Leopard geckos are one of the best beginner reptiles to keep. They’re relatively easy to care for and if properly cared for can live to be 20-25 years! Of course, Leopard geckos are not for everyone. Just like other animals it is best to research and even handle some leopard geckos before deciding to bring home a leopard gecko. This will be a care guide that can also help you decide if this is really a pet you would like to add to your family. (Note: leopard gecko “care kits” sold at pet stores are not complete and carry many things unneeded orbad for the gecko)
There will be a supplies checklist at the bottom of this.
Leopard geckos are ground dwelling geckos, so they need more floor space than height in their cage.Young or special needs leopard geckos can live in a 10 (ten) gallon cage. But 20 (twenty) gallon longtanks are much more recommended, as they allow much more room for hides and thermoregulating. Ido not recommend keeping adult leopard geckos in anything smaller than a 20 (twenty) gallon long, orin a cage with less than 360 (three hundred and sixty) sq inches of floor space. Bins can also be used as asuitable cage that are cheaper and lighter than glass tanks. You will need to drill or melt holes in the binto allow proper airflow. Do not put the gecko in until you have tested it to make sure it heats properlyand stays at optimal humidity levels. 40% (forty percent) or lower is best. This applies to any cage setup. It is best to house only one gecko per tank, as leopard geckos can fight and or kill each other. Some will“tolerate” each other for years before attacking the other. Males and Females should never be housedtogether as the male can breed the female to death. Male pairs should not be housed together as theywill fight and injure or kill the other male. Females might tolerate each other for a while but they canstill fight just as aggressively as the males.
Any solid substrate with enough texture to grip will work great for leopard geckos. Slate tile and papertowel are the easiest to clean and cheapest substrates. Slate tile will give a more “natural” look andholds heat very well for your gecko. Excavator clay can be used if allowed to fully dry hard before use.This substrate should be vacuumed often to ensure there is no loose particles on the surface. Loose substrate of any kind should not be used.Substrates like sand, calcium sand, chalk sand, playsand, corn cob, kitty litter, reptilite sand, gravel, oatmeal, aspen, seeds, crushed walnut shells, cocofiber/eco earth, and wood chips should not be used. These substrates can cause respiratory, eye, vent,and mouth infections as well as impaction. All of these if not treated can be fatal to your gecko. Geckos will lick their surroundings as a way of gathering information. If housed on a loose substrate they will lick it and ingest it even if fed outside of the tank. Over time this builds up inside of the gecko,since they can not digest any of the listed substrates, until they can no longer eat. They will slowly starve to death if not treated. At this stage surgery is usually needed to save the geckos life.
(photo provided by Magical Geckos) This geckos belly was FULL of sand. Not all impactions are as obvious as this one though. But all can be fatal. For more photos of this gecko the album is here(warning: there are graphic images).
Heating Leopard geckos need belly heat to properly digest food. This can be supplied with an under tank heater(UTH) connected to a dimmer or thermostat. (Read hereon how to instal a thermostat correctly) The temps should be kept around 90ºF to 94ºF (ninety to ninety four degrees Fahrenheit) or 32ºC to 34ºC(thirty two to thirty four degrees Celsius). You can use a temperature gun to accurately check surface temps. The UTH should only cover 1/3 (one third) of the tank so they can properly thermoregulate with a hot and cold side. The cool sides air temperature should be around 70ºF-80ºF (seventy to eighty degrees Fahrenheit) or 21ºC-26ºC (twenty one to twenty six degrees Celsius). Display, heat and UVBlights are not required and can actually burn the gecko or irritate their eyes when used improperly.Morphs with more sensitive eyes such as albinos, enigmas, W&Ys, and eclipses should never have a light used on their cage. Ambient light from the windows is enough light to allow them a day night cycle.The cage should not be put or allowed to be in direct sunlight as this can overheat the cage very fast.Sometimes the temperature of the hot side will need to be changed a degree or two. Especially when the seasons change, causing the ambient temperatures to mess with the thermostats reading. Always check the floor temps often with a inferred temperature gun to ensure temps are correct.
Note: If you would like to use UVB, use a lower powered one and make sure there are plenty of areas to escape from the light for them. Recommended time use is said to be in the evening for a few hours rather than all day. Remember to not use UVB with light sensitive morphs, as it can cause more harm than good.
