Have you ever wondered what happy leopard geckos look like?
It’s difficult to tell if a captive pet leopard gecko is happy compared to a tail-wagging mammalian pet!
There are several signs to look for if you want to see if your pet is in a happy mood.
Even if you’re sure your leopard gecko is happy, do you know how to make sure it stays that way?
We’ve compiled a guide on how to identify if your leopard gecko is happy, stressed, or healthy and how to make a leopard gecko happy.
We’ve also described how to act accordingly to ensure the best life for your gecko pet!
In This Article
Read on to discover common signs and less obvious other signs such as;
- How to bond with a leopard gecko
- Signs of an unhappy leopard gecko
- How to make a leopard gecko as happy as possible
- How to tell if a leopard gecko is happy, healthy, or stressed
As with most reptile species, a happy gecko can be difficult to differentiate from a stressed gecko. Below we discuss some normal gecko behavior.
As nocturnal creatures, it’s normal for leopard geckos to sleep during the day. In the evening, these inquisitive reptiles will come out to explore!
They move slowly, especially when actively hunting prey such as live crickets.
Scientists have discovered that the large tail of a leopard gecko affects the way they move.
A healthy diet massively contributes to a happy leopard gecko.
A happy leopard gecko will not go on a hunger strike!
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You should take any leopard gecko that isn’t eating to an experienced reptile vet. They will check for problems such as parasites, impaction, and infection.
A leopard gecko is happy when it can explore, especially in new surroundings.
A captive individual’s living area must facilitate its need to explore.
You can offer exploration opportunities by letting your gecko enjoy time outside the tank during handling.
Also be sure to fill the enclosure with plenty of enrichment such as plants, hides, and objects for climbing.
Custom reptile habitats is a site where you can purchase a suitable enclosure.
Happy leopard geckos express the following behaviors:
- A healthy sleep cycle
- Hunting prey, such as crickets
- Exploration of their environment
- Curious and brave during handling
- Regular passing of feces every 2 to 3 days
- Body language, such as flicking of the tongue
- Basking to maintain the correct body temperature
- Moving to and from the hot side to the cooler area of their enclosure (thermoregulating)
A leopard gecko who isn’t happy won’t express normal behavior.
A lack of activity, or a gecko who appears tired, can indicate a health issue.
Leopard geckos do not need to have a social life with other reptiles, but are normally social creatures towards humans.
An unhappy leopard gecko may start to spend more time in its hide.
Leopard geckos may try to climb the front glass of their enclosure. If this occurs, check the temperature gradient of the tank.
If a leopard gecko appears to be trying to escape, it may not have access to appropriate temperatures.
Common problems with a leopard gecko’s tank include:
- Dirty tank
- Tank size is inadequate
- Not enough hides in the tank
- Not enough proper ventilation holes
- Too many free insects, such as crickets
- Not enough things to stimulate the leopard gecko
- More than one individual in the tank (leopard geckos are not social creatures)
- Improper tank temperature (there must be both a warm spot and a cool spot)
Sub-optimal conditions in a tank can lead to health problems, which negatively impact the mood of a leopard gecko.
Always be sure that a leopard gecko’s tank meets all of its needs to ensure your leopard gecko is happy.
It’s important to remove feces and uneaten food every day to maintain a clean enclosure for a leopard gecko.
Other signs of unhappiness include reduced appetite and weight loss.
Pro Tip: Weigh pet leopard geckos often to help notice changes in their weight.
Weigh pet leopard geckos often to help notice changes in their weight.
If, after ensuring the environment of your leopard gecko is optimum, you are still unsure of its happiness, be sure to take your gecko to an experienced reptile veterinarian.
If you are new to the world of these interesting creatures, don’t hesitate to ask someone more experienced for advice!
A healthy gecko is a happy gecko! Here we discuss some ways to tell if your leopard gecko is healthy.
Leopard geckos in poor health may lose their appetite. You can read about the best diet for a pet leopard gecko at the link (link opens in a new tab).
