How old do Leopard Geckos get? In this post, professional breeder Frank Cuzzolina tells us how husbandry can affect Leopard Gecko lifespan…
Last updated on July 3rd, 2023 at 10:16 am
Most Leopard Geckos live from 10 to 15 years in captivity. Rarely, they may live over 20 years, and the all-time record was 40. To increase your Leopard Gecko’s lifespan, you must focus on providing excellent husbandry. Hygiene, temperature, diet, and how often they breed can affect how long these lizards live.
How long do Leopard Geckos live as pets?
The average life span of a leopard gecko in captivity is thought to be around 10-15 years old with some records documenting 20+ years old. Ron Tremper, often coined the “godfather” of leopard geckos, from which the infamous “Tremper” line albino derives from in the hobby, claimed to have a gecko 32 years old when it passed away.
This is truely remarkable and we will be documenting the year of every gecko born in our facility so we to can try to see the average life span of the animals in captivity. It is worth noting that we may need to compare animals being ussed for breeding purposed to animals used for pet purposes.
Also the diet and enrichment each animal gets may contribute to overall life expectancy, as well as genetics, and lineage.
Do male of female Leopard Geckos live longer?
I have personally not seen much scientific documentation on the life expectancy of female leopard geckos verses males in captivity. However we do know that most female bodies start to decline reproductively around years 6-8 year old.
Males have been documented by Ron Tremper to breed well into their teen years and some even into their 20’s. This is truely remarkable and we too will again be
studying this in our colelction.
This is why great documentation of breeders will be so useful to continuing to expand and enhance our knowledge of this wonderful captive species. One reason it is thought that females reproductivity declines sooner than males is the fact that their bodies go through
much more stress than a males when breeding.
Although these geckos are so hardy and rarely have issues, some issues do occasionally arise when it comes to breeding. Males may get a prolapsed hemipene which can cause for infection and shortness of life and females have been known from time to time
to get what’s called “egg bound,” where she has difficulty passing or reabsorbing the eggs she is developing in her body and unfortunately can die from the occurance.
This being said, most females lay perfectly fine once every 3-4 weeks for the longevity of each season which may last 3-4 months. A female may lay between 6-14 times a year, and two eggs each time.
Breeding may affect Leopard Gecko lifespan
If this is done year after year we think it may take a toll on the mother’s reproductive system and overall body even though she often will not show it outwardly. A lot of calcium and nutrients goes into egg production and delivery.
This is the time mother geckos are most sensitive to weight loss. Many females will eat and maintain weight just fine if given the proper amojunt of food and supplements, however, some seem to focus on breeding, or are possibly stressed through the breeding process and go on and off food throughout their season.
This takes a toll on their bodies and you may notice in some females significant weight loss. Because of this constant fluication of nutrients every year durring breeding season, it is thought females may average lower lifespans than males.
Again I would like to test this theory and see recorded points of data showing
the life span of breeding males vs females, kept in the same conditions by the same breeder. It would also be benefical to get documentation from leopard geckos kept as pets and not breeders to compare the results.
What is the longest a Leopard Gecko has lived?
We really only have captivity to study leoaprd geckos and many hobbyist come and go long
before the animals live out their natural lives. This makes it hard to gather well documented,
conclusive data on the average life span of geckos. However, I can report that some breeders claim their geckos have lived well into the twenties.
Here are the top three ages I’ve read about in captivity:
- Johnathan David (28 year old male)
- Ron Tremper (32 year old male)
- German Keeper GroBmutterchen (40 year old female)
Because this last one is undoubtably the most impressive age for a leopard gecko I have every heard, let’s look at her care routine.
She is a German woman, and if you know anything about repitles in the UK and European area, they take their husbandry the most serious in the world. They are light years ahead of any other reptile market as far as husbandry standards go.
UVB may play a role…
Most of their reptiles are kept in natural vivariums with appropriate UVB lighting, no matter the species. They pride themseleves in cage design and animal husbandry, whereas most of the world prides themselves on numbers produced and morphs attained.
So, looking at her reported care, she used natural substrate, plenty of space, brumation, and you guessed it, UVB. There are some hobbyists now in America starting to report drastic differeneces between the animals they keep on UVB verses the animals not kept on UVB.
It is becoming more common to hear about UVB benefits in America now, and a few companies are starting to pride themseleves on not just minimalistic needs of the animals we keep, but the maximum care potential for each individual different species in captivity. This is exciting to see and I look forward to the innovations that currently are, and will continue to be made regarding natural reptile care.
