One of the more complicated topics while setting up a new enclosure is the right temperature for your Leopard Gecko. A good climate in the gecko tank is important and should be carefully managed – but if done well, this requires minimal effort.
The right Leopard Gecko temperature setting is about 90-92°F on the warm side, and 70-77°F on the cool side of the tank.
In this article, you’ll learn how to create a hot zone and a cool zone, a basking spot, the right heat sources, and how to set it all up.
Leopard Gecko Temperature Requirements
Since Leopard Gecko are cold-blooded, they need to absorb heat from their environment – the sun (at dusk or dawn), and rocks that have retained heat. In short: they also need to be able to self-regulate their body temperature.
Unless you know exactly what temperature your pet needs at any given hour, you cannot provide the right temperature. The solution is to provide a “gradient” of warmth in the tank, so that the gecko can choose the amount of heat it needs at any time. Most of your Leopard Gecko’s temperature problems can be solved this way.
More on these different zones in a moment.
During the day, your Leopard Gecko should likes temperatures around 90-92°F (32-33°C). Especially for warming up, this is a great temperature to have on one side in the tank. Without enough heat, Leopard Geckos struggle with digestion, and over time, develop more issues. So you should make sure to provide these temperatures – not hotter, but also not much cooler.
At night, the temperatures naturally drop. Healthy nighttime temperatures for Leopard Geckos are around 67°-74° (19°-23°C). This can be achieved easily if your room naturally cools down at night, affecting the gecko tank as well. Having a light and heat emitting lamp that turns off at night also tends to create a natural drop in heat overnight.
The absolute minimum should be 60°F (16°C) – but ideally, it never gets this cold. For a gecko, this is essentially freezing cold.
In Summer, daytime should be 14 hours long, but only 12 hours long in Winter. In Spring and Fall, decrease or increase scheduled daytime (how long the lights are on in the tank) by about 15-30 minutes every week.
In practice, this could like like this:
Summer: 8am – 10pm = 14h daytime (lights on)
Winter: 9am – 9pm = 12h daytime
In addition to the overall temperature, it’s a good idea to have a Leopard Gecko basking spot in the tank. The difference to other basking spots is that Leopard Geckos technically don’t bask like other reptiles do. As they are naturally only active during twilight, they don’t like to sit in direct sunlight (or under bright lamps in captivity).
However, Leopard Geckos bask near a heat source to warm up when needed. For this reason, providing one spot with higher-than-usual temperature for a quick warm-up is a good choice when setting up the tank. This happens almost automatically if you have a heat-emitting lamp on the warm side above your heat pad – the spot directly below it will usually be the hottest spot in the tank.
This basking spot should be a little warmer than your usual hot zone, or about 94-97°F (34-36°C) – but not more than that, or your Leopard Gecko might get burned!
Use an infrared thermometer gun for measuring this basking spot. That’s the only way to make sure the temperature on the surface is correct.
To give your gecko the ability to self-regulate, you will need to set up at least two zones in their tank:
A hot zone at 90-92°F (32-33°C) and
A cool zone at 70°-77°F (21°-25°C).
As mentioned above, these temperatures should drop a bit at night, but the hot zone should still be warmer than the cool zone – both can drop by about 3-5°F (2-3°C), for example.
You should also provide hiding spots for your Leopard Gecko to rest and sleep in – at least one of these should be on the cool side, which is roughly at nighttime temperature. Another should be in the warm zone. This way, the gecko can choose whatever temperature is right for them at any time.
As also mentioned above, setting up a dedicated basking spot in the hot zone is a good idea. However, this should not be a rock, like other reptiles enjoy. Leopard Geckos prefer to stay hidden from predators while basking, so make sure to provide some cover.
This basking spot can be close to the middle of the heat pad, if you use one. If you also use a heat-emitting lamp above the heat pad, beneath it will most likely be the hottest spot in your reptile enclosure. This makes for a perfect basking spot and should be set up for it.
Choosing the right enclosure for your leopard gecko is important, because you will not be able to manage temperature properly in a small tank while still offering all the necessary elements!
Heat Sources Explained
To control the temperature in your Leopard Gecko’s tank, you will need at least one, but likely two or three differnt heat sources. This might seem excessive at first, but in the next section, we’ll go over exactly how to control and manage temperature in your gecko’s tank, and it will all make sense.
There are three main heat sources for terrariums: ceramic heat lamps, incandescent lamps, and heat pads.
Ceramic Heat Lamps
Ceramic heat lamps don’t give off any light. They are used for increasing the air temperature in the tank.
Incandescent Light Bulbs
Incandescent light bulbs give off both heat and light. Great for basking spots and daytime heating.
Heat pads are usually stuck to the bottom of the tank (outside), providing constant warmth on one side of the tank all day and night.
Ceramic heat lamps
Ceramic heat lamps or ceramic heat bulbs are great for nighttime heating, as they do not give off any light. That’s why they can be used 24/7 to keep the tank at appropriate temperatures. However, they should also be connected to thermostats. This way, you don’t have to worry about checking temperatures frequently. Instead, they will turn on and off as needed.
