Viper Geckos are adorable little reptiles, quite similar to Leopard Geckos, but smaller. Their small size makes them great for homes with little space, as they only need a 10-gallon tank to be happy. They also need less food than most geckos, but have important temperature and humidity requirements you need to know.
Keep reading for a full step-by-step guide to a complete Viper Gecko tank setup, temperature management, proper lighting, and common questions.
Viper Geckos reach a size of only 3-4 inches, which means they need much less space than other popular geckos. Adult Viper Geckos should have a 10-gallon tank, or about 20x12x10 inches.
Unlike many gecko species, Viper Geckos are also quite social and can be housed together. You can keep two or three of these little reptiles in a 10-gallon tank, or go for a slightly larger one. Keep in mind that between males in the same tank, fighting can still occur. If possible, keep only a single male in any enclosure to stay safe.
Viper Geckos are ground-dwelling reptiles. When shopping for a vivarium, make sure to choose one that is wide, not tall. They can and do climb, but ground surface is more important for them than vertical climbing.
As with most reptiles, a glass tank is the most common choice for Viper Geckos. It’s not only quite affordable, but also reliable, stays clean easily, is fully see-through, and there are a lot of options to choose from. However, quality PVC and aluminum are also viable tank material choices.
It’s important to keep the tank closed properly, as these tiny geckos can climb out of the tank if given the chance. While they don’t have sticky feet, they are still quite good climbers, and can even climb up glass walls for a bit! Keep the top covered with a proper mesh top at all times, and make sure you have no holes big enough for them to squeeze through.
Baby and juvenile Viper Geckos should be housed separately, as adults may eat them! Keep the younglings in a smaller tank, about 2 gallons, or a critter keeper.
Choosing a Substrate
Viper Geckos live in the arid, rocky areas of Pakistan. For adults, reptile sand is a common and natural choice, but blended sand or bioactive desert substrate also works very well. Baby and juvenile Viper Geckos are often housed with a simple substrate such as paper towels or newspapers.
Bioactive Substrate is usually the highest quality choice, as well as the least effort to maintain. However, it’s the most complex to set up. It’s still quite viable for beginners and can be bought pre-mixed. The main advantage is that bioactive substrate includes a “clean-up crew” of invertebrates that get rid of organic waste and feces. This keeps the substrate clean for months, so you don’t have to replace it as often as other options. It’s also usually the most natural choice and allows for digging.
Blended sand or blended soil is another, simpler option, and includes only materials such as sand, clay, or soil. This is often more natural than pure sand, but just as simple to install. However, without a cleaning microfauna, sand and blended sand need to be replaced more frequently.
Sand is not recommended for baby or juvenile geckos because of the risk of impaction. Once they are fully grown, this should not be a problem, but it can happen more easily while they are growing. Impaction is a condition where ingested sand or other indigestible material clogs the digestive tract. This can be fatal if not treated. For safety and simplicity, paper towels and newspapers are common choices as substrates for young geckos. Keep in mind that you have to replace these at least every few days.
Temperature & Heating
Similar to Leopard Geckos, Viper Geckos live in a warm, arid climate and require temperatures from around 75-85°F (24-29°C). There should be a basking spot at around 90-95°F (32-35°C), but this should not come from a hot light source, as Viper Geckos are nocturnal. Use a ceramic heat lamp and/or heat pad for heating.
Like most geckos, Viper Geckos are cold-blooded and self-regulate temperature in captivity by moving through different zones in the tank. One side should be the “hot zone” with a temperature in the 85°F (29°C) range, while the other end of the tank should be cooler, around 75°F (24°C). At night, temperatures can and should drop a bit, but not below 68°F (20°C).
A heat pad or heat mat provides the easiest source of reliable heat without light. Install it on one side of the tank below the floor, covering about 1/3 of the tank’s floor. Set it up with a thermostat to keep the tank’s temperature consistent. A ceramic heat lamp can be installed over the heat pad to provide a hot spot for basking, but make sure to not exceed the 95°F recommendation to avoid burns. Learn more about heat pad setup here.
Always use three things in your tank: A thermostat for your main heat source (ideally for all of them), two thermometers (one on each side) to easily check temperatures, and an infrared thermometer gun to spot-check temperatures on the actual substrate and near hot spots.
Viper Geckos thrive in environments with around 40-50% humidity. The tank should be misted 2-3 times per week, not only to keep the humidity up, but also to provide water droplets for your gecko to drink from.
Viper Geckos should have a small water dish with fresh water to drink from, but like many other species, get most of their moisture requirement from the air, tiny water droplets from misting, and from their food sources.
Only the humid hide should be consistently more humid than 50% (more on that in a bit). Excessive humidity in the tank can be dangerous and lead to infections.
As Viper Geckos are nocturnal, they don’t have any special lighting requirements. Make sure that they get around 12 hours of night per day – don’t keep the lights on in their room excessively, or their natural cycle will be disrupted. Also, it’s best not to install any “night lights”, as it’s not quite clear yet whether they can see or sense the light, or how much it impacts their natural day-night cycles.
Viper Geckos need the same basic accessories as similar geckos: At least two hides, a humid hide, a water and feeding dish, and some interesting decor.
Like most geckos, Viper Geckos have natural predators in the wild that they like to hide from. Providing a few options for that in their enclosure will make sure that they can hide whenever they feel threatened, or simply hide to relax in peace and quiet.
Hiding spots should exist on both the warm and cool side, and ideally come in various forms. From small caves to logs and bridge-like structures, everything they can hide beneath counts as a hiding spot. Provide variety to keep them happy and engaged, as Viper Geckos are quite active and love to explore. Also, if you house more than one gecko in your tank, make sure to create enough hiding spots for all of them.