Diet and Leopard Gecko lifespan
There are a few supplements commonly required when keeping leopard geckos. The first and most important one is Calcium supplementation. In the wild the bugs and small mammals that leopard geckos eat carry way higher levels of natural calcium than in captivity.
Because of this, in captivity we absolutely need to supplement with additional calcium provision for the geckos. There may be ways to increase the natural calcium levels on insects you feed your leoaprd gecko through gut loading processes, but as of now I have not seen any conclusive data to suggest that it is 100% successful.
Calcium is usually found in higher amounts in mammals because they retain calcium in their bones, so if a leopard gecko eats a small mouse or some other small vertebrate mammal in the wild it will get the calcium it needs to process in it’s body.
Insects are low in calcium
However, in captivity we mainly feed all insects to our leopard geckos. They love insects and go crazy for them but insects have what’s called a low Phosphorus to Calcium ratio. To keep it simple, they don’t have bones and therefore don’t have the proper level of calcium a leoaprd gecko needs to develope it’s own bone structure strongly.
When leopard geckos in captivity are not provided extra calcium supplementation, they often start to show signs of weak bones called Metabolic Bone
This can become fatal if you do not start to give the leopard gecko extra calcium with it’s meals. Metabolic Bone Disease is absolutely reverseable in most cases if caught early enough and a simple reigment of adding calcium to the geckos diet or syringe feeding calcium if the gecko is too weak at first, will often lead to a speedy recovery by this hardy species.
Calcium vs “calcium with D3”
There are however two proper ways to supplement calcium. If you are providing UVB for your leopard gecko, it will process the calcium just fine and not need any extra supplements.
If you are not using UVB, like most breeders, and some keepers, you will need to use what’s called “Calcium with D3.” What the D3 does is it helps the leopard geckos body absorb the calcium into the bones, putting it to use.
Without the ability to absorb the calcium, your gecko still will develop MBD. To keep it simple UVB helps the geckos absorb the calcium you are giving them, or D3 helps the geckos absorb the calcium you are giving them if you are NOT providing a UVB light. It is worth noting that D3 overdose is a known issue as well, so providing a leopard gecko UVB and D3 supplements may not be the best for your animal.
This is why they make Calicum without D3, for those keepers who provide natural UVB lighting for their geckos. D3 overdose has similar affects to MBD such as weakness of bones, but is FAR less common. If you stick to the above mentioned information, you should be just fine.
Hygiene and Leopard Gecko lifespan
I truely believe in good hygiene for leopard geckos. This can be accomplished by weekly cage cleanings for breeders who keep their geckos in 6-12 qt tubs or bi-monthly cleanings for people who keep their geckos in 10-20 gallon tanks.
Even if you use escape proof feeder dishes, bugs get out, and when bugs are running around your leoaprd geckos cage, they tend to eat anything that is natural to their diet. This may include your geckos feces. We don’t want to think about our geckos having parasites but naturally some do, this is not always bad.
It depends on the type of parasite and the amount of parasites in the geckos body that may or may not cause issues for the gecko. When you don’t clean as often as
mentioned above, this gives higher probability that insects are roaming freely around your geckos cage and eating the geckos feces.
When the gecko therein eats those insects, they are now loaded with extra parasites, because the parasite eggs get into the digestive tract of the insects, and in turn go back into your leopard gecko’s body.
By far the worst parasite to consider is cryptosporidium, “crypto” for short. Much less common in leopard geckos present day, this parasite used to make its prescence known in the leopard gecko hobby more often in the past, but we still see cases of it today. The eggs of the parasites are the most resilient eggs known to the reptile parasite world.
Cohabiting makes hygiene harder
Even strong chemicals such as bleach and alchohol have been known to be ineffective to killing these parasite eggs that transport through feces and stick to almost any surface. The strongest chemical we know to fight cryptosporidium is Hydrogen Peroxide. Even this has only a 99% kill off rate for a 20 minute complete soak in the liquid.
Soaking the animal is impossible because the chemical is too strong, and think of how difficult it would be to soak a 10-20 gallon tank completely and then only be 99% effective. It is unfortunately best when you do have a confirmed crypto leopard gecko to euthanize the gecko and throw away anything that ever had contact with that animal to be safe.
