As responsible leopard gecko owners, we know how important it is to keep their tanks clean.
Cleaning your lizard’s tank is a quick and easy process if you keep up with it, but you need to know how to do it and how often to do it.
As a general rule, spot clean your leopard gecko’s tank daily by removing feces, washing their bowls and flooring weekly with dish soap or pet disinfectant, and deep cleaning the enclosure monthly by scrubbing all surfaces. Stick to this 1-1-1 schedule for quicker cleaning and healthier pets.
If you wonder what the differences are between spot cleaning, weekly cleaning, and deep cleaning, you are not alone.
Today, we’ll look at why you need to do all 3 types of cleaning and how it may endanger your pet’s health to skip one or more of them.
Step by Step Leopard Gecko Tank Cleaning Guide
To follow the 1-1-1 cleaning schedule, you will need to first understand the differences between spot cleaning, weekly cleaning, and disinfecting.
Spot cleaning is the quickest and simplest way to keep your tank from becoming filthy.
This should be done at least once per day, or even several times per day if needed.
Weekly washing is a bit more in-depth but still only takes a few minutes of your time.
This is essential for preventing a buildup of bacteria in your pet’s dishes and on their flooring.
Finally, deep cleaning consists of removing everything from your tank and disinfecting every surface thoroughly.
This practice is essential for stopping the growth of bacteria, which will potentially make your pet sick.
Spot cleaning is as straightforward as it sounds.
Every day you will need to clean the “dirty spots” in your pet’s tank.
It is best to clean the feces as soon as you see it to avoid a larger mess or a buildup of feces.
We suggest using disposable latex gloves or reusable rubber gloves you have dedicated to cleansing your pet’s home.
If you choose to utilize reusable gloves, be sure to disinfect them after each use.
This will help you to avoid the potential spread of dangerous bacteria reptiles carries, such as salmonella.
Most leopard geckos will choose one corner of their tank to defecate in.
Once you have identified the corner, you may also choose to place a paper towel on this flooring section.
Be sure to remove the paper towel every day and replace it with a new one.
Weekly washings are slightly more in-depth than spot cleaning.
We suggest doing this the same day every week.
This helps us remember to keep our pet’s living space sterile and tidy.
The easiest way to do this is first to remove the bowls from the tank.
Rinse out each dish and place them in a bucket of hot soapy water.
Allow the dishes to soak in the bucket while you clean the flooring.
While your food, calcium, and water dish are soaking in the bucket of dish soap and hot water, remove your pet from the tank and place it in a holding cage.
This sterilization process will only take a few minutes, but it is easiest and safest to complete when your pet is removed from the tank.
If you choose to cover the entire tank floor with a loose substrate, you will not need to complete this step.
Instead, be sure to take a good look at the substrate to find any feces or uneaten food you may have missed during your daily pick-ups.
Reptile carpets are a common substrate used by owners.
We do not recommend using a reptile carpet for leopard geckos because their nails and toes are very small and may get caught in the carpet’s fibers.
If you choose to use a carpet, it is best to have two.
Remove the soiled substrate and wash the carpet with soap and water.
To make this weekly process easy, be sure to have a spare, clean carpet to place in the tank.
This will allow you to let your reptile carpet dry thoroughly after washing and be ready for next week.
For tanks with vinyl or tile flooring, you must first wipe down the flooring in your tank to remove any debris.
Next, use either a dedicated sponge with soapy water or a special reptile disinfectant and clean the flooring.
Leave the solution on the floor for several minutes while you go back to your soaking bowls to scrub them clean.
Remove the bowls from the soapy water solution and use your dedicated sponge to scrub them clean.
Be sure to rinse them a couple of times and dry them thoroughly before placing them back in the tank.
Once your bowls are ready to be placed in the tank, wipe away the solution on your flooring and give it a quick rinse with warm water.
It is important to ensure the flooring and bowls are completely dry before returning your pet to the tank.
Deep cleaning will need to be done once per month.
Each gecko owner has their schedule, but we prefer to dedicate the first day of every month to our disinfecting.
This allows us to have a consistent schedule and keeps us from forgetting which day we need to clean the tank.
You will need to place your pet in its holding cage for the duration of the disinfecting process.
You should also clean this cage before placing your lizard inside.
Sweep away any loose debris from the floor and spray all surfaces with your reptile disinfectant.
Both of these are safe, affordable, and easy to use.
Allow the disinfectant to sit for several minutes before spraying the surfaces with water and wiping the tank down with a rag.
A steam cleaner is also a great way to disinfect the tank surfaces.
