There are many things that can go wrong when it comes to setting up and maintaining a tank that is safe for your leopard gecko, but when it comes to their temperature levels, this is probably one of the most important things to have correct at all times in order to ensure their safety, well-being, and health while they’re in captivity. With that said, though, here’s where they should be set at.
What temperature should I keep my leopard gecko at? The hot spot of their tank should be set at 85°-90° F while the cool side of their tank should be at around 75° F. In addition to this, leopard geckos are not reptiles that bask, so you will not have to worry about maintaining a basking temperature.
I harp on tank temperatures quite a bit on this website because quite frankly, having them set right is absolutely critical when caring for your leopard gecko. There are two methods that can be used to heat their tank up, but because they don’t bask, I prefer one way over the other. To know which way that is, I strongly recommend reading on as I go more in detail about this topic as a whole.
The Role That Temperature Plays
Aside from the need of having to stay hot and cold for comfort reasons, the temperature in your tank actually does play a pretty significant role in not only their overall health but how their body functions as well.
What I mean by this is that yes, it’s quite obvious that being trapped inside an enclosure that is either way too hot or way too cold can be very uncomfortable. That’s pretty much common sense. But, when the temperatures are off by a fair amount, it can cause issues with digestion to occur and possibly even be a threat to their life as well.
For example, if your tanks temperatures are too high, then your leopard gecko can overheat and potentially even pass away from a heat stroke. They are from the desert within various countries in the world, but that does not mean that they have an extremely high tolerance for heat.
Likewise, if the temperatures are too cold, then they might have trouble doing certain things like digesting their food properly or even having normal bowel movements as well. So, as you can see, it’s much deeper than just comfort. Regulated temperatures are essential to a leopard geckos life and without them, you could be faced with great problems.
The type of behavior that you might see a leopard gecko display when your tanks temperatures are off can vary depending on whether the tank is too hot or too cold, but to give you an example of what to expect for each one of these instances, check out some of the symptoms here:
- Not Eating
- Strained Bowel Movements
- Not Moving
And that’s just to name some of the more obvious ones. Every leopard gecko will behave differently, but this will at least give you an idea of what can happen when temperatures go haywire.
If you find your leopard gecko displaying any of those symptoms, check your temperatures immediately. The quicker you fix the issue, the quicker you can get your leopard gecko back to safety, so make sure to keep an eye out for any odd behavior any time you’re checking up on your gecko.
Heat Lamp vs Heat Mat
In my most honest opinion, I do not think there is much harm in using either one if set up properly. But, if I had to choose one, I’d definitely go with a heat mat, but there is a reason why. The reason is that unlike other types of reptiles, leopard geckos do not like to bask. Sure, they enjoy soaking up some of that heat whenever they’re feeling a little cold or when it’s time to eat, but they don’t just lay under the light for pleasure.
Also, with heat mats, they are a lot less intrusive and just slide right under the tank. With heat lamps, they can be a lot more difficult to set up for some and can even get in the way of other things surrounding the tank depending on where you set it up at.
Does this mean that you should not go with a heat lamp? Absolutely not. But before making your decision, you should take into consideration what makes the most sense for you. If you have a large enough area where a heat lamp wouldn’t be a problem and won’t get knocked over by other people or animals in the house, then, by all means, get a heat lamp.
If you think that there’s a potential chance that something could happen to your heat lamp and you’d rather have the convenience and safety of a heat mat, then get a heat mat. Whatever you do though, just keep in mind that one isn’t better than the other and is totally up to you on what you choose. Many people have had success using both.
With that said, if you’re someone who doesn’t currently own a leopard gecko and you want a recommendation for the heat mat that I currently use for my setup, then check this one out here on Amazon. It’s great for tanks that are 20-30 gallons large and will give you just what you need for that needed heat source.
As for the heat lamp, I highly suggest taking a look at this one here from Amazon as well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with bulbs, but for leopard geckos, you’ll want to get something between 50-75 watts. Which wattage you get will be dependent on your room’s temperature.
Heat Source Placement
When hooking up your heating source, you’ll want to make sure that it is always on one side of the tank. Like stated above, leopard geckos need a cold and hot spot within the tank, so placing it somewhere in the middle simply would not work.
The heat mat and lamp that I mentioned above are great for tanks that are around 20 gallons or so, but if you have anything bigger, you’ll want to make sure that your source of heat is covering half the tank comfortably. This makes sense because each side of the tank has to be split up evenly when it comes to its temperature.
Keep in mind, though, that even though the heat source will be placed on one side of the tank, the temperatures, if not regulated, can still get way too high. This is why it’s good to always have something you can use to regulate these temperatures and also something that will allow you to get a good reading on them as well.
Unfortunately, when it comes to these heat mats and lamps, it’s not as simple as just setting and forgetting. Adjustments will have to be made to ensure that you’re not putting your leopard gecko in any kind of harm. Fortunately, though, there are things out there that will allow you to make these adjustments.
