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Leopard Geckos: Setting up a Natural Enclosure Like Their Native Habitat

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Whitney has raised and bred different species of geckos, snakes, lizards, tortoises, and other exotics since 2003.

What is the leopard geckos' natural habitat?

What is the leopard geckos' natural habitat?

The Leopard Gecko

The leopard gecko is the most common pet reptile in homes today. They're small and easy to care for, they come in a variety of colors, and they also have a very docile temperament.

Overall, they are one of the best beginner reptiles, but the biggest misconception about them is that their native habitat is on sand. They're desert animals so it must be sand . . . right?


What Is a Leopard Gecko's Native Habitat Like?

Leopard geckos are from the rocky deserts of Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, but what most people don't quite understand is that desert land is technically land of sparse vegetation and minimal rainfall and precipitation. Desert does not mean dirt and sand.

In reality, only 20% of the Earth's deserts are composed of sand. Nearly all deserts are composed of rock and pebbles. There are, of course, several different types of deserts, each with slightly different environments and characteristics, but that of the leopard gecko is that composed of rock and compacted sand.


Setting up a Natural Leopard Gecko Enclosure

Should I Purchase Sand for My Gecko?

Maybe you're asking why pet store employees throw that bag of sand in your buggy when you're making all your initial purchases. If it's not any good or natural for geckos, why do they promote it as such?

Simple. People tend to buy what they think is natural (like whatever the guy at the pet store tells them they're going to need). Sand, either play sand, vita-sand, or calci-sand, is the idea of what a desert is, so it's sold for desert animals. Don't buy it—not even if you want to set up a naturalistic enclosure for your leopard gecko.

What to Use Instead of Sand:

If you want to set up a naturalistic leopard gecko enclosure, you can and it's simple. The best way to go about it is to go to Lowes or another home department store and purchase a box or two of slate tiles. Tiles come in a variety of colors and patterns. Use these in your tank to create the natural feel of the substrate. You may also want to consider adding a fake rock design to the enclosure. If you want to go even more naturalistic, you will want to make sure that about 40% of the enclosure is covered with rock and 10 to 20% covered with live plants.

How to Set up a Natural Substrate in the Tank

  1. Mix fine-grained play sand, potting soil (without perlite—the white balls), and peat moss mix together at a 1:1:1 ratio.
  2. Place about 1 1/2" of the mix at the bottom of the tank to serve as drainage for the plants.
  3. Go ahead and add the plants now.
  4. Cover the drainage material with sand/soil mix (50:50 ratio) and then put the rocks and wood decorations in the tank.
  5. Fill any gaps with fine play sand.

Because about 60% of your tank will be of plants, tile, and wood, most of the sand will be covered, reducing the risk of sand ingestion.


Plants That Are Safe for Geckos

You want to make sure to include live plants and you also want to make sure you know which plants are safe for reptiles and leopard geckos.

  • Aansevierias: snake plants such as Sansevieria trifasciata, S. t. hahnii, S horwoodii, S. kirkii pulchra, S. patens, and S. singularis
  • Zamioculcas zamiifolia
  • Cucurbits: such as Xerosicyos danguyi and Momordica rostrata
  • Yemen grape: Cissus rotundifolia
  • Euphobias: E. geroldii and the hybrid E. milli x E. lophogona
  • "Bonsai" plectranthus: such as Swedish ivy (Plectranthus ernstii)
  • Other plants can include: climbing aloe (Alo cilias), elephant bush (Portulacaria afra), and the Mexican caudexed fig (Ficus petiolaria)

If you really want to set up a natural enclosure for your leopard gecko, you should really purchase The Herpetoculture of Leopard Geckos by Ron Tremper, Philippe de Vosjoli, and Roger Klingenberg. The trio goes into great detail about setting up and properly caring for a natural enclosure for leopard geckos. They discuss feeding techniques to further reduce the risk of ingesting the loose sand that is visible, heating methods, and more.

How Big Should the Enclosure Be?

If you choose to go the all-natural route, you cannot use a 10-gallon aquarium. You must get something at least a 20 gallon long (even a 29 has the same surface as a 20 long, so that's not going to matter). Because at least 20% of the surface will be covered with plants and such, you will take away from the start 20% or more of the surface for your leopard gecko. It's best to create a natural enclosure in a 40-gallon breeder.

Can You Enclose Males Together? Adults With Babies?

Just because you're creating a natural setting, it doesn't mean that you can house males together, adults with babies, etc. Yes, in The Herpetoculture of Leopard Geckos, the authors discuss an experiment that was successful as such, but remember that they have years and years of experience behind them. So, it's best not to do it on your own, and no, three years isn't enough experience to simulate the experiment at your home.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Sophia on August 14, 2020:

Thank you for your very informative article. We have some changes to make for our gecko (Buddy), and it wont include the sand that the pet store recommended to us when we brought Buddy home.

