How to Build a Leopard Gecko Vivarium/Terrarium

How to Build a Vivarium-*****right below this paragraph are directions for a basic terrarium/cage

An alternative to a tank style cage is the vivarium - an entire ecosystem for your pet to live in, including live plants that grow right in the cage. These are more complicated to maintain, and usually much larger (some people choose to house an entire colony of leopard geckos in one vivarium).

They're also much more impressive and natural looking, and usually chosen by people who've kept lizards in a conventional style tank before. They can be a rewarding and fun way to give your geckos a more natural habitat, and they make an excellent focal point for a room.

The most common materials for building vivariums are probably wood and high density fiberboard. These can be assembled into a variety of rectangular shapes and can be built in such a way as to fit the space you have available. That makes them a convenient choice for people with unusually shaped rooms.

For some, this is a much easier situation to deal with than a store bought tank, which may be overly large for the space, or cumbersome to deal with. Don't expect your vivarium to be much lighter than a store bought cage, however. Both wood and fiber board can be extremely heavy and awkward.

Glass panels are the most common choices for the front of a vivarium. The cage may open from the front, from the back, or from the top (something that's more difficult with tall cages), depending on your preference. Provide proper ventilation for a vivarium, just as you would an ordinary leopard gecko tank. Your geckos should have fresh air available at all times.

Most people building leopard gecko vivariums are concerned about the appearance of their enclosures, and want to make sure the cage has a more natural appearance. This means that substrate materials like ceramic tile, paper, and reptile carpet are less desirable.

Live plants appropriate to a leopard gecko's environment are an important part of a vivarium setup, as well. You'll either want to place potted plants in a deep layer of substrate to hide the pots, or add a layer of the appropriate soil (generally sandy) to the bottom of the tank.

This can make cleaning a more complex task, but this is the case with most vivarium setups. Don't be surprised if your vivarium develops a few insects of its own. As long as they're harmless, they shouldn't be a problem.

The actual design of your vivarium is up to you, and will depend on your available space and carpentry skills. Take the time to look at some other reptile vivarium designs to decide which one is right for you, and be sure that you have the experience to set up and maintain one of these beautiful, but complex enclosures before you get started. A little bit of study will allow you to decide on the design that will work best for your situation.

Remember to allow the vivarium a few weeks to get going before adding animals. This will allow you to make certain your plants will grow and thrive. Then, after the quarantine period is over, you can add your animals.

An example of one persons vivarium

Vivarium example

Soil,sand and gravel mix with real plants!
Soil,sand and gravel mix with real plants!

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Comments 8 comments

gecko_boy 6 years ago

how the hell would i be able to get that tank get out of ere!!


john 6 years ago

have a 33 gal tank for leopard geckos and want to know if there is a certain way you have to set it up for breeding leopard geckos. i just have a log for a hide spot on one side and a hollow rock on the other because i keep my two geckos apart. the floor is now vita sand. i don't know a lot about leopard geckos so i don't know what to do.


Karenj 6 years ago

Hi John=

Do you have a moist "hide" for them? This is needed regardless of whether you are breeding or not.

As far as preparing the cage for breeding-it is pretty complicated preparing the geckos to breed but as far as the cage goes you also need a "laying" box for the eggs when they come.Breeding is very complicated,(correct temperatures,etc...) make sure you do the research before you start. Good luck!


john  6 years ago

ok. I have a problem somehow my female has laid eggs and they were buried under the sand and shriveled up. i don't think im ready so i got rid of them. also should the tank be humid because mine is very dry. And i wanted to know if i really need a devider in the tank because they are always trying to get to eachother.also thx for the help karenj


renee 6 years ago

You've got bad info in the urls. One gecko not one to two in a 10 gallon.


johnthan 6 years ago

I have a wooden vivarium and was wondering if i use a heat mat what do i use to cover it so it wont burn my gecko but will allow the heat through.


karen/pawsible 6 years ago

Hi Jonathan-

I have had my gecko tank on a wooden shelf(so the heat mat was laying on the wood) and we have had no issues. It did not get hot enough to cause a problem :)


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