How To Make A Bioactive Leopard Gecko Tank? [Step by Step]

When you want to pet a Leopard Gecko, it’s obvious that you are going to keep it inside a tank that is far from its natural habitat. If the tank is very artificial and does not contain much of the ecosystem your Leopard Geckos lived in earlier, it might not be helpful for their growth. Then you might wonder- How to make a bioactive Leopard Gecko tank?

To make a bioactive Leopard gecko tank, you need to include elements that can cooperatively work together to ensure a miniature ecosystem. You will need a good quality tank, plants, electrics, substrates, natural background, and more to create a bioactive tank for your Gecko.

If you want to know more about setting up a bioactive tank for Gecko, make sure to read till the end.

How Do You Set Up A Bioactive Leopard Gecko Tank?

If you want to set up a bioactive Leopard Gecko tank, you need to have three things in mind:

  • Drainage layer
  • Leaf litter
  • Bulk substrate

Drainage layer

The drainage layer is important to keep the water going out of the tank. The drainage layer is made up of rocks, gravel or clay pellets, and sometimes plastic materials. It basically helps prevent substrate from having excess water.

Leaf litter

Leaf litter is added on top of the substrate to provide a habitat for microbes to grow. It also serves as a food source for some decomposers and small animals can use these to break down wastes as well.

You need to choose leaves that are either half decomposed or fully intact but the mixture of these two will create a great leaf litter.

Bulk substrate

The substrate is necessary for the Geckos and plants to survive inside the tank. The substrate should be kept three inches deep at least.

Step By Step Procedure To Make A Bioactive Leopard Gecko Tank

After you have all three important elements mentioned above, you can start building your bioactive tank:

  1. Choose your vivarium.
  2. Create a background using foam or sealant to make a surface for everything to keep.
  3. Create your drainage area with solid rocks or sands.
  4. Fill the tank with a bulk amount of substrates, usually three to four inches deep.
  5. Use leaf litter and elements like palm bark and put it on top of the substrate you have. This actually can create small microbial hotspots. You can also use Sphagnum moss if there is a chance of low humidity conditions inside the tank.
  6. Mix both substrate and the leaf litters using your hand.
  7. Make hiding spots and ensure proper humidity and temperature inside the tank.
  8. Install the lighting such as – basking light, UVB light, and plant lights.
  9. Add plants such as – aloe vera, snake plant, money plant, etc.
  10. Incorporate a thermometer to track the temperature.
  11. Put water bowls and utensils such as food bowls.
  12. Put a clean-up crew such as isopods (Greek, variable, etc.)
  13. Add leaf litter if possible so that your clean-up crew can feed on it.
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How Do You Make A Substrate Bioactive?

A bioactive substrate allows the growth of plants and the microflora of an ecosystem that are needed in the tank.

To create bioactive substrates, there are a few things you need to do:

  • Create a base for the substrate
  • Healthy supplements
  • Choosing compost

Create a base for the substrate

A moisture substrate is necessary to create a bioactive base. Isopods generally live in the substrate and they need moisture for their survival. Hence a moisturized substrate, such as coco coir can be used to make a base.

Healthy supplements

For drainage and aeration, a good amount of supplements would be required. Wet or compacted substrates do not allow aeration to pass through the plants or the bacteria living inside the bioactive tank.

Hence, materials like horticultural charcoal can help in this issue by letting air pass through the roots and make the colony flourish.

Choosing compost

Plants and isopods can both feed on compost such as worm castings that help them to grow and survive inside the tank. Therefore choose a good compost for your bioactive substrate.

Do Bioactive Tanks Smell?

Bioactive tanks do smell bad and this is due to the presence of anaerobic bacteria in the tank. These bacteria can build up an odor in the tank.

The tank however can also smell bad if there is any rotten root or overwatering that causes a humid area to develop.

 The humid area can cause mold formation which is another reason why your bioactive tank might smell.

How Long Do Bioactive Terrariums Last?

A bioactive terrarium is supposed to last for a couple of months to years. Mostly, a bioactive terrarium lasts for approximately 4 months to a couple of years if you take proper care of it.

How Deep Should A Bioactive Terrarium Be?

The depth of the bioactive tank basically indicates the depth of substrate inside the tank. Generally, the substrate should be around 3-4 inches deep to provide enough surface area for necessary bacteria to grow.

 You can also go deeper to provide extra space for microbial and fungi growth.

Can A Leopard Gecko Have A Bioactive Enclosure?

A reptile-like Leopard Gecko can definitely have a bioactive enclosure. A bioactive tank helps the reptiles like leopard Gecko to have a nature like a terrarium where their growth is controlled by artificial means.

Alongside artificial, a bioactive tank must have natural substances to create a beneficial ecosystem for any Gecko to survive for long periods of time.

Are Isopods Good For Leopard Geckos?

Isopods are a type of arthropod that has nutritional benefits. You can actually feed your Leopard Gecko the isopods with different potato or pill bugs. The skeleton of these isopods is calcium-rich and provides enough calcium to keep Geckos bone strong.

Moreover, these isopods are thought of as a source of minerals too. However, these should not be given as a primary food source. As sometimes overeating can cause harm to the health of your Gecko.

Moreover, you should always clean these isopods before giving them to your Gecko. As isopods collected from lands can have pesticides and thus have a negative impact on the geckos’ health.

Bioactive Leopard Gecko Plants

For creating any bioactive environment it is necessary to incorporate plants as it helps to create a natural enclosure for the Geckos to live. But before putting any plants inside the tank, you need to consider a few things:

  • Toxicity of plants
  • Free of pesticides
  • Plant’s needs
  • Water requirements

Toxicity of plants

The toxicity of plants can affect the health of your Gecko. When you choose a plant that is toxic in nature or produces toxic, your Gecko might try to consume it. This way, they may end up getting poisoned or dead.

