In our experience, we have found that geckos housed as singles have less stress then those housed in a colony. Males want to breed all the time, which stresses the females enough in some cases to stop eating. When geckos are not fighting and not in a constant state of stress, that means they don’t get the serious injuries of missing tails and keep from being killed. Geckos actually prefer to live alone and only come together for the purpose of breeding when the female is ovulating. We place the male into the female’s enclosure, when we see she is ovulating. After the mating process is witnessed, the male is then put back into his own house. The female will actually be bred and continue to lay 1 to 2 eggs throughout the season, without having to re-visit the male. Females can also become aggressive towards males who wish to mate when the female does not want to.
Two males will try to kill each other. Never place males in the same enclosure.
If you do want two geckos, females are best. Rule of thumb is to make sure they have a slightly larger enclosure than you would keep one in. 15 to 20 gallon is fine. Make sure there are plenty of hides. The females should be close to the same size when introduced. It is okay if one grows larger later. The thing is for them to establish territories at the same size. Some breeders do keep hatch mate sisters together who already know each other. Ask your breeder if they have girls who know each other already. And do make sure each female has their own hide for privacy.
If you are placing a female in a tank with a female who has already lived in it, you will need to clean the tank accessories well first, before you introduce them. The first female will have her scent on everything. You want them to meet in neutral territory. This greatly helps with introduction.
Leopard Geckos seem to prefer enclosures that are smaller and that are cozy. This took a while for me to get used to, as my other pets all love more space and to live in colony situations. A 10 gallon, screen covered tank is just fine for one gecko. If you are housing more than one gecko, then do get a larger tank. In the wild, they do live in small rocks and openings, so sometimes if they get too large of an enclosure, it freaks them out.
Also remember that we breeders do not house our geckos in tanks. It would not conserve room. We use breeding racks with plastic translucent enclosures that are cloudy to see out of. When a gecko goes into a glass tank, they need time to get used to clearly seeing us walking by and doing activities. It’s part of the stress that they need to adjust to in your home. In some cases, if a gecko is really nervous when they see a person walk by, I have the person tape paper on the side of the tank and gradually remove one side at a time until the gecko gets used to it.
Make sure you don’t use something too heavy in the tank. At one point, they were selling ceramic caves that were quite bulky. A gecko can get a tail or leg caught under the cave and become injured. I only use lightweight plastic caves in my enclosures.
Never use sand or anything fine. Geckos can ingest it and get impacted. You can use simple paper, or even coconut bark. We use a brand called “Eco Earth” for our female lay boxes. It’s safe and can be used as a natural ground cover. It’s larger and harder to digest. Some people even use the fake grass mats that can easily be washed in the sink. They do also sell a sand mat in which the sand is glued down. It’s fine because the geckos cannot ingest it. Moss is fine too.
Geckos are nocturnal and do not bask in the sun like other day time reptiles do. They are light sensitive and this is not productive for them. It can actually add to their stress.
It is best for them to receive heat from a reptile mat. They need belly heat for digestion. The reptile mats are fine. Make sure you get a LED Thermometer to make sure it stays at around 90 all the time. Do not place it on the entire floor of the tank, as you do want for them to have a cool spot to go to.
Leopard Geckos are from an arid region of Afghanistan and some other parts of Asia that are similar geographically, and do not require humidity all the time. In fact, too much humidity can cause repertory issues. Do not give them a humid hide. When I see them get dull at the beginning of a shed, I simply wet a piece of paper towel and put it under their warm hide. It creates a little sauna effect that helps them to remove their skin. Just check the toes, face belly and tail area next day to make sure they got it all.
After reading this, some of you will realize that pet stores are in business to sell you many things, you do not really need.
We have cared for our geckos in this manner for almost six years. This sage advice was given to me by a man who has been doing this himself for over 40 years.
We use a safe lab grade cleaner for the geckos known as Quatra-Cide. It is used in labs and vets office all over the world and it’s safe for pets. You may also use Hydrogen peroxide which is safe as well. You can put these cleaners in a regular spray bottle, which does help with application.
We have also learned from our gecko guru that he cleans his enclosures outdoors every so often with one round of Ammonia, followed by a round of hydrogen peroxide and than an afternoon in the sun to let the UV rays finish off any bad germs that may still be left.
