7 Potential Reasons Why Your Leopard Gecko Died Suddenly

Losing a leopard gecko is always a hard pill to swallow.  Not only because of the death alone, but also because of the fact that the cause of them passing is sometimes never that clear enough to know exactly why or how it happened.  This can be unsettling for some owners, and for those who had a deep love for their gecko, the pain from their passing never goes away until closure is found.  With that said, it begs the question – Why did my leopard gecko die suddenly? There are a handful of different reasons, but here are the seven most common.

  1. High Temperature
  2. Impaction
  3. Crypto
  4. Bad Pairing
  5. Moss Digestion
  6. Bad Food
  7. Dehydration

As you can see, there are numerous different reasons as to why your leopard gecko suddenly passed away, but hopefully, after reading a little bit more into these potential causes, you’ll have a better understanding as to what happened to your leopard gecko.  Some causes are obvious while others aren’t, so keep that in mind when making your diagnosis.

High Temperature

I was inclined to say that this is one of the more obvious culprits on the list, but for new leopard gecko owners, it might not be that obvious.  I’ve harped on temperature levels quite a bit in my articles, and that is because it plays a very critical role in the overall wellbeing of your leopard geckos health.

Many may think that high temperatures can only come from heat lamps or heat maps, but depending on where your tank is located, the sun and overall room temperature can also cause this problem to happen as well.

There’s not a whole lot you can do about regulating temperatures from the heat that’s emitting from outside aside from moving your tank in a completely different location, but thankfully, there is something that you can do for keeping the heat from a lamp or mat regulated and that is to invest in a good thermostat ( here is one that I currently use and absolutely love from Amazon ).

Super high temperatures can cause unexpected deaths simply because of the harsh nature of it.  Even with hides, the leopard geckos will not be able to escape the hot temperatures and might even try digging through their substrate in an attempt to get to cooler grounds.

As I did more research, I noticed that this was actually a fairly common issue amongst beginners.  Which is very unfortunate because that means there are a lot of leopard geckos out there that have suffered, will suffer, or are currently suffering due to not having the proper equipment and knowledge when it comes to heating up a tank.  Which is a lot of the times not the fault of the actual owner, but because of misinformation from others or too much information, therefore, causing unwise decisions due to information overload.

Because your leopard geckos life is in your hands, it’s best to get your thermostat when you buy all of your other gear, or at least when buying your heat map or heat lamp.  Skimping out of certain items can cause harm to your gecko’s health and will make caring for them harder due to not having the proper equipment that you need to give you important information that is detrimental in keeping your gecko healthy.

Impaction

Unfortunately, this is another common reason for sudden gecko deaths.  While some leopard geckos will show signs such as not pooping, not eating, or acting lethargic when impacted, there are others who hide it well.

If you didn’t know what impaction is, it’s basically when your reptile swallows something that they shouldn’t be swallowing, therefore, causing digestion issues and various other internal problems, hence the no pooping and no eating.

Thankfully, impaction can sometimes be treated.  But unfortunately, there are a lot of times where it isn’t caught until it’s too late.  Again, this will usually happen when someone goes off of bad information, like buying sand as a substrate, for example.  I’ve seen some claim that they have had no apparent problems with there gecko in this type of substrate, but I’ve also seen WAY too many others say that they have had issues with it, so it’s just best not to use it.  It’s not worth the risk.

If you want a good substrate that won’t cause impaction, then I recommend this kind hereIt comes in different sizes, packs and won’t cause impaction in your leopard gecko.  I’ve suggested this brand often and is the one I’ll probably use forever due to how great it is for my gecko.

If anyone recommends that you use sand, stay away.  It’s claimed way too many leopard geckoes lives over the years and should no longer be considered a substrate for them at all anymore at this point.

If you’d like to read a more in-depth article about using sand in your terrarium along with suggestions for other, much safer alternatives, then click here to go to my post in which I wrote specifically about that along with other information.

