A vivarium is a complete habitat for a small animal such as a lizard or a snake, something like an aquarium, but without all the water. Creating a gecko vivarium entails making sure that it will have enough room for one or two of the lizards to live in comfortably as well as heat, water, and hiding places. It does not have to look like a completely natural environment, but the gecko will do best if it has all the essentials.
One of the most commonly used types of cages is an aquarium, preferably at least 20 gallons (75.7 l) or more in size, though smaller ones are sometimes used. It is important that the animal has plenty of room to roam, which helps to keep it both happy and healthy. The addition of a screen top insures that the occupant can’t get out and it is also safe from cats, dogs, or even rodents such as rats and mice. Typically, the screen top is fastened to the cage so that it can’t easily be dislodged.
The bottom of a gecko vivarium is almost always several inches of coarse gravel or sand, to simulate its natural environment as much as possible. Geckos come from hot, dry areas such as India, Iran, and Australia, and they do well when placed on familiar footing. Gravel should always be natural, since lizards may not do well when placed on a surface that has been plasticized or dyed, something common in many types of decorative aquarium gravel. Many gecko keepers don’t like to use sand because the young lizards may try to eat it.
It is common to divide the gecko vivarium in half, keeping one side warm and the other side cool. This allows the gecko to find a place where it is most comfortable and simulates nature; it will choose a sunny spot if it is too cold and a shady spot if it is too hot. The gecko vivarium should also provide plenty of hiding spots to help the animal feel safe, with at least one such spot in both the warm and the cool sections.
A gecko vivarium may also have plants and other decorations in it. Relatively small plants are buried in the level surface of the gravel, but bigger plants can be set into small hills of gravel to add variety and interest to the terrain. Water is essential, and is usually kept in dish that is shallow enough to allow the gecko easy access but heavy enough not to tip over. Many vivariums have more than one water source to ensure that the resident doesn’t run out.