How Long Do Leopard Geckos Live? In The Wild vs In Captivity

Leopard geckos are among the most popular reptile pets and for good reason. Small and robust, these lizards are relatively easy to care for, their distinct patterning is just so cute, and they tolerate being handled more than any other kind of lizard. But if you bring a leopard gecko into your home, how long can you expect your scale baby to live?

Leopard geckos in captivity can have a lifespan twice as long as their counterparts in the wild due to a range of factors. But many pet leopard geckos have their lives cut short and die within the first 24 months. Why? This is usually the result of improper care, resulting in a variety of common issues that can be fatal.

Read on to learn exactly how long leopard geckos can live in the wild and in captivity, the diseases to look out for that might cut your leopard gecko’s life short, and what to do to ensure that your lizard friend has the longest and happiest life possible.

how long do leopard geckos live

How Long Do Leopard Geckos Live In The Wild?

In the wild, leopard geckos have a lifespan of between three and eight years. They are durable little lizards that have evolved to live in the harsh desert conditions of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and India. As a result, they cope well with extreme weather conditions caused by things such as draughts. But severe conditions can also lead to the death of many lizards.

Leopard geckos face a number of challenges in the wild, which result in this relatively short lifespan. First, they eat a diet principally of wild insects. These often carry parasites that can infect the lizard.

These lizards also have a lot of natural predators in the wild, including birds, snakes, larger lizards, scorpions, and jackals. When they aren’t being eaten, the stress of dealing with predators can also affect a leopard gecko’s health.

One thing that leopard geckos will do naturally to flee predators is shed their tail, which can grow back within four to six weeks. But this act is also dangerous as the tail is where leopard geckos store fat and moisture. Without their tail and while it’s growing back, they need to eat and hydrate more regularly. This can be challenging when food and other resources are scarce.

So, in the wild, an unlikely leopard gecko will die in infancy or within the first three years of life. Most will live to between five and six years old, while a lucky few can make it to the ripe old age of eight!

How Long Do Leopard Geckos Live In Captivity?

In captivity, leopard geckos have a lifespan about twice as long as they do in the wild, with the average leopard gecko kept at home living 10-20 years. They can even live much longer, with some reportedly living to the ripe old age of 40!

Why do leopard geckos live so much longer in captivity? Two main reasons: First, they don’t have any natural predators. 

However, you should always be careful when picking up your leopard gecko to not approach them from above. Most of their natural predators attack from above, so reaching down on them can cause a natural stress response.

The other factor in a captive leopard gecko’s lifespan is that most will have a diet of insects that have been specially bred as animal food. This means they don’t carry the same parasites as insects in the wild that attack the leopard gecko’s digestive system.

Below is a table showing the normal lifespan of a leopard gecko and how big you can expect them to be at different ages. Leopard geckos stop growing when they reach sexual maturity, which happens between the ages of 12-18 months. After this time, it is very difficult to estimate the age of the lizard based solely on their appearance.

Life StageLengthWeight
Hatchling 0-2 months1.5-2 inches2-5 grams
Juveniles 2-7 months5 inches15-25 grams
Sub Adult 7-12 months6-7 inches30-40 grams
Adult 12+ months7+ inches50+ grams

The robustness of leopard geckos is one of the reasons they’re considered among the best reptiles for beginners.

What Causes Premature Death In Pet Leopard Geckos?

While leopard geckos should be able to live 10-20 years in captivity, many die prematurely, often within the first couple of years. This is usually the result of improper care that can result in a number of serious medical conditions.

Below is a list of some of the most common medical issues that affect leopard geckos, what causes them, and what can be done to prevent these issues.

Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic bone disease is a common issue in many reptiles. When the reptile does not have enough calcium to support their bone growth, scale growth, and egg laying in the case of females, the quality of their bones and scales are weakened and they can be easily injured. 

If this happens while they are still growing, their bones can also become malformed. As the condition gets more serious, they can become weak and eventually suffer seizures and tremors and die.

This condition is caused by calcium deficiency. To prevent this, owners are recommended to dust prey with calcium powder before feeding them to their leopard gecko. But this is not always enough to solve the problem, since they also need sufficient vitamin D to be able to absorb and use the calcium.

This is why you will often see reptile supplements sold as a combination of calcium and vitamin D, but this is not the best choice for your leopard gecko. It is very easy for reptiles to have too much dietary vitamin D. When this happens, it floods their system and makes them unable to use either the vitamin D or the calcium. It’s better for them to get their vitamin D from UV light, since they can’t overdose on this type of vitamin D in the same way.

