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Housing Leopard Geckos

March 29th, 2010

Leopard geckoThe first step in keeping a leopard gecko as a pet is providing an appropriate terrarium. One adult leopard gecko will need a 20-gallon terrarium, and two geckos will need a larger terrarium. Height is more important than width because leopard geckos love to climb. You can easily house multiple geckos together, but never put two male geckos together; they’re very territorial and will inevitably kill each other. A leopard gecko’s terrarium should never be placed in direct sunlight because this will lead to dangerous temperature fluctuations.

Leopard geckos descend from the deserts of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, so they like to have a sandy substrate on the bottom of their enclosure. Pet shops often sell sand made especially for the purpose of being reptile-safe. Leopard geckos have a habit of sampling their substrate, which is why it’s important to use sand specifically for reptiles, and not fine, decorative sand you may get at a craft store. If you happen to acquire a very young hatchling, do not house it in sand. Instead, use reptile carpet or newspaper until it’s older, at least 6 months.

A hiding box is also essential to keeping your leopard gecko in a low-stress environment. Many pet shops sell natural looking hiding logs or caves, but you can also make your own out of a plastic tub with a hole cut in the side. You’ll need at least two hiding places: one on the hot side of your tank, and one on the cool side.

With that being said, temperature is obviously an important factor when housing leopard geckos. Your tank should have a temperature gradient so that your leopard gecko can adjust its body temperature. A heating lamp with full-spectrum lighting should be placed at one end of the tank. During the day, the warm side of your tank should be 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit, while the cool side should be 80-95 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, the temperature should be cooler (70-75 degrees) which is easy to do because at night you turn their heat lamp off.

Heating rocks should never be used for leopard geckos because they will burn themselves. Never take a chance with guessing what your terrarium's temperature is; purchase a thermometer. You should also purchase a humidity gauge. Humidity levels should stay around 70%, going up to 80% during times of shedding. You can achieve this by lightly misting your gecko’s terrarium once a day. One of the hide boxes you provide should be kept especially moist.

It’s essential to provide water in a clean, ground level dish your leopard gecko can easily access. You’ll also need to provide branches to allow for climbing. Rocks (regular rocks, not heated rocks) and branches should also be arranged under the heating lamp to create a basking area. Rocks with a fairly rough texture should be placed throughout the cage to aid in shedding. While they should be rough, they should have no pointy or sharp edges. You can also choose to include fake plants in your terrarium, or non-toxic live plants. While this is visually pleasing, it also reduces the stress on your gecko.