Leopard geckos are good pets, especially if you’re not an experienced reptile parent. They have great temperaments, and they’re incredibly low maintenance, so they’re ideal for any lifestyle.
That’s what makes them one of the world’s most popular pet reptiles. But is it all good? And what do you need to know before getting one?
Let’s jump into it.
(By the way, if you’re deliberating between a leopard gecko and a bearded dragon, check out our comparison.)
Why Leopard Geckos Are Good Pets
Leopard geckos are one of the longest living pet reptiles and can live up to 20 years (some even reach 30!) with proper care.
Few Health Issues
Leopard geckos aren’t prone to too many health issues, especially if you have a male, so you’ll have very few trips to the vet.
They have very calm temperaments, and they don’t bite, making them great pets for children.
As long as you feed them every few days and keep them warm enough, they’ll pretty much keep themselves to themselves. They’re very independent and don’t need a whole lot of care, so they’re perfect for people who have a busy lifestyle.
They’re relatively small reptiles; 22cm (9in) on average when they’re fully grown – so although they need a lot of space to move around from their perspective, they still won’t take up too much space, with most enclosures being 45-60cm (1.5-2ft).
Leopard geckos barely smell at all if you conduct a PPS (proper poop scoop) every few days.
They don’t need cleaning very often in comparison to mammal pets or even other reptiles. Their poop and pee come out in a single, solid lump, so there won’t ever be any damp patches.
If you pick the poop out regularly, they’ll only need a full clean every few weeks.
Leopard geckos are pretty much silent, so you don’t need to worry about upsetting the neighbors or waking up at night. They may occasionally make a small screeching sound if they feel threatened or stressed.
Why Leopard Geckos Are Bad Pets
Leopard geckos will eventually get used to being handled, but it might take you a while to get there.
In the wild, they are prey to birds, so anything approaching them from above will feel like a threat, and they are very swift runners when they want to be. Children should be supervised when handling them, at least for the first few weeks.
Although leopard geckos will warm up to you over time, it only takes one bad experience to go back to square one. They don’t trust humans naturally, and if they associate you with a bad experience, they’ll remember it and try to avoid you.
Negative experiences can be loud noises, such as music while you’re handling them or being dropped, even if it’s only from a small height. You need to make every experience with you pleasant. If not, it’ll take a while to get that trust back.
Are Leopard Geckos Good Beginner Pets
Leopard geckos are an excellent beginner pet reptile.
They’re easy to clean, have a simple diet (if you don’t mind bugs), and can become tame if you’re willing to put in the effort. They don’t need an excessive amount of attention either, so they’re perfect for a busy lifestyle.
However, they take some time to get to know you and are delicate because they’re so small, so they’re probably not the best fit for young children. They will require adult supervision at first.
Are Leopard Geckos Easy To Take Care Of
Leopard geckos are easy to take care of once you have your initial set up and know what you’re doing. However, they aren’t as expressive emotionally as mammals are, so it’s more difficult to tell when something’s wrong.
These are the main things you need to know about caring for a leopard gecko.
Getting The Right Terrarium
You’ll need to get a long, shallow terrarium to accommodate a leopard gecko. Unlike other geckos, they don’t climb walls, so you won’t need anything too tall. For a single gecko, you’ll need a tank that holds at least 10 gallons.
Leopard geckos are nocturnal and will be highly active during the night, so they need a lot of space to move around and explore. If you have more than one gecko, you’ll need to increase the floor area by about half the tank size.
Leopard geckos will need UV light, but they don’t need the temperature quite as hot as other reptiles. They’re used to the temperature being cooler during the night, which is when they’re most active.
You’ll need to provide a heat lamp that gives off a temperature of around 26.5-28°C (80-82°F) during the day.
This should be the case at night too; however, the lamp can be turned off completely at night if you have a heat mat underneath them which keeps the temperature at above 18°C (65°F).
This heat flexibility makes them easy to care for if you happen to have a power outage. They’ll be fine for a few hours without the constant heat.