Ted. on March 08, 2016:

How is sand/topsoil/Peat natural for southwestern Asia desert tank, but playsand isn't?

If one is truly going natural, a mix of sand/silt/clay (mixed so it dries hard) would be far more realistic

da beast on May 04, 2012:

i just got a 5 month old lepoard gekoo from the store he will eat unil i don't have any crikcets left how many crickets and mealworms should i be feeding him a day.

simply4smiles on March 01, 2012:

I am getting ready to purchase a gecko, according to the pet store it is a leopard gecko. I have a 70 gallon take that I want to set up for this new family member, but i want it to be as natural as possible. my concern is live plants, what would be the best to get? I don't want to put something in there that will hurt him or her

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 20, 2011:

I would recommend bringing the gecko inside, removing the light as it's doing nothing except providing light, and adding an under tank heater for heat.

Grandma and the Gecko on July 18, 2011:

I am babysitting my grandson's gecko. My daughter put a lightbulb at the top of one side of the cage but I decided to put him on my screened-in porch which has a ceiling fan. The gecko is in his cage in the corner with no direct sunlight and with the lamp off. It may get to be about 93 degrees with humidity. If I put a tile on one side of the bottom of the tank, will that keep him cool?

Louise on June 19, 2011:

Hey, I'm just getting a leopard Gecko from people I know who have had him for a while and honestly they have not taken very good care of him. He is currently in a ten gallon tank, with sand as the substrate, and just a stick and a little log and hideout.. He is skinnier than he should be and his colors are dull. I Said that I would take him off their hands for them and give him a good home and they agreed. So now here I am doing research to figure out what I can do for this little guy. I have a larger tank for him but I have to get it all set up before I can take him and I want to go natural but obviously get rid of the sand so I really like your idea of live plants with soil under slate. My question is, I have access to a heat lamp for him to put over one side of the enclosure but do you think it's a better idea to have a heating pad underneath? Also, I was looking at him yesterday and I noticed that the tips of his front fingers are... well it looks like they are falling off... or burned off or something?? not burned like too much heat... but more like, some of the skin from his shedding is kinda suck on there but the tips are definitely not right... I don't know how to explain it... perhaps I can try to get a picture. I guess my question is, I've heard that some reptiles can grow their tails back, and I know that amphibians can grow limbs back... do you think if I can manage to get him more healthy that his fingers will grow back? Have you ever heard of anything like this before?

Sorry for the long post... Any info you have would be appreciated!


Whitney (author) from Georgia on April 28, 2011:

It's not the age, but the weight. The female should be at least 55 grams. Remember that they lay 2 eggs at least once every 4-6 weeks for several months. Make sure to have housing for the hatchlings.

You cannot tell the age unless you know the day it was hatched, which you wouldn't know unless you purchased from a breeder, which is actually the safest means to getting a healthy reptile.

Autumn on April 27, 2011:

And another thing how do u tell the age of a L.gecko?

Autumn on April 27, 2011:

i ment does sry

Autumn on April 27, 2011:

i have two lepord geckos a male and a female i was wondering what age do a lepord gecko have to be to lay eggs?

Garrett on April 19, 2011:

I love the Leopard Geckos I have. There just so hugable!

Whitney (author) from Georgia on February 07, 2011:

First off, wood is a no-no with these guys. You want to start them off with paper towels, tile, or reptile carpet. The wood will make feeding hard, as crickets will hide under the chips.

They don't need lighting. Make sure to provide an under tank heater, as this will be the main source of heat.

If they are 7 months old, they are both sexable. I would recommend two tanks.

I also do not recommend taking all your advice from pet store employees, especially since the one you spoke with could not sex your two geckos.

caroline on February 06, 2011:

i have just bought 2 geckos from the pet shop also tank with lights heated mat wood chippings what can i get to put in the vivarium plants/ toys /and were from also i don't know wat sex they are the lady told me they were 7 month old and on reading ure site i am a bit worried if they might start fighting in the future wat is the beast book site ect to learn from for begginers

Whitney (author) from Georgia on January 20, 2011:

I think all if fine except for the sand. Hard to say about the temps, unless you're monitoring them with a digital thermometer with a probe, if that the case, then they will do. 95 is a tad high though.

Anthony on January 20, 2011:

Hello, I am just wondering if you think my setup is adequate. I have had my gecko for 3 1/2 years and she is about 8-9years old. I got her in somewhat bad condition but she is much better now with a nice fat tail.

