Gerbils are very easy to care for. They need fresh food and water daily. Their cages need to be cleaned every two weeks, large cages may need to be cleaned less frequently. Provide them with a large 8" wheel or saucer to run on. They also enjoy cardboard, hay, and toys meant for small animals. Do not pick gerbils up by their tail.
Gerbils are built to dig tunnels underground. This is one of the most natural behaviors. It is important to provide a way for them to dig tunnels and burrows in their cage. The best cage for a gerbil to live in is a tall aquariums which are better for providing a deep layer of bedding for them to dig in. Mixing different types of bedding can help the tunnels maintain shape.
A 10 gallon aquariums is the smallest cage I can recommend but ONLY with a cage topper. Larger aquariums are STRONGLY preferred. The ideal cage will have deep bedding 6 to 12 inches deep for the gerbils to dig in. Cage toppers aren't readily sold for larger aquariums, so you will either need to get creative or use tall aquariums. A 29g aquarium is appropriate for a pair or trio of gerbils. Whatever size aquarium you choose, be sure its one that you will be able to clean regularly.
Gerbils should not be housed in plastic or wire cages. These cages are often too small for gerbils. Cages that allow you to connect with tubes are particularly bad for gerbils. The tubes are easy for gerbils to defend, and gerbils tend to fight more in this style of cage. The cages are bright and colorful, but not escape proof. Gerbils are chewers, they can chew out of a plastic cage in about 20 minutes, once they decide to do it. Its unlikely you'll catch them in the act, and far more likely you'll come back to an empty cage.
Some people choose to keep gerbils in large bin cages. These can make great cages for gerbils. However, being made out of plastic, its likely the gerbils will chew a hole out of it given time.
Healthy adult gerbils need 12-16% protein and 6-8% fat. Senior gerbils need less protein and fat, while pregnant or nursing female and pups need slightly higher protein and fat. Gerbils should be provided with food and fresh water daily.
Gerbils need a balanced diet. Moonstone Gerbils makes our own gerbil food using high quality ingredients and minimizing waste. This diet is also available for sale.
We recommend the following brands:
Sunseed Sunscription Mouse, Rat and Gerbil
Brown's NATURAL Tropical Carnival Gourmet Food for Hamsters & Gerbils
Higgins Sunburst Hamster and Gerbil
You can look at out 2019 list of reviews for gerbil diets.
Gerbils also appreciate small treats be sure they are safe for gerbils.
For pet owners its usually easiest to buy commercial diets as small scale homemade diets are typically too expensive to make.
Higgins Sunburst Hamster and Gerbil Diet
Bedding will need to be cleaned every two weeks, larger cages may need less frequent cleaning with deep bedding of 8 inches or more may only need to be cleaned every 6 weeks or so. When cleaning, always leave a handful of the old bedding behind, this is important to reduce stress and it makes smell like home.
When selecting bedding choose bags that are dust-free. Dust is an irritant and can cause an allergic or asthmatic reaction in both gerbils and people. Dust is also known to clog the small sinuses of gerbils leading to a condition know as "red nose", which is a sinus infection.
Gerbils require at least four inches of bedding. Ideally they should be provided with deep bedding that is 6-12” deep for digging tunnels. Tunnels tend to maintain their shape when multiple bedding types are used at once. We recommend using 1 part aspen: 1 part hay: 1 part paper or cardboard.
The best bedding for gerbils is aspen or kiln dried pine shavings. I use Tractor Supply Co's Large Flake Kiln Dried Pine. Its one of the cleanest beddings I've found and is dust-free. Most paper based beddings like Eco-Bedding and Kaytee Clean and Cozy are low in dust and safe to use with gerbils, we recommend these brands for those that may be sensitive to dust. Care fresh and other pulpy paper beddings have high levels of dust. Carefresh also retains moisture and ammonia which irritates a gerbils nose. Do not use cedar bedding with any small animal as it is toxic.
Gerbils love to use toilet paper, napkins and paper towels as nesting materials. Avoid using any fluff or cloth sold in pet stores for rodents as these can injure gerbils. Fleece is safe hides, hammocks and sacks are safe to use.
Kaytee Clean and Cozy
I am going to let you in on a little secret of mine, gerbils love hay. Its fun to jump on, to dig under, to chew on, to make nests with, to eat, and to do whatever it is gerbils do with it. Hay is one of the best chew toys there is and is great at keeping teeth trim. Hay also smells good, and is like a natural cage freshener. Hay once it has been chewed up provides volume and structure for digging tunnels in. Hay is great, and you should liberally give gerbils hay in their cage (unless you're allergic... than maybe not). I tend to put their bedding in and then add an equal amount of hay on top.
Chewing: Gerbils love to chew. Provide them with cardboard, toilet paper rolls, tissue, paper, wooden chew toys, pumice stone, luffas, and many other items sold for birds and rodents. Fun things to do: fill the tank with big wads of crumpled paper, stuff crumpled paper inside other chew toys like a tube or box, hang their toys from the top of the cage.
Running: Gerbils also love to run. Large wheels are great for gerbils and provide them with an outlet for all their energy. 8" wheels are the smallest wheel you should use. Large wheels are better and provide a more natural movement. Saucers are even better for them to run on. I do not recommend using hamster balls, these can be stressful and the balls are difficult to clean. Please check out our review of different kinds of wheels.
Digging: Gerbils are diggers. They are very good at it, providing deep bedding for them to dig in.
Exploring: Gerbils also love to get out of the cage and explore. Fence in areas for them to play in and provide things for them to climb on or under. Sometimes people use kiddie pools. Avoid letting your gerbils roam freely on the floor, couches, beds or tables as tragic accidents could occur.
Sand bathes: Chinchilla dust or sand works great at cleaning gerbils. Gerbils love to roll around in it. You can also use most natural colored sands meant for reptiles, or play sand. Sand can be used daily. Dust is an irritant for the noses and exposure should be limited to once or twice a week outside the cage. I do not recommend keeping sand or dust in the gerbil cage. If you do want to set up a sand pit in their cage, use coarse play sand that has been rinsed until the water runs clear.