The leopard gecko is recognizable by its color which resembles that of the African feline. But if it seduces lizard lovers, it is not only for its original beauty. It is indeed a curious little reptile, calm and easy to raise, including for beginners. On the other hand, care must be taken to provide it with a well-equipped terrarium and to reproduce as far as possible the conditions of its natural environment, the Asian desert. Physical characteristics, temperament, terrarium breeding conditions, dietary needs, health, reproduction… discover everything you need to know about this little lizard in this complete file!
The leopard gecko: who is it?
The leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius) is a reptile that belongs to the order Squamates and the suborder Lizards. Originally from Asia (between northern India and southern Afghanistan), it is an animal of the Eublépharidae family that lives in the desert. Its lifestyle is mainly nocturnal.
The physical characteristics of the leopard gecko
The leopard gecko is a small lizard that measures 17 cm to 20 cm on average for males and 20 cm to 25 cm on average for females for an average weight of 40 grams to 160 grams. It has an average lifespan of 15 to 20 years in the terrarium, provided you offer it optimal living conditions, compared to 6 to 10 years in the wild.
It owes its name to its natural color, which combines a yellow to brown base with black ocellated spots, like the leopard. Nevertheless, the selections made by man have led to the production of animals of all colors.
It has small strong claws on short legs to climb almost vertical rock walls and over roots or to dig the ground. Its large fat and pointed tail allows it to store fat when young. A well-rounded and well-shaped tail is therefore an indicator of good health! As with our common lizards, it can cut it in case of danger or need. It can then grow back, but it will lose its luster. His body is covered with small pimples, with the exception of his belly.
The leopard gecko moults every 3 to 4 weeks on average. A wet hiding place facilitates the process. At first, its skin becomes whitish, then the small animal removes it alone before ingesting it, in order to leave no trace of its presence for its predators. The operation is quick, since it takes an average of 30 minutes and it usually takes place at night.
The character of the leopard gecko
Rather calm, the leopard gecko is easy to keep in a terrarium. He is not shy and he is even curious, but handling this little lizard is not the easiest. If he allows himself to be approached and touched relatively well, contact that is too long or poorly made can generate stress. It is therefore preferable to limit manipulations.
A short contact per week is sufficient to accustom the animal to human handling without annoying it, but it is recommended to prepare it for possible veterinary care. Get used to it for 5 minutes a day, and a maximum of 15 minutes, always gently.
To touch this small animal, sit on the ground or on a surface capable of gently cushioning a fall, because its bones are very fragile.
The leopard gecko has the particularity of adapting the internal heat of its body to the ambient temperature.
Being a nocturnal animal, the leopard gecko will keep the habit of coming out of its lethargy mainly in the evening, when you turn off the light.
The leopard gecko in captivity
Calm and peaceful, the leopard gecko can live alone, in pairs or in groups, as long as you never place two males together. Ideally, you need several females for a male, because the latter tends to reproduce several times a year and could prematurely exhaust a single female.
Properly arrange the terrarium of your leopard gecko
The leopard gecko needs a good space to live. Ideally, a terrarium 60 cm wide by 45 cm deep and 45 cm high is a minimum for a single individual. The terrarium must also be well ventilated to allow good ventilation.
You can install a glass, wooden or PVC terrarium with a fully screened wall.
The layout of the terrarium
Your leopard gecko needs several hiding places to take refuge in when he feels insecure. Place hiding places in the hot spot and a wet box for moulting and spawning in the cold spot.
He also needs space, being a desert animal. Respect its natural environment as much as possible, which is why you must limit vegetation. Artificial plants will do just fine.
On the ground, place sand to absorb the heat well and mix it with earth to reproduce its natural environment. Do not forget to install some stones and roots on which he can climb.
The terrarium should have a hot spot, around 30 to 33°C, and a cold spot, with an average temperature of 23 to 26°C. At night, you can lower the temperature between 18 and 22°C to reproduce the lizard’s natural environment.
To heat the floor, you can place a heating mat or cord. The ambient heat of the hotspot can be maintained with a 40W lamp and a UVB neon of a maximum power of 2.0. The lamp should be on between 12 and 2 p.m. in summer and 10 and 12 p.m. in winter.
The hot spot is ideal for installing roots and stones while the cold spot can be reserved for the bowl of water, which the gecko laps up to drink.
Monitor temperatures by placing a suction cup thermometer in each area.
Install a hygrometer in the terrarium to ensure that the humidity level in the air is 40% or even 50%. Too low humidity leads to the leopard gecko’s skin drying out and causes the appearance of small white dots on its epidermis, which are small bits of moulting. In this case, restore the humidity level and bathe your leopard gecko in a little warm water.
Leopard Gecko Food
The leopard gecko is an insectivorous reptile. To feed it, it will therefore be necessary to feed it with live insects every day, at the end of the day, that is to say as soon as the lizard begins to activate.
Vary the species of insects and adapt their size to that of the leopard gecko. You can buy crickets, cockroaches, grasshoppers, mealworms, and other live prey from pet stores or specialty stores.
In addition, it is essential to install a water point for the leopard gecko. A clean bowl or small bowl is fine, as the small lizard laps up the surface. It is imperative to renew the water every day, because it must be very clean. Take the opportunity to pick up leopard gecko droppings to keep the terrarium clean and healthy.
A calcium supplement may be necessary.
Leopard Gecko Health
Generally, the leopard gecko is not a sensitive or fragile animal. On the other hand, it can suffer from calcium deficiencies which manifest themselves in a duller color. Just give him some calcium powder and his condition will improve quickly.
However, in case of doubt or problem, it is important to consult a veterinarian specialized in NAC.
Reproduction of the leopard gecko
It is from the age of one to two months that we can distinguish the male from the female. Just gently flip the leopard gecko onto its back. The male has a row of V-shaped femoral pores and two small hemipenial bulges. The female, on the other hand, has no femoral pores or they are very inconspicuous and no hemipenial swellings.
The breeding period begins in February and March and ends in July and August.
Males reach sexual maturity around 12 months of age and females around 14 to 16 months. It is preferable to avoid breeding in a precocious female before the age of 18 months in order to mitigate the risk of egg retention and too low weight, because she loses a lot of weight before laying eggs.
Mating occurs after a display by the male who pursues the female to bite her tail. When it is ready, it raises its tail and the male climbs on it, immobilizes it by biting its neck, then penetrates it. The act lasts only two to three minutes, but it can be repeated several times during the day and up to three days later. The female makes a reserve of sperm, so she can be returned to her terrarium to rest.
The female eats more when her belly contains the eggs, visible through her skin. During this period, she especially needs calcium.
Gestation lasts about three weeks, then the female usually lays two eggs after digging a hole in the floor of the wet box. It completely covers them with substrate. It is therefore important to gently dig them up without turning them over to place them in an incubator, making sure to space them at least 1 cm apart, because they will grow bigger over the days.
The female can then lay eggs approximately every three weeks, or 6 to 10 times per breeding period.
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