Depending on your setup, you can use one or two in your tank, but might not need one at all. With a heat mat on one side, and two daylight lamps, your tank setup can be complete – but if it cools down too much at night, a ceramic heat bulb is often the perfect solution. Learn more about heat lamps here.
Here’s our hand-picked and carefully reviewed recommendation:
Incandescent light bulbs
For daylight lighting and UVB access, incandescent light bulbs are ideal. “Incandescent” simply means that they use heat to generate light – like traditional lightbulbs. (as opposed to LED lamps, for example, which work differently)
Since they provide heat, they also create a bit of a temperature drop at night when they are turned off, which is good. If you rely on these too much, though, the temperature drop at night may be too strong.
When buying one, make sure to check the wattage and heat carefully. Other popular reptiles like Bearded Dragons need higher basking temperatures, which is why many “reptile light bulbs” are too hot for Leopard Geckos. Read the details and instructions on the packaging regarding temperature and installation distance!
Generally, these are placed above the tank in a fixture. That way, you can adjust the heat that reaches the ground by increasing the distance.
Here’s our hand-picked and carefully reviewed recommendation:
A heat mat below the tank (often called under-tank-heater) is a great source of ambient heat, and is commonly used as the main tool for creating the hot zone. Since it only heats up one side, the temperature then naturally falls off towards the other side of the tank, creating the gradient we want.
Choose a heat pad that is roughly a third of the size of your tank. Install it on the very right or left side, controlled by a thermostat with a probe above the substrate, and you’re halfway done with your temperature setup. Also make sure to put some distance between the heat mat and the surface of the furniture you place the tank on. At least a 1/2 inch is recommended, otherwise there is not enough air flow and the pad itself can overheat and get damaged. Also, the constant heat WILL leave a burn mark on wooden surfaces over time.
This heat pad should be connected to and controlled by a thermostat at all times to prevent overheating and automatically keep the temperature in the correct range. Light-emitting lamps should not be turned off when it gets too hot, as light sources need to be constant (like the sun) throughout the day.
That’s why heat pads and ceramic heat lamps are best for adjusting temperatures with a thermostat.
Place heat-retaining substrate or objects above the mat to provide a cozy warming spot for your gecko. Learn more about these heat mats here.
Here’s our hand-picked and carefully reviewed recommendation:
Controlling & Managing Temperature
To control your Leopard Gecko’s tank temperatures, you have multiple options: Thermostats can automatically manage one or multiple heat sources, some heat sources should be on a timer, while others can be adjusted manually using thermometers and thermometer guns.
Let’s go through all options one-by-one. Keep in mind that you should not choose one of them, but use them all in combination!
Regulating temperature with a thermostat
The thermostat is the most important tool in your gecko’s enclosure. At least one heat source should be connected to a thermostat – usually the main heat source for the hot zone, often the heating pad. This way, the thermostat regulates one side of the tank and keeps it at the right temperature day and night, keeps your gecko safe, and prevents overheating.
Depending on the brand or model you purchase, a good thermostat can automatically regulate temperature differently at day versus at night. This makes thermostats ideal for both heat mats and ceramic heat lamps.
This ReptiZoo Thermostat is great because it combines all important features in one device:
This digital thermometer set includes a thermostat and a timer function, which you can use to control all heat and light sources.
Using Timers for Temperature & Light
Timers are mainly used for lights to automatically shut them off during night time. Usually, all you have to do is set the beginning and end of the day, and the lights will be shut off outside of these times.
This is the ideal setup for any light you have in your gecko tank.
The light should not be connected to a thermostat, even if it does give off heat, since it should be active throughout the entire day – not flicker on and off every few minutes. (However, you can connect it to a thermostat if you are worried about overheating – but only as a safety measure. Set the temperature outside of the normal range, so that the main heating devices are doing the regulating.)
Zilla’s timer is a great option with all the features you need:
How to use thermometers
In addition to thermostats, two thermometers should be installed in your gecko’s tank as well: One on each side. This way, you can quickly check the temperature in the hot and cool zones, and if they are within the normal range. Ideally, you buy thermometers that also shows humidity (instead of a separate Hygrometer). A combo device means you don’t need another little meter in your tank. You will need to keep track of humidity in your gecko’s tank just like you need to watch the temperature.
These thermometers should be pretty small and high up in the tank, unreachable by your gecko.
Thermometers don’t control anything, but help you make sure that everything is in order at once glance.
This ReptiZoo 2-pack is a great buy – simple to install, and does exactly what you need it to:
When & how to use an infrared thermometer gun
Just like thermometers, an infrared thermometer gun is another tool to check temperatures in the tank – but more accurately. While a thermometer will tell you the overall temperature, the thermometer gun can be pointed at any place in the tank and give you a heat reading. This makes it perfect for checking various spots – like basking spots, or any area that your gecko either enjoys sitting in or avoids completely.
Use infrared thermometer guns to check “hot spots” and make sure that no place in the tank is too hot for your gecko. This is a great tool to use once the setup is complete to make adjustments as needed.
