The environment of pet leopard geckos should mimic that of leopard geckos in their natural habitats as much as possible. This includes ensuring the optimum temperature and humidity conditions within these reptiles’ enclosures.
Being they’re cold-blooded, leopard geckos draw heat from their surrounding environment. Therefore- failure to provide the optimal temperature conditions can have serious health implications on your pet reptile.
What temperature do leopard geckos need?
Leopard geckos are incapable of naturally creating their own body heat, thus relying on the temperature of the environment. This reptile species needs warm temperatures to keep its body warm and facilitate digestion. If you’ve created a heat gradient inside your leopard gecko’s vivarium, the ideal temperature on the hot side should be between 87-90 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range is great for basking and digestion.
Meanwhile, temperatures higher than 95 degrees Fahrenheit will be too hot for your pet reptile. For the cold side, you’ll want to keep the temperatures between 74-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also, note that vivarium temperature control can be used as a selective breeding strategy post-incubation. For the first 10 months post-hatching, you can manipulate the tank’s temperature to determine the leopard gecko’s phenotype. For instance, lowering the temperature levels inside the tank below 82 degrees Fahrenheit for more than a day will cause your young pet reptile’s skin to develop dark pigmentation.
What is the ideal night temperature?
To mimic the natural habitat of leopard geckos, you need to lower the temperature inside your pet reptile’s tank during the night. Optimal nighttime temperatures for these reptiles are between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
What’s more, during the night, leopard geckos love to bask on warm rocks that had been heated by the sun during the day. You can recreate this ‘warm rock’ effect inside your vivarium by using infrared lamps to heat the ground at night.
How to keep the tank temperature ideal
It’s important to monitor the temperature of your leopard gecko’s vivarium, as this will let you know whenever the levels don’t rise or drop beyond the recommended limits. This can be done using two digital thermometers- one for the hot side and the other for the cold side of the tank.
To maintain the ground temperatures on the hot side, you can use a heat mat by inserting it halfway into the substrate of the tank. This will create the required temperature gradient. Heat mats- also called heat pads- serve as a warm spot where the leopard gecko can directly rest its belly while feeding, consequently warming its body to facilitate digestion. As such, it’s also advisable to place the [pet’s food on the warm side where the heat pad is located.
Meanwhile, for air temperature, we recommend installing a basking lamp on the hot side of the tank. For tanks that are larger than 30 gallons and house more than one leopard gecko, we recommend installing ceramic lamps to provide supplemental heat.
However, for more precise temperature control, you need more than a heat map and a heat lamp. This is why we recommend investing in a thermostat- which is a device that you can connect to your heat source and use to regulate the temperature levels inside your pet’s tank.
It’s always advisable to purchase your heat mat/basking lamp before purchasing a thermostat. This is because you want your thermostat to be compatible with the amperage/wattage of the heat source. This helps to prevent device malfunctions due to overloading.
Remember, it’s not uncommon for the temperature reading on your thermostat to vary from that of your thermometer. This is because other factors- such as seasonal changes in room temperature- also affect the temperature inside your leopard gecko’s enclosure. As such, you should consider adjusting the levels on your thermostat according to the thermometer readings.
For instance, if your thermostat reading is 90 degrees Fahrenheit but your thermometer reading is 95 degrees Fahrenheit, it means that other factors are causing the tank to overheat. As such, you’ll need to lower the thermostat reading accordingly to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help bring down the temperature inside the tank to 90-degrees Fahrenheit- which is optimal for leopard geckos.
READ ALSO: Do Leopard Geckos Need UVB?
Incubator temperature control
Maintaining the proper incubator temperatures is crucial if you’re to successfully hatch leopard gecko eggs. Research studies have also proved that the incubation temperature is crucial in the selective breeding of leopard geckos, as it determines their sex, pigmentation, and behavior. We discuss this further below:
Temperature-dependent Sex Determination (TSD).
Most reptiles- leopard geckos included- exhibit a phenomenon called Temperature-dependent Sex Determination (TSD). This is whereby the ratio of male to female hatchlings is determined by the incubation temperature during the first 21 days of incubation.
Therefore- if you wish to breed more female leopard geckos- we recommend incubating them at cool temperatures of between 24-28 degrees Celsius (75.2- 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Conversely, if you want more males than females from your hatch, maintain warmer incubation temperatures of between 32-33 degrees Celsius (90-91 degrees Fahrenheit).
You’ll also want to avoid maintaining prolonged incubation temperatures higher than 35 degrees Celsius, as this will result in significant embryo loss. After the first three weeks of incubation, you can then set a constant temperature of between 84-87 degrees Fahrenheit, as the sex of the unhatched leopard geckos will already have been determined by this stage.
The incubation temperature also determines how much melanin a leopard gecko will have on its skin and eyes once it hatches. Therefore, if you wish to breed light-colored, albino leopard geckos- which are considered more beautiful- you should maintain your incubator within the warmer, male incubation temperature range. Meanwhile, to breed more ‘colored’ leopard geckos, you’ll want to maintain a female incubation temperature range for the first three weeks of incubation.
If you want to breed your leopard geckos to exhibit more heterotypical behaviors once they reach adulthood, you should set the temperatures to male incubation levels of between 90-91 degrees Fahrenheit. Conversely, for female leopard geckos that are less heterotypical in terms of sexual behavior, we recommend setting female incubation temperatures of between 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit.
What happens if the temperature is too high?
To find out if your leopard gecko’s vivarium is too hot for the pet, observe the animal’s physical appearance and behavior. If the leopard gecko’s skin has a burned appearance, or the gecko is panting, then the tank temperature is too high. Skin burns are more likely to occur if you have rock or tile substrates that get too hot when the temperatures rise.
How to Lower Tank Temperature if it’s too hot
First, you should remove your pet from the tank as the high temperature may cause it to pass out. Next, check the temperature reading on the thermostat. If it’s set too high, adjust/lower it to the appropriate temperature level.
Your leopard gecko vivarium may also be overheating due to overexposure to the sun’s heat rays. You can prevent this by installing UV protection blinds or a cooling fan in the room where you keep the pet.
Signs the tank temperature is too low
Extremely low temperatures can have serious health impacts on your leopard gecko- including difficulties in digesting food and excreting waste. As a result of poor digestion, your pet reptile will become malnourished. If the cold temperature conditions continue for a prolonged period, your leopard gecko will die.
To avoid losing your rare pet to extremely low-temperature conditions, it’s important to know the signs of a cold tank so that you can rectify the problem early. This includes observing the leopard gecko for signs of lethargy and strained bowel movements. A leopard gecko will stop eating and may become immobile if it’s feeling too cold.
How to Raise Tank Temperature if it’s too cold
If your leopard gecko’s tank is too cold, check the temperature levels on your thermostat and readjust to the recommended levels. It could also be that your thermostat has developed faulty wiring, making it unable to properly heat the vivarium. If this is the case, make the necessary repairs or invest in a replacement thermostat.
Your room temperature can also affect the temperature inside the leopard gecko’s tank. If the room is too cold, you can raise the temperature by using a space heater or adjusting the heat settings of your HVAC system. Also, note that some rooms- such as basements- are typically cold. Avoid keeping leopard geckos in such rooms.
Sometimes, temperature problems inside your leopard gecko vivarium may be due to issues beyond your control. For instance- a power blackout may cause the tank to become too cold. If this is the case, consider the following temporary solutions until the lights come back:
- Using a backup power generator.
- Using heating packs- which typically last about eight hours.
- Take the leopard gecko out of the tank and wrap it up in warm clothing, or snuggle it close to you for warmth.
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