Why Your Leopard Gecko Is Aggressive (With 12 Reasons)

Leopard geckos are generally not aggressive pets by nature, but there can be a number of reasons as to why they are or why they’ve suddenly become this way.  Don’t worry, though, because with enough time, patience, commitment, and adjustments, they can be tamed.  Before we get into greater detail, though, take a look at some of the things that may be causing them to act this way.

  1. Cohabiting
  2. Shedding
  3. Small Enclosure
  4. New Environment
  5. Mistaken Identity
  6. Egg Laying
  7. Hormonal Changes
  8. Individuality
  9. Temperature Issues
  10. Unclean Tank
  11. Too Much Handling
  12. Improper Handling

As you can see from the list, there are a ton of different reasons for a leopard gecko to start behaving aggressively.  Although some reasons are more clear than others, it can be quite the mystery trying to figure out what the cause is, even for owners who have had their gecko for many years.  If you’d like to learn a little bit more about each reason, I suggest reading on so that you’ll have a better understanding.

Cohabiting

There are many reasons why a leopard gecko could be displaying aggressive behavior, but this one is by far probably one of the most common ones.  If you don’t know what cohabiting is, then basically it’s when two or more animals live in the same enclosure or area.  While some animals don’t have an issue with this, many others, like leopard geckos, do.

Depending on a couple of factors and who you ask, cohabiting can be a very unsafe or safe thing to do when it comes to leopard geckos.  I’m not against the idea of it as long as you’re putting two females together, but if there are two males together, then that’s a definite no-go as this will definitely cause tons of stress and aggression as they are way too territorial to live together.

I’m not saying that it can’t happen with two or more females, but males are almost guaranteed to fight when put in the same tank.  Because of all of the stress from the other gecko, some of this aggression might even be taken out on you as a result.

You may be able to get away with housing two females together successfully as some have, but keep in mind that there is still that chance that things can go sour between the two if they decide that they just absolutely can’t seem to tolerate each other.  Each leopard gecko displays its own behaviors, so there’s no way to tell how they’ll act until paired up.

If you find that your leopard geckos are constantly going at each other’s necks, then that’s when it’s time to separate them.  Two aggressive leopard geckos stuck in the same enclosure will not end well and should be taken care of immediately.

There are two fixes for this.  You’ll either have to rehome one of your leopard geckos or buy a new tank with extra equipment and separate them.  If you’d like to go with the last option, then I recommend going to this page for my personal equipment suggestions if you don’t already have what you want in mind.  As for the tank,  this one here from Amazon is a great option.  It’s the one I use and absolutely LOVE.

IF you want to take the gamble of putting them together, I highly suggest getting a much larger tank that allows PLENTY of space between the two geckos.  Please keep in mind, though, that they have to either be a male and a female or two females.  Like stated above, two males in the same tank won’t fly.  For a larger tank, then this one here also from Amazon will do just fine.  

Yes, there’s always the option of getting rid of one gecko, but it doesn’t have to come down to that.  In plus, letting go of a gecko that you love just because they didn’t get along with another one would be very disheartening simply for the fact that it can be prevented, it just takes the right equipment and actions.

Shedding

Many people don’t know this, but shedding is usually always a very stressful time for a leopard gecko.  The amount of work they have to put in to remove that pesky layer of skin is no easy task.  Because of all of this work, naturally, they become very, very stressed out.  And because of this stress, they can also become very aggressive.

During the time in which they shed, it’s also best to give them their space.  They can be quite snappy and moody and usually don’t like to interact with anyone or anything until it’s over.  They even display unusual behavior such as not eating or hiding in their hideout non-stop and might even try to take a snip at you whenever you try to handle them.

This can be very worrisome if it’s your very first leopard gecko and you’ve never had experience with them, but rest assure that this odd behavior is very normal and will pass within the course of a few days, max.