Etekcity makes some great digital thermometer guns for a very reasonable price:
Complete Setup Shopping Guide
The exact items you need depend on too many factors to simply give you a shopping list with links to buy. However, a buying guide like this will hopefully help while putting together your own setup. Keep in mind that you may likely have to change or replace elements – unless you’re experienced in setting up reptile tanks, you will most likely not get it all right on the first try because of all the variables.
Factors & Variables
Your setup will have to be put together considering:
Regular room temperature. In warm climates, less heating will be required. Similarly, if room temperatures change a lot between winter and summer, you might need extra heat in winter or less in summer. Check temperatures with thermometers and thermometer guns from time to time.
Tank size. A larger tank will need more heat sources than a small one. The height and material also make a difference.
Substrate. Some substrates retain heat better than others. This can affect especially basking spots and heat mats.
Leopard Gecko morph. Albino morphs are more sensitive to UVB light and need a lamp with lower UVB output. If you are not using a UVB-emitting lamp at all, that can also change the setup.
At the very least, you will likely need:
- One reptile heat pad, controlled by a thermostat.
- A daylight lamp, controlled by a timer.
- 2x Thermometers (one on each side)
- Infrared thermometer gun
With all this, you have light during the day, but not at night, and a heating device that can adjust the temperature automatically with the thermostat.
Additionally, the thermometers (buy ones that also show humidity) show you at-a-glance if everything seems to be okay. The thermometer gun is needed to check the various spots in the tank: mainly basking spot temperature, and temperature in hiding spots.
Expanding the setup
If you notice that the temperature is a bit low, adding one or two ceramic heat lamps should be your first choice. Don’t forget to plug those into their own thermostat and/or timer.
A humidifier may be necessary if the tank’s humidity is low and other methods to raise it didn’t help.
Some people also install a special night light, often a dark red light that is not disruptive to the Leopard Gecko’s sense of time. This light can be turned on temporarily to check on your gecko without turning on a “real” light.
There is intentionally no section on humidity on this page, as that deserves its own dedicated guide.
The key facts are the following: Your Leopard Gecko needs between 30-40% humidity, but also a “humid hide”, a humid cave with around 80% humidity. This is necessary for shedding.
Most reptile thermometers have built-in Hygrometers, which measure the humidity levels in the air. Definitely choose such a thermometer.
For more information, click here and read our full guide on managing humidity for Leopard Geckos.
What temperature is too cold for a Leopard Gecko?
At night, Leopard Geckos can handle temperatures down to about 60°F (16°C), but this should be the exception. Try to keep the temperature over 67°F (19°C), even at night.
Is 95 Degrees to hot for a leopard gecko?
For a basking spot, 95°F (35°C) is just right, but this temperature is too hot for a Leopard Gecko long-term. The hot side of the tank should not be warmer than 92°F (33°C), and the gecko should be able to move into cooler zones easily if it gets hot. Even for basking spots, more than 95°F can be harmful to your gecko and should be avoided.
Do Leopard Geckos need heat 24/7?
Leopard Geckos should have a heat source available 24/7 in case they get too cold. However, if enough heat is retained to keep one side of the tank warm at night (over 85°F/29°C), no active heating is needed. Use a thermostat to automatically keep the right temperatures in the gecko’s tank.
Do you turn off the gecko heat lamp at night?
At night, Leopard Geckos need a slight drop in temperature, which can be achieved by turning off a heat lamp. If you do this, it must happen on an automated timer to keep temperature changes consistent and prevent forgetting. However, you need to monitor the actual temperature in the tank and keep at least one heat source (like a heat mat) active on a thermostat to prevent the tank from cooling down too much.
How long do you leave a heat lamp on for a leopard gecko?
A heat lamp without light can be left on all day and night, while light-emitting lamps need to be turned off at night. During summer, that is 14 hours of light, reduced to 12 hours in Winter. However, heat lamps without light should mainly be turned on and off as needed, controlled by a thermostat.
How hot should a heating pad be for a Leopard Gecko?
The temperature of a heating pad will usually be between 90-100°F, but since it’s installed outside of the tank, the exact temperature doesn’t matter too much. What’s important is that the heating pad should heat up the tank to around 90°F (32°C) on the side where the heat mat is placed. Use a thermostat to automatically turn the heater on and off as needed to maintain this temperature.
The surface area in the tank directly above the heat mat should not exceed 92°F (33°C), except for the basking spot. You can measure these temperatures by pointing an infrared thermometer gun at the substrate above the heat mat.
Should I turn my Leopard Gecko’s heat mat off at night?
You should not manually turn on or off the heat mat at night – it should be managed by a thermostat instead. The temperatures should drop a bit at night, but this should also be managed with a thermostat.
If you use multiple non-light heat sources, such as a heating pad and a ceramic heat lamp, you can put one on a thermostat, and the other on a timer to turn it off completely at night. However, you should always have an active heat source ready to turn automatically on at any time if the temperatures drop too far.
If you turn any of the heat sources off or on manually, you risk forgetting it and exposing your Leopard Gecko to excessive heat or cold.