When asking yourself how warm should your leopard gecko tank be, it might be helpful to think of the leopard gecko’s natural habitat.
Leopard geckos are usually found in the desert or arid grasslands of Afghanistan, India, Iran, Pakistan, and Nepal.
These countries experience extremely hot temperatures during the day, and in the summer especially.
Due to these high temperatures, leopard geckos are more active in the night, when the temperatures have dropped to a more comfortable level.
If you keep a leopard gecko as a pet, it is important to replicate the temperature of their natural habitat as much as possible, to keep them healthy and comfortable.
Generally, the cooler part of a leopard gecko tank should have a temperature of roughly 75° degrees Fahrenheit, while the warmer part of the tank should be about 90-94° degrees Fahrenheit.
Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about keeping your leopard gecko’s enclosure at the right temperature, but first let’s take a look at why maintaining a healthy temperature in the tank is so important in the first place.
Why Is Temperature Important In A Leopard Gecko Enclosure?
The temperature of your leopard gecko’s enclosure is crucial, as they cannot create their own body heat. Therefore, they have to rely on external temperatures to keep warm.
In their natural habitat, winter temperatures tend to decrease to under 50° degrees Fahrenheit, and when this happens leopard geckos will go into brumation in order to survive.
Although they will come out of this dormant state on hotter days to drink and eat, they will spend most of their time resting to conserve their energy.
They conserve their energy by slowing down their metabolism.
Leopard geckos make it through winters in their natural habitat because their instincts tell them to enter brumation as temperatures steadily decrease.
However, when kept as pets, temperatures are usually kept warm all year long to keep them active.
This is totally safe, and only experienced reptile enthusiasts will let their geckos go into brumation, especially if they are breeding leopard geckos.
In this instance, temperatures are steadily decreased to trick the gecko into thinking winter is approaching.
Sudden changes in temperature will not only be uncomfortable for your gecko, but it can affect their health too.
Although in the wild they live in desert regions, leopard geckos do not tolerate heat well.
If the enclosure is too warm, then your gecko will overheat and can potentially suffer a fatal heat stroke because they can’t cool themselves down.
Meanwhile, if the temperature suddenly drops and the enclosure becomes too cold, then this will lead to digestive issues for your leopard gecko, such as irregular bowel movements that will lead to impaction.
How Do You Use A Thermostat In A Leopard Gecko Enclosure?
A thermostat is a device that attaches to the heat source in your enclosure, and makes sure the heater’s temperature doesn’t get too hot. If they are properly maintained, they can last for a long time.
It is important to make sure your thermostat is compatible with your enclosure’s heat source.
It’s a good idea to buy your heat source first before buying an appropriate thermostat. If this thermostat has too many watts or amps, the device will overload and break.
How To Take A Proper Temperature Reading
Thermometers are very useful in monitoring temperatures in the enclosure, but even with a thermostat, temperatures in the tank may still fluctuate throughout the day.
Make sure the temperature displayed on the thermometer aligns with the thermostat’s temperature setting. If there is a discrepancy, the thermostat will need to be adjusted.
Thermometers which attach to the sides of the enclosure are the simplest way to monitor changes in temperature.
It is a good idea to have one thermometer for the cool part of the enclosure, and another thermometer for the warm part of the enclosure so you get a correct reading for both sides.
Digital laser temperature guns can also monitor temperatures in a tank.
These temperature guns are simple to use and provide accurate results, although they are more appropriate for checking surface temperatures rather than air temperatures.
The best solution may be to use both a temperature gun and an in-tank thermometer.
What External Factors Have An Effect On Enclosure Temperatures?
There are a few factors in your home which will impact the temperature of the leopard gecko’s enclosure, and it’s important to be aware of these factors.
For example, air conditioning and space heaters will have an impact on tank temperatures. Of course, using these devices is sometimes unavoidable, but they can still be adjusted for the comfort and health of your leopard gecko.
If your leopard gecko enclosure is in a drafty location, this may lead to a drop in temperatures. On the other hand, if an enclosure is too close to a sunny window this can lead to a rise in temperatures.
