As anyone who has ever kept a leopard gecko will tell you, these reptiles are weird little guys. Although they are quite docile, they have a slew of odd behaviors that can be difficult to explain – one of the most misunderstood ones is stargazing. But why do these reptiles do this?
Leopard geckos stargaze for a variety of reasons. For one, they could do this because they have noticed that you always bring food to them from above. Also, they could be expecting a predator to swoop in from above. In some cases, stargazing could be a symptom of Enigma Syndrome.
What is stargazing?
Stargazing is the act of your leopard gecko looking up and staring blankly as if looking at the stars. Interestingly, other reptiles also stargaze, especially snakes.
5 reasons your leopard gecko is stargazing
The 5 main reasons for your leopard gecko to stargaze are:
- To observe its surroundings
Many times, your leopard gecko is just stargazing as a way to observe its surroundings, particularly above its tank. It may even be looking at a plant that is growing above its tank. This is particularly common among leopard geckos who live in glass tanks.
- It’s expecting food
If you regularly feed your leopard gecko from above, it’s normal for it to stare upwards when it’s hungry, as if looking at the sky.
Sometimes, they even lock eyes with potential prey in the process and stare for a while as they plot their next move. This is the same type of stare your leopard gecko has when they’re hunting the feeder insects you provide.
- It’s expecting a predator
When a leopard gecko is used to predators sneaking up on it from above, it can start staring up in fear.
This behavior can be common among wild leopard geckos or those who share a tank with other animals that prey on them.
This is also common among leopard geckos who have just been moved to a new environment or owner. Such reptiles still need time to get used to the change.
- It’s distracted by its reflection
If the top of your leopard gecko’s tank is made of reflective glass, it can easily distract your reptile. It can easily confuse its reflection for another gecko and stare at it in confusion or even dread.
- It has Enigma Syndrome
The worst-case scenario is that your leopard gecko’s stargazing is a sign that they have Enigma Syndrome.
While this neurological disease is widely thought to only develop in the enigma morph type of leopard gecko, it develops in any type of gecko with the gene that causes it. That’s why it’s important not to breed any gecko that has this disease.
After all, it can affect a leopard gecko’s balance and quality of life so much that a vet could recommend euthanasia.
Interestingly though, Enigma Syndrome isn’t always severe – it can present as mild symptoms in some leopard geckos. However, these geckos can still pass it along to their offspring. Apart from stargazing, symptoms of Enigma Syndrome in leopard geckos include:
- Walking in circles
- Lack of appetite
- Head tilting
- Trouble hunting prey
- Laying down in odd places
- Death rolling
So if you notice several of these symptoms in your leopard gecko, it’s time to take it to the vet’s office. While this disease isn’t curable, your vet can help you manage your leopard gecko’s condition.
They will usually advise you to remove any stressors from your gecko’s life. These include tank mates, overhandling, loud noises, and bright lights.
Remember, the more stressed your leopard gecko is, its symptoms will be worse. Even those that don’t exhibit any symptoms can start exhibiting them when stressed.
Ultimately, Enigma Syndrome can get so severe that you have to hand feed your leopard gecko for the rest of its life. That’s why it’s always a good idea to start teaching your reptile to eat from tongs.
What else do leopard geckos stare at?
When it comes down to it, staring is a very normal behavior in leopard geckos. Beyond looking up and staring at the sky, they can also stare at you or other things around them.
They particularly like to stare at moving objects because they want to face any threat head-on. They can also stare at other animals to protect their territory.
Interestingly, other reptiles and pets also stare for similar reasons – a few examples are cats, dogs, iguanas, crested geckos, and bearded dragons.
Stargazing is usually normal and doesn’t indicate any health problems in your leopard gecko. If it’s accompanied by symptoms like death rolling, circling, and head tilting though, it’s a reason for concern. In such cases, only your vet can give your reptile a clear diagnosis and guide you accordingly.