I have a 10 gallon tank with a ramp that goes halfway up the tank and provides a 1x1' second level where I keep a moist hide water dish and some fake vegetation. It is in fact a floor tile and it's on the cool side, the second level itself makes yet another hide underneath it. That's conveniently the spot my gecko likes to I have to remove it to clean the remains lol. The rest of the tank is just standard 10 gallon with sand, under the tank heater on the warm side(opposite of the two leveled side). I have papertowel under the sand by the UTH which makes the temperature about 95f, he usually only lays there after hes eaten. Obviously to help with digestion, the ambient air temperature usually stays around 78f in the day and 74f at night.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on January 08, 2011:

If you don't know what the sexes are and they have been living together for 5 years, then they are more than likely both females.

Typically, you DO NOT want to house geckos together especially if you do not know their gender. It's ignorant to house them together without the proper information and sex determination.

100F is too hot. Are you using a digital thermometer with a probe to measure the surface temperatures? If not then the temperature degree that you're reading may not even be accurate.

Dan on January 07, 2011:

Hi great site so many questions.I have two L.geckos about 5years old never checked sex bought at a reptile show one grew much bigger than the other does that mean anything?they never fight they seem to be very social to each other. I use a heat pad to one side and have always had one spot that seems to hot about 100 degrees and one of them always seems to hang out in that spot is that very bad?one last what temp. should the cool side be?Thanks

Whitney (author) from Georgia on December 31, 2010:

Lowes or a home department store. I wouldn't put a lot of playsand, as sand isn't their natural habitat.

Ariel on December 31, 2010:

hey there i have had a leopard gecko for over a year now. and i work at a pet store actually but they don't have much there for her habitat, i was wondering where i could find everything cause right now she has reptile carpet. and i want something to make her feel at home. i am upgrading her tank as soon as i can find all the items she needs. like live plants and some play sand. cause all i have been able to find is calci-sand i have always avoided it.

thank you:)

Whitney (author) from Georgia on December 30, 2010:

Not if you're a beginner. I suggest just starting with learning basic care before trying to set up a natural enclosure.

j doug on December 29, 2010:

im gonna get a leopard gecko . is it ok i us sand , rock , moss , and fake plants

Whitney (author) from Georgia on October 25, 2010:

You want an all natural soil that has no perlite or fertilizer. Robin hood topsoil is a good brand. There are different types, but they do have a soil-only that I use with my tortoises, and would be safe for a gecko.

Samma on October 25, 2010:

When purchasing potting soil, do I need to avoid any and all soils with added fertilizer? Most bagged dirt has additives for improved growth, and goodness knows if it's chemical or nutrient based. Would it be better to use a certified organic soil, or to dig dirt out of my compost pile?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on September 13, 2010:

You would just pick out the poo. When cleaning a natural enclosure, it's a little more complicated, but since they tend to go in one spot, the most you could really do is spot clean. If you opted to completely clean out the tank, you would have to remove the plants.

jockobono on September 11, 2010:

I'm sorry if I missed it but how do you clean a naturalistic gecko enclosure that is covered with live plants and tiles and sand? How do you pick up the feces and dirt? Right now I have paper towels on the bottom and I can clean every day. I cannot figure out how I would clean a naturalistic setup.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on September 07, 2010:

There isn't any need for a day or night light. The undertank heater really should be on one side, not in the middle. If you opt to use a light during the day, keep it on the same side as the under tank heater, in order to provide a proper hot/cool side. You want to trash the stick-on thermometer, as it is just measuring your glass temperatures and air temperatures. The gecko isn't sticking to the mid-height of the tank, so the temperatures that it's reading aren't important. You want a digital thermometer with a prob to measure that surface temperatures where the gecko is.

The kits are typically nothing but crap, having sand and whatnot that you can't use. It's cheaper to buy the products individually, so that you know you're getting the right stuff.

Leave the gecko alone for up to a week, letting it adjust.

Watch out for illness, as pet store reptiles, especially babies are prone to being sick. They don't see vets unless the show signs of illness at the store, but in a lot of cases, they aren't at the store long enough before being purchased to show any definite signs.

Steven on September 05, 2010:

Hi! I first must say that the time you are putting into your site is amazing. I am so glad I found this place!

So, I just got a baby gecko from the pet store, and after reading things, I am curious if I am doing things right with my habitat...

Well, I think my gecko is mad at me because I just switched his environment on him/her today...New décor and new room to put in cage. I do not anticipate any changes now for a long time.

Any way, for the temperature, my petstore said to use a lamp on one side to get good air temperature and put the heating pad in the middle of the cage... however, what i read says to have put that on one side of the cage. is putting it in the middle ok? i have the two shelters on either end of the cage, and he seems to go in the one that is further from the light.... i hope it's not too hot in there.

