Leopard Gecko Starter Buying Guide
Prepared by HappyDragons
Everything you need for a basic leopard gecko habitat! Our Starter Guides are focused on the baseline necessities to care for your pet, making them more affordable and ideal for first-time keepers. We also offer a Deluxe Guide if you want to go the extra mile. Be sure to check out our Leopard Gecko Care Guide for more information on how to set up your enclosure and keep your gecko happy and healthy!
A leopard gecko enclosure should be large enough to allow for a proper thermoregulatory gradient and have opaque or covered sides to reduce stress. We recommend a minimum 36”x18”x18” glass or 48”x24”x16” PVC enclosure.
Substrate should replicate the soil found in a leopard gecko's native regions, usually a combination of soil, clay, crushed rock, and sand, and should be 3-6” deep to facilitate digging and burrowing. You can achieve this with a mixture of 60% ReptiSoil and 40% ReptiSand. You'll need at least 50 quarts of soil and around 40-60 pounds of sand, combined evenly.
Heat & Lighting
A leopard gecko enclosure should have an overhead heat source, an appropriate UVB lamp, and tools to monitor and control these elements.
Halogen flood bulbs are an ideal source of IR-A and IR-B radiation needed for healthy thermoregulation. For a 36”x18”x18” we recommend a single 75 watt bulb in an 8.5” reflective dome to project the heat evenly and naturally. For a 48”x24”x16” we recommend starting instead with two 50 watt bulbs in a combo dome fixture to compensate for the larger area.
A 5-7% UVB T5 HO linear fluorescent lamp is perfect for crepuscular species like leopard geckos. The Arcadia ShadeDweller kit can be placed directly on top of a screen top or installed inside the enclosure. Be sure to check our basking distance chart to determine how high to build your primary basking area, where the UVI should be at its strongest.
Monitoring & Regulation
- 2 Gauges: Place each thermometer/hygrometer on opposite sides of the enclosure to monitor the necessary warm-to-cool temperature gradient.
- Timer: All reptiles should have a healthy circadian schedule: heat and UVB turned on during the day, then everything turned off at night to allow for total darkness and a natural temperature drop (~12hrs/day). This can be best achieved using a simple outlet timer.
- Rheostat: A manual plug-in dimmer for your heat lamp allows you to make small adjustments to find the “sweet spot” on your gecko's basking area, reduces risk of overheating, and prolongs bulb life. (To automatically maintain your temps, you can plug your heat lamp into a dimming thermostat)
Decor & Enrichment
Leopard geckos require a variety of specific decor items that are vital for security, health, and enrichment.
A leopard gecko should have at least 3 distinct hiding places: a warm hide under the heat source, a cool hide furthest from the heat source, and a humid hide near the center. Choose any 2 to serve as your warm and cool hides. If you use a half log, be sure to completely cover one side for better security.
The humid hide should be lined with coconut fiber and misted regularly to provide a constant moist microclimate and aid in healthy shedding. A removable top is super convenient for misting! Choose 1 humid hide + 1 brick of coco fiber.
Cork, Branches, & Logs
Branches, logs, and cork bark are excellent for varying the terrain and giving your gecko enriching objects to climb on or burrow under. We recommend providing at least 1 cork flat + 1 branch arranged close to the ground in your starter enclosure.
Artificial plants add more shade for UV and heat regulation, coverage for security, and they enhance the appearance of a naturalistic habitat. We recommend choosing at least 2-3 plants for your enclosure.
Tools & Feeding
A complete leopard gecko setup should have:
- Access to a shallow water dish at all times
- Access to a small calcium dish at all times
- Bite-safe tongs for hand feeding
- Hand mister for the humid hide and ambient humidity
- Calcium without D3 (for calcium dish and dusting feeders)
- Multivitamin supplement (for dusting feeders)
Leopard Gecko Setup Examples
42"x20"x18" - Contributed by Jenna Cunningham