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Leopard Gecko Care

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Geckos originate from Pakistan and India and are crepuscular (hunting during dusk and dawn) we should therefore feed around these times.
They are carnivorous feeding on live insects only. Listed are some suitable insects to feed, we advise offering a wide variety of these. To have a healthy gecko around 75% of your time should be focused on tending to the live insects to provide the most nutritious and balanced diet. Any crickets not eaten should be removed from the tank and kept for another feeding. Uneaten crickets can bite your gecko causing skin trauma. Worms can be fed from a shallow feeding dish.

Other insects you can feed to you gecko include: mealworms, waxworms, silkworms and dubia roaches

Ensure the insects offered are the correct size for your gecko. Select insects that are no longer than the space between their eyes.                               

Gut Loading your crickets                                         

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To have a healthy reptile you must provide healthy insect food!
Crickets are omnivorous scavengers by nature, requiring a good variety of both dry and watery sources of food.
The term “Gut loading“ refers to filling your crickets tummies with as wide a variety of nutritious foods as possible right before feeding them to your reptile.
Crickets should be served a good mixture of these foods regularly for a few days before they are feed to your reptile.
Dry milk powder can also be offered.
 

DRY FOOD EXAMPLES
Vegetable based crushed dry dog biscuits  
Commercial Cricket Feed Should be available at pet shops selling crickets
Mixed seeds and unsalted nuts Raw sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds and peanuts
Alfalfa Course ground or powdered
Wheat Bran  

 

FRESH FOOD EXAMPLES
Greens Romaine lettuce, dandelion leaves, broccoli
Potatoes and sweet potatoes                   
Carrots  
Fruits Apples, oranges, grapefruit, berries, mango, papaya, banana.


Calcium requirements in reptiles


A deficiency in calcium may cause your reptile to start ingesting vivarium substrate especially if kept on sand. They may also suffer from metabolic bone disease or nutritional osteodystrophy, which is often accompanied with a vitamin D3 deficiency.
Since insects contain little or no calcium insectivorous reptiles commonly suffer from calcium deficiency if supplementation isn’t offered.
To help prevent such deficiencies the insect must be dusted with a calcium powder immediately before being fed. Alternatively the insect can be fed on a calcium supplement, pre-loading their gut with calcium 24-48 hours prior to being offered to the reptile.


How to dust insects


The main problem with insect dusting are escapees. To help combat this there are containers available like the Rep-cal cricket shaker available to buy on Amazon which you can use to coat your insects in calcium powder.
They can of course be dusted in a clear plastic bag. Simply add the amount of insects you require to the bag, tip in your calcium/vitamin powder. There are many different ones available on the market, quality examples are Nutrobal, Exo Terra or Repashy. Gently shake the bag until the insects are completely coated in the powder they should look white like they are covered in ash then feed them immediately to your pet.


Metabolic bone disease


This is where extensive resorption of calcium from the bones occurs. It is the bodies attempt to increase circulating blood calcium levels. When the calcium is resorbed it leaves only a fibrous tissue which is much weaker. To compensate, the bones thicken to try to maintain some strength, unfortunately this leads to weak bones, bowing of long bones, spontaneous fractures, collapsing of the spine and deformities.
An excessive calcium intake can be equally concerning, leading to mineralisation of soft tissues therefore it is vital to maintain a balance.


Environmental temperature and lighting


As reptiles are unable to generate their own heat it is vital to keep their environmental temperature warm and stable. Every species of reptile have their optimum preferred temperature, which will allow their enzymes and metabolism to function at their optimum levels as temperature will influence the rate at which their food is digested.


Since leopard geckos are naturally from the middle-east, you will need to make sure their light cycles mimic the same cycles as their natural environment. This means in the summer they should have 14 hours of light, followed by 10 hours of darkness, and in winter they need 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. Transition from summer to winter hours gradually over 4-8 weeks. It is advisable to use automatic timers on your lights.


Leopard geckos are nocturnal so exposing them to bright lights can make them stressed. Provide low-intensity full spectrum lighting during the day for optimal absorption of dietary calcium. Although leopard geckos are nocturnal exposure to UV-B light seems to be helpful. It is advisable to change the bulb every 6-9 months even if it appears to be working fine. This is because the quality of the UV-B/UV-A rays emitted will degrade over time.


It is important to ensure only one end of the vivarium is heated so the gecko can move to a cooler zone to maintain their optimum preferred temperature. Heat should be controlled by a thermostat and thermometers placed at each end of the vivarium. A radiant heat mat can be placed under the glass of one end of the vivarium or attached to one side, a protected infra red heat bulb can also be suspended from the ceiling at the warm end if additional heat is required.


Leopard Geckos should be kept in an environmental temperature of 25-30 degrees C, with the warm end of the enclosure being at the higher end of this temperature range. It should have a relative humidity of between 30-40% and it is advisable to install a hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels within the enclosure.


Humidity is important for most reptiles. Improper humidity can make it more difficult for them to shed properly resulting in digit loss, cause hydration issues, or increase the chances of reptile getting an infection.
If the humidity is too high, try increasing airflow through the tank and provide a smaller water dish. If the humidity is too low, try adding a larger water dish or moist moss to the tank (specifically for leopard geckos).
Leopard geckos will also need a humid/moist hide to help them when they begin to shed. This can be a in the form of moist moss or kitchen paper placed in a hide.


Warning about vivarium substrate


It is common for reptiles to ingest some of the floor covering of their enclosure either by intention if there are dietary deficiencies or inadvertent digestion when consuming food items. For this reason we recommend using specifically designed reptile carpet, kitchen roll or unbleached paper as a safer alternative. Should you wish to use other substrates as a floor covering we strongly advise feeding your gecko in a separate bare floored enclosure to avoid accidental ingestion and resulting gut impaction.


Please note


This care sheet is intended as a basic guide only. Further information must be sought before deciding to take responsibility for any exotic pet.
Please contact us on 01254 53622 should you have any concerns about your reptile's health.


Written by Caroline Ashworth R.V.N. Cert V.N.E.S, Daisy Street Veterinary Centre, Blackburn January 2017.

Page updated 16th May 2017, 14:28
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