Small Breed Rescue of Southern California

Animal Care

Animal Type:
Animal Breed:
Leopard Gecko

Leopard Gecko Housing Requirements

Lizard Housing Requirements

Most all reptiles require a variation of the same basic components to be healthy; Appropriately Sized Enclosure, UVB Lighting, Timer, Overhead or Underneath Heating, Thermostatic Controller, Substrate, Hide, and a Water Source. It is important to size these components appropriately to each other as well.

A small 13 watt compact fluorescent UVB light may work well on a 20 gallon terrarium where it is 6 inches from the reptile but the same light would not work at all on a 40 gallon terrarium where it is 13 inches from the reptile as the UVB will not reach. Conversely, a large 18"x18" under tank heater may work great on 40 gallon terrarium on the hot side but would cover the entire bottom of a 20 gallon terrarium providing no room for a cold side at all. 

When planning your enclosure, you should take into account not just the current size of your reptile but more importantly the adult size of your reptile or you may end up buying the entire setup twice or even more times as they grow in order to keep them healthy.

Below is a diagram covering the basic minimum components of your reptiles enclosure. We have provided links at the bottom of this page to help you locate and purchase these items often at a much lower price than what you might find at your local pet store.

Basic Recommendations

Leopard Gecko:

Enclosure - Optimally you are going to want a 30-40 gallon front opening terrarium. This allows you easy access to the animal without having to touch or move hot light housings. Most reptiles prefer to be approached from in front of rather than above as well.

Lighting - You are going to want strong UVB lighting but not necessarily strong UVA lighting. What that means is you need a light that can reach UVB all the way to the bottom of the terrarium but not necessarily one that is exceptionally bright. Many bright bulbs also emit UVC which can be harmful to the geckos eyes.

Heating - Ceramic Heat Emitters are a great wat to provide day/night heat without the light that a basking bulb generates  

  • Flukers Heat Mat 20 w - This heat tape style of heat mat last the longest, has the lowest profile and provides more than enough heat to get you started on a 40 gallon glass enclosure.

Themostat - Do not ever place an heating with your reptile without it being controlled by a thermostat or you risk baking or burning your pet.

Timer - Having a consistent light cycle actually benefits your reptiles health both by ensuring a consistent 12hr UVB period and a consistent 12hr rest period.

  • Basic Light Timer - Any basic 120v timer that has a 3 prong switched outlet and provides a 12hr on/off cycle will work

Substrate Context is everything when it comes to reptiles and this couldn’t be truer than when it comes to substrates. While leopard geckos live in the desert, it’s not the desert you may be thinking of.  Instead of vast expanses of sand dunes and empty land, they are most often found in grassy areas where there may be seasonal water or green brush.  While it is a noble idea to try and replicate a leopard gecko’s natural substrate of rock, grasses, clay, gravel and sand, it comes at the cost of habitat cleanliness especially where fecal matter and urate is concerned as their waste can easily saturate and contaminate these substrates. The context that is missing is habitat size.

In the wild, leopard geckos have a range of many miles so their fecal and urate is spread out over a large distance, they rarely come back into contact with it and so it does not pose a threat to their health. In captivity, a 40-50 gallon enclosure may provide less than 4 square feet of habitat which results in your leopard gecko coming in constant contact with their waste which can be detrimental to their long term health. This would mean replacing all their natural substrate every week which is not cost effective, but rather completely unrealistic.

As responsible keepers we need to compromise their natural substrate with a habitat that we can clean and sanitize regularly.

  • The best choice for this, but also the most difficult and costly, is to go bioactive. This semi moist soil/sand substrate provides arthropods and springtails and place to flourish where they will naturally digest and clean up your leopard geckos waste. Bioactive setups still need to be replace but only about once a year. It’s a difficult balancing act though as you need to keep the soil just moist enough to support bug life but not so moist as to present health complications to your leopard gecko as they are a semi-arid reptile. Let it get too dry and you kill the bio active.
  • The next best substrate is large ceramic tiles. This provides a natural and eye pleasing rock like surface that is easy to clean regularly and does not absorb waste.  You will need to provide a humid hide with something like sphagnum moss and mist it regularly. You will find you leopard gecko will like to dig in it as well.
  • While not as pleasing to the eye, paper lined floors are the third easiest yet least eye pleasing to implement. It absorbs urate and is easy to remove and replace regularly.

Hide- We are flexible when it comes to the hide as long as it is safe for the lizard and large enough for them to hide inside completely. Be careful when using fish decorations as hides as they may have sharp edges or passages the lizard can get up and into where they can get stuck.

Water Bowl- We are flexible when it comes to the water bowl as long as it is safe and large enough for your lizard to soak in but shallow enough they cant drown.

  • ZooMed Reptirock Reptile Dish We love corner bowls, the take up less room and come in all kinds of sizes. Its best to see these in person prior to buying to make sure they are the right size.