Leopard Gecko Brumation (Everything Owners Need to Know)

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In the wild, leopard geckos experience fluctuating environmental conditions that may trigger brumation. However, in captivity, the necessity of brumation is often debated.

By exploring the factors that influence brumation in leopard geckos, you can make an informed decision on whether this process should be implemented in your pet’s care routine.

This article aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of leopard gecko brumation and guide you through the essentials to ensure your gecko’s well-being.

Do Leopard Geckos Brumate?

Yes, leopard geckos do brumate. However, brumation is not necessary for captive leopard geckos as long as they have a warm environment. Brumation is simply a way for leopard geckos in the wild to survive cold temperatures.

What is Brumation

Brumation is a dormant period that many reptiles, including leopard geckos, experience during periods of low temperatures, typically in winter. It is essentially the reptilian equivalent of hibernation, but there are some differences between the two processes.

During brumation, your leopard gecko’s metabolism slows down. This leads to decreased activity levels, as your gecko may not eat. It will hide for extended periods and stay in cooler parts of its enclosure.

It’s important to note that brumation is a natural process for reptiles over one-year-old and usually occurs from December to the end of February.

Signs of Leopard Gecko Brumation

Decreased Activity

A decrease in activity is one of the first signs that your leopard gecko might be entering brumation. You may notice that your gecko is more lethargic, spends more time hiding, and sleeps frequently.

They might also show slow to no movement and prefer to stay on the cooler side of the enclosure for prolonged periods. Though it might be concerning to see your gecko less active than usual, brumation is a natural part of their annual cycle and shouldn’t be a cause for alarm as long as you monitor them closely.

Loss of Appetite

Your gecko may stop eating entirely or drastically decrease their food intake.

This is because brumation temperatures are too low to digest their food properly. It’s essential to keep an eye on your gecko during this time and not force-feed them, as undigested food in their system could lead to health issues.

Preparing for Brumation

Temperature and Lighting

To prepare your leopard gecko for brumation, it’s essential to create an appropriate environment by adjusting the temperature and lighting. Gradually decrease the temperatures in your gecko’s housing to reach winter-like conditions. Aim for a room temperature between 60-72°F. Reduce both the intensity and length of exposure to light.

Housing Setup

When setting up your gecko’s housing, create a separate brumation area where they can rest comfortably during this period. If you have multiple leopard geckos, you may consider housing them together in one large tank (at least 50 gallons).

It’s important to stop offering food two weeks before the start of brumation. This will allow your gecko’s digestive tract to clear any remaining food, preventing toxic fecal matter from forming.

Some owners even give their geckos a short warm bath before brumation to ensure a complete evacuation of their intestinal tract.

Remember to provide fresh water for your leopard gecko throughout the brumation period to ensure they stay hydrated. If you’re using a light source, ensure it’s heatless, as additional heat may disrupt the brumation process.

How to Care for Your Brumating Leopard Gecko

Monitoring Health

Ensuring your leopard gecko is in good health before brumation begins is crucial. Check for a plump tail and obtain a recent clear parasite check from a vet. If parasites were found, complete treatment at least one month before brumation.

Feeding and Hydration

  1. Withholding food: Stop offering food to your leopard gecko for 7 to 14 days before brumation. This will give them enough time to digest any food in their system completely.
  2. A warm bath: Give your leopard gecko a short warm bath before brumation to help ensure a total evacuation of the intestinal tract.
  3. Brumation area: Create a brumation area, either by housing your gecko in their enclosure or placing them together with other leopard geckos in a large tank of at least 50 gallons.
  4. Temperature and light cycles: Initiate brumation by changing the heat and light cycles for your leopard gecko:
    • Temperature (Day): 86°-90°F with a 95°F basking spot
    • Temperature (Night): above 70°F
    • Light Cycle: 12 hours day / 12 hours night

During brumation, regularly check on your leopard gecko to make sure they’re in good condition.

Waking Your Leopard Gecko from Brumation

Signs of Readiness

Before you plan to wake your leopard gecko from brumation, look for signs that they’re ready. Some common indications that your gecko is prepared to come out of brumation include:

  • Increased activity
  • Frequent movement
  • Emerging from hiding spots
  • Showing interest in food

Keep a close eye on these signs as they signal that it’s time for you to intervene and help your gecko wake up from brumation.

