Leopard Gecko Care Sheet

Maria Zayas, DVM
By Maria Zayas, DVM on Oct. 30, 2023
Leopard gecko

In This Article

Species Overview

Leopard Gecko Species Overview

Sociable and easy to handle, leopard geckos make excellent pets for beginner reptile hobbyists due to their gentle disposition.  

Leopard geckos are native to semi-arid desert environments in the Middle East and parts of Northern India. The scientific name for the leopard gecko’s genus, Eublepharis, is derived from the Greek words for “good” (eu) and “eyelid” (blepharos). 

Unlike many gecko species, leopard geckos have functional eyelids. In fact, they can blink and even close their eyes while sleeping! 

Leopard geckos use their tails to store fat and nutrients as an emergency energy source, and they can detach their tail if they’re caught by a predator. Their tail will regrow within about 30 days, but the new tail will not look the same as the original. Never grab or pick-up a leopard gecko by their tail. 

Leopard geckos are crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk), so pet parents will often find them hiding under rocks or burrowed under substrate during the day. 

Most leopard geckos shed every four to eight weeks. After a shed cycle, leopard geckos will often eat their shed skin to regain some of its nutrients. Before shedding their skin, leopard geckos turn a whitish-gray color. 

Unlike snakes, geckos shed skin in pieces and commonly retain unshed skin over their eyes and toes. When this happens, they should be soaked in shallow warm water to increase their hydration to encourage shedding. 

All reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, including Salmonella bacteria, which is zoonotic (transmittable to humans). Always wash your hands before and after handling your leopard gecko or their habitat’s contents. 

Leopard Gecko Characteristics 

Difficulty of Care 


Average Lifespan

Up to 10–20 years with proper care 

Average Adult Size 

6–9 inches long 



Minimum Habitat Size 

10 gallons for juveniles; 20+ gallons for adults 

Leopard Gecko Supply Checklist

To keep a leopard gecko happy and healthy, pet parents should have these basic supplies on hand: 

  • Appropriately sized habitat 

  • Substrate 

  • Water and mealworm dishes 

  • Climbing décor 

  • Plants 

  • Heat light 

  • Heat fixture 

  • Under-tank heater 

  • Thermostat 

  • Multivitamin supplement 

  • Calcium supplement with and without vitamin D3 

  • Cricket keeper 

  • Cricket food 

  • Cricket quencher 

  • Thermometer 

  • Humidity gauge 

  • Sphagnum moss 

  • UV light 

  • UV light fixture 

  • Hideout box 

  • Plant mister 

Leopard Gecko Habitat

Choosing the Right Enclosure 

Start juvenile leopard geckos in a tank that’s at least 10 gallons. You must increase the size of your leopard gecko’s habitat to accommodate their growth as they mature. All enclosures should have a screened lid to allow for proper ventilation and prevent escape.  

Leopard geckos enter adulthood within one to two years. A single, adult leopard gecko should be housed in a tank that’s 20 gallons or larger. If the pet parent is interested in housing multiple leopard geckos in the same habitat, they’ll need to buy a larger tank to accommodate. Always provide the largest habitat possible. 

  • Recommended Products: 

  • Tanks for Juvenile Leopard Geckos (10+ gallons) 

  • Tanks for Adult Leopard Geckos (20+ gallons) 

Setting Up Your Habitat 

When introducing geckos to each other, they should be monitored to ensure they are compatible. 

Since male leopard geckos tend to fight with each other, male geckos should not be housed together, nor should they be kept in the same habitat as males of another reptile species.

Female leopard geckos of the same size can usually be raised in the same habitat. But, if one of the females is larger than the other, it can cause stress and competition for the smaller gecko.

Opposite-sex leopard geckos should not be kept in the same habitat unless the pet parent wants them to breed.  


Leopard geckos need a thermal gradient in their enclosure so they can warm up and cool down as needed. The recommended temperature for the warm end of a leopard gecko’s habitat is 80–90 F, while the cooler end should be kept at 75–80 F.  

