and can be found basking under the sun during the Spring season. They go under hibernation from the month of November till February shortly after with copulations take place. 1 to 2 eggs are deposited in a box filled with a mixture of sand and kokushumus where they hatch at a temperature of 26 – 30 degrees Celcius.

Eublepharis agramainyu.

This is not exactly a subspecies of the leopard gecko but is of the same genus. They are ground-dwelling lizards native to Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. Like all the other geckos it’s to an insectivore but feeds on smaller vertebrates. Endemic to its native places, these are by far the largest Eublepharid species known. Newborns mostly weight about 10 -12 gms and reach full maturity by 3-4 years. They have an interesting behavior and spidery legs that is a result of evolution in order to climb on the mountainous habitat.

They prefer to feed on roaches and larger invertebrates. Their natural diet comprises Scorpions, solpugids that are unfortunate enough to cross paths with these predatory geckos.

WEST INDIAN LEOPARD GECKO ( Eublepharis fuscus)

Another species from the genus, this leopard gecko is found in the Western Ghats of the Indian subcontinent and possibly extends to the lands of Pakistan all the way through Gujarat in India. The specific name “fuscus” means dark and dusty. It is mostly found in the forested tracts, scrubland and under huge boulders. They are nocturnal, terrestrial lizards that feed on scorpions and arthropods.

TURKMENISTAN EYELID GECKO (Eublepharis turcmenicus)

A ground-dwelling lizard native to Turkmenistan and the northern parts of Iran, the eyelid gecko inhabits rocky and stony foothills at 3300 ft above sea level.

EAST INDIAN LEOPARD GECKO (Eublepharis hardwickii)

It is a species of the gecko which is endemic to India and Bangladesh. Commonly known as Hardwicke’s gecko, it has a snout body with rather short limbs. Its body is covered with small, flat irregular scales. They have a swollen tail which is round and tapers in the end.

It has a reddish brown surface from head to nape and two broad bands across the trunk with four rings of brown or black around the tail. It can measure up to 8 to 9 inches ( 20 to 23 cms)

The lizard is known as Kalakuta Sapa in Odisha which means, Kalakuta = one which brings the message of death and Sapa = snake. The name originates from the belief that as the gecko climbs higher on the tree after biting, the more rapidly the poison will affect and spread in the body of the victim.

QUICK RECAP!

  • FAMILY: Gekkonidae
  • ORIGIN: South Asian Subcontinent, Pakistan to Northwest India.
  • SIZE: 6 to 9 Inches
  • DIET: Crickets, waxworms (once a week), mealworms, roaches.
  • WATER: always Provided in a shallow container
  • VIVARIUM: A 10- gallon aquarium for infants, 20-gallon for a male or a pair.
  • SUBSTRATE: Paper towels, newspaper, soil with no harsh materials.
  • LIGHTING: Incandescent, red light lamps, UVB light with 2.4% (optional)
  • TEMPERATURE: 80F to 85F by day with a 90F basking area. 70F by night.
  • UNUSUAL ANATOMY: At the right angle, you can look in one ear, see through their head, and out of them