Gradual Warm-Up Process

To successfully wake your leopard gecko from brumation, follow the gradual warm-up process detailed below:

  1. Temperature Adjustment: Begin by slowly increasing the temperature in your gecko’s enclosure. Starting at the end of February or the 1st day of March, reintroduce the heat source to warm up your leopard gecko 1 gradually. Ensure the temperature reaches around 74 degrees Fahrenheit or higher to prevent their body temperature from dropping too low.
  2. Water and Hydration: Ensure that your gecko has access to fresh water throughout the process. Proper hydration is essential for their health and well-being during this transition.
  3. Patience: Wait for 1-2 weeks before offering food to your gecko. This will give them time to adjust to the warmer environment and become more active.
  4. Monitoring: Keep a watchful eye on your gecko’s weight during this time. If they lose more than 10% of their weight during brumation, consult a veterinarian for guidance.

Following this gradual warm-up process will help your leopard gecko transition smoothly from brumation to their normal, active state.

Brumation and Breeding

Leopard geckos experience brumation when temperatures drop, usually during winter months. Although wild geckos experience this annually, captive leopard geckos can go their entire lives without brumating. However, brumating your leopard geckos can help synchronize their ovulation cycles, making breeding more predictable.

To initiate brumation, adjust the heat and light cycles.

Follow these guidelines:

  • Temperature (Day): 86°-90°F with a 95°F basking spot
  • Temperature (Night): above 70°F
  • Light Cycle: 12 hours day / 12 hours night

Before brumation, withhold food for 7 to 14 days to ensure your leopard gecko fully digests any food in its system. Some keepers recommend a warm bath before brumation to help with intestinal evacuation.

Brumation generally lasts two to four months, with leopard geckos waking up in early spring. When you notice your gecko waking up, please return them to a warm environment (74 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) as soon as possible to prevent body temperature from dropping too low.

Once your leopard geckos have warmed up, they should begin ovulating within a month. At this point, you can start the breeding process.

Common Concerns and Issues

You might notice changes in your leopard gecko’s behavior and appearance during brumation. It’s essential to be aware of the common concerns and issues that can arise during this period, so you can respond appropriately.

Digestion Issues

Your gecko may stop eating and become less active for three to four weeks before the event begins. This will significantly lower your gecko’s energy levels. That and the lower-than-usual temperature can lead to ineffective food digestion and rotting food in the digestive tract.

To prevent any complications from undigested food, you should withhold food from your gecko for 7 to 14 days before the onset of brumation.

During this period, your gecko will have time to digest its food completely. It’s also a good idea to give your gecko a short warm bath to help ensure the total evacuation of the intestinal tract.

Weight Loss

Keep an eye on your gecko’s weight during brumation, as they may gain or lose weight during this time.

Rapid weight loss, abnormal stool, or digestive issues may indicate parasites or other health problems, which become more apparent during brumation due to the gecko’s lower metabolism.

While brumation is a natural part of your leopard gecko’s annual cycle, monitoring their health closely is crucial.

Concerns and issues may include appetite changes, undigested food, and weight fluctuations. By being proactive, you can ensure your gecko remains healthy throughout this period.


How often do leopard geckos brumate?

Leopard geckos typically undergo brumation once a year during the winter, as the surrounding temperatures drop. It’s important to note that while brumation occurs naturally in wild geckos, captive leopard geckos can go for their entire lifetime without entering into brumation.

Should I let my leopard gecko brumate?

Before considering brumation, make sure your leopard gecko is healthy and fit to undergo the process.

Your gecko should have a plump tail and a recent clear parasite check. If your gecko has had parasites, ensure the treatment is finished at least one month before brumation begins.

If your gecko meets these requirements and you wish to let them brumate, you can adjust the environmental factors accordingly.

However, remember that captive geckos can live a healthy life without brumating.

How long can a leopard gecko go without eating during brumation?

When preparing for brumation, it’s recommended that you stop offering food to your leopard gecko two weeks before the process starts. Geckos can go for an extended period without eating during brumation. Some geckos eat two small meals a week, while others may not eat at all. It’s important to monitor your gecko’s health and habits during this time to ensure their well-being.

Do leopard geckos shed during brumation?

Yes, leopard geckos shed during brumation. However, this is dependent on individual geckos and their specific needs. Keep an eye on your gecko during brumation and provide a moist hide for shedding if you notice any indications that they are preparing to shed.

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