Leopard Gecko Lighting Requirements

When it comes to Leopard Gecko’s lighting, there are lots of opinions and it can even be considered a controversial issue, especially when it comes to UVB lighting. This is because some owners claim that these reptiles are nocturnal and can live without UVB light just fine, which is not true.

Leopard Gecko
Source: Christian von Faber-Castell

Leopard Geckos are not nocturnal, they are diurnal lizards. This means that they’re not active only during the night. Instead, they’re active during dusk and dawn. This gives them plenty of chance to get all the exposure to UVB rays they need.

These Geckos are active between 12 and 14 hours a day and they need a constant day and night cycle to be able to live a healthy and happy life. Otherwise, they can get stressed out and become less and less friendly.

In this article, we’ll talk about the lighting requirements of Leopard Geckos and the risks.

Leopard Gecko Lighting Requirements

Leopard Geckos are the most popular types of pet lizards in the world as they’re very docile and easy to tame. They’re also often referred to as “Leos” and they make great pets for both adults and children. This is why it’s a bit shocking that there are so many owners completely unaware of their lighting requirements.

Despite the popular beliefs that Leos are nocturnal, not demanding when it comes to light, and that they don’t need any UVB light, they still have various requirements to remain healthy. So let’s take a moment to get to know a Leos’ lighting requirements a little better.

First of all, Leos are diurnal creatures, not nocturnal. This means that while they do spend a lot of time awake at night, that’s not where their activity begins or ends. Unlike lizards that are only awake at night, Leos are active during dusk and dawn.

This is why they need a particular pattern of dark and light hours that can help mimic their natural habitat. During summer, you’ll need to provide 14 hours of daytime and 10 hours of nighttime, while during winter they need 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of nighttime.

You can set the light manually but it will be a lot of work and you should never forget to do it as that will stress your gecko. However, you can invest in an automatic timer that maintains its natural day and night cycle without any effort on your part.

Leos will also use the lighting in their vivarium as a heat source. More than that, while they rarely bask, they still need UVB light to synthesize vitamin D3. Which is a very important vitamin for your gecko.

Setting Up Lights for a Leopard Gecko

It’s important to have the vivarium already set up when you’re Leo or Leos arrive. And the lighting system is just as important as their food and water. You have two very easy-to-set options available, one is a 5-element setup while the second is a 4-element setup.

A 5-element setup includes everything your Leo needs and it’s very easy to use by anyone. The first thing you’ll need an incandescent heat lamp. This will serve as daylight for your gecko and will let it know exactly when day and night is.

Another thing you might need is a red, blue, or black night light. This is a completely optional choice as its purpose is to help you watch your geckos at night. Turning a bright light on to observe your Leo will scare it off and force it to hide. These lights are specifically designed to allow you to watch them without disturbing them.

The third thing your gecko will need is the UVB light. You should consider a T5 or T8 5-6% UVB bulb. This is a lot less than the sun provides which will ensure the safety of your Leo while it’s basking and avoiding sunburns. If you have an albino lizard, you should always opt for a 2-3% UVB bulb.

Your Leo will need to get warmed up during the night as well, although the temperature can be a little lower than during the day. This is why you’ll need to get a ceramic bulb as they do great at heating a vivarium. And if the tank is way too small, opt for a heating pad. They’re just as effective.

And the fifth thing that any Leo owner should have is a thermostat and a timer. The thermostat will help you ensure the temperature remains constant and your Leo will never be too hot or too cold. And the timer can help you set the day and night cycle while also starting and stopping the heating source.

The 4-element setup is not very different. You will need a full spectrum UVA + UVB daylight. This will offer your Leo both the daylight it needs and the vitamin D3. And you’ll also need a ceramic bulb or heating pad that can provide 24h heating.

The red, blue, or black night light is also optional for watching your pets. And the fourth thing you’ll need is a thermostat and a timer that can help you control the setup.

Vitamin D3 and Lighting, Is Supplementation Still Needed?

There’s an ongoing war between “Leos need UVB lighting” and “Leos only need vitamin D3 supplements”. This can be very confusing for first-time Leo owners and might even lead some people to make some dangerous decisions that can be very harmful to their Leos. This includes using both methods “just to be sure”.

You should always pick a side and never use both methods as it can easily lead to an overdose of vitamin D3 and harm the gecko. These vitamins are very important for your Leos. But you need to be careful about how much they get.

If Leos don’t have the needed vitamin D3, they can develop metabolic bone disorder. And sadly, this disorder has been seen a lot in captivity because some owners tend to neglect their geckos when they’re in a hurry. Leos that are in the care of children often suffer the same fate as well.

