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    Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius)

    Leopard Gecko - Eublepharis macularius


    Pictures courtesy of The Urban Gecko



    Introduction

    Common Name: Leopard Gecko
    Scientific Name: Eublepharis macularius
    Distribution: Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India
    Size: : 8 – 10 inches
    Natural Habitat: They inhabit dry, arid, almost desert like terrain.
    Behavior: Males may become territorial, Keep separate from other males.


    Usually a tame lizard and easy to handle. This lizard is nocturnal (active primarily at night). A popular and hearty reptile that makes an excellent choice for a new reptile keeper. They are tolerant of husbandry and also can be held for short amounts of time.





     


    Food
    Make sure a shallow dish with water is available at all times. Feeding consists of a main diet of crickets coated with a vitamin and calcium supplement. Some of the best supplements on the market are Rep-Cal (calcium and vitamin D) and Nekton-Rep (vitamin). At feeding time, use either product as a major component for vitamin and mineral supplementation - shaking this product back and forth to coat the crickets before feeding. Crickets may be found at your local pet store and are about $1.30/dozen. I would suggest ordering your crickets from an online supplier. You can order from online suppliers at a cost of as little as $13.50/1,000. The crickets may be kept in a tall trash can with a screen top and fed baby chicken starter mash as a diet. Water should also be made available by an inverted water dish, also available from most suppliers at a cost of $5.00. The crickets have a life span of about six to eight weeks so its best not to order anymore than you will use in two to three weeks. Leopard Gecko hatchlings should be fed 1/2 inch crickets and adults should be fed 3/4 inch crickets. Mealworms may be fed once a month. Feeding should take place three to four times a week. An adult will usually eat between five to seven crickets at a feeding. A hatchling will usually eat two to three crickets at a feeding.


    Heating
    Many species of pet lizards require complicated and expensive heating equipment such as ceramic conical heaters connected to advanced thermostats. The species in question does not, Leopard geckos are one of the few lizards suited to the use of heat mats. Daytime temperatures should be around 88 on the hottest side and 78 on the cool side. The nighttime temps can go down in the low 70s. It's best to provide any reptile with a temperature gradient and let them regulate their temperature.


    Housing
    Leopard geckos tend to settle well into smaller vivariums than expected. We advise housing babies in one of the plasti c tanks commercially available that measure 14" long x 8" wide x 6" tall. This is a useful size until the Leopard gecko reaches an age of about 4 months. By then it should be large enough to re-house into the next size up, being another plastic tank measuring about 18" long x 12" wide x 6" tall. Within another 4 months the Leopard gecko can be housed in his adult vivarium. This is usually in the form of a wooden vivarium measuring approximately 24-30" long x 15" x 15". These are commercially available from all good reptile shops. Construction can be made from wood and then varnished (with a non-toxic product), or as most keepers provide, melamine faced chipboard. All joins must be sealed with a non-toxic silicon sealant. A glass-sliding front is advisable; this must be in the form of toughened or laminated safety glass. Another recently launched vivarium of similar proportions is made from plastic with a glass front and is also suitable. Do not be tempted into cutting corners and try to house a baby in an adult size cage. Some will do okay, but it is always safer to be cautious, many will not feed and eventually die of stress related problems in large cages.


    Substrate
    For baby or juvenile Leopard Geckos, the best substrate is paper towels. The reason for this is because there is no possibility for impaction. They are cheep and easy to replace. You can also use paper towels for adults. Sand and other substrates such as Bed-A-Beast(a mixture of cork and coconut), should be only used with Leopard Geckos at least 6-7 inches in length. If you use sand or bed-a-beast, watch your Gecko eat. If it gets a mouth-full of substrate, you might want to think about changing it.


    Hiding Places & Humid Hide
    The Leopard gecko originates from desert areas in and around Pakistan. Most keepers assume that they will require a dry environment in captivity, to some extent this is true, but they do require a damp area. We term this the "wet box". The bulk of the vivarium should be kept very dry, but a wet box - often in the form of an empty cleaned out margarine tub with a small hole cut in the side allowing access - should be placed in the warm end. Place about an inch of wet substrate such as peat, sphagnum moss or orchid bark in the bottom of the wet box and put the lid back on. Do not use clear tubs such as the ones crickets are supplied and do only cut a hole just large enough for your pet to slip into - otherwise it will not be used because he doesn't feel secure.


    Water Dish & Calcium Dish
    Leopard Geckos will drink right from a water dish, so a shallow dish with fresh water should be offered 24 hours a day. Also a calcium dish should be offered. Calcium dishes can be made out of an old milk carton top filled with powdered calcium.


    Lighting
    Leopard Geckos are nocturnal. This means they do not need UV lights. They can, however, have normal lights for heat in the day time, and infrared at night. Make sure the lights are no more than 40 watt bulbs. They should have a normal 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark.


    Handling
    Leopard Geckos will tolerate handling to an extent. You can hold them for a couple of minutes each day if you like. Try to avoid handling hatchlings. Wait at least 1 or 2 months before handling babies. The recommended handling time is 5 to 15 minutes Any longer and they might become stressed.


    Taming
    Many Leos can become aggressive if never held. Aggressive Leos will try and bite and hiss at you. A good way to tame them is to hold them at least 5 minutes a day. Even though they will try to bite you, soon the will realize that you are not a predator. Eventually they will calm down. To make this technique work, you must keep it up. You cannot hold it once a month and expect it to be tamed.


    Breeding

    A breeding group may consist of one male and three to four females. Never house males together because they are very territorial and will fight. Mating for the Leopard Geckos usually takes place in November or December with the first eggs being laid in late December. Eggs are usually laid in clutches (which consist of two to 4 eggs). A clutch is then laid every ten to fifteen days afterwards. Each female can lay between three to thirteen clutches in a season, depending on their health and genetic makeup. Keep a closed plastic container inside the cage with an opening large enough for the geckos to go in and out. This plastic container will act as a hide box as well as an egg laying site for the females. Keep about two-three inches of coarse vermiculite (commonly found at garden stores) inside the container. Mist the inside of the container occasionally to keep the vermiculite damp but not wet. The eggs can become damaged by to much moisture or by becoming to dry. The female will lay her eggs inside the plastic container. The eggs will be soft shelled and can be removed for incubation. Place the eggs inside a plastic container with dampened vermiculite and cover the container with a lid and place it into the incubator. Check the container every few days to make sure the vermiculite maintains moisture and to let fresh air into the container. Make sure you check the containers often when it is close to hatching time and remove hatchlings as soon as they have hatched.

    If eggs are incubated at 79 F, the majority of all hatchlings will be female. If incubated at 85F, you will get an almost equal number of males and females. If incubated at 90F, most will be male; at 92F, practically all will be males. Incubators are available at most farm supply stores sold as chicken egg incubators (Hovabator). Depending upon the temperatures used, eggs will hatch in 6-12 weeks, with the higher temperatures hatching sooner. The hatchlings will not feed until they have had their first shed, which usually takes about five days after hatching. As youngsters the art of successfully sexing Leopard geckos is very difficult, once half grown this is a relatively easy task. Gently turn the gecko over and look at the area between the rear legs. A "V" shape should be clearly seen on both sexes, but males are much more distinct. Males will also have two bulges at the base of the tail. Do not mix males together, they will fight - often to the death.



    Reminder!
    Leopard Geckos are nocturnal and will hide most of the day. Only really appearing at dusk. You should not keep messing with the gecko while it is in its hideaway. You can easily feed them while they are inside. Just drop the food item in front of opening to the hideaway. Don't worry about them drinking. They will come out when you are sleeping and explore its new environment, and most likely find the water dish.

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