Common Questions in Leopard Gecko Groups and Forums


Ghoulish Geckos
I made this for facebook, but it also covers many basic questions here in this forum, too.

These are some common questions that I see over and over in leopard gecko groups. These answers are for leopard geckos, but I’ve been told some apply to fat tails, too. These are not questions for crested geckos, banded geckos, etc.

What is my gecko’s morph? We simply just can’t answer this correctly without background info. Too many morphs look similar and everything is basically a guess based on visual appearance. Even those guesses could be wrong based on lighting, computer screens, bad pictures, or an unhealthy gecko. If a gecko is still a baby, snow (not what kind) and murphy patternless are pretty obvious. But as these geckos grow, it becomes difficult to tell a normal vs snow and a blizzard vs murphy patternless. If you purchased your gecko from a breeder, they should be able to provide you with the morph and what the parents were. If it’s from a pet store, consider it a nice pet only.

What should I breed to my ***? This is really up to you. You need to think about what morphs you want to produce and what your goals are for appearance. The main thing is to breed ethically. This means no mixing of albinos or snows. If you have an animal that you bought that wasn’t listed as having any hets, it doesn’t mean that it’s not het for something. Only a few breeders have true, pure animals. Most tangerines and snows have been crossed with an albino strain. Ask the breeder questions about the parents and grandparents. Try your best to buy from trusted breeders. Everyone will have something pop up at times, but most good breeders do their best to disclose every possibility they know of. If you’re at a show, ask questions since often times breeders/vendors may not list everything on the lid. Know that certain newer morphs that came from Tremper will take quite a bit to breed the tremper out of them. Be cautious of those and don’t be afraid to test breed them. Things like giants and emerines often are het tremper.

I’m getting a gecko, what do I need? This one is pretty simple. Search for caresheets online. Most breeders will have a care sheet on their website or facebook page. Once you are familiar with the basics, then ask specific questions. But don’t expect others to do the work for you. The internet makes it so easy to find your answers. I’m all for helping people who also want to help themselves and most breeders will feel the same way.

Why does this person tell me something different than others? You are going to get a lot of great info on facebook, but be prepared to get a lot of bad info, too. I’ve seen two or three people post the wrong answers in a row in groups. If you’re getting a lot of mixed answers, try to find a trusted breeder to ask. I have noticed a trend that certain people just want to participate and answer everything even if they don’t have the facts straight.

Sand, yes or no? This is a hot topic that you will see argued all over. I have quite a bit about this in my care sheet, but I’ll answer a bit here, too. First, natural doesn’t mean loose sand (especially calcium sand). Leopard geckos live in areas with hard packed earth, but there are some loose particles and vegetation. If you want a natural look, try excavator clay. A little bit of sand will not hurt most geckos, but they should be able to get away from it. However, this should only be used once someone is experienced with basic care and they know the animal is healthy. An unhealthy animal or an animal with improper husbandry can become impacted by many things. I recommend paper towel for beginners and for quarantine. It’s easy to clean up and you can keep an eye on the fecal matter left behind. Once your husbandry is spot on, then you can try something more natural. Tile is a nice way to make a tank pretty without going loose, too.

Will mealworms eat through my geckos stomach? No, this is false information and I’m not sure where it comes from. Mealworms and superworms are at least partially chewed before being swallowed. I have never heard a true story about this happening. I have been using mealworms as a staple for years and have never had a problem.

What is the sex of my gecko? This one is easy to find with a quick online search. It is hard to sex small geckos, so you may need to wait until they are older. Males will have a fairly large bulge and you’ll see two separate bulges. Females may have a small bulge, but it lacks the separation. Females can have slight pores, but males pores are deeper and more pronounced. Most geckos are easily sexed, but there are always a few that can be tricky to even an experienced breeder.

Do leopard geckos need UVB? No, they do not need it. If you are keeping them in a tank with plants, you can use a very low wattage UVB bulb over the plants for a little while daily. Do not keep it on all the time. Feeding Calcium with D3 is all they need. Some geckos can be stressed by lights, too.

