Leopard geckos are members of the subfamily Eublepharinae (which derives from the Latin Eu meaning good/true, and blephar meaning eyelid). The possession of a ‘true eyelid’ distinguishes members of this subfamily from other geckos.
The second part of the species name, macularius, derives from the Latin macula meaning spot or blemish, which is self-explanatory (although it might not be so obvious in the future given the popularity of newer colour morphs, particularly the hypo-morphs, the best of which have no spotting at all) and the patternless morph. They are native to dry, rocky habitat in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.
Leopard geckos are a mainstay of the herp hobby. Their bright colors, docile nature and simple husbandry requirements make them an attractive candidate for the beginning & advanced herpetologist alike. As these lizards are bred more and more in captivity, a variety of color and pattern morphs are available in a broad price range, making it very easy for anyone to acquire and enjoy them.
Patternless and Hypo Leopard Geckos: There are various leopard gecko mutations also known as 'morphs', each morph having its own specific genetics and traits. Multiple morphs can be 'mixed' or 'bred' together to make combination morphs and on occasion, a whole new morph will develop.
The following are some of the more frequent morphs:
High Yellow - an animal with mostly yellow pigmentation
Lavender - Like a normal, but with purple bands on back
Patternless/Leucistic - a recessive gene where the animal has no spots
Blizzard - Patternless and grey in colour
Midnight Blizzard – Dark coloured blizzard
Blazing Blizzard - Patternless and pure white in colour, also an albino blizzard, known for its red ‘blazing’ eyes
Banana Blizzard – Blizzard with a yellowish tinge to it.
Banana Blazing Blizzard – Albino x Blizzard x Patternless
Blizzard Electric Yellow – White head and tail with yellow gold body tone
Blizzard Electric Yellow Eclipse – Blizzard with yellowish tinge and Blizzard eclipse eye either 15%-75% snake eye or full eclipse from blizzard gene.
Blanco – Blizzard with Tremper Eclipse gene
Diablo Blanco – Pure white gecko with solid red eyes
Patternless Albino - Patternless x Albino (All three albino can be combined with Bell Albino Patternless the most difficult to produce, up to know there has only four bred in the world. They are classified BPA,TPA and RPA )
Eclipse – Solid eye colour either black in non albino morphs and red in albino morphs
Sunglow – Bells, Tremper or Rainwater Sunglows
Hypo – hypomelanistic, Reduced banding or spotting. Washed out appearance like a ghost.
Hypo Tangerine - an animal with strong presence of orange in its coloration, and reduction of spots
Tangerine – Various amounts of orange present in body colour
Super Hypo – No banding or spotting on body
Super Hypo Tangerine – No banding or spotting on body with tangerine colour
SHTCT – Super Hypo Tangerine Carrot Tail
SHTCTB – Super Hypo Tangerine Carrot Tail Baldy
Baldy – No marking on the head
Halloween Mask – Head patterns looks like a mask. Can be combined with other morphs like Bells, Tremper, Rainwater, Hypo and sub morphs
Line Bred Snow – An animal bred to show mostly black and white
Mack Snow - is a pimp body coloration of white, yellow and black
Super Snow - presence of the ‘Mack Snow’ gene and one other trait
TUG Snow – Dominant
GEM Snow - Dominant
Snowglows – Mack Snow x Sunglow
Tremper Albino (Texas) – Recessive Gene
Chocolate Tremper – Darker coloured tremper
Bell Albino (Florida)- Recessive Gene
Rainwater Albino (Las Vegas) - Recessive Gene
Enigma - various sub morphs i.e. Tremper Enigma, Mack Enigma, Super Snow Enigma, Enigma Raptor, Bell Enigma
Radar Bell – RAPTOR equavalent for the Bell Albino
Ember - Tremper Albino x Patternless x Raptor
Tangerine Tornado - extreme orange colouration
Normal- typical colouration, medium yellow with stripes or bands of grayish lavender, black spots.
Carrot Tail – An animal with orange colour in tail
Carrot Head – An animal with orange on the head
Banana Tail – An animal with yellow colour in tail
Tangerine albino - Albinos with orange bodies and white and brown tails (no black pigmentation)
Giant - Heterozygous form of the Super Giant therefore making it co-dominant, larger form of Leopard Gecko Morph
Super Giant - Homozygous form of the Giant these are determined by size and weight, often classified at sub-adult/adult age.
Raining Red Stripe
Hybinos – Availible in all three albino strains, it’s a hypo albino without tangerine influence
Aurora – Mack x Rainwater x Patternless x Enigma
BEE – Black eyed Eclipse Enigma
Electric Tangerine – Line bred by kelli hammock
High Contrast Tremper
Mack Snow Bell
Mack Snow Bell Enigma
Mack Snow Blizzard
Mack Snow Eclipse
Mack Snow Enigma
Mack Snow Rainwater Enigma
Mack Snow Rainwater
Mack Snow R.A.P.T.OR.
