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(207) 846-6515 H
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(207) 846-6515

LEOPARD GECKOS

YVCipedia REPTILES

LEOPARD GECKOS BIOLOGY AND CARE

BIOLOGY

  • Eublepharis macularis

  • Native to deserts and rocky plains of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan

  • Nocturnal

  • Preferred temperature range 77 - 86 F; daytime 75 - 80, night 65 - 75, optimum 84 - 88

  • Should be provided a humidity box; preferred relative humidity 20 - 30%

  • Insectivores

  • Oviparous; breeding season January to September; clutch size 2; 6 - 16 eggs per year; incubation period is 55-60 days, with broader range of 6 - 15 weeks; incubator temperature 78 - 92 F and relative humidity 75 - 100%

  • Sexually mature at 10 months

  • Lifespan, 30 years, average 10-15 years; in our experience, 5 - 8 years is more realistic

  • Stature: length 7 - 10 inches, weight 45 - 60 gms, maximum 100 gms

  • Unlike most other geckos, LGs have movable eyelids; regularly wipe their eyes with their tongues

  • Have claws on their toes, instead of adhesive pads, so they are terrestrial and do not cling to surfaces

  • Sex determination: as juveniles, there is little difference between males and females; as adults, males have a V-shaped row of pores (preanal pores) along their inner thighs and females have small pits; males have a pair of swellings at the base of their tails; males are slightly more heavy-bodied with a broader head and thicker neck than females

  • Skin shedding occurs regularly, and LGs usually eat the shed skin

HOME ENVIRONMENT

  • New geckos should be quarantined in a separate part of the home for 30 days

  • LGs can be housed in groups, but mature males are highly territorial and aggressive, so there should be only one per group

  • 10-gallon or larger aquariums work well

  • Cage size should be 36  x 15 x 12 inches; a height of at least 6” for groups of 2 to 3 LGs

  • Aquariums that emphasize horizontal space work well

  • Screen top for adequate ventilation

  • Substrate: acceptable substrates include paper towels, newspaper, orchid bark; unacceptable substrates include coarse sand, corncob, walnut shell, “calcium sand”, all of which have contributed to stomach and intestinal impactions; fine sand is probably acceptable but is somewhat controversial

  • Feces should be removed regularly and substrate replaced as needed for excellent hygiene

  • LGs should not be allowed to roam free in the house

  • A moist hide box filled with damp sphagnum moss, cypress mulch, or vermiculite is very important for stress-relief and healthy shedding; the box should be misted daily; the hide should be cleaned and the vermiculite or other substrate should be changed at least once weekly

  • Temperature: mid-80s is best, with a gradient in the enclosure from 70 at the cool end to 84-88 at the warm end; heat pads, heat tape, and basking lights are acceptable heaters; hot rocks and direct contact with other heating elements should not be allowed

LIGHTING

  • UV light in the UVB range, 290-320 nm is necessary for activation of vitamin D3 in many reptiles, but not snakes, not leopard geckos, and not other nocturnal geckos; many gecko owners still prefer to have a UVB set up

  • UVB is almost completely filtered by normal glass and plastic; UVB transmissible glass and plastic is necessary

  • Sunlight is an excellent source of UVB, but, remember, it is filtered by normal glass and plastic

  • Light intensity decreases by the distance squared, so the UVB source must be close, usually within 12 to 18 inches of the reptile

  • The UVB source must be positioned so that the reptile will be frequently exposed to it; for example, if the light is close to a shelf or branch, but the pet rarely uses that shelf or branch, then the light is inadequate

  • Types of UV lights include fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescents, flood lamps and mercury vapor spot lamps; we think mercury vapor spots are best because they produce light and heat

  • UV output decreases long before visible light decreases, so bulbs must be replaced every 6 to 12 months, or when UV output drops below 70% as determined with a UV tester

  • Decreasing the light intensity can increase the daytime behavior of these nocturnal lizards

FEEDING, NUTRITION

GENERAL

  • Water is the most important nutrient; provide water in a shallow container, changed daily

  • LGs feed primarily on live, moving insect prey

  • Prepared commercial diets are available, but LGs need to be conditioned to eat them and some may ultimately refuse them

  • Crickets, silkworms, roaches, mealworms, superworms, waxworms, and other live insects are appropriate (fireflies are toxic and should not be fed)

  • Large LGs will eat pinkie mice and other lizards, but these food items are not required

  • Insects should be gut-loaded for at least 24 hours before feeding

  • Live prey may be offered in shallow containers, which will decrease mealworms burrowing, cricket dispersal, and accidental ingestion of substrate

  • Insects should be of appropriate size; a rule of thumb is no larger than ½ the width of the LGs head

