Leopard geckos are one of the most popular reptiles kept as pets. They are relatively easy to care for and have a wide range of colors and patterns to choose from. They are often seen sitting under a lamp, seemingly basking – even though they naturally shy away from sunlight. So do they really bask, and if so, why?
Why do Leopard Geckos sometimes bask?
Leopard geckos are crepuscular lizards that are most active at twilight. However, on occasion, they may be seen basking in the sun during the day, or under a warm lamp in captivity. There are a few reasons why Leopard Geckos may bask during the day.
One reason is that basking helps them regulate their body temperature. Leopard geckos are cold-blooded animals, so they rely on external sources of heat to warm their bodies. This is why it’s critical to set up your Leopard Gecko heating system properly – otherwise, they can’t self-regulate, including basking.
Basking is an easy way for them to raise their body temperature. While many Leopard Gecko owners use heat mats, heat-emitting lamps are also very common. These provide great basking spots for the gecko to quickly regulate their body temperature.
Another reason why leopard geckos may bask is to help them absorb vitamin D from the light source. Vitamin D is important for leopard geckos because it helps them absorb calcium from their food. A lack of vitamin D can lead to health problems like metabolic bone disease. It should always be supplemented, but if the gecko needs more, it may be spending more time basking – if the lamp emits UVB light. (more on important Leopard Gecko Supplements)
Finally, it may not actually be basking, but simply sitting in a place close to the lamp, giving the impression of basking.
Do Leopard Geckos need UVB?
While there is a lot of debate, Leopard Geckos absolute can make use of UVB. (source study) However, with sufficient vitamin D supplementation, UVB is not necessary for these geckos. Providing it generally does no harm, though, assuming the light source covers only a part of the habitat and is turned off at night.
Should you provide a basking spot for Leopard Geckos?
Leopard geckos are active in twilight, so they do not bask in the sun like some other lizards. However, they do like to bask in warm spots to help them regulate their body temperature. If you provide a basking spot for your leopard gecko, make sure it is not too hot or too cold. The basking spot should be around 88-90 degrees Fahrenheit (31-32°C).
If you decide to create a Leopard Gecko basking spot, it should have three things: UVB light, heat, and a thermostat controlling it. You do not want the basking spot to get hotter than 90°F (32°C), as this can be harmful to your gecko. It should also not cover a large area and be easy to get out of – your gecko should be able to self-regulate their basking time.
This can be done with a heat lamp, but also a heat pad beneath the tank, providing warmth from below. Such a pad is a staple element in a Leopard Gecko enclosure – read more about how to setup a heat mat in our dedicated article.