Leopard geckos are nocturnal lizards found in desert environments in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and parts of India and have been popular pets in North America since the 1980's. They lack adhesive lamella and have tiny claws instead which gives them an advantage in sandy environments. This also prevents them from climbing up surfaces easily so they primarily live on the ground and do not climb. They are unique from other leopard gecko species because they can move their eyelids.
Despite being one of the most popular lizard pets, little is known about leopard geckos in the wild. Their population numbers are unknown and their unique dots and coloring makes perfect a camouflage for their natural environments which makes them a challenge to find. They are excellent at hiding from predators and stay hidden during the day to avoid being seen (and to stay away from the heat) and leopard geckos shed their skin to prevent their scent from being discovered.
Leopard Gecko History
The majority of leopard geckos available for pets today originally came from the desert regions of Afghanistan, Iran, India, and Pakistan. Leopard geckos have been bred domestically since the 1970's and are now common enough that it is easier to breed geckos than import new geckos. Since breeding leopard geckos is fairly easy, many breeders have created leopard gecko morphs with unique sizes, coloring, and other traits that makes them popular among reptile enthusiasts.
How Big Do Leopard Geckos Get?
Leopard geckos are the largest species of gecko with adults reaching a max length of 8-11 inches. Below is the average size leopard geckos reach.
Hatchlings3-4 inches (7-10 cm) in length; 2-5 grams in weightAdult Females7-8 inches (18-20 cm) in length; 50-70 grams in weightAdult Males8-11 inches (20-28 cm) in length; 60-80 grams in weight.
Determining the Age of Leopard Geckos
There is no easy way to determine the exact age of a leopard gecko since their growth rate and size is dependent on their husbandry, genetic traits, health, and food intake.
It is not uncommon to see a leopard gecko's color change as they age. Mack snows, for example, will develop a yellowish color as they age.
Most baby leos will have bands on their body instead of spots. As they get older the band will separate and will develop into spots. This will usually happen when the leopard gecko is one year old. So if your gecko still has bands and not spots, the chances are he/she is still less than a year old.
How Long Do Leopard Geckos Live
Leopard geckos can live to be 20 years old or older if their owner takes care of them properly by making sure they have proper nutrition, habitat, and monitor for health issues. There have been cases of leopard geckos living to be as old as 30, but while possible its usually rare for them to reach that age.
Leopard geckos in the wild will have a much shorter lifespan due to predators, disease, and injuries which are normally avoided when kept as pets.
Leopard Geckos As Pets
Leopard Geckos are one of the most popular lizard pets. They are hardy, easy to maintain, require little space, and have long life spans which make them a perfect companion for individuals and families. They make great first pets for those new to reptiles and can easily be bred to create offspring in various patterns, colors, and sizes making them ideal for experienced reptile owners as well.
They only eat insects, so their diet isn't complicated like other reptiles such as bearded dragons, and they are very docile and can be handled without worrying about aggression.
Since their natural environment consists of harsh conditions including soaring temperatures and weeks without food or water, leopard geckos have adapted to survive where other animals cannot. This makes the leopard gecko extremely hardy is and why many people believe they are so easy to maintain and take care of as pets.
Finding the Gender of A Leopard Gecko
Sexing leopard geckos is a fairly easy task. However, you should know that you cannot sex a leopard gecko until they are about 10 month old, or old enough to be sexually mature. You will occasionally have breeders that will know the sex of their leopard geckos even though they are extremely young. This is possible because the incubation temperature can play a role in determining the sex of the geckos before they hatch.
Generally male leopard geckos will have a broader head and will weigh more. However, these are not considered reliable methods to determine the gender of a leopard gecko and it is recommended to use other sex characteristics.
Not all leopard geckos will show the same sex characteristics. Some geckos will have more gender identifying characteristics than others, so when sexing a leopard gecko keep this in mind. The best way to determine the sex of a leopard gecko (without being too intrusive) is to look at their underside, where their tail meets the body.
Male Leopard Geckos
The following are the characteristics of male leopard geckos:
The back of their thighs have femoral pores. Both male and female leopard geckos will have femoral pores, but the male's pores will generally be larger. Although this is a gender trait, it is recommended to use other gender identifying characteristics which are easier.
The preanal pores are generally more noticeable and are more of a V-shape. Preanal pores allows the males to excrete a waxy substance. Both male and female leopard geckos have preanal pores, but the pores in females are so small that you will have trouble finding them, whereas males can easily be seen.
The base of their tail will have two hemipenal bumps/bulges. Only males will have these two bumps and once leopard geckos reach sexual maturity it is the easiest way to determine the gender
Female Leopard Geckos
Females are identified by having a lack of male characteristics. So when sexing female leopard geckos you look for the following:
The femoral pores are extremely tiny and almost appear to not exist. The femoral pores will run along the outside of the female gecko's back legs.
The preanal pores are also very small and can be difficult to find. The preanal pores are located above (towards the gecko's head) the vent and are usually in a V-shape.
The base of the tail lacks hemipenal bumps/bulges. This is generally the best indication you have a female leopard gecko. When male leopard gecko's reach sexual maturity they will develop two bumps beneath the base of their tail and females will not have these bumps.
When leopard geckos are incubating in their eggs, the temperature of the environment can influence their gender. This allows breeders to create a clutch of only males, only females, or a mix. Below are the temperature requirements to do this:
99.9% Females - Incubation temperature of a constant 79-81°F for the first 3 weeks of incubation. After the first 3 weeks of incubation you should increase the temperatures to 88-90°F.
Mostly Males - Incubation temperatures is a constant 88-91°F for the entire incubation period.
Mix of Males and Females - Incubation temperature is a constant 85-87°F for the entire incubation period.
Leopard Gecko Facts
Below are a few interesting leopard gecko facts:
When agitated, leopard geckos will bark.
Leopard geckos tails are used as an emergency fat and water supply. When confronted by a predator or if attacked, the leopard gecko will drop their tail to give them enough of a distraction to escape. The leopard gecko's tail will eventually grow back.
Unlike other geckos, leopard geckos lack adhesive lamella (sticky pads on their feet) and have little claws instead. This is why you can keep a leopard gecko in a cage without worrying about him/her escaping.
Most geckos cannot blink or close their eyes (which is why many geckos rely on licking their eyes to keep them clean), but leopard geckos have eyelids so they can blink and close their eyes when sleeping.
They have an unusual anatomy. At the right angle, you can look in one ear, see though their head, and out their other ear.