How to Make a House for Your Pet Lizard

Updated on October 8, 2013
African Fat Tail Gecko
African Fat Tail Gecko | Source

So you've decided you would like to get a pet lizard. Before you head over to your local pet shop you will need to make a home for your new pet.

Different types of lizards have different living environment requirements. Be sure to study up on the specific needs of the lizard you wish to keep as a pet.

For the purpose of this tutorial, we are going to create a home for a fat tail gecko. We chose a fat tailed gecko because it's small, docile, and easy to take care of. The African Fat Tailed Gecko should also live a very long time; 15 to 18 years with proper care.

Another reason for choosing the African Fat Tail Lizard is because it prefers temperatures that are very close to our home temperatures (75-90 degrees F).

Of course you may wish to choose another variety of lizard, just be mindful that each species have different requirement concerning, living conditions, humidity, diet, space and more.

Things to Do Before You Get Your Pet Lizard

Before you get your pet lizard, it is important that you make a proper home for him first. Avoid the temptation of falling in love with a particular lizard, purchasing him, and then trying to get him a home set up.

The first thing you need to do before making your home for your lizard is to study a little about the available types of lizard and decide which variety will work best for your particular situation.

  • What kind of food will it eat?
  • How big will it get?
  • Does your lizard need to live with others?
  • How big a cage does he need?.
  • How long will it live?
  • Are there any special environmental needs that need to be considered such as humidity, heating or vegetation.

Once you have chosen what variety of pet lizard you want, you will want to go to a reputable breeder or pet shop to get your lizard.

It's best to try to get a captive bred lizard because wild caught lizards tend to have more parasites and diseases. Wild caught lizards are also harder to tame and are much easier stressed.

Choosing the Proper Cage for Your Pet Lizard

Because lizards come from all parts of the world, their environments can vary considerably. It is important to get the right size enclosure as well as the proper type. Many lizards require high humidity or other specialized environmental conditions.

Fortunately there are a large number of specialized commercial cages available for nearly every type of lizard.

Before purchasing your lizard, it's important to get the proper size and type of cage. Specialized cages have been designed to control humidity, heat, light and other environmental conditions making them ideal for specific types of lizards.

A ten gallon aquarium tank is antiquate for our fat-tailed gecko however a twenty gallon tank is ideal. Because the African fat-tailed gecko can't climb, a screen cover is not needed however we purchased one anyway to keep the cat's out.

Choosing a Substrate for Your Lizard

Using the wrong type of substrate can be fatal for your lizard. Be sure to learn about the proper substrate for your type of lizard to prevent impaction or other problems for your new pet.

Our fat-tailed gecko will ingest its substrate to use for grit similar to the way birds do. Because of this, it is important to be very careful what substrate is used. Never use sand as a substrate for a fat-tailed gecko.

Paper towels or unprinted newspaper is an ideal substrate for the fat-tailed gecko. Because we want something that looks a bit more natural we have decided to go with Eco-Earth (coconut fiber). You could also use cypress mulch for a natural looking alternative substrate.

A Hide for Your Lizard

It is important that your lizard has a place where it can feel safe when it wants to sleep. A lizard hide (your lizards house) will work well to provide a good environment for your lizard when it needs to rest.

Our fat-tailed gecko does best if provided at least two hides to choose from. The hide also provides a location where the humidity can be increased to help the gecko when it is time to shed its skin. We placed some slightly moistened substrate inside the hides to help increase the humidity.

There are some great hides available commercially or you can make your own.

Video: Great Homemade Reptile Hide


Food and Water Dishes for Your Lizard

To keep your pet lizards environment healthy and clean you will want to have a way to contain your lizards food and water.

There are several good commercially available food and water dishes available for your pet lizard. Of course if you feed your lizard crickets, you will want them to be able to roam freely inside your lizards shelter. Slower, less agile, foods like meal worms should be kept in a food dish.

The size of your food and water dishes depends on the size and species of your pet lizard. If your pet lizard is a vegetarian, you may wish to have a larger food dish. If your lizard only eats crickets, you may not wish to have a food dish at all.

Our fat-tailed gecko will eat mostly crickets with a vitamin supplement dusted on them. We did provide a very small food dish however in case we wanted to offer it a meal worm or two once in a while.

Feeding Time for Your Pet Lizard

The preferred diet for the Fat Tailed Gecko is crickets which we can easily obtain from our nearby pet shop.

Most lizards eat other animals or insects however some lizards are considered vegetarians. Your lizards diet will depend on the species and age of the lizard.

There may be a type of food that is available to feed your lizard that is commercially prepared however most lizards prefer live food.

Many types of lizards do well eating crickets or meal worms while others require a more substantial diet such as live mice or fish.

As far as our fat-tailed gecko goes, he prefers crickets and an occasional meal worm. It's a good idea to sprinkle their food with commercially available mineral and vitamin supplements when feeding your gecko.

Other Things Your Lizard Needs

There is an endless supply of gadgets and decorations that are available for keeping lizards. You may wish to purchase additional ornaments to make the lizard habitat look more natural. Specialized screened cages made specifically for lizards are available in numerous sizes.

Basking platforms, heat lamps and heat rocks, cage covers, various gauges and thermostats are available to monitor temperature and humidity.

There are specialized light bulbs that provide UVA rays for your lizard as well as provide artificial moonlight to make it possible to view your lizard without interfering with your lizards sleep patterns.

For our fat-tailed gecko, we added a few artificial plants to make the house look a little more natural.

Questions & Answers


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    • flash167 profile image

      Marty Andersen 5 years ago from Salina, Utah

      We were very careful in selecting the African Fat-Tailed Gecko.

      When I was a kid we went to our local K-Mart to their pet department, they had a huge tank that had hundreds of Alligators for sale...yes, Alligators for sale at K-Mart!

      I really wanted one but my mother said I would be much happier with something else.

      She got me an iguana. They grow so fast and the tail is really dangerous we eventually had to get rid of him because of his size and temper.

      I can't imagine what would have happened if my mother would have let me have an Alligator!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      You have some really good advice here about keeping lizards for a pet. My daughter had two pet iguanas but they got so big and strong she had to get rid of them. Research before buying is always a good idea.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.