Raising Juvenile Leopard Geckos

Authored by Ron Tremper, of Leopardgecko.com

Raising Juvenile Leopard Geckos

Single Juvenile Leopard Gecko Enclosure:

From the day a leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius) hatches it’s best raised singly in a simple shoebox setup until it reaches a total length of seven inches. This type of rearing enclosure is ideal since stress is minimized by the ready availability of water, food, heat, and shelter in a small area (see photos). Heating cable or narrow heat tape are the best methods for heating shoebox rack systems.

The use of sand or other particulate substrates should be avoided until young geckos reach six inches in total length, because of the risk of intestinal impaction

Shoebox cage

Shoebox keeper

For individual units, you can use the smaller reptile heat pads. A continuous temperature of 90° F under the hide and the heated section of the enclosure is optimum for juveniles. Paper towel serves as the floor covering. The use of sand or other particulate substrates should be avoided until young geckos reach six inches in total length because of the risk of intestinal impaction. As a water dish, nothing works better than a plastic peanut butter or instant coffee jar lid. For offering food and vitamin/mineral supplements, a good choice are Petri dishes or jar lids not more than ½” deep and 2-3” wide. We use Vionate®, by Rich Health for growing young leopard geckos. It is a well-balanced vitamin/mineral supplement that juveniles will readily lick up as needed. However there are many other high quality reptile vitamin/mineral supplements sold in the pet trade that will work as well. For an in-depth comparison please see Further Reading below. A #2 Styrofoam meat tray, the kind used in every grocery store, makes a perfect juvenile hide box when positioned over the heated section of the enclosure. Leopard geckos prefer to take shelter under objects close to their back.

(Typical shoebox rearing set-up allows young to grow without competition up to 6-7″ (15-17.5cm) in length. Normal size mealworms are presented in a shallow lid with Vionate supplement. Keep the water and food dishes away from heat source.)

Two to three days after hatching, juveniles shed their skin, which is always eaten. The humidity level in a closed shoebox will be high enough to facilitate proper shedding.

Be careful not to spill water in the cage, which when in contact with fecal matter causes ammonia gas to be generated.

Geckos hatch with enough yolk reserves to keep them from being hungry for the first three days of their lives, so do not offer insects to babies until the third or fourth day. Regular 1-inch mealworms–Tenebrio molitor, not crickets–are the best food choice for baby leopard geckos raised in this type of caging. Place 5 mealworms in the jar lid every other day.

Crickets tend to jump out when the shoebox is opened, hide under the cage paper, and can aggravate resting geckos.

Multiple Juvenile Leopard Gecko Enclosure:

When space and time are a consideration, the use of larger plastic sweater storage boxes (see photo) measuring 16” wide x 22” deep can house 5-6 young until they reach adult size.

Multi Gecko

Multiple Juvenile Leopard Gecko Housing

The height of your boxes will depend on whether they are on open shelving or part of a rack system. Cage furnishings should consist of food and water dishes, one paper towel and two Styrofoam hide boxes. If you are using several of these larger boxes, the best heating method for this size cage dictate is to use 3” wide (7.5 cm) Flexwatt heat tape, combined with a rheostat or thermostatic controller. The latter can be purchased from specialized reptile stores or from Internet reptile supply companies. For single units, a reptile heating pad can be placed under one end. A shallow plastic water dish should be placed away from the heat source, while a folded single sheet of paper towel, which is moistened every other day to aid in shedding and hydration, is placed under one hide box and partially over the heat source. A Petri dish or a plastic gallon-jar lid will work nicely as a mealworm/vitamin/mineral feeding bowl. In this larger setup, you can use crickets without problem. However, some juveniles become so excited while chasing crickets that they inadvertently grab and sometimes tear off a cage mate’s tail.

Whenever you house 5-6 growing young together you must sort them by size every two weeks as there will always be two or three young that are outgrowing all the others

(Up to 6 baby leopard geckos can be raised together. A paper towel is kept wet under a separate hide box. Water and food dishes are kept up front for servicing and away from the rear heat tape.)

Whenever you house 5-6 growing young together you must sort them by size every two weeks as there will always be two or three young who are outgrowing all the others. If left unsorted, the larger youngsters will stress and/or injure smaller geckos.

Crowding is a big no-no when it comes to housing all sizes and species of herps, and leopard geckos are no exception. Placing more than six juveniles together for more than seven days, in the standard sweater box described in this section, will not only lead to size disparities, but more importantly, to stress. When geckos are stressed the ever-present protozoans that they normally carry without a problem may take over, with the most common symptoms being diarrhoea, loss of appetite, and regurgitation. Sick animals should always be quarantined.

Further Reading:

Are All-In-One Supplements Really Better?