The only time you should try to handle a leopard gecko while it’s shedding is if there are complications.  This is because shed issues can lead to very serious problems and shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

You might not think that a little skin would be harmful, but it is to them.  If stuck on certain body parts, it can cause their blood flow to constrict and also cause much pain.  Besides aggression, they might even display these behaviors here as well

  • Being Very Distant
  • Not Going For Food
  • Moving Slow

If you’d like to read more in-depth about their whole shedding process, then check this article out here that I wrote where I go into a lot more detail ranging from why they shed, to symptoms you can expect while they’re shedding as well.

Small Enclosure

The bigger leopard geckos get, the more space they’ll need in order to live comfortably in their tank.  If leopard geckos are forced into a tank that’s way too small for them, it can cause a lot of different complications along with discomfort and bad behavior.

Without a larger tank, you won’t be able to fit the right equipment in there for them to hide in or move around in freely and it will definitely display in their behavior, mentally and physically.  Leopard geckos that are between the ages of 0 to 2 months will be able to live just fine in a tank that is 10 gallons, but any gecko that’s 3 months and older will need something that’s at the very least 20 gallons.

If you currently have a gecko that is older than 2 months and is still in a 10-gallon tank, then I highly suggest that you upgrade to a larger tank for the sake of their health and well-being.  Not only will that solve any health issues that they are subjected to while being in the smaller tank, but it will also solve the behavioral issues as well.

If you don’t know where to get a good quality 20-gallon tank at, then I recommend taking a look at this one here.  It’s one that I recommended in the COHABITINGportion of this article, but both issues warrant a different or separate tank, so it’s definitely one worth looking at.  Keep in mind that there are many different reasons why a leopard gecko would need a new tank.

Also, if you’d like more information on when exactly leopard geckos reach adulthood so that you can get a better idea of what type of tank you need for them in the future if you still have a baby gecko, then check this out this article here that I wrote.

New Environment

This one is almost a given, but anytime your leopard gecko is introduced to a new environment, then they will take some time to get used to it.  For example, if you’ve just brought home a new baby leopard gecko and you find that it is a little moody and aggressive acting towards you, then it’s because it isn’t familiar with you yet and doesn’t know where it’s at.

This isn’t their fault, it’s just that they have a natural defense mechanism towards anything that may be seen as a predator and is just displaying this type of behavior in order to protect itself.  Kind of like humans whenever we see a huge dog or bear.  We, just like them, want to either defend ourselves or run away.  And that’s exactly what they feel like doing whenever they see us for the first time.

In order for them to change behaviors, they’ll first have to get used to you.  In order to do this, you’ll have to start what I call the ” bonding process ” with them. 

This is basically where you take certain steps and actions over the course of a few weeks to help them get more familiar with everything around them including yourself.  Some new owners don’t do this and have more trouble with them many months or years down the line due to improper training.

If you’re interested in that topic, then you’re in luck, because I actually wrote a full article on that as well.  It’s titled ” Are Leopard Geckos Friendly? “.  Check it out by clicking here.

Mistaken Identity

You might be wondering what I mean by the term ” mistaken identity “, but basically what I mean when I say this is that because of certain scents or smells that you put on or naturally pick up throughout the day, they might accidentally mistake you for someone else.

For example, if you have other pets in your house besides your leopard gecko and you touch them frequently throughout the day or maybe even put on some cologne or hairspray and the scent gets onto your hand, then it’s very likely that you will be bitten or attacked when you try to put your hand in the leopard geckos tank.

When it comes to an issue like this, it may be hard to put two and two together because of how small of an issue it may seem.  But, leopard geckos do rely heavily on their senses in order to detect potential threats, so if you so happen to be carrying a different scent than what they’re used to, then you can almost certainly expect to be attacked.

It’s not a personal thing, they just work purely off of instincts.  In order for me personally to avoid this, I wash my hands with scentless soap and then dry them off with a towel that I’ve let a little bit of substrate settle on for a bit so that they can recognize me whenever I reach in.

