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How To Use Shelf Liner In A Leopard Gecko Tank

    When it comes to setting up your leopard gecko tank, one of the biggest considerations is the substrate to use. You want to avoid any health issues for your pet and impaction is a serious health issue. It is often resulting from your reptile eating substrate when capturing food. Shelf liner is being used effectively in many leopard gecko enclosures. Continue reading to find out more about using this substrate and make an informative decision for your pet.

    Pros and Cons


    • Hassle free maintenance – easy to clean
    • Safe for leopard geckos
    • Affordable price
    • Extensive selection of colors and patterns
    • Live food doesn't get stuck under the substrate and can be removed with ease


    • Shelf liner doesn't look natural
    • Liner can breed bacteria if you don't clean properly
    • The liner doesn't help your gecko in filing down nails

    Only Use Non-Adhesive Liner

    There are two types of shelf liner, the adhesive and the non-adhesive. It's important that you choose the non-adhesive option when selecting a substrate for your leopard gecko enclosure. If you are using a heat mat, then the adhesion can become toxic, causing fumes to be released into the tank.

    Never Use Shelf Liner with Holes

    Never use shelf liner with holes. Shelf liners with holes pose numerous problems within the enclosure from making it harder to clean poop and calcium powder. It is also problematic for your gecko as their claws can get stuck in the holes.

    Rather use a natural looking shelf liner, such as the Duck Smooth Top EasyLiner, which will ensure the safety of your gecko. It is non-adhesive, but the bottom grips in place with cushioned protection. It's very easy to clean and can be cleaned with a damp cloth. It is also machine washable, as an added convenience.

    How to Use a UTH with Shelf Liner

    Leopard geckos do well with a heat mat placed under the enclosure. Many reptile owners are worried that the shelf liner will melt. The good news is that this is not a problem, as long as you use non-adhesive liner and you set your UTH (Under Tank Heater) up properly.

    The Zoo Med ReptiTherm Under Tank Heater can be used in leopard gecko enclosures with confidence with an adhesive side that sticks with ease to the enclosure to ensure optimum heat transfer. The heat range is from 4 watts to 24 watts and is economical to operate. It can be used as a primary or secondary heat source.

    heat mat setup with glass tank

    Heat Mat Placement

    Your heat mat should be carefully placed under the enclosure, adhered to the bottom of the tank. The tank should have a gap to allow for ample airflow (aslo known as raised bottom). If the tank is not raised bottom, use the legs provided in most heat mat kits to give the enclosure the small gap it needs to accommodate the heat mat with ease.

    raised bottom vs no raised bottom

    Install the Thermostat

    A thermostat is sold separately to the heat mat and is imperative in ensuring you maintain safe and accurate temperatures. The thermostat will have three leads, the electrical plug, the heat mat plug and the probe, which is positioned in the enclosure to accurately measure temperatures.

    The thermostat will take some time to settle down. Use a digital thermometer to accurately measure enclosure temperatures with ease.

    Zoo Med ReptiTemp RT-600 Digital Thermostat Controller can be used with a heat mat to provide reliable temperature control. The thermostat has a control range of between 50ºF and 122ºF. It maintains temperature by turning the heat mat on and off as needed. This thermostat has a remote sensor with six feet of cable and can handle up to 600 watts of heating devices. It stores your settings in the event of power failure and will alarm when temperatures go out of range.

    Cleaning and Maintenance

    Shelf liners make cleaning and maintenance faster and easier while helping you provide a clean and hygienic habitat for your reptile pet. Whether you are choosing shelf liner or you are looking at another substrate for your leopard gecko, cleaning and maintenance are essential, with any substrate you need to:

    • Carry out daily cleaning of the enclosure. This includes removing any feces and uneaten food. Replacing the water with fresh, clean water.
    • Deep cleaning should be carried out once a month. Deep cleaning involves removing all the hides and rocks, including substrate. The enclosure and all accessories should be washed and disinfected before being returned to the enclosure.
    • Due to the affordable price of shelf liner, it is recommended to replace it when doing a deep clean to ensure you provide a comfortable and clean habitat for your leopard gecko.


    How to get rid of the smell from the shelf liner?

    You can just wipe it with soap and water. The smell will go away after a few days

    How to keep the edges of the shelf liner from curling up as crickets can hide under the curl?

    You can get some magnetic strips to secure it. 

    I've just brought non-adhesive shelf liner and I noticed on the instructions that It says keep away from heat? Is it still ok to use it with a heat mat?

    Yes, it is ok to use shelf liner with a heat mat as long as it's non-adhesive. The heat mat should only be between 90ºF and 95ºF which is cooler than your hand and your hand obviously does not burn the shelf liner.


    Shelf liner is a cheap and convenient substrate for your leopard gecko. While it may not look natural and it doesn't help in filing down your reptile’s claws, it is easy to clean and replace. You can add rocks and branches to encourage climbing and help to file down your gecko’s claws when using shelf liner.

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