Wondering why your Leopard Gecko is digging? This guide is for you!
Leopard geckos are full of surprising behaviors. That’s why we keep them in the first place; they make our lives more exciting.
But what do you make of your leopard gecko digging? Does this behavior worry you?
Your leopard gecko is digging because it’s looking for a cool place to build a den; it probably wants to escape the heat in the enclosure. However, digging could also signify stress, hunger, and poor husbandry. Leopard geckos also dig to escape real or perceived threats.
To fully understand why your lizard is digging, contextualize this occurrence. For example, if the leopard gecko is gravid, she’s probably looking for a place to lay her eggs.
Why Is My Leopard Gecko Digging?
#1 – To Create a Den
Leopard geckos like their privacy. When they want to take a quick nap, instincts guide them to find a safe place.
Digging is an instinctive way of trying to create a den. To understand this, you should consider the leopard gecko’s origins.
Leopard geckos originally come from the hot deserts of Afghanistan, India, Iran, and Bangladesh. The surface temperatures here can be searing hot during the day.
Surprisingly, it is much cooler and more comfortable in the soft sand of the desert.
A leopard gecko that wants to sleep during the day may dig into the sand as it provides the right temperatures for sleep.
Unlike moles and other burrowing animals that travel underground, leopard geckos dig just a little bit. This means they need a soft surface to create a cranny and rest.
If this happens in your home, this is your cue that your leopard gecko does not have adequate hiding spots.
Surprisingly, your leo may still dig even with enough hides in the enclosure. It is in their nature to do so; it is wired in their DNA.
#2 – In Search of Food
Leopard geckos live on insects and insect larvae. So in the wild, you’ll often find these reptiles digging in search of worms and insects.
Although captive leopard geckos do not always display this behavior, you may see it occasionally.
Your leopard gecko is genetically programmed to be a digger in search of bugs. They will do this even if you give them enough food.
It is part of what this animal is, so allow him to remain true to his nature. The good news is that this is a harmless habit.
However, don’t be tempted to put some of his food in the substrate, as he could be impacted when he eats the food with the substrate.
Whatever you do, don’t make your leopard gecko associate food with his digging behavior in the enclosure.
#3 – To Escape Heat
The ideal leopard gecko tank temperatures are 280 C – 340 C (820F – 940 F) on the warmer side. The cooler side should be 240 C – 260 C (750 F – 780 F).
Suppose the warm side is too hot or the enclosure lacks a cool side. In that case, the leopard gecko may start digging in an attempt at thermoregulation.
Something is off if you see your leopard gecko digging, yet you’ve followed the best tank practices.
This is your cue to check the thermometer readings. Also, find out whether the thermostat is working correctly.
Does the enclosure come into constant with direct sunlight? If it does, this is the genesis of your pet’s behavior.
Your leopard gecko is wired to dig in response to hot temperatures. As such, it is in your interest to look for the cause of the heat and eliminate it.
Although leopard geckos appreciate some time in the warm zone, they get uncomfortable if it becomes too hot.
Wild leopard geckos dig to reveal cooler dirt that provides respite from the searing sun. Unfortunately, the substrate in the enclosure is not deep enough to reveal a cooler layer.
As such, we can only conclude that your leopard gecko digs as an instinctive response to heat.
#4 – To Escape a Threat
Your leopard gecko can be motivated by fears and stress from real or perceived threats. In the wild, leopard geckos are perpetually alert for predators.
They will start digging furiously when they perceive a threat.
This is not always the case with leopard geckos in captivity. However, your leopard gecko is relatively safe in your home because of your intervention.
However, he may be scared by something or someone that makes his digging instincts kin in. For example, this reptile might be bullied by his tank mates.
He may also be scared by the abrupt appearance of bigger pets, such as cats, snakes, and dogs, near the tank.
This will send him digging into the substrate, trying to escape these threats. This evasive mechanism happens instinctively; these reptiles have been doing this in the wild for centuries.
Look for other signs of stress and fear to ascertain that your leopard gecko feels threatened. These include keeping himself hidden all the time and loss of appetite.
Your pet could also be stressed because the environment has changed. If you see any of these stress signs, step in and make your pet’s life more comfortable.
#5 – Gravid Females Looking to Lay Eggs
It is quite normal to see a gravid female frantically digging the substrate. In the wild, gravid females dig in the sand or soil to lay their eggs in locations they consider safe.
Gravid leopard geckos do this because predators find leopard geckos’ eggs quite tasty. Surprisingly, female leos even hide infertile eggs.
You’ll know your leopard gecko is about to lay eggs about a week before she does. So she’ll be digging all over the place in readiness for laying the eggs.
Female leopard geckos mature by age 18 when they’re around 35g. As such, it is rare to see younger females digging the substrate (unless they do it for another reason).
But when they reach maturity, instinct kicks in, and they start looking for safe places to lay eggs. This is all part of this animal’s evolutionary instincts.
#6 – To Kill Boredom
Your leopard gecko is an inquisitive creature. He wants to discover everything there is about the world around him.
This is why experts advise us to make the leopard gecko enclosure as interesting as possible.
If you see your leopard gecko digging the substrate, don’t be surprised that it is not for any of the above reasons.