Leopard geckos live in desert-like areas, unlike some of their larger counterparts.
This means that they like a dry environment, and you don’t need to worry about the humidity levels constantly as you would with other reptiles.
They’ll just need a shallow water dish in their terrarium each day which will provide all the moisture they need.
Leopard geckos are insectivores, so their diet is pretty simple. You can purchase crickets and mealworms from reptile stores and feed your gecko every few days.
They don’t need to eat every day. Their bodies have adapted to go without food for longer than mammals, as they wouldn’t be able to catch food for days at a time.
This makes them excellent pets if you stay out overnight a lot. You know your gecko will be able to manage without you.
Geckos will usually shed their skin every 4-8 weeks without any help from you. Babies, on the other hand, could shed every week due to their rate of growth.
If you notice a gecko shedding more often, it’s a great indicator that something might be wrong or that they’re ill, so you will need to keep an eye on this.
The only time you’ll need to jump in is if they have particularly difficult dry skin patches that they can’t quite get off. The trickiest patches are around their eyes or on their feet.
If they’re ever struggling, you can give them a quick bath in warm water and ease off the skin with a cue tip.
Do Leopard Geckos Bond With Their Owners
The studies on this are inconclusive. It’s normal for your leopard gecko to get more accustomed to your presence, and they’ll become tamer over time. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve bonded with you.
They will associate you with food and will understand that you aren’t a threat. However, it’s thought that most reptiles aren’t capable of emotions such as love like mammals are.
Because they live a long time, they will become more and more accepting of you, but anything more than that might be asking a bit much.
Is It Safe To Hold A Leopard Gecko
Yes, it’s completely safe to hold a leopard gecko. Geckos normally don’t bite at all, and if they do, it won’t hurt. However, they can sometimes carry salmonella. This doesn’t affect them at all but can cause serious illness in humans.
Even though most geckos won’t carry it, it’s good practice to wash your hands after handling them.
In fact, the main thing you need to consider when holding your gecko is their safety, not yours. Make sure you’re prepared for sudden swift movements and never squeeze them or grab their tail.
Do Leopard Geckos Like To Be Held
Normally geckos shy away from human contact, so they probably won’t want to be held when you first get them. But with enough patience, you can change their mind.
These are some good practices:
- Put your hand in the terrarium regularly to get them used to the smell.
- They are quite curious animals, especially at night, so try to leave your hand in the terrarium flat to see if they’ll investigate.
- Slide your hand underneath them and slowly pick them up from underneath.
- Secure them on either side of their body behind their shoulders – but don’t squeeze.
Never pick them up by the tail! Leopard gecko’s tails are designed to drop it if a predator catches them to allow them to get away safely.
How Much Do Leopard Geckos Cost
Typically, around $30-$40 for a standard leopard gecko. Though you can purchase morphs with different color variations for a slightly higher price.
You also need to consider the costs of their habitat and keeping them long term.
- Terrarium – Minimum $120.
- Heat – UV lamp & Heat Mat – Around $60, plus the cost of running them continuously.
- Food – Around $3 per box of crickets or mealworms. You’ll need around 1 per week.
- Toys & Hideouts – One-time purchase but will need to be refreshed regularly, a few bucks a month.
- Substrate – The flooring used can be reptile carpet or sand. It’ll need to be replaced every few weeks (if you clean up the poop in between)—$ 10 per bag.
Do Leopard Geckos Bite
Not normally. Leopard geckos are usually completely non-aggressive. They will only show aggressive traits if they’re scared or stressed.
They may bite if you back them into a corner, and they feel that they have no other option. However, their teeth are so small and flimsy that a leopard gecko bite won’t hurt you and will never draw blood.
In the wild, they’ll run and hide when they’re afraid, rather than stand up to the threat, so you’re more likely to see them running away to the back of their terrarium rather than trying to bite you if they get upset.
Male Or Female Leopard Gecko
Both male and female leopard geckos make great pets. They’re low maintenance and easy to care for. But there are some important differences to consider:
- Typically live longer.
