Common Mistakes New Leopard Gecko Owners Make

Common Mistakes Leopard Gecko Owners Make

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You’ve got your new leopard gecko and want to make sure you give it proper care.  We’re here to help by sharing a list of common leopard gecko mistakes new owners make due to lack of experience or knowledge.  Avoid these common leopard gecko mistakes with these tips:

Wrong Temperatures

Ambient air temperature in your leopard gecko’s enclosure should be between 80 °F and 90 °F.  But, not one consistent temperature through the whole tank.

Make sure you have a temperature gradient between the sides of the tank so your lizard can better regulate its body temperature. The warm side of your enclosure should have an ambient temperature of about 90 °F (32 °C), while the cool side should be about 80 °F (27 °C).  Your gecko can move from area to area depending on how much heat it needs at the time.

We recommend using a digital thermometer to make sure you’ve got your temperatures dialed in.

Not using an under tank heater: Proper heating for leopard geckos

Now that we know where we should set the temperatures, what’s the best heat source for a leopard gecko?  

Being crepuscular, leopard geckos are not typically active during daylight hours This means they see little direct sunlight and do not bask in the sun for warmth like many diurnal reptiles (Diurnal means active during daytime.)

A leopard gecko’s need for overhead UVB light is a hotly debated topic in leopard gecko communities.  We’re not here to enter the debate, though UVB light won’t hurt.  (We do use a UBV bulb since we’re simulating a day/night cycle on a timer.)

Leopard geckos rely on heat from the ground to help digest their food.  In a reptile habitat, this effect is usually best achieved with an under the tank heater.  Under tank heaters are usually thin sheets that are placed under one side of the tank to to help achieve the temperature gradient we talked about above.

Some are simple plug in and go heat mats, while more advanced models have thermostat controls.  

With belly heat from a source under the tank, your leopard gecko will have a much easier time digesting its food.  Whether you’re using heat lamps or not, don’t forget to have a heater under the tank as well and your temperatures are in the correct range.

Related Post: Best Leopard Gecko Heat Sources

Leopard Gecko Heat Sources

Whether you’re using a heat lamp or heat mat, avoid heat rocks at all costs.  Heat rocks are often the biggest mistake new leopard gecko owners make.  A heat rock provides concentrated localized heat that poses a threat to burning your lizard if they sit on it.

Natural rocks are a great addition to your tank, and can absorb and hold heat – especially when placed over a heat mat. Check out our post on how to integrate natural rocks into your tank.  

Wrong Substrate

Your whole habitat starts with what’s on the bottom of the tank.  It’s your foundation.  It’s your pet’s foundation.  Substrate is fundamental, and you don’t want to get this one wrong.

In short, avoid loose substrate.  Sand, calcium sand, coconut shavings, wood shavings etc.  Just don’t.  Sometimes simple is better – and safer.  We go into more detail in our full post on safe substrates for leopard geckos.  We still use reptile carpet, and have been quite successful with it.  

Only One Hide

Leopard Gecko Hide - Settle In

Everyone needs somewhere to sleep and so do our pets.  Most owners include a place for their leopard gecko to hide, feel secure, and sleep.  Did you know leopard geckos should have more than one hide

Ideally, there should be at least two hides: a hot hide and a cold hide; one on the warm side of the tank and one on the cooler side.  This allows your lizard to better regulate its body temperature by hanging out on the side it feels most comfortable.

Leopard geckos should also have a moist hide for shedding (sometimes referred to as a humid hide.)  The moisture helps loosen the old skin as it molts and avoids stuck skin or poor sheds.  Bonus if this is a separate hide. 

Improper Handling

Leopard geckos are known for being docile and are fairly hardy for their size.  Still, with rough handling, they can be easily injured.

As with any animal, you don’t want to corner it or make it feel threatened.  When in danger, a leopard gecko may voluntarily drop its tail to escape and survive. While losing a tail isn’t fatal, it’s stressful for the animal and takes extra care during recovery.  You can read more in our post about leopard gecko tails.

Don’t put your lizard in a situation where it could drop from a distance – always try to handle it close to the ground or over a table where it can’t fall too far.

In general, don’t handle your pet in a way that would cause stress.  You can read more in our posts on how to bond with your gecko, how to pick up your gecko, or find some handling tips.

Poor Diet

Ideally, your leopard gecko will have a steady diet of insects.  Providing a variety of food choices is best for a healthy leopard gecko.  That said, you don’t want to offer any insect you find.  You can easily find feeder insects like mealworms, super worms, and crickets at most pet stores (or you can order online.)

Your lizard may have preferences, or go through phases of what it likes to eat.  Don’t be afraid to mix it up to provide a healthy diet.

Read our leopard gecko feeding guide for more on proper diet and feeding.  Also, check out our post on what leopard geckos can’t eat.

Not Providing Water

When I bought my first leopard gecko, I was told by staff at one of the big box pet stores that leopard geckos don’t need a water bowl because they’re desert dwelling reptiles and don’t drink.  This is 100% incorrect.

Leopard Gecko Drinking Water

Sure, leopard geckos do get some moisture from the insects they eat, though, like any animal, leopard geckos need water.  For more on the specifics check out our post on why leopard geckos need water to learn how to keep yours hydrated.

Not Providing Supplements

It’s a good idea to provide calcium supplements, especially to young geckos or breeding females.  In early stages, supplements will help prevent metabolic bone disease (MBD.)  For females, the extra calcium helps during egg production.

Some keepers keep a small dish of calcium powder in the enclosure so the leopard gecko can lick the powder at its leisure.  

Another way of delivering supplements to your leopard gecko is through dusting  insects in the powder before placing it in the tank.

You can learn more about supplements and dusting in our feeding guide. Keeping them together or with other species

Housing Leopard Geckos Together

Unless you’re breeding, leopard geckos are best kept alone.  Sure, it’s common to see small hatching or juvenile geckos piled on top of each other in pet shops, and some people may think it’s common to house leopard geckos together.  Once the geckos become adults, they can be territorial and compete for food or shelter.  

Experienced keepers will typically keep one leopard gecko per enclosure, or ensure there is ample space if cohabitating.  And if leopard geckos have only passing tolerance for each other, it’s best not to keep them with other species for many of the same reasons.

For more, check out our posts on keeping leopard geckos together or suitable tank mates.

Wrap Up: Common Leopard Gecko Mistakes

Leopard Geckos are hardy reptiles and can live long lives with proper husbandry and conditions.  Many leopard gecko owners make common mistakes with setup, care, handling, or feeding that can easily be avoided.  We hope these tips help you keep your pet in excellent health.  Should you ever have a concern, be sure to consult with a qualified vet.

Also, make sure you gave the right setup for your leopard gecko so it can thrive.  

About the author

About the Author: H. Evan Miller & Leopard Gecko

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