A Comprehensive Guide to Care for a Leopard Gecko

By Frank Miller •  Updated: 10/04/23 • 

Welcoming a new leopard gecko into your life is a big deal. Bringing the pet home, ensuring he has the perfect tank, and introducing him to your family while ensuring his safety, health, and happiness can be an overwhelming experience. If you are looking for a complete checklist for caring for your leopard gecko, you have come to the right place.

When caring for a leopard gecko, you must first meet the reptile’s housing needs. Choose the right tank size and use proper equipment to maintain the recommended vivarium lighting, heat, and humidity. Also, provide dusted or gut-loaded crickets, waxworms, and roaches to keep your scaly companion healthy and happy.

Keep reading as we share a comprehensive care guide for leopard geckos, ideal for beginner and advanced keepers. We will discuss everything from the proper setup and vivarium cleaning routine to the ideal diet and how to bond with your leopard gecko.

Let’s get started!

How Do I Setup A Vivarium For My Leopard Gecko?

A setup that closely mimics a leopard gecko’s native environment is crucial to ensuring your pet’s health and happiness. Housing concerns are notorious for causing unwarranted stress and health problems that can affect your reptile’s longevity. On the other hand, your scaly friend will quickly feel at home if you handle the vivarium setup like a pro.

Understandably, setting up the tank may feel like a daunting task. We will make it a tad easier by providing in-depth details on how to meet a Leo’s main housing requirements.

Tank Type

Choosing the right tank for your leopard gecko is crucial because it will dictate the time and effort needed during routine cleaning. The tank you choose may also impact your room’s aesthetics.
There are four main materials used to make gecko tanks. They include the following.

Hands down, the best material for a leopard gecko’s vivarium is glass. It’s easy to clean and does not make it troublesome to maintain proper humidity levels. On the other hand, wood tanks are the most aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately, they can make it challenging for a beginner to maintain the recommended tank humidity levels.

Glass and Wood Leopard Gecko Vivarium

Glass and Wood Leopard Gecko Vivarium

Glass tanks cost between $100 and $200, while wooden tanks range between $50 and $300. Mesh tanks cost below $100 but can stress your leopard gecko because they barely allow proper humidity retention.

On the other hand, plastic tanks cost between $20 and $30. They are cheap, durable, and less prone to breakage than glass tanks. Unfortunately, they are prone to scratching and can quickly become eyesores.

Tank Size

If you are new to gecko parenting, you are probably wondering: What tank size should I get for my leopard gecko?

Generally, you need a 20-gallon tank for your leopard gecko. Although juveniles only require a 10-gallon tank, most reptile parents find it unnecessary to invest in a small enclosure and upgrade to a bigger one in less than a year.

A 20-gallon tank is spacious enough to allow one leopard gecko to roam, hide and explore.

Generally, we don’t recommend housing two or more leopard geckos together. Although some argue that females can live together, males typically fight to the death over territory issues. If you insist on housing two Leos, you must invest in a 30-gallon enclosure.

> Recommended Reading: Can Leopard Geckos Live Together?

Leopard Gecko Tank Setup

Leopard Gecko Tank Setup

Tank Design

You are probably wondering: Does tank design matter when setting up an enclosure for your leopard gecko? Absolutely! You cannot underestimate the vivarium design, mainly because of ventilation and access.

Tank ventilation can be active, passive, or a blend of both. Tanks featuring active ventilation cost more and use electronic ventilators that help ensure proper air circulation. Models with passive ventilation feature a mesh cover or removable lid.

Also, you must check a tank’s access points. While some allow you to open a lid from above, others have a front glass that opens by sliding it to the side.

A tank that opens at the front is easier to clean and will make picking up your leopard gecko much easier. Leos are prey to many predators, and attempting to pick them from above can trigger a defensive response. On the other hand, a tank that opens from above minimizes the risk of your pet making a run for it, especially before he feels at home and bonds with you.

Enclosure Temperature

Leopard geckos are native to dry and arid regions. Because they are ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals that rely on the environment to maintain comfortable body temperature, you must ensure their enclosures have fairly constant temperatures. They also need a temperature gradient (warmer and cooler side), allowing them to spend time where they feel most comfortable.

Your gecko’s enclosure should have a cool side that maintains temperatures between 75 and 80°F. On the warm side, ensure temperatures remain between 80 and 85°F. You’ll also need to provide a 90 to 95°F basking area on the warm side.

The need to maintain the recommended temperatures must not be underestimated. If the tank’s temperature is off, it can lead to many health concerns, including stress, heat stroke, and digestive problems.

Some of the best heating equipment to install in your vivarium include heat lamps, heat mats, and heating pads. You’ll also need to invest in a thermostat ideal for your heating equipment. The thermostat will allow you to set ideal temperatures for the warm and basking areas.

