Even the smallest and strangest of pets have personality! The largest tank I have – 75 gallons – is home to leopard geckos, or “Leos”. We originally chose them as apartment pets, because they’re quiet, clean, and sleep all day while you’re gone. They don’t require a complicated setup, are easy to feed, and females can live in small groups (males will fight). In the past four years, we’ve gone to CrestedGecko.com a total of three times to add to our gecko group (to add to Keith’s informative-but-terrible joke, let’s call a group of Leos a “blink”). Now that the entire blink of eight girls has progressed from beautiful little juveniles to fat-tailed adults, they can be housed together with some supervision. Watching them share a home is where their personalities really become apparent.
Sunspot and Olli are the boldest. They’ll be the two waiting for the dish of mealworms to be set down, and aren’t afraid to shoulder someone else aside to get there first. H and Marjorie seem to be friends, because you can usually find them sleeping in the same hiding spot, resting their head on each others’ tails. Argent is practically antisocial by comparison: the hardest to find and the first to hiss if she thinks you’re in her space. Buttercreme likes to nap up high, Flan will only sleep in one certain hide box, and Pago Pago can be found anywhere at any time.
With all eight together, we do have to watch for bullying or shy behavior. Pago Pago, Flan and Buttercreme are the same age, so the three of them “grew up” in the same smaller enclosure. As they approached an adult weight, Buttercreme’s tail didn’t get as fat as the others’ did, and she wouldn’t come out to take a mealworm from tongs like they did either. More time spent carefully observing them revealed that Pago Pago was keeping Buttercreme away from food and the best hiding spots, causing her to be jumpy and thin. However, there was no snapping or chasing as you might expect.
Reptiles can communicate through very subtle behavior, like their posture or coloring, and cause a great deal of stress to less dominant group members without an owner even realizing something’s wrong. We were prepared for the possibility of conflicting personalities, and gave Buttercreme her own tank and waxworm treats. She soon put on weight and became quite gregarious. Now that she’s moved in with the blink, we still seek her out every feeding time to see that she gets her share, and her tail has stayed plump.
Multiple food and water dishes, as well as at least one hiding spot for each Leo (very important!), provides an environment that minimizes squabbles and helps our geckos express their individual preferences – and that helps keep them healthy. It’s fun to watch them appear in the evening and go about their nightly socializing.
More links about leos: