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How to House a Pet Leopard Gecko

Updated on February 16, 2013
inside the leopard gecko enclosure (the box with coconut husk usually has a top-humidity hut).
inside the leopard gecko enclosure (the box with coconut husk usually has a top-humidity hut). | Source

Housing a Leopard Gecko

Housing a leopard gecko is fairly easy. A single gecko only needs a small reptile tank, and does not require any fancy set-ups or elaborate heating and/or lighting.

The Enclosure for a Leopard Gecko

Even if one purchases a baby gecko, one should always buy an enclosure for anticipating an adult gecko. A 10 gallon vivarium (20 inches long) is an adequate size enclosure for a single adult gecko.

Housing Multiple Geckos

There are a few options when choosing to house multiple leopard geckos. If housing multiple leopard geckos it is important to understand that it is always best for leopard geckos to be housed separately, so the individual reptiles do not have to compete against each other for food, water, and/or heat, but it is possible to house multiples together (NEVER put two males in the same enclosure, they will battle). If one decides to house multiples together, one would need a large enough enclosure to fit a hide, humidity hut, and water dish in the enclosure for EACH gecko (a good rule is to have 10 gallons per gecko). Since it is advised to house individually geckos separately, one should consider a gecko rack if housing multiple geckos is desired. A gecko rack is a series of drawers staked together so that each gecko has its own enclosure while saving space within the home (or studio). Racks can be purchased on-line or at a shop that is specifically geared toward reptiles, or one could build a rack personally (building may ultimately be cheaper than purchasing a rack or separate enclosures). The rack drawers should be large enough to hold all of the necessities that a gecko needs in its enclosure to survive and thrive. If aesthetics are important, and one wants to house each gecko separately, one can purchase individual, stackable (or non-stackable) enclosures that have an aesthetic appeal.

Birdseye view of one drawer (top).
Birdseye view of one drawer (top). | Source
Three drawers for the adult geckos.
Three drawers for the adult geckos. | Source
Homemade rack built by Ryan Jacobs. 3 drawers for adult geckos, two drawers for baby geckos (for future breeding).
Homemade rack built by Ryan Jacobs. 3 drawers for adult geckos, two drawers for baby geckos (for future breeding). | Source

No matter what type of enclosure one decides upon, please make sure the enclosure has proper ventilation and air flow to ensure proper health of the animal as well as to ensure there will be NO mold or mildew growth within the enclosure.

Substrate in a Leopard Gecko Enclosure

Most people use a calcium sand as a floor covering in a leopard gecko enclosure, this is not advisable; while feeding leopard geckos may ingest a lot of sand, more than what is able to be easily digested, and could cause an intestinal impaction, ultimately killing the animal. A safe substrate to keep a leopard gecko on would be paper towels or newspaper. If aesthetics of the vivarium is necessary, it is possible to purchase floor covering to give a vivarium a natural and realistic look, an done could use a clay-gravel soil with a small amount of sand (never keep a baby leopard gecko on sand). One could also use orchid bark or coconut husk fiber as a leopard gecko substrate, to hold humidity and prevent intestinal impactions.

Burrow shelter
Burrow shelter | Source
Cave shelter
Cave shelter | Source

Shelters for Leopard Geckos

Since leopard geckos are a nocturnal creatures, these lizards avoid bright lights (because their eyes are very sensitive) therefore, a “hide box” or shelter is necessary to keep in the leopard geckos enclosure. In the wild to avoid light and possible predators, leopard geckos spend most of their time spent in rock crevasses and burrows. When keeping a leopard gecko in captivity, there are many different options for shelter. Shelters range from plain, black, plastic boxes to a realistic looking rock caves, and burrows. The shelter one chooses for their leopard gecko all depends on aesthetics desired for the vivarium in a personal home. A breeder will choose plain, plastic, black hide boxes (because a breeder has several geckos in racks) and aesthetics are not an issue. A person who has a single pet leopard gecko in a vivarium, one may choose a realistic shelter to keep in a display environment.

Heat tape (heat pads are very similar).
Heat tape (heat pads are very similar). | Source

Heating for Leopard Gecko Enclosures

The heating element used for a leopard gecko depends on the type of enclosure used to house the particular leopard gecko. There are many different types of heating elements one can choose from when deciding to keep a leopard gecko(s).

