Leopard geckos are one of the most popular lizards herp owners own today. So far, you have probably already learned that they are a beginner lizard. Meaning that they are not as hard to take care of as chameleons, skinks, tegus, and agamids. However you should be aware of a number of things when your are buying your first leopard gecko. They are offered at a lot of pet places like Petco and Petsmart. As you will learn in this article I really don’t favor buying a leopard gecko from Petsmart or Petco because there are much better options out there. Since, these lizards live up to 20 years your going to need to choose one carefully. You’re going to have a little buddy that is going to be with you for many years to come. Down below I will discuss some of the hotspots for finding your first leopard gecko.
Petsmart & Petco
These are two of the biggest companies that sell everything from dogs, kittens, fish, birds, and yes you guessed it, lizards too. The only drawback is these stores don’t have very high end morphs of leopard geckos. They typically don’t have the best colors, and often times the workers don’t know very much about reptiles. In fact, true story at Petsmart they actually tried selling me a UVB light for a leopard gecko. These reptiles don’t require one! Not to mention they will try to sell you dried mealworms, grasshoppers, crickets which don’t actually move. Since these bugs are not actually moving your leopard geckos will not care to eat them. I have already made this mistake before, and wanted to warn anyone that is considering a leopard gecko to NOT buy dried food because they are trying to save money.
I often wonder about the well-being of the reptiles at these two companies, because they are nocturnal and kids will bang on the glass and disrupt the geckos sleeping cycle. It seems to be hit or miss with reptiles at Petsmart and Petco. A better option would be a local reptile shop in your area. They are better options because they deal with reptiles exclusively and know how to properly care for them.
Breeders are better option for purchasing leopard geckos. Why? Because, they have a passion for the animals and don’t just do it to make money (well most of them). They actually care for the reptiles properly. It’s their business and they have paved a business out of doing something they love. Typically, a breeder will know a thing or two about them, and have years of experience taking care of them. A lot of times they come with paperwork so you know about the morph you own and even a hatch date. With leopard geckos from the store, you usually don’t know how old they are or where they came from.
Leopard Gecko Checklist
- Leopard geckos sleep during the day, so if they’re sleeping when you go to pick them up in their cage, and they don’t act alarmed when you stick your hand in there they could be sick. They should be timid and untrusting to people trying to pick them up.
- The tail tells a lot about the leopard gecko. They should have a fatter tail compared to their they body. They store food in their tail when food is low. They do this in case they can’t eat for a couple weeks at a time.
- They shouldn’t be super skinny and look like they are struggling to get around. Don’t buy one out of guilt because you’ll just end up with a dead gecko a month on down the road. They should be fat or have some meat on their bodies.
- There skin tells a lot about the gecko. If they have scratches, burns or sores all over their body; there is a good chance they could be unhealthy. Geckos don’t heal from cuts and scrapes because they’re a very fragile little lizard.
- They shouldn’t have anything coming out of their mouth or nose. Leopard gecko’s eyes should be clear.
- Their living environment should be clean. There shouldn’t be weeks and weeks worth of poop in the cage. The poop should be blackish brown with a little white (which is calcium). Don’t buy a leopard gecko with red poop in the cage.
- Your gecko should be stronger than you think when holding the little lizard. They shouldn’t be struggling to climb on your hands and feel like they need to be helped standing on their four legs.
- If they’re shedding it’s a good sign. This means they are eating properly and growing.
Help there! New leopard gecko owner here. I’ve had my baby gecko for 4 days and he still won’t eat. Should I be concerned?
Don’t worry! Mine did the same thing, they’re just getting used to their new environment
Thank you for talking about how leopard geckos sleep during the day. I can see how knowing this can help you rest assured that they are not sick or anything when you buy them if it is day time. It is important to remember that taking the time to do a proper research and know how these lizards behave and how to treat them can help yours stay happy and live a long life.
