Leopard geckos are a popular type of pet reptile known for their docile nature and striking appearance. One aspect of caring for a leopard gecko that is often overlooked is shedding. Shedding is the process when your leopard gecko sheds their old, worn-out skin to make room for new growth.
It is an essential part of the gecko’s natural development and should be carefully monitored to ensure the health and well-being of your pet. Now let’s look at this process in more detail and go through what you need to do!
How Leopard Geckos Shed
The process of shedding in leopard geckos begins with the separation of the old skin from the new skin underneath. This is typically signaled by a change in the color or texture of the skin.
A leopard gecko will appear more white than usual, as the old skin is pushed out a little bit to make way for a tiny layer of moisture between the old skin and the new skin beneath it.
That’s also why it’s important that the gecko has a humid hide in the enclosure: Shedding needs a very humid environment to go smoothly. More on that in a bit.
The gecko might rub against rough surfaces in its enclosure to help remove the old skin.
Leopard geckos shed relatively frequently, especially when they are young and growing rapidly. As they age, the shedding process slows down. Adult leopard geckos typically shed every few months, while young geckos may shed as often as once a month.
Factors that Can Affect Shedding
There are a few factors that can affect the shedding process in leopard geckos. One of the most important is hydration.
Hydration & Humidity
If a gecko is not properly hydrated, its skin may not shed properly and could become stuck, leading to potential health issues. It is important to make sure your gecko has access to clean water at all times. Make sure that the humidity levels are appropriate and mist the enclosure regularly if necessary. 30-40% humidity is ideal for leopard geckos.
Keep in mind that leopard geckos get most of their hydration from their food and environment – they barely need to drink. So they may be badly hydrated despite unlimited access to drinking water!
To solve this, a “humid hide” is necessary – a cave-like hiding place that has the right kind of moss in it. The moss captures and retains moisture, which makes the inside of the cave very moist – around 80% humidity is ideal.
However, don’t raise the entire tank’s humidity, as this will cause many health issues – your gecko needs to be able to choose when they need the humidity.
Another factor that can affect shedding is the temperature of the enclosure. Leopard geckos need a warm, humid environment to shed properly. If the enclosure is too dry and offers no humid hide, the skin may become stuck. Such a dry environment often comes from excessive heat sources in the tank!
On the other side, an enclosure that’s too cool will also cause issues – so make sure that your tank setup is just right! (one thermometer/hygrometer combo on each side of the tank is recommended to observe temperature and humidity levels at all times)
Signs that your Leopard Gecko is About to Shed
There are a few signs that you can look for to determine if your leopard gecko is about to shed. One of the most obvious is a change in behavior. Your gecko may become more lethargic and inactive, and may not be as interested in eating. This is normal, as they focus their energy on the process of shedding.
You may also notice a change in the appearance of your gecko’s skin. The skin may become duller in color and may appear wrinkled or loose. These are all signs that your gecko is preparing to shed.
Leopard geckos often start to disappear into their humid hide for hours at a time, possibly even for 1-2 days. The whole shed can take 1-3 days, sometimes more, so don’t be alarmed by this.
However, it’s good to check in once in a while to see if the shed is progressing well, and if there’s anything you need to help with.
How to Assist with Shedding
It is usually not necessary to assist with shedding, but there are a few steps you can take to make the process go more smoothly for your gecko. It’s generally best to offer your gecko a great environment to safely shed in, but don’t interfere with the process.
One thing you can do is set up a humid hide. This should be done as soon as you first get your gecko, and should always be well-maintained. Your gecko will use it on its own if it is set up well.
Another important aid is having enough varied decoration in the tank – from rocks to wood or bark, your leopard gecko will want to rub against things to remove the old skin.
If you notice that they simply cannot get rid of parts of their skin, often around their legs/feet, there are a few things you can do:
- A warm bath: This can help the old skin get loose and go off more easily.
- Shedding aids: these are ingredients like aloe, jojoba oil, and vitamin E that are usually sprayed directly onto the gecko to soften the old skin and make it go off easier.
- Soft, soaked Q-tips: you can very carefully help pieces of old skin come off with a q-tip soaked in warm water. However, it’s best to use this as a last resort and only if you know what you’re doing.
If any problems occur that you see your pet struggling with, it’s usually best to take your leopard gecko to a reptile vet. They will be able to tell if you should interfere in the shedding process and show you exactly what to do. This is safer than following a guide on the internet without a proper diagnosis.
In conclusion, leopard geckos usually shed on their own without assistance. However, it is important to provide a warm and humid environment with varied decorations for them to rub against as well as a humid hide which can help make the process easier. If any problems occur or you see your pet struggling during shedding, it’s best to take your leopard gecko to a reptile vet for advice and guidance. By following these tips and keeping an eye out for signs that they are about to shed, you will be able to ensure that your leopard gecko has safe and successful sheds every time!
Do leopard geckos eat their own skin?
It is not uncommon for leopard geckos to eat their shed skin, as it is a good source of nutrients. Especially calcium, which is often rare in the wild, can be “recycled” this way.
How often do leopard geckos shed?
As babies (0-6 months), leopard geckos shed every 1-2 weeks. After that, as juveniles, they shed about every month. Once they are 1-2 years old, their shedding frequency goes down to about once every 1-2 months.