How to Set Up a Leopard Gecko Tank
Leopard Geckos make great pets for both the experienced and the inexperienced herp pet owners. If you're reading this you are probably about to purchase a leopard gecko or have already purchased one. You may even be an experienced reptile owner just looking through to gain more knowledge. The best way to learn is to be a pet owner, but this guide will hopefully be a helpful way for you to get started in your pet owning adventure.
Getting a new pet can be an exciting event but please make sure you are ready for the commitment. Although Leopard geckos are very good beginner pets they still need a lot of care, maintenance, and love. Here are some things you need to think about before purchasing a gecko:
- In good care leopard geckos can live up to 20 years, are you able to provide the good care the gecko needs and are you ready to take on the commitment of having a pet for 20 years?
- If you are buying this for your children are they old enough to provide daily maintenance for the gecko and handle it in a manner that is safe for both your child and the gecko?
- Are you ready for the economic responsibilities that come with keeping a leopard gecko, this includes the initial setup and the cost of maintenance and feedings?
- Hopefully you keep your gecko in good health but if your pet does get sick, are you prepared to get it veterinary help?
So you passed the test and you know you're definitely ready for a brand new pet. Now we can discuss tank setup. Here is a minimal list of things you need for your gecko:
- Screen top
- Three hides
- Food, water, and calcium bowls
- Under tank heater
- Black or red light
Now we can go through the items listed above.
Of course, as with any animal (or human) the bigger the better, but a 10 gallon tank can be sufficient, although it should be the bare minimum! 10 gallon tanks are usually between $10-$15. You can check for used ones on craigslist, yard sales, or flea markets. Also, if you have a fish tank with a crack in it (one that your animal cant cut itself on) you can use that.
Although leopard geckos do not have the pads on their legs that enable them to climb on glass , they do need a screen. The screens are meant to keep bugs out, rather than keep anything in. Spiders can be lethal to a leopard gecko, so make sure you have a screen. They are generally between $9-$20 depending on the size and store. If you cannot afford to buy one you can easily make one. I bought netting at a hardware store. It was enough to make more than 10 screens and it was only $2. A lot of people use wood to make the corners but I used duct tape and it worked just fine! Make sure you add enough to make it sturdy though.
Two hides should be the minimal amount of hides yet I prefer to have three. One hide should be a on the cool side of the tank while the other should be on the warm side. (I'll talk about cool and warm sides in a little bit.) The third hide should be on the warm side as well, and should have something moist in it. This can be a damp paper towel or moss that is wet. This hide is to provide moisture for your gecko when they are shedding. It is important that they have a moist hide, and that it stays moist or else their shedding process will be more difficult. As far as your hides go, it can really be anything you want. You can buy hides at the store or make your own. If you like eating coconuts you can cut an entrance way for your gecko, and that can be a hide. I often use plastic cups that are dark in color. A towel paper tube is also a good one. For a moist hide make sure you use something other than paper or cardboard so it doesn’t soak through. A lot of people use a Tupperware container with a hole at the top. If you have more than one gecko in the tank, they each need their separate hides, so they do not get territorial.
Substrate, or material used to line your tank, is VERY important in the care of your gecko. I say this because it is often a very controversial topic and if you don't have proper knowledge many pet store salespeople may mislead you. Many people say that the best substrates are either paper towel, newspaper, or pet carpeting. The reason for this is, that these substrates cannot be swallowed by your pet. Many stores try to sell you on the idea that sand, calci-sand, wood chips, or any other type of loose substrate is a good idea. These substrates are bad ideas because your leopard gecko can swallow these while trying to hunt for crickets, and it can cause impaction. Impaction is when the digestive tract has solid masses blocking it. This condition can be fatal for your pet. Many people argue that it is rare for leopard geckos to get impaction from these substrates, especially if they are adults. Here is how I look at it, your pets health is more important then the appearance of your tank, so take the safe route!
You need three bowls for your gecko. A food bowl, a calcium bowl, and a water dish. The food bowl can contain mealworms and other foods that you plan on feeding your gecko. Crickets should be kept running around the tank so your gecko can get exercise. The calcium bowl should just have a little bit of calcium powder that your gecko can lick whenever they want. I use a lid from a water bottle for this. The water dish should be washed daily and filled with water at all times. Make sure all dishes are shallow enough for your gecko to be able to reach them. Some good ideas to make inexpensive bowls would be lids of jars, terracotta pots (75 cents at Wal-Mart), or plastic condiment dishes.
The thermometer is
best if it is electronic. This is the most accurate way to measure the
temperature in the tank. If you buy a stick on, (it is a lot less accurate) do
not stick it on the tank. This will prevent you from checking temperatures on
both sides of the tank. You can also add a humidty gauge, but it is not mandatory for a leopard gecko.
An under tank heater is very important. This will make the warm side of your tank. Make sure if you are using paper towels you add an additional layer (or two) of paper towels on that side so you do not burn your gecko. Place the appropriate sized under tank heater on half the tank. The other half of the tank will be the cool size and it will allow your gecko to choose what temperature it wants to hang out in.
Because Leopard Geckos are nocturnal, they do not require special UV lighting. What I have for my leopard gecko is a black light. You can get these lights with either a blue or red light bulb. This provides additional heat for your gecko.
This is the general setup for the tank. You can add different things to the tank.
If you plan on using rocks or twigs you found around your yard you will want to sterilize them. The best way I find to do this is to bake them. A rock can be baked for 15-30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Twigs can also be fired, but they need to be soaked in water so that they don’t catch fire.
Here are examples of proper setup from photos I have found online.
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