Seeing as Leopard Geckos originate from semi-arid and rocky desert terrains, does it mean they can tolerate high temperatures? How hot is too hot, and can incorrect terrarium heat levels negatively affect your Leo?
Excessive heat is life-threatening for your cold-blooded Leopard Gecko due to its inability to self-regulate its internal temperature. An elevated heat level can be stressful and uncomfortable for leopard geckos, leading to obesity, accelerated growth, nutrient deficiencies, metabolic disorders, and even fatal overheating.
What happens if my Leopard Gecko gets too hot?
High temperatures are both dangerous and uncomfortable for your Leopard Gecko. Here are some overheating concerns and complications you ought to be aware of.
Metabolic disorders and growth issues
Leopard Geckos need a heat source for their metabolism to work correctly and to aid healthy eating and digestion.
Temperature affects the rate at which your Leopard Gecko’s food is digested. Regrettably, if this heat source is excessive, it can lead to overeating and accelerated growth in your Leo.
The increased growth can lead to a lack of nutrients, leading to deficiencies and illness in your gecko. Overeating can also result in obesity, an inability to have regular bowel movements or digest food properly. These issues, if not corrected, can be life-threatening to your Leo.
These cold-blooded creatures rely on their environment for heat regulation, and if too hot and there is no means for cooling down, they can end up with heatstroke.
If your Leopard Gecko’s tank temperature rises to over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), the risk of overheating and death is increased. Your Leo can endure temperatures of up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), but any higher, your gecko will experience considerable stress and potential loss of life.
With the inability of Leos to naturally cool themselves down, overheating can make them highly stressed, and their behavior can be negatively affected. In extreme heat situations, Leopard Geckos have been known to suffer from a debilitating syndrome called Enigma Syndrome.
This neurological disorder affects both your Leo’s balance and cognition. You may notice Leo tilting his head to the side, repetitively circling or ‘star gazing.’
A hot enclosure can be hazardous for your Leopard Gecko, especially if you have dark rocks or stones on the tank floor.
Stones or rocks, especially darker colors, can absorb heat and become dangerously hot. If your Leopard Geckos are in contact with the stones, they can sustain harmful burns and skin damage. If not treated or corrected, infection or illness can result.
All creatures need water for their general health and wellbeing. If your gecko’s tank is too hot, your Leopard Gecko could suffer from dehydration.
Leopard Geckos get approximately 60 percent of their moisture from their food. If your tank is hot, Leo will lose water, and its skin will dry out, sag and peel. Dehydration can be fatal if not addressed and can lead to other issues such as the inability to shed or diseases such as tail rot.
Mild dehydration can be reversed, but severe dehydration from extended periods of high temperature will require the assistance of an exotic veterinarian. If left untreated, dehydration can lead to a painful death.
Sleep is vital for health and lowering the risk of disease and disorders.
Leopard Geckos require approximately 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) to experience a night of restful deep sleep.
High temperatures stress your Leopard Gecko and prevent them from sleeping enough or deeply enough. This can have detrimental long-term effects on their health.
Signs your Leopard Gecko is too hot.
Your Leopard Gecko will move to cooler, shaded areas of your tank and avoid the warmer areas if heat is affecting them. Geckos will also tend to move to the enclosure’s edges to find some relief.
Look for signs of excessive nervous running, food preoccupation, and increased growth. Other behavioral clues such as burying or hiding, lethargy, and panting also suggest a possible heat problem in Leo’s enclosure.
The quicker you can identify the heat problem, the quicker you will be able to assist your Leopard Gecko back to safety and health.
Tips for optimal terrarium temperatures
Leopard Geckos are healthier when living in an enclosure where temperatures are kept around 25 to 32 degrees Celsius (77 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit). The hotter side of the tank should be about 29 to 32 degrees Celcius (85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit), and there should always be access to cooler areas.
Thermostats and thermometers
Avoid anxiety and prevent health complications by investing in a thermometer and thermostat to maintain enclosure temperatures.
Thermometers should be placed near ground level, away from any heat lamps. Additionally, they are great to confirm your thermostat temperature settings are correct. Thermostats allow you to set a chosen temperature ensuring your enclosure temperature is maintained.
Consider enclosure environment
If it is summer and very hot, you may need to consider removing all heat sources from your terrarium for the enclosure to remain at a suitable temperature.
Keep your terrarium in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight, and ensure proper ventilation. Sun exposure can heat the sides of your enclosure which can cause overheating and injury to your Leo.
Cooler areas should always be provided in your Leopard Geckos enclosure for temperature self-regulation. Don’t ever heat the entire floor of the enclosure with a heating mat, even in the winter months.
Be mindful of any indoor space heaters used in the room where your enclosure is housed, and consider how different seasons will trigger fluctuations in temperature in your home.
Regulating the temperature in your Leopard Geckos enclosure and providing cool and warm spaces will ensure that your gecko remains healthy and happy.
Excessive heat can cause metabolic, sleep, and shed problems. Considerably worse are the possible fatal symptoms of overheating, such as heat stroke, dehydration, burns, and other illnesses.
Take the time to set up your enclosure correctly and consider environmental factors that may affect heating and the well-being of your Leo.