8 Critical Things Leopard Gecko Habitats Need

Although leopard geckos have gained a reputation for being ideal beginner reptiles thanks to their reasonably low-maintenance care needs, their habitats still require a bit of work to maintain. 

Thankfully, we’ve compiled a list of the eight main essentials your leopard gecko’s enclosure needs, where to purchase them, and why your gecko’s habitat would be incomplete without them!  

what do you need for a leopard gecko

Substrate

Perhaps the first part of your leopard gecko’s habitat you’ll be purchasing (as well as one of the most important!) is a substrate. 

Substrate, to put it simply, is the material with which you’ll be lining the floor of the enclosure. 

It provides a comfortable floor covering for your pet to walk and sleep on.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid loose substrates entirely, as they are often responsible for impaction and are quite messy to clean. 

As their name implies, loose substrates are made up of small, loose pieces of either organic or inorganic material such as sand, coconut fiber, wood chips, shredded newspaper, or walnut shells, just to name a few.

Check out the best and worst leopard gecko substrate options in our guide.

Loose substrates cause impaction by being accidentally ingested by your gecko, either by accident or mere curiosity. 

Additionally, reptiles tend to interact with their environment using their tongues to pick up scents, and in the process, they will often pick up small pieces of a substrate and swallow them. 

Over time, the substrate builds up within their digestive tract, causing a blockage, also known as impaction.

To avoid this, it’s best to opt for flat, solid substrates like reptile carpet, tile, paper towels, or even linoleum. 

Here are a few of our favorite options for leopard gecko tanks:

  • Terrarium liners by Zilla. This soft, carpet-like substrate is easy to spot clean and even easier to cut to fit enclosures of any size or shape.
  • FloorPops’ Myriad peel and stick floor tiles. These vinyl tiles are a great choice as they are pretty inexpensive and available in many different colors and patterns to make your gecko’s enclosure modern, stylish, and comfortable for them to walk on. Plus, they are easy to cut to size using a simple utility knife!
  • Brawny Tear-A-Square paper towels. Simple and affordable, paper towels are perfect for leopard gecko substrate as they are easy to clean, replace, and cut down to fit any size enclosure. It’s best to opt for thick, absorbent paper towels, such as these from Brawny.

Basking Bulbs + Domes

Another critical part of your leopard gecko’s enclosure is proper lighting and heating. 

Since your gecko is cold-blooded or ectothermic, they cannot regulate their body temperature on their own. 

This means you’ll need to supply their habitat with a warm basking bulb to provide them with a spot with concentrated heat for them to bask under as well and to give off residual heat to warm the rest of the tank. 

Plain, white basking bulbs are best, as they mimic the appearance of natural sunlight well.

Essentially, your leopard gecko’s habitat must have a gentle temperature gradient from the hot side to the cooler side.

The basking area should be within 90 to 95º degrees Fahrenheit (35º C), while the rest of the warm side should be around 80 to 85º degrees Fahrenheit (30º C). 

The cool side opposite the basking bulb will need to be no cooler than 75º degrees Fahrenheit (24º C) during the day; at night, it is OK to turn off the lights and allow the tank to drop to 70º degrees Fahrenheit (21º C) or so. 

Generally, bulbs of around 60 to 100 watts are sufficient for heating leopard gecko enclosures of about 20 to 40+ gallons. 

You will likely need to adjust the distance you mount the basking bulb to achieve the ideal temperature settings within the tank.

Here are a couple of our favorite heat lamps ideal for leopard gecko enclosures:

Most basking bulbs also require a specially-designed dome to house them and connect them to a power outlet. 

Simply screw in the bulb and plug it in, and you’re ready to go! 

Most enclosures have mesh tops, so you’ll be able to simply place the dome on top of the tank or mount it above with a hook.

Here are a few domes ideal for housing the basking bulbs mentioned above:

Dual Thermometer/Hygrometer

To monitor and maintain the correct temperature and humidity settings within your gecko’s enclosure, you’ll need a combination thermometer and hygrometer. 

These devices are small and easy to mount within the gecko’s habitat, usually by simply sticking them to the walls via a suction cup or sticky tabs. 

It’s best to purchase two and mount one on the hot end of the tank and one on the cool end so you are able to adjust the temperature gradient and positioning of your basking bulb as needed.

Remember, the temperature isn’t the only thing you’ll need to keep an eye on–humidity is important, too! 

The humidity within a leopard gecko’s enclosure should be pretty low, or between 30% and 40% at all times.

Here are a couple of our favorite thermometers/hygrometers ideal for leopard gecko habitats:

Click the link to check out more information on controlling humidity in a leopard gecko enclosure.

Moist and Dry Hides

Within your gecko’s enclosure, it’s best to have two hides or small caves in which they will be able to sleep or relax at their leisure. 

One should be kept moist and humid, while the other will need to be kept dry. 

Both will need to be large enough to house the gecko comfortably yet small enough to be cozy for them.