These factors make it even more critical to monitor the temperature of the enclosure throughout the day. However, a minor fluctuation of about one or two degrees will not have a negative impact on the health of your gecko.
But if temperatures are above or below 2 degrees of ideal temperatures, then adjustments will need to be made.
What Is The Correct Leopard Gecko Temperature Gradient?
The basking area will be the hottest part of the tank, with ideal daytime temperatures having a range of 90-94° degrees Fahrenheit.
The air temperature a couple of inches above the surface on the warm side of the enclosure should be about 80-83° degrees Fahrenheit.
The temperature gradient in the enclosure lets your gecko thermo-regulate by giving them a space to warm their body up, and a space to cool down.
Your tank should also have a dry hiding place and a moist hiding place.
The space beneath the leopard gecko’s dry hiding place should be very close to the temperature of the warm area, around 90-94° degrees Fahrenheit.
Because leopard geckos are crepuscular creatures (more active at dawn and dusk), they typically do not bask like diurnal species (for example, bearded dragons).
Leopard geckos will normally bask while they’re shedding, but if you notice they’re spending a lot of time on the warm part of the tank, this may mean that the temperatures on the cool area have decreased.
The temperature of the moist hiding place should be between 83-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C).
If temperatures in the most hiding place are too low, then your leopard gecko is likely to develop upper respiratory infections.
The air temperature in the cool area should be about 73-76° degrees Fahrenheit. It is totally safe to keep these temperatures in the winter to prevent your leopard gecko from going into brumation.
What Temperature Should Your Leopard Gecko Enclosure Be At Night?
While leopard geckos can handle nighttime temperatures as low as 60° degrees Fahrenheit, the ideal nighttime temperature should be about 67-74° degrees Fahrenheit.
Leopard geckos spend a lot of time sleeping soaking up warmth, and at sunset they awaken to hunt for food.
Although they are usually extremely active at night, it’s not uncommon for a leopard gecko to take a nap after hunting, especially in an enclosure where they don’t have to worry about predators.
If evening temperatures in the tank are too high, this will disturb your leopard gecko’s deep sleep.
On the other hand, if nighttime temperatures are too cold, this will affect your leopard gecko’s digestion and lead to respiratory infections.
If the ambient temperature in the room drops in the night, then a heat source will be required to stabilize the enclosure temperature.
A heat mat or a ceramic heat emitter are two popular heat sources (more on them below).
Although red heat bulbs are designed for use at nighttime, even this light will disturb the natural circadian rhythm of your leopard gecko.
Achieving The Right Temperature In Your Leopard Gecko Enclosure
There are a variety of ways to heat your leopard gecko’s enclosure, from ceramic heat emitters to deep heat projectors, from heat mats to lights.
All of these sources heat enclosures in their own unique ways, and if you’re a first-time owner of a leopard gecko you might be unsure which heat source is best.
Below, we’ll take a look at some popular heat sources for your leopard gecko enclosure, so you can make a confident decision.
Lighting is a divisive subject among leopard gecko enthusiasts, and some believe that leos do not require lighting because they are active at night.
However, this just isn’t true, as leos are crepuscular creatures and so are most active at dawn and dusk.
Lighting also helps leopard geckos differentiate between night and day so they can maintain their circadian rhythm. Light timers let you set lights to turn on and off automatically at specific intervals.
This is particularly helpful when maintaining a consistent light cycle, and it makes sure you don’t forget to switch the lights on and off!
Generally, leopard geckos need 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. In winter, this will need to be adjusted gradually to 10 hours of light, as the winter months are naturally a lot darker.
We recommend making this adjustment over 6 weeks to replicate winter, and we also recommend using the Zilla Reptile heat bulb in particular.
Leopard geckos have sensitive skin and eyes, so opting for a light that has a lower UVB rating or wattage is essential.
For example, a 10% UVB bulb is the strongest bulb a leopard gecko should be exposed to.
Anything stronger than this will damage the gecko’s skin and eyes, and we recommend a 5% UVB bulb for your leopard gecko, and this Lucky Herp UVB bulb in particular.
A lot of UVB lights do not give off heat, however a mercury UVB bulb will give off light and heat.