Decor and hides
Places that provide privacy and hides are very important to a leopard geckos well being. The more cover or hides you have in their tank the better. Leopard geckos can be stressed out by too much open space inside of their tank. 3 (three) hides for the gecko is the minimum amount. This allows there to be one hot side hide, one cool side hide, and one with moss, cocofiber or dampened paper towel to act as a moist hide. Make sure you can get your geckos out of hides easily. If there is a place you can’t get them out of it makes it hard to get to them if needed in an emergency or they could even get stuck in it. If you can’t easily access the area it will be hard to get them unstuck. While leopard geckos are ground dwelling geckos, they do enjoy a few things in their cage to climb. Keep in mind though that leopard geckos can be poor climbers so having tall hides or decor is not ideal. Things like branches or vines set inside the cage will work well to supply more cover hides and things to climb. Rocks that are bigger than the geckos head can also be put in for them to climb. Do not use rocks that roll/move easily or that can fall over. A shallow dish for water will be needed inside the tank as well. A dish for insects is also recommended if geckos are not tong fed. Do not leave any insects free roaming inside of the geckos cage for more than an hour. Some insects (like crickets) can bite and chew on your reptile while they sleep. Rocks and branches from outside can be used if properly sanitized. Any sappy woods or pine woods hould not be used, as they can be toxic to reptiles. To sanitize branches first remove any leaves or moss that is on them. Put them into the oven at 200ºF (two hundred degrees Fahrenheit) or 93ºC(ninety three degrees Celsius) for 2-3 (two to three) hours. Keep a close eye on the wood and remove if any burnt smell is coming from it. If you’re young have a parent help you with this. Rocks can be sanitized by washing with soap and water then soaking in vinegar or diluted bleach. Soak the rock for at least 24 (twenty four) hours then soak again for the same amount of time in only clean water. You may repeat the clean water stage to ensure all vinegar or bleach is out of it. Do not bake or boil rocks, this can cause them to explode.
Note: Not all rocks are safe to use, some rocks like Jade and Tigereye naturally contain asbestos and should not be used. Obsidian should be used with caution, as it is extremely sharp. Check to make sure it can not cut you or flake before putting it in.
Health and Health Problems
Note: ill leopard geckos in these photos are rescued leopard geckos or ones out of the photo owners control.none of the photo owners intentionally made their geckos ill or were the cause of their geckos ailments. Do not send any of the photo owners hateful or negative messages.
Leopard geckos are insectivores, meaning they rely on a diet of insects to live. To keep a healthy,thriving leopard gecko they must be fed liveinsects, there are no ifs or buts on this. Great staple insects for leopard geckos are dubia cockroaches or other feeder cockroaches, such as Discoid roaches whichare Florida legal. For other countries that do not allow cockroaches to be kept, insects like locusts andcrickets can be used as a staple. Other feeder insects that can be used with staples are hornworms,butter worms, mealworms, silkworms and calciworms (also known as Phoenix worms, reptiworms and black soldier fly larva). These are also great for adding variety to your geckos diet. Wax worms make a good treat but are high in fat and very addictive to reptiles, so they should be fed only once in a while. All food items should be smaller than the space between their eyes (as shown in image below) to reduce the risk of choking. Feeder insects should also be gut loaded before fed to your gecko to ensure they are full of nutrients. (here is a little guide on gut loading feeder insects!) How often you feed and how much you need to feed will vary with the geckos age and individual metabolism. Young and baby geckos can be offered lots of small insects every day, though every other day is just as fine. Adults should be fed every other day to every two days. How many you feed will vary greatly on the individual. 2-4 (two to four) insects is a good medium until you learn your geckos weight better. Find a number that works with your gecko to keep them at a healthy weight. I advise against feeding your geckos as much as they can eat in 15 minutes for geckos over 20 (twenty) grams or about 3-5 (three to five) months of age. This method often allows adult geckos to over eat and can lead to obesity in your gecko.Never feed your gecko insects caught outside. They can contain parasites or have pesticides on them. A list of feeder insects nutritional value is can be found here.