Will my gecko overdose on D3? While this was a common thought years ago, I have never heard of a gecko overdosing on D3. I have started using it in the tubs with my breeding females and always dust with it.

My gecko isn’t eating. What do I do? This one can be from many different things. First thing is to make sure your husbandry and temps are correct. If they are, here are other options. If you just receive a gecko, it can take awhile for it to settle in and eat. From my experience, babies will eat sooner than adults. Some adults will take a month to start eating. As a gecko gets older, it will slow down on eating. I feed my adults twice a week, juvies every other day, and hatchlings eat daily. Many geckos will slow down on eating in the winter. Ovulation is another thing that will make many geckos go off food. This could last a couple months. The main thing to watch for is weight loss. If your gecko isn’t losing weight, I wouldn’t stress too much. However, if they start losing a lot, I would get a fecal sample done to rule out parasites. I have a couple picky eaters that benefit from switching up their food quite a bit. You can try that if your gecko isn’t interested in their usual food.

Do I need to gutload insects? Yes, you do. This is an important step that should not be skipped. I have a photo album with pictures you can reference. Gutloading not only fills up the insects, but it allows your gecko to receive those extra nutrients. You don’t want to feed empty insects. I use a combination of Pro Geckos gutload and fresh veggies like carrots and greens.

My gecko has shed stuck to it. What do I do? There are a couple things that can help. One thing to try is to make a sort of sauna for the gecko. Take a deli cup or decent size container with a lid and put some water in the bottom. Enough to cover the feet well, but not so much that the animal feels uncomfortable. Place the gecko in the water and close the container. Place this over a heat source like heat tape or and under tank heater. Keep the gecko in there for awhile to soften the skin. Once the skin in loose, you should be able to gently remove it with a q-tip and your fingers. Make sure you check the toes and eyes. The other thing that I find works well is coconut oil. Rub some over the stuck skin and it loosens it pretty well. Gently work it off the same way. If the skin is really stuck, you may have to do this a couple times. Then make sure your humid hide is moist enough. Using heat in the house in the winter always dries everything out quicker for me, so I need to keep an eye on it better then. Geckos do not need to have baths, so only soak when absolutely necessary.

What temperature should I use for incubation? The general thought is that 80-83 gives you mostly females, 84-86 will give you mixed sexes, and 87-90 will give you mostly males. I incubate most of my geckos around 82-83 and get mostly females with a couple males. My male incubator is set around 88-89 and I do get mostly males with a female once in awhile.

Can I feed pinkies, fruits, or bugs from outside? Leopard geckos are insectivores. It means that they eat mostly bugs in the wild. Will one in the wild eat a pinkie mouse? Probably if there is nothing else, but this isn’t their preferred diet. I don’t think they really need them. I have fed a couple frozen thawed pinkie mice to breeding females in the past, but only two or three would even touch them. I don’t even bother now. They are high in fat and I find that well gutloaded insects work just fine. I will give a few waxworms coated in calcium during breeding season as a little extra for my females. Leopard geckos do not need fruit or veggies. I do gutload my bugs with veggies and that gives them extra nutrients. I try not to use fruit for gutload because of the high sugars. As for bugs outside, leave them there. You do not know if those bugs might have pesticides or parasites. There are plenty of options to buy feeder insects or you can breed your own. I find the best staples in the US are roaches (I use dubia), mealworms, and superworms. Silkworms are excellent, but high in price. I do try to buy them when I can find them locally. Hornworms are good, but also pricey. Crickets are a fine staple, but there is a higher chance of crickets carrying pinworms than the other insects. Waxworms are a good treat once in awhile, but not needed and they should never be a staple. Phoenix worms are also good, but they are a bit small for a staple.

