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How To Create The Best Leopard Gecko Setup

Leopard geckos are crepuscular. Meaning they spend most of their day in their hide and come out during the evening and early in the morning. As domestic pets, they are easy-going.

This makes them quite popular. Additionally, they come in over 100 different morphs. (Morphs refer to the variety of patterns and colors of the leopard gecko available.)

As with many other reptiles kept as pets, it is important to try and emulate the natural habitat of the gecko. They are native to the arid and semi-arid highlands of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Northwest India, and Pakistan. These highlands are rocky and the vegetation mostly comprises of shrubs and grass.

Best Habitat for A Leopard Gecko Quick Product List

Acquiring The Vivarium/Terrarium

Exo Terra Short All Glass Terrarium, 18 by 18 by 12-Inch

Unlike other geckos, leos don’t climb as they don’t have the sticky padded toes that other geckos have. They are ground animals so don’t expect them to climb up the walls of the terrarium you house them in. With that in mind, you have to get them a terrarium which is wide and long instead of high.

Also, it is unwise to get a mesh or wire cage. Firstly, such a cage cannot hold heat adequately (which is important in creating a temperature gradient within the enclosure). Secondly, the toes and feet of the gecko can get stuck/injured when caught in the mesh.

It is important to get at least a 10 gallon leopard gecko setup. However, I recommend a 15 to 20-gallon setup. The Exo Terra Short All Glass Terrarium is an excellent choice. This vivarium will serve you well the entire 22-year lifespan of the gecko. It measures 18 x 18 x 12 inches and has a capacity of 17 gallons.

Leos are solitary animals and prefer to be alone. With that said, it is possible to house more than a single gecko in an enclosure. Males should not be housed in the same enclosure.

They are territorial and will fight a lot. This can lead to serious injuries and even death. Females can be housed together since they are less likely to fight. If they do fight be prepared to move them to separate enclosures.

Two female adults can be housed in a 15 to 20-gallon enclosure. Lastly, three female adults can be housed in a 20 to 30-gallon enclosure. It is unwise to house more than three leos in the same enclosure.

Setting Up the Temperature Gradient and Lighting

Inkbird WiFi ITC-308 Digital Temperature Controller Thermostat Remote Monitoring Controlling Home Brewing Fermentation Breeding Incubation Greenhouse

The enclosure needs a warm end (about a third of the tank) and a cool end. This allows the reptile to regulate its body temperature by moving between the cool and the warm end. Creating this temperature gradient is essential and a must.

First, you need a good-quality thermometer. I recommend a temperature gun such as the Etekcity Thermometer gun.

Secondly, you need to get an under-tank heater. Tape this to a third of the area at the bottom of the enclosure. Never use a basking rock. A heat lamp can also be used as a supplement if the heat map is unable to heat the enclosure adequately. The recommended heat mat is the Fluker’s Heat Mat. We recommend the Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter if you plan on getting a heat lamp for the enclosure.

Thirdly, regulate the temperature. During the day, the warm end should have a temperature of 90 °F (32 °C), while the cool side has a temperature of around 80 °F (27 °C). During the night, the temperature of both the cool and warm side needs to be 80 °F (27 °C). You can use a thermostat such as the INKBIRD ITC-308 to regulate the temperature. See our thermostat review for more.

Lastly, the leos need a day-night cycle. You need to acquire normal fluorescent light to light up the enclosure for 12 hours each day if the enclosure doesn’t have access to sunlight.

You can acquire a night lamp that produces UV since the leo is most active during dusk and dawn.  A UV light is optional as most leopard gecko pet keepers supplement the gecko’s diet with vitamin D3, calcium, and other essential nutrients.

Providing Substrate

ZooMed Eco Cage Carpet for 55 Gallon tanks, 13”x48”

Firstly, you should never use sand as a substrate for the enclosure. The gecko can swallow the sand and this leads to impaction.

For young geckos, it is best to use paper towels until they reach a length of about 7 inches. After that, you can use another substrate if you like. Paper towels are easy to find and easy to clean (just replace them). On the downside, they are not aesthetically pleasing. Also insects the gecko refuses to eat can get stuck underneath the paper.

Another great bedding to use is reptile carpet such as the Zoo Med Eco Cage Carpet. They are designed specifically for reptiles and are as safe as paper towels. Similar to paper towels, insects such as crickets can hide underneath the carpet.

Other substrates you can use include calcium sand (not actual sand), shelf lining, butcher paper, and newspaper.

Decorating The Enclosure

Exo Terra Gecko Cave for Reptiles and Amphibians, Reptile Hideout, Medium, PT2865

You need to provide hiding spots for the gecko. These allow the gecko to hide from anything that stresses it such as pets, and even other humans. They can also stay in the hide during the day and keep out of sight. This is essential, since a stressed gecko may refuse to eat and become malnourished.

Have separate hiding spots for both the warm and cool areas of the enclosure and a third hideaway (a moist hide/ humidity box) for when the gecko needs to shed. The humid box is just a hiding box lined with a moist substrate such as vermiculite or moss.

The substrate needs to be misted whenever it dries up. The Pangea reptile hide box makes for an excellent humid box. The hideaways should be large enough to hide the gecko and keep it perfectly and totally out of sight. Place the hideaways far from all the glass panels/sides of the enclosure.

Decorate the enclosure with plants and rocks. The plants can be live or artificial. However, they must be non-toxic and safe. Some excellent decorative objects include the vines, the plants, the wooden backgrounds, and tree trunks. Lastly, it is important to provide a shallow water dish and a feeding dish for the gecko.

Don’t forget to check out our guide on the best foods for leopard geckos too.


Setting up an enclosure for your gecko isn’t a difficult task. You just have to keep the essentials in mind. The setup needs to be at least 10 gallons in capacity.

A temperature gradient must be created with a warm end of 90 °F (32 °C) during the day and 80 °F (27 °C) during the night and a cool end where the temperature is always about 80 °F (27 °C). Thirdly, you need to provide safe bedding such as a reptile carpet or paper towel.

Lastly, the enclosure can be decorated with hides, tree branches, plants, and many more. It is also important to provide a shallow water dish and a feeding dish.

If you are looking to breed your leopard gecko, you will need a different setup to manage all of the aspects involved in breeding.

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