So, if you’ve had your gecko awhile and don’t know why they’re acting the way they are and suspect that this maybe could be a reason why, then I suggest giving my little method a shot.  It’s worked for me, so it might just work for you as well. 

Egg Laying

Before your female leopard gecko lays it’s eggs, they might show all kinds of different behaviors, and one of these behaviors is, of course, aggression.  Any time they’re going through this, it’s best to give them their space unless they want attention.

Just like almost every species that’s ever walked this planet, mothers are very protective of their eggs.  And with pregnancy comes mood changes.  If you’re older and have a wife or younger and have seen your mom go through these changes, then you might know what I’m talking about.

It’s a normal behavior that they display and just like many other behaviors that they show such as when they’re shedding or in a new environment, it’s nothing to worry about.  This isn’t a topic that I’ve written on yet, but once I do, I’ll be sure to come back and link to it so that anyone who is going through it with their gecko can have a better understanding about the whole process.

Aside from aggression, though, here are some other behaviors that you may see them display:

  • Excessive Digging
  • Muscle Tension In Legs
  • Visible Eggs In Belly
  • Loss Of Appetite
  • Leaking Clear Liquid
  • Trouble Getting To Sleep
  • Firm Abdomen
  • Irritable

Keep in mind that all leopard geckos are not the same and may or may not display different behaviors depending on each one, but what you see in that list is pretty much what you can expect when dealing with a leopard gecko that’s about to lay eggs.

Just think, if this type of behavior is not unusual in humans, then you can kind of see why your leopard gecko would be acting like this.  So, whenever you suspect that they’re carrying an egg and they start to show a little bit of aggression, then it’s safe to say that that’s why.

If you’d like to know a little bit more about their behaviors during pregnancy along with how to actually tell if they’re pregnant or not, then click here to go to the full article that I wrote so that you can have a deeper understanding on the topic.

Hormonal Changes

Sorry, guys, but hormonal changes just don’t happen to females, but to us and our male leopard geckos as well.  As your leopard gecko grows and gets older, their hormones change as well.  The reason for this is puberty, which is a term that we’re all very familiar with.

If you’ve gone through puberty, then you know that it comes with bodily changes.  With everything going crazy in the body, it’s no surprise that your leopard gecko is a little snappy because of it.  It’s their ” rebel ” phase and is a completely normal part of their growing process.

Besides their aggressive behavior, you might also find that they are much more active as well.  They may even be a little more playful, which is awesome because who doesn’t love to play with their leopard gecko.

And if you’re not sure when puberty occurs, then you can expect for it to happen around the 1-year mark as they’re transitioning into adults.  After this phase, the aggression should calm down a bit and things will slow back down.

Will all leopard geckos who go through puberty have aggression issues?  Absolutely not.  But, it’s not an uncommon thing to see once they get to that age.  Both male and female geckos are affected by this, so no owner is safe from their wrath.  

Individuality

For some reason, people can easily wrap their head around the fact that other commonly owned household animals such as dogs and cats can have different types of attitudes from each cat or dog to the next, but with leopard geckos, they don’t seem to think that their behaviors can be any different than the next person’s gecko.

Fortunately, that’s not the case.  I’m not sure about other leopard gecko owners, but I love the fact that they all carry different types of behavior.  This is what makes them unique and not like a carbon copy of other geckos that look like them.

With that said, I do believe that, and have seen, that some leopard geckos can be a little more aggressive than others.  Is this a bad thing?  No.  But, it will take a little adjusting to get used to.  Even if you do have a naturally aggressive gecko, that doesn’t mean that they will attack you all the time once they get used to you.

Having a more aggressive leopard gecko just means that they are a little more prone to snapping at you over little things such as when feeding them their food or when trying to pick them up.  Just make sure to be extra gentle with them and don’t do anything that could potentially make them angry.

Keep working with them until they get used to you and over time things should even their self out.  

