My son wants a pet lizard that is reasonably small, colourful, friendly and can be bred quite easily. What would you suggest?

Young leopard geckosThe best choice is likely to be a leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius). These lizards are attractively-marked, grow to a length of about 20cm (8in) when adult, and are now being bred in a wide range of different colours. Young leopard geckos are banded in colour, displaying alternating yellowish and brownish markings, but then are transformed into the mottled patterning resembling that of a leopard as they grow older. Breeders have now created strains of different colours however, some of which, such as the tangerine have no dark markings.

Leopard geckos require a fairly arid environment, originally coming from a part of Asia which is exposed to very high temperatures during the day, and much colder surroundings at night. A spotlight heater can be used to provide a hot spot in their vivarium up to 30°C (86°F), while at night, when this is switched off, the temperature can be allowed to cool down to 68° F (20°C), with a background heat source such as a heat mat then being needed.

Leopard geckoSpecial vivarium floor coverings and rocks can be used to mimic their natural environment, with retreats being included here as well. Leopard geckos will feed on invertebrates such as gut-loaded crickets, and should be given a small container of fresh water as well. Good lighting is also recommended, with special lights mimicking the effects of sunlight being useful in maintaining the overall health of these lizards.

Females typically lay clutches of two or three soft-shelled eggs at a time. Studies suggest that temperatures in the range of 27-29°C (81-84°F) produce females, whereas between 32-33°C (90-91.5°F), then males will hatch out. There is no set incubation period, with the young lizards typically emerging anywhere from 6-12 weeks after egg-laying occurred.