When it comes to the over-supplementation of vitamin D3, they also develop an equally terrible hypervitaminosis-D. This is because a Leo’s body isn’t evolved enough to efficiently deal with any dietary excess, especially since natural Leo foods in the wild almost never contain toxic levels of vitamin D3.

What Is The Best Type Of Day Light For Leopard Geckos?

There are various ways you can create the daytime for your Leo. Years ago, the light was also primarily considered a Leo’s heating lamp. And barely offering them a daytime heat lamp for a few hours a day was considered to be enough.

But today we know a lot more about these beautiful creatures, including their exact lighting needs and how to achieve them. Now you can choose between incandescent daylight bulbs or full spectrum daylight bulbs. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

The incandescent daylight bulbs are tungsten or halogen and can do a very good job as a primary light and heat source. These are great if you’re using a UVB light bulb. The incandescent bulbs emit yellow and red parts of the spectrum, which helps complement the UVB light very well.

Typically, home incandescent bulbs of proper wattage will easily get the job done. But you can also find fancier models that use neodymium glass that can produce a brighter and whiter light. This is because it emits at wavelengths from 400nm to 700nm for visual light, while the UVA rays usually find themselves from 315nm to 400nm.

You can also choose the full spectrum daylight bulbs. They’re different than incandescent bulbs as they emit both UVA and low amounts of UVB light. And a reduced amount of UVB light can be perfect for undemanding reptiles, such as the Leo.

Some models offer around 30% UVA and 5% UVB light, while the fluorescent bulb can emit a meager amount of heat. You should not use them as heat lamps because of that. It’s recommended to combine it with an under tank heater or another heat bulb, be it colored or ceramic.

Do Leopard Geckos Need Red Light at Night?

Let’s also talk about a type of vivarium light that is not made to help the Leo, but to help the owner. These are the night lights designed for diurnal and nocturnal lizard vivariums and can allow the owner to see inside the tank and observe their Leo.

Since it’s not there to simulate daylight, these bulbs need to make the vivarium visible without stressing out the Leo. This is very easily done by using a bulb that acts as a fake moonlight with various other features. These night lights will also provide heat.

The three most popular types of night lights available are the red lights, blue lights, and black lights. They might be different but their jobs are the same. They must add discrete light in the part of the spectrum that reptiles are widely believed not to use.

The perfect gecko night light will offer just enough light to clearly see your Leos, while also not disturbing the Leo’s sleep or casual activities. More often than not, the red light is used to check on the small pets inside a vivarium.

Some people believe that ferrets don’t see red lights, which is not true. They can’t see the actual color but they can see the light, similar to colorblind people

When Do Leopard Geckos Need Light? – When to Switch The Lights On

As mentioned before, these creatures are most active during dusk and during dawn. But since they can adapt their sleeping habits pretty easily to a nocturnal sleeping schedule, you can turn the daylight bulbs on after dusk and turn them down before dawn.

When it comes to summer and winter, you will have to adjust them to the proper season as well. This means that if it’s summer, you’ll have to offer your ferret 14 hours of light and 10 hours of night. And when it’s winter, your ferret should have 12 hours of light and 12 hours of night.

This can be a little tricky as you’ll need to make a very smooth transition from summer to winter and the other way around. You’ll need to gradually increase or decrease the intervals for around 15-30 minutes per week and between 4 and 8 weeks.

Whatever you do, avoid using natural window light for your Leo. That’s because the heat within the vivarium needs to be continuously measured by the thermostat that can automatically turn the heater on or off. But the sun is very unpredictable and can harm and even cause sunburns to your gecko. This is because it gets the cage much hotter than it was at the beginning.

The Best Heat Lamp For Leopard Gecko

Ceramic bulbs are pretty great at heating up your Leo’s habitat for 24 hours. But you can also opt for a heating pad that will make basking easier. Leos might not be known to bask all the time like other geckos tend to do, but they can still enjoy the warmth from time to time.

If you want to use different types of lamps for different parts of the day, you can count on an incandescent heat lamp to act as both daylight and heating source. They’re much better than full spectrum daylight bulbs when it comes to heating. Then you can use a ceramic bulb or heating pad for nighttime heating.

Despite their popularity, red heat lamps are not good for your Leo’s eyes. In their natural habitat, they tend to absorb belly heat from the terrain. This is why a heating pad is the best choice when it comes to Leopard Geckos.

All vivarium must have a hot, warm, and cold area so your Leo can choose where it wants to go. Provide a temperature between 75 and 80F on the cool side, between 80 and 85 on the warm side, and between 90 and 95F on the basking area (hot side).