I know from experience that it can be pretty hard to set up a cage for a reptile if you never owned a reptile before. Especially when it comes to lighting, a lot of people get very confused and I totally understand why.
When I was a reptile newbie I read tons of articles on the internet on reptile terrariums and every article told me something different than the article before.
I ended up buying completely wrong stuff for my reptile and as you can imagine, my pet suffered and I spent tons of money, because I had to buy a complete new setup after I failed to buy the right setup.
That was a painful experience and I do not want you to make the same experience.
So in this article about Leopard gecko housing I am going to show you in detail what you exactly need for an awesome Leopard gecko habitat. With this leopard gecko tank setup you will be ready for your cute little gecko to move in.
A 20 GALLON LEOPARD GECKO TANK
Most people say that a 10 Gallon tank is the right Leopard Gecko tank size.
The reason why they say that is because they think that it is easier then for their leopard geckos to find their food. I can only laugh when I hear that.
There are numerous methods to make sure that your gecko find its food, but buying a tiny Leopard gecko terrarium should be none of them.
I recommend to get at least a 15 Gallon tank. I know that most people get an aquarium and use it as a terrarium.
You can do that, but than you have to grab your gecko from above when you want to get it out of the tank. Please keep in mind that Leopard geckos natural enemys are eagles and hawks, which attack from above.
So it can get stressed if you grab it from above.
That´s why I get a Leopard gecko cage with doors.
This way I reduce stress and I do not have to take of the lighting setup and the screencover when I want to handle my gecko, which I would have to do, if I would have an aquarium.
Here is the tank I recommend. It is a little bit more expensive, but definitely worth the price, since there is a screencover, a background and a integrated air circulation system included.
I do not recommend those plastic boxes, which you can see all over Youtube as a cage for a Leopard gecko.
A reptile is a living being and not some old pair of shoes that you stuff into a box with other stuff you do not need at the moment.
THE RIGHT LIGHTING FOR YOUR GECKO
Oh man, back in the day, when I started with reptiles, lighting drove me crazy.
It was really confusing, because I just wanted to know which bulb I should exactly buy to reach the right temperature and all that, but instead I just found posts inforums on the internet where people discussed which bulbs have a stronger UVB output.
You most probably know that problem. Don´t worry, when it comes to lighting, Leopard geckos are pretty unchallenging.
If you get a 20 Gallon tank, a 60W to 75W heating bulb is all you need for a basic setup.
Of course you also need a fixture for that bulb which you can place on the screencover. With this bulb and this fixture you are good to go.
If you need a little bit more information about lighting for your Leos, have a look at my Lighting guide.
I explain everything you need to know there, including what the right temperature is and why Leopard geckos do not really need a UVB bulb.
THE RIGHT SUBSTRATE FOR YOUR LEOPARD GECKO
Substrate is a very important topic. Most people use kitchen roll, reptile carpet, or newspaper for their Leopard gecko cage setup.
The reason for that is that especially baby Leopard geckos easily get impacted when they accidentally eat some of the substrate while they are hunting their food.
Sand is most probably one of the most common causes of death of Leopard geckos kept as pets.
While I absolutely agree that sand is the worst substrates for Leos (and for a lot of other reptiles, too), I do not think that kitchen roll, newspaper, or reptile carpet is the best standard substrate for a Leopard gecko enclosure.
WHEN SHOULD YOU USE REPTILE CARPET OR KITCHEN ROLL?
I would use kitchen roll or repti carpet only if your Leopard gecko is still a little baby.
There is no risk of impaction and besides that it is easier to clean for the first couple of months, since Leopard geckos poo a lot when they are babys, because they eat soooo much in the beginning. ?
Further I would need that as a substrate for quarantine tanks.
THE BEST SUBSTRATE I HAVE FOUND SO FAR
Okay, so here is the substrate which I think is the best for a lot of reptiles. I do not only use it for my Leopard geckos. I have a lot of reptiles and I also use it for my Bearded dragons for example.
This clay gets hard after it dried out.
That means that there is no risk that your reptile might eat some of the substrate and get impacted.
Further you can form caves and hills with this clay. This way you can create an awesome looking natural Leopard gecko habitat. You can also put plastic plants or any other good looking stuff in the clay before it dries out.
The clay is not expensive at all and you can also get a Cavern Kit which helps you to form caves and hills, however, of course, you do not really need that.
If you need more information abou substrate for Leopard geckos, have a look at my Substrate Guide.
HIDES FOR A LEOPARD GECKO
You definitely need at least two hides for your Leopard geckos. One should be more warm and dry and the other hide should be moist and in the cooler zone so that your pet always have the possibility to cool down a bit.
As I said, you can form hides for your reptile with the substrate I recommend above. However if you do not have any hides, you should get a cheap hide. This one, for example.