This is why I like to keep all my leopard geckos in their own tubs. If something suspcicious happens to one, it’s items are “more” isolated than it would be if cohabitating. This is not a perfect solution and something as simple as touching one gecko with crypto and then holding another gecko right after may transport the parasites eggs through contact, but at some point you have to just come up with your sanitizing routine and stick to it.
I’m all for quality control, but don’t over worry yourself with things that are nearly out of everyones’ control. Enjoy the hobby, be careful, and handle each situation as it comes about.
Crypto usually leads to death in most animals and is extremely contagious. Other parasites are treatable with proper Veterinarian diagnosis and medication, but this why hygiene and frequent observation/quarentine is very important to any animals under your care.
Temperature and Leopard Gecko lifespan
Leopard geckos are a pretty hardy species known to survive in many different temperature zones. The goldilocks zone for them is around 90-95 degrees hot spot (32-35 Celsius), with a cooler end of 78-82 (25-27 Celsius), and a humid hide of 83-85 (28-29 Celsius).
Too cool from these variations and your geckos may not digest properly, and may start to go into brumation (hybernation for reptiles). Too warm from these variations and your leopard gecko may start to have a lack of fertility and get dehydrated more easily.
Both extremes may affect the lifespan of your gecko because as we know in most animals when extreme conditions are presented, the lifespans tend to decline.
Just a few hundred years ago the average human lived only to 30-40 years old. Now humans are expected to live well into their 70-80s because of the advancement of mondern medicine and treatment keeping our bodies in the goldilocks zone longer.
|Ideal hotspot temp:||90-95 F (32-35 Celsius)|
|Ideal cool end temp:||78-82 F (25-27 Celsius)|
|Ideal humid hide temp:||83-85 F (28-29 Celsius)|
Why is my Leopard Gecko laying flat?
Often times leopard geckos lay flat when basking. If you use above light heating for your geckos they will look for a warm rock, branch, or surface to lay their bellies on. If you use under tank heating, the geckos will often be seen basking as close to the heating element as possible, this is because this is how leopard geckos absorb heat which in turn leads to digestion.
Other than this, leopard geckos will often curl up snugly in their humid hides or caves when not wandering about or basking.
How can you tell how old your Leopard Gecko is?
A lot of people ask if we can tell a geckos age simply by looking at it. The short answer is no, but the long answer is, kind of.
We can look for signs of aging which include:
- Dulling color
- Larger, Girthier bodies
- Lack of fertility in breeding (especially in females)
- Current Behaviour (calmer, lazier animals often being older)
Although a leopard gecko is not like a tree which has age rings for every year it is old, these signs accumulatively help us gauge the age of a unknown leopard gecko.
How do you know if your Leopard Gecko is dying?
Unfortunately, death happens to us all, even our beloved geckos. Death will look different for geckos depending on age, health, or condition. A leopard gecko baby that doesnt have strong genetics will grow much slower, appear much skinnier, and slowly age out and die usually weeks or months after being born.
Some may pass away days after birth and there really is nothing you can do, it is just nature taking it’s course. Breeding females can get egg bound which means they cannot pass the eggs in their body. Naturally their bodies will try to first soften the eggs then reaborb or lay them as soon as possible. The longest lived female I have that was egg bound, was bound for 5 months and then laid 1 giant blob of an egg, she is alive and well to this day.
Other egg bound females I have had may show signs of stress such as closing of the eyes, lack of eating, and weight loss. A female that is dying from being egg bound will often loose a lot of weight and pass away slowly after a few months.
Right before passing away geckos may appear to be a duller color and have very skinny bodies to where you can see their bones/skeletal struture. These are very bad signs and I would try to intervene way before a gecko gets to this point, with a vet visit and possibly meal syringe supplmentation.
Every situation is different…
Now if the gecko is dying from being egg bound, food probally will not help, it may actually stress her out even more. However, if the gecko is dying from parasite overload and/or stress induced starvation, often small syringe fed meals with supplementation will help. You do not want to over load the gecko too much, just little by little.
If you see a vet they will put you on the best path they can see after examining your specific animal in their specific situation. Every situation is different and so I do like to encourage veterinarian visits in serious cases.
A gecko dying from old age will most likely look and act normal, and one day just like you or I, something will give out in the geckos body (heart, lungs, liver), and it will probally pass overnight where you may wake up to a deceased gecko. These days are very sad, but try to remember the joy the gecko brought you and give it a honorable rememberance.
Leopard Gecko Lifespan summary:
|10-15 years old||20+ years old||40 years old!|
The key factors to focus on for longevity are:
- breeding frequency for females