If you had a gecko that passed due to crypto, then you certainly want to follow those instructions before you place another gecko in that tank. Crypto can live on surfaces for over 2 years. It cannot be killed by bleach.
Crypto is found in many pet store geckos, as they do not test. This is the reason when you go to a show and ask a breeder to hold their gecko; they insist that you sanitize your hands first. There are also pet stores and other breeders attending with their animals, and if you held one of them previous and they were infected, it will transmit to the next animal that you hold.
INTERACTION & HEALTH
Above all, no matter if you are keeping your geckos for pet or for breeding, cleaning the enclosure with safe products and all the bowls, will be key and paramount in keeping your animals in the best possible health.
Leopard Geckos can make wonderful pets. They are perfect for someone who can only have one pet in a small home such as an apartment or dorm. Some Leopard Geckos can be skittish as with all types of pets, but most are very curious of their keeper and enjoy spending time with them. The younger geckos usually have more energy and not as at ease yet with humans. The older geckos tend to be less skittish.
We find at night, that some actually come up to the side of their enclosures and “ask” to be taken out and held. Some will sit with us while we work on our computer or watch a movie. I think it’s just about enjoying some quality time with their human counterparts.
Geckos can be very long lived. I have heard one long time breeder say he kept one particular male almost 30 years before he finally passed. Most don’t live quite that long. Geckos kept as pets, can live 10 to 15 years or longer, if they are not used for breeding. Breeding tends to take more of a toll on the females than it does the males. As long as we keep them clean, do not overfeed, and make sure we get the foods from good suppliers, they can live a very long time indeed.
There are no known shots or vaccinations for our Leopard Geckos, but you may find times when you need to have hire the services of a good exotics vet. Make sure you have one on hand in case you ever need one. It’s important to establish this relationship, before you welcome any exotic into your home.
Pets can be like small children and can get themselves into trouble. They can get injured, and sometimes a shed can go wrong and they may get an infection. If that happens, they should see a qualified vet ASAP.
It’s also important to realize that going off food doesn’t always mean a gecko is sick. They go through different cycles and phases throughout the year that will make them more hungry or less. That is why Mother Nature provided them with a nice, thick tail. It holds reserves for them during these times. Winter is a time that geckos would naturally go into hibernation in the wild, so many do go off food, even it is offered to them. They will tend to start eating ravenously again come February or March.
Sometimes geckos get parasites, but we don’t always know it. It can come from food or water sources as well as other animals. It’s ok to bring a fresh stool sample in to your vet from time to time to check out for pinworms. That is something very curable. However, if your geckos are exposed to Crypto Parasite, then there is no known cure for this. They will easily spread it to geckos and other pets in the home. Talk with your vet about solutions if this were to happen.
It is rare for a female gecko to lay eggs if not with a male, but sometimes she will in ovulation time, but the egg will be infertile, of course. Some females will become egg bound, so this is something you should understand if purchasing a female gecko. It’s rare enough with females who are breeding, and rarer still for females who are kept exclusively as pets to be egg bound.
It may be fun to watch our other household pets interact with our geckos, but keep in mind that cats, dogs and ferrets are also predators by nature. Even Sugar Gliders in the wild eat small lizards. I have often times seen the “wild” come out in our other household pets when it came to smaller animals. Never allow them to play with your geckos and always use interaction under supervision and with common sense.
Leopard geckos can make wonderful and interesting companions for us. As long as we do our part in caring for them correctly, they can be with us for years to come.
Remember. The stress of going to a new home can and will cause some geckos to stop eating, until they are used to their surroundings. It is not abnormal for a Leopard Gecko to refuse food for several weeks until they feel totally at ease. These are desert creatures and in the wild, they often go through periods of extreme drought with no food or water. Like a camel, they can store weeks and even months worth of reserve in their tails, which is why they appear to be very large. Many pet shops do not explain this properly and not much is written on it. New owners get very scared. Just keep offering plenty of fresh food, water and calcium. Do not stress them out more by picking them up. Once they feel good and start eating, then you may start working with them. Unfortunately, some excited owners will try to play with the geckos right away, and it will just set you back on getting them to finally eat. Slow and steady wins the race.
Note: These ideas have worked very well for us for a long time. I’m sure I will be up to criticism by some, but these things do work well for us, and it’s what I am recommending. If you have purchased geckos from us to breed, please ask me to send our page on breeding Leopard Geckos, if you have questions on this.