Brumation is a term used to describe the process of hibernation that leopard geckos go through. Leopard geckos can brumate in the wild or in captivity, and it’s important to understand how it occurs so you can prepare for it properly when caring for your pet.
In this article, we will discuss what brumation is, how a leopard gecko does it naturally, and how you should care for your pet during this period. It’s a delicate science which requires a lot of attention for it to work.
What is brumation in leopard geckos?
Brumation is a natural process for geckos to enter in order to undergo deep sleep during hibernation. It usually begins with their eyelids drooping and then they will quickly stop moving, appearing lifeless.
During this time the leopard gecko’s metabolism slows down so much that it only uses up energy at about half of its normal rate and can survive on very little food or water while asleep.
The purpose of brumating is not fully understood by scientists but some believe it could be an adaptation developed from ancestral species that lived underground where food was scarce most times and cold temperatures were more prevalent than heat waves.
The length of the brumation period varies depending on the Leopard gecko age, weight, temperature, environment and other aspects. Generally, brumation in leopard geckos can last from two to four months.
The Leopard Gecko will usually start waking up in the early spring and it is best that they are put back into a warm environment which has been set at around 74 degrees Fahrenheit or higher as soon as possible so their body temperature does not drop too low.
It should be noted that during hibernation, leopard geckos do not eat, drink, defecate or urinate but this is normal for reptiles of all species when brumating because of what happens to their metabolism while asleep.
Although some people worry about how long (or even if) their leopard gecko will come out of its deep sleep state after going dormant; there is no need to fret. They have plenty of energy and nutrients stored up thanks to the fat reserves in their tail.
It is best that you feed your leopard gecko a diet of whole prey items such as crickets, mealworms and wax worms during this time because those are high-calorie foods that will help them not only grow but also regain some weight they lost while dormant over these few months.
Leopard geckos do not need any special care or temperature requirements other than what was stated before about making sure they have enough heat so it doesn’t drop below 74 degrees Fahrenheit (or equivalent).
How long does leopard gecko brumation last?
Since brumation is not an exact length of time, you’ll need to judge when your gecko has been in this state long enough by observing its weight and activity levels. If they are at their normal weight and have resumed regular activities such as feeding and shedding skin, then it may be safe for them to emerge again into the outside world or at least under brighter lights indoors.
Brumation in leopard geckos can be as long as a year, or it can be as short as only a few weeks. Brumation is a natural process that should happen about once every year. However, some individuals might go two or three times in one year while others will only do so once every few years.
Leopard gecko brumation can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months depending on the individual animal, the temperature of the habitat, what season this is happening in, and other factors such as illness or how often an individual has moulted recently.
Some leopard geckos will remain in brumation for the entire time of winter while others might emerge from their state and go back into regular activity after just a month or two.
Brumating is more common among arid-dwelling reptiles such as desert iguanas because they are cold-blooded creatures that require less energy to maintain proper body temperature during the harsh winters where temperatures routinely drop below freezing levels.
For this reason, if you live in an area with low annual rainfall, your leopard gecko may also need to enter its dormant phase at some point throughout the colder months even if it doesn’t always hibernate.
How do I know if my leopard gecko is in Brumation?
Some of the signs of brumation include a decrease in appetite, lethargy and shedding. Leopard geckos will stop eating and become less active for three to four weeks before the event begins. They may also gain or lose weight during this time period. Shedding is often an indicator because they’ll find places to hide their shed skin cells as they start preparing themselves for brumation.
If your leopard geckos start preferring the cooler side of the cage, this is a good sign that they are in brumation. If combined with other signs of brumation such as a decrease in appetite and lethargy, be sure that a brumation event is occurring. These symptoms often occur for other reasons as well so it’s important to look out for more than just those things before assuming your pet has entered brumation.
How to prepare your leopard gecko for brumation
Unlike in the wild, you should prepare your pet gecko for brumation. You can prepare your leopard gecko for brumation by following these steps:
- Create a brumation area.
Leopard geckos can be housed in their own enclosure, or you can place them together with other leopard geckos into one large tank (at least 50 gallons). The enclosure should have plenty of hiding spots and climbing areas to help your pet feel safe during the process. You will also need to provide an appropriate heat gradient for both day and night time temperatures if housing sleepers together so that they are less likely to interact while awake at night outside of the thermal range needed for normal activity.
- Provide a humid hide box.
Leopard geckos naturally seek out elevated surfaces such as rocks when it is time to enter brumation which helps regulate their body temperature by losing heat to the dry air. A humid box will help them remain humid once they go back in.
- Reduce lighting and heating to normal nighttime levels.
Leopard geckos do not need any special heat sources in the winter as they will be sleeping for long periods of time, but you can still provide a basking light if needed at night.
- Change their feeding habits.
Leopard geckos may not eat in the winter and if they do, their food intake will be reduced. Leopard geckos cannot go into brumation while still feeding but you can stop offering as much food to conserve energy
- Do not disturb them during this period of time or expose them to any bright lights which could startle your pet.
If they have stopped eating for two weeks it is likely that they are preparing for a long hibernation period, so please contact an expert before proceeding with anything else.
With these aspects in place, your leopard gecko should be ready to brumate.
Care for your leopard gecko during brumation
There are a few things you can do to make sure your leopard gecko is comfortable during brumation. For example, leopard geckos need a cool place in the house, such as an unheated garage or basement. You should keep their water bowl full and clean them every week with wet cloths so they don’t get dirty and covered in bacteria while sleeping.
Let your vet know about the brumation process. Leopard geckos may need to be given calcium supplements during this time, and you should also talk to your vet about prescription medications that could help them if they have any health concerns.
If the leopard gecko is molting while brumating, make sure there’s a heating pad underneath their tank so they can stay warm enough without having direct contact with it or too much humidity in the air from water droplets being on top of the tank.
Lastly, don’t forget to put food and water out for your gecko before starting brumation. They won’t eat anything when sleeping but might wake up occasionally looking for something to eat. You want to make sure they’re well-hydrated since drinking keeps them hydrated during their sleep.
You should also weigh the leopard gecko at least every week during brumation to make sure they’re not losing too much weight. If they lose more than 10% of their weight in a week, it could be a sign of illness or stress.
Always have an emergency plan in place in case something goes wrong. You should talk to your vet to have a plan in place so that you know what to do if your gecko stops eating for an extended period of time or wakes up but is lethargic.
If you follow these simple steps, then brumation will be a success.