Mack Snow Reverse Stripe
Mack Snow Patternless
Mack Snow Tremper Enigma
Mack Snow Tremper
Mack Super Snow
Mack Super Snow Bell
Mack Super Snow Bell Enigma
Mack Super Snow Blizzard
Mack Super Snow Eclipse
Mack Super Snow Enigma
Mack Super Snow Rainwater Enigma
Mack Super Snow Rainwater
Mack Super Snow Patternless
Mack Super Snow R.A.P.T.OR.
Mack Super Snow Tremper Enigma
Mack Super Snow Tremper
There are currently well over 270 different Leopard Gecko Morphs.
Beginner. Easy, but keeper must understand and focus on the animal's basic needs. Proper diet - including calcium & vitamin supplementation - is essential.
Longevity and size:
Leopard geckos can live for up to twenty years, reaching adult size (and sexual maturity) at 12 to 18 months. They reach, on average, 8”/20cm in length (nose to tail tip) and weigh anything from 50-100g/1.75-3.5oz.
Select one that looks healthy and is responsive when handled – babies should be flighty, adults may be more tolerant. Look not only at the gecko's general condition, but also at its living conditions, which will indicate how it has been cared for and whether the conditions may have affected its health. Only select a gecko from a shop/breeder where it is obvious that all animals are well cared for and healthy.
Important rules if keeping several leopard geckos:
Leopard geckos do not require company; most will tolerate tank mates’ However, they do very well on their own.
Only one male per tank – males are territorial and will fight to the death.
Only similar sized geckos can be housed together – smaller geckos can get stressed, bullied or eaten.
The enclosure should be set up before getting the gecko to ensure that an ideal environment can be achieved.
A vivarium or aquarium tank is suitable, providing there is adequate ventilation. Being terrestrial creatures, the tank length is more important than its height. The minimum recommended size for one leopard gecko is 2’ (long) x 1.5’ x 1.5’ /60 x 45 x 45cm. While this would also be suitable for a pair, however, a 3’/90cm length would be more comfortable for two.
The only substrate that can be used without the risk of impaction is Astro Turf. A more natural look requires vigilance. Leopard geckos less than 6”/15.25cm in length are more at risk and should therefore be kept on kitchen roll. Commonly used substrates for adults include fine sand (such as Reptisand and IceFyre Desert sand). Substrates to avoid include corncob, bark, wood and crushed walnut.
A temperature gradient is essential because geckos, like other reptiles, are unable to regulate their body temperature physiologically. Instead they will find a position in the tank that is at the temperature they require. Proper temperature is essential for digestion.
A temperature gradient can be achieved by placing an under-tank heat mat (and protected basking light if necessary) at one end of the tank to create the warm end. The substrate temperature at the warm end of the tank should be approximately 88°F/31°C. Room temperature (around 70°F/21°C) should be sufficient for the rest of the tank.
Hot rocks are not recommended as they can overheat and cause burns. It is advisable to use any heat sources in combination with a thermostat to regulate the temperature more precisely.
Hide boxes are where your gecko will most likely spend most of its time! Hides can be bought from pet shops or made from over-turned plant pot bases or halved coconut shells with entrance holes cut. Hides should be available at both ends of the tank.
A moist hide is very important (Tupperware tub with moist moss, eco earth or kitchen roll) and should also be provided at the warm end to aid in skin shedding. Secured rocks, cork bark and fake plants look nice and give your gecko something on which to climb.
Tap water that has been left to sit for 24 hours prior to use (to let the chlorine evaporate) can be provided in a shallow water dish. The dish should be cleaned and water changed every other day.
Access to a dish containing a small amount of calcium only powder may be beneficial, as this allows the gecko to regulate its own intake of calcium.
Crickets are a good staple diet; super worms and mealworms are excellent protein sources. For variety, silkworms and occasional wax worms or pinkies (as these are high in fat) can be offered. Most leopard geckos will not eat pre-prepared dried foods such as can-o-crickets. Food items should be no longer than the width of the gecko's head.
Supplementation of live food is necessary to match the nutritional content of the natural diet of the leopard gecko better. In order to improve the nutritional content, crickets should be both gut loaded and dusted.
Gut load the crickets by feeding them for at least 24 hours prior to use. A high quality flaked fish food is suitable or, alternatively, a nutritionally complete dry diet. Dust them by, immediately prior to use, adding a pinch of vitamin/calcium powder to a sandwich bag and shaking the crickets in it to coat them with powder. Use calcium and vitamin powder once or twice a week and calcium-only powder for all other feedings.
