Leopard Gecko Cage Size: Choosing The Correct Enclosure
A vast majority of beginner leopard gecko keepers are overwhelmed when choosing a tank size. Oftentimes, factors such as floor space and gallon requirements get overlooked when deciding on an enclosure. Most people tend to focus on cage aesthetics over functionality which could be detrimental to the health of your reptiles.
A 10 gallon tank is sufficient enough for adult leos. The correct enclosure size for a leopard gecko will include adequate floor space, room for growth, room for decor, and be able to maintain temperature gradients.
Height Versus Length
There are a variety of setups available on the market. Tanks can be categorized as tall or regular which usually means more vertical or horizontal space depending on your needs. If we look at leopard geckos in the wild, they are native to Southern Asia where the climate is semi-desert. Because of this, they require more crawl or floor space compared to climbing room. Length is much more important as they are not arboreal in nature.
So when choosing housing, be sure to avoid any taller setups as this will most likely be overkill. The width should also be a minimum of 10 inches unless they are hatchlings or sub adults.
- For babies, you want to aim for at least twelve to fourteen inches in length.
- Juvies will need around sixteen to eighteen inches to be comfortable.
- One adult can use twenty three to twenty five inches in container length for the duration of their lives.
Types Of Enclosures
Caging can be acrylic, glass, or plastic (think sterilite). I will try to cover the pros and cons of every type.
- Beautiful and unique
- Highly customizable
- Holds humidity and temperatures well
- Strong and sturdy
- Variety of sizes available
- Escape proof
- Usually expensive
- Not always available locally
- Can have inadequate airflow
- Available in different sizes
- Can be found at most pet stores and even some big box stores.
- Visually appealing
- Fairly inexpensive
- Hard to maintain temperatures
- Can break or crack if dropped or bumped
- Does not hold humidity well as most have screen tops
Plastic tote pros
- Come in different colors for shy or finicky leos
- Widely used with success by most enthusiasts
- Easily accessible
- Come in a variety of sizes
- Easy to clean
- Last forever
- Hold temperature and humidity very well
- Some people might view it as tacky looking
- Can sometimes hold humidity too well and prevent air flow
I prefer to use plastic tote boxes that can be purchased at Walmart or target. It just has so many benefits to pass up and I don’t mind the aesthetic tradeoff so long as my pets are healthy. Trust me on this, it will save you a lot of headache moving forward. If you decide on using glass instead of plastic tubs for whatever reason, be sure to purchase a temperature gun. In my experience, it’s more difficult to maintain temps in a terrarium.
This is due mostly to having a screen top which allows for heat to easily escape. The solution to this would be to use Saran wrap to cover one side of the screen top. You can tape it down to make sure it’s secure. I’ve also seen others use packing tape directly over the screen. Play around with the amount and check temperatures until it remains a consistent 85F.
Matching Growth Rates
As we know, our leopard geckos will continue to grow throughout their lives. We must also upgrade their cages as they grow to keep them healthy and stress free. Too small of a tub can cause them to become stressed, too large and they can have difficulty feeling secure or finding their food. Baby leopard geckos are usually around two to four inches long. They can grow tremendously fast depending on how you feed them but most will take a year to reach adulthood. Juvies are usually around five to six inches and adults can average seven to ten inches. Some morphs like the giants and supergiants reach a foot in length! All things equal, I have listed below the correct cage size in my experience for each life stage.
- For hatchlings, I recommend at least a 6qt tub. This follows the rules listed above about adequate floor space. They are known as “shoe box totes” and are usually around $1 each here in California.
- Juvies and sub-adults can live comfortably in a 16 qt tub for at least 5 months
- Adults should have a minimum of 28 qts to roam around. They can live in these for the remainder of their life span. Some even house breeding pairs or trios in these.
If you decide to use glass or acrylic, I recommend 5 gallons for hatchlings and juvies. Adults can be housed in a maximum of thirty gallons. You may have heard that reptiles will only grow to the size of their enclosure and you can somehow control this. In my experience, this is completely false and leopard geckos are no exception. They will grow as much as they possibly can no matter the size of the cage. The type of feeder insects also affects this
Leos need cage furniture in order to feel secure. Things like hides, bowls, and type of substrate are all essential items. When choosing a hide, be sure it is the correct size for your gecko. They should be able to fit snugly and comfortably without much effort. Also the cage should have enough space for two hides, one on the cool side and another on the hot side. A water bowl half the size of your lizard should also be provided. This eliminates the risk of drowning as well as soaking. I once made the mistake of providing a bowl slightly too large and my leo would defecate in the water. This was such a pain as I had to change the water more often. Please avoid sand at all costs. Although it does spruce up your enclosure, the risks are not worth it.
The leading cause of leos becoming impacted is through the ingestion of sand. I prefer using paper towels. They’re easy to clean and cheap to replace. You can add fake plants which are purchased through the dollar store. With everything, be sure to wash and sanitize all items.
The reason why I recommend plastic tubs over other types is the ability to hold a temperature gradient. Totes are perfect in length to provide a hot side and cool side. They are also customizable in that if your temps are too high, you can add more holes with a soldering iron or drill. You can also avoid the holes and opt to place a mesh screen on the lid. These are things you can’t do with glass. Remember that leos need a hot spot of 88F-92F and a cool spot of 78F-80F to properly digest their food. I use flexwatt heat tape and wouldn’t recommend anything else. Remember to use a reptile thermostat to control wattage or you could end up melting the plastic and harming your gecko. If you can find it, I like the 4 inch heat tape as it covers a larger area than the 3 inch. I only use the 3 inch size for hatchlings.