Additionally, one of these hiding spots should be a humid hide. A humid hide is a small cave with moisture-retaining material such as sphagnum moss and a small entrance to keep the humidity inside the cave high (around 70-80%). This is a retreat specifically for shedding, which is much easier with high humidity. You may see your gecko disappear for a full day into this hide during shedding. They may also hide in there from time to time if they need more moisture. Make sure to keep this humid hide on the warm side of the tank, but make sure it doesn’t get too hot in there.
A water dish should be available, but doesn’t need to be big – the size of a bottle cap is usually enough. What’s important is that the water is replaced daily! Tap water, if the quality is good, is the best choice. Filtered water does not have important minerals that tap water usually has.
Additionally, a feeding dish helps the Viper Gecko to find their food during feeding time, as well as keeping the food from escaping too easily. Especially worms shouldn’t be allowed to escape the feeding dish, as they may burrow into the substrate.
Finally, with all the essential elements covered, it’s time to get creative! Place decoration in the tank – not just for you to look at, but for the geckos to explore and play with. Viper Geckos are quite active and enjoy climbing and exploring their habitat.
Rocks, fake rocks, logs, plants (real and fake), and store-bought structures can all be interesting decorations for your vivarium. Ideally, they are multi-purpose: structures to climb on can also provide hiding spots underneath them, like bridge-like structures or hollow logs/tunnels.
Is a 20-gallon tank too large for a Viper Gecko?
No, Viper Geckos will enjoy a 20-gallon tank (or larger) if it has the appropriate temperature and decoration. These geckos are quite active and enjoy exploring and climbing around. A larger tank gives them more opportunities to explore and play.
How many Viper Geckos can I keep in one tank?
Viper Geckos are quite social compared to other gecko species – a common setup is two females and one male Viper Gecko. This is for 10 to 15-gallon tanks. For larger tanks, you can add roughly one gecko per 5 gallons of space, or go with fewer to provide more space for your geckos.
Keep in mind that multiple males in one tank are likely to be rivals and may fight for territory or females, and is not recommended for beginner reptile keepers. You can carefully try it if you have a large tank, but housing only a single male per habitat is the safe choice.
Also, housing males and females together can result in breeding – Viper Geckos are quite quick to start breeding if given the chance. Brumation in winter and longer daylight cycles in summer further entice them to breed, especially in spring and summer. If you don’t want eggs and hatchlings, it’s best to not keep males and females in one tank. If you do want to breed Viper Geckos, however, it’s recommended to properly research the topic and follow best practices to keep your reptiles safe and healthy.
Do Viper Geckos need a heat lamp?
Viper Geckos need at least one heat source, but do not need a heat lamp specifically. Since these are nocturnal geckos, they are used to ambient heat (from the ground and environment), rather than basking in warmth from above (like sunlight). Heat pads are the best choice to simulate heat from below, but a ceramic heat lamp (= not light-emitting) can also be used in combination with a heat pad.
Light-emitting heat lamps such as reptile basking lamps are a bad choice, as Viper Geckos aren’t very active during the day, and should never have a light source at night.
Do Viper Geckos need a UVB lamp?
Opinions are split on UVB lamps for many nocturnal reptiles, including Viper Geckos. Similar to Leopard Geckos, Viper Geckos are active mostly at night – but at least one 2020 study has shown that Leopard Geckos do benefit from UVB lamps (in addition to vitamin D supplements). The same likely applies to Viper Geckos.
Using a low-intensity (2-6%) UVB lamp on a strict timer (12h daylight, maximum 14h during summer) is most likely not harmful, and actually likely to provide an additional vitamin D source. Vitamin D is crucial for calcium absorption, possibly the most important micro-nutrient for many reptiles. Low vitamin D leads to calcium deficiency, leading to metabolic bone disease, a fatal condition. Supplementing vitamin D through both diet and a safe UVB lamp is generally a good idea.
Should I keep the heat on at night in my Viper Gecko tank?
You should keep at least one heat source on at night, but controlled by a thermostat. The thermostat will regulate the temperature in your Viper Gecko’s tank at night to make sure it stays warm enough, but doesn’t get too warm. It’s dangerous to keep any heat source on constantly, as room temperatures vary, which can lead to excessive heat or coldness in your gecko’s tank. Always have at least one heat source (without light) on, ready to heat up the tank if the temperatures drop too far, and ready to be turned off if temperatures rise too far.
How can I lower the humidity in my Viper Gecko tank?
To lower the humidity in your Viper Gecko’s tank, improving circulation is usually the first step. If you have only a mesh cover on top of the tank (you should), you can try lowering the amount of moisture in the tank. Use a smaller water dish and/or place it further on the cool side. If you have moss (or other moisture-retaining material) anywhere but in the humid hide, try removing some of it.
If your room’s humidity is already high, you can try a de-humidifier. This should only be necessary rarely, but is an option to consider.
How can I increase the humidity in my Viper Gecko tank?
To increase the humidity in your Viper Gecko’s tank, the easiest options are to add a larger water dish (wider, but always very shallow!) for increased condensation, or to add a few spots with sphagnum moss, which is excellent at retaining moisture. If you’re not already misting the tank 2-3 times per week, start doing that, and if you are, try increasing the frequency.
If all of that isn’t enough, you can buy a reptile mister, which automatically mists the tank with water on a set interval. Make sure to keep an eye on the humidity in the tank. You should have two hygrometers installed (usually a thermometer-hygrometer combo) to quickly check the humidity throughout the day and night. For about 30 minutes to an hour after misting, humidity can be higher than normal, but should be somewhat consistent throughout the rest of the day and night.