Building a Leopard Gecko Terrarium

Leopard geckos are great reptile pets, especially as a first time reptile and/or for beginners. Like their cousin, the Crested gecko, they are not aggressive and can generally tolerate being handled. Leopard geckos are nocturnal creatures, meaning that they are most active during the night. This is important to keep in mind when building your leopard gecko terrarium because this means you do not need to use an as potent UVB lamp compared to other reptiles. Some people don’t even use a lamp at all.

However, you should still have some sort of heating device such as a tank heater. Leopard geckos are known for absorbing heat through their stomachs. So with whatever heating device you use, you will probably want to place it on the bottom and let the heat radiate upwards into your leopard gecko terrarium. It is preferable that you do not place the heating device directly in the middle. Instead, place it to the side, allowing for hot and cooler sides of the terrarium.

A leopard gecko.

Here’s one showing off its dots.


Additional considerations for your leopard gecko terrarium

Leopard geckos grow up to a maximum length of 25cm. So a terrarium with 60x40x40cm of space or similar would be more than enough room to comfortably fit 2 leopard geckos.  An easy rule of thumb when deciding how large of an aquarium you’re going to want is to add 20 liters for every additional leopard gecko. Remember to adjust the warmer and cooling areas of the leopard gecko terrarium accordingly. Chose long terrariums over tall ones of the same volume as leopard geckos cannot climb up the glass.

This is due to their lack of toe pads, a screen mesh won’t be necessary to keep them from climbing out. However, depending on the type of insects you feed your geckos, you may want a mesh to keep the insects from getting out of the leopard gecko terrarium. If you plan on breeding insects to feed your geckos, considering reading our guide on building cricket and mealworm insectariums.

A mesh will be recommended if you have other pets in your home and will help in keeping your leopard geckos safe.

Leopard gecko terrarium

Here is an example.

Finding a Substrate

You’re going to need to line the bottom of your leopard gecko terrarium with an appropriate substrate. It can will be uncomfortable if not unhealthy for your leopard gecko to live on bare glass. It is recommended that you use something such as newspaper, tile, paper towels, pieces of slate, or reptile carpet. Even substrates such as peat moss are acceptable.

If paper is used it is advised that it be blank or at the very least, the ink on it non-toxic. If tile is used it can also double as a surface for basking.

You must chose an appropriate substrate with care. This is due to the tendency for leopard geckos to eat some of the substrates when they feed. Remember that leopard geckos eat insects and that some of the substrate can be accidentally eaten as well.

Leopard gecko in terrarium

Make sure to chose a substrate with care!

Do NOT use wood products such as wood chips. This will be hazardous to your leopard gecko’s health. Cedar and pine are especially hazardous due to their aromatic nature and are toxic when consumed. Also be wary of walnut shells and aquarium gravel which is small enough to be eaten but are too large to safely pass through the digestive tract.

There is some debate about using calcium-enriched sands. While the sand may provide calcium to your geckos when ingested, there are concerns about the digestibility of the sand resulting in blockages. If you do use sand in your leopard gecko terrarium, make sure it is the finest quality that you can get. This will reduce the chance of blockages. Anything larger than 0.5mm is too large.

It is also recommended that you do not use sand on younger geckos. Allow them to grow to at least 12cm before using sand as a substrate.


Appropriate Shelters

Due to leopard geckos nocturnal nature they will naturally want to hide during the day. While you can buy shelters from stores, nearly any kind of container or box can be used for your geckos. This can range from yogurt containers, cardboard boxes, or even toilet paper rolls. Just make sure there is an opening for them to get into and that there is nothing toxic.

You are going to want multiple shelters, preferably at least one in the heated and cooler areas of your leopard gecko terrarium. This will allow the geckos to hide in whatever areas of the terrarium they are more comfortable with. If you have a larger terrarium, you will want more shelters.

Example of a leopard gecko terrarium

Here is a good example.

Multiple leopard geckos

If you are going to have multiple leopard geckos in a single terrarium you are going to have to take several things into consideration. In the wild they are not naturally communal animals and they can be territorial. Some geckos will become aggressive to members of the same sex after becoming sexually mature which happens at about 9 months of age.

Given the chance, these lizards will breed during mating season. If you plan on breeding them, you’re going to want at least 3 females for every male. This way the stress on the females from egg laying will be reduced. If you do not want them breeding, you will want separate leopard gecko terrariums.

Another reason for having separate leopard gecko terrariums is in the case of one leopard gecko growing larger faster than than the rest of the group. This can result in the other leopard geckos becoming undernourished due to food competition. You may want to remove the larger gecko to see if the situation improves. New leopard geckos should be isolated in a separate terrarium for up to 3 months. This will help prevent transfer of diseases.

Some leopard geckos are just unable to live with others due to their disposition. You will be forced to provide a separate terrarium for them to prevent future conflicts.

NEVER house your leopard geckos with other animals including other reptiles. The chance of an animal becoming injured or eating one another is too high and is not worth it.

Two leopard geckos

Some leopard geckos however get along just fine.

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