Also, I like to see what he does at night. Is it ok to use a night "moonlight" bulb for this time period?

then for temperature, my thermometers are on the middle of the glass in the side with the lamp. it tends to be around 90F it looks like ... is this ok? using the lowest wattage bulbs i think. not sure how accurate these are.

the petstore had a starter 'deal' but not a pre-packaged kit. everything they gave me was sold individually, but i'm not sure how good all of that was...

lastly, how often can I handle my new gecko? My girlfriend really wants to take it out but I just want to keep it alone... I know you need to socialize, but when is good to start that?

Thanks for any help!

Whitney (author) from Georgia on August 22, 2010:

What are the temperatures? You may need to seek a vet, as geckos shouldn't chirp. It could be respiratory.

tristan on August 21, 2010:

its me agin and its about my gecko chip she used to rest in her hut and wander around her aquariam but now she just lays in front of her house ive ckecked her out a couple of times thinking she was dead but as soon as i put my hand in her cage she puts her head up im begining to worry about her do u no wats wrong

Whitney (author) from Georgia on August 15, 2010:

Younger geckos should be fed daily, as they age about every other day, although some still eat daily. Heat mat is necessary to provide belly heat for optimal for digestion. Most heat bulbs and basking bulbs don't do anything but heat the air, which isn't beneficial for terrestrial reptiles. If you have a ceramic coil heat lamp that doesn't provide heat, that is better, but it's still best for under tank heat pads. You want the hot side to be between 88-92F.

Bronco on August 15, 2010:

I was also wondering if i have to use a heat mat because i have a heat lamp. What is the temerature the cage should be at?

Bronco on August 15, 2010:

Hello i am looking to buy a leopard gecko. I was just wondering how many times a week i should feed it nd how many crickets i should put in.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on August 10, 2010:

You would need to quarantine each female by themselves for at least 30-90 days to ensure they are healthy. You may encounter fighting and bullying among the two females or among the male and either of the females. There is always a risk, which is why it's best that they are housed individually.

Also, keep in mind that one female will lay up to 16 eggs breeding just one time, times that by 2. Do you have space for the geckos, money to feed, and homes to give them to? Way too many people are breeding, so the supply is high and the demand is low, even big breeders have having trouble selling their babies, people in the business for a few years are having 4 times as much trouble, and new-comers have to basically give them away. It's hard finding people to take leopard geckos for free because the demand is so low because everyone wants to breed.

Timbo5360 on August 10, 2010:

Hi, I've a lone male gecko in a 24" by 15" viv and I am thinking about getting two females, in the hope of one day breeding. I will be getting a bigger viv, but my main concern is the geckos fighting, how would be best to introduce them?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 20, 2010:

Yes, they lay the eggs. Sand can cause impaction, and if the eggs are laid in sand they will dehydrate quickly.Remove the sand and offer a laybox with a moist sphagnum moss or coconut coir.

lizardboy on July 20, 2010:

is it normal for geckos to try to bury their eggs?

because mine keeps flinging sand into her laying box and i don't want the eggs to get dehydrated.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 19, 2010:

Leopard geckos are NOT good swimmers.

cool on July 17, 2010:

do geckos need enough water in their tank so they can swim?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 13, 2010:

You can use a glad container with a hole cut out, or a commercial humid hide. You can use moist paper towels, or a little bit of coconut coir, moss, etc. Keep it moist right before and during the shed. You can let it dry out in-between sheds.

tristan on July 12, 2010:

no i don't have a humid hide but waat do i need to put in it

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 12, 2010:

John, that's about it. Proper lay box, proper heat, etc.

Tristan, I would try to gently pull it off. Do you have a humid hide? That should aid in shedding

tristan on July 09, 2010:

my gecko chip sheded and has skin left over on his head this has hapend a couple of times and im scared it mite bug him wut should i do

john on July 09, 2010:

i have put the two of my leo's together and they seem fine also i got tuppaware and am going to put in a breeding substrate is there anything im missing? i don't want to do anything wrong.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 01, 2010:

No. Laying in the sand, will dehydrate the eggs while in captivity. In the wild, leopard geckos are very specific about where they lay and how deep they lay the eggs.

Please reconsider using sand as your substrate, especially if you plan on housing hatchlings in sand.

john on July 01, 2010:

do you think that it is possible for leopard gecko eggs to survive in sand. because mine laid egs under the sand and they were all shriveled up and dry

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 01, 2010:

I asked around, and it seems the consensus says that the gecko is a mediterranean gecko.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 01, 2010:

That is definitely NOT a leopard gecko. It's more of a house gecko, if I had to take a guess, which is far from a leopard gecko. I'm not sure the exact species, but I can find out for you; it's definitely not a leopard gecko. The gecko you have found isn't even one of the eyelid species (Eublepharis). It reminds me a lot of my P. Bastardi that I used to have, but they're not native to Florida, and they're much smaller.

