Advice for Leopard Geckos - Betta Fish and Betta Fish Care
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-27-2013, 09:00 PM Thread Starter
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Arrow Advice for Leopard Geckos

Hey everyone! Yes, I realize that this is mainly a BETTA website and narrowing it down to leopard geckos probably won't get me many responses, but its worth a shot. :)

Okay, let me explain my... odd situation. My younger brother has these two male leopard geckos, (Taco and Burrito) both young (about 3 years old). However, he has decided that he no longer wishes to care for them and apparently has too much pride to tell anyone. Personally, I think he simply lost interest in them because they were a "cool" passing fad. I do NOT think he intentionally left them to starve, he's just lazy. Because we still live under the same roof, I noticed their neglect. They got skinny, had no water, and would run to the glass when they saw people looking in at them. That really tugged at my heart strings. So I've decided to unofficially adopt them. Problem is, I have no idea how to properly care for them! I had begun feeding and watering them behind his back because they were HIS pets. If you're wondering why I did it in secret, it's because I remember every time I wanted to interact with them in the past, he'd always tell me not to. But that was before they started looking this hungry. So I've decided to intervene and now I take care of them openly because he simply doesn't care enough to tell me not to.

So now I ask the good people of the betta fish community!

Previously, they were fed a total of 10-20 mealworms every two or three days (or whenever he remembered). Between the two, that's like 5-10 worms each assuming they split evenly. I know this can't be enough. He seems convinced that they can survive for weeks on just that.
Their staple has always been mealworms with occasional crickets. Don't they need more of a variety than this? What else can I feed them to keep them healthy? Do I still need to use calcium powder? How often should I feed them? I read that they should have a constant supply of mealworms in their tank at all times, but they're so starved that if I were to put a ton of them in the tank, the lizards would gorge themselves. That can't be healthy, right?
Also, it should make note of the fact that it is summer here, going into autumn. Temperatures are around mid 80's-ish, but humidity is decreasing.
Oh, and how often should I mist them? They don't seem to be shedding a lot and haven't been misted at all until I took them.

Feeding is my main concern, but I have more questions. Regarding their habitat...
What substrate should I really be using? The one they have now is like a green carpet, but smells really bad. I'm sure that can't be good for them to be breathing in. The poop hasn't been cleaned in months. Which is why I'm going to buy them a new substrate because cleaning the old one is hopeless. However, I'm not so sure I want to get the same thing. I was thinking about some sort of loose substrate like (undyed) sand- but I'm worried they might try to eat it... Is there a better (and safe) option?

I think the shelter seems adequate, but I'll mention it anyway. We have two coconut halves and a rock formation that we built with river rocks. They seem to like snoozing beneath that when its cool and on top when its hot.

Next, lights and heating- there is a heating pad that I generally leave on unless it gets really hot. The lamps I'm not too sure about, so I haven't been using them (like I said, its warm here so I don't need to yet). The night light is violet and the day light is like a regular white light bulb. I think we had different ones instead of white, but they kept blowing out and my brother was cheap about it. Thus, the white light was purchased. Does this hurt their eyes at all?

Least importantly, how can I socialize them more? Burrito is the friendlier of the two and he will tolerate being picked up and held. He doesn't seem to enjoy it, but doesn't seem to hate it either. Taco is the one I'm a little apprehensive about. He doesn't run away from me, but he's nipped me twice already. Neither time hurt me at all. But I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he was just hungry and didn't mean it (I have held him in the past, but he was very skittish and didn't like to be touched). Any way I can keep them from becoming feral? Especially Taco, who has always been skittish even from day 1.

And finally, this question is purely for my own curiosity- Do you think they have the ability differentiate between people? Whether it's by sight, sound, or smell, can they tell me apart from any other human?

I have done some research, but a lot of it seems to contradict itself in a number of places, so I don't know what's good advice and bad advice. I think it's better to ask anyone who have/have had lizards. I have no experience with reptiles and leopard geckos aren't exactly my forte. But I'd like to learn!

If I left out any information that might be useful, just ask me! Likewise, I'll post their pictures soon!