Even if you are gut loading your insects you still will need to use vitamin and calcium supplements.Vitamin powder and calcium powder with D3 should be dusted on feeder insects once weekly, and calcium without D3 every other feeding. To dust insects you can either put them and the supplements inside a baggy and shake. You can also put the insects and supplements inside of a bowl or bin and gently shake it around. You can supply a small dish of calcium powder without D3 inside the tank 24/7(all the time) so that the leopard gecko can self regulate their calcium intake. Leopard geckos who do not get enough calcium and vitamin D can develop metabolic bone disease (MBD). Signs of MBD are rubbery bones, swelling at the joints, and legs bending in a curve. This is only reversible in the early stages and can be fatal to your gecko if left untreated.
This is probably the hardest part about bringing home a new pet. Quarantine is a very important step in bringing any new animal into your home, especially if you already have other pets. Quarantining leopard geckos is a time where you keep them in isolation so you can easily keep track and monitor their health.Doing so ensures that if the new gecko has an illness or parasite, you will catch it before its able to spread to the rest of your pets or reptiles. You are going to want to keep the quarantine tank simple and easy to clean. No wood or moss in the cage yet, those hold bacteria and parasites and can be a bit more difficult to sanitize. Keep the animal isolated, as far away from your current collection or pets as possible. Do not handle other than for weighing and to remove from the cage for cleaning. Taking care of them last also helps keep cross contamination to a minimum. The quarantine time should last for a minimum of 1 month, but is best leave for 2-3 months. Here is a good write up that goes much more in depth on quarantine.
Shedding Leopard geckos will shed their skin in pieces. They will tear off pieces with their mouth and eat the shed. Moist hides help geckos shed their skin all the way. Sometimes shed will get stuck around the eyes, nose, vent, tail, and toes. Always check these areas after your gecko sheds to ensure they removed all of it. If any shed remains after 24-42 (twenty four to forty two) hours of starting to shed, they will need help to remove it. Never remove a geckos shed forcefully, this can injure the geckos scales. Either bathe or put them in a sauna for 10-15 (ten to fifteen) minutes before gently rubbing the shed offwith a q-tip or damp paper towel. To bathe them use luke warm water (if it stings the inside of yourwrist it is too hot) inside of a tupperware or a plugged sink. Only fill it so the water reaches as high astheir belly. To give them a sauna use luke warm water (same thing as before) and soak paper towel in it.Squeeze the paper towel so it has no more water dripping off of it and line a tupperware container withit. Put the gecko inside and loosely put the lid on. Leave them for only 10-15 mins and use damp papertowel or a q-tip to gently rub off the stuck shed.
Leopard geckos tails are a very important part of their health. Excess fat from eating will be stored inthis tail, giving it its fat appearance. In times of no food or illness leopard geckos will use fat from theirtails as a reserve, or emergency energy. Since they do this, their tail is a very good way at gauginghealth. A healthy tail will be plump and round. If the tail is wrinkly or thin, this is a sign of starvation,parasites, or other illnesses. Sometimes as a defense mechanism they will drop their tails off! This is a last resort defense as they do not want to throw away their reserve fat. The tail will grow back over time, however, it will never look the same way as the original tail. Regrown tails are often shorter than the original one. They are smooth without bumps or ridges.
This leopard gecko has a regrown tail. You can see how much smoother and shorter it is from a leopard gecko with their original tail.
(photos provided by David G Pritchard Jr) Here you can see what a freshly dropped tail looks like. The second photo shows it starting to heal and grow back.
(Photos provided by Alana Swindell) The first image shows a young gecko who has dropped their tail.The second photo shows the tail after it has grown back almost all the way. You can see the spots developing on it.
Poop A great way to regulate your geckos health is through their poop. A geckos poop should be solid little dark brown to lighter brown pellet with a white clump on it. The white part is their urate, a solid version of pee. If the urate is yellow or a dirty color it could mean many things, from dehydration to infections.If the gecko continues to pass yellow or dirty urates they should be taken to an exotic vet. Runny poop can be caused by too much water. If runny poop continues, it could be caused by other ailments such as parasites. Discolored poops can be a sign of bacterial infections. Your gecko should always be taken to an exotic vet if they pass a green poop (though hornworms can cause green poop, if you have fed hornworms prior to the green poop then it is ok). Worms in poop is also a bad sign. These are parasites and should be treated as soon as possible. You may be able to take a fecal sample to a vet without taking the gecko if needed to test for parasites.