Can my geckos live together? Don’t they like company or get lonely? Most reptiles prefer to be alone. There are some exceptions, but in general, they do best by themselves. Experienced keepers can try to keep females together, but they must be close to the same size and you need to watch for fighting or bullying. Often times females will get along well and then something can change. I find it safer to keep them alone. Why risk the health of an animal? Most people that cohab do it to save space and money. Do not keep a male and female together unless breeding. Even then, you need to watch them. Males can be aggressive breeders. I’ve had one female lose a chunk of her tail and one female have a chunk taken out of her nose. This was while they were ovulating. If a female is not ovulating, she can and will bite the male. Sometimes the male can be injured. Never keep two males together. According to “The Eyelash Geckos”, males have a strong sense of territory. I find it best to move the male to the females tub when breeding.

This is a copy from something I wrote up before about pet store geckos. Pet store geckos. I'm not talking about specialized stores who might know all the genetics of an animal. I'm talking about chain pet stores and wholesalers. These animals do not come with known genetics. Many are bred without caring what they are. Certain places are known to mix albino strains. If you are buying from a pet store, it should be just that. A pet. Unless it is something totally unique (which most pet stores wouldn't have), there is no reason to test breed an animal so you can breed it later. Test breeding is a very long process which produces at least 60+ babies before you can say 100% on the genetics. Those babies are now pet only gecko and cannot be sold for breeding. Most people will not even have the animals needed to test breed. If you want to breed, you don't have to start out spending a lot of money. Most breeders will have lower priced animals like a basic mack snow het albino. There is no reason to breed pet store animals. It really does affect the whole community. There are breeders who are trying hard to clean things up. I can't say that things will ever be clean, but we should all do our best to keep it from getting worse. If you receive an animal that is gravid from unknown genetics, you do not have to hatch the eggs. It is ok to freeze them and throw them out.

Continued about breeding:
I'm adding to this today because I still see so many people arguing about this. It's not just about the genetics (but that is a big deal because those numbers add up quickly). I definitely want to encourage new breeders. It helps the community. However, people need to be aware of both the positives and the negatives. Back to pet store geckos (I'm talking chain vs specialty). Those geckos come from the same basic wholesalers. They are bred in large amounts and with no concern as to who is breeding with who in most cases. Line breeding a gecko (breeding related animals) is normal, but after so many times, you must outcross or you will start to see deformities popping up a lot. If the breedings aren't being tracked, you run the risk of having these animals in the store that have a higher chance of giving you babies with deformities. This is not how anyone wants to start their breeding, especially young people. The health of the animals in stores can be iffy. Lack of proper supplements along with bad genetics can give you babies with health issues. It might be a simple tail kink, but it can also be neurological, severe mbd, kinks higher in the tail that can cause hip/spine issues, or missing eyelids. If someone hatched babies that fail to thrive or that have to be put to sleep, I just don't see that encouraging many to try it again. Pet stores are great because they can get people interested in animals. I'm not telling you to stop going to one (always look at the physical condition and don't buy a sickly animal). What I'm saying is that if you want to breed, do your research. Learn how to properly take care of the animals first. Figure out what you want to do. Don't just breed because you want to create life. There are way too many pets out there with no one to properly care for them. Once you are ready, find a breeder you can trust. Tell them that you're just starting out. Many will have lower priced animals. Start with basic morphs. Spend around $60-$100 for your pair and go from there. But I can't stress the word research enough. Too many people are focused on saying "yes, breed" or "no, don't breed". We should be encouraging breeding in an ethical way along with educating. This means both the good and the bad.
One more thing is the health of your female from a pet store. Not all females will survive breeding. This is something that some breeders will openly talk about and others will not. I was lucky to have one breeder I admired when I started who shared the bad stuff, too. She made sure we realized that these were live animals. They were pets first. Some females will never start eating again after laying. Some will become egg bound. Most will be fine. However, if you're starting with an animal from an unknown background, I feel the risks might be higher. Then there are also the costs involved. If your female is egg bound, do you have the $700-$1500 to have the very high risk surgery? What if the babies are unhealthy? Do you have the money for each of them to go to the vet?
This all applies more to the people who intentionally breed these animals and not so much to the ones who receive a gravid female. If your female is already gravid, you have a couple choices. You can incubate a couple eggs, hope for the best, and give them to someone as pet only Or you can just freeze all the eggs. Remember that females can lay a lot. I had one first year female who gave me at least 14 eggs, but I think it might have been 16-18 eggs. That is a lot if you're just starting out. I know I don't have 16-18 people to give babies to. Also, remember the quality and the amount of unwanted pets out there. These animals should be treated no differently than a dog or a cat. Everyone accepts that there are standards for those and the people who are serious will not buy a dog from a pet store to breed. Even though geckos don't have set standards the way dogs do, there are still ethics involved.
So please realize that breeders do actually want new breeders to come in. We should encourage it. But we also need to educate everyone. Saying that one person breeding pet store animals doesn't matter is part of what got us to the place we are now with muddy waters and animals in rescues. Those "just one" people add up quickly. I find nothing wrong with helping guide people. Just do it in a nice way and realize that stating the opposite opinion needs to be done in the proper way, too. Otherwise it's preaching and sounds negative.

