Why Is My Leopard Gecko Laying in His Water Dish?

Leopard geckos display a lot of different odd behaviors and apparently, laying in their water dish is one of them.  Despite how odd some of these behaviors may seem though, there’s usually always a reason behind why they do the things that they do even if we don’t understand why they’re doing it at the time.  That said, let’s check to see why they do this one.

Why is my leopard gecko laying in his water dish?  They’ll lay in their water dishes for a few reasons, but usually, it’s because they’re hot and trying to cool down.

If you suspect that this might be the case with your leopard gecko, then luckily, all you’ll need to do is either adjust the heat mat or adjust the temperature on the thermostat.  There are other things that can be done that I’ll touch on regarding heat, but for most owners, these two issues are the most common.  Here’s what you should know to fix these issues along with other culprits.

Fixing a Heating Issue

As stated above, there are a few different issues that could be causing your leopard gecko to want to lay in their water dish all the time.  But, because heating issues are amongst the most common reasons, we’re going to go over those first to make sure that your gecko is not getting too hot.

With that said, what you’ll want to do first is check the temperature of your tank on both the cool and hot side to make sure that both sides are in safe ranges for your leopard gecko to comfortably want to be in.

If you’re not sure what your tanks temperatures should be, then just know that the hot side should be set to around 85° to 90° while the cool side should be at around 75° so that your leopard gecko can have a place to go when they can’t handle the heat of the hot side of the tank anymore and needs to cool down.

If you have no way of checking your tank’s temperatures, then I recommend taking a look at this thermometer here from Amazon.  Knowing the temperature will be the first step in solving a heating issue, so having a thermometer will help with knowing where your temperatures are at, at any given time.

Also, if you have a heat mat and you don’t have a thermostat to regulate the temperatures, I suggest getting one like this here.  Thermostats are absolutely essential in making sure your tank’s temperatures stay at a certain level of heat without getting too hot, so it’s important that you get one of those ASAP to prevent your heat mat from getting unbearably hot for your leopard gecko to handle.

Last but not least, if your heat mat is covering too much of your tank, then that can also cause the enclosure to get too hot.  That said, your heat mat should only be covering 1/3 of it.  Having it set this way will allow one side to be hot, one side to be cooler, and the middle to be a little on the warmer side.

Water Assists With Sheds

Your moist hide plays an important role because it assists in softening your leopard geckos skin in the instance of a shed but if the moist hide isn’t moist enough, your leopard gecko will try and find other means of softening their skin in order to get the shed off.

Stuck shed is not only painful for a leopard gecko, but it can also cause serious injuries to their overall health and body if they don’t get it off.  So in a desperate measure to remove it, they’ll lay down in the water bowl since the water helps a lot with moistening the skin.

In order to prevent this from happening, you’ll obviously want to make sure that your moist hide is, in fact, moist.  The way a lot of people make their moist hides moist is by getting some paper towel, getting it wet, and placing it underneath the hide so that your leopard gecko can step on it like a mat. 

If you ball it up, chances are that they’ll eat it and also that it won’t work as effectively.

Another way to keep your moist hide moist is by wetting a loose substrate, like Eco Earth, and, again, placing it all over the bottom of your moist hide.  For those who use Eco Earth, all you’ll need to do is spray the substrate that you already have in your tank, but for those who don’t, I recommend checking it out here on Amazon.

It’s a substrate, but it’s also very good at holding moisture.  Whichever one you decide to use though, just remember to check on it at the end of the day to make sure that it hasn’t dried out.

A Potential Mite Problem

Mites seem like a very unlikely problem to have, but when it comes to the reptile community as a whole, a problem like this is definitely not unheard of.  Mites can be picked up from holding or touching other reptiles whether they’re at expos, pet shops, or even from a friend or family member’s house.

They’re so small that when they stick to your hands and clothing, you’ll likely never notice them until your tank breaks out in an infestation of them.  Mites will bite your leopard gecko and hide in places where your lizard can’t reach them so that they can continue to feast on your leopard gecko whenever they get the chance to.

In an attempt to relieve themselves from the pain that the mites inflict, leopard geckos will lay in the water dish in an attempt to drown them until they meet their demise.  Because mites can be so hard to spot, the good thing about your leopard gecko doing this is that it makes the mites much easier to spot so that you can know for sure whether they have them or not.

If your leopard gecko gets out of their water dish and there aren’t little black specks floating around everywhere, then it’s probably safe to say at that point that they don’t have them.  Nonetheless, though, it doesn’t hurt to take the possibility into consideration just in case they do have them.

If you suspect that your leopard gecko does, in fact, have mites, then check out this article here where I explain step by step how to treat them and prevent them in the future.

Some Love Being in Water

Okay, this isn’t a serious reason as the other ones, but there’s been a ton of owners report that their leopard geckos love hanging out in their water dish just because they enjoy it.  It seems silly, but seeing as you’re a leopard gecko owner, you know how random leopard geckos can be sometimes.

And although laying in their dish may seem harmless, it can cause your leopard gecko to take in bacteria that they shouldn’t be taking in whenever they go to drink from it.  Leopard geckos are very clean animals by nature, but even though that may be true, they still carry bacteria on their bodies from walking on their fecal and urate soiled substrate.

That said, if your leopard gecko is frequently laying in their water dish, don’t forget to change the water out on a daily basis.  It may not be too unsanitary if they do it occasionally, but if it’s a frequent occurrence, then your leopard geckos water dish will turn into a cesspool of bacteria.

Also, another thing you’ll want to make sure you do if your leopard gecko frequently likes to lay in their water dish is to avoid filling it up to high.  Unlike other lizards, leopard geckos don’t have the ability to climb up things too well.  So if you have a deep water dish and your gecko isn’t that large, there’s a risk that your lizard may potentially drown as a result.


There’s not always a reason why a leopard gecko will lay in their water dish but most of the time, there is.  Before assuming that they’re just hanging out in there for fun, be sure to check the inside conditions of your tank to ensure that something more serious isn’t going on to cause them to want to constantly be in there.

There are many causes for why they display this type of behavior but the majority of the time, it’s because the temperature in your tank is too high.  So before you check for anything else, check that first.

If everything checks out there and you haven’t been touching any other reptiles and your humid hide is nice and moist, you probably have nothing to worry about.  Yes, most of the time there is a reason why a leopard gecko would want to lay in their water dish, but sometimes, there isn’t.

Just make sure to check all of the potential reasons above for why you’re seeing this type of behavior and with a method of elimination, you should be able to find out why your leopard gecko is laying in their water dish pretty quickly.


I’m Devin Nunn, an average joe that just so happens to have a deep love and passion for everything to do with reptiles. Because taking care of them for the vast majority of my life wasn’t fulfilling enough, I decided to begin educating others about them through my articles. read more...