Leopard Gecko FAQ

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Leopard Geckos. Thank you to the many people that emailed me these questions! I will add to this as more questions are asked.

I have heard many people say that Hot Rocks are bad but the pet store tells me that I need to buy a Hot Rock. Who do I believe?

Do not use hot rocks to heat your Leopard Geckos's cage. In fact, they do not warm the air enough for most reptiles. Use a combination of undertank heating to gently warm a portion of the substrate with a regular light bulb for heat during the day. Even better are the ceramic elements that screw into a fixture just like a light bulb, but do not give off any light. (Red light bulbs are ok for night time use also as reptiles can't see the red light.) These can be left on all night whereas regular light bulbs must be turned off at night. Leave the heating pad on all night most of the time. I say most of the time because you need to think about the room temperature also. If you live somewhere where the temperature varies significantly (like where I  do) you need to make sure that you are not overheating the cage in the summer or underheating it in the winter. The temperature in my living room goes from about 64 in the winter to 85 in the summer. Therefore I turn off one or both of the heating elements during the hottest parts of the summer. (A thermostat would take care of this for you and adjust accordingly.)

My Leopard Gecko is turning white! What is wrong with him? HELP!

It is okay. He/she is just shedding. Babies will shed quite frequently while they are growing as they grow out of their old skin very quickly. You may want to gently mist them with water when this occurs to make shedding easier. They will eat their shed skin so don't be surprised if you come home one day and your previously white gecko is again sporting his/her bright colors yet there is no shed skin in the cage. The only thing you have to do is to make sure that when they are done shedding that all the skin came off between their toes. If it didn't you can wet the gecko and GENTLY try and work it out. Be very careful. you don't want to take the toes off! Don't worry if they don't eat during this time.

Recently, I have noticed that my gecko seems to be turning a lighter color, perhaps almost a slight orange tint. Also, for the past several days, I've noticed his toes are white at the tips. How is it possible we didn't notice him shedding and what do we do about the stuck pieces?

Leopard Geckos will often shed at night while you can't keep an eye on them. To make matters "worse" they will eat the shed so there is no evidence either. To combat bad sheds there should be a "humidity chamber" available at all times for the gecko to hide in. These are the same as an egg laying chamber. You can make one out of any "tupperware type" container. Cut a hole in the side for an entrance, put damp sphagnum moss or vermiculite (from a plant nursery) about an inch or so deep. Leave the cover on to keep the moisture inside and voila, instant humidty chamber just like their native burrows in Pakistan.

How do I tell if my new baby Leopard Gecko is male or female?

Baby Leopard Geckos are nearly impossible to sex. The only way to have a good idea is to know your breeder. You see, the sex of Leopard Geckos is determined by the temperature the eggs were incubated at. Eggs incubated at between 79-84 degrees generally produce females, at between 86-90 degrees males are produced. Eggs incubated at 85 degrees may produce a mixture of male and females. (There can be hot females and cool males that don't reproduce well but that is another story.) If you do not know the breeder you will have to wait until the Leopard Gecko matures a bit to be able to tell. I'm not certain on the exact age at which you can tell but I believe 6 months is a good age to be able to start to tell. (Breeders and experienced herpetologists can generally give a good idea before this time though.) When they mature, male Leopard Geckos get a row of very noticeable pores shaped like a "V" between their legs in front of the vent. If these pores are "invisible" or hardly noticeable you have a female. Males are generally larger and have blockier heads while females are more streamlined in the head area. Click here for a pictorial view of male and female Leopard Geckos.

I bought 2 Leopard Gecko babies and lately they are not getting along. They got along before; what has changed? (Question may be followed by "I also found a bit of blood in the cage" or "One of my Geckos has lost a tail".)

It sounds like you bought 2 male Leopard Geckos. Babies get along fine until they start to mature. Then males will fight and often draw blood. I've heard that they may fight to the death in captivity but have never witnessed it. For this reason I recommend either buying one gecko at a time and waiting until you know the sex before getting another one or buy from a reputable breeder that can sell you 2 sexed females (or 1 male and 1 female). This happened to me only once. I put about 5 babies in one cage temporarily (I thought they were all females) until one day when I noticed a spot of blood in the cage. I picked up each and every one of the now several month old "babies" until I got to 2 males. I seperated them immediately and everything was fine. (I never did figure out who got injured!)

