Leopard geckos are one of the best beginner reptiles that can be enjoyed by experienced hobbyists alike. They have rather simple requirements for housing, are hardy and can be very interactive. They also come in lots of different colours and pattern morphs that can make each one unique. However, when you’re starting out you will want to know about everything you need for your leopard gecko setup.
What do I Need for a Leopard Gecko
Here is all the equipment that you will need for your leopard gecko setup.
1. A Vivarium
The first option is to make sure that you have a vivarium for your leopard gecko. A good three-foot vivarium is suitable for the entire life of your leopard gecko. Or you could buy a four-foot vivarium.
It is probably better that you get a wooden vivarium. These retain temperatures better and they also look more presentable in the long term, than other options. You can also stack wooden vivariums on top of each other to create a display wall if you currently have or plan to expand your reptile family.
Another option would be to use a glass terrarium. The problem with these is that they don’t retain the heat very well. Glass is also much more suitable for geckos that prefer to have high levels of humidity, like Crested Geckos.
Glass terrariums are also much harder for you to customise and can break easily.
2. Heating (Mat or Overhead)
Leopard geckos come from hotter climates than we’re used to in the UK. Therefore they need an additional heat source within their enclosure. Again there is plenty of choice for you here.
One of the first things to avoid is a heat rock. These are hard to control and they are well-known to cause burns on geckos and snakes.
One of the most common pieces of equipment is a mat. This can be a good option, as long as it is attached to a thermostat to control the temperatures. This prevents the mat from getting too hot and burning your gecko.
You might also want to place ceramic tiles or a thin sheet of glass/plastic to cover the mat when it is on the floor of the vivarium/terrarium. This adds additional protection for your leopard gecko.
Another option is that you can use an overhead heating solution. These can come in several varieties such as a ceramic heater or halogen light. Again, these need to be connected to a thermostat to set the basking temperature to the right temperature.
3. UVB (Optional)
Some people suggest that UV is a great addition to any leopard gecko enclosure. This is a controversial subject and studies aren’t readily done on this subject. Two studies that we’ve found have also resulted in differences.
One study took adult leopard geckos and placed one group with two hours of UVB exposure, one at dawn and one at dusk. Another group were not given this exposure. The group with UVB exposure had significantly more calcium in their blood than those that had no exposure.
This study would seem to suggest that the use of UVB is essential. However, there was no mention of D3 supplements being used.
Another study compared two groups of baby leopard geckos. One had exposure to UVB lighting, another had their live prey covered in D3 supplements. In this study, there was no difference between the two groups when their blood was examined for calcium levels.
Therefore, studies are inconclusive on whether UVB lighting is essential or not.
One of the biggest problems is when people are feeding their leopard geckos supplements that are inadequate. While many advertise excellent D3 elements, they sometimes contain kale as well. Kale is also known to block the absorption of calcium. Therefore, be sure that any supplements you get do not have kale in the ingredients.
This is to go with your heating source. You can buy great thermostats online. We prefer to use digital ones because they’re more accurate and can display the current temperature within the enclosure.
If you have a heat mat, you can use a pulse or on/off thermostat. If you’re using an overhead option, then it is highly recommended that you use a dimmer thermostat. This prevents the heating source from breaking early.
The thermostat probe should be placed directly on the heat mat or below the heating source if you’re using an overhead heat source. If you have both a heat mat and an overhead, you need a thermostat that can control both, which are hard to find or two thermostats for each heating element.
In addition to the digital monitoring on your thermostat, it is best to add a thermometer to your enclosure to show you what the temperatures are inside the enclosure. There are some cheap analogue options, but digital sets can be more accurate and easier to read.
5. Hygrometer (optional)
In addition to monitoring the temperature, you should be ensuring that your humidity is at the right levels. Using a hygrometer is one of the best ways to ensure this. There are analogue options, but there are also digital ones that combine with thermometers (see above).
Using two of these can show that you have both temperate and humid gradients.
Humid gradients are one of the best secrets of keeping leopard geckos. This is where different locations within the enclosure are at different humidity levels, with one side more humid to allow for better shedding and digestion.
However, this can be hard to maintain, especially for beginners. Therefore, you can use a humid hide to help create a more humid location for some leopard geckos (see below).