Humid or moist hides are particularly great for when your gecko is shedding, as the humidity inside will help loosen stubborn skin. 

Additionally, leopard geckos can absorb a small amount of moisture through their skin, so the humidity will help keep them hydrated. 

On the other hand, dry hides are great for everyday sleeping, resting, and when your gecko simply wants some privacy without any added moisture.

Generally, it’s OK to use two of the same type of caves for your gecko’s dry and moist hides; it’s the conditions within them that will be slightly different. 

While it’s OK to simply leave the dry hide alone, you’ll have to spray the inside of the humid hide and its substrate with cool, fresh water every day regularly to keep it moist. 

Paper towels are a perfect substrate for humid hides, as they retain moisture without developing mold and are easy to clean and change out with little hassle. 

Also, it’s best to place the humid hide away from the basking bulb, as the direct heat will quickly evaporate any moisture inside.

Here are some of our favorite choices for leopard gecko hides, moist or dry:

  • Tfwadmx Reptile Hide Box. This product is ideal for moist hides, as the sink basin on top is designed to increase the humidity inside. Plus, its smooth surface makes it easy to clean. If you want to use it as a dry hide, simply leave the sink basin empty.
  • Zilla Herp Hotel. This cave is a bit more natural-looking and is great for moist or dry hides, though you’ll need to spray the inside with water once or twice a day to maintain its humidity.

UVB Bulb + Dome

There’s a lot of debate within the reptile community on whether leopard geckos need UVB to thrive. 

While they will technically survive just fine without it, UVB has been shown to benefit leopard geckos’ health by keeping their bones strong and helping them absorb more calcium.

For this reason, we highly recommend using a small, low-output UVB bulb mounted above or inside the enclosure. 

The bulb’s output is usually denoted either by a percent or decimal number; for leopard geckos, a 5.0 or 5% output is just fine.

UVB bulbs come in a few different shapes and sizes. The main two types on the market are either small, compact coil bulbs or long, thin cylindrical bulbs. 

While some gecko owners argue the long, cylindrical bulbs are better to fully cover the full length and width of the gecko’s enclosure, since leopard geckos need so little UVB, to begin with, either type is fine.

Here are a few UVB bulbs we love for leopard gecko habitats:

  • LUCKY HERP UVA/UVB Reptile Light, 5.0. This compact fluorescent coil bulb is inexpensive and perfect for giving your gecko a little bit of extra sunlight.
  • LUCKY HERP T8 5.0 UVB Reptile Light. This long, cylindrical bulb will give off enough UVB in a wide enough range to properly cover your gecko’s entire enclosure if you’re worried they aren’t getting enough. It’s available in various sizes, from 15 to 48” inches.

Like with basking bulbs, you’ll also need a dome to house the UVB bulb and connect it to a power outlet. 

Here are a few fixtures perfect for UVB bulbs:

Food and Water Dishes

Your gecko’s enclosure will also need a water dish as well as a dish for food. 

Instead of just tossing their insects on the floor of the enclosure, place them in a designated dish to make feeding time a lot easier and more convenient for your beloved pet. 

Additionally, offering a dish of free-standing water will encourage them to drink freely rather than just waiting for you to spritz them with water.

For water dishes, a small, shallow, non-porous, heavy-bottomed bowl is best. 

Be sure the bowl is easy to clean and easy for your gecko to access when they are thirsty. 

The same mostly goes for food dishes, though it’s fine if they’re a bit more shallow than the water bowl, as it won’t be holding any liquid.

Here are a few food and water dishes ideal for leopard gecko habitats:

Decorations

Of course, to make your gecko feel more at home, it helps to furnish their habitat with plenty of plants, rocks, and branches to mimic their natural environment. 

You don’t even have to use natural plants if you want to avoid the hassle of watering and maintaining them! 

There are plenty of great synthetic options available, and your gecko won’t know the difference.

While your gecko doesn’t exactly need tank decor to survive, we consider it an essential part of their habitat to keep them happy and comfortable.

Feel free to get creative with decorations in your gecko’s enclosure! 

You may want to check out these 12 leopard gecko enrichment ideas too!

Here are some decor options we think are perfect for a leopard gecko habitat:

Misting Bottle

To manage the humidity within your gecko’s moist hide and their enclosure as a whole, it helps to have a small spray bottle to mist them with as needed. 

While this isn’t exactly part of the habitat itself, it’s essential for properly housing a leopard gecko.

Here are a couple of misting bottles ideal for keeping your gecko hydrated:

  • Driew Plant Mister Spray Bottle. Although it’s designed for misting plants, this spray bottle is also perfect for misting your gecko and its moist hide.
  • Katfort Water Spray Bottles For Hair, 2-Pack. On the other hand, these bottles are designed for hair care, but as you would also probably imagine, they’re perfect for your gecko, too! Plus, you get two of them in this pack in case you happen to lose one.
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