Just release it back into the wild. As for the gecko's tail, it's supposed to be that way, being that it's not a leopard gecko or any gecko species that's supposed meant to have a fat tail.

Below is a link of a patternless albino leopard gecko, which is far from what you have:

leo lover #1 on June 30, 2010:

2nd try to post link to pic. [IMG][/IMG]

leo lover #1 on June 30, 2010:

Here is a link to the pic of the gecko I found. What do you think?

leo lover #1 on June 30, 2010:

i think its a leopard gecko i looked up and found a pic that looked just like it and it looks like a tremper paternless albino leopard gecko and plus not trying to soundd rude cuz u r the expert but ive had one before and now that i tjink about it i lnow my neibors had one but i never saw it do u think it could of been my neighbors?


Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 30, 2010:

It is quite odd that you found a leopard gecko on the front porch of your house. The do not eat vegetables, and typically aren't scared of insects. It's probably just nervous going from the wild to a cage.

If it is truly a leopard gecko, you should have it looked at by a vet. I highly doubt you found a leopard gecko on your porch though. They are not native to the U.S.

If it's not, it's a wild caught animal that should just be released back into the wild.

Try to get a picture, and post it on photobucket or an online hosting site, and then post a link to the URL here. I would like to see what you've found.

leo lover #1 on June 30, 2010:

my leopard gecko is afraid of bugs and wont eat veggies i found him on my porch

his tail wuz thin so i made hima habitat and im going to feed him till he gets a fatter tail and stronger becausehe dosent use his front legs he pushes himself with his back legs ive only seen my bearded dragon do that and she has MBD could my leopard gecko have MBD? ps i live in florida r leopard geckos like suppost to b here? cuz hes resly nice amd dosent like being alone he acualy ran up to me and i saw his tail so ya i took him in


Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 30, 2010:

It really doesn't matter. I use tubs, but that's because my breeders are in rack systems, and I have one rack specifically for hatchlings and juveniles.

john on June 30, 2010:

if im breeding my leopard geckos do i need more than one tank or could i just use plastic containers for the hatchlings

Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 30, 2010:

1. It's best to leave the enclosure the same. Changing it too often and too drastically can cause stress.

2. Generally, it's best to avoid any type of substrate. Sand isn't ideal unless you are very careful, and always avoid calcium sand.

3. Heat rocks will burn a gecko, never use them. They really aren't suitable for any reptile. Under tank heaters are the way to go.

Tom on June 29, 2010:

Hi, I'm thinking of getting a leopard gecko and have done a lot of research because I've never kept any reptiles before. I've looked everywhere but can't find this out, should you change the layout of the vivarium at all or keep it the same all year round? Does this encourage stimulus or just make them stressed? Plus is all sand subtrate a no-no, even though it's made for reptiles, like Repti-Sand Orange by Zoo Med? And one more question, can you use a heat rock instead of a heat mat or can you use both? Thanks.

PS - Sorry about all the questions.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 29, 2010:

I'm not sure how painful it is, but yes it was caused by repeated bad sheds, cutting off the circulation to the tip of the toe.

Yvonne on June 28, 2010:

my leopard gecko lost the tip of one of his toes. it must have been due to a bad shed but i never noticed the skin stuck on. he is housed alone. is losing part of a digit a painful process for a gecko? i feel terrible. he's like my baby.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 28, 2010:

I would go ahead and separate them.

nikkif on June 27, 2010:

my geckos are both mails. they are in the same cage at the moment. how do i know when they need to go into thier own cage. they are about 5 or 6 months old. they dont fight yet

darren on June 09, 2010:

just to add a comment about loose subtrate....i have been breeding madagascan ground madagascan giant day and leopard geckos for 2 years now and never had a problem with impactation as i use large chippings(wood or coconut),not only cheap but easy to maintain and clean however i do agree sand is a nono under any circumstance!!

Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 03, 2010:

It's odd, not necessarily bad. Do you have a picture?

anonymous on June 02, 2010:

is it bad if my leopard geckos tail hasn't grown back for 7-8 months?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 02, 2010:

I wouldn't use sand especially for a baby. I'm not sure about celsius temps, but 90F is idea. crickets are fine as long as they are appropriately sized and the gecko is eating them. Smaller is sometimes better for babies. Do not feed a younge baby large crickets; it'll be hard to digest and can actually cause impaction.

sophie on May 30, 2010:


i have a baby leopard gecko he was born this year so still a baby iv had him for a few day but im worried abut that he isnt eating the crikets im afarid if there to big ... he dosent come out of his hide he just stays in the hide ..

i have a 30x30cm/12x12" with fine sand fake rocks water .. and other bits and bobs ihave aheat pad on one side and other i keep it cooli have a theremasta to check the tempature the shop were i got her/him from said keep it on 28/30degreese and i put nutrobal powder over the crikets should i use meal worms or carry on with crikets is that ok plz get bk to me x x

Whitney (author) from Georgia on May 13, 2010:

That is probably a good idea.

hillo on May 12, 2010:

i have made a desision, after a long time of thinking, that I should not get a leopard gecko. I have thought about what my mom and dad has said and agreed. But if I ever have a friend who will get a leopard gecko, I will tell them everything I have reaserched, including what you have told me. thanks for the info, though :)

Whitney (author) from Georgia on May 12, 2010:

You can offer live crickets, live mealworms, live super worms, live discoid roaches, live dubia roaches, live laterallis roaches, and live silk worms. These are the most popular and nutritious foods that you can offer. Although, not all geckos will eat all of these insects; I have some that won't eat any super worms or mealworms and will only eat crickets; I have others that won't eat crickets or roaches and will only eat superworms.

My very first gecko was on crickets for years, then one day decided she didn't like crickets and I had to find something else to offer, as she started losing weight. She now eats whatever I offer, but for a good long period she refused crickets after having crickets for years and never knew anything other than crickets.

I will tell you, crickets do get out of their holding tub, They do chirp. They are annoying, smelly, and gross. Every time I order bulk crickets or even just buy a few from the store, a few always get out.

I thought you were saying that was the size of the tank your dad found. Sorry.

You should wait to get a gecko unless you have a sitter. They should not go 3 weeks without food, especially if you plan on getting a younger one. Even an adult or full grown gecko really shouldn't go 3 weeks without food.

hillo on May 11, 2010:

my mom is realy worried about the crickets. she thinks that one will get out then chirp everywhere and then dye, so you will have a big dead cricket body in your living room. personaly, I think its kinda gross myself. is there anything else at ALL that I would feed it if i got one, or should I give up on leopard geckos if my mom is that worried ( waa! :( )? By the way, the 18x38x14 was an EXAMPLE!!! Sorry :)! By the way, we are going on a big 3-week camping trip this summer. Should i wait a while to get a gecko, give it too a friend (though none I know have ANY experiance with geckos of any kind), or, again, give up ( double WAAA!!! :( ).

Whitney (author) from Georgia on May 11, 2010:

The length and height is fine, but it is a little tall. You won't want to put any tall decor in the tank. Just make sure that you have an appropriate sized under tank heater. I can't find any tank that is of that size, which is odd because all tanks are manufactured to a standard size. All 10 gallons are the same size, all 20 longs are the same size, all 40 gallons, etc.

You have to have both hot and cool side, that is correct.

The UTH will vary depending on the size that you get, and because I can't tell you what size tank you have, I'm not sure what size you should get. You want the UTH to cover about 1/3 of the surface of the tank.

The desert starter kits are a waste of money because you won't use half the stuff in them. The stick on thermometers don't read accurate temperatures, and the sand is not a good idea, either. You're better off buying everything individual.

You need at least 2 hides and a humid hide. A hide is a place where the reptile can hide and get shelter.

You have to feed live, as they generally won't eat dead. The freeze dried stuff is mainly for fish, even though you can find it with reptiles in it; honestly, I've never heard of one gecko ever eating it. I've tried it, and they won't even look at it.

A breeder is the best place to get a healthy reptile. Pet stores commonly have sick reptiles and reptiles that have parasites.

Since you are on a tight budget, just get a few things at a time until you have everything you need. Then get the gecko.

hillo on May 10, 2010:

yes, i mean LxHxW, and I just used that as an example. Sorry for the confusion. I wanna know, first of all, how much money the zoo med UTHs cost; remember, I have a tight budget. Like lots of websites say, should I have a hot side and a cool side? The Exo Terra terrariums i am talking about are the Desert starter kit ones . What kind of tank do you use? Iv'e been hearing a lot about hides; what are they? Can I just keep that old tank, or do you still recomend a new one? What are little things that you can put in the tank to just make the gecko feel at home? Do I NEED to keep live crickets and bugs for him/her to eat or can I feed it the dead or freeze dried stuff at the stores because my mom and dad are worried about them chirping all night and keeping us awake. One last thing (sorry about all of the questions); where is a good and cheap place to get leopard geckos? thanks!