The look of your geckos poop can be greatly effected by how much water its had, how fresh the poop is, and what its been eating. Here you can see how the feeder insect effects the color of the poop. The first one is a very dry one thats been sitting in the cage for a bit as well, so it appears more shriveled up. The second one is very fresh and so has a very wet appearance to it. These are all healthy poops.
This is a crested gecko poop but most parasitic worms will show up in the same way. They appear as thread thin white worms that move around. Keep in mind that not all parasitic worms are visible to the naked human eye.
(photo provided by Kayla Jackson) This poop is very watery and runny due to parasitic worms. As mentioned above, not all parasitic worms can be seen. But some, like this one, can cause the gecko to have abnormal poop. In this case it is causing the geckos to have diarrhea.
This green poop was caused by a bacterial infection inside of the leopard gecko. It was bright green all the way through and smelled worse than it looks.
General health A healthy leopard gecko will have a plump (not puffy) looking body with a fat tail. They should be alert and respond to stimuli instantly. Holding their front up and head high and moving in fluid and sometimes fast movements are good indicators of a healthy body. Eyes and nose should be clear and free of debris or shed. Their color can vary upon the morph of the leopard gecko, but when warm and not stressed they should appear a brighter color. Toes should have small claws on the tip, sometimes from bad shed they can loose their toes. This is easily prevented with a moist hide and visual health checks after sheds. Signs of bad health are: curvy legs, sunken in or cloudy eyes, dark or “dirty” color scales, prominent spine and bones showing through skin, thin tail, sneezing, rapid weight loss, lethargic movements, lacking energy to hold themselves up when awake, and fluids coming out of the mouth,eyes, or nose. If any of these signs are present the gecko needs to be taken to a reptile specializing or exotic vet.
Here is an example of a healthy leopard gecko. She has a plump body and shows no deformities in her legs or tail. Eyes and nose are clear of any mucus, debris, or shed. Her legs have nice muscle tone rather than a fat or chunky look. The spine isn’t sunk in and her belly has no rolls of fat.
(Photos provided by Karli Mae Williams) This is a very unhealthy gecko. You can see she is thin and has very severe eye infections and skin problems from shed being stuck on.
(Photo provided by Adelle Zesk) This leopard gecko is also in poor shape. She has stuck shed all over her head, feet, and tail. Her eyes have been fused shut from the stuck shed. She was kept outside on filthy sand with no heat source.
Weight Leopard geckos can also become obese. This can shorten their life and increase the risk of some diseases. Obesity can be easily fixed by giving a larger tank with more items to climb (for exercise) on and or a diet change. (Do not deny or stop feeding an obese leopard gecko, this can be detrimental to health. instead feed less fatty insects and offer a little less) A digital scale can aid in tracking your geckos health. Weighing them weekly or monthly and writing down the weights and date will also help vets out if they ever have to go to one. Sometimes geckos can lose a considerable amount of weight without looking too noticeable. Weight tracking can help owners see if something wrong is happening as well as helping keep a healthy weight. Your geckos healthy weight all depends on the gecko themselves and how they carry weight. Some can carry a lot more weight than others while being healthy. Males will usually weigh more than females, however it is not unusual for a female to outweigh a male.
(Photo supplied by followthebluebell) This is an example of an obese gecko. She has a very “puffy” appearance to her body and legs. Her spine is actually sunken in. Her neck and body are close to the same width, showing an excess of unhealthy fat. This gecko weighs 81 (eighty one) grams.
Here is an example of a large gecko. He has a bit of a baggy look to him and very pudgy looking legs. While he is on the fatter side, and is on a diet to slim down, he is not obese. Any fatter though and he would be. If your gecko is starting to look like this it is time to start cutting back on the treats and amount of insects given. This gecko weighs 112 (one hundred twelve) grams.
Younger geckos can naturally have a healthy but thinner body than adults. Even though this one is thin you can see he has good legs with a little fat on them and his tail is not overly thin. The tail looks round and is not wrinkly. This gecko weighs 21 (twenty one) grams.
Particularly young geckos, close to hatchling age, also have very “thin” and lean bodies. This is completely natural and they usually will thicken up with age. As long as their tail doesn’t look like its just bone or wrinkly and they have no other bones showing on their body (their legs will be a bit boney at this age) they are fine. This gecko weighs 4 (four) grams.
