Leopard Gecko Natural Habitat (And Recreating it at Home)

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As a previous leopard gecko owner, I often wondered about the leopard gecko natural habitat. I remember thinking it would have been awesome to come across a leopard gecko in the wild. If you aren’t familiar with leopard geckos, they’re among the most popular pet reptiles in the world, and are great for beginners.

In this article we’re going to discuss the leopard gecko natural habitat as well as the captive habitat. We’ll look at some pros and cons to each as well as talk about some other topics like the difference in lifespan for each type of environment.

With all that said, let’s get to it!

Leopard gecko natural habitat

Leopard geckos live primarily in Northern India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran come where there’s a habitat that consists of rocks, grass, gravel, and low shrubs. They have adapted to living in this particular type of habitat and would have great trouble trying to survive anywhere else.

Knowing this type of information is not only cool, but it can also help us become better owners. By learning what type of environment they most enjoy, we can do our best to replicate this environment at home.

Let’s look at how to recreate a natural habitat, the differences between the two, and the risks that come with both as well.

Recreating their natural habitat at home

Yes, they do naturally live in an environment full of huge rocks and large patches of dry grass amongst other things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to live in an environment exactly like that, just one that’s close to it, and that’s very possible with all of the different equipment and decor that is available to us.

The right tank

In order to successfully recreate their natural environment, first thing’s first, they’ll need a decent sized tank.  Baby leopard geckos can live in tanks as small as 10 gallons, but just think, what’s a 10-gallon tank compared to unlimited amounts of roaming space in the real world?  There’s no comparison.

If you’d like to put them in something that will be great for them not only as a baby but throughout their whole adult life, too, then I recommend at least a 20-gallon tank.  You can actually go larger than this, but one this size will do just fine for one gecko.  Any more than one, though, will require a larger tank.

If you’d like to know the one that I personally use and LOVE, then I recommend taking a look at this one here from Amazon.  Feel free to buy a larger size if you’d like if you plan on housing more than one gecko, but just keep in mind that if they’re babies, section off parts of the tank so that they don’t stray too far away from their food source, heat source, and hides.

Substrate

But, what I do recommend is this awesome substrate called Eco Earth here on Amazon as well.  I’ve been using this stuff for years with absolutely zero issues.  It can be ingested and unlike sand, it won’t cause any digestive issues.

Food

For their food, you can go with what many other people go with and that’s mealworms and crickets.  But, because I like to give my leopard gecko a variety, I recommend giving them many different nutritious foods that are just as, if not more, beneficial than just mealworms and crickets.  With that said, I actually wrote an article here if you’d like to check out the many different food alternatives that are available to them.

Other tank supplies

For a more comprehensive list of gear and where to buy it, check out this article. I compiled this list onto one page so that others can take a look and choose from the same equipment that I use in my tank.

This article of leopard gecko supplies also includes everything you need to set up the perfect habitat for your gecko. There aren’t any unsafe recommendations that could potentially be harmful to your gecko.

With everything listed above, you’ll have exactly what you need to recreate the perfect natural habitat. I’ve had this setup along with everything else for quite some time and I have to say, it’s the best setup I’ve had so far.


Risks a leopard gecko faces

All living creatures face risks in life, including leopard geckos. Let’s have a look at the risks they face in captivity as well as in the wild, then determine which is safer.

In captivity

To be honest, there really are no real risks of living in an at-home habitat. How safe a leopard gecko will be will depend completely on what type of owner they have and how well they take care of them.

Kids

For example, if a child under the age of 16 or so has a leopard gecko, then the chances of them possibly neglecting it are fairly high.

Not to say that this is the case for all children, but many people around this age are not very responsible. Heck, I sure wasn’t at that age. Does that mean that you will be the same as me? Absolutely not. If you feel that you have what it takes to take care of a leopard gecko properly, then there will be no risks.

You just have to make sure you feed them the right amount of food, give them the proper supplementation that they need with calcium, D3, and other vitamins. Also making sure that the temperatures in the tank are properly regulated, and that you’re not putting anything in the tank that could potentially hurt them.