My gecko is big, is it a giant? The only way to know is by genetics. Geckos can be big without having giant genes. Geckos will always vary in size and have been getting bigger over the years. I have some geckos who are just as big as giants, but they are not because it’s not in their genetics. I have seen some giants who don’t look as big as they are expected. Most breeders don’t really go by that set weight standard at 6-12 months anymore. In general, giants should be longer. When growing, they are often long and lean. If you want a giant, buy it from a respected breeder that works with them. But never call your gecko a giant just because you think it’s big. Also, many giants I’ve seen are very overweight. Some breeders will overfeed to get them to the size they are. This isn’t healthy for the gecko. Don’t force it to be larger than it’s meant to be.

What weight should a gecko be at to breed? This question comes up often. My general standard is 50 grams. However, not every gecko is the same. You have to look at the body proportions. Some geckos are smaller and may never reach 50 grams. If they are healthy and carry enough weight in the tails, they should be fine to breed. Some geckos are longer and look thin at 60 grams. With those, I wait until they put on a little more weight in the tail. Most females and some males will go off food during breeding season. While you don’t want your gecko to be overweight, make sure they are healthy looking and have a little extra tail fat since females especially will lose weight. Some will lose very little while others may drop 20 grams in a season. If you have to question this, it’s very likely that your animal isn’t ready. Look around at healthy looking adult geckos and you can get an idea of the ideal body shape and size before breeding.

Do I need a thermostat for my under tank heater (UTH)? Yes, you need one. It doesn’t have to be a super expensive one, but you do need a way to control the pad from getting too hot. If you can, purchase a temp gun, too. This will give you an accurate floor reading. If your animal gets too hot, you run the risk of burns and neurological issues.

My gecko looks thin, should I worm it? Only worm your geckos if you have a positive fecal result. Some breeders have said they worm every year to be safe, but I find that an animal may get used to medicine and it won’t work as well over time. You need to know what type of worm to know which wormer to use. Some wormers will suppress appetite or be dehydrating. If the animal is very ill/thin, this could actually cause more issues. Also, some worms like pinworms from a feeder insect might not require wormers. I’ve seen some vets prescribe it right away while others request that you get clean feeders and retest. A small load of worms is usually normal in most reptiles. It’s when the numbers get too high that it causes a problem. If you think your animal may have parasites, please get at least one (more is better) fecal test done. If you’re experienced, you can even do fecal floats at home. We have started doing this here.

I see geckos kept in tubs and this is not fair to an animal. Why would you think that’s ok? Many breeders of lizards and snakes use tubs in a rack system. As long as the animal’s needs are met and they have some room, this is not an issue. I often find that my animals feel more secure in a tub which is partly covered. I’ve had people buy geckos from me and put them in tanks. They had trouble getting them to eat. I’ve suggested covering 3 of the tank sides or trying a tub instead. As soon as they changed, they started eating again. The choice of using a tank or tub is yours. However, it can be stressful for a gecko if you put them in a tank that is too large. And something too small will not give them a good heat gradient. No matter what, how you keep them (tank vs tub) is your choice and it’s not ok for you to attack someone for keeping them a different way.

