Life with A Leopard Gecko: Two Months In

It’s been a hot second since I shared much about Lucky, our family’s leopard gecko, and now that we’ve had her for nearly two months, I wanted to dive more into sharing about our girl, life with a leopard gecko and our overall experience as first-time reptile owners.

I know reptile and leopard gecko content isn’t for everyone, but when we were researching the best kind of reptile for our family, I devoured all of the information I could find out there which was, mostly, from experts or seasoned reptile enthusiasts. It was all incredibly helpful and what inevitably led us to choosing a leopard gecko for our family, but I would’ve loved to have been able to talk with a friend about everything and it’s my hope that this blog post will feel like just that for anyone who may be considering a leopard gecko as a family pet.

Why We Chose a Leopard Gecko

We read a lot of books and talked to numerous reptile enthusiasts over the course of about a year before deciding on a leopard gecko for our family. It seems like bearded dragons are a go-to lizard for beginners to consider and initially we thought that’s the direction we were going to go until a conversation with a man who worked at Cold Blooded & Bizarre, a local Charlotte-area specialty reptile shop, steered us in a different direction. (Ultimately we decided against a bearded dragon because they get quite large — 2x the size of a leopard gecko — and require a larger aquarium while also being a little higher maintenance than leopard geckos.)

The more we learned about leopard geckos, the more convinced we became that a leopard gecko was the right fit for us. They are wildly known as great pets for beginners and are relatively low maintenance. Leopard geckos are smaller in size (Lucky is full grown and fits easily in one of my hands) and adapt to being held gently fairly well. They do not require too much in terms of specialty lighting, controlled humidity, habitat upkeep, etc.

One thing that is VERY important to know: Leopard geckos can live 20+ years. They are a commitment and will be with your family for a LONG time. This is something very important to consider since children’s interests are fleeting but a leopard gecko’s life is not.

How We Found Our Leopard Gecko: A Reptile Rescue!

Through my research about various lizards and geckos, I discovered reptile rescues! I am not sure why I never thought of this as an option but the minute I realized there are rescues out there dedicated to caring for reptiles and rehoming surrendered and rescued reptiles, I knew this was the route we would go to find a leopard gecko for our family.

There are SO many pros to rescuing a reptile aside from the obvious (giving a reptile a second chance!) and I cannot recommend going through a reptile rescue to find a lizard or gecko for your family enough, especially if you have young children. Many of the rescues know their reptiles well and can direct you to a lizard or gecko that will fit best in your family dynamic. This was certainly the case for us, as we found Lucky through Southern Reptile Haven, a rescue located in the Jacksonville Beach area. They were able to recommend 3-year-old Lucky for our family, knowing we have 3 young boys in our family who would want to be able to hold their new pet on occasion. There are many reptiles out there who prefer not to be held so finding a leopard gecko who would mesh well with enthusiastic children was important to us.

(FYI, if you live in the Jacksonville Beach area, I cannot recommend Southern Reptile Haven enough. They were beyond amazing, not only with helping us find Lucky but they were also the star of Chase’s birthday party. You may read more about Chase’s reptile birthday party and the moment we surprised him with Lucky here!)

Lucky’s Habitat

We majorly lucked out when it came to setting up the perfect habitat for Lucky. We bought everything we needed for Lucky from Southern Reptile Haven; it was the entire habitat she’d already been living in which helped make her transition into living with our family so smooth!

Lucky’s set up includes the following:

Caring for Lucky

I was admittedly very intimidated by caring for a reptile but learning to care for Lucky was really easy and she’s a very, very low maintenance pet. As I’m typing all of this out, it may seem like a lot but on a day-to-day basis we don’t have to do much!

We joke that Lucky is a bougie little leopard gecko because she has a strong preference for live crickets. This is the only semi-high maintenance thing about her because it means we’re making weekly trips to the pet store for large live crickets to feed our girl.

Over the past two months, we’ve been able to keep crickets alive for longer in a cricket keeper cage with some dark leafy greens, a small slice of whole wheat bread, carrots, oranges, etc. so we don’t have to go to the pet store more than once a week. (Also, feeding crickets nutrient-dense foods 24 hours before feeding them to your reptile is a practice called “gut loading” and it’s extra beneficial for Lucky!) I think we can probably stretch our pet store visits to bi-weekly visits but we haven’t tried stocking up on more than 30 crickets at a time yet. We feed Lucky 10 crickets a few times a week and watching Lucky hunt is one of the coolest things for our family! Chase keeps note of her hunting progress and the most crickets we’ve seen her eat at one time is six. Go Lucky, go!

Lucky’s water dish is always filled with fresh water. We were instructed by the reptile rescue to include a drop or two of ReptiSafe water conditioner drops in her water to remove chloramines, chlorine and ammonia, and provide essential ions and electrolytes.

Calcium powder is incredibly important for leopard geckos to ensure good bone density. We keep a heavy sprinkle of ReptiCalcium in a small dish in Lucky’s cage at all times.

This is the BEST part of leopard gecko maintenance because we have yet to need to clean Lucky’s cage. She only poops a few times a week and it’s always been in the same far corner of her cage. Her poop is easy to scoop out with a tissue and throw away and her cage does not smell at all. (The cricket keeper cage, however, can get stinky.) We still haven’t needed to change her bedding but the reptile rescue said we shouldn’t need to do this more than a couple times a year. The terrarium liner mats seem like an even easier option for cleaning/maintenance and I definitely would’ve looked into this option if we didn’t go through the rescue for Lucky’s habitat.

Handling Lucky

With three curious, excitable and reptile-loving young boys in our home, we knew we needed a reptile who would tolerate being held fairly well. Thankfully Southern Reptile Haven knew Lucky and her personality and ensured us she was a good fit for a family with children. They were right but that doesn’t mean Lucky was sprinting out of her little cave and into our arms whenever we opened the doors of her terrarium.

Chase and I watched a bunch of YouTube videos about how to properly hold and handle a leopard gecko and also watched educational videos about a leopard gecko’s body language. We learned about “gaping” — when a leopard gecko opens their mouth very wide — and the boys understand that when Lucky gapes at us, she is very much done being held and it’s immediately time to put her back into her cage. The boys also know that if Lucky runs away from our hands when we attempt to scoop her out of her terrarium, it means she’s not up for being held and we’ll hold her another time.

Leopard geckos are nocturnal and Lucky certainly fits this mold. She loves her night light and comes out of her cave every single night when we switch her heat light from her day light to her night heat light. (This is also the time we often feed her!) Since Lucky seems most energetic in the evenings, this is generally the time the boys hold her. She’s come a LONG way in terms of tolerating their attention and seems to enjoy crawling around in the spaces they build for her out of their magnetic PicassoTiles for a little adventure!

And now that I’ve written waaay more words about Lucky and leopard geckos than I ever dreamed I would, I’ll sign off but please let me know if you have any questions about leopard geckos and I’m more than happy to answer them in the comments section of this post.

In summary: Lucky is awesome! Leopard geckos are awesome and we’ve loved having Lucky as a wonderful, scaly member of our crew.

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