Adults can also have a “skinnier” build while being healthy. This male actually weighs 80 (eighty) grams, but looks like he weighs less. He still has good fat deposit in his tail and muscular legs.
(photo provided by Kayla Jackson) These are severely underweight younger geckos. While they are actually a year old they were not kept on a heat source meaning they could not digest any food they took in. Thin, wrinkly tails are a sign of a sickly thin leopard gecko. You can see how prominent their bones are.
(Photos provided by Kelly Crystal) Here is a sickly gecko who had a happy ending. This demonstrates well the difference between an ill gecko vs a healthy one. In the before image, their tail is shriveled and you can see wrinkles all over them as if they were shrink wrapped. Their bones show through the skin horribly. She was in a small tank with 3 other geckos on sand with no moist hide no hides and a lamp, no UTH. She also had a lot of stuck shed and cuts, but Kelly did not have photos of this.
This girl is severely underweight, she had parasites from being fed insects caught outside. You can see her spine clearly and her tail is shriveled up and thin.
Impaction (and other loose substrate problems)
Before I talk about what it can do I would like to clarify something. Leopard geckos in the wild do not live on pure sand. They live the majority of their lives in rocky outcrops and on earth thats hard and packed down. While they will encounter loose substrates they do not live solely on it and certainly do not live on sand dunes. Leopard geckos in the wild do die of loose substrate related issues.
Loose substate can harm your gecko in many ways. The dust from the loose substrate can irritate their respiratory systems. This can lead to respiratory infections (RI). Symptoms of RIs are sneezing, mucus running from the nose, and lethargy. While it may sound like a humans common cold, it can cause a lot of damage to a leopard gecko’s respiratory system.
Particles from loose substrate can also get in the eyes. This can cause irritation and infections in the eyes, and even can lead to blindness. Eye problems from loose substrate may only start as a little spot of goop in their eye and rapidly grow into puss and blisters on the eyes surface. Eye infections can quickly progress into worse infections and should always be taken care of by a reptile specializing vet or exotic vet as soon as possible.
Bits of loose substrate can also get imbedded inside the soft fleshy parts of geckos mouths. This can lead to whats called mouth rot. The flesh in the mouth becomes infected and quite literally starts to rot away. Symptoms of this can be lack of appetite, reddened and irritated looking mouth tissue, and puss and fluid discharges from the mouth and nostrils. If left untreated this can spread into the internal organs (such as the stomach) and cause permanent tissue damage.
Loose substrate can also get ingested, leading to impaction. Licking their surroundings, shedding, and eating can all attribute to substrate ingestion. Over time (even years) the loose substate will build up inside of the stomach. This can lead to paralysis, lethargy, constipation, loss of appetite, starvation, and eventually death. Impaction can creep up with little to no symptoms and kill your gecko very fast. They can be helped with mineral oil drops in their mouth and warm baths. But if impaction is set in enough for you to see its most likely past the point of just home remedies. At that point the gecko would need surgery to have a chance to survive.
(photos provided by Brandi Johns) This gecko hopefully was removed from sand just in time. The darker area in the stomach region is sand inside if the stomach. You can see a little bit of that blue sand inside of their poop. The fact that this gecko is still passing fecal matter is a good sign and hopefully they will be able to flush out all of the sand. If they were left much longer, it could have been too late.
Loose substate can not only get into the mouth and stomach, but it can also get into your geckos vent. This can not only prevent your gecko from passing its fecal matter, but it also can cause the vent and reproductive organs to become infected. Vet care is highly recommended for removing the substrate out of the vent. Warm baths can help make them feel better until they can be taken to the vet.
(photo provided by David G Pritchard Jr) This males vent became packed with sand after living on it for a year. This more than likely was highly uncomfortable and painful for the gecko.
If you are suspicious of your gecko having any of these, take them to a reptile specializing or exotic vet. Some of these can also be caused by improper heating or other husbandry problems as well.
