Skittish/stressed Leopard gecko

I got 2 female leopard geckos from the same vendor at an expo 3 weeks ago and put one in a tub and another in a 45 gallon tank. The one in the tub acted fine and ate, slept, and basked all normally, the one in the 45 gallon tub spent about 22 hours a day in her humid hide and about 2 hours in her warm hide. She seemed very skittish and whenever she was out and saw somebody she would run into her hide. About 5 days later I thought that she must’ve been used to a small tub and was stressed out by the extra space. I put her in a transparent tub like the other geckos I have, 2 sides are walls and the other side there is the other gecko I got that day but it’s very blurry because of 2 layers of plastic and I don’t think they noticed each other yet. The fourth side, the thin side, is facing out. For 2 weeks she’s been hiding under the towel substrate and in a hide, and running to the back of the tub if she sees somebody come into the room. She’s refused food if I put her in a separate container but eats if I leave a dish of food in there. She runs away and doesn’t like being handled and seems to be afraid of everything, what should I do about it?

I would say don’t force handling, like with any lizard and some king snakes, it is just better to let them come to you. I know it is really hard, I mean really really hard not to just pick them up, but the threads of trust through feeding and cleaning the cage aren’t there yet. I have learned that when stepping into any thing reptile related if you have a issue with handling a Leo, look up how to tame a Monitor. For me that was looking how to read retics when I was going to get a boa. Use the advanced methods on the beginner animals…

It takes time and more time :wink:

Plus @mblaney would probably have some good advice…also @westridge too

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I try to minimize handling but I have to handle her every once in a while for like 5 seconds when I clean her enclosure and replace the paper towels. I haven’t done any designated handling sessions yet in hopes that she’ll calm down. I’m going to start trying some taming advice for larger lizards like you recommended and also try to let her see me outside her enclosure being non-threatening in hopes of her realizing that I’m not a threat or at least not an immediate threat.

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When I got my little female leo she was extremely skittish and kept hiding all the time. I darkened her enclosure via taping an old calendar to the sides and she became much more confident. You might wanna try keeping her enclosure darker

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I like this idea as well! Even some fish tank backgrounds work good too. I get mine from Wal-Mart that look like the forest. Nice and dark

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Everybody emphasizes how you need to leave a new snake alone, but it’s often ignored when it comes to lizards, especially leos & AFTs. Rules of thumb for a new leo:

  • If you got a leo from an expo, they are most likely to be far more stressed than one shipped directly to you. Leos are not diurnal, and going from living quietly in a tub to being in a transparent box, with no hides, next to a ton of geckos, possibly being handled, definitely not at correct temps- most geckos get frazzled.
  • Adult geckos are going to be more stressed & slower to adjust than younger animals (after the initial panic- babies tend to throw a tantrum, then be fine pretty quickly).
  • If their house has previously held anything, they will be slower to adjust than if it has no traces of other animals (not much to be done about it, I just mention it for folks where that is an option).
  • Don’t handle at all (or even clean the tank/tub, in my opinion) for 2 weeks
  • Have their cage/tub in a room with little traffic, if possible
  • Make sure 3 sides of their cage are blacked out (you don’t need to paint them or anything- darker cardboard can just be taped on a tank, just be sure nothing flammable goes further than the top of the black-thing-around-bottom-of-tank (the frame)
  • Do not put new geckos anywhere near your other geckos/reptiles, and always care for them last of all your reptiles, for 30 days, as you watch for signs of illness. This is called ‘quarantine.’
  • If you can, only offer the food they are accustomed to for at least a week before slowly switching over (if needed- it’s just not common for breeders to feed diets that are acceptable long term).
  • If possible, keep the room a little dimmer than people usually have when they’re using it.
  • The biggest thing (in my opinion, and I feel strongly about this): do NOT leave any loose/uneaten prey in the enclosure with the gecko. You should never do this anyway, but a stressed gecko is even more vulnerable to being eaten, especially by crickets.

Something I would suggest is having a gecko start out in a smaller tank (10-20 are fine) initially. With a big tank (which I absolutely endorse once a leo has settled in!!), she’s not going to be sure where hot or cold is, and it would take more exploration to find out. Given that she’s terrified, she’s very likely to prefer improper temps over thermoregulation, if it requires her moving about in the open. Definitely make sure she has appropriately-sized hiding spots available on (1) hot side, (2) cool side, and (3) humid in the middle or warm. Also add some stuff in there to act as ‘cover’ for when she needs to move around, so she’ll be more likely to thermoregulate properly.

The skittish gecko is displaying pretty normal behavior, imho. Don’t take her out to feed her. Unless you’re knowledgeable re: rack construction, don’t try and add a divider yourself between the geckos, though it might help in the future (debatable).


That right there is some solid advice, so much so that I bookmarked it


Awww! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: Now I feel all warm and fuzzy. Meaning happy, not that I’m a fuzzy baby rodent about to be eaten. Heheh.

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I have her in a 20qt tub with 2 hides and 2 sides are blacked out and the other 2 are semi-transparent. She’s about 2.5 years old and the only reason I tried to feed her is because she started looking a little bit thin, about 2.5 weeks after the expo and 2 weeks after I put her in the tub. The only light in the room comes from a window and a crested gecko bulb. Most of it doesn’t reach her tub though so the room is usually pretty dim. I only go into the room a few times a day for about 10 minutes each but everytime I do she runs and hides so I might put tissue paper over the 4th side to reduce the light and movement that comes through. It was an unused tub with unused hides, dishes, etc. The only food I left in there were mealworms and roaches and both were in a escape proof dish. The breeder said that he mostly fed mealworms which is what I started off doing and then added some dubia roaches mixed with them, every time I’ve put food in the tub overnight it’s all been eaten in the morning.