  • Heat Pads and Heat Tape: these particular heating elements are widely available in stores that specialize in reptiles and reptile care. If one chooses to use this either of these elements, one would put the heat tape or a heat pad on the bottom of the enclosure on one side of the tank only. Heating pads or tape make great heating elements for a vivarium that has a thin substrate (such as paper). If a person has a vivarium with a deep substrate a different heating element should be used. When selecting a heat pad or heat tape, one should choose a size that cover 25 to 35 percent of the floor of the particular enclosure. It is important that one allows most of the floor areas to be unheated to allow the animal(s) to thermoregulate. If a heat pad (or heat tape) is the chosen heating element for the vivarium, one should have a raised tank (or enclosure) to prevent overheating (if the heat pad is trapped beneath the tank and table top, the enclosure can overheat and possibly crack or melt). Follow the instructions of the particular heat pad or tape thoroughly to prevent any overheating issues or fires.

  • Incandescent Bulbs: There are some leopard gecko specialists that choose to use a incandescent light bulb to heat a leopard gecko vivarium. These bulbs are used in reflective-type fixtures anchored above a screen top or open top enclosures. Red bulbs can be used day and night. For most leopard gecko enclosures, one would only need a 40 to 60 watt bulb would produce the proper heat range for a leopard gecko. The bulbs need a fully ventilated top on the vivarium enclosure.

  • Heat Rocks: Even though hot rocks are not ideal for leopard geckos, most pet supply store will recommend them, and other may choose to have them in the vivarium due to aesthetics. If one does choose to use heat rocks in a leopard gecko enclosure, it should only be used as a secondary heat source when necessary and monitored closely to prevent overheating and ultimately burns on the lizard. Heat rocks can get very hot (up to 105 degrees F) and tend to have uneven “hot spots” and are not ideal for the heat gradient that a leopard gecko needs. Always place a thermometer on the heat rock when in use to ensure it does not get too hot and burn the under belly of the leopard gecko.

Humidity hut (there is a top that snaps on) with a coconut husk substrate.
Humidity hut (there is a top that snaps on) with a coconut husk substrate. | Source

Humidity for Leopard Geckos

Like many other desert creatures, leopard geckos need moderate amount of relative air humidity to survive and thrive. Humidity is necessary for proper shedding to prevent tail or limb loss, as well as preventing dehydration in the animal. To ensure your gecko has the proper humidity in the enclosure, it is important to have a separate humidity hut/shelter (two shelters total, one dry, one humidified). The humidity hut should have a substrate that holds moisture for long periods of time, such as, coconut husk fiber (or paper towels). Having a separate humidity is ideal because the gradient will be even and the gecko can move in and out of the shelters at its own convenience (it will also reduce the amount of maintenance for the leopard gecko owner). When the humidity hut is dry, the leopard gecko owner can use a spray bottle to add moisture to the substrate. One can create/make their own humidity hut from a ziploc container by cutting a small hole in the top (so the gecko can get in and out at its own leisure).

Maintenance for Leopard Gecko Enclosures

Leopard gecko enclosures are fairly easy to clean and maintain, because these lizards are exceptionally clean reptiles and defecate in a single spot within the enclosure (the stools are also fairly dry and easy to scoop out). One must scoop out the animals feces from the enclosure every two weeks and replace the substrate if necessary (if paper towels are used as a substrate, they must be replaced). When cleaning out the feces, make sure there are no dead bugs (food) left over within the enclosure. Wash the water dish and provide the leopard gecko(s) with fresh water every few days. Make sure the humidity hut is damp when replacing and cleaning the water dish(es). The enclosure itself must be cleaned and disinfected at least twice a year (to reduce the amount of ammonia, and other harmful chemicals produced when water is combined with gecko feces.

Source

Philippe de Vosjoli, Roger Klingenberg, Ron Tremper, and Brian Viets. The Leopard Gecko Manual. Irvine: Advanced Vivarium Systems, Inc. 2004. Print.

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    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Interesting and thorough! I don't have any geckos....yet! But if I ever do, I will know who to reference for info. Thank you! Up, useful and interesting!

    • SaffronBlossom profile image

      SaffronBlossom 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Awesome, detailed hub! I don't do well with scaly things but I do enjoy learning about your unique pet and how to take care of it. :)

    • LagunaAlkaline profile image

      Amanda 4 years ago from Camas, WA

      Great hub! While I am not a big fan of lizards and reptiles, my daughter has been talking about wanting one. I am so thankful that I read this hub if I ever do decide to give into my daughter's pleas. Thanks! I voted up, useful, and interesting!

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