Although leopard geckos receive only a small amount of light during the day as they are less active, it has been proven that reptiles still benefit from UVB rays, as it allows them to metabolize vitamin D into vitamin D3.
Vitamin D3 is essential for leopard geckos to absorb the right amount of calcium into their bodies.
If their calcium is low, a leopard gecko will develop metabolic bone disease, which is typically fatal.
It’s important to change the UVB bulbs every six months, regardless of whether the light output seems the same.
This is because UVB bulbs gradually degrade and become less effective.
If your UVB bulb produces no heat, you will need another heat source, examples of which we’ve provided below.
Other Lighting Options
Some ceramic fluorescent or tube bulbs can produce harmful, short-wave UVB rays that can damage your leopard gecko’s eyes.
If your gecko is squinting constantly or struggling to open their eyes, then the lighting is most likely responsible for this.
Don’t use infrared lights because leopard gecko’s can easily absorb this light into their muscle tissue which can lead to serious damage.
For a standard heat lamp, the best wattage would be between 50-75 watts, depending on the room’s ambient temperature.
Relying on natural sunlight streaming through a window is a no-no. This is because the window will block useful UVB rays, and the sunlight can easily overheat the tank.
Also known as a heat pad or under-tank heater, a heat mat is placed beneath the warm side of the enclosure, and we recommend the Repti Zoo’s heating pad in particular.
Belly heat is important for leopard geckos, as warmth helps them to digest their food.
Heat mats are very effective for providing heat to the underside of your leopard gecko, as well as maintaining temperature in a warm hiding place.
When you use a heat mat, it’s crucial to monitor the temperature with a thermostat. This makes sure the heat mat doesn’t overheat and burn your gecko.
The thermostat probe should be placed beneath the enclosure, right above the heat mat.
This lets the thermostat correctly gauge the temperature and switch the mat off to avoid overheating.
Heat mats are a great choice for 20-30 gallon tanks, but you may still use another heat source such as a ceramic heat emitter with a bigger tank.
The heat mat should ideally take up between ⅓ and ½ of the enclosure.
Meanwhile, a mat that is about 8×6” inches will do for a 10-20 gallon tank, and a 8×12” mat will be better for a 25-30 gallon tank.
Bigger mats will have a higher wattage to properly heat the enclosure.
A lot of heat mats also have adhesive so you can attach them to the bottom of the tank. Once fitted, you should avoid moving the mat if you can, as this may damage the heating element.
Heat mats also have rubber feet to better circulate air. If there is insufficient airflow beneath the mat, then the bottom of the enclosure might crack.
Ceramic Heat Emitters
These are perfect for leopard gecko enclosures because they provide heat without emitting any light.
As ceramic heat emitters can get extremely hot, it is advised to only use them in larger tanks where a heat mat may not provide sufficient heat.
Ceramic heat emitters are incredibly helpful if the ambient temperature is pretty much always on the low side.
The heat produced by a ceramic heat emitter is dependent on the distance between the heater and the top of the enclosure.
If you opt for this kind of heater, it is essential to create enough space between it and the enclosure, and that it’s out of reach of your gecko to prevent any burns.
The ideal wattage for a ceramic heat emitter is between 100-150 watts, and this of course depends on how large your enclosure is.
This ceramic heat emitter is budget-friendly and has great longevity.
Keeping A Leopard Gecko Warm During A Power Outage
If the heat sources in your enclosure break, or there is a power outage, it is important to have a plan B in case of emergencies.
Power outages can be particularly harmful for leopard geckos in the winter, because temperatures can drop severely.
One option is to buy a portable power generator to keep your heat sources up and running.
While generators are costly, they are super durable and have great longevity, so they can be a worthy investment.
If you can’t get your hands on a generator though, heat packs will keep your gecko warm. Make sure the heat pack isn’t too hot for your gecko by wrapping it in a washcloth or sock.
Heat packs usually last for about 8 hours, so it’s a good idea to have a few to hand if you experience an extended power outage.
If you have enough gas, you can also keep your leopard gecko warm in your car.