If you have a steam cleaner, consider using it for these deep disinfecting sessions and even for your weekly washes.
Remove the furniture, bowls, plants, and hides from the water and scrub them clean with your sponge.
Once all of the soap suds are removed, clean each item with the disinfectant spray or a safe solution of your choice.
Once all items are thoroughly cleaned and dried, and your flooring is scrubbed and wiped clean, you may begin setting the tank back up for your pet.
If you are using a loose substrate, be sure to change it out entirely every two to four months, depending on the material.
Where Should I Keep My Leopard Gecko While Cleaning?
Besides daily pick-ups, you will need to remove your gecko from its tank during the cage cleaning process.
You may use a travel cage if you have one on hand or simply use a plastic bin.
If you are using a bin, make sure the walls are high enough where your lizard cannot possibly escape, or place a ventilated lid over it to avoid losing track of your reptile.
Each week, the entire cleaning process will only take 10 to 15 minutes, and the deep cleaning session will take between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the amount of furniture in your tank and the degree of dirtiness.
Even though this process will not take much time, it is a good idea to place some paper towels on the floor of your holding tank.
You may also want to keep an extra hide for cleaning days to reduce possible stress associated with removing your pet from its home.
Best Solutions For Cleaning Leopard Gecko Tanks
There are several common solutions many lizard owners use to clean and disinfect their leopard gecko habitat.
No matter which solutions you choose, be sure to thoroughly rinse all surfaces with purified water after use.
The best way to condition your water is by purchasing Zoo Med’s ReptiSafe.
We like this for your pet’s drinking and bathwater too.
Antibacterial Soap Liquid
The first product you will need is some form of antibacterial soap liquid.
We suggest using Dawn dish soap, as it is phosphate-free and safe for cleaning your animal.
The second product we suggest having is a dedicated pet disinfectant.
These products are made specifically for reptile habitats, making them safe and effective.
Vinegar & Water Solution
Another common solution used to wash reptile cages is a mixture of vinegar and water.
Creating a 50-50 vinegar-water solution is great for washing the glass walls and flooring of the enclosure.
Vinegar is not technically classified as a disinfectant.
However, it does work to kill various bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella, which are both commonly associated with lizards.
Hydrogen Peroxide (3%)
Hydrogen peroxide is another solution commonly used.
According to the CDC, 3% hydrogen peroxide is an effective disinfectant.
The commercially available product is made of 3% hydrogen peroxide and 97% purified water.
Since this is already a diluted solution, there is no need to dilute it any further.
According to the extension educator of health and human sciences at Purdue
University, hydrogen peroxide has antibacterial and antiviral qualities, and it sanitizes more effectively than white vinegar or rubbing alcohol.
Be sure to rinse this off surfaces well, as it will make your gecko sick.
Bleach & Water
A diluted bleach solution is another common cleaner used among pet owners.
Bleach is an excellent disinfectant; however, it is important to dilute it before use.
Your bleach solution should consist of 10% bleach and 90% water.
Many owners choose to use a bleach alternative as an active cleaner to avoid possible illness.
Note: Mixing bleach with other products such as dish soap and vinegar is very dangerous.
These mixtures create toxic gases which are potentially lethal.
How Often Should I Change My Leopard Gecko Substrate?
The frequency of changing out your substrate will depend on the type of substrate you choose to use in your tank.
We suggest using tile or a non-adhesive shelf liner as the main flooring in your tank.
These are the easiest to clean and are relatively easy to find at a low price.
If you use one of these flooring options, you will still need to place a dig zone in your gecko’s tank, as they enjoy playing in their substrate.
Placing a low wall plastic bin on one side of the tank filled with a loose substrate is an excellent way to accomplish this.
A bioactive substrate is an excellent choice for this dig zone or your main substrate.
This is a substrate made up of various natural materials and is meant to mimic a natural habitat.
A true bioactive terrarium will have live plants, and you will only need to change the substrate once every six months.
Even if you don’t have live plants in your tank, a bioactive substrate is still an excellent choice.
You will need to increase your cleaning frequency to approximately four months instead of six.
A high-quality reptile carpet is another substrate option.
You need to ensure your carpet is made well to avoid loose fibers.
Your pet’s toes may get stuck in loose fibers, which is very painful and dangerous for this animal.
If you choose to use this substrate, be sure to wash your carpet with soap every week and switch it out entirely every six months.
If you notice the fibers becoming loose before the six months is up, change it out early.
The easiest way to avoid injury associated with these carpets is by opting for an alternative substrate.