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Why Is My Leopard Gecko Digging?

by Lucy

Leopard geckos make fantastic pets, and indeed, these creatures are among the most popular reptiles among first-time keepers. Now, it’s a fact that leopard geckos are easy to care for, fun to watch and observe, and very low-maintenance. However, certain behaviors are going to appear odd to many new pet parents.

It always helps to learn as much as you possibly can about your pet to prevent unnecessary stress and worry. One such perplexing behavior that your gecko may exhibit is digging.

So, why is your leopard gecko digging? There are many reasons why your gecko may be burrowing at the substrate inside their tank. They might be searching for food or simply bored. On the other hand, they may be digging to escape the prying eyes of potential predators or trying to escape the heat. 

So, without further ado, let’s delve deeper into the subject of leopard gecko digging and the reasons behind such peculiar practices. 

Why Do Leopard Geckos Dig?

Leopard geckos are insectivores that forage for food in the wild. Since these reptiles come from dry, desert regions, it makes sense that they have to dig deeper to find whatever insects they want to eat. 

Yes, your gecko may not have to forage for food as your pet, but you can’t take away a habit that has been built after centuries of evolution.

So, many leopard gecko enthusiasts recommend placing insects in a food bowl with a shallow layer of substrate such as sand with a moistened thin layer of soil to provide your pet with the feeling that they are hunting for their food.

Here’s a list of the various other reasons why you may find your pet burrowing inside their enclosure.

1. Temperature Regulation

Reptiles like leopard geckos have no internal mechanism through which they can regulate their body temperature.

While it is true that these creatures appreciate hot weather, sweltering weather can lead to overheating in their tiny bodies. So, these geckos look for cooler areas where they may go to beat the heat.

Most leopard gecko owners are recommended to keep multiple thermometers in the bottom of the tank to check the temperatures. There needs to be a warm side with a warm hide where your pet can go to warm themselves, but there is also a need for a cool side in the tank where they can cool off.

It would be best if you kept a cool hide in a gecko’s tank too. Moreover, you should keep a moist hide in your gecko’s tank as well to help them when they’re shedding.

2. Scavenging For Food

As mentioned earlier, leopard geckos forage for food. Their survival, as well as their well-being, depends upon their ability to hunt. This is what reptiles do: hunt, eat, and rest.

Technically, foraging for food and evading predators are the only two primary activities in their lives that provide mental stimulation. So, some leopard gecko owners even hide their food around their tank to provide their pet with an extra challenge.

3. Escaping The Light

Leopard geckos are solitary creatures that love to keep to their own most of the time. When your gecko is shedding, you’ll notice that they prefer to stay inside their hides for longer hours. Many times, you’ll see your gecko come out the moment you switch off the lights in the room where you keep their tank.

The simple reason for such odd manners is that leopard geckos appreciate cool, dark hiding places. The darkness provides the same sense of security that they feel when taking refuge under a tree trunk or rock in the wild.

Not to mention, leopard geckos are crepuscular, which means that they are most active during dusk and dawn and some parts of the night. You’ll often discover your pet digging away in their tank to create spaces that serve as the perfect hiding spots, away from the light.

4. Preparation For The Nesting Process

Female geckos lay their eggs under rocks or logs in the wild. So, if you find your female gecko digging incessantly in her tank, there’s a strong possibility that she is preparing to lay eggs. Your female gecko can lay eggs even without the presence of a male gecko, but such eggs are infertile. 

Before laying, she will dig a hole to provide a safe spot for her eggs.

Note: You can’t leave your gecko eggs in the same tank as the female. In the wild, the female moves on after laying her eggs. But, if she finds any eggs in her tank, then she will eat them, even if they are her own.

5. Shelter

Your gecko has a very fine-tuned survival instinct. If they feel threatened in any way, they will start to dig as deep and as fast as they possibly can to create a secure place to take refuge. 

It is common to find leopard geckos digging in new surroundings. When you’ve just brought home a new gecko, they aren’t accustomed to your presence or their new home. Therefore, it is likely that your pet will start digging various spots in their tank to use as a shelter, particularly if you haven’t provided enough hides for them.

6. Having Some Fun

It might be hard to believe, but you might find your gecko digging simply because it enjoys digging. Leopard geckos take a while to get used to new homes. But these are pretty friendly creatures. If your pet is used to you and their home, then they will make attempts to explore their territory and have some fun.

Providing terrarium plants, hides, basking areas, and other accessories will keep your pet mentally engaged. But, digging is an integral part of your gecko’s mental and physical wellbeing as well. So, if your gecko is bored, they’ll dig a little inside their enclosure to pass the time.

7. Confined Space

If your leopard gecko starts to burrow repeatedly, it is also possible that they are finding their home too confining. Small and confined areas that are too restricting create stress for reptiles. When under stress, they are likely to dig.

In an attempt to provide enough room for their pets to burrow and indulge in their favorite activity, pet parents sometimes add too much substrate in their enclosures.

So, if you know that the dimensions of your gecko’s vivarium are suitable, perhaps you are adding too much substrate or functionless decor in their enclosure, which may be causing them stress. All you need to do is remove some substrate or decorations to give them more room to move around.

Is It Bad For Your Leopard Gecko To Dig?

No, there is nothing wrong with your gecko digging. It’s perfectly normal gecko behavior. Many first-time pet parents feel that if they provide fewer hides or distractions, their pet will stop digging, but that is not the case.

Leopard geckos dig for many reasons, and while some causes are easily changeable with enough distraction. Sometimes your gecko digs because it is purely instinctual. And that isn’t something that you can either prevent or cure.

Just like cats and dogs need to scratch, your reptilian friend needs to dig. Now, excessive digging may indicate some persistent problems, but casual digging once in a while is a good sign of a healthy and happy leopard gecko.

Final Thoughts

Adopting a pet reptile, particularly one as unique as a leopard gecko, can be tons of fun. However, it does take a while for pet parents to understand their pet’s needs. So, it does go a long way toward creating a bond with your pet if you do some research about your gecko’s habitat and behavior. 

It is always helpful to remember that your pet will exhibit certain mannerisms that you may find strange. If your gecko is eating right and isn’t losing any weight, there is no reason to lose sleep over their antics. However, it’s never a bad idea to check with a local vet that deals with exotics if you feel that your pet isn’t doing too well.

Up Next: Can Leopard Geckos Swim?

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