Check the temperatures of your leopard gecko’s habitat daily. Two thermometers—one in the warm area and one in the cool area—should be placed in the enclosure so that both zones can be checked at once. A digital point-and-shoot thermometer can also be used to read habitat temperatures instantly. 

Recommended Products: 

Lighting and Heat Support 

Like all reptiles, leopard geckos are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature.

An incandescent light, ceramic bulb, or under-tank heater should be used to create a basking area in a leopard gecko’s habitat. Hot rocks should not be used because they can get too warm and cause injury.

Under-tank heating pads must be controlled with a thermostat to keep the habitat’s temperature within a safe range and prevent the gecko from getting burned.  

Note: Some light bulbs provide not only light to the tank but also heat and/or ultraviolet (UV) light. Pet parents should check the light sources they are considering to understand their function within the tank, before adding it in. 

Recommended Products:  

  • Light Fixtures & Hoods 

  • Heat Support 

UV Light 

Leopard geckos also need UVB light to help them metabolize vitamin D, absorb calcium, and to stay healthy and stimulated. Leopard geckos need about 10–12 hours of UV light daily. Replace bulbs every six months (even if they still emit light) as their potency wanes over time. 

Recommended Products: 

  • UV Light Emitters 


Leopard geckos are native to the desert, but they still need some humidity in their environment to support skin and respiratory health. The ideal humidity range for a leopard gecko's habitat is under 50%. A hygrometer (humidity gauge) should be used to measure the enclosure’s humidity. 

Recommended Products: 


Substrate or reptile carpet should line the bottom of a leopard gecko’s habitat. Gravel, wood chips, and walnut shells are not recommended materials for substrate, as they are abrasive to a gecko’s delicate skin.  

If the pet parent chooses to use a loose substrate, such as sand, in their leopard gecko’s enclosure, they should be sure to feed the lizard in a dish or feeding tank. Loose substrate is not digestible and can lead to fatal gastrointestinal obstruction if ingested. 

Recommended Products: 

Décor & Accessories 

Food dishes: Rather than being placed on the habitat floor, food should be offered in a shallow dish or feeding tank to lessen the chance of the gecko accidentally ingesting their tank’s substrate.  

Worm dishes are designed to keep wiggling live prey in one area. 

Recommended Products: 

Hiding area: Leopard geckos need two hiding areas—one on the cool end of their enclosure, and one on the warm end of their enclosure. Aside from offering privacy and security, hideouts allow leopard geckos to have a space away from their enclosure’s direct basking area.

Always monitor your geckos to ensure that they are not spending all their time in hiding and not getting the benefits of UV light. 

Recommended Products: 

Climbing branches and basking rocks: Pet parents must add a basking rock or sturdy branch to their leopard gecko’s habitat so they can climb and bask as needed. 

Basking branches must be large and sturdy enough to support the leopard gecko’s body. Otherwise, the branch could topple over and potentially cause injury. 

Recommended Products: 

Moss: Moist sphagnum moss can be added to the inside of a hideout box on the warm side of a leopard gecko’s enclosure to create a humidity hide. Moss holds moisture well and can aid in healthy shedding. 

Pet parents can create a humid hide by using a commercially available hideout box or by cutting a hole in a plastic container. If choosing to make a DIY hideout, make sure that the hole doesn’t have any rough edges that could injure the gecko. Moss should be replaced often to prevent mold from forming. 

Recommended Products:  

Plants: Adding non-toxic live plants to a leopard gecko’s enclosure can help increase the habitat’s humidity level and enrich the overall environment. 

Leopard Gecko Cleaning and Maintenance

Spot-clean your leopard gecko's habitat daily, removing any soiled material and discarded food. Water and food bowls must be washed daily. 

