Has your Leopard Gecko been exposed to cold temperatures?
Maybe your heat lamp went out, or you had a power outage?
In this article, we answer the question, “How long can a Leopard Gecko go without heat?,” while also explaining why Leopard Geckos need heat to survive plus give you the exact temperatures your Leopard Gecko needs to maintain its ideal body heat.
Leopard Geckos may be able to survive up to one month without heat, providing temperatures stay within the normal range of 60° degrees Fahrenheit (15° C).
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Why Do Leopard Geckos Need Heat
Leopard Geckos are native to dry and arid regions, so they are accustomed to scorching weather.
Not only are they used to the heat, but their bodies also depend on it.
As cold-blooded reptiles, Leopard Geckos cannot generate their own body heat as warm blooded-animals (like mammals and birds) can.
Instead, they need an outside heat source to warm up their bodies and keep everything–from digestion to the immune system–running correctly.
In the wild, this external heat source comes from the sun’s overhead heat and the sun-warmed rocks and ground, but in captivity, Leopard Geckos need an artificial heat source to keep their tank at the right temperatures.
We’ll go into more detail later on the best types of heat sources and the exact temperatures you need to maintain.
How Long Can a Leopard Gecko Go Without Heat
When temperatures drop for an extended period, Leopard Geckos, like many other reptiles, enter brumation.
What is brumation?
Simply put, it is the equivalent of hibernation some mammals experience during the winter months.
Brumation allows leopard geckos to slow down, reserve fat, and burn very little energy so they can survive until the temperature rises again.
Assuming temperatures stay within a reasonable range of about 60° degrees Fahrenheit (15° C), Leopard Geckos should be able to survive for about one month without their heat source.
Again, this is if temperatures don’t drop below 60° degrees Fahrenheit (15° C).
Keep in mind, however, even though a Leopard Gecko may be able to survive for about a month without an adequate heat source, this is dangerous for a gecko and can lead to severe health issues, so never test this out at home!
What Happens When Leopard Geckos Get Too Cold
As we mentioned before, Leopard Geckos require an external heat source to warm their bodies.
Without this heat source, they cannot properly digest their food, their body’s immune system doesn’t operate correctly, and many other functions shut down, eventually leading to death.
In this section, we look at the primary health problems your Leopard Gecko could face if experiencing cold temperatures for a long time.
Stick Tail Disease
Stick tail disease is a term for rapid weight loss in Leopard Geckos (and other fat-tailed geckos).
Leopard Geckos store fat in their tails, and when they are in brumation (because of cold temps), they are forced to live off their tail’s fat stores since they cannot eat or digest food without heat.
If they go long enough without heat, their tail’s fat stores will be consumed, and their tails will look like thin sticks (hence the name stick tail disease).
If you want to read more on this we have a post on stick tail disease in leopard geckos that is dedicated to the subject.
If a Leopard Gecko is exposed to cold temperatures regularly or for an extended period, it may experience impaction.
Impaction is a term for when a gecko has an obstruction stuck in its stomach or intestines.
This typically happens when its digestive system isn’t working correctly, and since Leopard Geckos require heat to digest food properly, cold temps can often be the cause of impaction.
If your Leopard Gecko shows signs of impaction, you need to immediately take it to the reptile vet as impaction sometimes requires surgery and can even lead to death.
You may be able to treat impaction at home by giving your gecko a warm bath and gently massaging its belly.
You may also try to orally administer a drop of mineral or olive oil to help the obstruction pass.
Again, check with your vet first if you suspect your Leopard Gecko has an impaction.
While we’re on the topic of impaction allow me to point you to our other post on causes and treatment for impaction in leopard geckos for additional information.
Another common problem caused by exposure to cold temperatures is respiratory infections.
Signs your Leopard Gecko may have a respiratory infection include lethargy, clogged nostrils, and breathing with an open mouth.
Other symptoms also include bubbly saliva, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Seek immediate help from a reptile vet if you suspect your gecko has a respiratory infection.
Respiratory infection treatment requires both antibiotics and probiotics, as well as extra hydration and feeding assistance.
How Much Heat Does a Leopard Gecko Need?
We know how long a Leopard Gecko can go without heat and what health problems can arise if they are exposed to cold temperatures for too long.
Now let’s look at what the ideal temperature is for a Leopard Gecko’s long-term health and safety.
Most owners like to provide their Leopard Geckos with both a cool side and a hot side in their tank so they have plenty of heat but can move to a cooler spot, so they don’t overheat.
The hot side of the tank should be between 87° and 90° degrees Fahrenheit (30° – 32° C) (no warmer than 94° degrees Fahrenheit or 34° C), while the cooler side should stay in the mid to upper 70°s degrees Fahrenheit.
For optimal care, many experts suggest including a T5 or T8 5-6% UVB bulb, similar to this Zilla Reptile UVB lamp.
If you’ve been wondering how long a Leopard gecko can go without heat, we hope this article answered your questions.
And if your Leopard gecko has been exposed to cold temperatures for any period, do everything possible to provide it with an adequate heat source right away, and keep a careful eye on it to make sure no health problems arise.