Furthermore, purchase a thermometer for your leopard gecko’s enclosure. The equipment will help you check the temperatures on the cool and warm side and ensure they are within the recommended range.


Besides temperature, humidity is another vital parameter for housing a leopard gecko. If you get the temperature and humidity right, you’re already halfway through ensuring your pet’s happiness and well-being.

Your Leo’s enclosure should maintain humidity levels between 30 and 40% on the cool end.

Keeping your pet’s tank within the recommended humidity range is not as challenging as it may sound. Start by investing in a hygrometer to help you get an accurate humidity reading. If it is too high, lower it by opening the screen top to increase airflow.

If the humidity is too low, here are three ways to increase it.

  1. Spray the enclosure with water, mainly on areas with absorbent decorations or bedding.
  2. Place a water bowl on the warm end and ensure the water is at your pet’s ear level to reduce the risk of drowning.
  3. Install a moving water source like a fountain. or waterfall on the warm side.
Leopard Gecko Habitat Lighting

Leopard Gecko Habitat Lighting


Proper lighting is crucial for leopard geckos because it helps establish their circadian rhythm. This creates balance in day/night cycles, ensuring your pet has healthy rest and active moments.

Ideally, you should place your reptile’s tank away from direct sunlight. A spot receiving direct sun is more susceptible to temperature fluctuations that can be harder to manage. Still, your Leo needs some of the goodness in the sun’s natural light spectrum to remain healthy and happy.

UVB or ultraviolet B light from the sun helps in ensuring bone health. It will help the gecko produce Vitamin D3, which is vital for proper bone development. Because your Leo cannot garner UVB lights from the sun, you’ll need to install a 13 to 25-watt UVB bulb in the vivarium’s hot side.

The right UVB bulb will lower the risks associated with harsh lighting. Harsh lighting (above 6%) can damage your pet’s eyes, upset his circadian rhythm, and cause stress. Moreover, never leave the UVB lights on for more than 10 hours daily. It is best to buy an automatic timer to ensure your pet gets consistent light cycles without too much effort from your end.


Your leopard gecko’s enclosure needs a flooring/bedding material or substrate. While the markets have many substrate options typically advertised as “gecko friendly,” it is best to base your choice on tried and tested information. Choosing the wrong substrate can jeopardize your pet’s safety by increasing impaction risk.

Generally, we don’t recommend using the following loose substrates:

Leopard Gecko Wood Chips Substrate

Leopard Gecko Wood Chips Substrate

Although we recommend against using the above substrates, you will still be spoilt for choice when choosing the best flooring material for your Leo’s enclosure.

Here are some of the best options to consider:

> Recommended Reading: Best Substrates for Leopard Geckos

Leopard Gecko Vivarium Decorations—Environmental Enrichment

Want your leopard gecko’s crib to look aesthetically pleasing? No problem. There are numerous ways to add a splash of glamor and function to your scaly friend’s tank.

We recommend adding décor items before bringing your Leo home or only making small changes at a time if your pet is already well adapted to his current vivarium setting. Excessive or abrupt changes can upset your Leo and cause stress-related illnesses.

Here are clever ways to add environmental enrichments that can add function and great aesthetics to your pet’s tank.


Hides look great but are also important for your pet’s quality of life. These cave-like features provide mental stimulation by mimicking a Leo’s natural environment and satisfying the reptile’s instinctive need to burrow.

Leos like to hide in cool, dark places when they want to rest or escape overstimulation. Think of a hide as a crate that your scaly companion considers his “safe spot.”

If you have the time, skill, and elbow grease, consider building DIY leopard gecko hides using small boxes, planter pots, or plastic containers. It is also perfectly okay to skip the hassle and opt for store-bought hides. Most products have great aesthetics and typically resemble branches or rocks.


For the ultimate environmental enrichment, invest in the following hides:


Plants make aesthetically pleasing vivarium decorations. However, the aim of adding environmental enrichments is to ensure your pet’s tank mimics its natural environment. You’ll need to put a cap on your excitement when adding plants to the vivarium because a leopard gecko’s native environment doesn’t have many plants.

A baby leopard gecko inside the vivarium

The best plant options for a Leo’s enclosure are artificial plants. They are super realistic, durable, and easy to maintain. If you must go for live plants, ensure they are non-toxic and will not need too much watering. Any water you spray inside the tank can toy with the vivarium’s humidity.

Rocks and Logs

Rocks and logs/ branches can enrich your scaly friend’s environment by providing areas he can climb. However, you’ll need to be extra careful with their placement to ensure they don’t pose a fall risk or accidentally roll and injure your pet. None of these décor items should be placed too high.