A leopard gecko’s habitat must be disinfected and cleaned thoroughly at least once a week (or more often if more than one gecko lives in the same habitat). Always wash your hands before and after handling you leopard gecko or its habitat’s contents. 

Recommended Products: 

To clean a leopard gecko’s habitat, take these steps: 

  1. Move the leopard gecko to a secure environment. Remove any old substrate, décor, and accessories from the habitat. 

  1. Scrub the empty tank and any furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution. The bleach solution should stay on the habitat for at least 10 minutes to ensure that the surfaces are properly disinfected. If using a commercial habitat cleaner, follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

  1. Rinse the habitat and accessories thoroughly with water, making sure to remove any trace amounts or residual smells left by the cleaning agent or bleach solution.  

  1. Allow the habitat and its contents to dry completely before placing new substrate and clean accessories into the habitat. 

  1. Return the leopard gecko to the clean habitat. 

Leopard Gecko Diet and Nutrition

Leopard geckos feed on insects. Ideally, pet parents should offer live, gut-loaded (recently fed) insects instead of freeze-dried ones. Live insects are more nutritious, and geckos can enjoy some exercise while they chase and hunt live prey. Leopard geckos should always have access to fresh, clean water. 

A nutritious and well-balanced leopard gecko diet consists of gut-loaded (recently fed) insects, including:

  • Crickets

  • Roaches

  • Mealworms

  • Superworms

  • Hornworms

  • Calciworms

  • Waxworms

Young leopard geckos should be fed daily, while adults can be fed every other day. 

Only one or two insects should be offered at a time, and you should watch your geckos during feeding sessions to ensure that no insect goes uneaten. Live, uneaten insects can injure a leopard gecko and should not be left in their habitat. 

Butter worms, waxworms, and superworms are all high in fat and should only be fed as an occasional treat. Pet parents should vary their leopard gecko’s diet by feeding them several types of insects. Any insects fed should be no bigger than the space between the gecko’s eyes. 

Recommended Products: 

Vitamin Supplements

Every other day, pet parents need to dust their leopard gecko’s insects with a powdered supplement. Leopard geckos need three vitamin supplements in their diet: a calcium supplement with vitamin D, a calcium supplement without vitamin D, and a multivitamin powder designed for reptiles. 

Pet parents should alternate between the two types of calcium supplements. If a leopard gecko’s insects were dusted in a calcium supplement with vitamin D for their last feeding session, then a calcium supplement without vitamin D should be used next. A multivitamin powder should be used once or twice a week. 

To dust insects quickly and efficiently, place insects in a bag or disposable plastic container along with a powdered supplement. Then, shake the bag lightly until the insects are coated evenly in powder. 

Recommended Products: 

  • Calcium Supplements with Vitamin D 

  • Calcium Supplements without Vitamin D 

  • Reptile Multivitamins 

Fresh, clean water should always be available and replaced daily. Water dishes should be large enough for the gecko to soak in if needed. 

Do not offer fruit or vegetables to a leopard gecko, as their bodies are not designed to digest them.  

Leopard Gecko Feeding Guidelines 

Before being fed to a gecko, live insects must be gut-loaded with a nutrient-dense insect supplement to improve their nutritional value. Gut-loading diets are fortified with vitamins and minerals to help provide optimal nutrition to the reptiles that feed on them.  

Recommended Products: 

  • Gut-loading Supplements 

  • Insect Housing 

  • Insect Diets 

Leopard Gecko Grooming and Care

Shedding: Most leopard geckos shed every four to eight weeks. To aid in shedding, leopard geckos should have access to a humid hide filled with moistened sphagnum moss or substrate. 

If left in a habitat that’s too dry, leopard geckos are at an increased risk of keeping shed skin around their eyes and toes. Eventually, the retained shed may cut off blood circulation to the gecko’s toes or cover their eyes, preventing them from seeing the insects they eat. 

You can soak your leopard gecko in a large, shallow container of warm water to help them shed their skin more easily. The water container should be wide enough to allow the lizard to submerge their entire body while keeping their head above water. 

