Leopard geckos are widely cherished as one of the world’s most beloved pet reptiles, capturing the hearts of reptile lovers everywhere. With their cute faces, chill personalities, and variety of colors and patterns, it’s no wonder they appeal to reptile beginners and enthusiasts alike.
But if you’re a first-time owner looking to bring a new pet reptile into your home, you might be wondering if a leopard gecko is the right choice for you and your family.
So, you might ask: Are leopard geckos good pets?
Leopard geckos can make excellent reptile pets for both children and adults if their habitat and care needs are properly met. Their easygoing temperament, modest space requirements, and low-maintenance needs make them easy for beginners to care for and enjoyable for families to have. However, their nocturnal, solitary, and sensitive nature might not suit everyone.
If you’re thinking of purchasing a leopard gecko but want to learn more before taking the leap, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll dig into the pros and cons of owning a leopard gecko as a pet, along with some tips for proper care and handling.
Let’s get right into it!
9 Reasons Why Leopard Geckos Make Good Pets
Below are some advantages to owning a leopard gecko, and why they are widely considered a great reptile pet.
1. They’re Low-Maintenance
Leopard geckos are one of the most low-maintenance reptile pets when it comes to their habitat and care requirements. Their simple needs and laid-back temperament make them an ideal choice for beginners or busy owners who want an easygoing companion.
You don’t have to worry about spending hours every day cleaning, interacting with, or entertaining a leopard gecko. As long as their habitat is clean and their basic needs are met, leos are perfectly content chillin’ on their own in between occasional handling sessions.
Really all it takes is a quick tank spot clean, fresh water, and some nutritional insects to keep these mellow reptiles happy. Their undemanding nature means owners can rest assured knowing their leo is going strong, even with minimal daily attention.
2. They Don’t Require A Lot Of Space
Leopard geckos are a fantastic choice for pet owners with limited living space. Their modest space requirements are typically met with a 20-40 gallon tank, meaning you don’t need a spare room or massive living area to accommodate them.
This makes them a perfect option for apartment dwellers or anyone living in a smaller place.
It’s also nice that their compact living space doesn’t compromise their comfort. Leopard geckos may live in smaller enclosures, but these setups are carefully designed to accommodate their needs.
They include cozy hiding spots, temperature gradients, and everything a gecko needs for a happy and healthy life. So, even in their snug abode, these reptiles can stretch out, explore, and thrive.
3. They Have A Cute And Friendly Demeanor
With their perpetually grinning faces and wide, attentive eyes, leopard geckos are irresistibly cute reptiles. But it’s not just their sweet appearance that makes them so endearing.
Leos tend to be docile and friendly when handled regularly, often tolerating and even enjoying interactions with their owners. Unlike faster, flightier lizards, leopard geckos move slowly and methodically. This calm temperament makes them one of the easiest reptiles for beginners and children to hold and interact with.
Just remember to fully support their bodies and avoid grabbing them by their tails!
When tamed, a leo may watch you curiously through the glass, climb onto your hand, and appear comfortable in your presence. They may not be as cuddly as a cat or a dog, but their cheerful attitude and tolerance for handling adds to their adorable charm.
4. They’re Hardy And Self-Sufficient
Leopard geckos are known to be rather hardy compared to some other reptiles. They can weather minor environmental changes with ease and can go for an extended amount of time without food.
This is because of their unique ability to store fat in their tails, creating an energy reserve if they were to face adversity.
However, it’s important to note that this resilience doesn’t mean it’s ok to neglect and not feed your leo for weeks at a time. They’ll still need regular care and attention to ensure their overall health and well-being.
5. They Have Long Life Spans
When welcoming a pet like a dog or cat into your home, you know you only have a limited amount of time with them. Far too often, we can’t help but feel like dogs just don’t live long enough!
But, when choosing to make a leopard gecko your companion, you can take comfort in the fact that they can live beyond 20 years with proper care.
Their long life spans also make them perfect for families. Children who grow up with leopard geckos often form strong bonds with these reptiles and can continue to care for them into adulthood.
6. They’re Tidy And Low-Odor
Unlike some messier reptile pets, leopard geckos actually maintain pretty tidy habitats. They tend to designate a specific corner of their enclosure for their bathroom needs, making cleanup straightforward and hassle-free.
Their dry, compact urates are easy to spot-clean daily. This is a major advantage over loose, smelly waste that can quicky foul a tank.
In addition to their more sanitary bathroom habits, leopard geckos are known for being low-odor reptiles. With good tank maintenance, there is minimal odor, another perk for owners sensitive to smells.
Overall, leopard geckos are a refreshingly clean reptile pet.
7. They Have A Fun Range Of Morphs And Colors
One of the most enchanting aspects of owning a leopard gecko is all the diverse color and pattern morphs available. From subtle creams to vibrant oranges, and from stripes to spots, there are over 50 unique morphs to choose from.
You can select one that matches your style, like the bold crimson coloration of a red/orange morph. Or pick a rare morph like the aptly named “enigma” with its hypnotizing eyespots and maze-like markings.