My Leopard Gecko has lost it's tail. What do I do?

This is most often due to rough handling as opposed to cagemates squabbling. Leopard Geckos and African Fat-Tail Geckos store all of their fat in their tails. Once the tail is lost they can no longer store fat (until it grows back) and thus are more prone to starvation. If the gecko lives alone the only thing you need to do is make sure that he/she is fed well and kept warm enough. If the gecko has cagemates it is best to seperate him/her from the others so you can be sure he/she is eating enough and is not getting picked on. The tail will grow back although it will not look as attractive as it once did. It will be more bulbous and more of a solid color. Once it has grown back all the way the lizard is as good as new and may rejoin it's cagemates. (Observe them to make sure there is no fighting. If there is you may have more than one male. See question #4)

Someone told me that my Leopard Gecko needs a UV light. Is this true?

No, Leopard Geckos are nocturnal and rarely see the sun in their native Pakistan. Therefore they don't need uv in captivity. It certainly won't hurt to expose them to it though. If there is a uv light over it's cage make sure the gecko has somewhere to hide where it is nice and dark.

I'm still confused about the lighting. There are too many products to choose from. Help!

OK, there are two types of lighting in the world of herpetology. There is uv lighting which comes in the form of a flourescent tube. This kind gives off UV-A and some UV-B (which synthesizes D3 and speeds the uptake of calcium in all animals) but not much heat to speak of. Many lizards and tortoises need this kind of light because it somewhat duplicates the sun's effects. Leopard Geckos DO NOT need this type of lighting. Leopard Geckos are nocturnal (awake at night) and never bask in the sun in their native homeland. They get their D3 from the gut-loaded insects that you feed them with the occasional dusting of calcium with D3 added. Please see my cricket care document for details on gut-loading. The second type of lighting you will see in the pet store is only used for heating. There are all kinds of fancy screw-in type bulbs out there with fancy names like "Reptile Basking Light" etc. Don't let them fool you, these screw-in type bulbs cannot emit UV of any sort. They are only needed for heating purposes. There is no reason to buy these kinds of lights for $3 or more when a regular old light bulb from the hardware store/department store works equally as well. Depending on the size of the cage you are heating and the temperature of your home you might need anywhere from a 40 watt to a 100 watt bulb. If you need more than that you should probably invest in a Ceramic Heat Element (CHE). Please refer to my heating document for more information.

My Leopard Gecko has stopped eating. What do I do?

Generally speaking, when Leopard Geckos dont eat it is environment related. Either it is too hot or too cool. I don't know what kind of setup you have but I suggest strongly that you go get a decent digital thermometer from Radio Shack. I found one at Target once too. They make little indoor/outdoor thermometers that have a long probe. You turn it to "outside" and put the probe down on the substrate where the lizard hangs out on the hot side and then get a reading on the cool side. It needs to RANGE from 95 on one side to low 70s on the cool side. If it is a small tank this is hard to do. If it is 95 on one side and 85 on the other the animal cannot cool down and will enter a state where they wont eat until it cools down. On the other hand if it is too cool, maybe 80s on one end to 60s on the other they might not eat as they know they cannot digest properly.

My question has to do with this "calcium" issue. This calcium carbonate substrate sand. Is that any good? If I use that, do I still need calcium dusted crickets?

This is a common misconception. The calci-sand or similar substrate is not a substitute for calcium supplementation. For one thing it is NOT digestible like the manufacturer would have you believe. And if you do not supplement with calcium dusted crickets the gecko WILL eat the sand and could become impacted. For another thing calcium sand is extremely expensive and not worth the money in my opinion. If you want to use sand I recommend the tan colored playsand from the Depot type of stores. Generally it is about $3 for 50 lbs. and does the job just as well. As an aside, the colored calcium sand can turn your geckos funny colors.

Click reptileszz@cox.net here to ask a new question for me to add to this FAQ.
Please feel free to print this out to refer to later.

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