Crypto

If your leopard gecko has crypto, you’ll know it.  As stated above, some leopard geckos can hide their symptoms, but with this parasitical infection, it’s not necessarily something that they can hide due to the many different obvious symptoms.

One of the first symptoms you might notice is a rapid loss of weight.  They will become very skinny, their tail will turn into a narrow, straight bone due to all the fat loss, and diarrhea.  I’ve never experienced a leopard gecko with this infection first-hand, so I had to get my information from this source.

Now, it may seem obvious as to why a leopard gecko would die once they come down with crypto due to the serious nature of their signs and symptoms, but when this happens, a lot of the times it is when the gecko is either rescued or handed down by someone else that couldn’t take care of it.

While you may think that taking the proper steps to care for the unhealthy will be good enough to restore its health, you might not know that it is carrying this specific parasite-causing infection.  Therefore, when they die, it is a complete shock because you had no clue that this is what they had.

Again, this is at no fault of the owner or rescuer, it is usually just due to misinformation or no knowledge at all when it comes to this infection.  That’s why I always recommend to heavily study everything about leopard geckos before buying them.  Including everything from the diet they need all the way down to the various diseases and illnesses that they can potentially contract.

It’s especially important to have the right knowledge when it comes to this infection because if the infected gecko is housed with other geckos, the chances of them catching it are very high.  It’s highly contagious and is not something to take lightly.

When a gecko is in this condition, it is best to house it separately from your other geckos and thoroughly clean anything that they may have come in contact with.  This goes for after they pass away as well.  The infection can still spread even after they die, so doing an extreme deep clean or replacing all your in-tank gear altogether is the best thing to do when dealing with this deadly infection.

Unfortunately, this infection can’t be cured, but there are treatments out there that can help slow it down and potentially prolong their life.

Bad Pairing

Many people don’t know this, but leopard geckos are very territorial.  You can house females together, or even females and males together, but when it comes to housing two males together, it’s just not possible.

Just like other animals, such as gerbils, for example, they will fight each other until the death just to claim their territory.  This is a common occurrence amongst many different species in the animal kingdom, so the fact that leopard geckos do it is no surprise.

If you put two healthy male geckos together and then wake up in the morning to find only one dead, chances are that one them lost the territorial battle.  So when buying two leopard geckos, never get two males unless you plan on housing them separately.

Doing this can be pretty costly due to having to buy equipment for two different geckos, but in order to avoid any conflict, it’s the only way.  I always recommend at least a 20-gallon tank ( link to Amazon if interested ), even for babies, but if you do decide to get two males and house them separately, it wouldn’t hurt to get two 10-gallon tanks instead.

You can share the same food, but keep in mind that this means two different sources of heat, two different UVB lights ( if that’s how you want to provide your geckos with D3 ), different equipment within the tank, etc.  Basically, it just means you’ll have double the expenses and double the cost for your initial set up for each gecko.

From what I’ve seen, a good majority of people prefer to just put their focus on one tank and one gecko, but that doesn’t mean that you have to.  It just all comes down to personal preference.  Whatever you do, though, do not house two males together.

Moss Ingestion

This one kind of ties in with impaction, but because it’s not mentioned a whole lot, I figured I’d touch on it a bit more.  But if you have a moist hide with moss inside of it, then the chance of your gecko eating the moss is pretty high. 

This will usually happen whenever your gecko is shedding in its hide and then some of the moss gets stuck on their shed and if they can reach it, they’ll eat it.  That’s why sand as a substrate is not recommended.  They will try to eat almost anything, even if it’s not good for them.  It’s not their fault, though, they don’t know any better. 

Eating moss isn’t always a guaranteed cause of sudden death, but if they’ve been eating it for a while without you noticing it, then it may very well seem that way.  In order to prevent this in the future, it’s best to use a better, less harmful substitute.  This can be anything from a damp kitchen roll to damp substrate that won’t harm them if ingested, along with other much safer alternatives.

