Reptiles have become increasingly popular pets over the past 20 years, so your child is not alone in his desire to have one as a new pet. But you are also right to realize that not all reptiles are the same – requiring different levels of care, feeding requirements and attention.
One of the lower maintenance reptiles – perfect for a child’s first pet – is the leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius), which is also inexpensive and widely available. It comes in hundreds of colors and patterns, which can be fun for kids to pick out.
They are typically small – under 8 inches, with most of that length in its tail. One cautionary note: Some carry the “giant” gene, so they can get bigger than is typical, but that is rare.
They aren’t very active, so a 10-gallon (or 20-inch) aquarium is big enough for one adult leopard gecko. Another great trait is that they don’t make any noise, so they won’t keep kids up at night.
Many first-time reptile owners get squeamish about feeding live rodents or crickets to their new pet. That’s not an issue with leopard geckos. They eat mostly mealworms, which can be kept on hand for months, making trips to the pet store infrequent. Geckos also need supplements, but they are easy to find and fairly inexpensive.
You can also leave them alone for weekend trips since they store extra fat in their tail and don’t need a ton of water.
All in all, the basic setup for a leopard gecko can be purchased for $100-150. We would recommend if you are getting one for your child for a gift, it may be nicer to print a picture of one and put it in an envelope or buy just the aquarium and put a bow on it. This way your child can have the joy and excitement of being part of selecting his gecko and accessories.
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