You take a bath. Your dog needs a bath too. Your cat doesn’t want one and some reptiles seem to need them to help with sheds…but what about your leopard gecko?
They might seem pretty clean but do leopard geckos need baths?
Some leopard geckos can go their entire life without a bath but if your leo has shed stuck on their toes or clogged femoral pores then a very shallow foot bath in warm water can be beneficial. But beyond that, leopard geckos won’t need a bath and shouldn’t be in water deeper than their belly.
That’s the quick answer but let’s dive a little deeper into what you need to know about bathtime and leopard geckos starting with some background information.
Leopard Geckos Don’t Love Water
As desert-dwelling creatures, you shouldn’t expect your leopard gecko to be excited about jumping in a pool of water. Water is a rare resource in the desert and your leopard gecko would be more interested in drinking it than taking a dip.
Even though leopard geckos can float in water and fail around, they can’t really swim which makes spending time in deep water a very stressful experience. So whether you’re bathing, soaking, or occasionally misting your leopard gecko, don’t expect them to like it. Of course, there will be the occasional exception but most leos won’t love water so make sure you have the right expectations when it comes to water and your leopard gecko.
Bathing Vs Soaking
One of the first things we need to clear up is the difference between bathing and soaking. While some people will use these terms interchangeably, they can have completely different definitions for others.
Bathing usually refers to soaking in water and washing. Your leopard gecko definitely doesn’t need human soap and they don’t really need scrubbing either but a bath can imply both. Soaking, on the other hand, suggests just sitting in water. Both can imply different water depths but it’s important that your leopard gecko is never in water deeper than the bottom of its belly.
In most cases, soaking is a more accurate description of what leopard geckos will occasionally need but we’ll use a mix of both terms in this article. Just know that when we say bathing we’re never talking about using soap or aggressive scrubbing to clean your leopard gecko.
When Do Leopard Geckos Need Baths?
So when do leopard geckos actually need a soak or a bath? Let’s look at the three most common scenarios that call for it.
1. Stuck On Shed
Most of the time, leopard geckos shed without a problem. But every now and then they get a little extra shed stuck on their toes. Over time, this stuck-on skin can get tighter and tighter. Eventually, it can even lead to leopard geckos losing a toe if it’s allowed to continue for too long.
Needless to say, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
A very shallow soak or even some strategic misting can help moisten the skin which will make it easier to remove. A q-tip can also help a lot but avoid using anything made of metal or a tougher material because your leopard gecko’s little toes are extremely fragile!
This YouTube video does a great job showing you how to remove stuck-on toe shed safely and gently:
What makes things confusing is that some people would call that a bath. The experienced herper would know that they really mean a sort of toe soak but the inexperienced may mistakenly think they need to put their leo in a tub!
That’s why getting the right terms is so important!
It’s also worth pointing out that bathing or soaking isn’t the only method for removing this stuck on shed and there are many products on the market that are specifically made to help with this problem that don’t require any bathing. Additionally, supplying a humid hide can help your leopard gecko solve this problem on their own.
2. Clogged Femoral Pores
When it’s time for male geckos to find a mate, they release pheromones from special pores located between the lower legs on the bottom half of the belly. These pores are called femoral pores and are only found on male leos.
In most cases, these don’t cause the leopard gecko any problem and the pores become inactive after the breeding season. Occasionally, these pores become “full” and clogged but leopard geckos can usually fix this on their own by rubbing the area on rocks, bark, or coarse gravel.
Occasionally even that doesn’t fix the problem or leopard geckos just don’t have access to these materials (which you should change) and leopard geckos need a little help unclogging their femoral pores.
A simple soak or shallow bath can help loosen up these pores and allow them to unclog. Once again, a q-tip can be helpful to clean up the area and this YouTube video does a great job explaining the entire process and provides some great examples of the femoral pores if you haven’t seen them before:
3. Constipation or Impaction
Impaction and constipation are big topics in the reptile community. Both describe leopard geckos that have some kind of blockage in their GI tract and are usually related to something they’ve eaten.
A soak in warm water can help rehydrate and loosen up stuck stools. This is common not only for reptiles but other herps like frogs and toads that frequently defecate in water.
However, it’s important to be careful here and a little soak to help relieve constipation after eating too many large crickets is one thing but trying to resolve impaction after eating inappropriate substrate is something entirely different. Both can be dangerous but constipation after extra insects is much more likely to resolve on its own compared to impaction caused by sand other tough materials.
So while soaking can help, it’s not something you want to rely on too heavily and if your leopard gecko isn’t pooping it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian.