The moist hide in the cooler zone is a little bit different and I wrote a little guide on how to create that here: Moist Hide For A Leo. The article opens in a new window tab, so you can continue reading here as well.
WHAT YOU SHOULD ALSO GET
With the setup above you are actually ready for a Leopard gecko. However you should add some branches or plants to this habitat.
I always emphasize that it is very important to create a natural habitat for a reptile. We keep them in captivity, so I think it is our job to create a good environment for our reptiles.
So go and get some branches and other stuff, so that your gecko has some more hiding places.
Further you should get a water dish.
In the wild, Leopard geckos just lick moist leaves to get water, for that you have to mist your Leopard gecko habitat and you have to have real plants, since plastic plants dry very quickly.
So the easiest way to make sure that your Leo is always hydrated is to get a water dish. A food dish is not necessary, by the way.
A WORD ON HOUSING MULTIPLE LEOPARD GECKOS
Many people who get a Leopard gecko want a second, third or fourth gecko after a short while and that´s totally understandable, since Leos are so cute and actually pretty easy to take care of, because they are hardy.
Housing two Leopard geckos or even more requires a bigger tank. However the tank should not be too big. Why?
Leopard geckos are territorial in the wild. In captivity they do not show territorial behavior, because they do not have enough space for that.
However, if you give them a really big tank, they will start to show their territorial behavior.
So because of that, you should not get a tank that is too big when you get a second gecko. I suggest a 30 Gallon tank for that. OR stick to the 20-Gallon tank above at first if you have one of the smaller breeds.
I really hope that this Leopard Gecko Housing Guide helped you. I use this setup for a very long time now and I can tell you that I never had any problems with it.
Besides that, this is a relatively cheap Leopard gecko setup If you need more information or if you have additional questions, just leave me a comment in the comment section below.
I always answer and help my readers, so do not hesitate to contact me. ?
Wanna learn more about Leopard Geckos? Read my Care Guide!
What amazing information on your site.
My son got a juvenile Leo about one week ago. He is set up in the basic 10 gal tank now with the basic white daytime / red nighttime lights and the appropriate hot / cool sides and hides. That being said, the little fella is getting an upgrade to the Exo Terra Medium Low (20 gal) Terrarium in a few days.
We really like the light canopy designed for this Terrarium – what light setup would you recommend in using this canopy? The new terrarium will of course have an UTH.
thank you so much, appreciate the positive feedback!
Great that the little gecko gets an upgrade 🙂 You know, I am not the biggest fan of red lights. The red light gets into the skin of your gecko and can cause damage.
So maybe get rid of the red light and instead follow my advice on my Leopard Gecko Lighting Guide
It will also show you the best lighting set up for your 20Gal tank.
You don´t have to do it, just a recommendation 🙂
Hope this helps, Lee!
You mentioned using live plants for the leos. I love live rather than plastic, so many benefits. My question is what plants are safe?
get some Tillandsia and Aloe aristata. 🙂
Those are pretty good in a leo tank.
Hello, thank you so much. This has been very helpful. For the wet hide. How often should you replace the sphagnum moss? Also does any brand of sphagnum moss work? I have one for like orchids and stuff?
I always use this sphagnum moss, because I know the ingredients. However other brands might work as well. Make sure it is organic.
It depends, I always keep an eye on the moss and change it when it doesn´t look too “good” anymore.
Have a look at it once a week and decide if you want to change it 🙂
Thank you! All of your information has been more than helpful for me. My son has a l leo, he is obsessed with it, I decided I wanted to make a custom terrarium. I am in the process of converting an old 27” console TV. The idea is once compled it will look like it is on animal planet or similar. I am leaning towards a heat rock for the bottom and a UVB on top as well as using his current lights for the night time lighting. I’ve been told I’m putting too much into this, but then I am a go big or go home DIY type of person. I was also told to use coconut soil, what is your opinion on my project? I will take any and all feedback, thank you
sounds awesome! Just make sure that there will be enough fresh air in the TV.
Also, do not leave the lights on at night. The terrarium needs to be dark during the night and it should cool down. This would not be possible with the lights on.
As for the substrate, you can use all kinds of substrates as long as you supplement the right way. I love this one and you can even combine it with some rocks or something like that and it will look fantastic.
Have fun with the project, I am sure it will look amazing!
Love your website, it is very informative! We just bought our son a leopard gecko and the pet store clerk told us that having a heating pad on one side of the terrarium was better than having a light. So we have a hide on that side and another hide with moss in it on the other side. Would you recommend anything else?
thank you for reading, I am happy that you find it helpful.
Yes, I would recommend to put in some branches or stones or something like that. Have a look at this article to get some inspiration.