This little reptile could be bored. Instead, it’s trying to entertain itself by exploring the tank flooring. Its curiosity has kicked in, and it wants to discover what lies beneath the substrate it has become accustomed to.
So if you run through the reasons your leopard gecko is digging and find none that fits its behavior, don’t worry.
Your little reptile friend is trying to make life exciting and enjoyable.
However, ensure you eliminate all signs of distress or sickness before you settle back and allow your pet to continue digging.
How to Stop Your Leopard Gecko Digging
If you are disturbed by your leopard gecko digging, you can take certain measures to ensure he stops it.
These measures are applicable if you’ve discovered the cause of this behavior.
Provide Optimum Temperatures in the Tank
Is your leopard gecko digging because the tank temperatures are off? Create an environment conducive for your leopard gecko to feel safe and comfortable in the enclosure.
If the wrong temperature is the issue, your pet will dig to find cooler ground he can lay on. Therefore, you need to adjust the enclosure temperature to the correct level to solve this problem.
Ensure the heat source, thermometers, and thermostat are in pristine working condition. Use the right heating device based on the size of the enclosure.
For example, using a ceramic heat emitter on a 10-gallon tank is not advisable. This is because ceramic heat emitters produce a lot of heat and are suitable for bigger tanks.
If you have been using this, change to a more appropriate device.
Dim the Lights
Light is a crucial aspect of the leopard gecko setup. This allows you to create the right circadian environment for your little friend.
Without light, your leopard gecko would not distinguish day and night.
However, leopard geckos are not big fans of bright light. So your leopard gecko could be digging to escape the glare of harsh tank lights.
If you see this reptile squint or blink every time he looks at the light, this could be the problem.
Look for a low-wattage incandescent light bulb to provide both light and heat. You can solve your pet’s problem by dimming the lights.
Provide Adequate Hides
Your leopard gecko wants to be in a place they feel safe and protected. So if you see this lizard furiously digging, it could be looking for such a place.
This is your cue to provide adequate hides in the terrarium. Your pet runs to its hide whenever it feels threatened or just wants to be alone.
At the same time, a moist hide is a safe haven from the heat. So your leopard gecko comes here to escape the heat of the warm zone and cool down.
Also, you need a warm hide. This hide should be near the lights so the lizard doesn’t get cold. Your leopard gecko can lie in this hide after a meal, for digestion to take place.
Ensure that the hides look as natural as possible. They should fit in with the theme you have chosen for the terrarium.
Some keepers use terra cotta pots for the hides. Others use rock-shaped hides, replicas of dinosaur skulls, and pieces of bark.
Being curious and explorative, your leopard gecko will love your ingenuity in making his hides fun and exciting.
Create a Safe Place for Egg-Laying
As earlier noted, gravid females dig around the enclosure to find a safe place to lay eggs.
You can make things easier for your leopard gecko by providing a safe place for her to lay the eggs. She will prefer to lie in a moist hide where the temperatures are low and her eggs safe.
Remember, if your leopard gecko is not comfortable, she becomes stressed. This opens the avenue to a more serious problem: egg-binding.
Egg binding happens when the female leopard gecko is unable to lay her eggs. Although the eggs are due, they simply don’t come out.
You can see the leopard gecko struggle to expel the eggs, but nothing happens. If she’s not assisted at this point, this could be the start of more serious health complications.
Remember, female leopard geckos, like hens, can lay eggs with or without a male. As such, you need to have adequate hides ready – especially when this reptile reaches reproductive age.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Should I Be Worried That My Leopard Gecko is Digging?
When talking about leopard gecko behaviors, many people will not mention digging. This is because this is not what immediately comes to mind.
Also, digging is not one of the most pronounced of this reptile’s behavior.
By looking at your pet digging, you can tell the cause of this behavior. This means it’s not something to worry about.
Instead, you should evaluate it soberly and provide your leo with the solution he seeks.
Can a Leopard Gecko Dig into All Kinds of Substrates?
Leopard geckos can only dig into soft substrates. This means they cannot dig into tiles, slates, and rocks.
Although digging can be a sign of stress, it could also be a means for your leopard gecko to relieve stress and keep busy.
Oftentimes, leopard geckos dig to satiate their inquisitive nature. As such, you can purposefully provide them with a soft substrate to dig into whenever they want to have some fun.
Should I See a Vet If My Leopard Gecko Keeps Digging?
The cause of this behavior will determine how you react. You don’t have to involve the vet if you can solve it in your home environment.
For example, if your leopard gecko keeps digging because of poor tank conditions, it is within your purview to change things.
Adjust the temperature, lighting, and humidity to create favorable conditions for your leopard gecko. Then, install the right gadgets to monitor and control the temperature.
However, if this behavior is accompanied by loss of weight, appetite loss, hiding, and infections, immediately seek your vet’s intervention.
Talk to your vet whenever you are in doubt about anything.
We hope you’ll no longer wonder why your leopard gecko digs. This normal activity enables your pet to cool down, search for food, or hide from threats.
So, the next time you see your leopard gecko digging, don’t panic. However, if your pet shows signs of problematic behavior, talk to your vet.