Saturday, 8 September 2007

Discovering Pet Lizards: Leopard Gecko Care

As pet lizards go, leopard gecko care is less challenging than the care of other pet lizard species, and consequently often recommended for a herp beginner.

A Leopard Gecko in captivity, will only reach about six to eight inches in length when mature, compared with the iguana who can reach up to six feet when fully grown.

The average life span of captive leopard geckos is around nineteen to twenty-two years.

The Leopard Gecko’s Origins
In the wild leopard geckos are found in South-Eastern Afghanistan, most of Pakistan and Northwest India. His natural habitat is mostly the rocky, dry, semi-desert grasslands of these countries.

Hunting for insects at night, he spends much of the day hiding under rocks to escape soaring temperatures and only emerges at dusk.

His New Home
Your leopard gecko’s new home should reflect his natural habitat as closely as possible. The minimum size of your terrarium should be about twenty gallons. The floor of the terrarium should be covered in reptile carpet, or newspaper, but not sand. Leopard Gecko’s have a tendency to eat sand, which becomes impacted in the gut and often leads to death.

A temperature of eighty-five to ninety-five degrees should be maintained. For this purpose a heat mat may be placed under the terrarium, but never place hot rocks in the tank, as all too often lizards have been burned by them.

An important piece of ‘furniture’ to provide him with is somewhere with a little privacy, such as a hide box.

Unlike some of his herp cousins who like to be sprayed with a water mist, the leopard gecko isn’t fond of high levels of humidity; in fact too much humidity can cause him respiratory problems.

Leopard feed primarily on insects, including crickets, locusts, mealworms, waxworms and earthworms. Waxworms shouldn’t be offered more than once a week, due to their high fat content and each mouthful should be no larger than the width of the gecko’s mouth, to prevent choking.

Every couple of weeks ‘pinkies’ (baby mice), may be offered. Mammals store essential nutrients in their flesh and bones that reptiles do not have. However, avoid this food source for leopard geckos less than fourteen months, as they may choke, due to their smaller size.

Prey should be coated in a calcium supplement to aid strong, healthy growth of your gecko’s bones, particularly the jaw and legs.

Although coming from a highly arid habitat, your leopard gecko still needs to drink. A shallow dish for offering water, which can’t easily be tipped over and is kept clean at all times is ideal.

As in all geckos, the leopard gecko will shed it’s tail if frightened or alarmed. Although having the ability to regenerate a new tail, the new growth will be more bulbous and differ in appearance to the original. In the wild, tail shedding serves the purpose of distracting a predator, enabling a quick getaway, while the would be assassin wrestles with the snapped off portion of the tail.

Leopard geckos handled regularly from an early age, can become accustomed to human interaction and because of their small size and ease of care are a good recommendation for a first pet lizard.

From a cleanliness angle, leopard gecko care has it’s advantages too, as in captivity these creatures often only defecate in one corner of their enclosure.

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