Because Leopard geckos are often shy and secretive, hiding areas are essential to make them feel more at home. One of the most important hiding places that should be supplied to Leopard geckos is a proper hide box.
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Leopard geckos will need a place to hide or retreat when they are shy or scared, and a place to sleep. During fragile periods (e.g. when they are shedding their skins), Leopard geckos might also prefer to be less visible. Additionally, breeding female Leopard geckos will need a place to deposit their eggs.
In the wild, Leopard geckos will spend a great deal of time avoiding bright light and to stay out of sight of predators(31). These times are spent under rocks, under trees and in burrows, tunnels and holes under the soil. To simulate this behaviour and create a similar environment, it is important that a humidifying shelter and one or more additional hiding areas are supplied.
Without proper places to hide, Leopard geckos will feel vulnerable and exposed. Under these circumstances, some Leopard geckos will show signs of aggression, exhibit glass climbing behaviour and might refuse to eat.
Hide and sleep areas for Leopard geckos (also called retreats) can be supplied in various ways. Popular ones include hide boxes, cave-like structures and custom decorations. Many Leopard gecko keepers make their own, but various commercial hiding products are available from places like Amazon.com, pet shops, reptile retailers and other online shops.
As long as a humidifying shelter is supplied, one or two additional hide areas are usually enough for most Leopard geckos. Hiding areas can be placed in various locations in larger enclosures. When heating equipment is used, hiding should be supplied in the cooler and in the warmer areas of the enclosure.
Hide areas also act as environmental enrichment and decorative items for Leopard geckos.
Leopard gecko skin shedding
Skin Shedding problems in Leopard geckos
Ensuring the correct humidity for pet Leopard geckos
Natural distribution and habitat of Leopard geckos
Types of hiding areas for Leopard geckos
As mentioned earlier, hiding areas for Leopard geckos can be supplied in various forms. They include hide boxes, caves and custom decorations. Things to consider are its size, the size of the enclosure, ability to clean, aesthetics and its purpose. Each hiding area should be large enough to simultaneously fit all the Leopard geckos comfortably.
The most commonly used hiding spot for Leopard geckos is probably in the form of a hide box (also referred to as “hides”). By simply being a box-like container with an opening, a hide box can be as simple as a small plastic or wooden container. Having a lid is advantageous for easy access and cleaning. A waterproof hide box can also easily converted into a humidifying shelter (see later). The opening of the hide box can either be high up on the side or on the top (in the lid) of the container. The opening needs to be large enough to allow access to the inside, but not too large.
Small to medium plastic lunch boxes are popularly used hide boxes. Plastic lunch boxes are inexpensive and easy to obtain. To allow for even more privacy, solid-coloured boxes are preferred over see-through ones. Enclosed commercial items in the form of rocks and dried wood are also available.
Cave-like hiding areas for Leopard geckos are structures that are placed on top of the substrate. In addition to shelter, they also add environment enrichment and decorative value.
Cave-like structures come in various shapes and sizes and are popularly available from places like Amazon.com. Non-decorative structures such as paper boxes and upside-down plastic containers can also be used for their sheltering abilities.
Apart from aesthetics, desired properties include their weight, size and ability to clean. For this reason materials such as resin, plastic and concrete are often used to produce them.
Hiding spots for Leopard geckos can also be created by using self-made, custom decorations. Instead of using commercial items, many Leopard gecko keepers simply use items such as rocks, pieces of bark, card box, flagstone, etc. A good example includes stacking or placing rocks or flagstone to create caves and canopies. Custom decorations can be made to be open on one side so that the inside of the hidden area is more visible for viewing.
Even though custom decorations can look more natural and add a lot of entertainment for Leopard geckos, they must be used with caution. Loosely decorated items can fall over and/or allow for areas where a leg or tail can get stuck in. Natural items are also more difficult to clean/disinfect and can offer hiding areas for insects, bacteria and parasites. Silicone glue can be used to anchor pieces together(31).
In the case of enclosures made from glass, the floor can easily crack when heavy objects are placed or dropped onto it. The same goes for unstable furniture that can fall over. To make the floor a little less fragile, layers of newspaper can be used to separate the substrate layer. Deep layered substrates will act as some degree of shock absorber and can be used to hide cables in.
Humidifying shelters for Leopard geckos
In addition to shelter, Leopard geckos also need a humid area to sleep in. This will aid healthy skin shedding, help increase the humidity and reduce dehydration. In nature, the tunnels and holes under the soil will often be cool, moist and humid. For pet Leopard geckos, such an environment needs to be recreated by supplying a humidifying shelter.
A humidifying shelter (also called a ‘moist hide’) is an enclosed area with a moist substrate. A waterproof hide box (mentioned earlier) with a layer of peat/sphagnum moss is commonly used. Paper towel, fresh vermiculite and various other forms of commercial substrate/bedding can also be used. In the case of vermiculite and moss mixtures, it needs to be mixed with an equal volume of clean water. Paper towel can be sprayed. The substrate should not be soggy wet, but feel moist by touching it. Routine/regular misting (once or twice a week, or as needed) will aid in keeping the substrate moist.
Because moist hiding areas are also the perfect place for environmental bacteria to grow, the container to should be washed and disinfected routinely/regularly (at least once a month). Old and/or mouldy substrates should be discarded and replaced regularly.
Humidifying shelters are also used by gravid females to deposit their eggs (see Breeding boxes below).
Suitable substrates for Leopard geckos
Defaecatorial behaviour in Leopard geckos
Ensuring the correct humidity for Leopard geckos
Breeding boxes for Leopard geckos
During the breeding season, gravid females will need a moist, secure area to deposit their eggs. A breeding box (or nesting box) for Leopard geckos is basically a hide box converted into a humidifying shelter. To keep the eggs from getting infected, commercial substrates for the purpose of egg deposition should be preferred. Vermiculite is commonly used.
Leopard gecko breeding
Hide areas and humidifying shelters are vital to natural behaviour, health and happiness of pet Leopard geckos. This article pointed out what keepers can use and what to look out for.
For URL links, see the Reference article page.