Leopard Gecko Temperature: How Warm Should My Vivarium Be?

Like other reptiles, leopard geckos are cold-blooded. Instead of producing their own heat like mammals, they instead regulate their temperature by moving around their environment.

Leopard geckos may bask in the morning sun to warm up or shelter beneath a rock ledge to keep cool in the hottest part of the day. 

Providing a suitable temperature for your leopard gecko is therefore a crucial part of looking after your pet – but what is the perfect leopard gecko temperature?

There are three primary considerations when it comes to leopard gecko heating. These are:

  • Providing a temperature gradient within the vivarium so your pet can thermoregulate
  • The ideal temperature for the hot “basking” area
  • The best equipment to create these conditions in the home

Let’s address each of these in turn…

How to Create a Temperature Gradient

What is the best temperature for leopard geckos?

A mistake many new reptile keepers make is to heat the entire vivarium to one consistent temperature. Leopard geckos are naturally found in the Middle East where is can get very hot during the day, but they still like to be able to escape from the fiercest temperatures. 

The best option is to heat just one end of their cage. The other end remains cooler. Depending on the ambient heat within your home the cooler end may be entirely without heat or you may use a low-wattage heat mat to give off gentle heat.

The basking spot is really where the action is, however, and it’s likely that you’ll find your leopard gecko spending plenty of time here. 

Ideally try to provide multiple hides for your pet, with one at the hot end and one at the cool end, so your lizard can choose the area that suits it best. 

Be sure to monitor the temperature of your leopard gecko cage to ensure it is suitable. Either place a thermometer at either end of the vivarium or use a digital thermometer that has two different probes. 

What Temperature for Leopard Geckos?

The hot end of your leopard gecko cage should be maintained at 30-32’C / 86-90’F. 

The cooler end will by default not be as warm. An ideal temperature for the cool end is 24-27’C / 75-80’F. 

A small drop in temperature at night is acceptable, and will generally occur anyway as the ambient temperature in your home falls. All the same, the temperature in your leopard gecko cage shouldn’t be allowed to fall too much at any time. 

How to Heat a Leopard Gecko Tank

400;”>Reptile keepers use a multitude of different reptile-safe heaters for leopard geckos. The three most popular are ceramic heaters, heat lamps and heat mats. 

Ceramic Heaters

Ceramic heaters are probably the most suitable form of heating for leopard geckos.

They are capable of producing considerable temperatures so they’ll keep your lizard nice and toasty no matter how cold your home is.

Related:  Do Tarantulas Need A Heat Lamp?

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They also produce no visible light so they can be left on at night without upsetting the circadian rhythm of your gecko. 

As ceramic heaters can get so hot it is essential to treat them with respect. Always use a proper ceramic bulb holder and a thermostat to prevent overheating either the cage or your leopard gecko.

Additionally, be sure your pet cannot come into contact with the bulb, which can lead to burns.

Fortunately, unlike many other geckos, leopard geckos lack sticky toe pads so are unlikely to climb up their cage onto the heater. 

Heat Lamps

As leopard geckos typically hail from arid, desert-like environments heat lamps have long been a popular choice. While they can get very hot like a ceramic heater, they also produce visible light like an old-fashioned incandescent bulb. 

Personally I’m not a huge fan of heat lamps for leopard geckos which are, of course, nocturnal. You’ll find yourself in the difficult situation of either leaving the lamp on all night – which is quite unnatural – or turning the lamp off and hoping the cage stays warm enough. Neither is really a good solution in my opinion. 

Heat Mats

Heat mats are probably the cheapest and easiest form of reptile heating available. Sadly they only produce very modest temperatures, so aren’t suitable for your leopard gecko’s basking spot. They may, however, be used to gently warm the cooler end during the winter if necessary.

Tikaton Reptile Heat Pad - Adjustable Temperature Under Tank Heater for 10-20gal/30-40gal Tank, Terrarium Heat Mat for Turtle/Snake/Lizard/Frog/Spider/Plant Box
  • UPGRADED DESIGN: Temperature can be adjusted manually. POWERFUL FUNCTION: Helps reptile for daily activity, appetite and metabolism. It can keep reptile tank warm without any harm to your pets and also won't disturb animals sleep pattern.
  • Durable material: made of high quality PVC material, its soft surface can be flexible and folded. The heat mat is easy to clean, convenient to use and low energy.
  • ENERGY-SAVING: This heater uses a solid state nichrome heating element Which only use 8 watts of electricity and costs only pennies a day to operate. HIGH EFFICIENCY: High-quality heating wire heating, stable performance and long service life.

Tips for Heating Your Leopard Gecko Cage

As providing the perfect temperature for your gecko is so important it makes sense to consider some tried-and-tested tips for getting things just right…

Protect Your Gecko From Burns

The kind of reptile heater that can produce an area of 86-90’F is going to get very hot. Over the years numerous reptiles have suffered incredible burns from coming into direct contact with their heater. You don’t want this happening to your pet.

If you place the heater inside your vivarium then protect it with a bulb guard.

Vipe Heater Guard, Reptile Heating Lamp Shade Light Heat Lamp Mesh Cover
  • Mesh lampshade made from high-grade stainless steel, strong enough to guarantee years of usage
  • Reptilesand amphibians are more likely to approach to heat source, the metallampshade can protect your turtles, lizards and other crawling pets fromhigh temperature lamp surface
  • With coil spring design, easy for installation, just clip and go

Alternatively if you’re using a mesh-top cage like an Exo Terra terrarium then the heater can be placed above the cage, with the warmth radiating down through the mesh lid. 

Related:  Giant Day Gecko Care Sheet (Phelsuma grandis)

Use a Good Quality Thermostat

A thermostat is crucial for any form of reptile heating.

Not only will a good quality thermostat ensure your heater is pumping out enough warmth for your pet, but it will also prevent any overheating.

A decent thermostat will likely be the most expensive piece of kit you’ll need, but they’re worth their weight in gold. Choosing a reptile thermostat isn’t easy and there are lots of things you need to consider so I suggest you read my buyers guide here.

Routinely Monitor Temperatures

Even when you’re using a thermostat it is a good idea to monitor temperatures in your leopard gecko cage. Either install in-tank thermometers or invest in a “gun” thermometer so you can keep an eye on things. This is particularly handy as you move from one season to another, as you’ll be surprised how much the ambient temperature in your house can vary.

Adjust Temperatures Based on Behavior

While I’ve done my best to provide some guidance on the best temperatures for your leopard gecko cage, it is important to highlight that these are only suggestions. Your gecko may prefer it slightly warmer, or cooler, depending on a range of factors. 

A good rule of thumb is therefore to start with the temperatures outlined earlier in this guide but to gently modify things in response to how your gecko behaves.

If your leopard gecko rarely seems to move away from the basking area then this may be a sign that you should gently increase the temperature.

The reverse is also true; if your gecko continually skulks at the cool end then the hotspot may need to be turned down slightly.

Over time, you’ll be able to “dial in” to your gecko’s individual requirements. 

Do Leopard Geckos Need Heat at Night?

One final question that is often asked is whether leopard geckos need heating at night.

The answer to this is “yes” unless your home is naturally warm enough. Leopard geckos tend to be most active at night, so keeping warm during this period is important. 

As a final note, some reptile thermostats have different settings for different times of the day. You can always, therefore, program your heater to be slightly warmer during the day, and slightly cooler at night, to more closely mimic the wild conditions your lizard would experience. 

Richard Adams

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