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A Leopard Gecko Care Sheet-Your First Leopard Gecko Checklist

Updated on November 8, 2009

Bringing Home Your Leopard Gecko


*10 gallon or larger glass aquarium
*screen top(to keep the gecko in and any other animals out)
*reptile carpet (SUBSTRATE INFO BELOW)
*spray bottle for misting
*reptile cage thermometers(One for the warm side and one for the cool side)
*food dish
*water dish
*moist hide
*hide for the warm side
*hide for the cooler side

*rough "rock,bark hide" to rub the shed off with
*under tank heater
*nocturnal light(nighttime bulb) and fixture
*daytime light and fixture
*appropriate size crickets or mealworms
*cricket "keeper"
*cricket food,water gel, and calcium dust

Sample Terrarium

What is a "HIDE"?

Each animal should have its own hide box - a shelter of some kind that's big enough for the entire lizard, but not too open. Anything from an upended margarine tub with a hole cut in one side to a decorative ceramic hide or an appropriately shaped rock can be used.
Upended terracotta pots with a chip in the rim to let the lizard in make great choices for hides. Don't stack up rocks to create a cave for your lizards, however. These can collapse and kill or injure it.
The lizard simply needs a sheltered, protected area away from cage mates and potential predators, and many different options are available. For a single gecko, place one hide box on the warm side of the cage and one on the cool side, as well as providing a moist box.

Leopard Gecko Substrates

Substrate is a significant concern, as well, and a point of great contention in the leopard gecko community. Some substrates are considered to be safer than others, while some are downright dangerous. There are a few that people have varying viewpoints on, such as sand.
Your lizards will not do well on bare glass, so it's a good idea to provide them with something to live on. There are many different options available, from newspaper to sand to stone to wood chips. You can find many of them in your home or local pet store. However, don't assume safety.
Some are more convenient than others, and some are actually hazardous to your lizard and can cause significant health problems. Don't assume that just because a substrate is offered in the pet store, it will be safe. Even bedding labeled for leopard geckos may not be a good idea.
Leopard geckos should never be housed on cedar or pine, as these aromatic woods are poisonous to them, and to nearly every other small animal kept as a pet. The substances that keep these wood chips smelling good are also toxic when inhaled in large quantities or when eaten.
Remember that there is a good chance your pet will consume some of its substrate when it catches insects, or in an attempt to increase its calcium levels. Choose a bedding that will not block its digestive system or be poisonous.
This tendency is one reason that some people choose to bed their lizards on special calcium-rich sand, as it provides a calcium supplement when ingested, and will not be poisonous. However, there is some debate about the digestibility of this substrate, as well as concern
over the use of other types of sand, as they can cause blockages of the digestive tract.
Health problems may occur with sand beddings, most commonly in young geckos. Aquarium gravel and walnut shells may also be dangerous, as they are small enough to eat, but not large enough to pass successfully through the digestive system.
If sand is chosen, make sure that it's the finest sand you can find, rather than a coarser builder's sand, and provide regular and copious calcium supplementation to discourage your lizard from eating it. Many people successfully keep their animals on sand without problems, but they must pay careful attention.
If using paper, such as newspaper or paper towels, make sure that it is blank, or that any inks used are non-toxic. This substrate has the advantage of being extremely easy to clean. Just remove the paper and add new substrate whenever it's dirty. It's not a very natural looking option, however.
Bark is usually a poor choice, being hard to clean and easy to ingest. Reptile carpet, specially made for use with snakes and lizards, is a washable, easy to clean substrate that comes pre cut to the most popular tank sizes, but does not offer a natural appearance.
Some people also choose to use slate or ceramic tiles, since these are relatively natural in appearance (unglazed ceramic is better for this than glazed) and provide flat basking surfaces without the danger of substrate ingestion.
No matter what substrate you decide to use, make sure that it's clean and free of dangerous objects or substances before placing it in your terrarium. Decide whether you want to simply be able to clean it, or if you'll need to replace it when its dirty, and whether a natural look is a big priority. This will tell you the best bedding for your geckos.


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. Just make sure you know what you're getting into when you decide to build one of these interesting cages.
*Vivariums for leopard geckos will be a little different from those for tropical species, which are perhaps the most common type. Since leopard geckos do not climb as much as their more arboreal cousins, the cage does not need to be as tall as it does for these animals. The usual foot or more in height will be fine.
*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.
Make sure that the materials you choose to use in your gecko enclosure are not likely to poison your animals. Treated wood or fiberboard without a plastic coating on one side could be a problem.
If you don't have a suitable material available, coat the inside of the enclosure with a material that will prevent exposure to the structural parts of the cage. Something as simple as shelf paper could do the job. This will keep your animals safe.
*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.
Very fine sand or stones too large for the gecko to accidentally eat, but too small to crush or injure it, are a better choice and will give a more natural appearance to the tank.
*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.
*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.
Monitor them closely for a week or so to make sure they're adjusting well to their new environment. Hopefully, your new vivarium will be successful, and will add beauty to your room, as well as being an appropriate habitat for your leopard geckos.


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    • profile image

      Linda Richter 

      3 years ago

      What size under an heater is recommended for a 10 gallon tank? TIA

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • profile image

      Leos are awesome 

      8 years ago

      Is sand for fish ok?


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