We've been asked before to show a basic terrarium setup, something to give new hobbyists a visual idea of how their tanks should look like. So here's an example of one of our tanks, newly built to house one of our future breeders. We built it with 3 simple things in mind:
1. Safety - Using slate/ceramic tiles, there is zero impaction risk. Unlike sand and other loose substrate, tiles won't get ingested by geckos. Too often people mistaken leopard geckos with other sand lizards. Leopard geckos are arid creatures, they do not live in sand, they actually live in rock crevices and burrows. So slate/ceramic tiles would feel more natural to them than sand substrate. Also make sure there is nothing too tall that can allow them to fall hard onto the ground. Leopard geckos do not have sticky pads to climb, so you want them to be able to reach down to the ground from the highest point of your decorations. Never design a cliff because they often will take the hard way down even if you have a ramp. Falling on their stomach, it could cause internal bleeding and possibly death.
2. Cleanliness - Slate/ceramic tiles are easy to spot clean, so it's very easy to keep their environment clean. They also last forever. Sand and even repti carpet can trap bacteria, it's very hard to keep their environment clean when these substrate are designed to hide away the mess. Paper towels are often used as a temporary substrate, they work very well since you can simply replace the paper towels when they get dirty.
3. Coziness - Having plenty of hides will allow your leopard gecko to feel safe and secure, which in turn gives them less stress. They can choose where they want to lay in, they can also thermoregulate their own body temperature. You want your gecko to feel comfortable, it's a place they'll be living in for a very long time.
First we bought a 20 gallon long tank (30x12x12), and stuck the Under Tank Heating pad to it. Remember UTH (Under Tank Heating pad) is very important for leopard geckos as they require belly heat to properly digest food. The UTH should cover 1/3 of your tank.
If you have any questions, read our comprehensive leopard gecko temperature/under tank heating guide for full details on leopard gecko being a crepuscular species and the use of a digital thermostat.
Then we lay a couple layers of paper towels on the bottom of the tank. The plan is to lay slate tiles on top of them.
Once the paper towels are laid, we start putting the slate tiles on top of them. These are your basic 12x12 multi-colored slate tiles that you can purchase in local home improvement stores. They fit perfectly inside this 20 gallon 30x12x12 tank.
We lay two 12x12 slate tiles down, and cut a piece of 6x12 repti carpet to fit the leftover space. We will be utilizing the carpet space as the designated "cool hide". We have found that our leopard geckos appreciate a soft surface cool hide. If you prefer, you can simply get 6x6 tiles to fit the left over space. Or simply fill it with paper towels, rocks (nothing too small), or decor.
Now use your imagination to fit hides and terrarium decorations. Here's an example of what we came up with.
To explain what everything is, we numbered them.
1. Cool hide, it sits on top of the repti carpet, providing the gecko a soft surface to lay on. We like this particular hide because it also serves as the water bowl. It's a great 2-in-1 design.
2. Cool hide, a terrarium decoration that allows the leopard gecko to climb on. We've used this one in another tank before and the gecko loved to climb up and down through it.
3. Moist hide, purchased in retail pet store. It's designed to be a moist hide, as well as a laybox for when a female gets gravid later. Note the positioning of this moist hide, it sits in the middle of the tank so it's not too hot but also not too cold. Some prefer to place the moist hide on the warm side directly above the UTH hot spot. That's ok as well, just remember your moist hide will dry up faster if you have it on the hot spot. The positioning is really a personal preference thing. Just as long as the moist hide sits on spots that are warm, you should be fine. Geckos don't like cold and wet spots as much, so make sure you pick a warm surface to sit the moist hide on. Popular moisthide substrate are coco fiber (especially good for gravid females), and plain wet paper towels.
4. Warm hide, we like to use warm hides with a flat surface on top. We've noticed leopard geckos sometimes prefer to lay on top of warm hides rather than inside it, possibly due to the heat being too hot on the inside at times. This hide gives the leopard gecko the choice to lay inside or outside on the top. This also increase your surface space, as you are utilizing the same footprint but double the surface space.
5. Calcium without D3 inside a bottle cap. This is optional, but a common practice. You can find calcium without D3 in any pet stores or via online retailers. Leopard geckos will lick the calcium powder when they want/need calcium. Read our comprehensive leopard gecko multivitamin supplement guide for full details on how to supplement your geckos.
6. A mealworm/superworm safe food dish. You can purchase this from many online pet supplies retailers. It's designed so mealworms can not climb out, and we've been using this here at OnlineGeckos.com and highly recommend it. We've also found these new OMEN mealworm dishes, they are ceramics made and specifically designed to be escape-proof. We recommend them if you prefer a ceramic dish instead of plastic.
Don't forget you will need a water dish if you don't have a hide you can fill water with. These Exo Terra water dishes are really nice because its nonporous surface prevents bacteria buildup and absorption.
If you are going to be housing more than 1 gecko in the same tank, you need to double up on the hides so they can be separated from each other when they want to be left alone. Here is an example of a tank, same 20 gallon long size, that we've setup to house 2 females.
As you can see from the picture above, we have doubled up on the moist hides (one plastic container and one store bought where a gecko is peeking out). There are also two cool hides on the right (wood log and 2-in-1 water/hide). There's also a warm cave on the left, which is large enough for two geckos. We actually have seen one inside and one laying on the top at the same time. So it's another good use of space, this warm hide is perfect. Below is yet another terrarium we've built for one of our female breeders. You can see the use of a gladware container as moisthide/laybox. You don't have to buy anything complicated, these hides work very well.
Of course if you want to go all out, and your budget allows, you could go with an Exo Terra All Glass front-opening terrarium. I can't stress how beautiful these tanks are. Plus they give you easy access when you need to feed the geckos or clean the tank.
Here's a video tour of our gecko room. You can see our tanks setup on the wire shelving system.
All in all, just use your imagination, and have fun with it. Part of the fun is to decorate your leopard gecko's tank. What you see above are not necessarily what you need to do for your terrarium. If budget is tight, you can easily create hides out of deli cups and containers. You can make your own moist hide using a standard plastic container, cut a hole on the lid, and stuff coco fiber, or paper towels inside.
Good luck, remember to read the leopard gecko care guide for specifics on temperature, feeders, and other leopard gecko needs.
*NEW* Since we've had several requests and inquiries about where we purchased some of the decors and equipment pictured, we're going to be listing them all down below. For those wanting to know where we bought some of our decor and equipment, please see below for a list. We purchased most of them online through Amazon, mainly because things are cheaper there, and they also offer two-day free shipping with Amazon Prime. Below you'll find a good portion of the decors pictured in our terrariums.
Under Tank Heating Pad:
Digital thermometer and temperature gun:
Hides, Layboxes, and Moisthide/Laybox Substrate:
Moonglow bulb for night viewing: