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Leopard Gecko Vivarium

How To Set Up A Leopard Gecko Vivarium

Setting up a leopard gecko vivarium may not be the easiest task but if you do it right the first time, it will ensure the health of your pet and you won’t have to redo it later.  This species is exceptionally popular to keep as a pet mainly because they are incredibly docile and relatively small.  Due to their size, the leopard gecko vivarium doesn’t have to be overly large but that does not mean that you can skip any needed steps or not be attentive to cleaning.

There are a few opinions on how these geckos should be housed.  Some may be accurate but others are entirely wrong.  Keep in mind that given proper living conditions, these reptiles can live 20 years or more so an enclosure that is not set up or cared for properly can significantly shorten the gecko’s life.

Vivarium Size

Since the species is so small, your leopard gecko vivarium does not have to be much larger than a 20 gallon tank with a lid.  If you have a larger tank, your reptile will surely appreciate it but anything much smaller will just be too crowded once you add bowls and hides.

On the other hand, if you do go with a larger enclosure, be sure to add extra decorative pieces and hides because too much open room can stress your lizard out.


The most important element in your leopard gecko vivarium is the temperature.  This species really prefers the hot portion of their enclosure to stay at 88 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.  An under tank heater is the easiest way to achieve this and leopard geckos absorb heat through their bellies so these are ideal.

It is a good idea to attach a thermometer to the inside of your tank somewhere near the substrate for an adequate reading.  You want to avoid using those stick on thermometers as they are never accurate.  It is worth it to spend a few extra dollars on a quality tool to keep your pet healthy and happy.


Many people make a crucial error when choosing substrate for their leopard gecko vivarium.  Some assume that just because these are a desert species that they need sand but this is not entirely true.  Even geckos in their native habitat are found where there are rocks and compacted sand.

If your gecko is older, by all means, offer it sand for its substrate.  However, if you have a younger reptile, sand is not recommended because they are so clumsy that they will often end up eating a good amount of sand when they attempt to catch their prey.

You may find that uneducated pet store employees will recommend calcium-based sand because the bag says that it is digestible but when it gets wet, it clumps.  That is exactly what it does inside your gecko too.  Other substrates that you should completely avoid are potting soil, wood shavings, silica sand, bark chips, cat litter, walnut shells and crushed corn cob.

The best substrates to use in your leopard gecko vivarium are reptile carpet, paper towels, indoor/outdoor carpet, roll-out liner or slate tiles.


Every enclosure for a leopard gecko needs a minimum of three hides.  Two should be dry and one needs to be humid.  A dry hide should be placed on both the hot side and the cold side of the enclosure.  This way, if your gecko gets too warm under his hide on the hot side, he can thermoregulate his body temperature and move to the cold side.

The humid hide needs to be on the warmer side of the tank so that the heat can cause humidity.  You can buy a specific humid hide or you can easily use a Tupperware container with a lid, cut a large hole in the top and add a bit of vermiculite or peat moss.  This is also where your leopard gecko will go when it is time to shed.


You need to place a small amount of calcium somewhere in your leopard gecko vivarium.  Most people find a small, wider lid from a bottled beverage to be the perfect size bowl for the calcium.