Whitney (author) from Georgia on May 10, 2010:

You don't have to keep the gecko with all the fish supplies. There's no reason why you couldn't go to the store or order proper supplies online. Do not use the pebbles. Clean out the tank. Purchase proper supplies but using the tank is no problem.

The dimensions 18x38x14 is that LxWxH or what?

Take everything out of the old take. Throw out the pebbles. Thoroughly disinfect EVERYTHING!!! You can use any decor as decor, but no pebbles or any thing too small or too high.

You want purchase an under tank heater (zoo med is better, in my opinion).

Which Exo Terra terrariums are you referring to? The best to use will be a plan fish tank. 10 or 20 gallon minimum. Most tanks that will be ideal for one leopard gecko won't cost $150 for the tank and lid alone. Maybe after buying the tank, UTH, and the supples, you may get close to $150.

hillo on May 09, 2010:

I dont have a leopard gecko but I want to get one bad. My dad came home one day and said he had a tank, and he did, but the thing was that it was a fish tank. It was on the curb on a day where almost everyone had a garage sale, so my dad figured that it was left outside so anyone could take it. It is SUPER dusty, has big and super-tiny pebbles that are usually used at the bottem of fish tanks, some of those little plants that are supposted to look like sea coral, little statues that look like turtles, and a big rock in the back. Looking at the past posts on this site, I am a bit worried about the super-mini pebbles. I worry that he/she (remember I dont have a leopard gecko yet) will eat them and die. I made a deal with my dad that we will keep it in that tank until I have enough money to buy a WAY better one, but is it a good idea? Just some other notes, I dont really get how gallons work, and the place I plan to buy a tank at only uses measurements like, for example, 18x38x14, so what is a good size new tank with this type of measuring? What are a list of things that i should take out of of the old tank? What are things that I should put into new one when I get it? Are Exo Terra terrariums good and worth the money? And what are some really good tanks that are big enough for a leopard gecko and are around $150 (i have $140, but am earing more). Sorry about all of the questions but I am a beginner pet owner and this my first pet other than many, many fish. plz help me out!

Whitney (author) from Georgia on May 03, 2010:

Frequency of shedding will depend on age and health. Younger geckos shed more than older geckos. Some older geckos shed about once a month on average. Younger geckos will shed more frequently.

megan on May 01, 2010:

hi im 12 and i was wondering.......... how often should a leopard gecko shed?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on April 13, 2010:

Hm.. That is one of the best brand UTH's that I've ever used. Maybe it just needs to be replaced.

Amanda on April 12, 2010:

I believe it was zoo med if I remember correctly

Whitney (author) from Georgia on April 12, 2010:

It could be the brand of UTH. What brand are you using? Some of them don't work as well as others.

Amanda on April 12, 2010:

I am too actually. I got other reptiles in the house as well, and I am having more difficulties with this heating arrangement, than anyone else here. I got a different brand of the heat bulb and it seems to be working a little bit better. They are both starting to walk around the habitat more.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on April 12, 2010:

I recommend heating it the same way. With an appropriately sized UTH and a bulb if the UTH isn't supplying enough heat. No one can tell you what watt to use or whatever because you have to determine your enclosure using a digital thermometer with a probe. I am quite surprised that the UTH isn't supplying enough heat on its own.

amanda on April 10, 2010:

The UTH, I looked it up haha, yea the under heater pad. I have done so much research on these guys before getting them, so I could be the responsible parent. I do have the light and the tank heater on the same side. I will try the 100w bulb. Now I want to upgrade to a 40gal breeder, how do you recommend heating this one? I can't seem to find much info on it.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on April 09, 2010:

How do you check what exactly? The bulb or the UTH size? You can try to bump the watt to a 100w. Make sure that the bulb and the UTH are on the same side, as well. I'm surprised that the UTH isn't providing enough heat; generally, the tile will disperse the heat well. Is the thermometer a digital thermometer with a probe?

amanda on April 08, 2010:

Um I'm not sure, their pad is for a 10-20 gal tank, I have a 75 watt bulb. How do I check this? I have a temp gauge from petco measuring the one side where its supposed to be hotter.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on April 08, 2010:

What size UTH are you using? What are you using to measure the temperature?

