Leopard geckos are fascinating lizards known for their unique patterns, docile nature, and ease of care, making them ideal pet reptiles.
Like other pets, leopard geckos are an investment – obtaining and owning them requires money.
Fortunately, leos themselves are among the most affordable reptiles in the pet market; still, there are plenty of additional costs that overshadow the price of the animal in most cases.
Why? Because exotic animals require specialized care, and that care is powered by specialized equipment, diet, and medical services.
Before bringing your new pet leo home, it’s essential to consider various financial factors, including the initial purchase cost, the ongoing expenses, and potential investments to ensure suitable habitat and care.
In this article, we will explore the expenses of pet leopard gecko ownership – from the initial prices of animals and their enclosures to the everyday costs of keeping them alive and well.
Before Pricing – The Real Cost of Owning a Leopard Gecko
Many people wrongly think owning reptiles is cheaper than owning a “common” pet such as a dog or a cat because they don’t perceive that reptiles also require supplies and veterinary care.
While you won’t need to buy your leo kibble, toys, and a doggy bed, this “smiling” lizard will need feeder insects, dietary supplements, quality lighting, and other items purchased on a regular basis.
And while the need for professional medical help is usually less frequent than with mammalian pets, check-ups and interventions by a specialized reptile vet can be pricey.
What I want to point out before diving into numbers is that you need to have your leopard gecko funds prepared in advance by all means.
What’s Costly About Leopard Geckos?
Buying the gecko itself is just a small chunk of the overall lifetime expenses – and leos can live for 20 or more years.
Even if you’re lucky to adopt a leopard gecko for free, you need to pay for the tank and the complete setup – and if you’re responsible, you’ll purchase these before the adoption.
Even when your leo is all settled, you need to have some money in stash in the case of an emergency. Your pet can get sick and require a vet, the tank can get broken, and your feeder insect colony may die – lots of things can go wrong.
Thus, to be a truly responsible pet owner – and pet reptiles are no exception – you must have a regular income. If you are underage or otherwise unemployable and lack a steady cash flow, your family or caregivers needs to be aware of the real costs of leopard gecko care.
In short – playing it down today won’t make the future expenses go away.
Now we got that straight, let’s move on to the current prices in the leopard gecko market.
What Is the Cost of the Leopard Gecko by Itself?
As underlined before, leopard geckos are not expensive in the realm of exotic pets. You can get one for as little as $20.
However, the prices can be significantly higher if you are looking for something special.
Are Cheap Leopard Geckos in Pet Stores Any Good?
Leopard geckos at a lower price range of $20-50 are usually found in chain pet stores and private pet stores. These are juvenile wild-type leos or common morphs such as High Yellow.
While some of these come from excellent, responsible breeders who simply distribute their leos via the stores, others come from the “reptile mills,” created for maximum profit with little to no regard for their welfare or genetics.
Thus, know that by buying leopard geckos cheap, you’re not essentially getting the best stock. The price might be good, but the deal – not necessarily.
The health of the chain store gecko might happen to be great, but they could just as easily be sick, and you could go through a lot of trouble (and expenses) to get them to recover – there are rarely any guarantees. They are sometimes hooked on the wrong food like waxworms, and you may go through a lot of issues before getting them used to a suitable, healthy diet.
Also, the genetic lineage of these leos is unknown, so you won’t be able to predict the results of breeding if you intend on doing that.
Buying a Leopard Gecko From A Breeder
Buying a leopard gecko directly from a reputable breeder is a better option. You will usually need to pay more, even for more common varieties – between $40-100 dollars, and a few hundred for special morphs.
The price of leopard geckos produced by reliable breeders depends on several factors, including age, morph, and breeder reputation. As a general rule, proven breeding adults of particular morphs are more pricey than juveniles.
Still, if you’re not looking to breed leopard geckos, consider the “Pet only” category where you can get an adult leo from a good breeder for as little as $20. These are basically adoptions with a fee. Always ask about the background of these lizards.
While you’ll usually pay more when dealing with reputable breeders, you’ll have numerous advantages such as clear Terms of Service, a Health Guarantee, responsible shipping, and (highly important) a reliable person to turn to for advice. These perks are also telltale signs of a reliable breeder. Also, you’ll have a better choice of morphs, and know your leo’s genetics.
Designer Leopard Geckos Rare Morphs Price
Want to know the pricier side of the leopard gecko hobby?
Then take a look into the world of the rare and exclusive leo morphs.
It’s not very easy to assess the lower side of the rare morph price range. As for the higher end, the newer and rarer the gene – the higher the price. It is safe to say that these are always three-digit-number prices.
As for the higher end, for example, high melanistic morphs such as pure Black Night can cost $1000-1500 for a juvenile and $2000 or more for an adult.
What Is the Cost of a Newborn Leopard Gecko?
Breeders who regularly sell newborn baby leopard geckos are rare. To be honest, I wouldn’t do business with the ones who do, because it is unresponsible both towards the customer and the baby gecko. A majority of juveniles for sale are at least 3-4 months old – proven to be healthy, thriving, and with a visible color pattern.
