Why do Leopard Geckos Smile?

Leopard geckos are famous for many things, but it’s their cute appearance and warm smile that gain them the most fans. You have seen the leopard gecko’s famous smiley face, but are they actually smiling?

Let’s discuss it!

Do Leopard Geckos Smile?

The shortest answer is no. Geckos don’t smile because they can’t. Instead, their beloved grimace is the result of natural anatomical development and has nothing to do with experiencing happiness or pleasure. Although, the confusion is normal for more inexperienced gecko keepers who haven’t had the opportunity to find out too much about their future pets.

This can lead to some unwanted conclusions, as is the one saying that a smiling gecko is a happy gecko. This is obviously false because that would mean that leopard geckos are always happy, no matter the circumstances. It’s also worth noting that leopard geckos, and reptiles in general, cannot express their emotions similar to how other animals or humans do.

Most importantly, they don’t even experience the same emotions. This being said, leopard geckos do express their happiness via specific behaviors, which will get into shortly.

Until then, let’s see what’s causing the leopard gecko’s famous smiling face.

leopard gecko smiley face

Leopard Geckos are Born with a Smile

There are several physical characteristics worth mentioning here:

  • Mouth shape – The lizard’s mouth shape is the primary reason for its never-ending smile. The slightly elongated snout forces the lips into the lower arch along the jawline and lifts them back up near the corners of the mouth. This is the typical shape of a normal smile.
  • Head shape – Leopard geckos have a flat head which highlights their smile even more. The lizard’s entire face is occupied by the large and vivid eyes and the wide smile that traverses the face ear-to-ear.
  • Cute cheeks – Leopard geckos have cute and fluffy cheeks, further exacerbating the smiling effect.
  • Tongue – The tongue is simply an additional element that promotes cuteness. Leopard geckos use their tongues to smell, so you’ll see them flaring their tongues quite often, especially during meal time.

How to Tell if Your Leopard Gecko is Happy?

As we’ve already discussed, you can’t rely on the gecko’s smile to determine its state of mind and comfort level. Instead, the lizard showcases a variety of other signs, allowing you to appreciate its happiness and comfort level. So, let’s get into those:

  • He is in good shape – A slim and agile gecko is always a sign of a happy gecko. If your gecko is overweight or underweight, it’s most definitely experiencing health issues, and that’s not good for its state of mind. Always keep an eye on your gecko’s physical state to assess its overall health.
  • He is exploring its habitat – To begin with, a healthy and jovial gecko enjoys exploring its habitat, despite geckos not being very active animals. If your gecko spends too much time in hiding, even when it’s not supposed to, something’s wrong.
  • He eats well – Leopard geckos should have healthy appetites, aside from specific situations like shedding, breeding, or when still digesting the last meal. If your gecko exhibits poot appetite, consider that it may be sick or stressed for whatever reason.
  • He is overall calm and alert – A sick gecko is lethargic and irritable and not very aware of its surroundings. If your gecko appears alert, with its head up and watching every movement outside its enclosure, it’s most likely in good shape. Geckos are excellent observers and like to monitor every activity that takes place around them.

If your gecko appears stressed for whatever reason, consider the following:

  • Check environmental parameters to make sure temperature and humidity are within the recommended values
  • Assess the gecko’s diet to prevent nutrient deficiencies and make sure that the reptile is eating enough
  • Check the gecko for any signs of infection or disease to prevent the conditions from worsening
  • Make sure that the reptile’s home mimics its natural ecosystem with plenty of hiding spots, live plants, and a diverse layout
  • Give the gecko some room if you just got it, as it requires time to accommodate to its surroundings
  • Provide the gecko with some live food so that it can practice its hunting skills; this will improve its physical and mental condition over time

Leopard Gecko Smile Can Be Confusing

The gecko’s smile can seem confusing to some, especially those with little experience in geckos and reptile keeping. Reptiles are unable to exhibit normal emotions that we would associate with sadness, happiness, etc. Or, at the very least, they cannot do so via facial expressions. Instead, geckos use their behavior to inform you of their state of mind.

The smile is nothing more than a fortunate-born characteristic present in many gecko species.


Leopard geckos may seem always happy, but that’s not the case. Always assess your lizard’s health and behavior to gauge its state of mind instead of relying on its facial expression.

Robert from ReptileJam

Hey, I'm Robert, and I have a true passion for reptiles that began when I was just 10 years old. My parents bought me my first pet snake as a birthday present, which sparked my interest in learning more about them. read more...