Fighting and Bullying
Leopard geckos are solitary reptiles and don’t care much for “companion” geckos. They will see another gecko in their tank as competition. Food, water, heat source, hides and even favorite spots in the tank become a competition to get with another gecko involved. This will stress them and can eventually lead to bullying or fighting, both of which can be fatal. Bullying is when one of the geckos establishes themselves as the dominate one and bullies the other out of everything. The worst one being food. Over time the gecko being bullied will waste away with no food or little food getting into its body. They will easily get sick (which can and will pass to the one(s) its cohabited with) and have other complications from the high level of stress. Sometimes leopard geckos will live together in the same tank for years without problems. Only to suddenly have one maul the other with no prior warning or signs of bullying. Leopard geckos may seem like they are weak or couldn’t do much damage but this is in fact very much the opposite. An angry leopard gecko is fully capable of removing limbs, tails, toes, and even goring other geckos. Of course, these fights can be fatal to one or both of the geckos. For this reason it is best to house them alone where they can live competition stress free lives. If one of your geckos is injured by another gecko, take them to a qualified vet as soon as you can. There can be internal damage that can not be seen until its too late.
This leopard gecko was attacked by one of its tank mates. You can see where the skin was scraped on the head and where its tail was bit off. The aggressor actually ate this geckos tail.
(Photo provided by letsherplederp) This one has scars from fights around his head.
(Photo provided by Brittany Lepp) This male was housed with two other females that bullied him out of food and were nipping at his toes. They probably were partially responsible for some of the missing toes.
(Photo provided by Brittany Lepp) These girls were housed for 6 years (from hatchling) together with no fights until one day one snapped and attacked the other. Fighting is always a risk when cohabiting.
Leopard geckos can get necrotic tissue in a few different ways, usually by injury or stuck shed. This usually takes some time and the dead infected tissue will fall off on its own over time. This often happens to leopard geckos toes where shed is stuck and doesn’t come off. It generally is not dangerous immediately but can become worse over a long period of time. Creeping necrosis, however, is a much more serious and fast acting necrosis that needs immediate vet care. It can be caused by a bacterial infection from an injury or stuck shed on the tail. The necrosis is caused by blood vessels collapsing in the tail tip that moves rapidly to the base. It kills the tissue in the tail and if not taken care of immediately it can quickly infect the geckos body. This is fatal once it gets into the body. The speed of the infection vary but it typically is seen working very fast, within hours even. It will require a qualified vet to amputate above the point of spreading to ensure all of it is taken off. Do not attempt to make the gecko drop the tail yourself, this can sometimes even worsen the situation and you may not get all of the infection off.
(Photo provided by Daniel Michnay) Here you can see creeping necrosis going up the tail. Even though visibly it stops about midway, the necrosis could be even already to the base of the tail. This is why it’s so important to have a vet amputate it, and not yourself.
MBD (metabolic bone disease)
MBD is one of the most common ailments you will see in captive leopard geckos. It is a nutritional disorder that is caused by the lack of calcium supplements and vitamin D in their diet. When their body is not getting the amount of calcium needed in their diet the body takes the needed calcium from the bones. This causes them to become rubbery and fragile. Symptoms of MBD can be softening of the bone, bone fractures, scoliosis, hyperreflexia of the extremities, spasms, weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite and swelling of the joints. While it is easy to stop the progression of MBD, it often can not be reversed. Thankfully, this is easy to prevent by offering a dish of calcium inside the geckos tank and dusting food with vitamins and calcium +D3 at least once weekly.
(photo provided by Kayla Jackson) You can see the leg bones curving under the skin here. At this point the MBD may be reversible, but even at this early of a stage still could be permanent damage to the body. Though this gecko also has other issues going on which will lower the chances of MBD being reversed.
(photo provided by Kelly Crystal) Here is a case showing very apparent MBD. Even though this gecko is now being supplemented properly, her legs will never return to normal. Her legs will always be deformed.
To sex your leopard gecko, you will need to look at the vent area. If your gecko is good with handling this can easily be done just by holding your gecko upright long enough to see the vent. Do not flip them on their backs for long periods of time, this is very stressful to them. Even if it only lasts a second. For less handleable or younger geckos, a clear cup with a lid or bowl can work to hold them above to get a better look. To sex a gecko more accurately wait until they are over 20 grams or about 4-5 months old.