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Hence you need to choose plants that are free from toxins or poisons in nature.

Free of pesticides

Before putting any plants in the tank, you need to ensure that your plant is free of pesticides or any chemicals. The chemicals or pesticides can be consumed by the Geckos and they might face toxicity effects in their body.

Plant’s needs

Having any plants which have major requirements can actually hamper the growth of your Gecko. As while maintaining the plants, you may end up taking less care of your pet.

Moreover, you may have to set up a different temperature or environment that will be specific for the plant but not for your Gecko.

Hence you need to choose a plant that has minimum requirements and yet can grow sufficiently.

Water requirements

The water requirements of the plants need to be kept in mind as well. If your plant needs more water to survive in vivo., then it will eventually raise the humidity inside the tank. Hence a plant with fewer water requirements would be perfect for the growth and development of your Gecko.

6 Best Plants For Bioactive Leopard Gecko Tank

There are many types of plants that you can choose to set up a bioactive terrarium and some of the best options are:

  • Aloes
  • Elephant bush
  • Snake plant
  • Money plant/ jade plant
  • Zebra Cactus
  • Sweetheart Hoya

1. Aloes

Among all types of aloes, the aloe vera is the most common one as it is mostly available and cheap in price.

For vibrant colors, there are different types of aloes such as the pink blush aloe, the sunset aloe, etc. has vibrant pink to orangish color that helps to create a colorful enclosure for your Gecko.

The aloe vera also doesn’t hamper the growth of the Gecko as they have minimum requirements and also they are slow growers.

2. Elephant bush

The Elephant bush is another plant that is succulent in nature and it is the favorite plant of Elephants.

The Elephant bus trees grow tall in nature but in the tank, you need to trim them down whenever they grow large in size.

Cutting or trimming the plants down will allow them to thrive better inside in vivo without interrupting the growth of Gecko.

These plants can thrive at 110°F which is why they can survive in warm temperatures or on the warm side of the tank easily.

3. Snake plant

The snake plant is a hardy plant yet has a minimum number of requirements for its survival and growth.

These plants are hard to kill and can work really well when placed at the back of the terrarium. Generally, these pants are chosen when you want to give a jungle-like appearance to your Geckos Tank.

The snake plants can also remove toxins from the air that makes it a better choice for the Geckos to grow.

4. Money plant/ jade plant

Money plants besides being a plant decor can also be put inside the tank for your Gecko. The money plant/jade plant can grow for several years and can last for a long time. However, the plants need to be kept trimmed to make them last longer and for keeping their growth under control.

5. Zebra Cactus

The zebra cactus can grow slowly and has minimum requirements as they can thrive easily in a dry environment.

The Zebra cactus performs well in low light and grows fast compared to other plants.

The Zebra cactus should not be kept in direct sunlight as it can burn the leaves or tips of the plant.

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These plants can thrive in s 80°F and do not need a lot of water to survive. Hence, they can be watered once or twice per month.

6. Sweetheart Hoya

The sweetheart Hoya plant has heart-shaped leaves and is small in shape. This plant also does not require a lot to survive which means it has fewer requirements to thrive inside in vivo.

These plants are also hardy in nature and can survive well in the 80°F temperature range. These plants require indirect sunlight and so UVB lighting will be enough for their growth in the tank.

The sweetheart hoya does not need lots of water for their survival.

Leopard Gecko Bioactive Lighting

Bioactive lighting does not only mean fighting for your Gecko. The lighting of your bioactive tank must support the growth of the plants that are kept inside.

For Leopard Gecko, 5-6% UV light is required for at least 12 hours a day. Leopard Geckos mostly do their activity at night, yet they do not require light at night.

There are different types of UV lights available in the market. For knowing more about UV light, check- Do Leopard Geckos need UVB?

Since active plants are a very essential part of a bioactive terrarium or vivarium, placing the tank in front of the window can threaten your Gecko’s life. The heat from the sun will make the tank warm and this can create an exhausting environment for your Gecko’s survival.

The lighting setup for plants in the bioactive is very different from setting up lights for your Geckos. The plants need bright light in order to process photosynthesis for their survival and you need to consider some factors for setting up the lights:

  • UVB lights
  • White spectrum light
  • Brightness level

UVB lights

The UVB lights are firstly not that bright and secondly, they can make the plants burn and die eventually. Even though some plants can still grow, the lighting won’t be enough for them to make energy. This will become a struggle for them to survive.

White spectrum light

The red and blue light cannot help in the growth of all of the plants inside the tank. Also, the blue light or the mixture of both red and blue will create a purple hue that can affect the eyesight of the Gecko negatively.

A white spectrum lighting would be perfect for the growth of both your plants and the Gecko. Generally, a plant light of 5200K to 7000K having a peak of 430-460nm should be beneficial for your Leopard Gecko and as well as for the plants.

Brightness level

The brightness of the lights should also be optimum for plant growth and also for the survival of the reptile. As too much or too little light can cause a disturbance in the growth and sleep cycle of your Gecko.

To have the extra glow you can choose the Zilla LED Plant Bulb mini 5 watts. This will work as both a UVB light source and help the plants to grow inside the tank.

Final words

Bioactive Leopard Gecko tank is now a popular thing nowadays as it is helping to create an ecosystem that is better than the artificial life a Gecko leads inside a tank. The bioactive tank setup needs appropriate lighting, substrate, and plants and there are a few steps that need to be maintained to make a perfect bioactive Leopard Gecko tank for your Gecko.

But maintaining the Bioactive tank is very important as well. This can ensure a long-term benefit for your Gecko’s life and development.

Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.


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