If you find some nice rocks or logs during your nature walks, clean and sanitize them before introducing them to your leopard gecko’s enclosure.


Glass vivarium designs are a top choice for most leopard gecko parents because they are easy to clean and maintain. Moreover, decorating an all-glass enclosure with a naturalistic backdrop is easy. Because your pet will likely spend most of his time indoors, adding a backdrop in his enclosure can help him feel more secure.

What Do I Feed My Leopard Gecko?

Besides ensuring proper housing, the second most important aspect of caring for a leopard gecko is meeting your pet’s nutritional needs. So, what do leopard geckos eat?

Leopard geckos are insectivorous, and their typical diets include insects like roaches, crickets, and worms. Baby Leos need daily feeding, while you should feed juveniles every other day. Adults need two to three meals each week.

Only provide gut-loaded or dusted live insects to ensure your pet enjoys the best nutritional value. Supplements, including calcium and vitamins B3, A, E, C, and K, are crucial to ensuring your pet’s health and overall well-being.

As part of proper care practices, you must provide a constant supply of safe drinking water inside the enclosure. Consider investing in store-bought decorative water bowls if you want options that double as décor items. Ensure the bowls are shallow enough to prevent accidental drowning.

> Recommended Reading: A Comprehensive Guide to Feed a Leopard Gecko

How to Clean Your Leopard Gecko’s Tank

Leopard geckos are solitary reptiles happy to spend most of their time in their enclosure. Cleaning after your pet and generally keeping the tank clean can go a long way in ensuring your Leo is happy and healthy.

There are three types of cleaning that should happen at different frequencies. The first is spot cleaning, which should happen daily or every other day. The second is a weekly cleanup, which is generally more thorough than spot cleaning. Thirdly, you’ll need to deep-clean your Leo’s tank monthly.

Spot CleaningDaily or Every Other Day
Weekly CleaningOnce Weekly
Deep CleaningOnce Monthly


Leopard geckos poop inside their tanks. Leaving the waste in the tank for too long can pose a health hazard for your beloved pet or even create an unsightly mess. This is where spot cleaning comes in. It’s fast and merely involves picking up your pet’s poop and disposing of it.

> Recommended Reading: Leopard Gecko Poop Guide

Weekly cleaning is a bit more thorough than spot cleaning. It involves using warm water, a sponge, and dish soap or disinfectant to wipe all surfaces and clean items like food, water, and calcium bowls. You’ll also need to remove and clean or replace the flooring substrate.

Deep cleaning needs time and elbow grease. It’s time-consuming but necessary to ensure the vivarium is clean and free of disease-causing microbes like cryptosporidium.

Here are the steps to take when deep cleaning your leopard gecko’s vivarium.

Do Leopard Geckos Need Bonding Sessions?

Leopard geckos are solitary creatures and generally don’t need bonding sessions. However, they can tolerate and even learn to like the presence of their owners. Still, it will take time and patience for your scaly friend to trust you, know your scent, and ultimately enjoy spending time with you.

Unfortunately, you can never own a leopard gecko the same way you would a conventional pet, like a dog or cat. Leo’s main instincts are for survival, and that includes hiding from potential prey.

Holding a Leopard Gecko

Holding a Leopard Gecko

Generally, your pet will like you mainly for providing food and security. It is rare, but not impossible, for these lovely reptiles to form strong emotional attachments.

Here are some tried and tested tips to help make your bonding sessions a positive experience for you and your pet.

Bonding with your Leo will not happen overnight. It may take weeks or months, and this will likely break your heart. It is best to keep your expectations on the leash and play your part patiently and consistently.

Fortunately, Leos are pretty expressive; you will know once your pet is comfortable around you. Once he realizes you are in the room, he will step out of hiding to acknowledge your presence.

Final Thoughts

Are you a first-time leopard gecko owner? Leopard geckos make fantastic first-time pets because they have minimal care needs. Provided their vivarium setup is correct, and you provide proper diet and nutrition, the rest should be a breeze.

We hope our comprehensive guide to care for a leopard gecko makes it easier for you and your new pet to settle in together. While it is common for Leos to take days or weeks to feel at home, your scaly friend will ultimately warm up to their new setting.

The trick to making the transition to a new home easier is to assure your Leo of his comfort, safety, and well-being. With some preparation and patience, your scaly friend will soon feel at home and look forward to bonding with you.
Good Luck!

Frank Miller

Frank Miller is the Founder of Lizard Advisor and owns several pet lizards, from leopard geckos, bearded dragons, crested geckos, chameleons, and others. The mission of this website is to make owning a pet lizard very easy for everyone, but mostly beginners. And each year, he continues to help more people learn more about lizard care and much more.