Wondering if leopard geckos bask? This guide is for you!
Being crepuscular reptiles, leopard geckos are most active at dusk. This is when they come out to look for food, play, and mate.
However, you may have seen your leopard gecko ‘basking’ under a lamp during the day. In the wild, this reptile can occasionally come out during the day to sit under a rock and seem to bask in the sun.
Although this behavior may look like basking, it actually isn’t.
This lizard needs a day and night cycle to carry out its normal activities. In addition, it needs some warmth to raise its body temperature for certain bodily functions to take place.
Leopard geckos do not bask because there are quite inactive during the day. The behavior that some interpret as basking is actually pseudo-basking, which helps them regulate their internal body temperatures. To raise their body temperatures, the leo moves to the warmer part of the tank. To lower it, the reptile goes to the cooler side.
Since there isn’t an exact term for this behavior, some prefer to just refer to it as basking.
Like all cold-blooded animals, leopard geckos need heat for their bodies to work as they should.
It’s noteworthy that the optimal temperature for leos is between 280 C and 300C (820 F and 860F) in the warm zone, and 240 C and 260C (750 F and 790F) in the cool spot.
Do Leopard Geckos Bask?
Your leopard gecko will be just fine as long as the heat and humidity in the enclosure are well-regulated.
No amount of pseudo-basking can replace proper heat and humidity control. Without these, your leo will experience all kinds of health and developmental problems.
A number of new leo keepers get it wrong when they include a basking spot in the pet’s enclosure.
While you should have a spot where the leo can get some much-needed heat, this spot should not be seen as a basking spot.
The correct word for it should be the warm zone – just like there should be a cool zone. But, it is understandable where such keepers come from, judging from the behavior of the leo.
You’ll often see your leopard gecko lying under a light lamp for short periods. They alternate their time under the lamp with time in their hides, where it is cooler.
So, what does this behavior tell you about the leo? Is it really basking? Although this looks like basking behavior, the leopard gecko is working on his thermoregulation.
As noted earlier, your pet needs to maintain a constant range of body temperature for all the internal systems to function correctly.
The leopard gecko also needs the right humidity range, without which its internal body system would start to malfunction.
Apart from heat regulation, your leo sits directly under the light lamp because this light helps him absorb Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is usually absorbed through the skin from an appropriate UVB light source, and helps regulate calcium.
Calcium is crucial in protecting your leo from MBD (metabolic bone disease).
Why Don’t Leopard Gecko’s Bask?
We’ve seen that leopard geckos do sit under the sun or light lamp for some time. So, why do experts tell us that these reptiles don’t bask?
Basking is a behavior common with cold-blooded animals. But, of course, the leo is as cold-blooded as they come!
However, there’s a significant difference between how sunbathers and non-sunbathers behave.
For one, basking, or sunbathing, is more common with diurnal animals. These are animals that are active during the day.
Leopard geckos are crepuscular, meaning they are active at twilight.
Also, basking is a way of life for the day animals. They’ll spend all their time in the sun, so they can power up to carry out their activities.
This means that without basking, these animals would be unable to function.
Leopard geckos need a constant body temperature to survive. Therefore, basking, a long-term, lifestyle activity, would raise their temperatures too high.
Again, exposing leopard geckos to too much heat would deny them the ideal humidity level.
The leopard gecko will be fine with the right amount of heat and humidity. This reptile just needs to lie under the light lamp for short periods to absorb vitamin D necessary for calcium regulation.
Unlike diurnal animals, basking is not in the leopard gecko’s nature. Leos are most active during the twilight hours, when there isn’t enough sun for basking.
Leopard geckos just need the right amount of heat and cold to rest, digest their food and observe their surroundings.
What is Pseudo Basking?
A good number of leopard gecko keepers find it hard to believe that this lizard is not a sunbather. They argue that they often see their little pet ‘basking’ under the lamp.
However, what this pet does is not typical basking behavior. It is called pseudo-basking.
Basking is a lifestyle, something that the animal must do if it wants to live.
When you see a leo stand in the sun, you may think it is basking. But for any animal to be a true sunbather, it should be diurnal – the leo is crepuscular.
Whether in the wild or captivity, a leopard gecko will try to keep away from the sun as much as possible.
And anyway, this reptile is asleep for most of the day, being crepuscular. So it cannot sleep and sunbathe simultaneously.
Pseudo-basking is a legitimate activity to benefit from the UVA, UVB, and vitamin D generated by the light lamp.
Your leopard gecko does not need to sunbathe to access these benefits. Instead, this reptile needs proper heat and humidity regulation to control its bodily functions.
When you see your gecko under the light lamp in the enclosure, it’s a matter of choice. Animals that bask have to do so; they don’t have an option.
However, your leopard gecko still needs proper lighting in the enclosure as this provides him with UVA, UVB, and vitamin D.
UVA is essential for good eyesight, while UVB helps with digestion. In addition, vitamin D helps manufacture calcium, a crucial component in strengthening bones.
Your leopard gecko may lay under the lamp for a few minutes. This is called pseudo basking since basking would require him to lay there for longer as an essential part of his growth and development.
Why Do Leopard Geckos Need Good Lighting?
We’ve established that leopard geckos don’t need to bask. So, why is it important to ensure they have a proper lighting system in their enclosures?
The most crucial role of lighting is to create the right day and night cycle for your pet. We cannot overstate how this is important for the leopard gecko.
Some inexperienced leopard gecko keepers have learned the hard way how dangerous it is not to provide their pets with this cycle.
Like in the wild, leopard geckos in captivity should know when to sleep and wake up. As such, you need to replicate the leo’s natural environment in the enclosure.
Experts will tell you that a leo needs about 14 hours of light during the day in summer. In winter, the animal will require 12 hours of light.
The reduction of light to 12 hours simulates the change of season – how this animal would experience it in the wild.
Proper lighting for your pet ensures that his appetite is well-regulated. If the lighting is poor, your leo may refuse food.
Proper lighting is also good for his physiological and psychological wellbeing. Conversely, Leos that are regularly subjected to poor lighting conditions behave erratically.
They are easily agitated and are prone to infections and diseases.
The trauma inflicted on them by poor lighting conditions lowers their immunity, making them susceptible to all kinds of opportunistic infections.
In shopping for your leopard gecko’s lighting, choose the right lights to complement his morph. Also, avoid black and red lights at night as they mess up your pet’s night-day cycle.
Blue lights are also not recommended because they can damage his eyes.
Also, you should have a mechanism to adjust the intensity of the light depending on the time of day. Very strong lights can make the enclosure temperatures rise dangerously high.
Is a Basking Spot Necessary for Leopard Geckos?
Leopard geckos should have a spot where they can warm up. In addition, this spot should provide them with the day-night cycle so they can live well-adjusted lives.
Although some people refer to this as a ‘basking spot,’ it is more of a warm zone. It should have temperatures between 280 C and 300C (820 F and 860F).
You can create this spot in a number of ways. For example, install a heat lamp and put in caves with stones. This creates the most natural environment for your pet.
Alternatively, you can use a heat mat that doesn’t have lights.
Also, you can heat the substrates and stones in the enclosure, which will disperse the heat in the desired area.
Leopard geckos rarely pseudo-bask during the day. However, since they are cold-blooded animals, they may come to the warm zone anytime.
As such, ensure that the warm zone is properly set up to provide your leo with heat whenever he needs it.
A well-set-up warm zone complements the cool zone of the enclosure.
Leopard geckos are growing in popularity as indoor pets. They are valued because they are easy to care for and come in a wide range of patterns and colors.
It’s important that you understand the needs of this pet if you intend to keep one. For example, one of the areas that can be quite confusing is whether this animal needs a basking spot in the enclosure.
Well, they really don’t need to bask. In the wild, leopard geckos naturally keep away from the sun.
Leos sit under the light lamp for a short period for thermoregulation. This is called pseudo-basking.