When you take on the responsibility of becoming a leopard gecko owner you take on the risks that come with it as well. While most of these risks are preventable, preventing them can be quite the challenge when you’re a new owner. Unfortunately, this is one of those risks that mostly new owners face and it is almost always due to one reason and one reason only. Here’s that reason.
Why are my leopard gecko’s toes black? The reason why a leopard geckos toes will turn black is usually because of stuck skin due to shedding complications. These complications are a lot of the time caused by a lack of moisture and humidity within the tank.
The toes turn black because of the lack of blood supply to that particular part of the body and if the shed is not removed, they will eventually end up losing the affected toes altogether. Their toes can be saved before it gets to that point, but you will need to place them in warm water and let them soak so that you can easily remove the skin and allow the blood to start flowing again. With that said, let’s go deeper.
How to Prevent It
Although dealing with complications due to retained shed is a very nerve-racking thing to deal with, it can be easily prevented with the right gear and knowledge. While some leopard geckos have a harder time shedding than others, most of them will be successful in doing so if the moisture and humidity within the tank are set to the right levels.
If humidity is too low, there will not be enough moisture in the air to soften up the skin enough to the point where it is easy for your leopard gecko to shed it off. And while some people try to determine the humidity in the hide just by guessing, doing so can be a huge gamble and will likely put your leopard gecko at risk of experiencing issues.
Also, if there isn’t enough moisture in your moist hide where your leopard gecko will spend a good portion of its time at when going through the shedding process, then this can be a large contributing factor for why they are having problems shedding as well.
To fix these two common issues, you’ll need to have and do two things. The first thing is to get your hands on a hygrometer and the second thing is to make sure you’re keeping your moist hide moisturized at all times.
The hygrometer is like a thermometer, but instead of tracking the temperature of your tank, it tracks how humid it is instead. For a successful shed, you’ll want it to read anywhere between 20-%40 percent and also have things in the tank that will create humidity so that you can keep those levels up.
If you want to create humidity, then I suggest keeping a water bowl in your tank during this process or installing a misting system that will automatically spray the inside of the tank so that you won’t have to.
Sometimes, the water bowl doesn’t give you enough of what you need in order to create the humidity you’re looking for, so in situations like these, you are forced to spray the tank frequently just to keep the levels up and over time, that can get pretty tedious. To prevent that, I recommend looking at this reptile misting system so that you’ll never have to spray again.
As for your hygrometer, this one is inexpensive and will do wonders. I actually currently use that one as I write this article and I have to say, I absolutely love it. Not a lot of people want to make these types of investments into their leopard geckos, but let me tell you if you, it’s worth it.
Water and knowing what humidity levels your leopard gecko’s tank is at is absolutely critical for their safety when going through their shed, so it’s best to have both within the tank to make sure everything goes smooth and so that there are no issues each time they go through it.
If you forget to provide them with the right amount of humidity, not only can you experience this one time, but you could also keep experiencing this every shed until they’re set right. In order to keep their moist hide moist, all you’ll need to do is soak something that can hold water and place it within the hide.
My two recommendations are paper towels or Eco Earth substrate as both are great at retaining moisture for a while. I use Eco Earth, which is also what I use for my substrate, but if you’d like to use paper towels, then that’s fine, too. Many people also use moss, but I don’t recommend this because leopard geckos have been known to ingest it while in the hide and become impacted.
What Happens If They Fall Off?
We’ll want to do every and anything in our power to stop your leopard geckos toes from falling off once they get to the point where they’ve turned black, but if it does happen, it’s usually not something that will affect how they live too much if they’ve only lost a few.
When it comes to human, losing just one toe can throw our balance off by a ton, but with leopard geckos, they’re able to hold their own fairly well when they’re missing a few. Does this mean that whenever we see our leopard geckos toes turn black to just ignore it because they’ll be fine without them? No, absolutely not, but if you’ve done everything you could to save them or if you get to their toes a little bit too late after they’ve turned black, then your leopard gecko will be able to function just fine without them.
It’s sad to say, but from what I’ve seen, a leopard gecko losing its toes is actually a pretty common thing, and while most owners try to stop it before it happens, almost none of them have problems with their leopard gecko living any less normally than they were before they fell off.
Where you might start to see complications though is if you let them lose too many toes. All living creatures need toes to be able to walk and balance normally, and although the leopard gecko can do both just fine with a few missing, they might not have the same luck if all or most of them are missing.
This is why it’s important that we’re keeping the humidity up in the tank and getting the proper readings on it to make sure it’s in the range where they won’t have complications with more shed getting stuck around their toes.
Their toes are very tiny and fragile compared to the rest of their body, so a little skin getting stuck on them consistently is enough to cause them to lose all of them if the moist hide or tank is too dry during each shed.
I’ve personally never seen a leopard gecko with no toes, but considering how easy they fall off, I don’t doubt that it’s happened and I also don’t doubt there are a bunch of complications that come with it as well, so it really is important that we’re all doing everything in our power to make sure this doesn’t happen as this can lead to a life full of struggle and hardship for your leopard gecko.
Just keep in mind that right after a shed, check their toes to make sure there’s nothing stuck on them. If there is, get those babies soaked in some warm water immediately to prevent any pain and complications from getting worse than they likely already are.
Dealing with a leopard gecko whose toes have turned black can be scary, but when or if it happens to you, take a breather, relax and realize that it’s not the end of the world. Just make sure to soften the skin with water as stated above, regulate your humidity and moisture levels to prevent any further complications, and invest in equipment that will ensure that it never happens again.
A lack of moisture and humidity is the main reason for why a leopard gecko isn’t shedding properly, so if this is something that you’re experiencing with your leopard gecko, first check those two things as they are likely the cause.
Don’t use unsafe materials inside of the moist hide that your leopard gecko could potentially become impacted by and keep a large dish of water inside of your tank at all times, especially before a shed.
If you have your humidity set right, then you might not even notice them shedding, but if it’s wrong, then you’ll likely see the effects of it show after they’ve shed. Keeping a moist and humid hide isn’t difficult though because like I stated earlier, it just takes the right equipment and knowledge. If you have those two things, you’ll likely never have to worry about this problem happening ever again.