Common Leopard Gecko Behaviors (And What They Mean)

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If you’ve been keeping leopard geckos for a while, you know that these reptiles have an array of interesting behaviors. While some of them are cute and make sense, some are just off. 

Fortunately, we are going to talk about them in this post and tell you exactly what they mean. 

Sleeping during the day

This is normal leopard gecko behavior and is advisable. Even in the wild, leopard geckos will wake up at dusk and remain active until dawn before sleeping in a dark place. 

In the wild, they particularly love hunting at dusk because doing so increases their chances of getting prey and reduces their risk of encountering predators. This is because few other predators are roaming around at this time. 

As such, creating a conducive environment for your leopard gecko to sleep during the day is essential. 

This involves placing the gecko’s tank in a quiet place during the day. 

Ground dwelling

Because leopard geckos don’t have sticky toe pads, they spend most of their time on the ground. 

They will usually just walk around the tank and climb some low surfaces like rocks. Even when they try to climb the tank’s walls, they usually don’t get that far up. 

Wall climbing

This is one of the most common leopard gecko behaviors. There’s even a name for it; glass surfing. While it’s mostly normal, it can be a sign of a problem when done excessively. It can particularly indicate:

Inappropriate temperature

If your leopard gecko’s tank has an inappropriate temperature range, your reptile may try to escape it by climbing its walls. 

That’s why it’s important to maintain the right day and night temperatures. 

This involves getting heating equipment like a heat lamp or heat mat and ensuring it has a thermostat. 

Remember the appropriate daytime temperature for leopard geckos is usually 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with a basking spot in the 90s.

On the other hand, the appropriate nighttime temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Also, ensure that you turn off the lights at night. Even though leopard geckos are more active at night, they have excellent night vision and don’t need light during this time. 


Interestingly, a leopard gecko can’t climb its tank walls if it’s trying to go out to look for food. 

That’s why it’s important to offer your reptile enough insects. Beyond that, ensure what you provide is diverse. Mix your leopard gecko’s favorite insects with other healthy options. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that overfeeding your leopard gecko is just as bad. It can make your reptile’s tank become overrun with feeder insects. 

This in turn, can make your pet uncomfortable enough to want to escape by climbing up the walls.

Inadequate tank space

If you are hosting your leopard gecko in a small tank, it can start climbing the walls in an attempt to escape. 

This can also happen when you host more than one leopard gecko in the same tank. Since these reptiles can be territorial, they can easily end up fighting and competing for resources. 

This can make one or more of them try to escape from the tank. 


If your leopard gecko’s tank is too bare, it can easily get bored and start wall climbing to get away and go on an adventure. If you suspect that this is what’s happening, add some furniture to your gecko’s tank. 


Your leopard gecko may not know what glass is and is trying to pass through it. When this doesn’t work, it can become confused and start climbing tank walls. 

Breeding interest

Another thing that can make your leopard gecko climb walls is a need to breed; it may be trying to get to a suitable mate. 

Tail shaking

Leopard geckos mainly communicate by shaking their tails. Some of the ways that they do this are:

Tail waving

When a leopard gecko feels threatened, it will raise its tail and slowly wave it back and forth. It does this to look bigger and more intimidating. 

Sometimes, it can do it to draw attention to the tail. This way, any assailant will go for the tail first, yet this is detachable and can’t keep a leopard gecko from escaping. 

Remember, leopard geckos also wave their tails just before they pounce on feeder insects. 

Tail wiggling

A leopard gecko will usually wiggle its tail to let other geckos know that it’s present. 

Male leopard geckos also wiggle their tails when introducing themselves to females. They can even rattle the tip of their tails when doing this. 


Leopard geckos make sounds to communicate. For instance, they can squeak when they feel threatened and chirp when they are trying to scare a potential predator. 

So if you hear your leopard gecko producing these noises, figure out what is distressing it and get rid of it. Also, don’t try to touch your reptile or further provoke it. 


Leopard geckos usually hide during the day in a hide when they are sleeping; this is normal behavior for them. 

But if you notice that your gecko has been hiding for over 24 hours, you need to be worried. This could be a sign that your reptile is unwell. 

Head shaking 

You will usually see this behavior when your leopard gecko is trying to swallow a large insect. These reptiles tend to sway their heads from side to side to help the food move along. 

So if you notice your pet doing this while eating, switch out the insects for smaller ones. Ideally, they shouldn’t be wider than the space between your gecko’s eyes.

But if your gecko shakes its head when it’s not eating, there could be something stuck in its throat, especially if it’s producing sounds too. 

Tongue flicking and licking

One of the most interesting things about leopard geckos is that they have tongues with a Jacobson’s organ at their tips. 

This is an organ that allows your reptile to smell using its tongue. This organ is also present in other reptiles and mammals and amphibians. It is particularly noticeable in snakes. 

So when you see your leopard gecko flicking its tongue, know that it’s trying to pick up scents and sometimes even moisture droplets. 

Apart from flicking it, a leopard gecko can use its tongue to lick its food and other things in the tank, just out of curiosity. 

This curiosity can even lead your gecko to lick your hand. Beyond that, leopard geckos can lick their eyes to clean them. 

On the other hand, mouth licking can be a sign of a disease. For one, it can be a symptom of metabolic bone disease (MBD). This can also cause other symptoms like the inability to keep food in the mouth. Another disease that causes excessive licking is mouth rot. 


It’s normal for a leopard gecko to soak in the water that you provide regularly. 

This is healthy; it helps your gecko shed its skin properly. But if you notice that your gecko is soaking more often than usual, it could indicate that there’s a shedding problem or the tank is too hot. 

It could also be a sign that your leopard gecko is trying to get rid of mites on its skin. 

Pooping in the same spot 

Leopard geckos usually choose one or two spots where they poop all the time; this is just how they are. This makes cleaning easy for you. 

Tail biting

Leopard geckos can bite each other’s tails when they mate or fight. The latter can particularly lead to serious injuries. 

That’s why hosting two or more leopard geckos in the same tank is never a good idea. Even when you mate two leopard geckos, it’s best to separate them after. 

Sleeping with one eye open

This is normal behavior and shouldn’t worry you. It is something that some leopard geckos do to deter predators from attacking them as they sleep.


Leopard geckos can dig out of instinct or because they are looking for a place to hide; both genders may do this. However, female leopard geckos also do this often when pregnant, particularly a few days before they lay eggs. They do this to create a suitable nesting place. 

That’s why it’s advisable to use loose substrate in the area where you want your leopard gecko to nest. Also, don’t worry if you notice that your gecko continues to dig even after they’ve started laying eggs; this is normal. Ultimately, you should only worry about digging if your gecko isn’t eating and/or pooping usually. 

Final thoughts

Generally, it’s easier to tell which behavior is normal and which is not when you’ve spent a substantial amount of time with your leopard gecko. So if you just got your reptile, be patient and observe it as much as possible. Beyond that, talk to your vet and other leopard gecko owners when you notice something unusual.

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