If you've managed read this far, thanks for taking the time and having the patience to hear me out! Any and all advice is welcome and as always, greatly appreciated. :)

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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-27-2013, 10:28 PM
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Hi! I own a leopard gecko and take care of two others. They really are awesome pets and a great reptile for beginners... Care is easy and they are hardy and fun.

I totally understand your predicament... For the longest time I took care of a tank my brother owned and ignored until I finally just bought it from him lol. It's really good that you intervened... His pride isn't worth their lives to be honest.

I find that three to four superworms per gecko daily is a sufficient diet to maintain weight. I would get them onto superworms as the base of their diet and give them five each (so they gain wait but don't gorge) a day... You can also supplement with crickets (which also make a good base for the diet), mealworms, and silkworms.

IF you want to use sand, you have to make sure it is a small grain size... It has to be 0.5mm or less to prevent impaction.

Leo's news a hot and a cool side of the tank so they can choose what temperature they want to be... This is most often accomplished by using a under tank heating pad.

No lighting is required.

I've tamed a Leo before who was skittish and aggressive by gradually getting him used to me... You want to start by touching his head or tail, he may jump, then start stroking/petting him after he is used to that... Eventually you can pick him up. You may get bit multiple times. It's to be expected... I got bit a ton and he drew blood twice while I was taming this last one lol.

IME they most definitely can tell between people. The one I recently tamed behaves noticably better with me then with anyone else.

Get them a moist hide for the warm side of the tank...basically a shelter with moist moss. This will keep them healthy and help them shed.

Also, males should not be kept together. They will fight, just like bettas. Are you absolutely sure they are both male?
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-28-2013, 05:00 AM
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You can just use paper towels for the substrate. This is what I use, it is much easier and pretty much the safest option. Also the most easy to clean. I don't recommend any type of sand. Impaction isn't fun for any animal and means they need to go to the vet. It sounds like what you have is carpet and it needs a good soaking in some soapy water with a cap full of bleach. Then after this soaking a good rinse and then left out in the sun to dry. When you use carpet it is best to have two so when one needs cleaning you can just switch out the dirty for the clean. Also if you have some place to put them for and hour or two you might want to strip everything out of the cage and use a diluted bleach water to clean everything. Especially the area they use as a toilet then let it dry all the way(Until nothing smells like bleach) before putting them and everything back in the tank.

Depending on how large the geckos and the are 10 meal worms isn't bad every two days isn't bad. If you have a second smaller tank you could take one out and feed each separately would be great. This way you know they're getting enough. They can get fat, so make sure they don't have any fat pockets on their body. They normally turn up under their legs.

It is really sad your brother seemed to think it was okay to stave them. They can live up wards of 20 years. It will take time for these guys to warm up to you but with what MattsBettas recommendations you should be able to tame them. If you can get a second tank they're both be better off and less stressed in their own homes. I just counted the hiding spaces in my own geckos tank and I have 4 with her moist hide.

Also you might want to try and sex these geckos it honestly sounds like you might have two females rather then two males. Males fight and at times I've heard of one killing the other. Or you might have a male and female combo.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-14-2013, 05:36 PM
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Nice topic. :) I myself have two leopard geckos, one is 16 and the other is 5 years old. So I hope that I can help you a bit. :)
Here in Germany and Europe in general we handle them a bit different, but taking into consideration that my King is already 16, I guess it is really not that bad.

Mealworms are great, but only as a treat every now and then or for the purpose of gaining weight. I would highly recommend crickets, depending on the size of your geckos. If your geckos are large, you can feed them large crickets. 7 a week should be okay. If you use smaller ones, you can feed more.
Mealworms should be not more than 4 a week, but when you feed them the worms, feed less crickets.
It is also okay if they do not get some food for days. As long as they have water.
The amount of food basically depends on their size, activity level and how large the place is, where you keep them. I also use some vitamins especially for reptiles to keep them healthy. If you feed the worms and crickets with some salad they also live longer and are a healthier snack. :)

Indeed you need some warm spots and some cold ones. You can place their cave on the cold side, as they rest here as well. And the idea with the wet moss is a super idea! If they get enough real light everything is fine. I have some heating under the sand, but some heating lamp from above is also fine (and even better), just be careful that they cannot touch the lamp.
When it comes to their substrate, clay mixed with sand works best. You take two parts sand and one part clay powder and mix it, when you put it inside and make it wet it hardens, that helps to keep them away from eating sand while catching their food.
They also like to climb, so if you have something for them to climb on it'll be fine. :)

