Our Leopard Gecko Bioactive Build for Banana

My build is U.S. centric and many items were acquired locally through PetCo and PetSmart.  
Design is based on information from the Leopard Gecko - Advancing Husbandry Facebook group:

They describe themselves as:

We are a Group for anyone who has or is interested in Leopard Geckos (Eublepharis macularius), from brand new owners to long time keepers! We are an open-minded group that understands there is more than one way to keep a Leopard Gecko. However, we do advocate for care practices that are based in Science and Herpetology.

This is an "implementation" of their reference as of May 2021.  Any mistakes are probably mine.  Their recommendations should supersede mine -- they have much much more experience than I do.    One important aspect of the Advancing Husbandry group is to consider new research as it comes in.  This build as documented could possibly go against their future recommendations.  

Anything you buy in person from Petco or Petsmart -- check their own online price!  It often differs from the in store price!  By a LOT sometimes.  Ask for the in online price.


I like the ExoTerra 36x18x18" 40 gallon.  It has a deeper well than the ZooMed and the ZooMed latches are prone to breaking. 



If your house never dips below 65F, you only need a halogen light heater.  Visible radiant heat is a better source of deep heat than invisible radiant heat.


I chose an 8" dome because it seemed to spread/radiate the heat out wider than the Zilla mini halogen or a 5" dome.  The glass tank has a harder time holding heat so I'd rather have wider heat while heating the bask.   I prefer ceramic sockets (NOT to be confused with ceramic heaters!!) as the ceramic socket can withstand higher temperatures.  Larger domes will also be cooler per square inch on their surface so has less of a chance of burning someone.

I went with the Fluker, which has a problem -- it has no hanger.   (I made one out of some very stiff wire.)   Toss out the clamp.  

There are probably better choices out there.  It was just what was on the shelf at Petco.

Note:  One thing I double checked is the power cord on the dome.  All wire should be rated in Celsius what temperatures they can handle.  Any lamp with no rating is suspicious.  I would avoid Amazon knock offs which might not be safety rated/certified.


Dimming Thermostat

I bought (and really like) the Herpstat 1 Spyderweb.  There are other choices of course.

Halogen Lamp

The market in par38 bulbs has gotten a little confusing as the world phases from incandescent (a burning wire) to LED (a hopefully not burning wire).   I'm using a 90W bulb I had laying around from when I converted our outdoor lightning to LED.   Get a GE or Phillips Halogen from your local hardware store.  

Do not get a colored light.


Lamp Stand

I don't like the hot dome touching the plastic parts of the screen.  I'm also in California, so earthquakes while not at home are always a concern.  So I bought a lamp hanger.  I could only find one name brand (there are other knock offs on Amazon) that wasn't just a cheap piece of plastic.  I got the ZooMed Reptile Lamp Stand.



I got the 12" Arcadia Shadedweller.  They are in short supply and hard to find right now.  I bought it at https://talis-us.com/ with a bit of markup, but it can also be gotten from http://reptilighting.com and a few other places when in stock.

12" is sufficient to create a UVB gradient.



70% soil

I shopped one afternoon at Lowes, Home Depot, and a local fancy nursery for soil that didn't contain perlite or vermiculite (although the group accepts it), was organic, and had no manure (group forbids.)

I gave up and got Zoomed Reptisoil from Petsmart.  I chose to go with 40 quarts.  I think 50 would also fit.

~$45 for 40 quarts

30% sand

Any play sand is recommended.  What was easy to get for me was Quickrete Playsand from Lowes.  

~$6 for 50 lbs.    

I used 30 lbs but only ended up with 15% sand.  I should have used the whole bag.

You can use this tool to determine how much sand in weight you need for a given volume:


??% clay

I had some redart clay leftover from a planted aquarium.  It was a cylinder slab about 4" x 8" (h x diam.).  I mixed it in and liked how it made the texture.   This is totally optional.

Leaf Litter

We have a camellia shrub that just finished blooming.  I took some dying blossoms and leaves and baked them at 200F to dry them out.  I also took some leaves from our neighbor's mulberry -- these will be much more crumbly.


I like live plants.

We have a pothos, a birds nest fern, another fern, and a neanthe bella palm.  I have no idea if everything will live yet.  I put the ferns on the cool side.   Be sure to watch your humidity!

The ferns were kept in their pots and buried their pots so their water was more localized.

I also strategically planted some oat grass mixed with rye that we already had for "cat grass."  The oat grass has nice thick blades.  Blue fescue would also be nice.

Plant Lighting

I had a 12" Jungle Dawn from the smaller terrarium.  At the moment I like how the smaller LED creates a shady and bright area by only covering part of the tank.  I might get another 12" some day.

You only need this if you want go grow plants and ambient light isn't sufficient.




When I installed the soil, humidity was a bit high so it made me think about controlling it.  I have experience with AC Infinity's fans from 3D Printing and Aquaria and have been pleased with them.  I initially thought that the hygrometer was off, but I did the salt calibration and found it was spot on!

I'm using the AC Inifnity AIRTITAN.

I place it on the cool side, set it to 50%, and throttle it so it can't get very high.


We started with 6" terracotta pots we cut in half with a hand tile saw and then applied grout over to make them less slippery.  Water based polyurethane after that to seal and also make a little less "sand papery."

For a humid hide, we are using this terracotta hide that has a reservoir pool above it and uses the natural properties of terracotta to humidify the inside.

For a cool hide, I bought a cork bark log ... this thing is huge and we love it.  We got it from https://www.divideandculture.com/ where is also we got our Zebra Isopods and some springtails.

Our warm hide is a large sandstone shelf that he can bask on top of or hide underneath.   

Cleanup Crew

  • Zebra isopods
  • Springtails (on order)

The Wall

I've gotten questions on the wall.  It came out mostly how I wanted, but Banana *really* likes to climb.  He likes to climb to the top of the wall... and then kinda get stuck with no where to go.... and then sometimes falls.  So I lowered the wall to make a crevice he can crawl into at the top and added sticks to make it easier to get back down.

The wall is made of polystyrene foam board.  I roughed one side up a little so it was no longer smooth to help mortar stick and also tried to add a little bit of large shallow dips in it so it wasn't perfectly flat.   I also chamfered the exposed vertical edges because I wanted sloped edges to the wall and not a big fat square end piece.  (My wall doesn't cover the whole back)

I used some leftover (about 3) 12" slate tiles.  Slammed them down flat onto concrete and also used a hammer on their edges to make thin medium sized flakes.

Thinset mortar adheres better than grout and has a little more flexibility.  You can also get 50 lbs of thinset mortar for the price of 10 lbs of grout.. although I probably used less than 10 lbs.   

I used a paint brush to make a thin coating of thinset on the foam board and let that dry completely. That gives a nice consistent surface to work with and covers the foam so if you have any gaps between tiles you will just see mortar, not green foam.

I then used the thinset to adhere the shards of slate as kind of a mosaic.  I dapped a bit on the back of each tile and pushed them onto the board.  I overlapped some to hide joints, but be careful not to have sharp pieces sticking out.  Slate is pretty soft, so you can use a rasp or something to smooth them down.  

After about 12-24 hours when the tile is mostly set, clean the slate with a stiff brush and water.  I also used a chopstick to scrape off excess mortar.


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