With so many options, it’s fun to find your perfect “leo” companion, whether you like understated or striking colors. And with designer morphs still emerging, the possibilities are endless for choosing a leopard gecko that’s truly unique.
8. They’re Affordable And Accessible
Part of what makes leopard geckos such a popular reptile pet is that they are easy to find and inexpensive to purchase.
They can be found both online and at local pet stores for reasonable prices, starting around $30, and their steady captive breeding means you have the pick of color and pattern morphs too.
Some exotic reptiles are rare or hard to breed and can cost hundreds. But the common availability and low price point of leopard geckos makes them an accessible exotic pet for first-time owners.
So, if you’re ready for your first pet lizard and are looking to get a leo, you can easily find one that’s healthy and ready to join your family.
9. Caring For Them Is Budget-Friendly
Another reason why leopard geckos make good pets is because of their low cost of care compared to other reptile species.
Their small size means they eat far less than a large snake or monitor lizard, which helps to keep feeding costs low. A few live crickets, mealworms, or dubia roaches 2-3 times a week is enough to satisfy a leo.
Supplements like calcium and vitamins that are needed a few times a week aren’t too costly either. These savings add up compared to the pricier frozen or thawed rodent diets of other, larger reptiles.
The cost of their initial tank setup is affordable too, especially if you opt for a simple habitat. Unlike intricate chameleon setups, you can provide a leopard gecko with a comfortable habitat on a modest budget.
Overall, leopard geckos offer an exotic pet experience for a fraction of the cost of larger or more delicate reptile species.
Want to know more about why leopard geckos make great pets? Click here to watch a video that goes into further detail on some of the reasons listed above!
7 Reasons Why Leopard Geckos May Not Make Good Pets
The following are some potential disadvantages to consider when thinking about getting a leopard gecko as a pet.
1. They’re Nocturnal By Nature
One drawback of leopard geckos for some owners is that they are primarily nocturnal, meaning they sleep through the day and become active at night.
This can work for someone with a similar schedule if you work odd hours or are a night owl yourself. However, if you prefer to spend time with your leopard gecko during the day, your little leo may be catching z’s when you’re awake and ready to interact.
Be prepared for them to sleep through some quality bonding time if you’re on a daytime schedule.
2. Their Diet Consists Of Live Insects
Something else to consider is that their diet consists entirely of live insects, like crickets, mealworms, and roaches, as mentioned above. This can be unappealing to some reptile owners who don’t like handling bugs, even for feeding.
Having enough feeder insects means making frequent pet store trips or placing bulk orders for delivery. Storing and gut-loading insects requires dedicated time and space too.
And while some leos are unfussy, others selectively feed on certain insects only. Ensuring your gecko eats a balanced diet may take some finessing if they are a picky bug eater.
3. Their Tails Can Drop
When it comes to handling, one thing to know about leopard geckos is that their tails can drop if mishandled. This is a defense mechanism they use in the wild if captured by a predator, so any unwanted grabbing or pulling of the tail could trigger this reflex.
It’s especially important for parents with younger children to be considerate of this. If a child is handling the gecko, always keep an eye on them and show them how to hold it securely but gently – support the gecko’s body and remind them not to pull its tail.
Limiting any sudden stimulation before handling that could startle your leo into dropping its tail is also recommended.
4. They Are Solitary Animals
Unlike some reptiles that are communal, leopard geckos prefer to be solitary, especially as adults. Juveniles can often be kept together until they reach a certain age, but adults should always be housed separately.
This is because they don’t benefit from having cage mates and can actually become stressed or aggressive toward another leo sharing their space. In some cases, they might even get into a nasty fight, biting and injuring one another.
So, if you were hoping to house multiple lizards together, you may want to rethink that decision. A leopard gecko won’t appreciate a crowded home, so it may not be the right lizard for you.
5. They Can Be Sensitive To Handling
Leopard geckos tend to be low-stress reptiles, but overhandling or sudden disruptions to their habitat can make them skittish and anxious.
Try to limit handling sessions to about 10-15 minutes max per day so they don’t constantly feel pestered. Also try to avoid suddenly reaching into their enclosure and rearranging items, which can be perceived as a threat.
Move slowly with your leo and allow them to voluntarily crawl onto your hand when they’re ready. With a calm routine and gentle handling, you can gain your leopard gecko’s trust and avoid unnecessary stress.
6. They’re Vulnerable To Other Household Pets
Leopard geckos are relatively slow and defenseless. This means they can become vulnerable to other household pets like cats and dogs.
If you have another pet and are thinking of purchasing a leopard gecko, be sure to keep those pets out of the room unattended. Always supervise larger animals around your leo’s enclosure, and be sure not to let your leo escape.
Cats can be particularly sneaky when it comes to getting in reptile cages, so make sure the tank is firmly secured and cannot be accessed or knocked over.
Their safety depends on you securing their space.
7. They Have Long Life Spans
You may remember that I already mentioned this above as a ‘pro’ to owning a leopard gecko. But while a leopard gecko’s longevity can be a positive feature, it can also present challenges for pet owners.