Hello, I am planning on buying a leopard gecko soon and I would like to say thank you for all your wonderful advice for buying and taking care of them. Since this is my first lizard I would like to make sure I am not making any mistakes, such as I bought dead mealworms for the Brown Anole I caught from my yard. He did not eat them because they were, well, dead. So my first question is will Leopard Geckos do well in the Florida climate? And if not are there any other gecko species that will? My second is what heating items do Leopard Geckos need? (The difference between heating rocks and heating mats is confusing) My last question is can Leopard Geckos use the ExoTerra desert starter kit? Thank you for all the wonderful advice!!
I’m going to go with your tip and seek out a breeder. I’m glad you listed what to look for in a gecko, I wouldn’t have known what to look for. I’ve always loved how these lizards look.
Interesting info about Petco and Petsmart not being the retailer of choice for buying a gecko. Sad that people wouldn’t do their research before purchasing and pay good money for an pet that will not last very long. A quality breeder seems like the right choice even if you do pay a little more.
What an interesting article, I really enjoyed reading it!
To be honest, I’ve never had a leopard gecko in my entire life. I love animals but never thought to adopt a leopard gecko. Are those animals domestic? Do you think they are happy the way they live in an aquarium? Or it does not matter to them? Just curious about this:) Maybe they don’t have feelings? It’s important for me to know these details, because when I adopt an animal, I would like to receive as much love as I give them. My dogs are always happy to see me and cats sleep on me all the time.
Sorry for all those questions:)
Reptiles don’t care one bit about other living creatures. The reptilian mind is much different than the human mind. I could drop dead right in front of them and they could care less.
But, seriously, they do seem happy with their life. They come out at night and hunt and then pass out all day long. Wish I had that kind of life 🙂
Dude animals are smart. If you fell on purpose to get a reaction they would know you’re faking. If you don’t take care of them then they won’t love you, if you do take care of them then they will love you.
Outstanding information I love lizards, my sister has a bearded dragon I think? More people should do research before buying any pets.
I think it’s disgusting for store owners to employ people with no knowledge or not train them up to a standard of care, I personally would class that as cruelty.
Thank you so much for this article I want to buy one just got to convince the wife.
Speaking of animal cruelty I have actually seen YouTube videos where Petco or Petsmart employees actually put Iguana’s in the dumpster. I do really like bearded dragons too. I own 3 of them 🙂
Good luck convincing your wife to let you get a leopard gecko!
I have a black and white tagu and i used to have leopard gecko’s till i had to sell them because i couldn’t have them where i was moving into. They make great starter pets if you know what you are doing and know how to take special care of them. And the pet-co here where i live actually has people that take very good care of the reptiles and they know a lot about them. It depends on who takes care of them. But me personally i would rather order my reptiles than go to a store.
I have had 2 carribean boas and a bearded dragon, but never a leopard gecko. They are beautiful and interesting. I love all the information you have here as they are very different from the herpes that I am most familiar with. I think I spent almost an hour here reading info and enjoying the videos and now I am ready to go this weekend and meet some live leopard geckos!
I’m so mad at myself for buying a leopard gecko that was brittle and his tail was very thin. I was a little hesitant when purchasing the little guy, but finally decided to go ahead and do it. I thought I could nurse him/her back to good health, but as it turns out it died last weekend. The local pet store did replace the leopard gecko, though. But, I do agree that Petsmart and Petco are two places you should avoid for buying leopard geckos!
Sorry to hear about your leopard gecko. Yeah, I would never buy a gecko out of guilt. It will probably just die.
I live in Omaha Nebraska and for real. There’s no reptile stores near me, just Petco and PetSmart, but what I’ve heard these are really bad places to buy leopard geckos from. Is there any way you can order a gecko online at a reptile store?
I was wondering if leopard geckos can climb? I am a little scared of it getting out of it’s tank.
Oh they can. And trust me. The babies will. Mine jumps too. However as long as I’m gentle and don’t disturb him much he’s stays at the bottom. He only goes and sits near the top when scared. If it makes you feel better you can get a tank with a safety lock on the lid. That’s what I have because my little guy is an it of an escape artist and it’s worked so far.
They don’t have the adhesive pads other geckos have. They have little claws since they are more like ground lizards.