Hello! Welcome! I hope you all are well!
As some of you may know, I bought a leopard gecko not long ago. His name is Loki Rhonan Calibur and he’s a precious carrot tail morph. He’s a Petsmart buy. The staff was extremely knowledgeable about leopard geckos and I have gone back multiple times with questions and ideas. Every time they were very helpful and informative. I definitely recommend them if you’re a first time leopard gecko mommy/daddy.
I got Loki when he was basically as juvenile as they come (pet store wise). He was very tiny… only about the size of my palm… and his markings were simple yellow and black, as typical with most baby leos. I chose him based on personality. He was the least jittery/feisty and the easiest to catch in the cadge. Some people like feisty though. Since I’m a first time mommy, I wanted one that was pretty laid back… and he is!
My cadge set up at that point was pretty simple. I had 10 gal tank, tan lizard carpet, a simple rock hide for the cool side, two logs to play on, a half log hide for the warm side of the tank, a heat lamp for above the tank during the day, a heating pad for under the tank during the night, and a water dish. The heating pad and heat lamp were on timers so they’d go off and turn on at the same time every day and keep his tank nice and warm. It wasn’t much but then again, he was just a baby. He didn’t NEED much. After having this set up, I’d read that using paper towel substrate would have been better for my little guy at this point in his life but I had already had the carpet and he really did just fine. However, my mother is a master of yardsales and at one in particular… she found awesome new hides for my little guy as he started to grow up.
Yay for variety! As you can see, He’s changed a lot since my first day with him. Leopard Geckos grow very quickly. They reach adulthood at about 6 months old and all the way up until that point, they have extreme rapid growth which requires more food and vitamins than an adult leo would need. In the shot above, he’s about 7 weeks old.
Here he’s about 10 weeks old and just look how much he’s changed! You can now see why he’s a carrot tail morph because his tail is orange while the rest of him is yellow. He’s still getting more orange creeping down his sides which isn’t uncommon for carrot tails and his black spots on his back are continuing to diminish and get smaller. His head spots stay the same, though, as do his tail spots… but his tail keeps getting more and more orange (I love that). In order for Leo’s to grow, though, they need to shed. All reptiles shed but lizards shed differently than snakes. Snakes sort of just roll out of their skins. Leos have to sort of pull it off of them. The moist hides help loosen the skin so that they can pull it off themselves easier. Here’s a shot of Loki at the beginning of a shed. From start to finish, it took him about 20-30 minutes total. Not bad if I do say so myself! If your gecko is having shedding issues, though, you can soak him in a very shallow Tupperware of warm water to loosen the stuck shed even more. If you need to, you can even gently pull some of it off but that’s only if you ABSOLUTELY need to. Otherwise, you really need to let your gecko do the work.
As Loki got bigger (now the size of my hand from finger tip to wrist), I had to expand and get him a larger terrarium. A 20 gallon long slide top aquarium. My WONDERFUL mother found it on Craig’s List for 20 bucks. These sell in pet stores for something to the tune of 86$…. My momma is a beast.
The biggest controversy with Leos these days is what to use for substrate (what they walk on). As stated before, paper towels are the easiest, safest, and cheapest way to go but they aren’t very attractive or realistic looking. Lizard Carpet is the next best thing and what I had. It’s easy to clean, more attractive, and reusable. The downsides are that the fibers can get wrapped around the lizard’s toes and cut off circulation. I also noticed that when hunting, Loki would accidentally grab the carpet along with his cricket and then couldn’t figure out how to let go of the carpet so he’d just rip the fibers off and end up eating them. It couldn’t be good for his little tummy and I also knew that the carpet could keep bacteria in it that could be potentially harmful for him. I wanted something that was both attractive and realistic looking but ALSO safe for my lizard. I knew sand was out of the question because, though nice to look at, it collects bacteria, and the lizard can ingest the sand and cause impaction which is very painful and often leads to death. Leopard Geckos need calcium to keep their bones healthy just like we do but only more so for them. I feed my feeder crickets gut loaded calcium gel water which puts nutrients into the crickets AND adds extra calcium to them. Then when I feed him, I switch every other day between Herpavite (or lizard vitamins) and calcium powder. But if a lizard feels like he/she doesn’t have enough calcium, they will try and eat the sand substrate which would cause impaction.
Other websites and lizard owners have created their own lizard habitat using foam, wood, cement, clay, and even building putty (calk). It’s a lot of time and money spent into making a cadge (which isn’t a problem for me) but I wanted to make sure there was NOTHING that could cause my lizard harm (chemicals, toxic paints, ect.). So I did some research on where exactly leopard geckos come from.