Leopard geckos cannot swim and need to be supervised closely while soaking. They will eat their shed skin to regain some of its nutrients. Although leopard geckos are generally tolerant of handling, frequent or improper handling can cause them to become stressed, especially if the lizard is young or shedding.  

Leopard geckos should not be handled regularly until they’re at least 6 inches long. Pet parents should be sure to allow their newly homed leopard gecko at least a few days to acclimate to their environment before trying to handle them, and handling time should be minimized while the lizard is shedding. 

Leopard Gecko Veterinary Care

Annual Care

Leopard geckos should be seen by a veterinarian once annually. They can be transported using an appropriately sized Tupperware® container with air holes and a traction surface on the bottom. It is recommended to take pictures of their enclosure, diet, heaters, and lights (including exact specifications from the packaging) so your veterinarian can assess their overall care as part of the exam.

Signs of a Healthy Leopard Gecko

  • Clean, clear eyes

  • Clean ears with no local swelling

  • Intact skin with no ulcerations or stuck shed

  • Good appetite

  • Bright, alert personality

  • Clean vent

  • No swellings or bumps

  • Appropriate basking behavior

  • Good body condition score/weight

When to Call a Vet

  • Eyes are swollen, sunken, stuck shut, or have discharge

  • Swellings around ears

  • Pink ulcerations or other lesions are seen on the skin, especially the nose

  • Refusing food

  • Failing to bask

  • Lethargy

  • Discharge around vent

  • Lumps or bumps

  • Cannot ambulate or posture appropriately

  • Belly appears sunken

  • Shed is stuck, especially around the toes, and extra especially if any are swollen

  • Rapid loss of muscles throughout back and tail

Common Illnesses in Leopard Geckos

Leopard Gecko FAQs

Is a leopard gecko a good pet?

Leopard geckos make great pets and are a common choice for beginners to reptile care.

Are leopard geckos easy to keep alive?

Maintaining good health in a leopard gecko requires very specific care items that provide important nutrients and can maintain adequate humidity and temperature levels. Once their diet and enclosure are setup appropriately, daily upkeep for leopard geckos is very easy.

Do leopard geckos need a big tank?

Leopard geckos don’t need a big tank. Twenty-gallon tanks are enough, though they can enjoy a larger tank when available and outfitted well.

Do leopard geckos like to be left alone?

Leopard geckos aren’t particularly cuddly and are most comfortable when doing their own thing. A well socialized leopard gecko that is handled regularly usually doesn’t mind being held and may enjoy changes in scenery moving around a room or your home.

Should I hold my leopard gecko every day?

It is not necessary to handle your leopard gecko daily, or even at all, but it is important to check in on them daily to make sure they’re doing well.

Do geckos need human interaction?

Geckos don’t need human interaction to be happy. Some gecko species are more skittish than others or more stressed by human attention. Leopard geckos are generally easygoing and adaptable to human interaction, but even they don’t need interaction from their humans to be happy.

Do geckos let you hold them?

Sorta. While it’s technically possible to hold any gecko species, some species are more difficult to hold than others.

Do leopard geckos like to be sprayed with water?

Leopard geckos need regular misting of their enclosure to maintain adequate humidity levels and to allow them to drink water the way that works best for them. Some leopard geckos may become stressed by being sprayed with water directly. It’s best to focus on misting your leopard gecko’s enclosure to meet their needs.

Do geckos recognize their pet parents?

Yes, they absolutely do! While bonding is mostly related to looking to their pet parents for food, geckos can use their senses—especially their sense of smell—to recognize and respond to the presence of their pet parent.

Featured Image: CathyKeifer/iStock / Getty Images Plus

Maria Zayas, DVM


Maria Zayas, DVM


Dr. Zayas has practiced small animal and exotic medicine all over the United States and currently lives in Colorado with her 3 dogs, 1 cat,...

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health