In this article you’re going to learn about leopard gecko habitats and everything you need to do to setup their enclosure.
Don’t get me wrong leopard geckos are one of the easiest lizards to take care of. However, if you own one of these little lizards you want to make sure you’re taking care of them properly. You do want your leopard gecko to feel safe don’t you?
In order to do this properly you are going to have to set their habitat up to be like their natural habitat in the wild.
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Leopard Gecko Tank Setup
Leopard geckos do not climb so you don’t need to worry about getting them a vertical tank like you would with crested geckos, anoles, and chameleons. Instead a horizontal tank is ideal for housing your leopard gecko. I would suggest that you use a glass tank because they hold heat and look better than plastic tanks.
Don’t make the mistake of using a mesh cage, because they do not hold the heat in very well, and your leopard gecko could easily escape from a mesh cage. Also, they could end up cutting themselves on the mesh.
Tank Covers & Lids
You don’t want your little gecko to escape so you will need to get a lid. For lids I recommend that you get a wire/mesh top. This will also keep crickets or food from getting loose and roaming your house. The mesh covers are good for putting lights on, too. I also like them because I can spray the top of the cage with a water bottle so that my leopard geckos can drink water.
Solid lids will also keep the humidity levels up which leopard geckos really don’t need. I’m not a fan of glass or plastic covers. Just make sure you do get a lid because from my personal experience finding a leopard gecko once it escapes isn’t fun. Speedy has escaped 3 times and it always takes a while to get her back.
You need to give your leos some room to move around. Also be very clear that you know what you are doing if you decide to have more than 1 gecko. They are quite happy on their own in one tank. So don’t think you have to give them a friend to hang out with. This could even be a really bad idea – as 2 males will generally not get on at all, so you should never put more than 1 male in the same tank. You can have a male and female, but learn about breeding first. More than one female is usually OK.
These are the absolute minimum tank sizes I would recommend:-
- 1 Gecko – 10 Gallon
- 2 Geckos – 15 Gallon
- 3 or 4 Geckos – 20 Gallons
And even then – 10 gallons is very small, and really only a temporary measure for hatchlings rather than a full grown gecko. You can also find some of the best gecko tanks here.
Leopard Gecko Lighting
Leopard geckos live in the middle east where the daylight changes from winter to summer. You can read more about the origin of them here or their common behaviors. Honestly, I don’t ever really change their hours though. In the summer they should have 14 hours of light and 10 hours of darkness. Then in the winter they can have 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. It’s a good idea to get a timer for your leopard geckos habitat.
You do NOT need to get a UV light for your leopard gecko. I know a lot of kits at Petsmart and Petco sell them in kits, but leopard geckos do not require UV lights. In fact, if they are exposed to UV lights to often it actually stresses them out.
Since you want to simulate the day and night you are going to need a light – don’t just rely on light from a window, it’s often not enough inside a house. You can get a reptile dome for pretty cheap and then use a standard 60 watt light bulb in it. You could optionally also get a heat lamp for your leopard gecko. However, your leopard gecko will usually never bask in the light since they are burrowers and not basking lizards. Also read more about temperature below.
You have a couple options when it comes to purchasing lights for the nighttime. You can either get a blacklight (UV) or infra-red light. Both of these lights will work fine. It’s really just a personal preference. You don’t even need to buy a special black or red light for reptiles – just don’t get anything high powered.
If you really don’t want to purchase a nighttime light you don’t have to either – it’s just a good idea to do if you want to actually see your leopard gecko when they are out at night (remember, they are nocturnal creatures!).
Leopard geckos are cold blooded reptiles. This means that they absorb heat from the environment. The temperature for your leopard geckos tank needs to be the right temperature. Too hot or too cold and your leopard gecko can become stressed, and could ultimately die. It’s really useful therefore to have a couple of thermometers, ideally electronic ones as these can also tell you what the maximum and minimum temperatures have been over the last 24 hours.
There are three areas of your tank that you need to adjust the temperature of the tank. To do this you can either put heated ceramic emitters or heated rocks in their enclosure.
Different areas of their habitat or cage should be different temperatures. The hot side should be between 87 and 90 degrees. This is important to make sure your leopard geckos are digesting their food correctly. The cooler side of their habitat or cage can be between 74 and 80 degrees. I wouldn’t recommend having their habitat any hotter than 94 degrees. Otherwise your leopard gecko could get too hot.
Since leopard geckos are nocturnal they come out at nighttime. Often times you will find your gecko sitting on a warm rock. I do use heated rocks which my leopard geckos love. But, the night time temperature should be cooler than the daytime temperature. It should be between 70 and 75 degrees.