However, if you got to know the breeder well and it is your particular to raise a baby gecko from the hatchling stage, someone may want to do you a favor. The price will be influenced by the parentage and genetics, but you’ll likely pay the same (or slightly less) as you would for the juvenile leopard gecko – $30 and more.
Additional Leopard Gecko Costs
The most expensive part of getting a leopard gecko is additional costs – equipment, shipping (if you found your perfect gecko online), and veterinary care if something goes wrong.
If you’re picking up your gecko personally from a store, a breeder, or a reptile show or expo, the only “shipping” cost is the gas for your car.
However, if you’re ordering your gecko online, which is a popular option due to the higher choice breeders, morphs, and prices, be prepared to pay $40-100 for live animal shipping within the US.
If you order your pet gecko from abroad, the shipping prices will be even higher.
Leopard Gecko Terrarium Cost
Of course, creating the best possible habitat for your leopard gecko is crucial for its well-being.
The essential components of a gecko enclosure include a terrarium, heating, lighting, substrate, and functional decor (including hides). Additional common items are caves and water trays. The cost of these items can vary depending on the quality and brand.
Bare Tank Prices
Here are some examples of tank prices.
- A bare glass tank with sliding doors suitable for leos costs around $70-90.
- A special plastic 20-gallon reptile tank costs around $90
- A bare 34-gallon tank with sliding doors and foam 3D background by Repti Zoo costs around $170
- A specialized 30-gallon bare terrarium with a 3D background by Exo Terra costs around $300.
- Small acrylic 5-gallon tank tanks that can temporarily house your gecko cost around $30.
Starter Setups (Fully Equipped) And Kits
A fully equipped starter setup can cost from $200-300 and up, including a 20-30-gallon terrarium, a heat mat or ceramic heat emitter, a thermostat, basic lighting, and some form of substrate and decoration.
At the highest end of the range are custom bioactive setups – but these are by far the best. Bioactive setups offer a better quality of life for your leopard geckos and often lower maintenance costs.
Since well-educated enthusiasts usually make them, you avoid many errors present in commercial starter setups, such as wood chips for substrate.
If you have a bare tank or are looking to upgrade an existing setup, you can get a tankless bioactive kit with all the equipment you need to create a bioactive setup. The prices range from $150 for a 20-gallon set and around $400 for a 55-gallon set.
Note: The larger the enclosure, the more money you’ll have to invest into it – not just because of the size of the tank, but because prices for all of the equipment go slightly up. Still, it pays off to get a large tank straight away – it’s much better for your gecko’s welfare, and you won’t have to buy a larger tank later and pay double.
Heating and Lighting Price
If you got yourself a bare tank, you need additional equipment. Proper temperature is vital for your leopard gecko’s health. The lighting itself is not as critical, but it can help you keep the night-day cycle and also observe your pet. If you opt to include UVB lighting, it would be the most natural way for your leo synthesize vitamin D.
Here is an overview of prices for basic equipment.
- Ceramic heat emitter bulbs: $10-15.
- Thermostats: around $30
- Full-spectrum daylight: $15-20
- UVB lamps (optional): around $20
All in all, the lighting and heating equipment will cost you from $50-100.
Substrate and Decoration
The prices of substrate can vary depending on what you decide to have in your tank
- Paper towels and reptile carpets are the cheapest options, but are not natural and require constant changing or washing. Reptile carpets cost around $10.
- All other substrates suitable for leos cost $13-17 per bag.
- Natural slate is the priciest decoration and part-substrate – around $65 for larger pieces and just under $20 for smaller pieces – but it offers great walking and climbing surfaces and a completely natural look and feel.
Diet – Feeder Insects And Supplement Prices
Feeding your leo becomes expense-free if you grow your own insects such as mealworms, super worms, and dubia roaches. In fact, you may earn some money if you sell off the excess.
Reptile Veterinary Care Prices
You don’t need a vet to tell you if your leopard gecko is sick – you’ll get the cues by regularly observing its behavior. This is why you don’t have to take your leopard gecko for regular veterinary check-ups if you keep them in good health.
However, it is critical to have some money aside in case of a medical emergency.
- The average price for a reptile vet examination is around $50.
- Examination with basic tests (e.g., parasite testing) and therapy usually costs $100-200.
- Complex surgeries can cost over $500.
Summing It Up (Literally)
Leopard geckos are not pricey animals, but there are numerous additional costs that come with ownership.
When you add it all up:
- The initial cost of the leopard gecko, including the lizard itself, the fully equipped tank, and the food and supplements for the first month is around $270 at the lowest end.
- The yearly expenses that include feeding, the likely changing of the heating and lighting equipment, and the substrate are $250-300, or around $100 if you start your own feeder insect colonies and thus obtain almost-free food for your leo.
- You need to have a couple of hundred dollars set aside for potential veterinary expenses at all times.
Note that this is a rough assessment of the elementary expenses. These don’t include any non-vital tank enhancements and decor (feeding and water trays, hammocks, climbing structures, caves, climbing structures, plants…). Each of these additions costs $15-30 on average.
Also, the prices can vary over time and depending on your location.
In the end, I wholeheartedly congratulate you on completing this article.
Because by understanding the financial responsibilities that come with having a leopard gecko in your life, you are making the first step toward becoming a responsible reptile hobbyist.