Panther geckos (Paroedura pictus) are popular exotic pets thanks to their interesting markings and ease of care. Also known as the Madagascar ground gecko, this species hails from the island of Madagascar and is often found in the leaf litter of forests. Panther geckos are predominantly brown with black markings and big eyes. And they have a healthy appetite for crickets. They generally do well in captivity when given the proper environment, though they are typically quite timid and prefer not to be handled.
Common Names: Panther gecko, ocelot gecko, Madagascar ground gecko, pictus gecko, Malagasy fat-tailed gecko
Scientific Name: Paroedura pictus
Adult Size: 4 to 6 inches long, with some males reaching 8 inches
Life Expectancy: 6 to 10 years
Panther Gecko Behavior and Temperament
These small geckos not only are known for their beautiful patterns but also for their interesting personalities. Juveniles can be jumpy but tend to calm down and become docile as they get older. Overall, panther geckos are nocturnal, so they won't be terribly active during the day.
Although they're not ideal pets for homes with young children who might want to touch and hold the animal, panther geckos are suitable for first-time lizard owners who can commit to the animal's needs. These geckos don't respond well to stress. They don't like being handled and will bite as a warning if they feel threatened. (It's usually not much more than a warning bite and won't do much damage.) Panther geckos also can lose their tails when they feel stressed. The tail will regenerate eventually, though it will look different.
Housing the Panther Gecko
In the wild, panther geckos hang out in fallen leaves and other hideouts on the ground, but they do have the ability to climb. So an enclosure with a secure lid is necessary when housing these small lizards. They're not the escape artists that some other geckos are because they're not natural climbers. But if they do get out of their enclosure, it could be dangerous for them. Likewise, many panther gecko owners refrain from putting climbing branches in the enclosure, as these geckos can fall and hurt themselves.
Typically a 10-gallon tank will suffice. But if you plan on keeping more than one panther gecko in the same enclosure you should upgrade to a 20-gallon tank. Don't put males together; they're too aggressive and territorial to live together.
Include a small dish of water for drinking and several hide boxes in your panther gecko's enclosure. Because they tend to be shy, they feel more secure when they have a hideout to retreat to for a while.
These small geckos don't require excessive warmth, but they do need a basking area in the mid-80 degree Fahrenheit range. The tank also shouldn't drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night. This can be attained by using heat lights. Ones that emit white light should be used during the day while heat lights that emit red or blue/purple light can be used at night. You also can use a ceramic heat emitter at night, so you don't disturb this nocturnal lizard with bright light.
UVB lighting is not usually necessary. In the wild, panther geckos don't get much sunlight. But if you're having issues with your gecko being lethargic and not eating well, you can try adding UVB lighting for 10 to 12 hours during the day.
Panther geckos like an environment with around 60% humidity, especially when they're shedding. This can be achieved through misting and the enclosure's water dish. Use a reptile hygrometer to measure the humidity in the tank.
The substrate can be as natural as you want with bark chips and a dirt jungle mix that is available in pet shops. Reptile carpeting cut to the size of your tank also works well and is easy to clean.
Food and Water
Panther geckos are insectivores, meaning most of their diet consists of insects. They will eat whatever insect they can find in the wild, but in captivity crickets are usually the food of choice. Crickets are easy to find and can be gut loaded (fed nutritious foods, which then pass to the gecko) and dusted with calcium powder to provide all the essential nutrients a gecko needs.
Other insects, such as silkworms, small beetles, mealworms, and super worms, can also be fed as long as they are gut loaded, dusted with calcium powder, and of appropriate size. They should be no bigger than the space between your gecko's eyes. Some panther gecko owners introduce leafy greens to their pets' diet, but this isn't necessary.
Common Health and Behavior Problems
Problems with shedding usually happen when a gecko is in unsanitary living conditions or an enclosure that isn't humid enough. Failure to shed also occurs when a gecko is overly stressed. It might not seem like a significant problem, but the extra skin can cause discomfort, affect its hearing, and constrict its limbs.
Metabolic bone disease is another ailment that can afflict geckos and other lizards. It's as ominous as it sounds and can be fatal if left untreated. It occurs due to vitamin D and calcium deficiency and can lead to weakened bones.
Furthermore, like other gecko species, panther geckos are prone to parasitic infections. An examination by a veterinarian who specializes in lizards is sometimes the only way to detect parasites in a gecko.
Don't try any home remedies to treat your gecko's health concerns unless you're being advised by a qualified veterinarian. You don't want to end up making what could be a treatable problem worse.
Choosing Your Panther Gecko
Get your panther gecko from a reputable breeder who can provide detailed information about the animal's health and origin. Expect to pay around $40 to $60 on average. Make sure the gecko is captive-bred, as wild-caught geckos typically fail to thrive as pets.
A gecko with dry spots on its skin might indicate a problem with shedding. This is often a sign of an underlying health condition, such as a parasite or infection. Also, look for a panther gecko with clear eyes, a curious demeanor, and a healthy appetite. Ideally, you'll be able to watch it eat before bringing it home.
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