Humidity is a very important factor you should consider when taking care of a leopard gecko. Without the proper humidity your gecko could have difficulty shedding, have problems with hydration or can even get infections.
Ideally, your leopard gecko’s tank needs to be between 20% and 40%. If you are concerned about the humidity level of the tank you can always purchase a ‘hygrometer’ which will give you a readout of the humidity. One common way to reduce the humidity is to increase the airflow in the tank. This can usually be solved by getting a mesh lid. However, if the humidity is too low you might want to put some moist moss in the tank or possibly put a small or large water dish in there.
Leopard Gecko Substrate
Your substrate for your leopard gecko is the flooring on their tank. Owners do tend to like various different substrates for their leopard geckos. I have used most of them over the years and can tell you a little bit about each one of them.
I used washed play sand that I get at Home Depot. You can get 50 lbs of sand for 5-6 dollars. Do not use sand if your leopard gecko is a baby though. I wait until they are full grown before changing their substrate to sand. The reason being is because leopard geckos can eat the sand when hunting, and get ‘impacted’ and die.
You can read more about sand here. Some owners have very strong views about not using sand at all, so if you’re at all concerned you can just avoid it and use something else.
I have used tiles over the years and they are pretty easy to work with. There is no risk for impaction and leopard geckos really do like the tile substrate.
However, the bottom of your tank is glass so make sure you don’t drop the tile in there or you could crack the glass or break your tile. I would recommend putting reptile carpet under it or some newspapers or paper towels.
You can use newspapers or paper towels. These are easy to clean, and you can easily throw them out when you’re done using them. They don’t look the most appealing, but if you’re on a tight budget, you can definitely use them.
I tend to use reptile carpet when my leopard geckos are babies.
Reptile carpet is easy to clean and either comes in green or brown (you can get it here). The only downside to reptile carpet is that you do have to take the whole thing out and clean it every week or so — or it will begin to smell.
I wouldn’t use a piece of regular carpet though. This reptile carpet stuff is much thinner and a lot easier to use than regular carpet. I made the mistake of trying to use regular carpet a couple of years ago.
Leopard Gecko Hides
Hides are very important for your leopard gecko. This is where they are going to spend their day. Leopard geckos are burrowers by nature and are usually hiding 90-95% of the time. This makes them feel safe and secure.
There are three different types of hides that leopard geckos should have:-
This hide is placed on the warm side of the tank. The point of a warm hide is to help the gecko digest their food.
Also, if your leopard gecko is too cold they will go over to their warm hide to help their bodies warm up again.
You can find warm hides on eBay here.
Obviously, the cool (or cold) hide does the opposite of the warm hide. When your leopard gecko gets too warm they will go into the cool hide.
I think it’s a really good idea to have one of these hides.
You can find cold hides on eBay here.
The moist hide, or sometimes called the humid hide, is where your leopard gecko will go when they are shedding. These hides have a higher humidity and should have a wet paper towel in them. This helps your gecko shed their skin whenever it’s time for them to shed. It is a good idea to spray the moist hide at least once every couple days.
You can find moist hides on eBay here.
Leopard Gecko Decor
It’s always a good idea to add some plants, rocks, background, etc. to your tank. This is great to help dress it up but also gives the gecko something to crawl around on. You want your gecko to feel safe and at home right? Then you should consider purchasing a few extras for their tank.
Plants are great for your geckos. You can either get real plants or artificial plants. As mentioned in my leopard gecko feeding guide you have learned that they do not eat vegetables, so unlike bearded dragons or other lizards, you don’t have to worry about them eating any plants you decide to drop in their tank. I should note that live plants are going to look a lot better than artificial plants, but live plants will raise the humidity in the tank.
Leopard geckos love to climb rocks, logs, and limbs whenever they do come out at night. It’s a great idea to get them some rocks or limbs to explore at night. I have a long vertical cave that my geckos love to climb and sit on top of at night. Just be sure that anything you bring from outside has no parasites on it. You can heat them up at a low temperature to kill anything that might be on them before placing them into the tank.
Don’t make the mistake of not using a background for your leopard geckos – it make a huge difference to how awesome your tank looks. Pick out a nice background for your gecko – it will look greta and help them feel safe and secure.
Honestly, there are lots and lots of backgrounds you can choose from, and they are pretty cheap. I don’t like going to Petsmart or Petco for these because they only have a limited range of backgrounds to choose from. Instead I like to go on eBay where you can get a custom one.
It’s not vital that you have a water bowl for your leopard gecko. I tend to just spray the tank at night with a spray bottle. They love to come out and lick the rocks and get their water that way.
However, if you want you can buy a water bowl. Just make sure it’s a shallow one so they can’t get trapped in it and drown. However, I do recommend food bowls for mealworms and superworms as this keeps them from crawling away.