Heating sources such as heat mats can reach temperatures of over 120° F, so skimping out on the gear that you need to regulate these temperatures will put your leopard gecko at risk of GREAT harm. I don’t say that to be overly dramatic, but it’s true.
Many people have tried maintaining temperatures without any sort of regulator, but to my knowledge, it’s just not possible. You can’t control how hot some of these heat sources get and with work, school, and life in general, making sure these temperatures stay down manually is just way too difficult.
How to Regulate Temperatures
In order to regulate your tank’s temperature, you’ll want a device that hooks up to your heat source that allows you to do this. This device will give you the ability to set your tank’s temperature where you want it to be at and then from that point should need little maintenance.
If you’d like to know which device I use to do this, then I highly recommend giving this thermostat on Amazon a look. In unison with the heat mat, it works great for making sure the hot side of my tank stays at that 85°-90° mark.
Having a good thermostat will take away the anxiety of constantly worrying about your tank’s temperature and will allow you the freedom of not having to constantly try to cool it down. If you plan on owning your leopard gecko for a long time, then at some point, you’ll need to get one.
If not, then your leopard gecko may be subjected to some of the symptoms that I listed above when temperatures aren’t right and I’m sure if you’re a loving and caring owner, you definitely don’t want that to happen.
Setting your regulating device up is fairly simple and is something that you will not have to worry about for a long time until you have to replace it, which usually isn’t for many years if they’re well taken care of.
Make sure to read the details and instructions for each device (thermostat and heat mat/lamp) to make sure that you’re not overdoing it with the amperage. The thermostat I use works great for the heat mat that I have, but for other heat mats, I’m not completely sure how well it will do.
So knowing what your thermostat can handle before hooking up your heat mat or lamp will help you in avoiding any overloading that may cause the thermostat to malfunction.
Getting a Proper Reading
In addition to the thermostat, you’ll also need a thermometer to help you know exactly what temperature the inside of your tank is at. Yes, the thermostat will set the temperature of the tank to whatever you want it to be at, but with certain factors that may cause your temperatures to fluctuate a little bit throughout the day, having that thermometer will ensure that you’re getting the right readings.
If your thermometer doesn’t match up with what your thermostat is set to, then you’ll need to lower or higher your temperature on the thermostat. For a really cheap thermometer that just sticks onto the glass on the inside of your tank, I recommend taking a look at this one here (Amazon link).
There are also handheld devices that you can use to manually check the temperature, but I personally like being able to just look through the glass of my terrarium and checking the temperature. Whichever one you prefer is totally up to you, just make sure you’re not just basing your temperatures on what your thermostat says alone because there are different factors that can cause your tank’s temperature to hop around a bit.
Taking Environment into Consideration
Like stated in the last section, there are certain things that may cause the temperatures in your tank to be off. These things could include natural temperature spikes from the summer weather, an indoor heater, or even a little sunlight shining on the tank.
For these reasons, it’s always good to be checking your thermometer throughout the day to make sure that the temperature is staying where it should be at. Having a thermostat is pretty low maintenance and is something that you generally don’t have to worry about, but if you feel that there are any outside sources besides the heat lamp or heat mat that could be causing the tank to be a little hotter, then it’s best to check it a little more frequently.
Your tanks temperature does have to be between 85 and 90 degrees on the hot side, but if it goes over or under by a degree or two, then you don’t have anything to worry about. Now, if it’s over these numbers by a significant amount, then you should be concerned and make adjustments accordingly.
If your tank is by a window, move it. If you have an indoor heater that is making the room extremely hot, turn it down or off. Just do whatever you have to do to get those temperatures down. The same goes for the cold side. If it’s too cold, you’ll likely need to adjust the temperature on your thermostat to be a little higher.
That’s less of a worry, though, because if the hot side of the tank is set properly, then the cold side will naturally fall into the 75° range where your room’s temperature should be at.
What to Do When Temperatures Get Too High
If your tank’s temperature gets too high then first things first, remove the leopard gecko and find out what’s causing the tank to be so hot. Check your heating source, make sure your room’s temperature isn’t too high, check your walls outlet to make sure it’s not bad, etc.
The reason why I mention your walls outlet is because sometimes houses with poor electrical wiring can cause items in the house to overheat, so always check to make sure that’s good. If there’s any smoking from the outlet, then it’s definitely not. As for getting your room’s temperature to go down, first make sure nothing in the room is causing your tank to get too hot.
If the heat is coming from the sun, then run the AC in your home or turn on a fan to get it to cool down a bit. If the heat from outside is a reoccurring issue, then I strongly suggest looking into getting UV protection blinds to keep some of the heat out.
They kind of work like those silver covers that you see in peoples car windows win it’s hot outside. They soak in some of that heat.
What to Do When Temperatures Get Too Low
When temperatures get too low, it’s not as bad as when they get too high, but you’ll still need to do something about it so that your leopard gecko isn’t too cold to the point where they won’t eat or move.
