Will Leopard Geckos Die Without Heat?

It’s no secret, when it comes to leopard geckos, they sure love to spend time soaking up the heat.  Whether they’re in the wild or in captivity, they love the feeling it gives them on the bottom of their stomachs as they lay on top of it.  If they didn’t have access to it though, they might not be too happy about that.  That said, let’s see what happens if it’s stripped from them altogether.

Can leopard geckos die without heat?  Yes, they can.  The reason for this is that not only does heat keep them warm, but it also aids in helping them safely digest their food as well.

Since leopard geckos are cold-blooded creatures, they heavily rely on outside sources of heat since they’re unfortunately unable to create it on their own.  Heat is essential in ensuring their survival and without it, they simply would not be able to.  Here are some ways to provide your leopard gecko with heat along with other information that might be useful for keeping them safe.

They Need a Source of It

There are no ifs, and, or buts about it, leopard geckos absolutely need heat in order to survive.  Whether they’re getting it from the sun, a heat lamp, or a heat mat, it’s one of those things that leopard geckos cannot live without.

In the wild, they don’t have to worry about heat mats or heat lamps because they get all of their heat provided to them by heat-soaked rocks that have been exposed to the sun all day.  But in captivity, it’s a different story.

Since letting the sun cast its rays into your tank isn’t an option because of the hazards it can bring, there are no questions about it, you’ll need to get your hands on a heat lamp or UTH. 

Both of these pieces of equipment work the same with providing your leopard gecko with heat, but because heat mats mimic how they would soak up their supply naturally, it’s best to get one of those as opposed to getting a heat lamp.

Not only do heat mats mimic their natural environment, but they’re out of the way and more convenient for a lot of owners as well.  I’m not saying this to sway you away from getting a heat lamp, but from my experience and other owner’s experience, heat mats are easier to maintain and more simple to use.

If you don’t have a source of heat for your leopard gecko and you need one (which you do), I highly recommend checking out this heat mat here over on Amazon.  If you happen to have a 20-gallon tank, the medium-sized mat will work just fine.

If you have a 10-gallon tank, then it’s probably safer to go with a small-sized mat.  Whichever heat source you decide to go with though is completely fine.

A Lack of Heat Affects Eating

As I briefly mentioned above, heat aids in making sure that the food that they eat is properly digested with absolutely no issues.  Without it, it’s almost impossible for them to safely get down their food.

Because of that, not only can food that they try to eat potentially get stuck in their throats but it can also cause impaction if it manages to make its way down into the stomach.  If you didn’t know, this is why owners set their food dishes on the warm side of the tank.

If their food dish was sat on the cooler side of the tank, their leopard gecko would either not attempt to eat at all or would risk getting impacted if they did eat.  That said, it’s important that you get a source of heat in your tank immediately.

If your leopard gecko is unable to eat because they don’t have the heat to do so, then you’ll find that your leopard gecko won’t survive very long at all.  Luckily, leopard geckos can go some time without food, but despite that fact, it’s only a matter of time before they have to eat.

Again, if you don’t have either a heat lamp or heat mat and haven’t been planning on getting one soon, I suggest that you do to ensure their survival. 

Without heat, your leopard gecko might attempt to eat if they get desperate enough but as mentioned above, they’ll be risking impaction and unfortunately, that is something that will likely require a trip to the herp veterinarian in order to relieve them from whatever’s impacted.

Keep in mind that that’s in the best-case scenario.  In the worst-case scenario, you’ll end up losing your leopard gecko altogether which I’m sure is something you don’t want to happen.

In the Case of a Power Outage

There’s nothing that will work as good as a heat lamp or heat mat but if you’re ever in a situation where your power has gone out, then the best thing you can do for providing them with heat is to purchase some temporary heating pads until the power comes back on.

Heating pads won’t provide enough heat to match what they’re supposed to be receiving but in a time like that, using them is better than not using anything at all.  If you want to know where to get some good ones that will last you for up to 72 hours then I suggest checking out these heating pads here from Amazon.

Those heating pads will provide your leopard gecko with about the same amount of warmth that they would receive on the cooler side of the tank but as I mentioned above, it’s absolutely better than nothing.

For comfort, I would wrap the heating pad up in a sock or thin shirt and then place them on top of it so that they can begin soaking it up immediately.  The longer they go without heat the worse off they are, so don’t wait for them to climb on top of the pad as they may never know to do so.

Also, the reason you’ll want to wrap your pad up is because they’re made out of plastic.  And because plastic isn’t the most comfortable thing to lay on, having something over the pads will probably feel a lot better opposed to just laying on them bare.

Don’t Rely on Heat Outside of the Tank

As you now know, leopard geckos soak most of their heat up from their stomachs.  If you try to provide your leopard gecko with it another way, aside from using a heat lamp, it won’t be as effective.

For example, if you turn your home’s heater up to 90 degrees and think that that’ll be enough for providing your leopard gecko with the amount of heat that they need, unfortunately, doing that will not work.

Instead, you will need to get a heat lamp or UTH.  I know I’ve already mentioned that multiple times throughout this article, but I cannot stress it enough.  Some owners believe that they can successfully keep their leopard gecko alive without using either of those two heat sources but that’s unfortunately not true.

In addition to that, using space heaters won’t work as well.  You can have a space heater right by the tank but nothing you do will give them the amount of heat that they need in order to survive.

Heat mats heat the tank up directly and heat lamps shine right into the tank as well, so because you’re unable to recreate that effect with a space heater or heat from your home, it won’t provide your leopard gecko with enough of what they need.

If you’re looking to buy a leopard gecko or already have one and don’t plan on getting a heat mat or heat lamp any time soon, I suggest donating your lizard to someone else so that they can survive.

I don’t say that to bash anyone, but because it’s impossible for leopard geckos to live without one of those two heat sources, it’s best to not have a leopard gecko at this time until you’re ready to get one.


It’s unfortunate that I have to stress how important heat is to leopard geckos but because there are so many misinformed owners out there, it’s important that I do.  Leopard geckos die every day, and if I had to bet, this is probably a very common reason as to why they do.

For a lot of other caged animals, having a heat source isn’t essential in ensuring their survival.  But when it comes to leopard geckos and many other reptiles, it is.  If you don’t think that you’ll be able to get a source of heat before you get your gecko, the best thing you can do is wait until you can.

If you’ve stumbled across this article because of power outage concerns, then heat pads will be you and your leopard gecko’s best friend until your power comes back on.  Since no one can really predict when a power outage is actually going to occur, I recommend buying a few packs in advance just so you can be prepared for whenever it does happen.


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...