Process of a Gerbilarium & Gerbil FAQ


As of January 2015 I currently have my new gerbils (Mr. Pettypaws, Little Bear, George) in a glass curio cabinet, positioned on it’s back, that is a facsimile to the IKEA Detolf. Mine is not a Detolf in brand but it’s essentially the same. If you have an IKEA in your area and are willing to make a sturdy lid this is a great option for a spacious “tank” for your gerbils (or hamsters). If you do not have an IKEA nearby and are willing to pay a bit you can search Amazon for something like this. It goes by various names. This one was Coaster Home. The price is variable. I found this one for 124 and free shipping with Amazon Prime membership. For shipping IKEA”s Detolf would have cost me over 300 dollars for a 60 dollar cabinet. So, for tempered glass and having it delivered right to my door in 2 days (it’s over 90 pound box) I feel it was worth the money. And just look at it! My favorite Gerbil set up so far!

Dimensions when built and placed on it’s “back” to become a tank are roughly: 16” width by 14 ” high by an awesome 64” length. 1024 square inches of space!



For other information and ideas or an interest in my gerbilarium’s evolution through the years please keep reading down.


Gerbils Jan 2013

GERBILS! – Why you will love them and how to show them you love them! (pictured are my Gerbils of the past Lennon and Mercury RIP)

(There are over 10 large images posted for your viewing enjoyment. Please allow them time to load completely)

The great things about Gerbils!

– That they really enjoy for you to mix up their habitat. They get bored with their surroundings after a bit and enjoy many things to occupy their time.

– They are inquisitive and gentle and entertaining to watch.

– They are diurnal meaning they are awake in the day and at various times of a 24 hour period. Mornings, evenings, some periods after dusk. Many gerbils will mold into their owners schedule. It all depends on the gerbil but they are much more active in my opinion than any species of hamster. I keep my Gerbils in the living room of my home because I spend a great deal of my time during the day down there and unlike my hamsters who sleep all day my Gerbils are often awake and playing around for me to watch.

* One of the most important things to consider when wanting to bring home a gerbil as a friend (aside of the general/obvious things such as do you have the time, finances, and devotion to the well-being of another living creature) is they must be in a pair! Gerbils are social and can be very depressed if left alone. Though if a gerbil is alone in a store or SPCA (etc) that cannot be helped! But don’t knowingly purchase ONE gerbil if their litter-mate of the same-sex is sitting in there with them!

Most important things to consider when creating your gerbils habitat is:

.Deep layers of substrate to burrow and tunnel in. (Aspen shavings by Kaytee or Native Earth are awesome!)
.Plenty to chew: cardboard, wood chews
.Things to climb on: driftwood, wood bendy bridges, a big rock (Bendy bridges can be bought for cheap at or tank topper.
.High sided, weighted sand box/pot/container (some love to dig, some use it for a potty – some use it for both – no matter what they purpose it – they will appreciate it I promise you).


Since bringing home my boys I’ve gone through a series of habitats for them.


First I began with a 28 gallon high tank. My objective was high was great because of ALL the substrate they could tunnel in. This was the process of that:


Secondly, I moved them into a 20 gallon breeder because despite all the fun they had tunneling down deep they had almost no running room. Gerbils love to dig but they also love to run around! So, while I continued to look for a used 40 gallon I could afford, I kept them in one of my ole standbys.

gerbil 20 g


Thirdly, I decided that I would brave a bin cage for them as I could get a lovely large 110 qt bin by Sterilite and give them more room and more height. The edges inside were smooth so they couldn’t get their teeth in and gnaw. This worked very well for a good while. They spent much longer time in this spacious bin than they did the other two set ups.

EDIT: If you are very interested in a bin for your Gerbil set up I have a link up at this time showing bin cages with toppers attached. Click Here for that!


But I then got a 40g for a mere 30 bucks and this is the comparison!


Finally, since getting them in the 40 gallon I’ve gone through several set up types for them within this tank. The first began beautiful like this. But oh, if only it had stayed this pretty! (It remained like this for a good five minutes).


And then it got to the point days later that it looked like this:

gerbil tank

As gerbils do! They will rearrange the way they wish it to look!

But as lovely is that is – because I can’t afford a ginormous tank for them in my home I had to find a way to give them a burrowing section. A climbing section. And just a running around area as well. When the entire tank was just their burrow I didn’t see much activity from them and they got bored quickly.

