A lot of leopard gecko owners are confused when it comes to having a basking spot for their leos as part of the set up of the enclosure. We get where the confusion is coming from, as sometimes, we see them lying peacefully under direct light. However, most times, they can also be seen in their hides. So do leopard geckos bask?
Leopard geckos usually do not bask since they are crepuscular lizards that are inactive during the day. They still need a day and night cycle, and hot and cold areas for their bodies to function normally. They stay on warm areas increase their body temperature, which is similar to basking behavior.
Did that answer surprise you? Well, if it did, then you are not alone! We were also surprised that what they were doing was not actually basking behavior. As you go through this read, you will also realize why this behavior is not basking albeit the proper regulation of their body heat. So read on!
Basking And Why Leopard Geckos Don’t Do It
In order to get the confusion out of the way, let us first settle what is basking once and for all. Basking is a behavior done by animals to help raise their body temperature.
This can also reduce the use of their energy to regulate bodily functions as well as to provide comfort.
Basking is also known as sunning or sunbathing. A lot of reptiles, especially diurnal types (active during the day) do basking behavior in order to have enough energy so they can go about their business.
They also get Vitamin D3 for the proper development of their bones.
Basking is essential for cold-blooded animals because they cannot inherently produce heat. Therefore, they need the light and the heat of the sun to function. In short, without basking under the heat of the sun or artificial light, they simply could not function normally.
With that in mind, leopard geckos are also cold-blooded, but why is it that they do not bask? In contrast, they just choose a spot to rest, digest, or just observe their surroundings?
Are they some type of special lizard with superpowers? Find out in the next part.
Why Some Leopard Geckos Can Still Be Seen Basking – Pseudo Basking
Some owners may argue that no, leopard geckos do bask because they have seen their leos bask under the light. But this is not actually legitimate basking behavior.
As we have mentioned earlier, basking is something that should be done as a way of life for that specific animal. In the case of the leopard gecko, basking is not part of their nature.
The biggest hindrance to this basking behavior is the fact that they are crepuscular. This means that they are inactive during the day and they are more active during twilight (after sunset and before sunrise).
So since leopard geckos are crepuscular, even if they are not held in captivity, it is unusual for leopard geckos to bask under the sun in the wild as they are sleeping in their hides during the day.
If this is the case, then why is it they sometimes come out to stay under the light or go to their basking spot if they have one?
The answer is simple, just like other lizards, they also benefit from UVA, UVB, and Vitamin D. However, leopard geckos, base their current body condition on whether they need to be exposed to light and heat. They do not need to bask to survive.
In short, you can think of it as your leo choosing to go out to the light or just staying in the warm side of the enclosure. When they do so, it may be seen as basking for a lack of a better term.
Remember, actual basking is essential, in the case of your leo it is just their option.
So how do they come up with that decision to “bask?” It can be the following:
- Need for UVA – improve eyesight
- Need for UVB – regulate metabolism
- Vitamin D – proper formation of bones during synthesis with Calcium
If this is still a bit confusing to you, you can refer to this research done by herpetologists. In this study, they discussed how leos benefit from proper lighting (especially UVB lighting) even though they do not display real basking behavior.
Just laying in the “sun” even though they don’t really need it like other reptiles, is also called pseudo basking.
What is essential to your leos is the proper use of lighting to provide a day and night cycle. The same goes for the heating and humidity requirements in their enclosure.
Proper Lighting Is Important Even If Leopard Geckos Do Not Bask
You might be getting sick of reading this day and night cycle, but we cannot stress enough the importance of having proper lighting in order to achieve this.
Not only does a day and night cycle will help in regulating and stimulating your leo’s appetite, but it is also good for its mental health.
Most experienced reptile husbandry specialists recommend that there should be a provision of light 14 hours a day during summer.
In order to simulate the change of season, the amount of light provided should be reduced to 12 hours a day during the cold months.
Here are suggested UVB lighting options that can be used for the basking area based on the morph of your leopard gecko:
We recommend using this UVB lamp and installing it with the following distance to the tank’s floor:
- Normal morph or highly-pigmented leopard geckos: Lamps with UV index: 0.5-1.5 – Distance: 14 inch.
- Albino morph or less pigmented leopard geckos: Lamps with UV index: 0.5-0.7 – Distance: 16 inch.
Pro-tip: Red or black lights are not needed for providing heat at night. This can interfere with your leo’s day and night cycle. The use of blue lights can potentially damage their eyes.
Keep in mind that the lights influence the temperature of the enclosure. Therefore, you should adjust them accordingly based on the time of the day.
During the day, it is optimal to keep temperatures at 86 °F (28 and 30 °C) in the warm area. As for the cold area, it should be 78 °F (24 to 26 °C).
So Do Leopard Geckos Need A Basking Spot?
Leopard gecko tanks should have a basking spot, not for basking but to create the correct temperature and a day and night cycle for the gecko. Substrate and stones in the enclosure will absorb the warmth and heat up the environment during the night just like in the natural habitat of leopard geckos.
Yes, you can also do this with a heat mat but a heat mat does not produce any light. For the most natural environment, a heat lamp combined with caves built with stones will be best, which does not mean that heat mats shouldn’t be used if needed.
Leopard geckos do pseudo basking behavior based on the current condition of their bodies. If they feel like they need to amp up their metabolism, they will choose to go to the warmer side of the enclosure or stay in a basking area.
The same goes for staying in their hides when they feel like they do not need extra heat or light.
You may still call this behavior as basking as there is really no other term for it, but the important thing to remember is the proper regulation of heat and humidity.
Without these two factors, your leo may encounter problems in development, shedding, metabolism, or even the development of illnesses. No amount of pseudo basking can make up for that.