As you can see in this image males have two features a female lacks. Dark, pronounced pre-anal pores and a hemipenal bulge. The pre-anal pores will show in a U or V shape before the vent. Females can have what looks like very faint pores, but they are not open or as dark as the males. Females can also have a bulge, however these are usually not as defined as a males and they will still lack the dark pores before the vent.
Egg binding (Dystocia)
Egg binding only happens in female leopard geckos. Egg binding is when a female with mature eggs can not pass the eggs out of her body. Complications of egg binding include death of the young or eggs, peritonitis, inflammation and scarring of the reproductive tract which can decrease fertility in the leopard gecko, and death of the female. It can be caused by deformities within the female, stress, no suitable place to lay eggs (a moist hide with moss or cocofiber will be suitable), improper husbandry, lack of supplementation, dehydration, malnutrition, and being too young or small when bred. Some leopard geckos will ay infertile eggs without a male, much like birds do. One way of telling a normally gravid female from an egg bound female is that one that is egg bound will be lethargic, lack of appetite, display depression like symptoms, and sometimes even raising their back legs in attempt to lay with no eggs coming out. If you ever suspect your female of being egg bound, contact a qualified vet immediately. This is a very serious issue that can kill your gecko within days, and may require surgery to fix.
(photo provided by Jay Lambert) This female came close to being egg bound. You can see where the eggs show in this image when the female is gravid. The two white areas on either side of the of the belly are eggs.
Prolapses in leopard geckos is when part of the reproduction organs or intestinal track gets pushed out of the vent. It will usually appear as a bit of fleshy tissue coming out of the geckos vent. It can be caused by breeding, egg binding, trying to pass a hard substance, lack of vitamins, or parasites. Impaction by loose substrate or too large of feeder insects can cause a prolapse to happen as the gecko tries to push the waste out. Never attempt to push the prolapsed tissue back in. This can harm or injure your gecko. Placing them in warm water that has dissolved sugar in it can help reduce swelling allowing them to retract the prolapse on their own. This can take a few days, which during you should not let the prolapse dry out or let them expose it to any loose substrate. If it does not retract within a couple of days on its own, a qualified vet will be needed.
(Photo provided by Lydia Pope) This young gecko has a prolapse. They appear as flesh sticking out of the vent. Prolapses can be smaller or larger than this. If they are larger a qualified vet should be called immediately. The sugar water soaks should only be used to help until you get them to the vet.
Cryptosporidium (crypto) are single celled protozoan parasites that must have a host to complete its lifecycle in. There are 11 (eleven) different strains of crypto, all of which are host specific parasites. The ones that infect reptiles are cryptosporidium serpentis, and cryptosporidium saurophilum. These are not transferable to humans but very easily passed on to other reptiles. In lizards, the parasite will invade the GI tract in the lining of the intestines creating lesions and inflammation. They will severely inhibit the absorption of any nutrients. The parasite can be passed along via the infected animals feces and orally can be passed through water and food bowls. Crypto positive animals can continuously re-infect themselves, causing the parasite to build up rapidly within the lizards body. The parasite can also remain dormant (no symptoms showing in the animal) until it is subjected to stress. Diagnosing Crypto can be hard since the symptoms can be similar to other parasite infestations. The progressive known symptoms in a crypto positive lizard is: loss of appetite, regurgitating food and shed in masses, changes in the poops consistency (diarrhea and “cottage cheese” like textures), weight loss, wasting away, thin tail, enlarged and darkened liver, lethargy and eventually, death. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for crypto. If your gecko tests positive for crypto the best course of action is to humanely put down the gecko with the aid of a vet. This is one of the reasons it is extremely important to quarantine. If a gecko bought has crypto and is not quarantined, it could cost you all your reptiles lives. Crypto is not something to take lightly.
All cage decor and tanks that were in contact with the crypto positive gecko should be thrown away. Crypto is extremely hard to kill and can survive a long time dormant outside of the host in wait for another.
Cage with lid or screen - 360 (three hundred and sixty) sq inches of floor space, 20 (twenty) gal long Solid substrate - tile, paper towel or excavator clay Heat pad Thermostat or dimmer Temperature gun Minimum of 3 (three) hides Decor - branches and vines Shallow water dish Food dish (optional) Calcium dish (optional) Calcium powder + D3 Calcium powder Multivitamin powder Feeder insects Digital scale