- Have fewer health issues, as many health issues stem from the egg-laying process.
- Have a better, calmer temperament.
- They can’t live with other males and are best on their own.
- Typically live longer.
- Have less health issues, as many health issues stem from the egg laying process.
- Have a better, calmer temperament.
- Can’t live with other males and are best on their own.
- More flexible with housing, so they can live with other females or a male.
- They are smaller, so they need less space.
- They are more skittish when it comes to handling.
Both sexes are just as active at night, so they’re a great pet to watch if you’re a night owl.
Commonly Asked Questions
Do Leopard Geckos Need A Friend?
No, leopard geckos don’t need friends. They’re solitary creatures in the wild and enjoy being alone.
However, it’s usually fine to have two females together if they have different hiding places and enough space to have their own area. Most breeding pairs can live together for life too. They don’t need to be separated after the mating has taken place.
Having two males together rarely works, though. They’re quite territorial, and two males will usually result in constant fighting.
Is It Cruel to Keep Leopard Geckos?
It’s perfectly fine to keep a leopard gecko as a pet if they are cared for properly and have enough space.
In the wild, they would keep to smallish territories and aren’t prone to moving massive distances. They stay closer to the burrows to keep out of sight of predators.
If they have a large enough terrarium, a good diet, and a hot enough environment, they should be perfectly happy, even more so than in nature.
Common Signs Of Stress In Leopard Geckos
If your gecko is stressed out for any reason, many times, you’ll be able to tell from their behavior and put it right. They are placid and laid-back reptiles, so they won’t get stressed too often. However, if they are displaying any of these behaviors, they are.
1. Glass Surfing
Your gecko will stand up with its belly against the glass of the terrarium and look as though it’s trying to climb out. This could be that they’re simply curious about their surroundings, but equally, it could be that they feel their environment is too small.
2. Tail Wagging
Their tail will flick slowly from side to side. This usually occurs right before they’re about to catch their prey.
However, if there’s no food around, they might be displaying aggressive behavior towards something in their terrarium that they aren’t happy with or even a rival gecko.
Will usually only happen with females. It could be a sign that they’re about to lay eggs, and they’re trying to find somewhere safe to do so. You’ll need to provide a hideout for her so that she feels at ease.
Is usually a reaction to what’s happening at the time. If you’re handling them, they’re trying to tell you that they aren’t happy with how you’re holding them or that they don’t feel secure.
5. Loss Of Appetite
If you notice your gecko isn’t eating for a while, it could be because they’re ill or something about their environment that is stressing them out. If they don’t feel safe, they won’t come out of their hideout to eat. Have a look at what they can see. Are there any bright lights, other pets or screaming children that might be influencing them?
Why Might A Leopard Gecko Be Stressed
Leopard geckos can get stressed out for several reasons.
1. Loud Noises
Don’t handle them while you have the TV on or loud music blasting.
2. Unfamiliar Handlers
It will take a while for your gecko to warm up to you. Allowing unfamiliar people to handle them without them being used to the idea can scare your gecko.
3. Handling Too Fast
Don’t dive in and assume you can handle your gecko on day one. They need to get used to their surroundings and used to your smell. Trying to pick them up as soon as you move them in will scare them.
4. Lack Of Space
Although leopard geckos are quite small, they still require a fair bit of space to wander around in. If their environment is too small, they may get bored and become stressed.
5. Potential Predators
Other pets, such as dogs and cats, can stress your gecko if they hang around the terrarium. We know they can’t get in, but your gecko doesn’t.
Because leopard geckos are nocturnal, they need a structured lighting schedule. Unlike other reptiles, they need it to be completely dark at night to feel safe to wander around and hunt for food.
Accidentally leaving the light on can disrupt their lifestyle and stress them out.
Leopard geckos make amazing pets and are very easy to care for. They are one of the most popular reptiles species being kept as pets today, and with good reason!
You’ll find it fascinating to watch them hunting at night, and they’re super cute too. Just make sure you do your research and prepare so you can offer them a good home and a good life. Good luck!