Leopard geckos are adorable little lizards found naturally in Asia and commonly kept as pets in the UK. They are a crepuscular species meaning that they are most active shortly after the sun sets and normally retreat to the burrow as the sun is rising. In captivity, they often ditch this behaviour and become more active in the day time, Pretty much every leopard gecko will maintain a leisurely lifestyle while the lights are on and run around at night time. In this blog, we will loosely outline the enclosure, conditions required, diet and husbandry.
Setting up a leopard gecko enclosure
Leopard geckos come from a warmer and less humid environment than the UK so we recommend keeping the gecko in an enclosure with insulation. In the UK we commonly use a wooden vivarium with glass doors and large vents. Some people have successfully kept the geckos in small enclosures but to make sure that we get both a hot and cold side we recommend an enclosure around 3ft wide.
The leopard gecko requires a clear day-night cycle. In the day time, the leopard gecko requires a raised air temperature and a little UVB. At night time they need the enclosure to be much darker and enjoy surface heat radiated by natural rocks and bedding. For the day time heating, we use a basking lamp controlled by a dimming thermostat. For UVB we commonly use a short 6-7% UVB kit on one side of the enclosure and for night time heating we use a heat mat controlled by an on/off thermostat.
Conditions in the gecko’s enclosure
Leopard geckos enjoy a basking area around 90f during the day time but we want to make sure they can cool down really easily if they need to. To make sure they aren’t stuck at high temperature we use a vivarium wide enough to cool down from one end to the other. We also include plenty of decorations to provide shade. Generally, we are looking for a horizontal temperature gradient running from one side of the enclosure to the other side. You wouldn’t want to have the basking lamp in the middle of the enclosure unless that enclosure is wide enough to lose heat to both of its ends.
If we are running the heat gradient from side to side we would like the UVB gradient to run front to back. To do this all UVB equipment would be put as close to the back wall as possible. This way the gecko can move left and right to warm up or cool down and they can move back to front to get more or less UVB exposure.
At night time both lamps are turned off and the heat mat takes over. We bury the heat mat on the same side of the enclosure as the basking lamp to make sure that there is a constant warm spot in the enclosure. We aim for 75-80f surface temperature during the night just to make sure the geckos don’t get too cold. If you plan to use a soil bedding and live plants you will not be able to use a heat mat for night time heating. Soil and sand are just too good at insulating heat and it’s unlikely the warmth from the mat will reach the surface. The heat mats are rarely waterproof so it’s not a great idea to use them in bio-active enclosure. If you want a bio-active enclosure we would swap out the heat mat and on/off thermostat for a ceramic kit and pulse thermostat mounted in the back corner near the basking lamp.
Humidity in this enclosure should be very low so we wouldn’t spray the enclosure frequently if at all. Instead, we would provide an enclosed decoration with fresh moss inside. Cork pieces, caves or moss boxes are great for this purpose.
Decorating the enclosure
Leopard geckos aren’t too fussy about the decorations you pick as long as there are plenty of full and partial hiding spots spaced throughout the enclosure. They also appreciate decorations on the warm end that will warm up in the day and radiate heat for a little while after the lamp goes off. Resin ornaments can be good at this but natural rocks and slate pieces are best. We find that the best decorations are normally hardwood pieces like java or grapevine wood, flat cork pieces and resin caves.
A very important decoration that should be included in every leopard gecko enclosure would be a water bowl. It should be deep enough that the water won’t evaporate quickly but it doesn’t need to be so deep that the gecko could struggle to get out of it. We love the ProRep bowls and ExoTerra water dishes.
Feeding the leopard gecko
Leopard geckos are carnivorous meaning that they can eat a varied diet insects. For this species, we would recommend brown crickets. They are very nutritious, fairly easy for the chameleon to hunt, widely available and great value for money. If your chameleon will not take them, black crickets and locust are also a brilliant alternative. Every now and again you might want to provide your chameleon a treat, for this purpose you could feed: waxworms, calciworms, cockroaches, mealworms or beetle grubs. The grubs and worms tend to be quite fatty so we normally offer these a maximum of once or twice a week. Mealworms, morio worms and cockroaches can be difficult to digest so we would normally only provide these to mature geckos (12-18 months or older) and only once or twice a week.
Cleaning the enclosure
Leopard geckos, as with most pets, require a clean environment to thrive. We recommend a spot clean as often as possible (every day) and a full clean every 4 weeks or so. If you are keeping the gecko in a bio-active enclosure you can spot clean and monitor the enclosure. It may still be a good item to change out the bedding a few times per year.
When cleaning the enclosure you should remove your animal, all decorations and all of the bedding. Once the enclosure is clear you can spray it all over with a reptile friendly disinfectant. These usually work very quickly and only need to be left for around 30 seconds, instructions can normally be found on the disinfectants packaging. Once the disinfectant has done its work it can be wiped away from the surfaces with a paper towel. In some cases, you might want to repeat this process a second time to ensure that the enclosure is thoroughly cleaned.
Your decorations can be cleaned in a similar method, simply spray them down with the disinfectant and rinse thoroughly with water before drying them off and putting them back into the enclosure. We recommend this process is done during the day time to make sure that the gecko will be going back to a warm vivarium for at least an hour before the basking lamps are turned off for the night.
If you need any further information on this species or if you have any questions for us please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01604753823 .