Babies/juveniles can be fed daily (consuming 5-20 crickets per feeding). Adults can be fed every other day (consuming from 2-10 crickets). Only add to the tank the amount of food that the gecko will eat and remove any unconsumed food regularly.
Leopard geckos shed their skin every three to four weeks. Before shedding the skin will look dull. It is important to check that the moist hide is moist during this time. The gecko will peel and eat the skin from its body, which should take no more than a few hours. Unshed skin (e.g. around the toes) can be removed by letting the gecko soak in a tub of shallow warm water, then using a damp cotton bud to rub the skin off gently.
You need to make sure the female has enough calcium all through breeding season (September - February) and that she stays well-fed. You can leave the calcium out in a low dish (I use small plastic bottle lids like the ones that come on Rep-Cal or Herptivite cans) and she will take it freely when she needs it.
I actually leave the calcium in the cage like that year round. The males will sometime lick at it if they need it too. You don't want them to eat the sand to try and get calcium. Also dust the crickets every other feeding during breeding season (don't use a calcium supplement with D3 added as too much D3 can be toxic).
Leopard Geckos get plenty of D3 from the crickets and mealworms they eat. Start this conditioning in early September to ensure healthy parents and offspring. Leopard Geckos need to be hibernated for at least 8 week prior to breeding.
First of all you will need to put in a laying box for her and leave it in there all the time. I use old Tupperware or similar with the lid on. Cut a hole in the side big enough for her to enter. Fill the box about halfway with moist (not soaking) vermiculite, perlite or spaghum moss from Animaniacs.
She will go in there when she is ready and start digging. All of the geckos will enjoy the moist box as it aids in shedding too. An ideal container is about 4.5” wide by 8” long by 4” high/10.5cm x 20cm x 10cm. This is a nice sized laying box for up to three females. Check it often during breeding season. The clear sides help as you can lift the box up and look through the bottom to see where the eggs are located.
You will know when the female is ready to lay because the eggs are visible right through her skin. Most females lay eggs about once every 2-4 weeks which is why they need a lot of calcium. She may start to refuse food when she is about to lay. Another indicator that she is ready to lay is often that there is vermiculite spewed out of the laying box as she begins to dig.
You will also notice when she has laid her eggs because she will be a lot skinnier. Once the eggs have been laid they may be removed for incubation. IMPORTANT: Do not turn the eggs over. Transport them to the incubator in the same position they were laid.
Your gecko will be ravenous now so be sure to feed her to keep her weight up before she refuses food the next time. Definitely dust the crickets for feeding after laying as she will need to get her calcium levels back up. A healthy well-fed gecko will have no problem laying eggs all season, but you have to keep an eye on her to make sure her tail stays nice and fat. If your gecko appears particularly weak after egg laying remove her from the male for a time until she gets her strength back.
I use professional thermostats in my incubators. The little screen at the top is covered with foil to keep the temperature and humidity constant inside, and a thin heating pad is put under it with a thermostat attached to keep a constant temperature.
Thermostats are readily available from us here at Animaniacs. Inside the cage is another larger Tupperware box or plastic shoe box filled almost all the way with moist (not soggy) vermiculite. The top of this box has small holes in it to get it to stay very humid but not too wet so as to get moldy.
You may have to experiment with this to get it absolutely right. The remote temp detector from the thermostat gets placed not only in the cage but into the vermiculite in the shoe box. There should be some condensation inside the shoebox but it should not be dripping.
Water will have to be added periodically to keep it moist. This is very much a judgment call and ultimately will depend on your set-up. You just put the eggs in there buried about halfway and incubate away for about 6-8 weeks and instant geckos!
Temperature - Dependent Sex:
If you want to get females set the thermostat to keep a temp between 23.5°C and 27.2°C. If you want males you can keep the eggs at 87-88°F/30.5-31-1°C to be sure. 85°F/29.4°C is supposed to get about half male and half female, but then sometimes you can also get hot females and cool males that don't breed well, or at all.
Rearing the hatchlings:
Hatchlings don't eat for about a week, or until the first shed. I usually let them roam around in the incubator on the vermiculite for about two days before removing them to individual plastic shoe boxes with paper towels for substrate. They hatch with a yolk sack attached much of the time and often scrape it off on the paper towels, which is why I leave them in the vermiculite for a couple of days.
We keep the hatchlings separately in plastic shoeboxes in a rack that was made especially for them. It has heat tape all through it so that the backs of the shoeboxes can have nice gentle warmth. They can be kept together but must be watched carefully to ensure that none are getting picked on and all are eating. Keeping them singularly for the first couple of months ensures that there will also be no tail losses from nippy cage mates.