When you feed them with tweezers and want to prevent the crickets from escaping, you can place the plastic container of the crickets in the fridge for a few minutes before feeding the geckos.. it helped me a lot :)

Last but not least you can also spray some water from time to time, though they live in hot places some water can help shedding.
Finally, I would not recommend to socialize them, since they are reptiles and more pets just to watch and not to cuddle..
my older gecko King was tame from the beginning.. you could feed them with tweezers that might help a bit, but it also depends on their personality. I would not touch my other geckos at all. she would bite right away.

Last edited by Helianthe; 09-14-2013 at 05:38 PM.
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-22-2013, 11:30 AM
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One thing I'm surprised no one else mentioned was how extremely important Calcium and Vitamin D3 are! Without proper Calcium and D3 reptiles can develop Metabolic Bone Disease, and I've seen some reptiles severly deformed by MBD. Supply these by gut loading prey items, and then dusting prey with calcium powder right before giving it to the geckos. One of the easier ways to do this is to put the prey item(s) in a plastic baggy or a lidded cup with the right amount of powder and sort of shaking it around. There are commercially available calcium powders with and without Vitamin D3 and with and without phosphorus, as well as general multi vitamin type powders. Do not think that because you use some sort of "Calcisand" or "Vitasand" type product your repltile gets enough calcium, most dont ingest enough on a regular basis to get all the calcium they need and if an animal does happen to ingest large quantities it could cause an impaction. I've seen varying recommendations on how often to supplement, to be honest it depends on your individual animal to a certain degree and a qualified specialty reptile vet can help you there. The recommended supplementation schedule I see most often (which certainly doesn't mean it is the best for your individual animals) is to supplement with the multi vitamin once a week and calcium several times a week or every other feeding. Some people use calcium powders both with and without Vitamin D3 during the week, but you need to be using Calcium with Vitamin D3 at least some of the time during the week.

A variety of food should be fed. Roaches are a good "staple" diet for many reptiles, and they are general regarded as more nutritious- and less stinky- than crickets. Plus there is such a wide variety of roaches available, you can keep your reptile interested. Now these aren't your American or German cockroaches, so please don't let that put you off. Smaller species of roaches or the young smaller ones of larger species would probably be a good size for leopard geckos, depending on the geckos size. I've seen leopard gecko breeders recommend Lobster, Turkistan, Discoid, Dubia roaches and others for their leopard geckos. certain species of roaches might be illegal in some states like Florida, so check out the laws where you are. In addition to roaches, crickets, locusts, silkworms, hornworms, black soldier fly larvae (also sold under the brand names of Phoenix Worms and Calciworms), mealworms, superworms, and the occasional waxworm and buuterworm (also called Tevo worms) will do. Where I live ther is a bit a confusion about the "Superworm". The Superworm species, Zophobas Morio, also just called "Zophobas worms" in the trade, is the larval stage of a darkling beetle. However there exist so called "giant" mealworms that are given hormones while still in the larval "mealworm" stage to keep them in that stage longer so they have time to grow bigger. These hormone mealworms are also being labeled as super worms or superworms, zoomed sells them in the can. I wouldn't recommend these altered "giant mealworms" for feeding to your pet, but apparently they're good for fishing bait!

Like other reptiles, leopard geckos require a thermal gradient with a cooler side on one end of the enclosure and a warmer side on the other. This can be accomplished with an under tank heat pad, the general rule of thumb is to have the pad be about one third of the under tank space. Many heat pads Cannot be safely used with acrylic or plastic enclosures and are only meant to be used on glass, so before you use an undertank heat pad check the instructions/packaging very carefully to be sure it can be used on acrylic before using on an acrylic tank, if you have one. Do not use heat rocks, heat cables, heat tape, or electric blankets, etc. inside the enclosure, they have been known to cause burns. while many have used them without problems, unfortately others havent been so lucky so I wouldnt risk it. There should be a hide on each side, warmer and cooler. Make sure there is enough room for both geckos in the one hide or have one for each of them on each side, that would be two hides each end= 4 total. Put the water dish on the cooler side. Of course make sure you have a good quality thermometer, preferably one on each end, both warmer and cooler, to check temps.

