Why Is My Leopard Gecko Dark?

There are a few reasons as to why a leopard gecko is turning dark, but thankfully, most of the reasons (but sadly, not all) are not caused by any type of serious illness or disease and shouldn’t always be something to worry about unless they are displaying other signs such as lethargy, slow movement, or a decrease in food consumption.

Why is my leopard gecko dark? Your gecko may be turning dark due to multiple factors, but the main cause that I’ve seen happen fairly commonly is because they are too cold and will change color to help them absorb and retain heat a little easier.

With all of the illnesses and diseases that leopard gecko are prone to catch throughout the span of their life, they display a lot of the same signs and symptoms making it hard to detect what the cause is for their sudden change in appearance and behavior, but thankfully, there are a few things that you can keep your eye out for so that you have a better understanding as to why your leopard gecko has suddenly changed its color and then from there, get the proper treatment for your gecko to hopefully make a full recovery not only internally but externally as well.

Cold Tank

Reptile owners who have had reptiles for a long time should already know this, but if you’re a beginner, it’s very easy to make this mistake and if you notice it, you should fix it immediately because it’s very hard on not only your leopard geckos skin, but for its overall health as well.

But as stated above, if your leopard geckos tank is too cold for them to comfortably live in, then you might notice that they will, in fact, change color in order to keep and retain heat so that they don’t die due to the poor conditions of the environment they’re in.

Aside from a change in color, you might find that their eating habits have also changed as well, and this is due to not being at the correct body temperature that they need to be at to properly digest their food without issues.

If leopard geckos can’t properly digest their food, then they will eventually become very constipated and possibly even suffer from impaction, which seems to be a common issue with new leopard gecko owners who have been misinformed or have yet to learn the knowledge on which substrate to use and what temperature their geckos tank should be at, at all times.

In order to keep your tanks temperatures consistent, it’s best to have a digital thermometer (here’s the one I use) and thermostat (I really love this one here from Amazon) on hand so that you know when and how to make temperature adjustments if need be.

Luckily, with the thermostat, you don’t have to make too many adjustments.  Once you set it at a certain temperature, you’re good to go.

Retained Shed

I’ve touched base on this a little bit in a previous article that was recently published at the time in which I’m writing this one, but when your leopard gecko changes color, typically to either brown or black, then this means that they may have some shed still stuck on their extremities that could potentially cause limited blood flow due to constriction and should be removed immediately so that further damage doesn’t occur thus saving you a trip from going to the vet.

Just like when we get sunburnt and start to peel, leopard geckos go through the same thing when shedding, but it is far more dangerous and harmful to them than it is for us and should be handled in a careful and gentle manner so that your gecko doesn’t have to sustain further pain and damage than it likely already is.

If you want to get the excess shed off, which is in most cases around the toes and tail area, then it’s best to soak them in shallow, lukewarm water, wait a few minutes for the shed to soften up, and then remove it with a small, grabbing tool that will allow you to easily pull off the shed without doing any damage to the geckos body in the process.

Not only will a problematic shed cause discoloration in your gecko, but it can also cause tons of stress and therefore make your gecko not want to eat or participate in regular activities until it is all off and they are feeling better.

A few other signs and symptoms of a bad shed depending on where it’s at are:

  • Trouble Walking
  • Infection
  • Eye Problems

And unfortunately, even death if the problem is not addressed in a fairly quick time after which it happens.  Many may think that a little extra shed on a leopard gecko’s body won’t do any harm, but they’re very little and their limbs are small, so it can cause a lot more damage then one might think.

Calcium Deficient

A change in color may also be a huge sign of a calcium deficiency and should be treated right away shortly after the problem is caught.  Too much calcium is bad for your gecko, but luckily, they can tell how much they need and will only consume it when, in fact, they need to. So it’s best to keep a small bowl of calcium in your leopard geckos tank at all times without D3 (you’ll want to give them that during feeding) so that your gecko can get some as he pleases and to also reduce the risk of certain calcium-related diseases that can be harmful to it as well.

Calcium is an absolute must in a leopard geckos diet and should also be present during meals and in tank so that you don’t have to worry about them getting ill from not having enough in their body.

The calcium brand I always recommend and personally use is this stuff here by Repashy on AmazonThis powder is packed with D3 as well as vitamins and should only be fed to your leopard gecko when feeding them and should never be placed within the tank.  

Aging

As your leopard gecko gets older, you might notice that the black bands around their bodies will start to break apart and turn into spots and this is completely normal for all geckos when growing up.

If you’re noticing a slight change in color or appearance in the bands/spots alone, then aging is usually always why.  And most times, this will happen when your gecko turns 1-year in age and should be nothing to worry about. In fact, it can actually be kind of cool to slowly watch your gecko change in appearance right before your eyes.

Stressed Out

Stress causes a ton of different symptoms to occur when a leopard gecko is going through it, so it’s no surprise that a change in color is one of those symptoms.  Because there are so many different factors that can contribute to the stress of a leopard gecko, it’s best to start with the obvious ones first and then go from there.

A few of the most common stress factors amongst leopard geckos are:

  • Temperature Imbalances
  • Shedding
  • Over Handling
  • Calcium Imbalance

These may not be obvious to a beginner, but when it comes to experienced owners, then these are likely the first things that they look at when determining what’s wrong with their gecko.  If you are a beginner, then check these 4 factors immediately.

A lot of the time, the diseases and illnesses leopard geckos go through can link back to these 4 factors and should be avoided at all costs if you want a healthy and active gecko.  It’s usually okay to make mistakes when starting out with a lot of new things in life, but these particular mistakes can cause major issues when it comes to not only leopard geckos, but also for reptiles in general, so it’s best that we get it right the first time around and stick to a routine until it becomes second nature.

Writing a feeding schedule out can be very useful in the beginning stages of caring for your new pet and will allow you to routinely give your leopard gecko what it needs without worrying and forgetting about whether you’re feeding it properly or not.  If you want more information on how much to feed them and also how much calcium and D3 to give them, then click here to go to the article that carries that information and scroll down to the section about feeding and take notes so that you will be in the know when it comes to your gecko’s nutritional needs.

Conclusion

Depending on the pet, sometimes it can be very hard to tell when or if they’ve come down with something.  But with leopard geckos, there are always pretty distinguishable signs that they showcase that makes it fairly easy to tell that something is not right.

If you notice that your gecko is acting weird in any kind of way, especially if they change colors, then always check the temperature first, then see if they are shedding, make sure you’re giving them the right amount of calcium, and lastly, see if there are any other stress factors that could be causing them to look differently.

Although all of these factors are harmful to their health, they’re not factors that can’t be treated and can be fixed fairly easily if caught early enough and also if no significant kind of damage has taken place.  Once you make sure that your gecko is getting what it needs at all times and stress is down to a minimum, then they will be very happy and healthy geckos and you will hopefully have absolutely nothing else to worry about.