Temperature Issues

When the temperature in your tank isn’t just right, your leopard gecko can display all kinds of different behaviors.  From lethargy, weakness, to aggression.  You might see them display anything.  Unfortunately, this is a common issue in not only the leopard gecko community but in the reptile community as a whole as well.

For an issue like this, you’ll want to get your hands on a thermostat.  All tanks should have them, but many people forget to get them when choosing their tank equipment.  If you’re at all having problems with your tanks temperature levels, then I HIGHLY suggest picking one up here from Amazon.

Having the right temperature in your tank is absolutely detrimental to your leopard gecko’s health, so you need one in order to properly care for them and make sure they’re not receiving too much heat.

Heat mats and lamps can reach very high temperatures if not regulated, and if your leopard gecko is subjected to these kinds of temperatures, then they could very well show certain behaviors and potentially even die.  So, don’t wait if you don’t have one, get one ASAP.

If you do already have one, though, make sure all your equipment is working properly and also make sure you have the right temperatures set.  To get a better understanding of the importance of your tank’s temperature, click here to go to the article I wrote about it.

Unclean Tank

Have you noticed that your leopard gecko poops in the same corner every time?  If yes, then that’s because this is their way of staying clean.  Leopard geckos do not like pooping in an area in which they frequent such as their hide and food bowl, so they always make sure they keep it all in one place.

Having poop all around the tank from a leopard gecko that hasn’t been trained could cause a great deal of stress and aggression and might even backfire on you because of it. 

If your leopard gecko is having trouble choosing a spot to poop in, then try training them by picking up all of their poop and putting in it one corner on top of a paper towel so that eventually they’ll think that this is where they go.  Do this for about a week or so.  If that doesn’t help, keep repeating the process.

Aside from making sure their poop is cleaned up, though, also make sure they have clean substrate as well.  Substrate can last for quite some time, but shouldn’t be left in the tank for no more than a month at a time without cleaning.

I personally use this kind here called Eco Earth that I get from Amazon, but whatever floats your boat will work.  Just make sure it’s something that is safe, easily cleanable, and also that you keep on top of it and change it as needed.  If the tank gets smelly, then that’s a good indicator that it needs to be changed.   

Too Much Handling

It may be tempting to hold these cute little creatures often, but because they like their alone time, it’s not advised.  Too much handling can easily cause irritation, and when they’re irritated, it’s not uncommon for them to want to bite at you any time you go to reach for them.

There’s really no way to tell exactly how often you should pick them up because as you may know by now, all leopard geckos are different.  But, during the bonding process, it’s best to hold them around 15 minutes a day and then slowly try to work your way up and see what they’re comfortable with.

If you can see that they’re showing signs of aggression and are trying to wiggle around in your hand too much or bite at you, then it’s probably time to put them down.  Their bites aren’t strong enough to draw blood and some don’t even think they hurt, but I wouldn’t say it’s the most pleasant feeling in the world.

Keep handling down to a minimum at the very beginning of owning them and go from there.

Improper Handling

Handling them improperly will not only cause them to be aggressive, but it will even potentially cause injuries.  The best way to handle them is to slowly put your hand inside the tank and let them crawl into your hand, but the worst way you’ll want to avoid is by picking them up by their tail or any other fragile body part that could hurt them.

They have very thick tails when healthy, but these tails can fall off if picked up by them, especially if they’re squirming around.  Not only is this dangerous for that reason alone, but they could also fall and injure other body parts if they’re high in the air when it does fall off.

The way I’ve found most effective in preventing this is by having a tank which opens from the front.  This will allow them to easily crawl to you, will spook them a lot less when reaching in, and will lower the risk of improper handling.

Conclusion

There are just way too many reasons why your leopard gecko could start acting aggressive towards you, so to see what the culprit is for their behavior, it’s best to go down the list and see which culprit makes the most sense to your particular situation.

Where there is aggressive or odd behavior there is usually always a good reason behind it, so make sure to rule everything out before seeking any further advice and be sure to be patient with your leopard gecko as well.