So, the burrowing box set up began. This way I could also give them a Sand Pot. What this enabled was a place designated for a potty. I change this out often and I change out the rest of their substrate less often. As well they adore perching on their driftwood, running under it, having a bridge, a burrow (the box full of substrate) and their water bottles do not get covered in substrate and leak all out! The result was INCREDIBLY active and happy gerbils. What a change in ALL of our experience with gerbil watching.


So, then I decided I wanted something to make it easier for a while. So, I took some convenience wood and made a burrow box like I saw online somewhere (the steps idea I stole) and made this –


And here it is in action:


And finally this is the home made topper I made for them! full substrate and driftwood bottom and all their food, sand pot and water bottles ‘upstairs’. by far the very best set up to date and the happiest i have ever seen them. Also only cost 17 dollars for the 1/4 inch mesh I used. I winged it so I didn’t document a DIY but I might do a step by step instructional instead.

in my opinion this is an ideal set up and size for a pair of gerbils. Nothing smaller. But you run into so many defensive opinions. I just know how busy and happy my pair are with all this space.



My Gerbils have become older and I needed something travel ready and lighter at the time so I made this with a Very Useful Box and the top of a commercial cage.


Here is a link where I explained making a bin with topper using the one I made previous to this one as an example.

So, I do hope this gives you an idea of what to consider when designing your gerbils habitat.

A large footprint is nice.Give them room to roam and play.

Height – give them a deep layer of substrate. Either the entire tank or a burrow box.

Climbing. Gerbils are also climbers. The burrowing box also gives them a “challenge” of getting home or leaving home. Driftwood and wooden bridges to climb on will not only enrich their lives but your viewing of them in action. I promise you that you won’t regret these additions.

And who wouldn’t want litter trained gerbils? More than likely they will take over a nice sand pot as their restroom in a jiffy and thank you for it. They are clean animals. You can give them more substrate, change it less often as they will be doing most if not all their business in a pot that you can sift through or dump regularly.


Also things to consider – it’s difficult to find Gerri Gerbil in the U.S but you *CAN* find it. I have found mine here at and buy it in bulk because the more you buy the less it ends up costing even with shipping. The less you buy the shipping of around 9 or 10 dollars makes it more expensive. This is the most healthy and gerbil centric food you will find in this country at this time. Gerbils are NOT hamsters or rats and do not have the same nutritional requirements as hamsters or rats. Sunflower seeds should be treats and not a main staple of their diet. They will gorge on them and get fat.

EDIT: I now regularly purchase several bags to stock up at a time from Petmountain.Com and highly recommend this company. You guy also choose to buy bulk from them.

Treats: Mine just LOVE Yogies Drops, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds (pumpkin seeds are included in Gerri Gerbil).

*** I have a peanut allergic child and as far as marked on the bag I see no nut ingredient within the mix or noted on the bag. Though I’m sure cross contamination from shared equipment might very well happen – those who have severe allergies to nuts and peanuts who keep gerbils might be pleased with this mix but do still take extra care with it nonetheless.


I prefer OXBOW brand hay if you can’t find it fresher. It’s a nice green hay and smells so nice. Gerbils don’t eat the hay (as far as I know) but do adore hay to break up (enrichment) and fluff up their substrate to make their burrows sturdier. And some types of hays by OXBOW are also types they might appreciate eating. Such as Oat Hay.

These are the hays I supply for them for variety that are safe. I give them a handful of one of these daily (and sometimes I give them a smaller handful of various and plop it down and around their habitat to work on – they go RIGHT to work on it!).

Oat Hay

Organic Meadow Hay

Botanical Hay

Timothy Hay

Orchard Grass


Other Enrichment (Toys)

Well, the debate about wheels is just that. A debate. A matter of opinion. Some say they promote stereotypical behavior which gerbils can be prone do (gerbil OCD) and can injure their tails or fall on them when burrowing. Some say their gerbils get fat or don’t get enough exercise without it. Many would suggest you supply your new gerbils with a wheel and if they take to the wheel set it up on a solid service (make a wood standing shelf or something) so it won’t fall on them. If your gerbils (like mine) took no interest in the wheel then remove it promptly. But after having my boys and giving them a large tank with plenty to do. Burrowing, climbing, sand box, hay, and wood to chew – AND a proper Gerbil diet like Gerri Gerbil – I do not have overweight Gerbils. Mine do not go in an exercise ball either. They stay plenty busy and happy with digging and climbing and romping about.

