Leopard geckos are renowned for their resilience, adaptability, and easygoing demeanor.
They have adapted to life in captivity more efficiently than many other reptiles. That being said, they still require specific living conditions to thrive and achieve their lifespan potential.
The leopard gecko’s well-being depends on several factors like temperature, lighting, diet, housing, overall layout, stress levels, etc. But I think that the most influential factor of them all is humidity.
So, let’s talk about that!
Natural Habitat of Leopard Geckos
Leopard geckos rank as semi-desert reptiles, with their main native regions including Afghanistan, Pakistan, large areas in Northwest India, and many other areas.
The lizard inhabits dry and arid ecosystems with only a few plants, high temperatures, and low humidity levels. These conditions have forced the leopard gecko to adapt to environmental parameters that other geckos won’t survive in.
Humidity is an important parameter here because these geckos actually don’t need a lot of it. A standard 30-40% environmental humidity is enough for the gecko to stay healthy and happy.
This is due to the reptile’s ability to store water in one of its epidermal layers, which it can then use gradually to maintain proper body temperament and hydration.
Now, the problem is as follows. These humidity values are natural for leos in the wild, and the lizards have adapted their entire physiological functioning accordingly. This means that geckos cannot survive in high-humidity conditions.
Humidity values like 70-80% are way above the recommended threshold when it comes to leopard geckos, causing respiratory infections and even pneumonia.
The problem is that it’s quite difficult to maintain low humidity levels in the gecko’s terrarium due to the natural particularities of the closed system. Air doesn’t circulate in the gecko’s terrarium as effectively as it does in nature.
This, combined with the closed system with glass walls, leads to an increase in humidity levels, much of which is due to the reptile’s breathing. Live plants also increase humidity, as does spraying the enclosure and having a moisture-retaining substrate.
So, the struggle with leopard geckos isn’t keeping humidity levels high enough, but actually low enough.
Humidity Requirements of Leopard Geckos
The average humidity levels for wild leopard geckos revolve around 20-30%, with 40% being the maximum.
Geckos typically require higher humidity levels when shedding, as the extra humidity keeps their skin moist and soft, allowing for better shedding. Otherwise, up to 30% should suffice for a healthy adult leopard gecko.
Effect of Humidity on Leopard Gecko
Despite the fixed value range, I’m providing here, there’s a fine line between proper and improper humidity levels for leopard geckos. The necessary humidity may depend on the gecko’s age, health, and the specimen itself.
Generally speaking, leopard geckos require a 20-30% humidity level, but this isn’t always the case, as these values can vary.
In essence, ensuring proper humidity levels for your leopard gecko will help with:
- Shedding – Young geckos can shed approximately once per week, while adults can shed once every 4-8 weeks. The shedding frequency depends on the reptile’s age, size, health, and environmental conditions. Humidity levels play a critical role during the shedding process. If the humidity is too low, the old skin may lose its elasticity, making it difficult to remove. If it’s too high, it can get stuck to the new skin underneath, leading to infections and necrosis.
- Adequate hydration – Leopard geckos don’t need as much water to remain well hydrated compared to other lizards and reptiles. But they still need it. A 20-30% humidity level should be enough for the geckos to remain well-hydrated and healthy. An interesting fact here: leopard geckos can absorb water through their skin. So, spraying their enclosure 1-3 times per day may be necessary to keep them in good health.
- Proper digestive functioning – Leopard geckos need water to maintain a fully-functioning and healthy digestive system. Otherwise, they can become constipated. This is a reptile-specific issue that can be easily avoided by keeping humidity levels stable. Also, have a water bowl in your reptile’s habitat; leopard geckos can sometimes bathe in it to rehydrate and cool off when necessary.
Proper hydration can also help the reptile maintain a healthy appetite, which is another point worth considering. Especially since reptiles like leopard geckos are prone to calcium deficiency, which can be deadly.
Measuring Humidity in a Leopard Gecko Tank
You want to know your gecko’s humidity levels at all times since stability is key. Humidity levels should remain fairly stable throughout the day, with the exception of situations when they need to go higher or lower, depending on the case.
But how can you measure humidity levels accurately in your gecko tank?
Consider the following:
- Hygrometer – This is the most accurate tool to use for this purpose, which is why I’m mentioning it first. Hygrometers are must-have tools for any reptile keeper, no matter the animal’s species.
- Humidity gauge – This piece of equipment achieves pretty much the same thing a hygrometer does, but it’s less accurate. Still, it’s better than nothing.
- A 2-in-1 thermometer – Many digital thermometers come with humidity sensors included. Make sure you’re getting a good piece of equipment that you can trust.
I don’t recommend placing a water bowl in your lizard’s tank without having a good humidity measurement tool. This may work with crested geckos, who accept humidity levels as high as 60-80%, but not leopard geckos.
Maintaining Humidity in a Leopard Gecko Tank
Now that you know the basics, let’s check the best ways to increase and stabilize your gecko’s humidity levels:
- Use the right substrate – You’re looking for a moisture-absorbent substrate that would increase environmental humidity gradually. Go for reptile carpet or coconut fiber, although these are not the only options available in this sense.
- Mist or spray the terrarium – I advise against automatic misters because these may increase humidity levels above the acceptable limit. Instead, do it manually to avoid discrepancies. Spraying your gecko’s habitat once or twice per day should suffice unless the situation doesn’t require otherwise.
- Have a water dish in place – A water dish or bowl achieves 2 things: increases air humidity and provides the lizard with its own soaking pool. Make sure that the water level is low because leopard geckos aren’t quite the best swimmers.
- Stabilize temperatures – The higher the temperature, the faster the gecko will lose water, and the faster the humidity levels will drop. This shows that humidity and temperature are closely related, and one will almost always influence the other.
- Ensure proper ventilation – Your leopard gecko’s habitat should always be properly ventilated. This will prevent humidity levels from going up.
- Prevent overcrowding – Many people keep more than one leopard gecko in the same enclosure. This is fine so long as you provide the reptiles with sufficient space. Overcrowding will always lead to higher humidity and temperatures due to geckos giving out moisture into their ecosystem.
Finally, you should always monitor your gecko’s humidity levels. I may sound like a faulty record at this point, but this is the only way of knowing what your gecko needs in terms of humidity.
It’s also the only way to prevent humidity fluctuations that can cause your gecko distress and lead to more serious health issues down the line.
Humidity and Shedding
Leopard geckos undergo ecdysis (shedding) regularly, just like any reptile. This is the process of eliminating the old skin layer, like a worn-out coat, and revealing the smoother, newer layer underneath.
Geckos require precise environmental conditions during the process, including higher temperatures, the right humidity levels, and peace and quiet.
Humidity is particularly important because it plays an active role in the shedding process. Many gecko keepers recommend standard humidity levels of around 50% for leopard geckos during shedding.
However, don’t maintain these high humidity levels for too long. Excessive humidity can lead to the formation of bacteria and fungi in the gecko’s ecosystem and can lead to skin and respiratory infections.
Leopard geckos may not require as much humidity as other reptiles, but they still demand stable humidity levels.
These are important for their digestive system, hydration rate, proper shedding, and for their overall health over the years.
Invest in a good humidity-measurement tool and monitor your gecko’s living parameters daily to prevent fluctuations.