Ensure your terrarium is heated to 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit in their basking areas and 75-80 degrees in their shaded areas during the day. They should have a UVB lamp active in their basking area for 10-12 hours a day, and the bulb needs to be changed every six months to maintain effectiveness.

Respiratory Disease

Respiratory disease is another issue that affects leopard geckos in captivity. This is caused by bacteria in the lungs, and if it becomes chronic, it can be fatal.

The main cause of respiratory disease in reptiles in captivity is excessive humidity in their tank, as well as improper cleaning that causes mold, which can also make its way into the lizard’s lungs.

The majority of the time, your terrarium should have a humidity level of between 30-40%, which should be monitored with a hygrometer. You can increase humidity by misting as necessary. 

You do need to increase humidity when the gecko is shedding, which happens about once a month as an adult, in order to lubricate the process. For about 48 hours leading up to the shed, humidity levels should be 70-80%. But it should drop back down a couple of hours after the shedding is done.

Retained Shed

Another issue for leopard geckos is when they don’t fully shed their skin. This can result in bands of old skin cutting off circulation to parts of the body. It usually affects the tail or the fingers. This is something that can happen in captivity or the wild, but will often happen in captivity when humidity levels are too low.

You should always examine your leopard gecko closely after a shed to ensure that the process is complete. But don’t expect to actually see them shed as they usually do it at night and then eat the skin. 

Never try to peel away incomplete sheds as this can cause skin lacerations, which can become infected.

Instead, help your leopard gecko do it themselves by treating them to half an hour at the sauna. Put a towel soaked in warm water inside a clear plastic container. Place your gecko inside and close the space with a lid with some air holes. Leave them there for about half an hour, and then return them to their habitat to complete their shed. Make sure they have rough surfaces such as rocks and branches to rub against.

If they can’t manage the shed on their own, you’ll need to take them to the vet to have the excess skin removed.


Lacerations caused by shedding issues is just one way that leopard geckos can become susceptible to infections. Infections tend to spread quickly in small lizards, so without prompt treatment, it can be too late.

Vitamin A Deficiency

In addition to calcium deficiency, vitamin A deficiency is also relatively common among reptiles. Vitamin A is necessary for normal skin cell development and replacement. This is especially important for lizards since they are constantly renewing their skin.

A deficiency can lead to uncontrolled growth around sensitive areas such as the eyes, and dull skin that is poor in quality. Look out for signs such as mucus around the eyes, squinting, difficulty shedding, and a dull body color in general.

The best way to ensure they get the Vitamin A they need is through a varied diet. They shouldn’t be eating the same insects, usually crickets and mealworms, all the time. Try to introduce other insects such as silkworms and cockroaches into their diet on a regular basis.

Egg Binding

Egg binding occurs in females when they become unable to pass their eggs and they remain trapped inside. The blockage can result in serious medical problems. This can be caused by stress and poor nutrition but is also quite common if you have more than one female leopard gecko in a single terrarium. Something about their pheromones and a lack of a male presence affects the egg-laying process.

Leopard geckos are loners and it is generally best to have just one per habitat. Don’t worry, as long as they have enough space to roam and be stimulated, they aren’t lonely. A 20-gallon tank is a good size for a single leopard gecko.

Leopard Gecko Lifespan FAQs

Can I leave my leopard gecko for three days?

Leopard geckos can go about two weeks without food and it won’t affect their health, so not feeding them for a couple of days is not a problem. However, a dirty tank is a breeding ground for infection, and three days is probably the maximum time that a tank can be left without cleaning.

Do leopard geckos need 24 hours of light?

Leopard geckos need a clear division of night and day. They need to bask during the day and are most active at dawn and dusk and during the night. 

They should have 10-12 hours of sunlight a day, and about 12 hours of darkness where their tank should not be exposed to sound or light pollution. Ideally, you should try and mimic the seasons of the year, giving them 14 hours of light in the summer and 10 in the winter.

Have A Long And Happy Life With Your Leopard Gecko

If you take good care of your leopard gecko, they could be your companion for 20 years. If you want to ensure they have a long and happy life, the most important things are to maintain and clean habitat that recreates their conditions in the wild as accurately as possible, but without predators.

The other main concern is diet, since you are what you eat and so are leopard geckos. They need a lot of variation in their diet to ensure they get all the vitamins and minerals they need. Since calcium is vital to their well-being, they should also receive a regular calcium supplement.

But that’s it! Leopard geckos are naturally robust. Tick these boxes and the two of you will do well.

Read our complete guide to everything you need to know before adopting a reptile as a pet.

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