My new gecko isn’t eating. What can I do? First, make sure your husbandry is correct. Try to leave a new animal alone as much as possible the first couple weeks at least. Shipping or even just being in a new place can be stressful. I find that most babies and juvies will eat within a week or two of being in a new home. I’ve had adults take a month or even a little longer to start eating. Make sure you ask the breeder what the gecko was eating before and start with that food. Keep an eye on their poop to make sure it looks healthy. If it doesn’t, I would suggest a fecal sample be taken to a vet or lab. If you’re using a tank, try covering 3 of the sides with dark paper for awhile. Most animals will settle in and eat fine once they are comfortable. If they do not or you see a large weight loss, please take your animal to a reptile/exotic vet.

Do I need a humid hide? Is it normal for geckos to dig and make a mess in the hide? Yes, you definitely need a humid hide. Not only does it help a gecko shed easily, but it also provides a place to hide. Some females will lay infertile eggs even without being with a male, so they need some place to do that. I use paper towels for my males and that has been fine with most of them. I just spray it daily. For my females, I’ve used moss or cocofiber. Both of these work just fine. I use moss more often because geckos will dig and I’ve had less mess with the moss vs the cocofiber. You can research a bit and decide which you would prefer to use. Spray the moist hide down daily, but don’t soak it so much that it doesn’t dry out at all.

Not a question, but an incorrect comment I’m seeing more and more. My female and male are fine together and they won’t breed. Yes, they will. Male and female animals will breed when kept together. You may not see it happen, but you’ll eventually end up with eggs. As I stated above, males can bully females to breed often, and females can bite and harm a male if she’s not interested. Unless you are breeding (and have researched and understand genetics), do not keep a male and female together. Just because they haven’t bred yet doesn’t mean they won’t. It is natural and it will happen.

How much money will I make breeding leopard geckos? Honestly, most breeders will never make a profit. Not if they are bringing in new blood and projects to breed. Very few breeders make money. The ones that do are usually breeding on a much larger scale or they are never buying more animals to bring in to their collection. When you add in the costs to start up, food, electricity, gas to go ship or vend at shows, etc, very few people actually make money. I’m lucky if I break even most years, but I’m always bringing in new animals and buying better supplies. Do not get into breeding thinking you will make money and definitely not enough for an actual job. Breed because you love the animals and want to better the morphs you’re working with.

Why is X breeder charging so much more than XX breeder? There are many factors to this. First, breeders who have been around awhile have earned their reputation and are almost always able to charge more. If that’s not the case, then there are some other things to look at. Not all animals with the same basic genetics are the same. Some may come from better stock (animals bought from respected breeders). The color or pattern may be better on one vs the other. The age and size of the gecko will matter, too. Expect to pay more for an adult or almost full grown animal vs a hatchling/juvie. Those things will all affect price. Not everyone will charge the same. An animal is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. If you don’t like a price, offer a little lower (do not insult breeders by offering a super low price) or move on to another breeder. Just do your research and make sure you are buying from someone good.

Why doesn’t my gecko look exactly as pictured? There could be many reasons for this. First, all monitors are different and yours may not display the same way the breeders does. Depending on lighting and flash, the animal will look different. I take my pictures with flash, so that will change what it looks like to the naked eye. I do mention that in my sale albums. The next thing to look at is how old the animal was in the picture. If it is still under a year old, you will see a lot of changes. The spotting can appear or disappear. The bands will fade. The color will change, especially when an animal is young. I have some that change with every single shed. Sometimes the color will get brighter and other times it will get duller. If the animal is an adult female, her coloring may fade when she starts ovulating. This is very common. Another reason could be that the animal is cold or stressed from shipping. Warm them up slowly and they should start to look better. If there is a huge difference and it’s not from these things mentioned, talk to the breeder. It’s possible you were sent the wrong animal and in bad cases, the breeder may photoshop the photos to make the animal look better.