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Leopard Gecko, Eublepharis macularius


Introduction Leopard Geckos occur in India and Pakistan. Leopard geckos are small lizards, generally not exceeding 8 inches from head to tail. Most wild specimens are shades of yellow and white with black dots. As juveniles, they are often banded and as they mature their pattern becomes more reticulated. In captivity, many variations occur such as albinos, leucistic, striped, high yellow and anetheristic to name a few. They are found in hot, arid desert and savannah landscapes. Most often they are hidden in dens along rocky out crops and borrows under rotten vegetation. Primarily nocturnal, they spend their day hidden away to escape the intense heat. By night, they leave the safety of their den in search for arthropods, or wait to ambush a passing insect. They are also known to prey on baby rodents. They are not generally aggressive, stay small and have seemingly endless possibilities of color variations which has led to their enormous popularity in the reptile trade over the last several years.

Acclimation and Quarintine Quarantine or acclimation enclosures do not need to be elaborate. Instead they should be sterile and easy to clean. Plastic storage bins are often used for such enclosures as they are easy to clean, come in a variety of sizes, and most provide the security needed for a freshly acquired lizard. Paper towels, newspapers, or other easily cleaned materials may be used as the substrate. A hide box should be provided for additional security. A shallow ceramic water dish should be used as the water bowl. This setup should be used until the gecko is feeding regularly and appears to be in good health.

Housing A single adult or even a pair or trio can be kept in a 10-15 gallon terrarium. If a larger number of animals are to be kept together, the size of the enclosure will obviously need to be increased to accommodate the larger colony. Be sure to keep only one male per cage as they will fight amongst themselves. You can however keep a male with a single female or a group of females. To decorate the tank you may use a sand substrate (Calci-Sand) at one pound per gallon. This will provide you with roughly one inch of substrate on the bottom of the tank. Avoid using silicate based sands (play sand) as it is not digestible and may cause stomach and intestinal impactions. Provide several hide spot, especially if more than one animal is kept in a terrarium. Drift wood, mango root, grape vine and slate can all be used to decorate the tank. You may also choose to use artificial plants to provide some additional decor in the tank. Any heavy objects such as slate should be secure and preferably placed directly on the bottom of the tank and not on top of the substrate. Leopard Geckos will dig, and in their attempts to make a borrow, a heavy piece of slate could easily crush them as they dig sand out from under it.

Lighting and Heating Provide a hot spot for Leopard Geckos that is between 85 - 90 degrees F at the most. They are indigenous to arid regions that have hot day time temperatures and cool night time temps. In the wild, they spend their day hidden away in dens to escape the heat. They are largely nocturnal and will not bask much. With that said, be sure to have a temperature gradient with a hide box on each extreme to allow them to cool down or warm up yet remain hidden. The opposite end of the tank should be 70 - 75 degrees. Night time temps can drop to 65 degrees, perhaps cooler, but not needed. Incandescent lights may be used as a heat source. An infra-red/night light will provide some night time heat. They are available in a wide selection of wattages, so the right level of heat for the hot spot can usually be found and then controlled with a thermostat as required. One may also choose to utilize ceramic heat emitters for larger enclosures. They can be used at night without emitting light that would otherwise disrupt the dragon's photoperiod. These should also be used with a thermostat to control the temperature. Since Leopard Geckos are nocturnal, and are rarely exposed to natural sunlight, their need for UVB is often times questioned. Many sun loving, basking lizards need UVB exposure to synthesize vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is necessary for calcium to be metabolized. These animals that are not exposed to UVB can develop Metabolic Bone Disease. If MBD isn't treated in a timely fashion, skeletal deformities, kidney failure, seizures, and eventually death will occur. For that reason, I use compact flouresent lights that produce UVB during the day in combination with a heat light or heat pad. They do not produce a lot of heat, and there is no evidence that exposing any reptile to UV is harmful. Its best to be safe than sorry.

Humidity Leopard geckos occur in deserts and dry savanna habitats and the humidity levels should reflect those habitats. Aim to keep your humidity levels between 20% - 30%. You can mist your geckos occasionally, but avoid getting the substrate to moist. Their hide boxes should contain damp sphagnum moss, as this will aid in shedding, and provide an ideal nesting site.

Feeding Leopard Geckos are mostly insectivores and will thrive on a diet of insects. Large adults may also be offered the occasional pinky. Hatchlings and juveniles should be fed crickets as fast as the gecko will consume them in a few minute time span. Feed them 2-3 times daily appropriately sized crickets, no larger than the width between the eyes of the gecko. Dusting crickets with a calcium supplement is essentinal to the rapid growth of baby Leopard geckos. Dust your crickets every day or every other day. A vitamin supplement is important as well. Provide vitamins once or twice a week. Adults can be fed every other day. Crickets should be gut-loaded to make them more nutritious. There are a lot of gut load products on the market or you can feed your crickets fresh vegetable and fruits. They will actually eat anything you give them such as cat, dog and fish food. What ever you choose to gut load your crickets with, be sure to offer them variety. What ever your crickets eat... your lizard eats as well. Other bugs for your gecko include but are not limited to Silk worms, Wax worms, Phoenix worms, Roaches, Meal worms and Super worms. Leopard geckos can also be fruity baby foods or even sugar glider formula in a shallow dish. They will lap at such mixtures.

Water Provide your Leopard gecko with a shallow water dish. Be sure to keep it clean as they will often times defecate in it. You can lightly mist your geckos enclosure on occasion as well. Just be sure to keep the cage otherwise dry.

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