6 Essential Things a Leopard Gecko Needs in its Tank

So you’ve decided a leopard gecko would make a great pet for you.  Good choice!  Before you bring your new pet home, you’ll want to get its habitat set up and ready. 

Make sure your pet leopard gecko has everything it needs in its habitat to be happy and healthy.  Like any pet, leopard geckos have requirements for their care and feeding.  We’ve compiled a list for you of 6 essential things a leopard gecko needs in its tank.  Read on to learn what you’ll need to purchase for your leopard gecko.

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1. Substrate

Substrate is the first thing that goes into your leopard gecko’s tank.  It’s the foundation that everything else goes on top of, and it’s what your reptile pal walks and sleeps on.  There are a number of choices, some better than others.  We use reptile carpet, and have had great success with it for over a decade.  Reptile carpet typically comes in shades of green or brown, and is available in the most common tank sizes. You could also buy a larger piece and cut it down if you can’t find your exact size.

10 Gallon Reptile Carpet
20 Gallon Reptile Carpet
30 Gallon Reptile Carpet
55 Gallon Reptile Carpet

Tfwadmx Extra Large Reptile Carpet Mat Substrate Liner Bedding Reptile Supplies for Terrarium Lizards Snakes Bearded Dragon Gecko Chamelon Turtles Iguana (70.87"X23.6")
Reptile Carpet Substrate/Bedding

For our full post on substrate and bedding, check out our post: The Great Leopard Gecko Substrate Debate and learn about  the pros and cons of different types of substrate.

2. Warm Hide

Being cold blooded, all reptiles depend on their environment to regulate their body heat, and your leopard gecko is no exception.  It also needs a place to shelter and feel safe and secure.  The warm hide allows your gecko to shelter itself, sleep, and feel comfortable and safe.

Exo Terra Gecko Cave for Reptiles and Amphibians, Reptile Hideout, Medium, PT2865

3. Cool Hide

Sometimes the warm hide, or ware side of the tank can get too warm.  (you do have a hot and cool side of the tank, right?  Of course you do!)  The cool hide gives your gecko someplace to feel secure when it’s had enough heat and needs to regulate its temperature. 

Zilla Pet Reptile Terrarium Shale Rock Den Decor Grey Medium

4. Food Dish

Your leopard gecko needs a place to find its food, and you want to make sure that the food doesn’t wander off.  Live food  can be destructive if left to roam (especially superworms – we’ve seen them turn branches into sawdust!)  You want to corral your gecko’s food so it doesn’t cause problems (errant insects and actually injure hatchlings and juvenile geckos. They especially like to nibble on tiny gecko toes.)

Reptile Food Dish Bowl, Worm Water Dish Small (2.75in) Lizard Gecko Ceramic Pet Bowl, Mealworms Bowls for Leopard Bearded Dragon Chameleon Hermit Crab Dubia Cricket Anti-Escape Superworm Feeder 2 Pack

Having your food contained also lets you know how much your leopard gecko is actually eating.  This helps you make sure your gecko is getting enough, or if there is a sudden change in the amount it’s eating that may indicate that there may be a health issue or condition that needs further observation or care.

5. Water Bowl

When I was first shopping for leopard geckos, a (big chain) pet store employee told me that leopard geckos did not drink water.  He’d never seen one drink, so it must be true, right?  Wrong.  Just like pretty much every living organism, leopard geckos need water.  There should be a clean, fresh, supply of water in your leopard gecko’s habitat at all times.

Exo Terra Water Dish, Water Bowl for Reptiles, Large, PT2803

For hatchling or juvenile leopard geckos, make sure the water is shallow enough to not pose a drowning risk.  Your gecko should be able to easily get in and out of the bowl.  For that matter, it’s a good idea to have a bowl where insects that may fall in have a way to get out as well.  Insects trapped in the bowl will drown and fowl the water.

We like this one from Eco Terra.  It comes in several sizes, and has “stairs” built in so crickets,  dubia roaches and other food items don’t get trapped in the bowl.

Related Post:  Do Leopard Geckos Drink Water?

6. Heat Source

Leopard geckos are endothermic, meaning they need a heat source to survive.  Reptiles in captivity typically get heat from lights or heat lamps, and there are a ton of products on the market.  Leopard geckos absorb heat primarily from their bellies to help them digest their food, and an under the tank heater is just the thing for the job. 

iPower Reptile Heat Pad 8X12 Inch 16W Under Tank Terrarium Warmer Heating Mat for Turtle, Lizard, Frog, Snake, Reptile, and Other Small Animals

Related Post: Best Leopard Gecko Heat Source

You’ll still want a light source, which can nicely supplement your under tank heater.

You may also find “heat rocks.”  These are faux rocks that you can plug in as a heater in your gecko’s tank. Avoid them.  They provide localized heat, and the lizard must sit on the rock to absorb the heat.  This can lead to burns.  There are many better heat products available, and you can do better than a heat rock.  

Want a rock in your tank as a safe heat source?  We place an actual stone on the warm side of our tank.  We literally brought it in from our yard. It’s natural, looks cool, and absorbs heat from the under the tank heater. 

Leopard Gecko on natural rock
Leopard Gecko on a natural rock

It’ll only get as warm as the residual heat it gets from the under the tank heater, so does not pose the same risk as a heat rock. A natural stone gets warm, but not hot, and our leopard gecko loves to climb on it. Bonus: he loves to rub up against it when shedding his skin.

Wrap up: Things a Leopard Gecko Needs in its Tank

We’ve outlined the 6 top things a leopard gecko needs in its tank. Substrate or bedding on the bottom of the tank, a warm and cool hide to shelter in, a separate bowl for food and water and a heat source.

That covers the basic, essential items. Beyond that, you can add decorations, faux plants, platforms etc. so your leopard gecko has some things to climb on or around, and so your tank looks appealing.

Related Post: 7 Leopard Gecko Accessories You Didn’t Know You Needed

We added some branches and bark that our gecko will sometimes climb over. Make sure anything you add in the tank is secure and is not at risk of tipping over onto your gecko.

Make sure you have everything you need for your leopard gecko habitat and visit our HABITAT SETUP Page.

Now that you know what needs to go in your leopard gecko’s habitat, find out what to feed your leopard gecko in our complete feeding guide.

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H. Evan Miller is the founder of the Leopard Gecko Habitat. Like many young boys, he developed an early fascination with dinosaurs, and by extension, reptiles. He’s been keeping reptiles as pets since he was a kid (we won’t count the decades) and enjoys sharing his enthusiasm, experience, and knowledge on the topic. You can read more about his ongoing adventures with science, technology, and a couple of curious kids over at https://STEMtropolis.com.

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