Something to keep in mind is all …

Great toys are found at – wood chews. Like the wooden dumb bells or wooden teasers. The dangling wood toys you can find for birds. Wicker balls like marketed for rabbits and guinea pigs.

Toilet paper rolls (or paper towel rolls) – usually any gerbils FAVORITE thing in the entire world and you will probably be in a steady supply of …

Recycled cardboard (found in packaging often – like the cardboard egg cartons)

Non-glossy food boxes (freezer food boxes are usually a no-no).

Gerbil Handling

Like any pet – give your gerbil time to get used to you. To trust you. Don’t rush the taming process. Gerbils are naturally skittish and probably always will dart for cover when they hear or see movement. They are prey animals. But once hearing your voice will resurface because they are also curious animals. If they don’t come back after hearing your voice …give them time. A lot of patience is key. Some gerbils take longer than others. It depends on how much if any they were handled in the store (if you are lucky to be near a breeder this might not be an issue at all and they will already be hand tame).

My Gerbils had no socialization with humans and were in a small box in the back of the storage room in the pet store. I loved them for them and if I never had super tame Gerbils I’d be happy with them anyway because I love them. I love to watch them and make them happy. But I know that one day will come that they will be very hand tame. They take food from me. They come out inquisitive when I speak to them. And they no longer scurry away when they see my hand. But this took months.

Do not chase them with your hand. Keep your palm up and hold your hand still resting on the substrate and let them sniff and approach and sit in your hand. After they are comfortable with your hand that way you can sometimes try to gently lift them up partially and then set your hand gently back down. And after that is something they are comfortable with you can continue to do a little more …a little higher… treats in the palm is of course how it begins to coerce them.

Or you can always grab a clean jar or little box and most likely they will hop inside it and you can lift them out. But do not chase them.


Talking to, singing to, sweetly, softly is going to get them accustomed to who you are. It’s great to do this when you approach and as your hand is in there.


Why are they Kissing so much?

Gerbils sniff faces and swap spit to recognize each other as part of the clan (they are called a clan like hamsters are part of a colony).

Why is my male humping my other male or my female humping my other female?

This is dominance posturing. They are sorting out who is dominant.

When if ever should I separate them?

If they are squeaking and wrestling or blood drawn, or obviously constant squabbling it is probably a sad sign they have de-clanned and will need to be separated. This is not often and more likely with females than males. Gerbils naturally are social and can become very depressed when alone so be sure that it has progressed to the red zone before you separate.

Can I add another friend once a partner has died?

Some people have success in pairing a young/baby male with an older male by split cage method. This is something you should join the gerbil forums to get advice on but a young male and an older male are more apt to clan than two older gents who are set in their ways. I hear that the success rate of introducing females in this fashion is much less likely.

I’ll continue to add to this page. If you have any questions or information that you’d like for me to answer I would appreciate it in comments. I know nothing about breeding, pregnancy, and sicknesses as mine are still young. I am basing this as I learn it and experience it myself. Information from others who are very experience with gerbils. Or books I’ve read. Or the forums I frequent.


8 thoughts on “Process of a Gerbilarium & Gerbil FAQ

  1. Pingback: Process of a Gerbilarium & Updates | Hammy Happenings

    • They are SO cute! We’re really enjoying them! Though temporarily they are in a smaller tank on our coffee table because we are taming them. It’s a long story I need to blog about – but they were kept in the back of the pet store in a tiny container because they aren’t popular right now and don’t sell so they didn’t have room out front for them. Long story. I’ll type it out later but yes they are actually quite lucky because I don’t know how long they would have been back there if I hadn’t of gone to someone asking about when they’d get Gerbils in when I didn’t see any! So they aren’t used to people AT ALL. But the smaller tank method of taming is working really well.

  2. Pingback: Gerbil habitats - Hamster Central

  3. Pingback: Burrowing Box (Gerbils or Hamsters) | Hammy Happenings

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  5. Hello

    The topper out of mesh, nice idea, but isn’t that mesh chewable?

    Working on a home made gerbilarium myself… And in need of ideas
    Thanks a lot

    • No. My gerbils cannot even fit their teeth in the size I chose and have so much space and things to do and chew they do not chew their mesh. Hope that helps!

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