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Leopard gecko

On this page, you'll find everything you need to know about caring for your new leopard gecko. To keep your pet healthy and happy, it's important to make sure their set-up mimics their natural habitat as closely as possible.

leopard gecko in a vivarium © RSPCA

All about leopard geckos

A leopard gecko can grow to around 15 to 25 centimetres and live for 10 to 20 years in captivity, so owning one is a big commitment. They prefer to live alone but can become used to being handled if done so carefully.

A healthy gecko has clear, bright eyes and a thick tail. Its belly should only touch the floor when resting.

Read more about handling geckos and monitoring their health in our leopard gecko care sheet.

Setting up a vivarium for your leopard gecko

Your leopard gecko will quickly outgrow a reptile starter kit, so when you're buying new equipment it's better to get a large enclosure from the start.

There are a few essential things your leopard gecko vivarium will need:

  • An adult gecko needs a tank at least 60cm long, 40cm high and 30cm deep.
  • To ensure bacteria doesn't build up, the tank needs to be easy to clean and well ventilated.

Temperature, heat lamps, UV lights and humidity

Leopard geckos use their environment to regulate their body temperature. That's why it's important to provide a 'thermogradient', with a heat lamp at one end and a cooler area at the other. Use thermostats to regulate the temperatures. You'll also need to remember:

  • Basking area: this should remain between 28 and 30 °C during the day, and the cool end 24 to 26 °C.
  • At night: turn off the heat lamp, but use a heat mat or ceramic heat lamp to ensure the temperature doesn't dip below 18 °C.
  • Dry environment: leopard geckos need a relatively dry environment. Measure the humidity at the cool end of the tank with a hygrometer - it should be between 30 and 40%.
  • Ultraviolet light: your gecko will need low levels of ultraviolet light. A two to five% UVB bulb will provide this, allowing them to make vitamin D inside their body - an essential mineral that allows your gecko to store and use calcium.

Hiding places and flooring

To mimic your leopard gecko's natural environment, you'll need to provide hiding places and low, sturdy branches or rocks for climbing.

The floor covering, known as the substrate, also needs to be natural to minimise the risk of impaction - a potentially fatal issue where particles become lodged inside your gecko's belly and cause a blockage. Never use 'caci-sand' or beech wood chips, as your leopard gecko can't safely eat these.

What do lepoard geckos eat, and when?

Leopard geckos eat a diet of live insects, which can include crickets, 'calci worms', waxworms and small locusts (no bigger than the size of your gecko's head). You'll also need to provide fresh vegetables and clean water to keep these insects hydrated.

You should feed young geckos every day and adults every other day. You'll need to top up your gecko's nutrients with supplements, too. Ask your vet for advice on the best ones to give your pet.

Find out more