The Reason Why Your Leopard Gecko Is Pale

photo by @alexanderthegeck

As we grow closer and closer to our geckos, we start to build an emotional attachment, and with this attachment comes love, trust, happiness, and worry.  When something happens to our geckos that seem a little off or out of the ordinary, we freak out and don’t stop worrying about our little companions until we figure out exactly what’s going on with them.  There are a lot of different things that your gecko can go through throughout the course of its life, but fortunately, this isn’t one thing that you should worry about.

When your leopard gecko is pale, this usually always means that they are in the process of shedding.  The whole process can take place over the course of a few days, but the actual shedding will usually start and be over within 24 hours.

Although shedding may just seem cool and pointless, there’s actually a reason for why they do it.  And so you don’t completely freak out when you notice them about to enter a shed, here are some do’s and don’ts and also things to keep in mind and look out for so that you can put your mind at ease when it does happen.

Here’s why they Shed

Unlike leopard geckos, as we get older, our skin grows with us because it is soft and a lot more elastic giving us the freedom of not having to constantly shed our skin to make up for the growing bones we have in our body.

With leopard geckos, it’s not like that at all.  They have a very tough exterior, so when their body decides to grow and get bigger, they can’t expand in size until the old, tough skin is off and more soft and looser skin is exposed underneath, therefore, giving their insides enough room to allow them to grow to their full length all the way up to and during adulthood.

Lethargic Behavior

Shedding for a leopard gecko is a very stressful process and because of all of this added stress and work to get the skin off, you might find that they are a little more sluggish and tired than usual and this is completely normal and should be nothing to worry about.

While they go through their shed and you notice that they start acting like this, it’s best to just give them their space, take care of them like you normally would, and let nature take its course until the shed is completely over.

If you find that your gecko is having a hard time shedding, then it’s also okay to assist them in the process.  Some people do this by rubbing the skin gently in small, circular motions or by soaking parts of the body where the shed is getting stuck so that the skin gets softer, therefore, making it easier for you or your gecko to get that extra bit of stubborn shed off.

When helping your gecko, please keep in mind that they are very little and fragile and that rubbing them too hard could cause lots of discomfort and pain, so be extremely gentle and mindful with them when taking the skin off.

Not Eating

Leopard geckos have a ton of unusual behaviors while shedding and if you notice that they aren’t touching their food for a day or two, keep in mind that this is one of those behaviors.  Is there a time in your life where you were just so stressed out that you completely lost your appetite for a few days? If so, then you can kind of understand what a leopard gecko is feeling when they are going through their shedding process.

If humans shed, we would probably just go to the nearest fast food restaurant or cook a home cooked meal in celebration of gaining our appetites back, but with leopard geckos, they actually just eat their own skin.  Sounds yummy, right? Maybe not.

This might seem weird, nasty, and unusual, but the skin of a leopard gecko is actually very beneficial for its health and is packed with nutrients to make it feel better after it’s done shedding.  Imagine going through birth ( assuming you’re a girl or haven’t gone through one ) and then after all the hard work and labor, you get a nice, healthy meal and feel good and energized afterward because of all the effort and work you put into delivering your baby.  That’s how a leopard gecko feels after it’s done shedding.  But instead of a large seafood dinner, it’s skin instead.

Although their skin is good for them, not all leopard geckos decide to eat it.  If they leave it and it turns hard and crunchy, it’s time to remove it from the tank.  By that point, it won’t be very beneficial or appetizing to the gecko.

No Handling

Because of the extreme amount of stress, leopard geckos might also become very agitated and moody while going through the shedding process.  If you notice that your gecko is displaying temperamental changes, it’s best to not try and hold it or play with it as they may hiss, scream, or even try to bite at you.

If there is trouble with the shed and they aren’t displaying these types of behaviors, then, again, it’s alright to handle them so that you can assist them in getting their shed off a little easier.  It’s a good idea to just let them do it on their own and then after 24 hours have passed and there’s still skin stuck on them, let them soak in warm, shallow water for just a few minutes and gently pull the skin off with tweezers on the areas where the skin is still intact.

If this is done without soaking your gecko in water, then it can cause a great deal of pain to it and we definitely don’t want that for them.

Keep a Moist Hide

A lot of the times when a gecko has trouble shedding, too dry of a hide is the reason why the majority of the time.  Since they spend a lot of time in it, especially during a shed, it’s best to keep it nice and moist during the process so that the moisture can help with stretching and softening the skin, therefore, making it easier for your gecko to shed within 24 hours with little to no complications.  If you want to know which hideout I use for not only my moist hide but for my hot and cool hide, too, then I recommend checking this one out by Exo Terra here on Amazon.

When a Shed is Over

When a shed is over, you can expect your gecko to go back to its normal behavior again.  Some owners ( including myself ) get very worried during their first experience with a shed.  Not only because of the sudden change in skin color but because of their demeanor as well.

If enough time has passed and your gecko is still acting abnormally due to its shedding, then I would check its body to make sure there’s no extra skin left that could be irritating it.  If there isn’t, just wait it out and you’ll see that their attitudes have changed back, they are eating normally again, and are also hiding a lot less and being a lot more social.

If it’s past the 24-hour mark and there’s still skin stuck on your gecko and you don’t feel comfortable taking the excess skin off, then I would highly recommend contacting someone who has experience with leopard geckos over the Internet via Reddit or Facebook, for example, and if that ‘s not an option, then just calling a vet.

Stuck skin can cause health concerns for your gecko and if left it can restrict the amount of blood flowing through your gecko’s body or cause digestion issues and potentially even lead to death if the skin is left on for too long without being taken care of.

Like stated above, leopard geckos are naturally just good at shedding their skin without assistance, but if you feel like its been acting strange for too long, then don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who can help guide you through what to do with your gecko from that point on. 

Conclusion

Watching a leopard gecko turn pale is something that all owners of these awesome little pets go through and although I highly understand your concern, 9 times out of 10 it just means it’s shedding and will be over within a couple of days if there are no complications, which there shouldn’t be if you have a moist hide.

If you’re a new leopard gecko owner and you feel a little overwhelmed with the process in the case that the shedding doesn’t go smooth, then it’s totally understandable to have to reach out to someone for advice.  Over time, all of this will be second nature and you’ll be the one giving advice to others on what to do during a gecko shed, so don’t feel any shame about it.

If you let your gecko shed in peace, keep touching down to a minimal, and always make sure that he moist is hide to ensure a quick and easy shed, then you should have absolutely nothing to worry about.