  • Juveniles can be fed every 1 to 2 days, adults 2 to 3 times per week

  • Feed no more than can be consumed in  15 minutes, which is usually 4 to 6 items

  • Hungry juveniles housed together might nip the toes and tail tips off of each other

  • Prey items should be dusted with calcium powder; this should be done daily for juveniles and weekly for non-breeding adults

  • A small shallow container of calcium powder should be always available

  • Other than calcium, vitamin and mineral supplementation is somewhat controversial, but generally well-tolerated

VITAMIN A

  • Most carnivorous and insectivorous reptiles, including leopard geckos, and some ominivorous reptiles lack the enzyme needed to convert dietary precursors to active vitamin A, so they are susceptible to deficiency

  • Many reptile vitamin supplements do not have the correct form of vitamin A, so check the label carefully; beta-carotene is not an acceptable source

  • Adequate sourced include vitamin A, retinol, retinal, retinyl ester, retinyl palmitate

  • Most store-bought and internet-bought insects are deficient in the fat soluble vitamins A, D3, and E

  • Supplements should have a ratio of vitamins A : D3 : E of 1000 : 100 : 10; many do not, so, again, check the label carefully

  • It is a misconception that vitamin A injections help sick tortoises; tortoises are herbivores and can convert beta-carotene in vegetables to vitamin A (box turtles and aquatic turtles are more carnivorous and thus are susceptible to vitamin A deficiency)

INSECTS

  • The most important thing about feeding insects is to feed a wide variety of them

  • Store-bought and internet-bought insect options include crickets, waxworms, mealworms, superworms, Dubia roaches, silkworms, and tomato hornworms

  • Wild insect options, caught at night around lights or in funnel traps, include moths, cicadas, fruit flies, flies, grasshoppers, bees (stingers removed), and cockroaches

  • Fireflies are toxic to bearded dragons; we do not recommend feeding them to any lizards

  • Sowbugs (pill bugs) are crustaceans; they are an excellent source of calcium and readily consumed

  • Pesticide hazards are not a practical concern when feeding wild-caught insects

  • Many large LGs can be trained to eat pinky mice

  • Larval insects are high in fat and protein; feeding a high proportion of them can cause fatty liver disease

  • Assume store-bought and internet-bought insects are deficient in calcium

CALCIUM

  • A healthy calcium to phosphorus ratio (Ca:P) is between 1:1 and 2:1; commonly purchased insects have the following calcium-deficient ratios: crickets 0.2:1; mealworms 0.1:1; waxworms 0.1:1; superworms 0.06:1 - It is obvious that feeding store-bought and internet-bought insects without calcium supplementation will cause calcium deficency

  • Juveniles require a much higher ratio; for example, juvenile salt water crocodiles in the wild eat a diet with a ratio of 6.7:1); failure to adequately supplement juvenile lizards with calcium is a major reason for failure of many of young ones to thrive

  • Insects should be fed a high-calcium insect diet and they should be dusted with calcium before feeding

  • One study showed 3 out of 4 “high calcium” insect diets contained no more calcium than what is found in non-calcium fortified insect diets

  • Only one insect diet, Mazuri High Calcium Gut-Loading Diet, has been proven to increase the calcium content of crickets; at YVC we purchase this product in bulk and repackage it for sale to pet owners requiring smaller amounts; it can be fed to crickets, mealworms, superworms and Dubia roaches, and it greatly improves their calcium content within 24-48 hours; most insects will readily eat this diet, but it can be mixed with a small amount of tropical fish food flakes to perhaps improve palatability

  • Insects should always have a water source such as a wet cotton ball, but should not have fruit or vegetables, because they will eat these instead of the calcium-enriched diet

  • In addition to feeding insects a high-calcium diet, they should also be dusted with calcium before being fed to the pet

  • To dust them, place the insects in a plastic bag with calcium powder and shake

  • Calcium powders vary in quality; calcium carbonate is most biologically available; Rep-cal (Zoo Med) is one excellent calcium product

  • Multivitamins never contain enough calcium, no matter what the label says

  • The calcium powder should not contain phosphorus (insects are high enough in phosphorus, and does not need to contain vitamin D as long as the reptile has an effective UVB light

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Yarmouth Veterinary Center

2016

Office Hours

DayOpenClose
Monday7:306:00
Tuesday7:306:00
Wednesday7:306:00
Thursday7:306:00
Friday7:306:00
Saturday8:0012:00; Also, 4 pm Boarding Pick-up
Sunday4:00pmBoarding Pick-up
Day Open Close
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
7:30 7:30 7:30 7:30 7:30 8:00 4:00pm
6:00 6:00 6:00 6:00 6:00 12:00; Also, 4 pm Boarding Pick-up Boarding Pick-up