Expert reptile advice and information

Leopard Gecko Vivarium Setup

Here you will find everything you need to know about setting up your Leopard Gecko vivarium. Click on the content links below to get important information on heating, lighting and decor for your Leopard Gecko.

Leopard Gecko Enclosure / Vivarium size

A leopard gecko can be housed in a vivarium (wooden, glass or even plastic) which is no smaller than 30"x12.5"x12.5" although you will not have to upgrade and it will be comfortable in this size vivarium. You can house more than one leopard gecko in a vivarium, although it will need to be larger - for example, for two or three leopard geckos a vivarium of 42"x18"x18" is recommended as this gives them enough space and you can install overhead lighting too.

If you do choose to house more than one leopard gecko together you must make sure you do not have more than one male. Once they sexually mature they tend to be very territorial and will fight, occasionally to the death.

Leopard Gecko Hides

The leopard gecko requires somewhere to hide as they are nocturnal and as we are trying to replicate their natural environment they need somewhere to hide during the day. If no hide is provided they can become stressed. A hide can be bought, or made, so long as it is dark and sheltered you can use what you want so long as it is stable.

As a leopard gecko will tend to spend most of its time during the day in the hide, it is important for it to be moist and humid as this helps the gecko to shed its skin. This is best placed at the warm end of the vivarium.

It is well worth having two or three hides in your vivarium, as mentioned above - one moist and humid and another two at the mid and cool end of the vivarium. This gives your leopard gecko a dark place to hide from the sunlight during the day so they can thermo-regulate (control their body temperature) as they would do normally.

Leopard Gecko Heating

Heating must be provided for a leopard gecko through the day which is very important for maintaining a healthy Leopard Gecko. As leopard geckos like other reptiles need to thermo-regulate themselves they need an external heat source to digest their food and a gradient with a hot and cool end.

Ground temperatures:

During the day the Hot end should be around 87 - 90 degrees Fahrenheit

During the day the Cool end should be around 70 - 73 degrees Fahrenheit

Air temperatures:

During the day the Hot end should be no more than 85 degrees Fahrenheit

During the day the Cool end should be no more than 77 degrees Fahrenheit

At night the temperature should be no lower than 64 degrees Fahrenheit

The leopard gecko obtains it's heat through the underside of their body, so a good option to heat the vivarium would be to use a heat mat (under the substrate or under the vivarium) controlled by a thermostat set at 92 degrees Fahrenheit (under the tank, so the ground temp gets to approx 87 - 90 degrees Fahrenheit). I advise you leave your heat mat on 24/7 and ensure there is ventilation below the tank to make sure the heat map doesn't start burning things.

During the day you can also use an overhead bulb, an infra red or blue bulb would be less invasive, although you generally shouldn't see your leopard gecko during the day. Ensure you get the air temperature(s) correct with the positioning of the bulb on the hot end of the vivarium. You would need to use this in conjunction with a thermostat so the air temperature doesn't get too hot.

So, using a heat mat will get your ground temperature spot on, using the bulb during the day will get the air temperatures correct although there is some really misleading information about what needs to be done at night.

Some people for night time lighting/heating suggest using an infra-red or a blue night bulb. I have read extensively on this subject that a gecko can see most forms of light and it is common knowledge that their eyes are very sensitive to light; knowing this I came to the conclusion that they do not need to have an infra-red light for 12 hours per night, they certainly do not have this in the wild - it could potentially stress them out whilst they roam about. However, I am not condemning these bulbs altogether, I personally have one fitted but I control it manually and use it only for 5 - 10 minutes a time to watch them do their thing.

If the temperature of the vivarium is dropping below 64 degrees Fahrenheit you can use a ceramic heat emitter with a thermostat to keep the temperature stable. This produces only heat and no light so will not cause stress for you leopard gecko.

Hot rocks - Unsafe - Do not use, you cannot control the temperature and you could end up causing your leopard gecko serious damage to their underside.

Leopard Gecko Lighting

Leopard Geckos do not need any lighting or UV light which other reptiles do require although there must be some difference between day and night. As mentioned above, lights can be used to heat the vivarium and this gives your gecko the distinction between day and night. You can use a timer on the infra-red or blue bulb which allows 12 hours extra heat for the day, and 12 hours of cooler temperatures for the night.

Leopard Gecko Substrate

There are many different substrates available for you to use although there are some which are not advisable to use and others which can cause serious harm to your leopard gecko.

A baby or juvenile leopard gecko should be kept on kitchen roll, this allows for easy cleaning and mean that they can perfect their hunting skills and not ingest any substrate which could be potentially harmful.

When your leopard gecko is approximately 5 - 6 inches in length you can use other substrates such as some kind of tiles, slate or fine sand. Using tiles or slate looks great and allows you to easily clean and sterilize them. Not only this but you should never need to replace these either (unless you drop or snap them).

Using sand as a substrate is largely debated and can potentially cause impaction, this is when the sand or substrate is ingested and does not pass through your gecko - this can eventually build up in their stomach and cause serious illness or even death. Sand is not the easiest substrate to clean although you can normally dig it out and leave no residue.

Calci-sand is far worse for impaction as it tends to clump together when moist and once again can be fatal for your gecko - I advise you to never use this as a substrate for any gecko.

There are certain breeders and reptile keepers who are very successful with using sand as a substrate. To reduce the risk of impaction for your leopard gecko make sure you use fine, sifted, child's play sand. You can further reduce the risk of impaction if you feed your gecko in an area with no sand, providing a mixture of tiles on a bed of sand can be a good combination.

Another option is reptile carpet although this does not look brilliant and your leopard gecko's claws may get caught up in it from time to time, it easy enough to clean and there is no risk of impaction.

Do not use other loose substrates such as wood chips, wood shavings, walnut shells and gravel. Never use these substrates as they are not suitable for use with a gecko as they will cause impaction if ingested by mistake and there are no benefits to using these. If for whatever reason you do choose to use any of these as a substrate make sure the chips are large enough so your gecko will not be able to ingest them.

Other Decor

While you don't really need anything else in the vivarium other than hides, heating and substrate for a naturalistic look you can add more décor such as bogwood, fake plants and fake vine. Make sure everything is washed thoroughly before introducing it to the vivarium, if you get wood from outside you must make sure you give it a wash and bake it in the oven for a couple of hours at a low heat to remove all mites, bacteria and dust it has on it.

Water dish

A shallow dish of water should always be provided for your Leopard Gecko in case it is dehydrated. Make sure it is a shallow dish to ensure your gecko will not drown.

Calcium dish

A small dish of calcium powder should be left in the vivarium with your Leopard Gecko(s) at all times so they can help themselves. See the Leopard Gecko care page for more information on calcium powder and supplements.