Housing Leopard Gecko's

You'll need to house your leopard geckos in a terrarium. The terrarium is often a glass tank with lid, kept at the correct temperature and with all the bits and pieces to keep your leopard geckos healthy and stress free.

 

The Tank

The most common enclosure to use for the tank is a glass aquarium with a ventilated lid. Glass tanks are common and easy to keep clean, you can keep up to three leopard geckos in a 25 Gallon long tank (30" long, 16" High, 12" depth). You can also get plastic tanks which are cheaper than glass but just as easy to use, however they are often not as attractive. Wooden tanks with glass doors are also popular but they can be harder to keep at the correct temperatures and difficult to clean. With wooden terrariums heat mats must go inside the tank and wires hidden, in glass and plastic tanks they can be placed underneath which is much easier.

 

Substrate

Substrate is the flooring of your leopard gecko terrarium, there are a number of different substrates available however not all of them are healthy for your leopard gecko. Leopard geckos will lie on the substrate to transfer heat into their bodies, it is important to have flat areas they can do this.

The most debated type of substrate is fine play sand, a number of people are strongly against using sand due to impactation problems (ingested sand blocks the geckos intestines and causes death). Using play sand is normally safer if your geckos are adults as the sand can pass through them. The worst type of sand is Calci Sand, which is sand with calcium in it, despite manufactures claims this type is not 100% digestible and actively causes your gecko to eat the sand as a calcium supplement. Bark chipping's and similar loose substrates can have the same problems as sand and should be avoided.

Reptile carpet is a nice and easy type of substrate to use, it is machine washable, absorbent and cleaning is very easy. It comes in a number of colours and is often precut to popular tank dimensions. Reptile carpet, whilst very practical doesn't always offer the most natural looking terrarium. Kitchen paper is equally as good as reptile carpet but is very unattractive.

Tiles, particularly slate tiles are a very popular and attractive choice. Tiles can be placed directly on the bottom of your tank and any small holes filled in with sand. They offer a wonderfully natural look inside your tank and are in keeping with your geckos natural terrain. You must make sure you thoroughly clean any tiles before placing them in your terrarium.



Temperature / heating

Leopard geckos require a day temperature of between 80-85°F (26.7-29.4°C) and a night time temperature of 70-75°F (21.1-23.9°C). The most effective and easiest way to heat the tank is to place a heat mat under one end of the tank, this will create a hot and cold temperature gradient between each end of the tank. Your leopard gecko can then move to the cooler end of the tank at night or whenever it chooses to adjust its temperature. The hot end of the tank should be between 80-85°F (26.7-29.4°C).

The heat mats produce heat from underneath the tank which helps your leopard gecko digest food more effectively and keep them healthy. In glass and plastic tanks the heat mats can be placed underneath the tank, you can then put substrate onto the terrarium floor and alter the thickness until you reach your desired temperature. With wooden tanks you must place the heat mat inside the tank underneath the substrate, you need to make sure your heat mat is waterproof and cannot burn your geckos.

Thermostats and timers can also be used to create the temperature change, you connect your heat mats to the thermostat, which then turns the heat on or off to keep a constant temperature. Using a timer with this setup allows you to automatically lower the temperature at night.

 

Hides and dishes

You will need places for your leopard gecko to hide during the day, to rest and digest their food. You will need three hides, one at the warm end and one at the cooler end of the terrarium, and one humid hide near the warm end. You can either purchase pre made rock and wood hides or construct your own from rocks. The humid hide is somewhere for the geckos to go and aid shedding, you can create one by placing damp moss or kitchen paper in a plastic tub and cutting a hole in it. If a leopard gecko cannot shed properly it can cause toes and fingers to become damaged so a humid hide is important.

You will also need a water dish which should be changed every day. Make sure there are a few pebbles or a sloped edge in the dish so crickets get out and be eaten rather than drown.

A small dish of pure calcium powder (not calci-sand) should be in the tank at all times. Your leopard geckos can safely eat this as and when they need.

If you are planning on feeding your gecko's mealworms you may need a mealworm dish, this is particularly handy when you have a loose substrate (so they can't escape) and aids in dusting your mealworms with vitamin and calcium supplements.

 

Decoration, Lighting and Plants

As leopard geckos are nocturnal they do not require any special lighting like other reptiles. You may however want to get a better look at your geckos in the evenings, its best to use a red bulb when viewing your leopard geckos, they are unable to see red light so it doesn't disturb or startle them.

If your terrarium is on display then i'd image you want to make it look attractive, and also interesting for your leopard geckos. You can use rocks to build structures and basking spots, ensure you thoroughly disinfect any rocks before use. Sandblasted grave vines and logs can be put in to provide more things to climb on and hide in. If you are using heavy structures or things are not 100% stable then i'd suggest sticking your structures together with non-toxic bathroom sealant.

Both plastic and real plants help create a great environment for your leopard geckos and an attractive display. Plastic aquarium plants are now looking very realistic and you can find a vast array of types to choose from. They are easily cleaned and look good in the tank. Real plants can also be used, but make sure they are non-toxic and do not have spines or sharp edges. They will need to be suitable for the temperatures and conditions inside the terrarium and are best kept in their pots and if possible buried in the substrate.

 

You may wish to see our Leopard Gecko Starter Checklist for an easy to read list of the things you will need.

 



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