Most individuals won’t have problems when it comes to shedding.
The gecko’s skin should be complete after regular shedding, and free of ectoparasites.
If there appears to be a problem, don’t be tempted to give a gecko a warm bath. Dysecdysis can be associated with inadequacies of a gecko’s enclosure and diet.
It is important to consult a veterinarian when a gecko’s health is in question – before taking action.
Vets recommend that geckos receive a routine health consultation at least once per year.
You can find information about common health problems in geckos here.
As with other reptile species, a stressed gecko might stop eating.
Lack of interest in food can be due to the food source itself, or due to an underlying health issue.
An underweight gecko is especially vulnerable to health problems. Weight loss is observed most easily in the tail of geckos.
It is normal for your gecko to enjoy some time in its hide. However, if they begin to spend longer than usual there, it can indicate a problem.
Prolonged hiding could be due to an unsuitable enclosure temperature and lighting or due to poor health.
A healthy gecko shows normal defecating behaviors. If a gecko starts defecating in unusual areas, it can be a sign of stress.
‘Glass surfing’ can be either a normal or abnormal behavior in leopard geckos.
Leopard geckos sometimes lean on the glass to explore; however, it can also be a sign that they are trying to escape due to problems with their environment causing stress.
It is important to check a reptile’s environment if you observe this behavior.
Excessive tail waving indicates that a leopard gecko is feeling stressed. Geckos wave this part of their body before they drop it to distract predators.
A gecko can perform a tail-drop when scared. For example, if you pick it up incorrectly. Tail-dropping allows a gecko to flee from danger.
Here, you can read about how to act appropriately if your leopard gecko does drop its tail.
The most common causes of stress in leopard geckos are sub-optimal environments and improper handling techniques.
Handling these interesting reptiles is a good way to bond with your pet.
I recommend increasing handling time gradually from a young age.
Be sure to allow individuals to get used to their new surroundings slowly.
These pets will appreciate soothing tones during handling. It is also important to avoid quick and jerky movements.
Jerky movements will frighten a gecko.
Pro Tip: Most leopard geckos may enjoy being touched more if you have warm hands!
When handling a leopard gecko, make sure to:
- Never lift a gecko by its tail
- Treat them with food afterward
- Start when the gecko is as young as possible
- Don’t handle them in an environment with other pets
- Avoid jerky movements and keep as calm as possible
- Not to handle them during the day, the evening is best
- Give time for them to become acquainted with the handler
Creating the ideal environment is key in ensuring that a leopard gecko is happy.
A safe and clean environment with plenty of hiding spots helps create a happy leopard gecko.
I recommend providing plenty of objects for them to explore.
Vets recommend only one gecko per enclosure. Male geckos, and sometimes even female individuals, can be territorial.
A gecko must be kept away from predators, such as pet dogs or cats, and must live in a tank that meets all of its needs.
The following are essential components for a one-gecko tank:
- A moist and cool hide
- An appropriate substrate
- Minimum of 10-gallon capacity
- A warm spot as well as a cooler area
- Completely covered to prevent escaping
- Enrichment of the tank to provide natural stimulation
You can find more detailed information on these points in our leopard gecko habitat guide.
When handling leopard geckos, as with other reptiles, it is important to avoid sudden movements.
It is vital to note that reptiles do not need a social life. They prefer to live alone and can become stressed if housed with other reptiles.
Housing multiple individuals together can lead to stress.
If reading about how to tell if your leopard gecko is happy and how to make your leopard gecko happy has you hungry for more information about leopard geckos, read our extensive leopard gecko care sheet.
If you’re interested in leopard geckos and their care, have a look at our:
- Expert Leopard Gecko Care Sheet
- Ultimate Guide to Leopard Gecko Morphs
- 10 Baby Leopard Gecko Care & Feeding Tips for Beginners
You can also check out our other articles on lizards – carefully written by our experienced experts.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article!
Have you ever noticed something unusual about happy geckos or how to make leopard geckos happy? Tell us about it in the comment section, below.