If you’re thinking about getting a leopard gecko, but are unsure whether they’re easy to take care of, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve done the legwork for you so you can make an informed decision about whether a leopard gecko is a suitable pet for you.
Leopard geckos are one of the easiest reptiles to take care of. You’ll need to keep a close eye on temperature and humidity, but leopard geckos can be easier to take care of than many more traditional types of pets, including some cats, dogs, birds, and fish.
Because there are so many types of pets, we’ll look at some of the more traditional pets – cats, dogs, birds, and fish first, before comparing them to other reptiles. This will give you a better idea of whether a leopard gecko is the pet for you.
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Why It’s So Easy to Take Care of Leopard Geckos
Leopard geckos are considered to be one of the best beginner reptiles as their setup is relatively basic and they also don’t need that much space.
Other reasons why leopard geckos make good beginner reptiles, are:
- They are docile by nature and also move relatively slowly.
- They rarely bite (i.e. don’t provoke them and they won’t bite).
- They are easy to handle, and usually don’t mind being handled by their human.
- They are quite small reptiles – growing to about 10 inches (25cm) – so you’ll be able to keep handling them with ease even when they’re fully grown.
- They do make sounds when they’re hungry or excited, so it’s not an entirely silent pet that you’re bringing into your home.
- If you’re squeamish about feeding your reptile mice, a leopard gecko can be a good choice as it is an insectivore.
How Easy Is It To Take Care Of a Leopard Gecko?
A leopard gecko is quite easy to take care of once you have the basics of their habitat in place. That is to say, setting up their tank correctly and feeding them a healthy diet. Here’s a brief overview of what you need to care for a leopard gecko.
Basically, you will need to give your leopard gecko a tank that:
- Is 20 gallons, or 36” x 18” x 18” to give your leopard gecko ample space to roam and that will help you set up a proper thermal gradient.
- Has a daytime basking spot of 88° F (31° C).
- Has a daytime thermal gradient of 88°F down to 75°F (31°C to 24°C) and a night time temperature of 70°F to 75°F (21°C – 24°C).
- Has a humidity level of between 30% and 40%.
- Contains a suitable substrate that will let your leopard gecko have as natural an environment as possible.
Feeding time for leopard geckos
When it comes to feeding your leopard gecko, it’s not as easy as grabbing a tin or bag off the shelf and filling a bowl, however. Leopard geckos are insectivores, so you’ll need to feed them appropriate insects, like crickets and roaches that are also the appropriate size.
For example, feeding too large insects to your leopard gecko, can lead to compaction, which can be life-threatening.
Where do you get the insects to feed to your leopard gecko?
You shouldn’t feed insects that you’ve caught in the garden or inside the house to your leopard gecko. This is because you don’t know whether they’re carrying illnesses or whether they’ve been in contact with some kind of pesticide or fungicide.
If they do have traces of poison on them, for example, your leopard gecko could be poisoned in turn.
Rather, get feeder insects from a local pet store or breeder that you trust. These feeder insects are bred specifically as reptile food and do not have illnesses, etc.
How Feeder Insects Should Be Fed to Leopard Geckos
Once you have the feeder insects, you shouldn’t feed them to your leopard gecko immediately, as they need to be “gut loaded” first.
“Gut loading” is a process of feeding the insects a nutrient-rich diet about two days before they are fed to your leopard gecko. This will ensure that your leopard gecko get as much nutrients from their food as possible.
The feeder insects should also be dusted with calcium powder to ensure that your leopard gecko has enough calcium in their diet and won’t start eating their substrate to try and get calcium and other minerals.
Leopard geckos should be fed live insects. The insects can be placed in a bowl, or – if you prefer – be “let loose” in your leopard gecko’s tank. This will encourage your leopard gecko to hunt in order to eat and also keep them busy in order that they don’t get bored.
Is it easier to take care of a dog than a leopard gecko?
“Man’s best friend” is usually seen as an easy pet for children and adults alike. In some ways a dog is easier to take care of than a leopard gecko, but this also largely depends on the breed of the dog and how much time you’re willing to spend to house train them.
For example, a labrador is known for being a family-friendly breed of dog, while a Saint Bernard needs a lot of space to live in – inside and outside the home.
Leopard geckos are lone wolves, so to speak, and will be quite happy if they’re left to their own devices and not get handled too much, whereas dogs need a lot more interaction and attention.
No matter how small your dog is, they will need a lot more space than the 20-gallon tank a leopard gecko is happy with. If you’re living in a small apartment or won’t be able to get to take your dog on walks every day, getting a leopard gecko might just be the better answer.
Dog food is freely available in stores whereas crickets and other insects for your leopard gecko need to be either bought from pet shops or be kept by you.
Leopard geckos also won’t eat your homework. Oh, come on, you know you were thinking the same thing.
Is it easier to take care of a cat than a leopard gecko?
If you want to know whether it’s easier to take care of a cat or a leopard gecko, you have to keep in mind that different breeds of cats do need different levels of care. For example, you need to spend a lot more time grooming a Persian or Norwegian Forest than a British Shorthair.