This may sound a bit overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of everything, it all becomes second nature. Learning how to properly care for a leopard is just like learning almost anything else, it just takes time along with commitment, a strong sense of responsibility, and patience.

Pets

The only thing you might have to worry about, though, is other household animals. I’ve stated this before in a previous article, but cats and dogs are known to not only attack leopard geckos but other small animals as well, so it’s always safe to make sure that you have a cover over the top of your tank and that you never leave any doors on it open.

If left unattended, other animals will try and attack your leopard gecko simply due to instinct. So it’s best to have your door shut whenever you’re not at home so that they can’t get into your room and do something that they shouldn’t be doing.

This isn’t really a huge risk if you take the proper steps to make sure your other pets never have access to them when you are and aren’t around, but it can be a little bit of a challenge to get used to taking those extra safety steps when first bringing your gecko home, so just keep that in mind before buying one.

In a natural habitat

The risks that leopard geckos face when living in the wild are far greater than what they could ever face while living in a terrarium and for a few reasons.

Predators

The first reason is that they are greatly exposed to predators that are on the hunt to eat them whenever they come out to feed. So while they’re hunting, they’re being hunted as well.

Injury

Not only that but if they get injured or have issues shedding, they have no human assistance to help aid them in the case of an emergency. They seem to be able to hold their own quite well when not in captivity, but surely there are a lot of geckos in the wild that have just as many issues as ones that are in captivity.

Stress

On top of all of that, they’re probably at risk of being subjected to a lot more stress due to the fact that they are having to constantly be on the lookout when they are not in hiding.

Stress in leopard geckos is something that is talked about quite a bit on this website simply for the fact that they’re not able to handle it as well as humans and can even be more prone to certain diseases and illnesses because of it.

They do have the luxury to move around a lot more freely, but with this same freedom comes great risks, so it almost seems as if the bad far outweighs the good when you take everything into consideration.

Which is safer for a leopard gecko?

After comparing the two, the habitat in captivity is safer, by far. Yes, leopard geckos may be subjected to random attacks from other household pets, but many owners are pretty good at making sure this doesn’t happen.

And the chances of being attacked in their natural habitat is much greater anyway because they are way more exposed to other predators besides cats and dogs.

In captivity, leopard geckos are able to freely walk around their tank without having to worry about being attacked and also don’t have the stress of going too far when searching for their food.

If you look at this article here that I recently wrote, you can see that leopard geckos have to take the risk of hunting down prey that is way larger than them, so they are putting their life on the line not only because of other predators but because of the type of prey that they go after as well.

Leopard geckos are resilient little survivors, but I think their time is best spent in captivity away from all of the harm in the outside world.  The fact that they are able to survive as long as they do in the wild is a miracle in itself and bringing them into our homes and allowing them to live a more stress-free environment is something I’m sure they’d thank us for if they could.


More about leopard geckos

While we’re still on the subject of leopard geckos, let’s learn some more about them. In this section we’ll compare the lifespans and diets of leopard geckos in the wild with those of captive leopard geckos.

Leopard gecko lifespan

When it comes to how long leopard geckos live in the wild compared to how long they live in captivity, there is a difference difference.  In captivity, leopard geckos have been known to live a lot longer with the proper care and treatment.

In captivity

Some factors that determine exactly how long a leopard gecko lives may include genetics and definitely how well they are cared for.  With the right love and care, they can easily live up to an average age of anywhere between 15 to 20 years.  In some cases, they have been known to live even longer than that.

This is awesome because they can literally grow with you.  Just to put it into perspective, I actually saw a picture of a man the other day with two side-by-side photos of him and his gecko when he was a child and then him as an adult with that same gecko.  I just thought that was so cool.

With enough care, you and your leopard gecko can be just like that guy and his gecko.  It all comes down to how well they are treated over the years and how serious you are when it comes to caring for them no matter what type of issues they may experience throughout the duration of their life.

