Leopard Gecko Heating
Leopard Gecko Heating - Heat Gradients
Just about every leopard gecko enthusiast has heard or read the term "heat gradient" in the past. A heat gradient is when temperature zones are created within an enclosure that offer an array of varying temperate locations. This may not make complete sense to some, so I direct your attention to the image below.
In the example above, I have outline 5 different temperate zones. An enclosure should have at least 3 temperature zones within it. Larger enclosures can have many more. As the picture depicts, the further away you get from the primary heat source, the cooler the enclosure should get. At undetermined intervals, the amount of heat present in that area will be lower than where the primary heat source is focused. This creates a gradient of varying temperatures within the enclosure. In creating this gradient, you are offering your leopard gecko varying degrees of heat in which it can use to thermoregulate its body temperature.
Leopard Gecko Heating - Day Time Temperatures
Leopard geckos do well when their enclosures basking spot is between 87-90° during the day. (The basking spot for a leopard gecko is the location where the heat is directed. This is typically the warmest location in the enclosure.) These temperatures are more than adequate for digestion and thermoregulation. The ambient temperature of the enclosure should fall between 74-78°. The ambient temperature is the temperature of the air that is not located at the basking spot location. Ideally, you should have a heat gradient in which the temperatures decline to the suggest temperatures.
Leopard Gecko Heating - Night Time Temperatures
At night, temperatures can safely drop down to 68-74°. For most people, this falls within "room temperature" range. While leopard geckos can withstand cooler temperatures than this, unless you are using an under tank heater that never turns off, lower temperatures should be avoided.
Leopard Gecko Heating Devices
There are several methods for heating a leopard gecko enclosure. The most popular method is with the use of an under tank heater. (UTH) Under tank heaters physically adhere to the bottom of glass enclosures and generate a belly heat once plugged in. There are numerous under tank heaters available on the market. They come in a variety of sizes that are labeled for use with specific sized enclosures. ALL under tank heaters should be controlled with a thermostat, dimmer, rheostat, or other device that controls the amount of heat the unit is emitting. Failure to properly monitor and control the temperatures could result in burning, your enclosure cracking, and they can even become a fire hazard. Take caution to use the under tank heater exactly as instructed.
Another popular method for heating leopard geckos, particularly by those using rack systems or custom enclosures is with the use of heat tape or heat cable. These items typically require that the owner assembles them and then installs them for use. Like the under tank heaters, this type of heating produces a belly heat. These heating elements must also be controlled with a thermostat, dimmer, rheostat, or other device that controls the amount of heat the unit is emitting. Failure to properly control these units and the heat they emit can cause serious damage to the leopard gecko, the enclosure, and they could even start a fire. Heating devices are not toys and should be taken very seriously.
Certain substrates do not allow for the use of devices that heat from below. These enclosures require that the heat be provided from above. There are many different methods for providing heat from above. One of the more popular and favorable methods is with the use of the red incandescent bulbs found online and at petstores. These bulbs are geared toward nocturnal viewing, but they can also be used as a full time heating element. They come in different wattages, so you may have to experiment with the lights to determine which of them you require to sustain adequate temperatures in your enclosure. This method of heating is great for those that like to watch their leopard gecko in the evening. The dim light emitted does not bother the leopard gecko, so they will become active once the additional lighting has been turned off. Like all heating elements, the temperatures need to be monitored and controlled.
Another popular overhead heating device is the ceramic heat emitter. Like the incandescent bulbs described, these units come in varying wattages. They are extreme heat producers, so starting with a low watt unit is the best method for determining which wattage you will require. If a low watt unit isn't sufficient, simply return the unit and try the next wattage up. There is no way to determine what wattage you will require based on enclosure size as the rooms temperature will impact the enclosures temperature. The units get extremely hot and the temperatures within the enclosure need to be monitored closely. These units should also be controlled with a thermostat, dimmer, rheostat, or other device that controls the amount of heat the unit is emitting.
Leopard Gecko Heating - Heat Rocks
Heat rocks make beautiful enclosure decorations. To use a heat rock correctly, you should first cut the cord off so the unit can never be plugged in. This will ensure that the unit works as it should, instead of how it was designed. Some of you probably believe I am extremely confused right now, however, it is you that is confused if that doesn't make any sense. To learn why I believe heat rocks should have the cord removed, please read the following article:
There are many other methods for heating a leopard gecko enclosure, but those listed above are the most commonly used methods.
Now that you know the temperatures in which a leopard gecko should be housed, and the devices used to maintain those temperatures, you should now have a look at the proper way to maintain those temperatures and control the heat.