Gecko Housing Considerations and Resources
Proper housing is one of the most important elements in successfully keeping geckos. Designing appropriate housing has to account for both the geckos’ needs and the needs of their keepers. The geckos require an environment with the type of space, humidity, heat and light that is most appropriate for them. Humans need to pay attention their own budget, available space and aesthetics in providing for their reptiles. This article describes some considerations and provides some resources for choosing housing that meets each creature’s needs.
General Housing Considerations
Orientation: The enclosure will require a vertical or horizontal orientation depending on whether your gecko is primarily terrestrial or arboreal. Smaller arboreal geckos can sometimes be kept in an enclosure that is wider than it is tall as long as the height is appropriate for their climbing needs. Similarly, terrestrial geckos can be kept in a vertically oriented space if necessary as long as the square footage of the “floor” is adequate for them. The extra height, in this case, can sometimes be used to create multiple levels with ramps or other pathways to enable them to access these spaces
Ecosystem: Each species of gecko has certain needs for humidity, moisture, heat, light and cage furniture. The keeper must take these factors into account when choosing materials and location for the enclosure. For example, untreated wood is a poor choice for an environment requiring frequent misting, and a tall enclosure may require a more powerful light than a shorter one to insure optimal plant growth.
Location: Gecko enclosures can be situated in a variety of places, some of which are customized for the reptiles and some primarily human living spaces. There are gecko keepers who are fortunate in their home climate and property to be able to house their collections outdoors for all or part of the year. Other lucky herpers have been able to build an entire “reptile room” dedicated solely to housing their pets. Most of us, however, have to integrate our reptiles into their living rooms, family rooms or bedrooms, which brings me to . . .
Aesthetics: There is a continuum, when designing gecko housing. At one end are the set-ups, usually rack systems, that focus on housing the greatest number of geckos in the most space-efficient manner. At the other end are elaborate naturalistic vivariums which can be the centerpiece of a living room or office. There are compelling husbandry reasons for either choice. Proponents of racks point to their geckos’ thriving with the greater privacy that a closed-up system provides. Those who prefer naturalistic set-ups remark on their geckos’ greater degree and variety of activity as they explore their environment. What it all comes down to, however, is the keeper’s available space, size of collection, and personal aesthetic sense. When gecko enclosures share human living space, especially when all members of the household aren’t avid reptile keepers, it’s especially important to design enclosures that visually fit into their designated space and that allow for daily human activities to proceed.
Popular Enclosure Choices
Racks: The most common housing choice for those who have a large number of geckos that they want to keep individually (though group rack enclosures are possible as well) in an organized, space efficient way, is a rack. Most racks consist of a shelf unit, which may be made of wood, melamine or plastic, and a number of plastic tubs of different sizes which fit snugly on the shelves. This means that covers aren’t needed for the tubs (the underside of the shelf above serves as the “cover”) as long as air holes are drilled into the tubs. Tubs can be pulled out for feeding,cleaning or checking up on the geckos. Heating is provided by flexwatt or heat cable attached to the bottom of each shelf or to the back of the unit and is controlled with a thermostat. Rack tubs can be transparent, translucent or opaque.
Aquariums and Vivariums: Many people keep geckos in glass aquariums designed for fish or in front-opening glass reptile cages which are designed for plants and animals and may accommodate a shallow water feature at the bottom. These glass enclosures usually, though not always, take up more space than a rack. The animals are accessed by opening the front or the top, rather than sliding the unit out. Aquariums or vivariums can range from utilitarian –paper substrate, artificial hides and climbing structures minimal decor– to highly naturalistic with live plants, water features, and sculpted climbing and hiding places
Home-made: Handy people may choose to make their own housing. Some build enclosures from the ground up along the lines of racks or traditional glass vivariums, choosing their own dimensions, shapes and materials. Another route is to convert a piece of furniture such as a bureau, display case or TV cabinet into a customized gecko enclosure. In any case, budget, space, building and design skill and collection size all need to be taken into account before starting off on a building project.
Housing Ideas and Resources
For most of us, skills and money are considerations that require us to be creative in how we house our geckos. Below are some relatively inexpensive ideas for providing housing that is versatile and attractive:
Do it Yourself: Use the internet as a resource for images and descriptions of how to build racks and naturalistic enclosures. Gecko Time has a number of DIY articles that provide clear instructions, price lists and accurate photos about how to proceed
Inexpensive Backgrounds: Use “google images” to find pictures of landscapes in the countries from which your geckos originate. Print them, mount them on nice paper and laminate them. Tape them behind your enclosure as a background.
The Non-Rack Rack: This can be put together with any multiple shelf unit. Simply fill the shelves with front opening glass enclosures. There are several companies that make front-opening enclosures. For terrestrial geckos, there are enclosures that are half the height of regular aquariums (check out www.glasscages.com’s “stackable” units) which fit more easily on standard shelf units. It is also possible to turn an aquarium so the open top faces outward and to add doors to the open space (the “Tiki terrarium conversion kit” accomplishes this and is described in this Gecko Time article: How to Build a Naturalistic Terrarium).
The All-in-one Rack: Many home furnishing and home improvement stores sell plastic drawer sets that consist of 3-4 stacked drawers in a plastic frame. These can be converted into racks as long as heating can be designed that won’t interfere with the opening and closing of the drawers and that the geckos can’t escape from the space at the top of the drawers.
Ebay and Craigslist: Take advantage of others’ skills and haunt these lists for people selling their creations. With a little judicious hunting you can find all sorts of interesting constructions at very reasonable prices
Where have all the pictures gone?
Usually our articles are filled with pictures illustrating our text. Where are they? We’re waiting for you! Please send in pictures of your reptile rooms, rack systems, naturalistic vivariums or other interesting housing systems and we’ll publish them next week.
Partial resource list for cages:
Exo-terra naturalistic terrariums: http://www.exo-terra.com/en/products/glass_terrarium.php
Stackable, sliding front and half height glass enclosures: www.glasscages.com
Hand crafted wooden furniture cages: www.cagesbydesign.com
Cages and racks: http://animalplastics.com/
Handcrafted cage and rack systems: http://www.boaphileplastics.com/
Reptile Racks: http://www.freedombreeder.com/reptile-racks.html
Storage tubs and shelving: http://www.sterilite.com/home.html?section=1
Aliza is a home care speech therapist living in the Boston area. She has been breeding leopard geckos since 2005 and has also been successful in breeding Coleonyx, African Fat Tail and Gargoyle geckos. Other interests which she pursues in her copious free time include work in ceramics, practicing aikido and surfing the internet.