Plants for Gecko Tank

To start the plants section of our guide to reptile keeping, tanks and habitats, which is where it all starts with reptiles … Plants for a gecko tank. What should they be? Which ones do they need? Why do they matter so much and what exactly will they bring your pet lizard or any other reptile.

We’ll try to explain why plants matter, and what is the best way to maintain them in a captive environment. Our info will be based on years of experience with many different types of lizards and snakes but we are also going to pick up some ideas from all the great people who already have written plenty on this topic. 

Why should you put plants in your gecko tank?

Lizards are what we call ‘ecosystem engineers’. This means that they shape their environment around themselves. Lizards – especially those which come from the Tropics and Sub-tropics, like green iguanas, leopard geckos or bearded dragons – create microclimates in their tank. They move around a lot, they climb on things, they will search for water and shelter in a way that creates little pockets of different temperatures.

You can see this with leopard geckos, which are from the dry deserts in southern Africa. They live under rocky outcrops and boulders where they have a certain temperature range because of the sun being overhead at certain hours of the day. They also need to be in a certain type of environment so that they can hide from predators and prey, especially during night time.

Owls are their predator because owls hunt at night by listening for little noises of things moving around or scurrying around to find something to eat. So leopard geckos will flow around and create different ‘microclimates’ like cracks where the sun is shining through or holes where they can hide from predators.

What plants are good for gecko tanks?

There’s a variety of different plants out there. Some people are really into it and so you will find each type of reptile has their own little plant species. There are some that we recommend, like the pothos for example (we’ll talk about that in more detail later). What this is all about is getting a few different plants that will help your lizard create the microclimates they need.

It’s not just about creating a nice looking environment, although most people want to achieve that as well. Your gecko needs some places where it can get away from its own waste and urine, and also different temperatures for basking.

The best way of achieving this is to get a selection of different plants. You don’t need many and you want them to be easy to maintain. Giant pothos has the benefit that it will grow up the side of your vivarium so that you can just take off any leaves which turn yellow or become damaged, leaving the healthy green leaves at the top.

Pothos is also great because it will give you a few weeks of growth before it starts looking old and tired. This means you can just take out the dead leaves, put them in some new water with repotting mix and then they’ll grow back again. You need to repot the plant about once every two months or so.

We’ve noticed that this type of plant also has a natural antiseptic quality. We think it’s the oils and resins it produces which makes for a perfect microclimate for small reptiles. It is also perfect in terms of size so that your gecko can climb onto it, sit inside its leaves or just move around on top.

It also helps that it can survive both high temperatures and low temperatures. This is especially important if you live in a colder area like the UK, Northern Europe or America where your heating will only be on sporadically. The pothos just needs a little light every now and then to help it grow faster. It’s not fussy about its soil either.

It can grow in water or it will just absorb the moisture from the air around it. It’s a pretty tough plant which is also great for children to look after because they don’t need to have any gardening skills, although kids always love growing stuff and seeing things develop over time.

Other plants you can use for geckos

Other plants are just as effective. They don’t have to be pothos, but obviously this is the best one to get because you can leave it in the vivarium and your lizard will climb on top of it, hide inside it or even sleep underneath it. You’ll see them using their special climbing technique of gripping onto the plant and just run, jump or lift their body weight in order to get from one place to another.

Some people like snake plants, although these don’t give off a great deal of water. What they do is help your gecko to have some shade sometimes because the leaves can block out certain areas so that the lizard can get to a cooler spot. You’re also helping it to regulate its temperature which is really important.

We’ve seen so many cases of leopard geckos falling ill in the UK because they don’t have the right microclimate for their body temperature to drop at night and then go up again during the day. Obviously if it’s too cold for you, it’s going to be too cold for your lizard.

It can also get really hot as well in the summer months and your gecko will want somewhere cooler to sit under. It might just go over there sometimes to escape from its own heat and then move back again when it gets a little chilly. The plant will also give off oxygen which is good for the lizard too.

Some people like to put a small water feature in their vivarium so that they have running water. You definitely don’t need this, although it might be better for your gecko if you live outside of North America or an area with warm summers because sometimes there’s not enough moisture in the air.

Both pothos and snake plants absorb water from their surroundings so they can give off a little bit to your lizard, but it’s not really absolutely necessary for you to have a live plant inside your vivarium. You’ll also save money that way because potted houseplants don’t come cheap.

It’s also the case that people like to have different plants and they don’t want them all in one place. They don’t always work together well, although we think pothos is probably better for this purpose because it seems to form a healthier growing environment for your gecko.

Conclusion – Plants for Gecko tank

Pothos is one of the best plants for leopard geckos and other small lizards because they love to climb on top of it, sleep in the leaves and just use their tails to hang underneath. It’s also really easy to care for as long as you remember that you have to water it about once every two months or so. The only problem is that you’ll have to keep it in a vivarium and out of the reach of your leopard gecko.

If you enjoyed this Plants for Gecko Tank blog then you might also like to read about using a crested gecko heat mat and Leopard Gecko bedding

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