Do You Need a Thermostat for Your Leopard Gecko?

Whether you are a first-time leopard gecko owner or have a collection of reptiles, proper husbandry is essential to your leopard gecko’s health.

This includes providing an environment with correct temperature levels.

But should your leopard gecko tank include a thermostat?

Key Takeaway:

A thermostat must regulate all tank heaters for the safety and health of your leopard gecko. As ectotherms or cold-blooded creatures, leopard geckos in captivity need heaters. Without heaters, the reptile won’t be able to create its own body heat.

Keep reading to learn why reptiles need a supplemental heat source, the types of thermostats available, and tips to make your leopard gecko enclosure even safer.

do i need a thermostat for my leopard gecko

Leopard Geckos Are Ectotherms

Like most reptiles, leopard geckos are considered ectotherms.

In general terms, we describe ectotherms as “cold-blooded.”

In other words, leopard geckos cannot generate adequate body heat on their own.

Instead, their body temperature is dependent on their surroundings.

This means leopard geckos need to get heat from external sources in the form of infrared light.

In captivity, heating mats are the most common heat source used by gecko owners.

This is because leopard geckos are crepuscular.

Crepuscular animals tend to sleep during the day and, thus, do not get heat from direct sunlight.

In their natural habitat, wild leopard geckos absorb heat by lying on warm rocks at night.

This explains the development of heat pads to simulate their natural behavior.

Dangers of Heating Equipment For Leopard Geckos

Like any electrical equipment, heat sources like heat mats can malfunction.

Unfortunately, the potential issues may be deadly if your heat mat malfunctions.

Tank heating pads can overheat, causing severe thermal burns in your beloved gecko.

Heating devices are necessary to provide a proper environment for your reptile pet, but they are also potential fire hazards.

Heating Equipment Must Be Regulated by a Thermostat

We can improve the safety of heating equipment by using a thermostat.

A thermostat is necessary to detect faulty equipment and protect your gecko.

Thermostats regularly monitor temperature and regulate the output of a given heat source.

This keeps the temperature within the desired, controllable temperature range.

They do this by turning the power on or off or adjusting the amount of energy being sent to the heat mat.

A popular choice among experienced keepers is this Heat Mat Thermostat available on Amazon.

Strip thermometers are not appropriate substitutes for thermostats.

They do not provide accurate temperature readings.

Please note: strip thermometers only measure the ambient air temperature.

The probe connected to a thermostat measures the actual temperature of the tank floor or heat mat where it is positioned.

Help Maintain the Best Temperature Zone

Thermostats help maintain accurate enclosure temperature control necessary for your leopard gecko’s health.

They do this by consistently measuring and regulating temperature.

As ectotherms, each species of reptile thrives within a specific temperature range.

This is referred to as the POTZ or the preferred optimum temperature zone.

Many bodily functions depend highly on body temperature, including:

  • Digestion
  • Metabolism
  • Immune responses

Inappropriate environmental temperatures outside of a reptile’s POTZ can lead to serious health problems.

Creating the Optimum Temperature Zone for Your Leopard Gecko

The ideal temperature range for leopard geckos ranges from 77° degrees Fahrenheit (25° C) to 86° degrees Fahrenheit (30° C).

Our goal is to provide a comfortable habitat with the correct temperature range by creating a gradient.

This is accomplished by including micro-environments of varying temperatures.

When designing a proper leopard gecko habitat, think of your tank in three parts: a cool side of the tank, a warm side, and one in the middle.

Your gecko tank should have at least three hides: a cool hide, a warm hide, and a moist hide.

This way, your leopard gecko can move throughout the tank to adjust its temperature as needed.

Improper husbandry is the cause of many common issues in reptiles.

This includes failure to provide the proper tank temperature.

Examples of reptile diseases resulting from incorrect temperatures include:

  • Dehydration
  • Kidney disease
  • Dysecdysis (abnormal skin shedding)

Further Reading: Leopard gecko tank temperature setup guide

Types of Thermostats for Leopard Geckos

The types of thermostats for leopard geckos fall into three categories.

On/off Thermostats

The first and most common category is on/off thermostats, also known as non-proportional or mat-stat thermostats.

These are the most basic option.

The attached temperature probe measures the temperature intermittently.

The thermostat turns the power to the heat mat on or off based on the set target temperature.

On/off options are awesome thermostats because they are the cheapest, user-friendly, and easy to install.

With these, there is greater likelihood of temperature fluctuation by a couple of degrees.

These basic thermostats are slower at adjusting.

Additionally, on/off stats can only tolerate lower-watt heat equipment.

Pulse Thermostats

Gecko owners may also consider using pulse or pulse-proportional thermostats.

Pulse thermostats increase or decrease the frequency of energy pulses sent to the heat source to adjust the temperature.

Pulse thermostats are better at maintaining a precise temperature.

These thermostats can usually achieve higher temperatures than on/off stats if needed.

Many leopard gecko owners also claim pulse thermostats help heat equipment last longer.

Dimming Thermostats

Dimming thermostats are praised amongst experienced reptile keepers.

They call them the best because they work with many types of heaters.

Dimming thermostats provide a constant source of electricity.

This makes them unlike pulse thermostats, which send packets of energy.

Instead, dimming stats adjust the level of electricity to alter temperature as needed.

Like pulse thermostats, dimming thermostats may also help heating equipment last longer.

Multi-functional Thermostats

Multi-functional thermostats (aka professional thermostats) are also available to gecko keepers.

They aren’t technically a different type, though.

A multi-function thermostat is a single unit that can function as an on/off, pulse, or dimming thermostat, depending on the user’s preference.

Safety Tips Regarding Thermostats

Two crucial features to evaluate are:

  1. Your thermostat’s maximum wattage capacity
  2. The power supply of your heating equipment

The watts of heating devices must never exceed the maximum wattage your thermostat can handle.

Overloading a thermostat is extremely dangerous because it produces excessive heat.

For example, using a tank heat mat with a higher wattage than the maximum wattage capacity of the thermostat can cause an electrical fire.

Not all thermostats are created equal.

Looking at a thermostat’s design can tell us a lot about its safety.

Choose a thermostat with these design features:

  • Grounded 3-pronged plugs: designed to prevent a power surge or electric shock
  • Password protection: This feature prevents pets and people in the household from adjusting the programmable features

I also recommend using a temperature gun as a digital thermometer to double-check the accuracy of your thermostat, like this Heat Temperature Temp Gun on Amazon.