Leos are found in the mountainous arid desert regions of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran. They live in the desert, yes… but they do NOT live in the sand. They live on the sandstone cliffs and mountain regions within the desert. So my next thought was… well what about stone? And how would I find stone thin enough and easy enough to clean…..well what about flooring tiles? I headed to Lowes with my fabulous grandparents and picked up some slate tiles to put on the bottom of his terrarium. They’re beautiful, realistic, easy to clean, and there’s zero risk of impaction. Nothing to catch on his toes or get in the way of his hunting, and is as close to his natural habitat that I can get. I got two 12inX12in tiles and it cost me a whopping 3$ for the both of them. Soooo expensive right? I had to wash them super well though. They were really dirty when I got them. Just handling them made my hands get covered in this orange dust. I cleaned them by spraying them down with a mixture of 1 part apple cider vinegar to two parts water and scrubbing them with a wash cloth, then scrubbing them with another wash cloth that was soaked in water, then repeating steps one and two. I, then, dried them both with a towel to get any last bits of dirt from the tiles and then let them air dry in the sun the rest of the way. It made the colors in the slate really stand out too. So washing tiles before use= A MUST!
Another front view of the tank.
1) Cool rock hide
2) Moist Hide 1
3) Moist Hide 2
4) Warm Hide/Basking rock
5) Water Dish
7) Slate Tiles
8) Carpeted portion
9) Play Log
10) Heat Lamp
I plan on putting on one of those picture backgrounds that sticks onto the back of the tank to make it look even more realistic. I really love the way it’s all turned out and I think Loki does too. He had to explore every inch of the terrarium when I put him back in after putting the tiles in. At first, he kept licking/smelling the tiles as if to say “what IS this stuff?!?” And then he was like “ya dawg… I can roll with this.” (cuz my lizard is just SO ghetto.)
I fill the moist hides with peat moss and then spray the moss with water. The big tan round one holds the moisture better than the tall brown one does but he loves both of them. I see him in (and on!) both of them all the time. They’re some of his favorites.
Silly Loki lizard!!!! (yes I know the one on the right still has the green carpet but he was hanging out of his hide like he came home drunk. Lol SO silly!)
One thing Leo owners need to be careful of is over feeding! Your s’lizard (yes I meant to spell it like that) should have a plump tail but if his tail exceeds the thickness of his body and is more of a rounded shape instead of a long fat shape, Houston you have a problem, and that problem is an obese lizard. As said in the Leopard Geckos for Dummies book, Pg. 57, Ch. 5 Caring for your Leopard Gecko: “Healthy leopard geckos will have a curved body and some fat deposits behind the front legs. That’s normal. However, if the tail is almost round, or the body is round, or if your gecko never wants to move except to eat; then he’s probably obese. If your gecko stands up and his tummy is still dragging the ground, that’s obese.” DON’T LET YOUR LEO GET OBESE! OBESE IS BAD! NOT CUTE! It can mean a shortened life span for your leopard gecko which is sad…. and really pet obesity in itself should be considered animal abuse. It’s not cool peeps. So the more things your leo has to climb on and explore to exercise, the better! And chasing crickets is a fabulous way to exercise your leopard gecko. My Loki LOVES it. He knows when dinner time is and he’ll stare at me and watch me get the crickets ready for him.
(yes this is really his look when he’s watching me get his dinner)
“HURRY UP MOM! I’M HUNGRY!” “MAAAAAA WHERE’S MAH FOOD!?”
Since Loki is still young, I feed him every night and give him about 4-5 crickets a day. On days when I give him meal worms as snacks, I cut back and give him only 2-3 crickets and maybe 4-5 meal worms (cuz they’re small). When he was only a few weeks old, though, I would give him anywhere from 5-8 pinhead crickets a day because rapid growth requires a lot of work and work requires sustenance. It gave him a pleasantly plump tail and perfect body weight. I’ll cut back even more once he reaches full maturity and his metabolism slows. When he reaches full maturity, he should only need 3-4 crickets every other day and maybe a few meal worms in between just for fun. But in addition to how much I feed him, I also have provided lots of hides and toys for him to play on. And play he does! You wouldn’t think a lizard would really enjoy playing but surprisingly they do! But I was never more surprised than I was when he climbed his tall moist hide for the first time. My jaw just about hit the floor.
(sorry for how dark it is. It was in the evening when he’s most active and his heat lamp had turned off for the night)
Even when he’s out of his terrarium, he loves to climb all over me. One of his favorite perches is my shoulder… only now he’s started trying to climb to my head! I’m not totally comfy with that though. If babies can get their fingers stuck in hair, then why wouldn’t Loki? So I try to keep him off my head the best I can but sometimes he’s very determined!
As you can see, lizards are wonderful little creatures. I am positively obsessed with my little Loki. I’m as proud as a new mother and I’d do anything to keep my little Loki Lizard happy and healthy and entertained. If you have any questions or suggestions to me, just comment away. I love comments. SO DON’T BE SHY!
I hope everyone has a wonderful day! If you have a Leo, enjoy him/her! If you don’t… YOU SHOULD!!!! …. but only if you have the time and money to take care of them like they need. They’re living creatures and delicate ones at that. But if treated correctly, they can live well into their 20′s! So give ‘em that chance and be a good, responsible lizard owner. HAVE FUN! AND GOD BLESS!
Random fact about me: I collect delightful little hand crocheted puff balls with eyes called “Buttfreckles”. They go on sale every Saturday at 3:00 on the Buttfreckle website. Like ‘em on facebook for previews before she releases the next batch.