Have you ever noticed your leopard gecko slowing down and becoming less active during the colder months? It’s possible that your gecko is entering a state of hibernation, also known as brumation.
This is normal gecko behavior, but you should know a few important facts to make sure you can take proper care of your pet during this time!
Let’s start with some basics.
What is Hibernation?
Hibernation is a natural process that allows animals to conserve energy during times of scarce resources, such as food or warmth. It’s different from other forms of sleep or torpor in that it is a longer, deeper state of inactivity, and the animal’s body functions slow down significantly.
Hibernation is a way for them to survive harsh winter conditions or periods of drought. It helps them conserve energy and resources, as their metabolism slows down and they don’t need to eat or drink as much.
It’s important to know that pet leopard geckos do not need to hibernate! If you keep the temperature and environment stable, your gecko will not enter a state of brumation, and that’s fine.
Leopard geckos, as reptiles, are ectothermic, meaning that they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature and metabolism. This means that they are more likely to exhibit periods of torpor or brumation, especially in response to changes in temperature or day length.
So, if you notice your leopard gecko becoming less active and spending more time hiding, it’s possible that it is entering a period of brumation. But don’t worry, this is a natural and healthy process for leopard geckos, as long as it is properly managed. In the next section, we’ll take a closer look at the natural hibernation habits of leopard geckos in the wild.
Why do leopard geckos hibernate?
In the wild, leopard geckos are native to arid regions of Asia, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. These areas experience significant differences in temperature across different seasons. Over time, leopard geckos have evolved to adjust to these fluctuations through behaviors such as hibernation/brumation.
During the colder months, leopard geckos in the wild may become less active, eat less, and lose weight as they prepare for hibernation. They may also burrow underground or find shelter in crevices to escape and survive the cold months ahead.
Hibernation can be risky for leopard geckos, and it’s important to be prepared for potential complications. Luckily, your pet gecko has you taking care of them, so you can prepare your gecko for this process, and create a controlled, safe environment for this phase of brumation!
In the next section, we’ll take a closer look at how to support and manage your leopard gecko’s hibernation period!
Hibernation in Pet Leopard Geckos
Hibernation can be risky for leopard geckos, as it puts their bodies under a lot of stress and can lead to complications if not properly managed. Some of the potential risks and complications of leopard gecko hibernation include dehydration, malnutrition, and respiratory problems.
For this reason, it’s always best to have a check-in with a vet and make sure your leopard gecko is healthy before beginning brumation, and following the advice of your reptile vet.
Also, make sure that you understand the process – it’s not necessary to go through hibernation with your leopard gecko, and can create unnecessary stress and risk if done improperly.
To induce brumation in your leopard gecko, follow these steps:
Gradually reduce your gecko’s food intake. As your gecko prepares for brumation, it will naturally eat less and lose weight. Gradually reducing its food intake can help it transition into the brumation state more smoothly.
From the middle until the end of November, you should completely stop giving your leopard gecko food, so it can clean out its digestive tract. Any food left in its body could otherwise rot during brumation!
Gradually reduce the temperature of the enclosure to mimic the cooler conditions that would trigger brumation in the wild. This should happen at the beginning of December. Observe the temperature in the enclosure regularly during this time.
Leopard geckos are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature and metabolism. Lowering the temperature in the tank mimics the onset of winter in the wild.
Between early and mid of December, the temperature in your gecko’s tank should reach 60-72°F (16-22°C). Continue to maintain a day-night cycle with temperatures dropping during nighttime (never below 60°F) and reaching their peak during daytime (not above 72°F). However, keep all light sources in/one the tank off during brumation. (1)
Provide plenty of hiding spots and a humid environment. Leopard geckos may burrow or seek shelter during brumation, and it’s important to provide plenty of hides and caves for them to do so. A humid environment can also help prevent dehydration during the brumation period. However, don’t increase humidity too much! Keep monitoring the air humidity levels and keep them around 30-40% as normal.
Once the hibernation phase reaches its end, usually at the beginning of March, it’s time to slowly start waking up your leopard gecko again!
Start by slowly increasing the temperatures in your gecko’s tank to normal levels over a two-week period. Stick to normal day-night rhythms and simply adjust the settings on your thermostats during this time. This should be easy if you have a good temperature management setup.
After this two-week period, start offering food following a regular leopard gecko feeding schedule.
In conclusion, brumation is a natural and important process for leopard geckos, and as a responsible owner, it’s important to understand how to properly induce and manage it. Don’t forget, it’s not necessary to induce brumation in your leopard gecko, but if you do it, it’s best to pay very close attention to your pet in this time to make sure they are healthy. It’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian if you have any concerns.