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This is just a very basic, quick rundown of some keeping tips of mine. If you're new to leopard geckos, it's vital that you do lots of research and take your new friend in to see a herp veterinarian in addition to reading these few pointers.

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 on.

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).

My 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!
There’s 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.

Muftin Geckos * Corvallis * OR * USA

All photos and text copyright Marla Blaney 2014

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