Amanda on April 07, 2010:

HI there! Wow I love your site first off. I have 2 leopard geckos, both females. Right now I have them on slate tiles, which I love. Anyways my question is, I can't seem to get the temperature up in my tank at all. My large lil girl seems to be doing ok, but the lil one is getting cold. I have a heat lamp and heating pad. What is the next step? They are in a 20 long, and I want to upgrade them soon, but I do not want to do this until I can get the heat figured out.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on April 05, 2010:

I would recommend larger. You should use the UTH and monitor with a digital thermometer with a probe to figure out what the temperatures are going to be before you try adding lights. Depending on what the temperatures are, will determine what watt to you, and whether you could use a regular bulb or if you will need a small watt heat bulb (which won't offer any light, unless you purchase a UV bulb which isn't necessary).

pockets1 on April 05, 2010:

i have a 20 gallon tank and was thinking of just starting with one or two real plants. i have a uth for 20 gallon tank should i get a uth for a 40 gallon tank instead? also is there a special bulb i should use that will help get surface temps where i need them? thank you for all your help.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on April 05, 2010:

If you do a natural enclosure, you'll need a larger enclosure to be able to offer sufficient surface area. In this case, you'll need a larger UTH. The UTH should provide a good amount of heat, as using paper towels, tile, and thin layers of substrate, a UTH can sometimes offer too much heat. But, because a live, natural enclosure has plants, you'll need light as well. This will help supplement some of the heat, although, generally a light will just heat the air, but this will help some.

pockets1 on April 03, 2010:

if i decide to go for the soil soil mixtures for real plants how can i keep the soil surface at 90 degrees for the gecko? as the uth will not penetrate 2-1/2 of soil? also someone recommended i put an 1/2 inch of charcoal in first before the sand,soil,moss mix. any suggestions

Whitney (author) from Georgia on April 01, 2010:

Some use paper towels and keep them moist, others use peat moss, and some use coconut fiber. If you use a lose substrate, watch to make sure the gecko isn't eating it on accident.

Hz cruiser on April 01, 2010:

What is the best substrate to use in a humid hide?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 23, 2010:

It is normal for them not to eat fora few days after coming home, as hey need to adjust to the new surrounding. If the gecko is losing visible weight, that is not good. I would suggest a vet to rule out parasites, as internal parasites are common among reptiles that come from pet stores. Other than that, the only advice I have is to make sure the temperature on the surface of the enclosure is right around 90F, measuring with a digital thermometer with a probe.

ridenbikes on March 22, 2010:

I bought a gecko a little over a week ago. He wont eat. The pet shop says it is normal. He has lost weight and his tail looks like it is getting hard. Can you give me so advice on what things i need to try to help my little guy.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 12, 2010:

Check out this article for more information about reptile impaction.

Joe on March 12, 2010:

i have had a leopard gecko for about 6 months and i used corn (oops, silly me) and she has compaction, i have no vets. But is there any way to make her better?? PLz help me

Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 12, 2010:

Because you don't know the genders, I wouldn't house them together. They may be a male and female or both males, which won't work housing longterm. If you're worried about the size, then you answered your own questions; only offer the smaller size. It's not a choking concern but a potential impaction concern. At 5 inches, you can probably feed 1/2 inch. Personally, the dust that is species specific, isn't all that great. I haven't heard much good about it. I'd stick with general calcium dust and vitamin dust. They are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day, answering the question as to why they don't come out. You wouldn't be starving them; they eat when they're hungry.

Lady Hyena-chan~ on March 11, 2010:


i previously posted about which reptile is better a leopard gecko or Bearded dragon and went with the leopard geckos. I got 2 little guys(not sure if there male or female but i call them guys) and there doing fine i suppose. But my little questions is: they wont eat the recommened 1/8inch crickets but inist on the bigger ones that are around 3/4s inchs. Im worried that theyll choke if i keep feeding them that but they just dont want the little ones. also when i dust them(i was told every other day or everyday varing between a none D3 and a D3 calcuim) and was wondering if T-Rex Leopard Gecko Dust ICB is alright for everyday? I read it and it says low D3. Should i be dusting there crickets daily or every other day? there both about 5 inchs(give or take) and set up in a 20 gallon long tank(i think)its 30x12 or so with a under heat tank a hide over that and a moist hide and some other things. Its been about a week now and the little guys still dont like coming out of the hide most times. The little snow Leuctist(sp) will venture out and stare me down and if i put my hand in the tank he will charge and try to bite me(hisses too). Im told that thats normal, is it? the other hypo high yellow one doesnt come out at all! i put crickets in the hide where he chills at and he eats in there, but again its the bigger crickets. Should i just not feed them the bigger crickets and wait for them to get so hungry theyll take the little ones(tho id feel terrible starving them)? could they have trouble seeing them? advice please~ no one can give me a straight answer other then to starve them till they take the little ones and i dont wanna do that to them~

Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 04, 2010:

I've never seen a pet store not carry it. They typically carry many different types of cricket food. Fluker's has several different types. You can purchase it online from different online cricket sellers. You can make your own, but depending on how many crickets you plan on having at a time, it probably won't be economical for you to make your own.

chris on March 03, 2010:

I can not find gut loader where i live. I have been to several pet stores. Can i make my own or is there a company on the web to buy it from.