10 years ago a recommended leopard gecko setup would have been sand, a 10 gallon tank, a heat lamp (thermostat optional), and yes, multiple females living together.
In the wild leopard geckos do hang out in groups. What little information we have about them does confirm that you generally see a small group of them in one area. However, this is simply because there is a finite amount of hiding places that are the right temperatures for the geckos, so of course they will all group together to compete for the sweet spot.
This is all well and good, but when one animal tries to assert it's dominance over another in the wild, one of them can simply walk 50 feet in any direction and never have to see the other again. In a 20, 50, 100, or even 500 gallon tank this is simply not possible.
Being in a confined space with another animal, even if both of those animals were social, is stressful. Humans are excellent at problem solving, highly social, and generally unaggressive to one another. However if you put two random humans in a medium sized room for days, weeks, and years, eventually they would snap.
Anthropomorphism is giving non human animals human features - think dogs who are panting being told they're 'smiling'. People see their cute Leopard geckos cuddling, playing, and wagging their tails happily at each other. Unfortunately, all three of those things are signs one is asserting dominance over, and even hunting it's 'friend'.
It is very important to remember that as much as we love our pets, they are animals with welfare needs different to our own. We cannot comprehend how they see the world so must er on the side of caution to give an animal the highest possible quality of life we can.
Why we don't sell geckos to homes who will cohabit - the 5 welfare needs
In the UK, every animal is entitled to have the following needs met:
Health – Protection from pain, injury, suffering and disease and treated if they become ill or injured.
Behaviour – the ability to behave naturally for their species eg. Play, run, dig, jump, fly etc.
Companionship – to be housed with, or apart from, other animals as appropriate for the species. i.e. company of their own kind for sociable species like rabbits or guinea pigs, or to be housed alone for solitary species like hamsters.
Diet – a suitable diet. This can include feeding appropriately for the pet’s life stage and feeding a suitable amount to prevent obesity or malnourishment, as well as access to fresh clean water.
Environment – a suitable environment. This should include the right type of home with a comfortable place to rest and hide as well as space to exercise and explore.
As a team who has devoted our life to our animals, we have an obligation to follow the above, and as a result have decided that knowingly selling animals to those who will cohabit them prevents the Companionship, Behaviour, and Health welfare needs from being met.
What to look out for
If you have read the above and still wish to cohabit your geckos, then here are some things to look out for.
Signs of stress in leopard geckos include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy and restlessness
- Aggression (excessive tail wagging etc)
- Weight loss
Signs of dominance and bullying include:
- Sitting on each other
- Waving / shaking tail
- Chasing / hunting each other
- Weight loss
- Cuts / scratches / bite marks
- Sharing hides