Having a cat or dog also means fur on the furniture which you will need to clean, so you need to keep that and any allergies you or someone in the household may have to pet dander in mind.
Leopard geckos, of course, only shed every now and then and this shed is much easier to remove from their tank than fur is removed from carpet. Plus, leopard geckos don’t get hairballs, which is always a win.
As with dog food, cat food is usually easy to buy from your local store, and the food also won’t try to escape the food bowl like a leopard gecko’s crickets do.
Cats are also easier to take care of in terms of temperature and humidity, and they are usually happy at room temperature. You do need a lot more space for a cat than a leopard gecko’s 20-gallon tank. Although they’d probably love the box the tank comes in.
Your vet bills for a cat (or dog) may be higher than for a leopard gecko as they will need to be spayed or neutered and will need deworming, etc. throughout the year.
However, you don’t need a specialized vet for a cat or a dog, though you may need one in the case of your leopard gecko getting sick or having trouble laying their eggs.
The main drawback in choosing a leopard gecko and not a cat in our opinion? Leopard geckos don’t purr. Then, again, there’s the whole hairball thing…
|Give them clean water. Feeding as necessary (babies should be fed every day, juveniles every other day, and adults 2 – 3 times per week). Remove feces from the tank as well as any uneaten food. Misting as necessary to keep the humidity level of the tank at the correct level and to moisten the sphagnum moss. Check temperature and humidity at least once per day.||Give them clean water. Feed twice daily. Take them for a walk to be able to get exercise and relieve themselves.||Give them clean water Feed twice daily Remove the feces from their litter box. Depending on the breed of the cat, you may need to brush and groom them daily.|
|Buy feeder insects. Replace the moss in the moist hide. Clean the hides thoroughly.||Give your dog a bath. Wash the dog blankets, etc.||Clean and disinfect the whole litter tray Depending on the breed of the cat you may need to give them a bath.|
|Clean the whole tank, including hides, replacing the substrate, etc.||Clean and sanitize the dog house. Groom your dogTreat them for fleas||Clean their ears. Treat them for fleas.|
|Replace the UVB light every 6 – 12 months. Replace any heat mats, etc. as needed.||De-worm your dog every 6 months. Take them to the vet for necessary shots.||De-worm your cat every 6 months. Take them to the vet for necessary shots.|
Is it easier to take care of a bird than a leopard gecko?
As with the other pets that we’re covering in this article, it’s difficult to say whether a leopard gecko is easier to care for a “bird” without going into more detail as to the type of bird we’re referring to.
Because you’re thinking about a small reptile, we’ll accept that you’ll also be looking at one of the smaller kinds of pet birds, like parakeets (budgies), finches, etc. A scarlet macaw parrot, for example, takes a lot more time and effort to look after than a finch or canary would.
Let’s take budgies as an example, as they can quite easily be kept in a small apartment, and also don’t call as loud as other parrots might.
Even though they’re small, they’re very lively and need a lot of interaction during the day to keep them stimulated. Leopard geckos, in contrast, need much less in the way of interaction to remain healthy. Indeed, too much handling by their human can stress them out.
However, because of birds’ outgoing personalities and song, it’s very often much easier to tell if there is something wrong with a bird than with a leopard gecko. Again, you may also need a specialized vet to take your leopard gecko to in case they get ill or egg-bound.
Birds are also easier to feed than leopard geckos (and a bird’s food won’t jump around the cage) as pet birds mostly eat seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
Leopard geckos are also more temperature-sensitive than many types of pet birds. The temperatures inside a leopard gecko’s tank can, however, be easier to control than that of your birds’ cage.
You, therefore, have to ensure that you can control the temperature of the room where you’re keeping your birds, while this is not quite as important for a leopard gecko as they are enclosed within their heated tank.
Both birds and leopard geckos you can leave home alone for a day or two (but remember to put out food for your birds!), while a leopard gecko can go a few days without eating.
Is it easier to take care of a fish than a leopard gecko?
Fish seem easy enough to take care of – you only need water and gravel, right? Not quite. That’s like saying you need a tile and plastic hide for a leopard gecko. Just because fish can’t bark or screech when they are uncomfortable, doesn’t mean they are easy to keep.
In our opinion, leopard geckos are easier to keep than fish simply because you have a much better control over the temperature for their tank than for an aquarium. And, in an aquarium, a few degrees too warm or too cold can be disastrous for the fish, especially in a tropical fish aquarium.
Plus, you can handle a leopard gecko and interact with it a lot more than you can interact with fish.
|Leopard Geckos Environment||Fish Environment|
|The temperature of the tank must be kept in a specific range and at a specific humidity in order to keep your leopard gecko healthy and happy. ||The temperature of the water must be kept at a specific temperature to keep your fish healthy (and alive). Even a small deviation from the required temperature can kill fish.|
|Substrate, hides, and plants are all you need, basically. Oxygen is readily available.|
You’ll need a basking light and heat mat, but other than that, not much else except instruments to check temperature and humidity with.
|You’ll need substrate, hides, plants, but you’ll also have to ensure that your fish get enough oxygen – not too much or too little. Filters are a must in aquariums. You’ll also need instruments to check that the water levels are correct and that there aren’t too much waste products, etc. in the water.|
|No chemicals needed.||You may also need to adapt the water using chemicals every so often.|
|You’ll need to ensure that the temperature in the tank is correct before replacing your leopard gecko. This will ensure that their body temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much.||You’ll need to change 15-30% of the water on a weekly basis (at the right temperature, etc. so you don’t send the fish into shock or kill them).|
|A leopard gecko, is a leopard gecko, is a leopard gecko, basically. You’ll look after morphs in the same way as you would “normal” leopard geckos.||Depending on the type of fish that you keep, you may need to supply them with salt water and not freshwater.|
Is it easier to take care of other types of reptiles than a leopard gecko?
