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Last month I wrote a bit about how rewarding keeping reptiles can be for owners who are prepared to meet their care needs. Although I've kept quite a few species of reptiles in the past, in this post I'm going to focus on the species I'm currently keeping - Leopard geckos. Bringing a reptile home for the first time can be a harrowing experience. Most people would have at least a general idea of what they'd need when bringing home a new puppy or kitten, but what do you need to ensure your scaly new friend will live a happy, healthy life with you?
You will need to provide your leopard gecko with a place to live. The following list is of basic setup requirements, but feel free to get creative! I love spending time thinking of, and implementing, new cage layouts for my gecko girls.
- Housing: The minimum recommended tank size for a single leopard gecko is a 20 gallon long. If you can, a 30 or 40 gallon will give your new pet more room to explore.
- Sub-straight: When I first started keeping leos all the research I did said to keep them on flooring that can't be ingested, and is easy to clean. Paper towels, reptile carpet, and tiles are common. However, lately I've been doing more research into bio-active set ups, which call for sub-straight that more closely mimics gecko's natural habitat.
- Hides: Your leo will need at least 3 hides. A hide can be a fancy cave that you buy at the pet store, or something that you make yourself. At bare minimum, you will need one hide for the hot side of your tank, one for the cool side, and a moist hide. I like to provide my geckos with more hides, depending on their size and how many will fit in their tanks, just to give them lots of options on where they want to hang out.
- Heating: Leopard geckos don't require special lighting, however you will need to ensure that their tanks stay warm enough for them. The temperature range on the warm side of the cage should be 85*F to 90*F. This can be achieved by placing a heat mat on one side of the tank, or a heat light if you prefer. I use thermostats with my heating elements to make sure the proper temperatures are maintained.
- Bowls: You will need to get something to use as a water bowl, and a food bowl as well (depending on how you decided to feed).
- Food: Leopard geckos eat live insects. Super worms, meal worms, roaches, and crickets are common staples. Some types of insects, such as meal worms, can be kept in an escape proof dish in your leo's tank. Alternatively, you can teach your leopard gecko to eat from feeding tongs. Insects should be gut loaded prior to being offered to your gecko. You can purchase commercial gut load, or make your own.
- Supplements: Many keepers provide their geckos with a small dish of calcium powder that their geckos can lick up as needed. I also occasionally dust feeder insects with a reptile multivitamin.
Those are the basics, but don't be afraid to get creative. I have a lot of fun designing how I want my gecko tanks to look, creating my own custom hides and backgrounds. If your new to keeping geckos, or are just starting the research stage, take a look at the leopard gecko care sheet I wrote. Another amazing resource for new and experienced reptile keepers alike is petMD's Reptile Care Center! You might also want to check out PetSmart's retpile supply section, it's a great place to purchase the supplies you need to keep your scaly friend happy and healthy!