You said the geckos are both males, but who sexed them? If they were not sexed at the right age by a knowledgeable person experienced with sexing leopard geckos who knows what sexually dimorphic signs to look for, get them sexed properly. If it turns out they are both males as you said, you will almost inevitably have to separate them as male are territorial and fight. However a group of all females or a group consisting of one male and multiple females (called a harem) can usually live together fine, provided there is enough space, including hiding space, for all and they are all roughly similar sizes. The reason I mention this is sometimes one is quite a bit larger and may bully smaller ones and out compete for food, or there is one smaller than the others that this happens to. If this happens, you may have to separate them just for feeding time only or put them in entirely separate enclosures.

I think that's all, but I of course recommend trying to learn all you can by reading books, researching online( take care sheets with a grain of salt though) going to reptile society meetings etc. good luck!
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-23-2015, 07:26 PM
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Hi, wow I have had 9 "Leos" in 16 years. Healthiest geckos our vet has EVER seen. Nice FAT tails!! My youngest Kiki will be a year old in May & has a re-generated tail, and a ravenous appetite. My oldest Lady Alyssa will be 9 years in May. Mealworms are HARD to digest!! That being said I do NOT feed my babies "superworms". They are Zophobas morio is a species of darkling beetle, whose larvae are known by the common name superworm or zophobas & mealworms are the larval form of the mealworm beetle, Tenebrio molitor & are DIFFERENT species!! Inpaction is a BIG PROBLEM with leopard geckos in general..... NEVER keep them on sand!! I use Reptibark by ZooMed as a subtrate. For the moist hides I use "EcoEarth", but the generic is simply coconut fiber (WAY CHEAPER), equal in quality!! I have a minimum of TWO hides per lizard. One is warmer & moist (I use ZooMed ReptiShelter 3 in one) size MEDIUM. Link to picture online
You can even make a moist hide yourself from a plastic takeout container. Directions here:

I also like items that look natural like rocks, caves, logs. A 30 or 40 gallon "low" aquarium works BEST for 2 animals kept together. Keep a water dish that holds 12 to 30 ounces of water, a dish for Vitamin Supplement: Rep-Cal/ phosphorus free Calcium with Vit. D3. Refill every month or two. I feed a variety: mealworms (small), waxworms, and crickets. I "gut load" my food items with tropical fish food, oatmeal, OR "rep-Cal cricket food". Add a fist full of ground eggshells to cricket keeper or "Dust" calcium powder of food items directly before each feeding. It's best NOT to "tweezer" fed unless the geckos will not eat independently!! They become so "NEEDY" for the tweezers & lose their natural hunting instincts sometimes. I keep my five "kids" separately b/c of "Sibling Rivalry"!! Feel free to ask any other questions you have. Also, FIND a good reptile vet near you. Get a yearly exam AND whenever you notice illness, change in bowel habits, difference in personality, etc.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-24-2015, 06:27 PM
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Everyone pretty much has it covered and correct but here's some more advice?
Carpet and sand are unsafe. Carpet can hold moisture and snag claws while sand can be ingested and cause an impaction. Much safer alternatives are tile, paper towels or newspaper. Calcium is absolutely necessary for their health. You can keep them on a staple diet of crickets or dubia roaches. There are products that you can gutload calcium with both their food and water. Calciworms are great sources of fat and calcium without the need to gutload. Waxworms can be a sparing treat to help put on weight as they(like butterworms, are high in fat). They dont need light, since they are nocturnal and absorb heat through their bellies. The only purpose a light has is to mimic a day night cycle. Don't keep crickets in the cage with them. Crickets can nibble on your gecko and injure them. I've also heard phoenix worms are an excellent food to throw into the variation.

Personally, I keep my juvie on paper towels, with an alternated dubia roach and cricket staple and feed mealworms, waxworms, and calciworms for variation. I keep a bowl of calcium powder in the terrarium at all times and only mist the damp hide. You'll want plenty of hides since leos are nocturnal and can get stressed from being out in the open too much.

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Last edited by Crossroads; 02-24-2015 at 06:32 PM.
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