Buying a Gecko
Buy a 10–20 gallon (37.9–75.7 L) tank with a screen lid. Purchase a glass or plastic container from a pet store to house your leopard gecko, including a securely fastened screen lid. A secure lid is important, especially if you have a cat. You may find these sold as aquariums, vivariums, or terrariums. If you already have a home for your gecko, skim through this section to make sure it meets your pet's requirements. The tank should be wider than it is tall, as leopard geckos are terrestrial.
- You can also buy a tank with a sliding door at the front instead of a screen lid. This tank would make it easier to tame your gecko.
- A 20 gallon (75.7 L) tank will hold up to three leopard geckos comfortably. Keeping no more than one male per tank is recommended, since males may fight each other. You shouldn't keep a female and male together unless you want to breed them.
- If using stone or another heavy substrate, consider putting a couple layers of paper towel or a handful of dry Eco Earth between the floor and the stone to reduce the chance of breakage and chipping. Sand is another option, but make sure it is not in reach of the gecko.
- Never use cedar wood chips or other resinous wood, since these may be toxic to leopard geckos. They also have been known to pierce the gecko's gullet.
- Don't use a white-light heating lamp, since this will disturb the gecko's sleep schedule.
- Don't let the temperature get above 94ºF (34.4ºC).
- Use a low-wattage or energy-efficient light bulb to avoid overheating the area.
- Place one shelter on the cooler side of the tank, and keep moist paper towels or sphagnum moss underneath it. This is called the "humid hide, " and the floor will need to be moistened regularly to allow the gecko to shed easily. (Keeping this on the hot side is not recommended due to the faster rate of evaporation.)
- Place a second shelter on the cooler side of the tank, but keep it dry.
- Place a third shelter on the warmer side of the tank, and keep it dry.
- If you own a gecko that looks sick, do not allow it to breed. It may produce unhealthy offspring.
Part 2Feeding and Regular Care
- Provide a shallow water dish. A wide, shallow water bowl is best, to allow the gecko to drink and bathe without a significant risk of drowning. Keep this on the cooler side of the tank. Refill it and clean it whenever necessary, typically every other day.
- Keep a separate container of live insects. Live crickets and mealworms are the most common food source for leopard gecko pets, but you may use live dubia roaches instead, purchased from pet stores. Butter worms and wax worms are options, but due to their high fat content, you may want to use them as an occasional supplement for variety, rather than a main meal. Because leopard geckos will rarely eat dead insects, you'll need a plastic container with holes punched in the lid in order to keep the insects alive. You can buy these as needed from pet stores, or maintain a larger container with enough insects to breed.
- If using crickets, put egg cartons in the container.
- To make safe and appealing food, the insects should be slightly smaller than the gecko's head.
- If keeping mealworms short-term, store them in the refrigerator. If you are breeding them, keep them at room temperature so some of them morph into beetles.
- Add vitamins to the insects. Purchase powdered "calcium with D3" and vitamin powder for reptiles, often called "dusting powder." Before feeding insects to the gecko, place them in a plastic bag with this powder, and shake the bag until the insects are completely coated with the white powder. Feed these to the geckos immediately, as described below.
- Typically, you would use calcium powder every other feeding and vitamin powder every three feedings. This can vary based on your gecko's age and diet, so you may want to ask an expert for advice.
- Add more nutrients to the insects. Another excellent way to add nutrients to the gecko's diet is to "gut load" the insects. Use a special formula for this purpose, or simply provide your container of insects with fruit, oats, and/or vegetables for 12–24 hours before feeding them to the gecko. Carrot and apple works well. If you decide to try this, do this in addition to using the dusting powder described above, not as a replacement.
- Feed the gecko every one or two days. Leopard geckos under four months old need daily feeding, but feed older geckos every other day instead. Generally speaking, each gecko should be fed enough food to eat in 10–15 minutes, or roughly 4–6 crickets. Remove all insects from the cage after 15–20 minutes, since they may attack and damage the leopard gecko's skin or eat the gecko's feces.
- If your gecko is a slow eater, or appears obese, check the section on health problems for advice.
- Clean the tank regularly. Remove feces, dead insects, and other debris from your leopard gecko's tank daily, to reduce the risk of disease and attracting harmful insects. About once a week, wash the entire enclosure with warm water and soap, rinsing the soap away before the leopard gecko is returned to its tank. Change the substrate when it begins to have a noticeable odor, usually once every six months.
- If you are using tiles or a similar, non-disposable substrate, just remove them from the tank temporarily and clean the floor beneath then when you notice a smell.
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