While leopard geckos are a good choice for a beginner reptile, you might ask yourself if they really are easier to care for than other reptiles, even beginner reptiles like:
- Corn snakes
- Bearded dragons
- Ball pythons
Many reptiles that are listed as beginner reptiles, are not beginner-friendly at all, in fact (that is to say, that “beginner-friendly” also means “more difficult to kill”). For example, chameleons are, in fact, very difficult to keep, but are often placed on the lists for beginners.
In contrast, leopard geckos are very easy to keep – even easier than bearded dragons. However, the care for leopard geckos and bearded dragons are alike in some aspects; like the need for a temperature gradient in their tank, but the temperatures of these gradients are quite different:
|Leopard Gecko||Bearded Dragon|
|Cooler side: 75°F (24°C)||Cooler side: 77-85°F (25-29°C)|
|Basking spot: 95° F (35° C)||Basking spot: 95-110°F (35-43°C)|
Furthermore, the humidity levels for these two reptiles need to be as follows:
- Leopard gecko: 30-40%
- Bearded dragon: 20-40%
Although these differences may not seem too different to the layperson, keeping a tank at these exact temperatures and humidity is a whole learning curve in and of itself. The cooler temperatures and higher level of humidity that leopard geckos need, are for the most part easier to achieve than the levels that a bearded dragon needs to thrive at.
This is one reason why a leopard gecko is easier to care for.
Other reptiles – depending on the mastery you’ve needed to achieve before being able to keep them successfully – can be even more difficult to keep because of their habitat needs.
Dragon snakes, for example, need a very, very specific temperature to live at and while they are being kept successfully by some enthusiasts, they are difficult to observe in the wild, so we know very little about them.
They are also difficult to breed in captivity, which means that a snake might be wild caught and only sold as having been bred responsibly. Leopard geckos, however, are usually bred in captivity (just make sure that your breeder is legit) and you won’t have to worry about getting a wild-caught leopard gecko as a pet.
Coming back to the chameleons; to keep one of these, you need drippers and misters in the tank, besides also needing airflow. They are also, basically, easy to kill. Not what you want from a pet that’s supposed to be easy to keep!
Green iguanas, though also popular, are definitely an expert level reptile as the temperatures, etc. that they need are difficult to attain because they also need such a large enclosure as they can grow up to 5 feet in length.
These iguanas can also be unpredictable and can injure you with a lashing of their tail. Leopard geckos, on the other hand, are more likely to lose their tails.
Leopard geckos are easier to keep than other reptiles, because:
- They only need a 20-gallon tank, which is a lot smaller than many other reptiles, for example some snakes need.
- The temperature gradient in their tank is quite easy to achieve.
- They only need a water bowl and not an aquatic vivarium where they have space to swim as well.
- Because of their size, they remain easy to handle throughout their lives.
- They are docile and won’t bite without provocation. Older children – once shown how – can also handle leopard geckos without the fear of them being half-mauled by the new family pet.
- Their food is easy to come by and only needs gut feeding and a dusting of calcium. No trying to find whole animals that it can eat (as in the case of crocodilians. Yes, some people actually keep them as pets.).
- Unless you want to breed with leopard geckos (for which you will need a lot of practice in husbandry first), you will only need to have one leopard gecko because they are solitary creatures.
- Because they only need to be fed every other day – and sometimes even every third day when they are adults – you’ll be able to spend a night or two away from your leopard gecko without worrying that they’ll be starving.
You’ll also only need someone to check in on your leopard gecko if you’re longer away than that to feed them and to spot clean their tank.
Rather than being very difficult to take care of and taking a lot of time every day, you’ll only need about 20-30 minutes a day to ensure that your leopard gecko’s tank is still in order. And, although you’ll need more time on feeding days, feeding time is also bonding time for you and your leopard gecko.
The time, patience, and care that you put into your leopard gecko and their tank is rewarded with a healthy, happy gecko. And, after all, no one gets a pet with the idea that they’re never going to interact with them apart from feeding.
In the end, it’s easy to see that leopard gecko’s are easy to take care of and that they don’t take up that much time each day – or even each week. As long as you ensure that you do your homework as to best practices, but otherwise you’ll be able to see them grow and thrive for the next 15 to 20 years.
If you still can’t decide whether a leopard gecko is a good pet for you or not, have a look at our article on why leopard geckos are such fantastic pets here! We even provide a decision tree at the end of that article so that you can find out if a leo is a good fit for you!