Also, asking family or friends who have electricity if they can keep your leopard gecko safe and warm is also an option.
If you have no other options however, and your leopard gecko is comfortable being held, you can snuggle your leo to keep them warm too.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Should You Do If Your Enclosure Gets Too Warm?
If your enclosure is seriously warming up, you may need to get your leopard gecko out of the tank temporarily until you can find out what the problem is.
Check your thermostat to make sure it’s given the correct reading, and also check the power cord to check if there is a short in the wiring.
To check your thermostat is correct, use a thermometer. If the tank is being kept near a window with sunlight streaming through, move the tank to another room.
What Should You Do If Your Enclosure Gets Too Cold?
Colder temperatures are not as dangerous to leopard geckos as hot temperatures, so if your enclosure is too cold you will probably not need to take your gecko out of the tank.
Still, you should pinpoint the issue as soon as possible so your leopard gecko does not lose their appetite or become lethargic.
Double-check your thermostat to ensure it is working correctly and not set too low. If this doesn’t help, then there may be an issue with the wiring of your heat source or thermostat.
Also search for any drafts in the room, like an air conditioning vent, a ceiling fan, or an open window. If there is a draft by the enclosure, you should move the tank to a different room.
Can You Put Heat Rocks In Your Leopard Gecko Enclosure?
Heat rocks are a controversial issue among reptile enthusiasts, and some are convinced of their safety while others are not.
The general option is that heat rocks might be dangerous for leopard geckos because of how common it is for them to overheat.
The thermostats with heat rocks might be faulty due to being made cheaply, and some might not have a thermostat at all.
This will cause the heat rock to overheat, and is likely to burn your leopard gecko. If these burns are severe, this could be fatal.
If you are thinking of putting heat rocks into your leopard gecko enclosure, we advise proceeding with caution.
Shop around for good quality heat rocks – even if it means paying a little more – and consider other heating options before turning to heat rocks.
How Can You Tell If Your Leopard Gecko Is Too Cold Or Too Hot?
If your leopard gecko is spending most of their time on the warm side of their enclosure, they are probably too cold.
Meanwhile, if they are spending all of their time on the cool side of the enclosure, it is probably too warm.
If either is the case, you should monitor the temperature with a thermometer and adjust the thermostat in the tank. Keep an eye on your leopard gecko’s behavior and make a note of any changes.
Additional signs your leopard gecko may be too hot or too cold are:
- Digging excessively
- Poor mobility
- Loss of appetite
- Struggling to defecate.
If your leopard gecko experiences any of these symptoms, notify your vet so you can rule out underlying health issues that are not related to enclosure temperature.
How Long Can A Leopard Gecko Survive Without Heat?
This all depends on how cold the ambient temperature is. If it is 60 degrees Fahrenheit or above then a leopard gecko might be able to survive for a few weeks.
They may go into a brumation state and survive off of fat they have stored in their tails.
Any temperature that is under 60 degrees Fahrenheit then this will drastically reduce survival time.
When temperatures drop below the desired range it can affect a leopard gecko’s ability to digest food. It can become impacted – or stuck – in their bowels which means they can’t eat or defecate.
Cold temperatures can also result in weight loss, as they rely on their fat reserves rather than eating food.
Respiratory infections can also occur if leopard geckos are exposed to cold temperatures for an extended period of time.
Temperature is an essential element to maintaining the well-being of a leopard gecko, and if this is off, then it can lead to a lot of issues.
It’s important to consistently review your surroundings for anything that could be affecting the temperature of the enclosure and make the relevant adjustments.
Buy a good, durable source of heat and make use of thermometers and thermostats.
Once that is all set up, everything should go smoothly unless there are any noticeable changes in the ambient temperature. Monitor the temperature of the tank diligently and adjust heat when necessary.
As long as you’re prepared and regularly check your equipment then your leopard gecko should be healthy, safe and cozy in their enclosure!
- Leopard Geckos: A Guide To 35 Of The Most Awesome Morphs - November 16, 2022
- 8 Types Of Geckos For All Levels Of Pet Owners - November 15, 2022
- Setting Up Your Tree Frog’s New Home - November 15, 2022