What Happens if My Leopard Gecko Gets Too Cold?

*This post contains affiliate links, if you buy through a link on this post we may receive a commission.

How can you tell if your Leopard Gecko is cold, and are there any associated risks? What temperature is too cold for Leo, and what steps should you take if your enclosure is too cold. Get the answers and advice you need to ensure Leo remains safe and healthy all year round. 

Lengthy periods of cold can have detrimental effects on a leopard geckos’ digestion, growth, immune system, and overall health. Leopard Geckos rely on their environment for temperature control. A proper enclosure setup and plans for power outages and seasonal changes will keep Leo safe and healthy. 

What happens if a Leopard Gecko gets too cold?

Leopard Geckos can not regulate their body heat without an external heat source, so they are forced to change their behavior to cope with the energy shortage. 

Drastic behavior changes and health concerns can develop, which may be life-threatening to your Leo if not corrected. If Leopard Geckos respond to touch, they should be fine; if unresponsive, the issue may be more concerning and need immediate attention. 

Leo’s movements are slower.

Cold temperatures slow down your Leopard Gecko’s internal processes making their movement slower. Not only do they move less, but they also sleep more often. You will usually notice them resting in their hides where it is warmer and safer. 

Leopard Geckos instinctually hide when cold as they would not have the energy to escape their predators or hunt for their prey in the wild.  

Digestion and impaction problems

In an ideal environment, your Leopard Gecko would move between the warmer and cooler areas of your enclosure to maintain the perfect temperature for digestion. 

A typically cold environment will affect Leo’s ability to digest efficiently and adequately. Digestion problems deprive Leo of the nutrients and energy needed to stay healthy and active and if sustained, can lead to illness or death. 

Digestion problems can also affect Leo’s ability to eliminate waste and lead to impaction. It is possible to correct impaction by providing your gecko with a warm bath and belly massage, but veterinarian assistance or surgery may be required if severe. 

Decreased appetite and dehydration risk

Leo’s sluggish behavior when cold will also decrease their appetite. As they move less and sleep more, they will eat less and preferably use their fat and energy reserves.  This lack of food and nutrition can negatively affect Leo’s growth rate. 

As in brumation, Leo may use any fat stores in their tails to survive longer when hiding or resting in extended cold temperatures. Eating or digesting is viewed as too much high-energy activity. 

In severe cases, Leo can develop stick tail disease whereby tail stores are used up, and the tail looks more like a stick than a tail. This is a sign of significant weight loss and will require professional veterinarian assistance. 

Leo may also stop drinking when cold, leading to dehydration and associated shed issues if continued for extended periods.  

Respiratory infections

Leo is more prone to respiratory infections when in a cold environment. 

If Leo is acting more lethargic, losing weight rapidly, or breathing with their mouth open, you may need to visit an exotic vet to rule out infection. Bubbly saliva on your gecko’s mouth is another less common symptom to look out for. 

Frequently treated with antibiotics and probiotics, your Leo should recover with time. If more severe, additional hydration or assisted feeding may need to be administered by a professional veterinarian. An untreated respiratory infection can be life-threatening. 

Leo is hypothermic

Your Leo should not suffer from hyperthermia unless in extremely cold conditions. This is not likely to occur in your usual enclosure environment, even in colder situations. 

Symptoms of a hypothermic Leo would be similar to when Leo is cold but would be more severe. 

Your Leopard Gecko will be sedentary, inactive, and may advance to not moving at all. You may notice your gecko lying on its belly for extended periods or showing signs of disorientation. Weight loss, sunken or shut eyes, stuck shed, and an absence of eating or drinking would be other signs of hypothermia. 

Hypothermia is extremely dangerous for Leopard Geckos, and if not treated or conditions are not rectified quickly, Leo can die a painful death. 

Is Leo cold, if cold to the touch?

Numerous Leo owners inaccurately assume that their Leo should always feel cold to the touch because they are cold-blooded creatures.  

Leo’s preferred body temperature is around 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celcius), and if you touch your Leo and they feel cold to the touch, the tank temperature may very well be too cold. Leo’s body temperature adapts to its environmental temperature and is a reasonable indication of whether Leo is hot or cold. 

The cool side of your Leopard Geckos tank should be approximately 73 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit ( 22 to 26 degrees Celsius) and 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (26 to 29  degrees Celsius in the warmer enclosure area. Maintaining this tank temperature will ensure Leo is not too cold or too hot.

How long can Leo survive the cold?

This question is a common anxiety for new Leo owners, especially when subjected to power outages or extreme weather conditions. 

Leopard Geckos can tolerate the cold for up to a month if temperatures remain above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) and they have enough tail fat reserves. Temperatures below this would most definitely lead to severe illness and death. 

How to safeguard Leo from the cold

Invest in up to 3 thermometers and a thermostat and heat mat to help regulate the heat in Leo’s enclosure. 

A thermometer near the enclosure floor and thermometers 4 to 5 inches above the ground on the warm and cooler side of the enclosure will help you monitor Leo’s environment and change your thermostat setting where necessary. 

In colder weather, a larger enclosure may require a larger heat mat or ceramic heat-emitting bulb. Moving your enclosure to a warmer part of your house during the winter can also help. 

Investing in a generator as a backup power source is extremely valuable and will ease anxiety. Heat packs, hand warmers, or heated water bottle use is not recommended unless experienced, as it can result in gecko burns or injury. It would be preferable to transport Leo’s enclosure to your heated car or a friend’s house for a couple of hours. 

In extreme cases, holding Leo in your hands and close to you can help with retaining their heat short term. 

Final thoughts

Leo can withstand the cold for short periods, if not extreme. Prolonged exposure to a cold environment will negatively affect your Leopard Geckos’ health and, in extreme circumstances, can lead to hypothermia or death. 

Regularly monitor Leos’s tank temperature and behavior and plan for power outages or extreme weather conditions. Leo will recover quickly if temperature issues are promptly corrected and veterinary advice is taken. 


Leave a Comment