In the wild

In the wild a leopard gecko faces various predators, diseases, and a generally harsh life of fending for themselves. A leopard gecko’s lifespan in the wild will likely be much shorter than that of a captive leopard gecko, probably 3-5 years at best. Though some may certainly live longer.

Leopard gecko diet: captive vs in the wild

Between living in captivity and in the wild, their diet does differ quite a bit. Here is a list of some of the things that they eat in captivity:

Leopard gecko diet in captivity

  • Mealworms
  • Crickets
  • Hornworms
  • Fruit Flies
  • Superworms
  • Dubia Roaches
  • Locusts
  • Grasshoppers
  • Black Soldier Fly Larvae
  • Butterworms
  • Silkworms
  • Earthworms
  • Wax Worms

As you can see, they have many different options to choose from that you would suspect a leopard gecko to eat. In the wild, it’s much different. They don’t get the same type of luxury as far as food goes and has to eat prey that many people would never expect them to eat.

Leopard gecko diet in the wild

  • Spiders
  • Centipedes
  • Scorpions
  • Small Lizards

Aside from the centipedes, most of the other foods are very surprising meals for the average leopard gecko owner to see.  I know I was personally thrown off when I saw this list, especially with the scorpions considering how hard they pinch and sting when threatened.

Comparing the two lists, I think it’s safe to say that leopard geckos have it a lot better in captivity.  They’re basically living in bug heaven where they have the choice to choose whatever they want to eat (or whatever you decide to feed them).

One thing that doesn’t and never should change with their diet, though, is how much calcium and D3 they get.  If you don’t know, calcium and D3 are the two most important nutrients that a leopard gecko could ever consume simply for the fact that it’s what keeps them alive.

Calcium is what keeps their bones strong while the D3 helps them absorb it.  Without it, they are unable to survive.  So whatever you do, make sure you’re always supplementing them with it with every meal that you feed them along with having a dish of calcium in their tank whenever they want to lick from that as well.


Leopard gecko FAQs

Are Leopard Geckos in the Wild More Aggressive?

They are not more aggressive, per se, but they may be a little harder to tame because of it.  All leopard geckos are a little skittish, protective, and defensive when introduced to anything new whether that be to another gecko or to a human, so that’s no surprise.  But, as far as aggression goes, I think that completely depends on the leopard gecko.

I’ve said this often, but not all leopard geckos act the same.  So, just because one leopard gecko in the wild is aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean that another one found in the same location will be the same.

They may be a little more on the defense or frightened because of having to constantly fend off and hide from prey, but I don’t think that they are naturally this way just simply due to the fact that they are born in the wild instead of in captivity.

Even if they were, it’d be completely natural.  Most of anything that has to defend itself from prey a lot of the times is a little more defensive and aggressive than other animals who don’t or have never had to.

Do They Eat Sand in Their Natural Habitat?

People have debated for years over whether or not sand as a substrate is good to put in a leopard gecko’s tank. While some have had success with it, most others haven’t and do not recommend it.

For that reason, I don’t recommend it. Just because others have had success with it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will and is something that I find to be very risky to do.

Another thing that has also been debated over is whether or not there even is sand in their natural habitat, and to my knowledge, there is, but because they are getting the right amount of calcium, they don’t eat it.

From what I’ve seen, only leopard geckos who are lacking calcium will eat sand. But in our opinion, it’s still not worth the health risks of impaction.

If you do a quick search online, you can see that many people have reported cases of impaction because of having their leopard gecko on sand, including the kind that has calcium in it.  Which is surprising because the companies who sell this stuff should know the risks considering that they’re selling this type of substrate in mass amounts.

Also, if leopard geckos ate sand in the wild, I don’t think they would have been able to come as far as they have.  If they are constantly surrounded by it in their natural habitat, then it’s inevitable that every single gecko would eat it at some point and likely cause extinction in the wild because of it.

All in all, though, I don’t think that they eat sand in their natural habitat, but I will still never recommend it simply for the fact that there have been just way too many people who have had major issues with it.

