Leopard Gecko: How to set up your terrarium?

The leopard gecko is one of the most popular lizards because it is easy to breed and has a temperament easy to live with for its owners. In addition, it does not require a large terrarium and its night life style makes it an ideal animal for those who work during the day. This reptile is also recommended for novices because of its simple basic needs. However, a few precautions should be taken for its well-being.

Cohabitation: 4 rules to respect

  • Never put two adult males in the same terrarium as they would kill each other!
  • Never move a female who has in the past cohabited with a male in the terrarium of another male because she would appear to the eyes of the latter as a rival.
  • Never make babies, young geckos and adults live together. The smallest would then be devoured by the oldest!
  • Never put too many geckos in the same terrarium. This would cause stress and develop aggressive behaviour. To find out how many geckos a terrarium can accommodate, just do a simple calculation. Multiply the length of the terrarium by its width and once you have obtained the result, keep only the first number. Example for a 60 cm long and 50 cm wide terrarium: 60 x 50 = 3000 so it can accommodate a maximum of 3 geckos (ideally 2).

Heating and lighting

As said before, the gecko is an animal that lives at night. A terrarium lighting (with bulbs or neon lights) is therefore essential. Moreover, it must absolutely reproduce the alternation of day and night that it knows in the natural environment. Caution: if UV light is necessary to allow the gecko to synthesize vitamin D and calcium, overexposure to UV light can cause cancer and blindness in certain species, especially strains of albino specimens.

The length of the day-night cycle differs from one breeder to another: some breeders plan 14 hours of heating and lighting versus 10 hours of darkness, others prefer a 12-hour cycle of each.

Regarding heating, it is essential to divide your terrarium into two zones of equal size: a warm zone and a cold zone. During the day, the temperature should be between 30 to 32° C in the warm zone and between 26 to 28° C in the cold zone. At night, set the thermostat between 20 and 22° C. It is advisable to place at least two thermometers for your terrarium for perfect control. Also, we advise you to have at least one hygrometer thermometer in order to be able to control, in addition to the temperature, the humidity of the premises.

The leopard gecko is an animal whose temperature varies according to that of its environment. Below the adequate temperature threshold, the activity of your reptile will be abnormal: impossibility to digest, functioning of the organs in slow motion, lower performance of the immune system. If, on the other hand, the temperature is above this threshold, your reptile is at risk of death.

For heating in the strict sense, several options are available: carpet or cable, ideally complemented by a heating lamp. The two devices are in fact complementary: the mat and the cable heat the floor directly, while a lamp heats the ambient air.

The heating mat is usually installed under your terrarium. It can also be placed indoors, but only if contact with the animal is avoided, for example by means of a perforated plate in front of the heat source. The mat should be placed in the hot zone, on the same side as the heat lamp. The heating cable can also be installed indoors, in a hot zone, avoiding direct contact with the animal (risk of burns).
Always choose the number of watts of your mat, cord or lamp with care: it depends on the size of your terrarium. 25 watts for a small terrarium, 50 to 75 watts for a medium and 100 watts for a large one.

And above all, no matter which heating mode you choose, always couple it with a thermostat to prevent the temperature from being too cold or too hot, which would represent a real danger for the animal.

Layout and decoration

Some breeders are happy with a strictly functional environment, but the ideal is still to reproduce the reptile’s natural environment by decorating your terrarium.

First of all, we do not recommend the use of sand. Wood shavings are the safest substrate because they avoid the dangers – sometimes deadly – of sand. Also avoid artificial grass, which is conducive to the proliferation of germs and bacteria.

A reptile shelter is an essential place because the gecko hides and rests there during the day. It is necessary to provide at least two shelters per animal: one in a warm zone and one in a cold zone. To reproduce its original habitat as well as possible, it can eventually be filled with moss.

Do not hesitate to decorate its living place with artificial plants, stones, flat or large, roots, branches placed vertically to allow it to climb… Like the shelters, these elements should if possible be slightly sunk into the ground and partially covered with substrate. Fill spaces without substrate so as not to leave the ground “bare”.

Finally, maintain good terrarium hygiene by changing the water every day and collecting the excrement regularly. Several times a year, clean the terrarium and its accessories and replace the substrate.

Water and food

Don’t forget to place a water bowl where your gecko can drink clean water, to be renewed every day. Next to it, place a bowl filled with food. The crickets are the food base of the lizard. Note that it is not advisable to feed them with mealworms (morio worms). If possible, feed them with tongs.

Always remember to supplement their diet with calcium powder, which is essential to prevent them from decalcification-related diseases. You can serve this powder in a bowl or sprinkle it directly on his meal. This will prevent the gecko from getting the calcium it lacks by ingesting sand, which can lead to intestinal occlusions that are often fatal.

Finally, keep in mind that the health of your reptile is measured by the size of its tail. A thin tail will therefore be synonymous with an undernourished or sick gecko.