Leopard Geckos, which are scientifically known as Eublepharis macularius, although exhibit distinct personalities are easy to handle and breed. They are also content with modestly sized terrariums or vivariums (whichever you prefer to use as enclosures for your small reptiles). As such, these good-natured lizards are now favored by many hobbyists and animal lovers. They can be considered as “perfect reptile pets” that one can have. While some of these unusual breeds have reached ages of 20 or more years, Leopard Geckos will not live as long if the right care and handling that they require are not provided.
One of these essential requirements is the ideal gecko terrarium. A leopard gecko won’t live long if you will just leave it on the floor of your house or place it inside a box hoping that it will just adapt to its new environment without ever having to make the necessary adjustments in his new habitat. If you want your pet gecko to thrive and live longer and remain healthy under your care, you need to consider the following guidelines in providing an ideal enclosure for your pet. It takes attention to details and constant monitoring to extend to your gecko the quality of care it deserves.
A Leopard Gecko in its Natural Habitat
Understanding your pet’s natural history is critical for successful captive care and breeding.
This unusual breed of small reptile is found in southeastern Afghanistan, western India, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran. They frequent desert fringes and arid grasslands, mainly to regulate their body temperature and search for food. Sand, gravel, rocks, tough grasses and low shrubs are the common natural makeup of these geckos’ original habitat. Within these terrains, temperatures may range from 41-104 F throughout the year.
Leopard geckos rely much on their surrounding temperature to stay healthy and live longer. To provide your pet gecko with the appropriate care it requires, you will have to set up a terrarium that mimics the same temperature, humidity, as well as appeal. Failure to do so will affect the gecko’s overall health and level of activity. It may also create changes in the physical features of your pet as will be identified later on.
Setting up the Terrarium
Although these reptiles will adjust fairly well in simple homes, a more naturalistic terrarium set with rocks or hides, driftwood, live plants, small branches of trees, and a hammock will make for stunning displays. There are a lot of arid-adapted species of plants such as Aloes, Ox Tongue (Gasterias), Snake Plants that you can use to decorate your pet’s terrariums. Be careful when using branches of trees and other plants like cedar and pine as they may be toxic to leopard geckos as well as to other reptiles. You may also need to boil the wood or bake it in the oven to make sure that they are safe and that no bugs or other disease-causing microorganisms may develop on these pieces of woods.
Note also that even though these geckos are not overly active, they still should be given as much room as you can possibly provide them. An adult gecko will be fine inside a 10-15 gallon aquarium, but if you can provide a 20-gallon long enclosure that will be better. A 30-55 gallon terrarium will accommodate a pair. Males of these breeds are territorial, so if you decide to house two geckos, you have to be sure that one is a female, however.
Leopard Geckos prefer low levels, but they also won’t have problems stepping on rocks and stout driftwood, especially when they need to get near them to bask under a basking light. Note, however, that rocks and other heavy objects should always be placed on the floor of the terrarium and not on the terrarium’s substrate, for safety reasons.
You will also need to place several hide boxes or caves on either the cooler and warmer sides of the terrarium. These places will provide shelter for the gecko whenever it finds the temperatures within its enclosure beyond what their bodies need.
Note that your gecko is a great escape artist, so you need to make sure that while you make sure that air can flow properly inside the housing, you still need to have it secure with a tight lid or a screen top.
Although many hobbyists would prefer sand as a substrate for the enclosure, it can cause impaction. And as many have already encountered this problem, it will be better to use other alternatives. If you prefer to simulate a semi-desert habitat for your Leopard Geckos terrarium, you can use large gravel and stones (of the size that your pet will not swallow). Add some dry grass and a few other decorations like live plants and tree branches to make it more appealing and inviting for the gecko to stay in.
For juveniles, you will need safer substrate alternatives such as newspapers, paper towels, or washable cage liners until they get better at identifying which should be eaten and which should not. You may also use these substrates for older leopard geckos, though.
Leopard Geckos are nocturnal reptiles, they will do just fine without a UVB light and they can also absorb Vitamin D3 from their diet. They won’t require UVB lights as these can actually burn them or irritate their eyes when not used properly. The ambient light that passes through their terrarium will just be enough to provide them day and night cycle.
Even though your pet is nocturnal, you still need to make sure that they are provided with an ambient air temperature that ranges from 78-88 degrees Fahrenheit. They do absorb heat through their bellies that’s why a ceramic heater or red/black reptile “night bulb” will just be right to keep them comfortable at night. An under tank heat (UHT) mat or bulb may also be positioned at one corner of the tank to keep it warmer (up to 88 degrees Fahrenheit) than the rest of the enclosure.
Provide thermal gradients within the enclosure so that your pet will be able to regulate its body temperature by moving from a hot to a cool area within its housing.
Your lizard will feel better in an enclosure with low humidity and a dry substrate. Optimal humidity level set at 40% or lower is best. You will also need to provide a dry hiding spot for your lizard.
Leopard geckos live mainly on insects. Dubia cockroaches or other feeder cockroaches, such as Discoid roaches, locusts and crickets, hornworms, butter worms, mealworms, silkworms, and calciworms may all be fed to your pet. However, you need to gut load feeder insects before offering them to your pet to make sure that they are filled with essential nutrients that your lizard needs to stay healthy.
As you provide the necessary things inside your pet’s terrarium to ensure that it will live long and healthy, you need to make sure that everything in it (including your pet) is regularly and thoroughly cleaned. Water should also be provided to your pet. This will not only help keep the humidity inside the enclosure at a proper level, but it will also provide the moisture that your pet’s body requires for proper shedding.