Great news! I found my veterinarian's
care sheet for leopard geckos online. Here is the link:
Caring for your leopard gecko, by Mark Burgess DVM
Ok, so the above link is to my veterinarian's
recommendations. The following are some tips of mine:
Never, ever house adult, male leopard geckos together. They will fight
to the death. Most females will accept other female cagemates, given lots of space and hiding places, but some never will.
I recommend against housing a male and female pair together year round, it will be hard on the female. Never house geckos
together that are really different sizes or ages. The tinier one will suffer, even if you don’t see it getting picked
Always quarantine any new gecko you purchase from any other geckos (or other pets) that you have. It seems
like a lot of effort, but it’s worth it. When I got Slinky, Binky, and Rasputin, I discovered that they had pinworms.
Good thing they were housed by themselves, or I would have had to treat my whole colony.
Always have the address,
number, and directions to two veterinarians available. First, your regular, reptile specialist veterinarian. Second, an
emergency vet in case something urgent comes up on weekends or at night. If your gecko seems sick (vomiting, skinny, messy
poop, poor appetite, wounds, etc.), take it in right away. You will be glad you did. (Read Jeeves' story- see link below.)
If you go on vacation, have a friend come over and care for your gecko. They are easy to show someone how to feed
and water. I would never leave adults alone for more than a week, and juvies maybe 3 days.
For an individual leopard gecko, a standard 10 gallon tank is a perfect little cottage. If you
really want to spoil your pet, I recommend housing it in a 20L tank. This is like living in a mansion! I wouldn’t
try and house more than one gecko in a 10-gallon tank until you have some experience under your belt. The same goes for more
than two in the 20L. Just be patient- the experience pays off later.
Must-haves include a humid hide (easily
made from Tupperware and a sponge, needs to be kept moist), a food dish, an under-tank heater at one end, a water dish, and
as many places to hide and climb on as possible (I love those lizard hammocks!). Leopard geckos may not be arboreal, but
some of them sure think they are! I use paper towel as substrate, and recommend it strongly over any kind of sand, especially
for juvenile leos.
The temperatures at the warmer end can reach as high as 90°F or so, but not higher. The
cooler side must remain in the 70s. It is absolutely essential that the tank have a range of temperatures available.
Also, even though leos are from desert climates, they only come out at night, and spend most of their time in much
cooler, humid burrows. As such, it’s important not to keep your gecko in a desert terrarium. They need adequate humidity
to shed properly (keep an eye on those toes!). I even mist my guys when I know they are about to shed. Also, I just recently
learned that many veterinary professionals do consider leopard geckos as requiring UVB exposure. Thus, it would be best
to have your little friend on day-night cycle with a low wattage UVB bulb that is changed out at least every 6 months.
Most leopard gecko hobbyists feed their geckos either mealworms or crickets, and nothing
else. It’s my opinion that this is inadequate. Mealworms do not provide adequate nutrition. They have too much chitin
(their exoskeleton), making them harder to digest, and are fairly high in fat. Crickets can be gutloaded with a balanced
diet, but can give your leo major wounds. If you feed crickets, make sure your gecko either eats every single one, or that
you leave a pile of food in the tank for the crickets that are uneaten. (See Slim's story, link below).
recommendation is to use silkworms as the main staple prey item, and to rotate around with other prey items. Always gutload
everything you feed your gecko for at least 24 hours before feeding (this will mean different things for different species).
I used to feed my guys at least 40% silkworms. They still don't have the ideal calcium ratio, but they're closer
than many things I'm aware of. The rest of their diet was a hodge-podge of other nutritious items. The bigger guys got
goliath hornworms- these grow very fast! Now I feed pre-killed pinky mice (1 day old, ethically euthanized by a dealer-
see below). I did feed mealworms that had been gutloaded when I could't get ahold of anything else, and occasionally
superworms to the larger guys too. Infrequently, I have used phoenix worms, butterworms (sparingly- these guys are very
high in fat), and crickets (with caution). I do not feed waxies- though leos love them, they’re basically just fat
with no nutritional value. I’ve heard that lobster roaches are a good prey item, but I haven’t been able to get
keep a colony myself successfully.
Also regarding food- my herp veterinarian has recommended
to me that earthworms and slugs would be the healthiest diet available. I have tried, but I can't get most of my
leos to accept them. I think I tried starting too late in the game, so I'll be sure to get started early the next
time I have a juvie. I strongly recommend at least trying it to anyone reading this, as my veterinarian really knows
what he's talking about. He also said that the pre-killed pink mice had a better Ca/Ph balance naturally.
Just make sure you always allow frozen prey items to completely thaw before feeding!
quite a debate regarding another common practice- covering prey items in calcium or vitamin powder. In theory, there should
be no need to do this, if you are feeding your guys a balanced diet. There’s also a danger that too much calcium can
crystallize your leo’s internal organs. So here is what I do- I buy JUVENILE bearded dragon (or juvenile iguana) dry
pelleted food, which is perfectly balanced for calcium and whatnot. I use a mortar and pestle to grind it into a very fine
powder. Then I use that powder to coat prey insects before feeding. For females that are actively laying eggs, I sometimes
put calcium powder directly on the prey items. For crickets and mealworms, I also add a small amount of calcium powder to
the diet they are gutloaded with.
*Update* I now have a coffee-type grinder
that I use for grinding the reptile pellets for dusting, and it works MUCH better. I recommend it highly! (Though
you'll obviously want one just for leopard gecko stuff, don't use your regular coffee grinder, heh-heh.)
Click this link to read the lessons I have learned at great cost. Hopefully these stories will save you some heartache.