How to Make a Homemade Terrarium for Leopard Geckos

Written by brenton shields
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How to Make a Homemade Terrarium for Leopard Geckos
Leopard geckos are desert reptiles. (leopard gecko image by Ivan Polushkin from

A leopard gecko is a popular pet for children and adults alike. These colourful reptiles rarely exceed 8 inches in length and have a relatively gentle temperament if handled enough, making them ideal for medium-size home terrariums. Setting up a terrarium for a leopard gecko is a simple task that you can accomplish in just a few short minutes after a quick trip to the pet shop.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 20 gallon glass aquarium
  • 9.07kg. of calci-sand
  • Undertank heat mat
  • Thermometer
  • Shallow water dish
  • Shallow food bowl
  • Cage furniture (like a shelter, logs, etc.)
  • Screen lid, 30" x 12"
  • Heat lamp and bulb

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  1. 1

    Place the 20-gallon glass aquarium in an area where it will not be exposed to too much direct sunlight. Too much sunlight can be more harmful than helpful to your pet.

  2. 2

    Distribute the calci-sand (calcium sand) evenly over the bottom of the aquarium. Calcium sand is much safer than standard sand because it is more easily digestible in case the gecko accidentally eats it.

  3. 3

    Attach the heat mat to the exterior back wall of the aquarium (it has adhesive backing). This will provide a secondary heat source. Most undertank heat mats go on the bottom of the tank, but if you use sand, it is better to put it on the back wall. If placed on the bottom, it may cause the sand to overheat, which could be potentially harmful to your gecko.

  4. 4

    Place the thermometer in a corner of the aquarium along the wall. Many reptile thermometers have adhesive backing while others attach with suction cups.

  5. 5

    Place the shallow water dish and food bowl on one end of the aquarium. The food bowls should be deep enough that food like mealworms and waxworms would be incapable of escaping but shallow enough for the gecko to reach down into.

  6. 6

    Distribute the cage furniture, like the shelter or logs, around the aquarium. Leave an adequate amount of open space for the gecko to run around and stretch. Overcrowding a gecko's terrarium with junk can be unattractive and stressful to the animal.

  7. 7

    Place the screen lid over the glass aquarium and secure it down with some books or a brick. Optionally, purchase small metal clips that secure the lid down onto the tank's plastic trim.

  8. 8

    Screw the heat bulb into the heat lamp and set the lamp atop the screen lid so that the light will be shining down on one side of the cage; do not place the lamp in the middle. This ensures that there is a basking area of the enclosure as well as a cool side where the animal can cool off.

Tips and warnings

  • Leopard geckos almost always prefer a sandy substrate, as they enjoy digging, so you can alternatively use reptile carpet, which can be purchased either in pre-cut sheets or as larger sheets you can cut yourself.

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