It is speculated that leopard geckos eat the moss because it’s high in nutrients and also because they are not properly receiving these same nutrients through their diet.  And even though it has what they need in it, it doesn’t pass very easily through their digestive system, just like sand doesn’t.  That’s why having it in the tank is not advised.

Another reason why they may be ingesting the moss is because of a potential parasite issue.  Why they do it for this reason is currently not clear, although there are various speculations.  If you want to know what I use for my moist hide to avoid digestion issues, take a look at the ” IMPACTION ” section of this article where I give my recommendation on what I know is safe to use.  It’s what I personally use for my substrate and moist hide and it works wonders.

Bad Food

Death from this one might not happen so suddenly, but what causes the death can present itself in your leopard gecko fairly quickly after just one ingestion.  Depending on where you get your gecko food from, some less reliable or trustworthy sources may carry food that hasn’t properly been screened for parasites, therefore, putting your reptile along with other animals wellbeing at risk because of this.

While some parasites can be easily treated, other, more serious, ones a lot of the times, can’t.  This is usually the case with crypto, for example, even though there is a slim chance that with the right treatment they can sometimes recover from this.  It’s best to source a vet, though, just to make sure you’re getting the most professional advice when it comes to these specific diseases and infections.

But, in order to prevent the possibility of your leopard gecko contracting a deadly parasite due to poor food care, it’s best to always get your food from either a local pet store or from a credible and highly trusted website online.

For my mealworms, I get mine within the link of this page here.  But for my crickets, I’ll usually just pick them up from a local pet shop.  Crickets are nasty little bugs that will eat and carry almost anything, so I like to get them from a source that I know has been around a long time and can be trusted. 

In plus, I’ve been going to them for years, even before owning a leopard gecko, so I see no reason to stop now.  If you can do the same, then I highly recommend it.  If there are no local pet shops near you, then there are trusted sites online that do carry clean, parasite-free crickets that will be safe for your leopard gecko to eat.

Aside from any physical symptoms that your leopard gecko might display, though, if they have contracted a parasite, spotting them in their poop can be very difficult as they are usually too small to see unless looked at underneath a microscope.  So if you suspect that your gecko may have caught something bad from a bad batch of food, remove them from the tank, house them separately, clean up any fecal matter that may be laying around, and thoroughly clean out your tank.

I mentioned doing this in the section where I talked about crypto, but parasites are no joke and can be a threat to different animals, so it’s worth restating so that you know how serious it actually is.

Dehydration

There are some classic symptoms that show when it comes to dehydration in leopard geckos, but for someone who doesn’t know much about them, it may be mistaken for just being normal behavior.  Here are a few symptoms found at this source that you can expect to see when dealing with dehydration in geckos:

  • Skin loses elasticity
  • Skin displays a wrinkled appearance
  • Skin becomes dry and flaky
  • Sticky mouth due to saliva loss
  • Muscle loss
  • Starvation
  • Lethargy

For someone who isn’t necessarily looking for these symptoms, they may not be that evident as they will usually happen very gradually over the course of a few days, at most.  Just like humans, leopard geckos need water very often in order to survive.

Although food is very important, water consumption is just as important as well.  Not enough of it will cause death and even though dehydration is something that happens over the course of a few days, the death from it can be quite sudden if it gets too bad.

The obvious fix for this is making sure they always have water in their bowl.  Also, placing a moist hide on the warm side of your tank can cause condensation that your leopard gecko will sometimes lick in order to get an alternative water source as well.

Conclusion

While some of these leopard gecko complications may not result in sudden, overnight death, the disease and illnesses that cause the death can be sudden if you don’t treat them and surprising if not treated properly.

Although I do recognize that some of these causes may or may not be easily treatable, it’s always best to do what you can just in case they do end up making it.  My logic is that it’s better to do something than to do nothing at all.  So if you have the least bit of suspicion that something might be going on with your gecko, then I highly recommend getting them checked out by a professional as soon as possible.