While there are many reptiles that can be kept at home, Leopard Geckos as pets offer a cute, small gecko that is relatively easy to care for, is long-lived, and not too expensive.
Let’s look into some of the pros and cons for Leopard Geckos.
Are Leopard Geckos good pets?
If you’re looking for a small reptile friend, Leopard Geckos make good pets that don’t need too much space, food, or attention, yet can still be played with once accustomed to you. Even for beginner reptile owners, Leopard Geckos tend to be a great experience. Leopard Gecko care is also relatively easy and doesn’t require food or supplies that you can’t get at most local pet stores.
Pros – Why Leopard Geckos are great to have
Relatively easy to keep. Wild Leopard Geckos are mostly ground-based, which, coupled with only 8-10 inches in length, leads to very simple, small enclosures. A 20-gallon aquarium is a common choice, though 30 or 40 gallons offer more space, and special reptile tanks are superior to aquariums. Leopard Geckos eat regular mealworms, crickets, and Dubia roaches, which are all common feeder insects, available at many pet stores.
Long lifetime. If you, like me, aren’t willing to get a pet that will die after a few short years, a Leopard Gecko is a good choice with a lifespan (as a pet) of 15-20 years!
Easy to handle. Adult Leopard Geckos (1 year+), once they have gotten used to you, can be handled and fed, even played with (carefully). However, they are not as active as some other species, or a pet like a cat or dog.
Wide variety of colors. With over 60 different morphs (color patterns/mutations) available, you’ll find one to fall in love with! Keep in mind though that while some Leopard Gecko morphs are as cheap as $100, others will cost $1000 and more.
Cons – Why a Leopard Gecko might not be for you
Require live food. If you get squeamish at the though of a box of worms or crickets, forget keeping a gecko – they need live food that doesn’t come in a can. However, with a small variety of feeder insects like mealworms, crickets, and dubia roaches, they get everything they need (if supplemented and gut-fed correctly). There are certainly more difficult and costly reptiles to feed than geckos, but it is a factor to consider.
Not the most active or affectionate. If playtime is a big factor, a small rodent might be a better choice, as Leopard Geckos can be engaged, but are less playful than other pets.
How to Care for Leopard Geckos
If you’re thinking about getting a Leopard Gecko, this short introduction will give you an overview over what to expect in terms of habitat, special requirements, food, and other facts.
Setting up your gecko’s enclosure
While a baby or juvenile Leo can live in a 10-gallon tank, a 20-gallon tank is considered the minimum for an adult gecko. Since they don’t have quite as high needs as some other reptiles, you can often find aquariums that fit the size and needs of a Leopard Gecko, sometimes even fully equipped with everything you need. Alternatively, there are special reptile tanks that are designed with ground-living reptiles in mind, including space for heat sources, which your Leopard Gecko will need.
They will need different temperatures in their tank: A cool end with around 70-77° F (21-25° C), a warm end with 90-92° F (32-33° C), and a basking spot at around 95° F (35° C). To manage their climate, you’ll need a heat mat or under-tank-heater, a thermostat, and ideally, a thermometer and hygrometer in the tank.
Additionally, they enjoy some scenery to play with: plants, ideally live, rocks or wood to climb on, and some hiding spots to rest in. Decorating a gecko enclosure that’s both appealing to you, guests, and your gecko is often one of the most interesting aspects of getting a new Leopard Gecko.
Substrate or bedding for your gecko enclosure
While sand is a common choice, it is not a good one. A bioactive substrate mix with micro-fauna serving as a clean-up crew is the most natural solution, with the added benefit of being relatively low-effort to maintain once set up properly.
A good substrate mix without the bioactive ingredients is also a good option, though, and relatively easy and budget-friendly to set up.
Alternatively, you can also use stone or ceramic tiles or mats that mimic natural textures.
Once set up, your gecko’s habitat should be spot-cleaned daily – though this shouldn’t take more than five minutes at most. Simply look for feces, left-over food, or shed skin, and remove it. Some decor or bedding might need to be wiped off with a damp cloth, too.
However, once a month, you should deep-clean your habitat. For that, you’ll need to remove decoration and elements for a proper cleaning with water and soap. Additionally, some substrates will need to be replaced regularly.
Feeding your Leopard Gecko
Leopard Geckos are insectivores and don’t really eat anything but insects – as the name implies. Roaches, crickets, and worms are the most common food sources, all of which can be easily bought in pet stores, or even ordered online.
While the thought of keeping live roaches, crickets, or worms at home might be off-putting for many, they are surprisingly easy to keep. Worms can be kept in a box with minimal interaction, and crickets and roaches aren’t much worse. Similarly, you can pick them up with soft-tipped tweezers to drop them in the feeding spot in your gecko’s enclosure.
The only thing to consider is a somewhat varied diet – no one feeder insect is enough for a healthy diet (just like in a human diet). Additionally, geckos need additional Calcium and Vitamin D, which is supplemented by dusting the food with a powder before it’s being fed. Feeding the worms and other feeder insects with vegetables is also necessary to supply micro-nutrients, since your gecko can’t eat veggies themselves.
Leopard Gecko play-time
When you purchase a baby Leopard Gecko, it is still too young to play with. However, it’s now a good idea to start acclimating your new pet to your presence. By keeping the habitat in a room that you spend time in, your gecko will get used to your presence. Slowly, as it matures (at around 1-year-old), you can start interacting more and more with it. Eventually, you can feed it by hand, hold it, or gently play with it.
However, you will need to be careful not to ever grab his tail, as it will likely fall off. While it does regrow, it isn’t ideal or healthy for your gecko to go through this.
Recap: Should you get a Leopard Gecko?
If you’ve been thinking about getting a reptile or gecko, a Leo is a good choice if you prefer a smaller enclosure and a pet that doesn’t need too much attention, but can still be played and interacted with.
Besides the once-a-month cleaning of the tank, only the feeding (about every 2-4 days for an adult gecko) will need some time – though a few minutes will be enough. This makes geckos a low-maintenance choice as a pet, while still being incredibly cute.
What are your thoughts on a Leo as a pet? Leave a comment below!