A leopard gecko’s potential 15-20 year lifespan is a serious commitment for owners who may not be able to care for a pet that many years. Kids going off to college or adults with frequently changing housing may not be able to provide the stable lifetime home a leopard gecko deserves.
Rehoming a leopard gecko or any other exotic pet can also be difficult. So, when weighing your options, be sure to ask yourself: can you commit to properly caring for a leo for the next two decades? If not, a shorter-lived pet may be a better option for now.
Tips For Successfully Owning A Leopard Gecko
Now that we’ve gone over the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of owning a leopard gecko, let’s explore some valuable tips to ensure your gecko thrives in its new home.
A Proper Habitat Setup And Accessories
An ideal leopard gecko habitat contains appropriate heating, lighting, substrate, hides, and accessories for enrichment.
Ambient temps should be in the mid-70s to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the warm side basking spot should be around 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit. Some owners choose to place under-tank heating mats on the warm side to provide a warm spot for their leos to rest their bellies.
Because leopard geckos are crepuscular, many owners opt not to include a UVB light in their gecko’s habitat. This is perfectly fine for your leopard gecko, as long as they are receiving proper vitamin D supplementation.
A substrate is another important element to a leopard gecko’s habitat. If your leo’s enclosure isn’t bioactive, some suitable substrates are a DIY soil mixture, pre-packaged reptile bedding, non-toxic shelf liner, reptile carpet, slate/tile, or paper towels.
Remember to clean and change your leopard gecko’s substrate frequently to keep their enclosure fresh and free of bacteria.
It’s also important to note that sand, coconut fiber, wood chips, and shavings are considered generally unsafe to use as a substrate, as well as crushed walnut shells, moss, and sand mats. You can find out more about substrates and why these types are considered unsafe by reading this article.
Additionally, providing a shallow water dish with clean water changed daily is vital for hydration.
Having multiple hide options is also recommended – one on the warm side, one on the cool side, and a humid hide box for shedding.
And finally, enrichment accessories like logs, branches, rocks, and plants allow your leo opportunities to climb and explore, stimulating their natural behaviors.
A Healthy And Balanced Diet
Leopard geckos should be fed a varied diet of gut-loaded insects such as roaches, mealworms, crickets, superworms, black soldier fly larvae, and silkworms. These insects should then be dusted with calcium and a multivitamin powder (the type of calcium depends on whether they have UVB lighting or not).
If your leopard gecko does not have a UVB light in its enclosure, calcium with vitamin D should be used.
If your leopard gecko does have a UVB light in its enclosure, calcium without vitamin D should be used.
You can read all about the best supplementation practices for leopard geckos in this blog.
Handling Techniques To Build Trust
When it comes to bonding, proper handling is key to building trust with your leopard gecko.
Start by offering food from your hands which will help teach your gecko to associate you with positive experiences. Then, allow them to crawl voluntarily onto your hand when they feel comfortable enough doing so. Be sure to support their body gently, while being mindful of their tail.
It’s recommended to limit handling to 10-15 minutes so your leo doesn’t become overstressed. And when returning them to their enclosure, be careful to place them down slowly so they don’t fall and injure themselves.
With enough time and positive experiences, you’ll be able to build a close bond and teach your leopard gecko to enjoy interacting.
Create An Enriching Environment
Don’t forget to consider enrichment when designing your leopard gecko’s home! You can add climbing branches, rocks, and textured logs to engage their interest in different ways.
Use live or artificial plants to provide additional hiding areas and a sense of coverage. Natural stone or resin caves make intriguing hideouts.
And scattering feeder insects sparks their hunting instincts. Just be sure to keep an eye on the insects to see if your leopard gecko is eating them – some are poor hunters and won’t even bother to try.
Regular Tank Cleaning
Another essential part of caring for a leopard gecko (or any animal, really!) is making sure their habitat remains clean and free of bacterial growth.
It’s recommended to spot-clean their waste and urate daily to prevent bacteria buildup. Also, be sure to completely change their substrate every few weeks if it’s a paper or disposable substrate, and every three to four months if it’s a loose substrate.
Disinfecting hides and accessories in the tank helps to prevent the spread of pathogens too. By staying on top of cleaning routines, your leopard gecko can enjoy a clean and sanitary home environment.
Monitor Their Health
Last but certainly not least, make sure to keep an eye on your little leo and monitor its behavior so you can spot any potential health issues. Watch for a decreased appetite, low energy, abnormal shedding patterns, or unusual waste that could signal an underlying illness.
Annual vet visits are recommended too. Be sure to have a knowledgeable exotics vet you can contact for any emergencies or to evaluate their overall health. Catching problems early on is key!
With attentive daily observation and professional vet exams, you can stay on top of your leo’s wellness and enjoy a long life with your little lizard friend.
So, are leopard geckos good pets? The answer is a resounding “Yes,” but with a few essential considerations.
These adorable reptiles bring joy, beauty, and a touch of exotic nature into our lives. Their low-maintenance nature, affordability, and charming personalities make them a popular choice for pet lovers.
However, it’s crucial to keep in mind their specific needs, from diet to handling. With the right care and commitment, you’ll be able to enjoy your little reptile companion and ensure a happy and healthy life for your gecko.