You need at least three hides within your leopard gecko enclosure. One should be located on the warm side, another on the cool side and a third is a humid hide.
There are lots of options when it comes to hides. Some naturalistic options can add a visual appearance to your enclosure. Or you can use plastic options that have smooth sides. The advantage of the plastic options is that they’re easy to clean and are therefore more hygienic for you and your gecko.
A humid hide can be created by cutting a hole in the lid of a live food box. You can then place some substrate live Eco Earth to keep it moist. Another option is to use paper towels. The humid hide might need to be moistened every day or every other day.
You can also add more hides across the leopard gecko enclosure.
7. Food/Water Bowls
There should be three bowls for your leopard gecko. The first is the water bowl. Water should be changed every day to prevent a build-up of bacteria. You might also want to regularly wash them up to prevent limescale build-up if that is a particular problem in your area.
Another bowl should be for live food. This is where you can place your mealworms, wax worms or other similar prey items. There are specific mealworm bowls that help (but don’t prevent) escapes.
Mealworms should be replaced every two days.
The third bowl is to add supplements. Supplements should be added separately from the food for a couple of reasons. For one, live food can sometimes lick or rub off the food before your gecko can eat them.
Another problem is that insects breathe through small pores on their body known as spiracles. When you cover mealworms with calcium dust you can prevent them from absorbing oxygen. This has two impacts. Firstly, it causes the insects to switch to anaerobic respiration which can raise toxins within their body and may taste worse to the gecko.
Eventually, the live food might die from not getting enough oxygen. Supplements should be replaced regularly.
The substrate for leopard geckos is really important. There are numerous high-profile breeders and keepers, such as Clint Laidlaw, who recommends paper towel because it offers better protection from impaction, that can happen within captive leopard geckos.
There are other options as well though. You could use a sand/topsoil mix or you can use ProRep Leo Life. These add a naturalist look, but they can also harbour bacteria and hide mess within the enclosure. A bioactive enclosure can help with this but can be difficult to maintain.
Though we recommend that for the first two weeks to one month, at least to use paper towel to ensure your leopard gecko is toileting as necessary.
Enrichment is an important factor when it comes to keeping your leopard gecko happy. Enrichment can be given in several different ways. The first is offering a varied diet that includes mealworms, locust, crickets, roaches (from a reputable source) and even waxworms as a treat. A varied diet keeps leopard geckos happy and interested in their food.
Another factor is ensuring that you have activities for them to do in the enclosure. Climbing equipment, plastic plants and more included within the enclosure can be a great idea. You can let your imagination loose on this and build a fantastic environment for your leopard gecko.
Enrichment can also include time outside the vivarium with handling.
Supplements are essential for your leopard gecko. There are numerous supplements available on the market. Place these within your third bowl and allow your leopard gecko to self-regulate. They are well aware of what and when they need supplements and will freely lick it up when they need it.
Be sure that you’re buying good supplements as well. Check ingredients for things like kale that can prevent the uptake of specific nutrients for the leopard gecko.
11 Scales (optional)
If you want to ensure the health of your gecko, you should get some scales to measure their weight regulalry. While there is going to be some movement on weight, a gram or two, you want to ensure that there isn’t a sudden drop in weight or loosing it gradually.
Weighing your gecko once a month is often enough for most people. Though if you notice that your gecko has stopped eating as much, you might want to check the weight more regularly.
12. Live Food Container
The final item that you should get is a live food container. These can be bought for as little as a couple of pounds each. Keeping insects in the container that you get from the pet shop or online can often reduce their nutritional value. This is because it can be harder to feed them, and you should be feeding the prey items regularly.
You might also shorten their lives. We’ve been able to keep crickets alive for one month within a larger live food container but inside a smaller container live food normally only lasts two weeks at best. In hot weather and with some bug gel or high-water food inside, the pet shop live food boxes can become dangerous for the live food and kill it within hours.
Therefore, we always recommend buying a small container to move live food to.
Final Word: What do I Need for a Leopard Gecko?
Above is everything that you need for a leopard gecko with some optional items. They will keep your leopard gecko safe, healthy and happy. If you need any more help, you can contact us and we’ll be happy to help.