The Leopard Gecko, Eublepharis macularius, is an ideal pet: it is small, inexpensive, and easy to care for. Its husbandry requirements are much simpler than those needed to keep a Green Iguana, for example, and they are bred in large numbers by lizard hobbyists. All of these attributes-plus their uncanny "cat-like" characteristics-have made the Leopard Gecko the most popular gecko in the pet trade.
The Leopard Gecko gets its common name from its appearance: this lizard sports a multitude of black spots and blotches on a yellow background coloration (the belly is plain white). Fancy color phases have appeared on the market in the past few years, and high-yellow , "orange", and leucistic Leopard Geckos can be found at reptile breeder expos commanding top dollar. As with feline Leopards, no two Leopard Geckos have the same exact pattern.
Adult Leopard Geckos reach eight inches in length, and can be housed singly in 10-gallon aquariums. If you intend to breed these lizards, a colony set-up is most efficient. Many breeders house one male with three to six females in a plastic sweater box (punch holes in the side for ventilation first) or rubber tub. Do not keep more than one male per enclosure as geckos are highly territorial and males will fight for dominance.
These creatures are native to the rocky steppes of Iran, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, so they require temperatures of 82°-90°F during the day; the cage can drop to room temperature (68-70°F) at night. An under-cage heater or incandescent light bulb suspended at one end of the cage can be used to reach the proper temperature.
Sand makes an attractive substrate for the cage floor, especially if this will be a display cage, but newspaper is more practical if you do not mind the appearance. Add a shallow water dish, a log or rock for basking under the light, and a hide box and your gecko is all set.
Leopard Geckos are carnivores and will eat a variety of food items: crickets, meal worms, king meal worms (Zoophobias), and newborn pink mice are all accepted enthusiastically. Offer wax worms occasionally as a treat. These animals are not picky eaters, and will attack most prey items with gusto. Dust insects with a vitamin/mineral supplement once a week to boost the prey animal's nutritive value.
These are nocturnal lizards, so do not expect to see too much of your Leopard Gecko during the day. However, once the sun sets be prepared to be entertained. Leopard Geckos have fun personalities, and they explore their habitat after dark. Toss a few crickets in the cage, and watch the show: these lizards stalk their prey carefully, and are extremely lion-like in their movements. After cautiously sneaking up on an insect, the Leopard Gecko pounces on its prey, grasping it in its powerful jaws and holding it there, motionless, until it can maneuver it deeper into its mouth.
Once you've discovered the joys of owning a Leopard Gecko, you may want to try your hand at breeding these lizards, as they are one of the easiest reptiles to breed in captivity. All you need to get started are two geckos (a male and a female), the housing set-up as detailed above, and a nest box. Check out Geckoes: Biology, Husbandry, & Reproduction by Henkel & Schmidt (call 1-888-7-REPTILE) for more information on these fascinating "little lions", and you may enjoy a long relationship with your new pet (these geckos have been known to live over 20 years)!
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