What’s the first thing you think of when someone says ‘reptiles’? For most people, it would be ‘cold-blooded’. Unlike us, reptiles are ectothermic, which means that they must rely on external sources of heat in order to warm their bodies. For owners, that makes proper temperature for leopard geckos a really important concept to learn about.
Providing heat for your leopard gecko
It won’t come as a surprise that part of keeping a reptile such as a leopard gecko involves making sure that it has a heat source in its tank. Without one, your leo won’t be able to get the warmth it needs to move around, hunt and digest food, and keep its immune system functioning properly. The heat source should provide a ‘hot spot’ in the tank of around 88-92 degrees Fahrenheit. (Note that along with a warm area of 88-92 degrees Fahrenheit leos also need a cooler area in their tank as well – around 80 degrees Fahrenheit).
In the wild, leopard geckos get warm through either solar heat by lying in direct sunlight, or through radiant heat they absorb from something that has been warmed by the sun, such as a rock. In your leo’s terrarium you can provide heat in a way that mimics either or both of these.
Mimicking solar heat
To mimic solar heat for your leopard gecko you can install a reflector lamp above your leo’s tank. These can be found at any good hardware store. In terms of what size to get something at least 8.5 inches in diameter is best. Any smaller and it won’t cast a big enough area of heat. Only go larger than this if you have an unusually large tank (that is, bigger than 20 gallons).
The lamp should be positioned just above the tank but over to one side so that a thermal gradient is created. You should get a normal incandescent bulb to go in the reflector lamp, but get several different wattages (in a range from 40-100 watts) so that you can switch between them to correct for changes in the ambient temperature in your home from season to season.
One problem with using a lamp for heat is that it also (obviously) gives off light, so you can’t leave it on all the time. If the temperature in the tank falls to below about 70 degrees Fahrenheit when the lamp is off at night then you’ll need to use a heat pad instead (see below).
Mimicking radiant heat
Alternatively, to mimic radiant heat for your leopard gecko you can install something under or in your leo’s tank that gives off heat. The best option here is a heat pad, which is a simple thin plastic pad containing a heating element that has one adhesive side. The heat pad sticks on underneath the tank and radiates heat up. It should cover an area of no more than 1/3 of the tank’s total floor surface.
Whatever you use, getting the temperature for leopard geckos right is an absolute must.