Do not use wire or mesh cages for your leopard geckos. Wire cages will not hold heat very well, are easy to escape from, and you risk your leopard gecko getting his/her foot or toes stuck in the wire.
Do not get a glass, plastic, or any other type of solid lid. The lid has to be a screen-type cover that will allow fresh air in and out of the tank. Solid tank lids will cause the temperature and humidity in the tank to increase to unsafe levels.
It is best to use automatic timers for your lights because it can sometimes be inconvenient or you may forget to turn on/off your gecko's light. Automatic timers are inexpensive and can save you time and frustration.
Since leopard geckos are nocturnal, they should not be exposed to bright white lights or UV lights. In fact, excessively bright lights can make them feel stressed.
Your leopard gecko will be sleeping for most of the day, but he/she will still need a heat source as well as a light source. Even though leopard geckos are nocturnal, you should try to mimic their natural environment's light cycle.
The type of daytime light that you use is not very important. Since leopard geckos are nocturnal, they don't bask in the light like other reptiles. However, keeping proper heat in your tank is important. If you are able to maintain the proper temperature levels in your tank with under tank heaters, then you can use any standard light bulb as a light source. It is not recommended to use the natural light coming in through your windows as the light source for your gecko's tank since your light cycle may be different than the light cycles leopard geckos have evolved to live in.
If you are concerned your leopard gecko's tank may not be the right temperature (even with the use of under tank heaters), you should use a basking light to provide daytime heat as well. The basking light will provide both heat and light so you will not need to purchase multiple bulbs.
Again, since leopard geckos are nocturnal you should not use any type of bright lights, especially during night because that's when they are most active. Providing the correct amount of heat is important for leopard geckos, so if your tank cannot maintain a proper temperature with an under tank heater you will need to get an infrared heat lamp to use at night. Infrared heat lamps will provide your leopard gecko with heat overnight and are specially designed to use with nocturnal animals as the light's color doesn't affect leopard geckos.
The leopard gecko's tank humidity should be 20%-40%. You should use a hygrometer (humidity sensor) so you can monitor your leopard gecko's tank humidity levels. If your humidity is too high, try increasing airflow to the tank and provide a smaller water dish. If the humidity is too low, try adding a larger water dish or moist moss to the tank (specifically for leopard geckos).
Leopard geckos will also need a humid/moist hide to help them when they begin to shed. There is more information about this type of hide in the "Hide" section later on this page.
Most owners will try to create a heat gradient (a hot side and a cool side) in the tank. This way there is a smaller chance of the leopard gecko overheating or becoming too cold since he/she can easily move to either side of the tank for a change in temperature.
Generally the basking area will be the "hot side" of the tank. The basking area should be 87-90°F. This is important because leopard geckos require higher temperatures to properly digest their food. The cool side of their tank should be between 74-80°F. Do not let the max temperature get above 94°F, because that is considered too hot for your leopard gecko.
In nature, leopard geckos will emerge at night when it's not as hot and will lie on warm rocks which were heated by the sun throughout the day. To mimic this, you will need to lower your tank's temperature to 70-75°F. Your leopard gecko will, however, need a warm spot to lie on. You can do this with an infrared heat lamp (a special type of light that doesn't affect nocturnal animals) or you can use an under tank heater.
You should have two thermometers for your leopard gecko's tank. One for the hot side and one for the cool side. This way you can make sure that both are within acceptable temperature ranges. If you use a digital thermometer you will have the added benefit of being able to see the max and min. temperature for each side.
Below is a list of some of the different substrates that people use for leopard geckos:
Sand - Not Recommended
The risks of using sand outweigh the benefits. Sand is generally too fine/small for leopard geckos to safely live in. It is not uncommon for vets to see leopard geckos (and other lizards) that have accidentally consumed sand either by exploring their tank or eating food. Substrate ingestion can lead to impactions which is a serious health issue in lizards that oftentimes requires medical care. Since impaction can easily be avoided by using the correct substrate, it is not recommended to use sand.
Tiles/Flat Stones - Recommended
Tiles and flat stones will mimic the natural environment that leopard geckos thrive in. They are cheap, look nice, are easy to clean, and have zero risk of impaction so using stones or tiles is a great choice. Keep in mind that the bottom of most tanks is glass so you may want to place some paper or cotton towels beneath the tile/stone to prevent someone from accidentally breaking the bottom of the tank.
Newspaper, Butchers Paper, Shelf Lining – Recommended
Paper-based substrates are easy to maintain and are common because you can easily clean the tank by replacing the paper as necessary.
Reptile Carpet - Recommended
Reptile carpet is specially designed flooring for reptiles that looks nice and has zero risk of impaction. It is recommended by vets and other reptile owners.
The hide can be just about anything as long as he/she can fit in it comfortable and it provides the security they need. It should have an opening and enough space inside that they can feel secure. If you have multiple leopard geckos, you may want to get a larger hide so they can all fit within it. Some owners will make their own hides out of Tupperware containers while others prefer purchasing hides that resemble natural rock sources and match their tank. Leopard geckos do not prefer homemade hides over store purchased ones, so this decision is completely up to you.
There are three different types of hides that leopard geckos use. It is best to have all three types of hides, but if you don't have enough space you can "make do" with a warm hide and a moist hide (that acts as a cool hide as well). Each of these hides has a specific purpose and is outlined below.
Warm Hide - Required
This hide should be placed on the hot side of the tank. It will be where your leopard gecko may go to digest their food or if he/she is feeling too cool it will provide a place where they can warm themselves without feeling exposed.
The cool hide is the opposite of the warm hide and should be placed in the coolest part of the tank. Since leopard geckos cannot regular their body temperatures, they may occasionally get too hot and will need to cool down. The cool hide provides shelter in a cooler environment so they can easily cool their body.
Moist/Humid Hide - Required
The moist hide should be designed to be much higher in humidity than other hides. When leopard geckos begin to shed they need high amounts of humidity to prepare their skin to soften it so it sheds more easily.
The moist hide should not be placed on the hot side of the tank because the heat will cause evaporation which lowers the humidity levels within the hide. To keep the hide moist, you should keep the substrate in the hide itself moist. You can do this by using damp moss or damp paper towels. Be sure to check the moisture of the hide each day to make sure it hasn't dried up.
Live or artificial plants can be used to provide extra security when your leopard gecko is out of his/her hide. Leopard geckos don't eat vegetables, so you shouldn't be too concerned about him/her eating the plant, however if you do decide to use live plants make sure they are non-poisonous plants for leopard geckos. If you're debating between a live or fake plant, just know that live plants may look better but they can be a bit more messy and can increase the humidity levels of the tank.
Rocks and Logs
You can also put rocks or small sticks/logs into the enclosure to give your gecko places to perch or climb on. Remember that you should thoroughly clean any rocks to remove all dirt and bacteria and if the rock has a sharp side/corner you should try to smooth it out before putting into the enclosure. You should also strip all sticks of their bark and make sure that there are no parasites on or in them. Some people will place sticks/wood inside their oven at a low heat for 20-30 minutes to make sure all the parasites are dead.
Food and Water Bowl
You will also need to get a food and water bowl for your gecko. Your gecko will need fresh water every day and if you see a drowned insect or fecal matter in the bowl you should change it immediately. The water bowl shouldn't be too deep because it will restrict the geckos access to the water and can pose a drowning hazard.