What do they use for cover?

In terrariums, they use their hides for cover, but in their natural habitat, they’ll use shaded rocks or burrow themselves underground.  The two main reasons why they do this is for protection from predators and to keep cool and away from the harsh heat in their environment.

Leopard geckos soak in a little sun in order to get their D3 when they’re out in the wild, but when they’re not trying to get it, they actually go out of their way to avoid it.  They find it to be very uncomfortable and when living in the desert, temperatures can rise pretty high.

That’s why it’s so important to keep temperatures in the tank regulated with a thermostat.  Certain sources of heat like heat mats can reach temperatures up to 120° F, so when temperatures are not regulated and they’re not able to escape the heat, things can get bad.

They will try to use their hide to escape the heat, but at temperatures that high, they likely won’t be that effective.  That’s why I always stress that everyone has a thermostat so that their leopard gecko never has to go through this.  If you don’t have one or plan on getting a gecko in the near future, then I recommend this one here from Amazon.  I’ve used a few, but that one takes the cake.

It will be just what you need to keep those temperatures down.  And yes, we want to mimic their natural habitat, but not in that way.  Also, what good is a thermostat if you don’t have a thermometer to double check your readings.  There are some expensive ones out there, but if you want a cheap one that works just as good, then this one here will get the job done.

How do they get their hydration?

This might sound odd, but in the wild, leopard geckos actually get most of their water from their prey. It makes sense, though, because where they live in the desert, it is likely very dry for most of the year causing there to be a very limited source of water.  But of course, leopard geckos have managed to adapt.

Because they’re so used to these conditions, in captivity, they can get most of their water needs from the condensation within their moist hide.

This means if you put your hide on the hot side of the tank, it will cause a little water to form on the inside of the bowl where they will lick it whenever they are thirsty.

Some people have even removed their water bowls because of this, but because I like to make sure my leopard gecko is getting more than enough water, I keep a bowl in his tank.

Like I stated above, though, all leopard geckos and leopard gecko owners are different, so whatever works for you and yours will be just fine.

You likely already have a source of water, but if you don’t or want to upgrade to a better one that will ensure that they won’t run out for a long time, then this water reservoir here is definitely worth looking at.

A regular water bowl will do, but I like that one because I think it looks neat and gives me peace of mind knowing that my gecko has tons of water in his tank.

Can you catch and keep a wild leopard gecko?

As mentioned above, leopard geckos are found in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and northwest India. In order to know if it’s ok to catch one and keep it, you’d first have to check the laws of whatever country you are in regarding wildlife.

If you aren’t breaking any local laws, then it’s a question of morality. Most of the leopard geckos you see in stores are captive bred, but they all had to come from the wild at some point, so if you ever have the chance to get your hands on one in the wild, then go for it.

Reptiles don’t have feelings like us, so they don’t miss being outside, they just want to survive. They are a lot less vulnerable when in captivity and don’t have to live life constantly searching for that next meal.

Depending on how you look at it, you may even be doing the little fellow a favor. First though, check local laws. In the U.S. for instance, it is 100% illegal to catch any wild animal and keep it as a pet.


Conclusion

A captive leopard gecko’s environment will always be different from a natural leopard gecko environment. However, all leopard geckos share the same type of behaviors and all have one goal in mind, and that’s survival.

The habitat they’re in greatly determines their safety and how likely they are to live whether that be in a tank or in the wild.  But wherever they live, it’s important that they’re getting what they need in order to survive and are in no way in any more harm than they should be.

Both types of gecko have different lifestyles, but they all require the same basic amenities, so that’s also important to know when deciding to bring one home.  They are tough because of the environment they grew up in, but it’s our goal as loving owners to make sure that they have the easiest, most comfortable life ever so that they can survive as long as they possibly can.

About Devin

I’m Devin Nunn, an average joe that just so happens to have a deep love and passion for everything to do with reptiles. Because taking care of them for the vast majority of my life wasn’t fulfilling enough, I decided to begin educating others about them through my articles.