HOUSING

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The housing requirements for your gecko.
 

If you are new to keeping Leo's you may be wondering exactly what you can use to house your Gecko & what accessories you will need.

What Size Vivarium?

As general rule I have found that you will need a minimum tank size of at least 2 feet to accommodate 1 to 3 adult geckos. A 3 foot tank will allow you to house up to 5 geckos in comfort without stressing them out too much.

It's important to realise that, when adult; you can never have 2 male geckos together - they are extremely territorial and they will fight, often to the death; to protect their territory. When a male Gecko sees another male he will vibrate his tail - the second male will usually then respond in kind - now that they both know they are males a fight will start! Therefore if you want to keep more than one gecko you will need to have just one male and the rest females - or indeed all females. One male can be kept with up to 10 females - the only limiting factor being the size of the Vivarium!

I personally would recommend that if you just want ONE gecko to start with - it would be a good idea to have a male - especially if the Leo is to be a pet for a young child. The males are a lot less demanding than the females for the beginner. The Leo like many other lizards will when sexually mature, lay eggs regardless of whether it has mated or not. If you have a single female you may find yourself throwing a pair of infertile eggs in the bin every 3-4 weeks during the breeding season. If you want to spare yourself this problem then a Male is a great choice for a solitary Lizard.

Area vs.... Height

Leo's are terrestrial lizards - meaning its more important for them to have ground to explore rather than a tall Vivarium. They will require a certain amount of ground space to walk around and you must also allow for the placement of one to two hides and also a moist hide, a water dish and possibly a feeding dish.

Any good wooden Vivarium will do. But there are other types of Vivarium you can opt for. The Exo Terra range of glass Vivariums are great looking housing and if a suitable size is chosen there's a whole host of accessories available for them - such as lighting hoods etc...


Wood or Glass ⇒ Heating

If you opt for a wooden Vivarium you will need to place your heating solution inside the Vivarium under a suitable substrate. Wood does get warm but it is also a pretty good insulator and the heating generally works off infra red heat and just won't work through the wood properly.

If you choose a glass Vivarium or indeed a good plastic one - you will have your heat mat underneath the Vivarium. Either loose or stuck to the glass (some heat pads come with an adhesive on one side for this purpose) The heat will easily go through the glass to the substrate. However bear in mind you will probably need to have some sort of insulator under your glass tank to ensure against burning the surface it's sitting on. Most places like B&Q or Homebase have polystyrene tiles or even rolls of thin polystyrene sheet that you can use for this purpose. If your glass Vivarium has feet however, there may be enough of an air gap if you stick the heat pad to the base for overheating to not pose a problem.


Ventilation

 Ensure that your Vivarium has some sort of ventilation. It's rare nowadays to find a Vivarium that has no ventilation - but bear in mind if you build your own provide some ventilation. Do this either with a designed gap covered with plastic or wire meshing or any of the custom built Vents available on the market. Some owners get hold of small PC like fans and fit them to timer switches.

 Vivarium vent

 Cleaning

The Leo is a fairly clean animal - they will soon adopt a single area of the Vivarium in order to go about their toilet business. I usually provide a small amount of Kitchen roll for them for this purpose and every 2 days I bin it and replace it. Your Vivarium has to be big enough to provide a suitable toilet section.

As a rule of thumb I tend to thoroughly clean out the entire Vivarium and change substrates on the floor and moist hides every 5-6 weeks to ensure against any bacterial build up. I use a product called Vet-a-Clean for all my cleaning. You can get a concentrate from eBay for about £10 - it will last you ages and is much much cheaper than buying disinfectant in all the time!


Hides 

Why does a gecko need a hide? Basically to stop them stressing out. A wooden Vivarium is great in that it has 3 sides that are wood and therefore provides cover - however even in a wood Vivarium the gecko still needs somewhere to hide - to relax - chill out and feel safe. They can and do get stressed if they do not have a hide. Unlike humans you will not be able to see if your gecko is suffering from stress, but they will be and excessive stress from no hides often causes the eventual death of a domestic Leo.

Any of the popular Hides will do - like half a coconut or even a hollowed out tree trunk. Myself I like the look of the Exo Terra hides and I have the small ones for my hatching's and the medium ones for my adults. You can find all of the Exo Terra range in any good reptile shop, online reptile supplier and Ebay.

 Exxo Terra Hide



Moist Hides

Hang on - we have a hide why do we need a moist one? Well the Leo "grows" by shedding it's skin. during this process humidity is vital for the Leo as it uses the moisture to soften the old skin and enable it to peel it off its body much more easily. If the skin gets too dry during the shedding process it can bind and cause the gecko all sorts of problems as it will eventually shrink. Poor sheds can often lead to the Leo losing toes and trouble with eyes and mouth. This can be easily avoided by providing a moist hide.

To do this all I do is take a suitable tupperware food tub - the sealable type - and cut a hole in the lid for the Leo to enter/exit. Tip: use a gas cigarette lighter to melt the edges of the entrance hole after you have cut it to ensure against the Leo hurting itself - they get very vigorous in rubbing themselves against any edge they can find when they are trying to remove their skin!

Inside the tub I provide suitably moistened Eco Earth - which is Coconut Fibre - not too wet though - just moist enough that it's feels damp and takes on a dark colour. You will find the Leo in the moist hide more often than not. The humidity is also good for their health as too dry an environment can lead to respiratory problems for Leo's. You can alternatively use Sphagnum Moss as your moist hide's substrate. I prefer the Eco Earth as when laying, the female will bury the eggs nicely and I know that If I am late in finding them; the earth will provide adequate heat and moisture to keep the eggs healthy until I move them to the incubator. Oh you will have to re-moisten the hides every few days as they will invariably end up drying out.

I like to place two moist hides in my 3 foot Vivarium. One on the warm end and the other halfway down - this gives them the choice of which sauna to pop into!


Water

Leo's need water 24/7. You probably may not ever see them  drinking - but trust me - they do! Top up the water with fresh every 2 days maximum. You can get special solutions to neutralise the chlorine and other chemicals  in normal tap water for the geckos benefit. Alternatively fill a container with water and let it stand overnight for the chemicals to evaporate away.


Climbing

 Okay Leo's are not vertical cliff face climbers - but they do like to climb - you can if you wish provide them some climbing apparatus if you want - a platform or a suitable ornament will do just fine. There is a big no-no when it comes to climbing that I really advise against. Exo Terra Vivariums are great but they come with a foam background. Generally this is fine for sucker feet gecko species but I would really advise against using it for Leo's. The Leo can and will climb this foam background because of it's shape and can get right at the top of the Vivarium!! But they will invariably fall asleep there and fall off with potentially disastrous consequences! So take out that background if you're going to keep Leo's in your Exo Terra!


 

  F.Passaro

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