First, check your thermostat and thermometer and make sure everything is working just like you would when checking when it’s too hot. If it’s set too low, then just adjust the temperatures to where they should be at.
If that’s not what the issue is, then there might be something wrong with your heat source. Again, this could be caused by a bad outlet or maybe even bad wiring with your source of heat. It’s not uncommon for something like that to happen.
Another potential culprit for why your tank is too cold is that your room is too cold as well. This is why it’s not recommended to put your tank in rooms such as basements, for example. It can be hard to regulate temperatures down there. One side might be hot while the other side is way too cold. It’s just not fun to deal with. But, this can happen in any room.
If neither of those are the reason, then take the weather into consideration. If it’s winter, then this can very well make the cold side of your tank way too cold. In that case, you might want to get an in-room heater to make sure your room’s temperature is staying at about 75°.
Keeping the Heat Flowing at Night
At night, it may be a little worrisome to have your heat source still running while you’re not awake, but if they’re set at the right temperatures, then you should have nothing to worry about. As long as your leopard gecko can get to a cool side, then having it on at night is not a problem at all.
In fact, turning it off will actually be bad for them because this is when they’re most active and not having anywhere to warm up at will cause them not to eat and potentially even have respiratory infections if the room is naturally a little on the colder side.
If anything, this is the time where it makes the most sense to have the heat on considering that the room’s temperature will be a little lower compared to what it is usually at during the day. Don’t worry, though. If you have a reliable source of heat, your leopard gecko will be fine.
Temperatures at Night
I don’t mess with my thermostat very often because my room’s temperature stays at around the same place throughout the day and night, but if your room gets significantly colder for whatever reason at night, then adjust your thermostat accordingly.
The temperature in which it should be at doesn’t differ from where it should be at during the day, but, if like stated above, you should make the proper adjustments to make up for the change in temperature if your room does get a little chilly at night.
Assuming everyone sleeps around 8 hours per night, having your leopard gecko go that long in an overly cold tank could be very bad for it and you might even start to see symptoms of having a cold room show in your leopard gecko when you wake up in the morning.
Potential Substrate Injuries
I recommend rock slate and tile as very safe substrates to use for any and all leopard geckos considering how popular the two of them are, but if by chance your tank gets a little too hot, then your leopard gecko may be subjected to some burning of the skin if the rocks or tiles get too hot as well.
Does this mean that you should not use these substrates? Absolutely not. But, you do have to really pay attention to your tank’s temperature when having these particular substrates, which we should all be doing anyway.
If you’re ever having an issue with a hot tank and you do happen to have one of these two substrates, then get your leopard gecko out of there immediately. We should be removing them if the tank is hot period, but when it comes to rock and tile, there’s no time to waste with removing them and getting them to safety.
What to Do During a Power Outage
If by chance you ever run into the unfortunate event of a power outage, then you’ll need to get your leopard gecko to a heat source immediately. And after doing a little research, what I’ve found to be the most effective short term solution for this is to use hand warmers and wrap them in a paper towel so that it isn’t too hot for your leopard gecko to lay on.
They usually last for 7+ hours, so by that time, your power should be back up. But to stay on the safe side, it’s best to buy a few just in case it’s down for a while. I know of people who have had power outages for 5+ hours, so you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re nice and stocked up for when that happens.
Remember not to wait until the last minute to get them as one of these outages could happen at any given time. If you want to know where to pick some good ones up at then take a look at these here from Amazon. They last for 72 hours.
How Long They Can Go Without Heat
Your leopard gecko should never be without heat, but anything could happen and sometimes certain situations are out of your control. If you don’t have a backup power generator in your home and you don’t have any heating packs, then you can expect your leopard gecko to survive until they starve or succumb to a respiratory infection.
The reason for this is because when it’s too cold, they won’t eat and are prone to respiratory issues due to their bodies not having enough heat to work properly. Their metabolism slows way down and can even make moving a challenge.
So, without absolutely no heat, they can probably live for about 6 or so hours. It really just depends on how cold it is in the room they’re stored in.
As you can see from this article, temperature is very important when it comes to the overall well-being of a leopard gecko. Without it, tons of issues can arise. Keeping it properly regulated can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t have the right knowledge as to how to do it, but it can be quite easy if you do.
Remember to always check your surroundings for anything that could be manipulating the temperatures within your tank and make adjustments accordingly. Invest in a good and durable source of heat and ask for help from forums like Reddit if you need help setting anything up.
Once you get everything up and going, things should run smoothly from that point forward unless there are any significant changes in your room’s temperature throughout the day or if something like a power outage occurs, for example.
But even then, if you make the right thermostat adjustments when needed or even have a supply of heat warmers on hand in the case that an outage actually does happen, then you should have nothing to worry about. Just remember to always stay prepared and make sure all your equipment is working and you should be just fine.