How To Safely Bathe Your Leopard Gecko
We’ve established that leopard geckos do occasionally need a bath or a soak…so how can you safely pull this off?
1. Gather Your Supplies
Before you get your leopard gecko out of their enclosure, make sure you have all your supplies ready. You’ll need a shallow dish that is too tall for your leopard gecko to climb out of and wider than your gecko so you have room for your hands.
Additionally, you’ll need a paper towel or sturdy cloth that can be placed on the bottom of the dish. This gives leopard geckos something to grip while they’re in the water (as opposed to the likely smooth surface of your dish/container) and can help reduce stress.
If you’re working on removing shed or unclogging pores, you’ll also want to make sure you have your q-tips ready.
2. Add Warm Water
Now you’re ready to add warm water that’s ideally between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (29 to 32 degrees Celcius). If you don’t have a thermometer just make sure it’s warmer than room temperature but not uncomfortable to touch. You don’t need to add any soap or anything besides water. If the tap water in your area is particularly harsh then you can consider using filtered or bottled water to play it safe.
The water level shouldn’t be higher than your leopard gecko’s belly but if you’re trying to remove stuck-on toe shed then the water level doesn’t need to be higher than your leo’s toes.
Soak your leopard gecko for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Any longer and you’ll likely need to refresh the water before it gets too cold. For most situations, your leopard gecko won’t need more time but make sure you stay with the leopard gecko the entire time.
You can also start using a q-tip to clean femoral pores or remove stuck-on shed after a few minutes of soaking.
Once your soaking session is complete, you’ll either need to replace the water to keep it warm or finish the bath which means it’s time to dry your leopard gecko! Paper towels are usually best but a clean and dry cloth can work too. Just make sure there aren’t any artificial fragrances on the cloth which can irritate a leopard gecko’s fragile lungs and skin.
Too Much Bathing Can Dry Out Leopard Gecko Skin
While it’s easy to bath your leopard gecko (once you know what you’re doing) don’t make it a regular occurrence and bathing should only be done when leopard geckos really need it. We’ve already talked about how leopard geckos don’t enjoy the water but too much bathing can dry out leopard gecko skin and lead to other problems.
It’s not just leopard geckos that have this problem and too much bathing for many species (including humans) can remove natural oils and dry out the skin. So keep bathtime to a minimum to not only reduce stress but also to keep your leo’s skin healthy.
Luckily, leopard geckos don’t need baths very frequently and even leopard geckos that love to dig still stay pretty clean!
Do Leopard Geckos Need Misting?
We’ve talked about bathing and soaking but where does misting fall into all this and do leopard geckos need misting?
Because leopard geckos do best in a dry environment (usually between 30% and 40% humidity) misting shouldn’t be a part of their regular care. Misting can be helpful to deal with stuck on shed but it’s best done outside of the enclosure. A humid hiding spot can help with sheds as well.
Still, soaking and bathing are usually better tools for helping with stuck-on shed since most leopard geckos only seem to have a problem with the toes and not their entire body.
Frequently Asked Questions
That covers the basics but let’s dive a little deeper into some of the most common questions we’ve received since putting together this article.
How often should you bathe a leopard gecko?
Leopard geckos should rarely be bathed and only when they need it as a result of clogged femoral pores in males, stuck on shed (usually on the toes) or to help with very mild constipation. Beyond that, it’s usually not worth it to put your leo through the stress of bathing.
Do leopard geckos need to be cleaned?
Leopard geckos don’t need regular bathing to stay clean and can usually handle it themselves. If your leopard gecko is constantly dirty, it’s a good idea to evaluate your husbandry protocols for possible improvements instead of bathing your leopard gecko.
Can you put a leopard gecko in a tub?
You shouldn’t put your leopard in a human tub and instead use a small dish or Tupperware when it comes to bath time. Bathtubs are too large for small leopard geckos and managing a safe water level (no higher than your leopard gecko’s belly) can be hard to manage.
Can leopard geckos bathe in tap water?
In most cases tap water is fine but it will vary widely based on the tap water in your specific region. If you’re ever unsure, it’s always a good idea to use bottled water and you won’t need much to bathe your leopard. Just make sure you warm it up.
Do leopard geckos like to be in water?
No, leopard geckos don’t enjoy being in the water. As desert-dwelling creatures, leopard geckos wouldn’t be exposed to much water in their natural environment. Additionally, they’re very poor swimmers which can make the experience very stressful. Most leopard geckos will tolerate water that’s only up to their toes or belly which is all you need for a bath.
There’s a lot to cover when it comes to leopard gecko bathtime (or soaking) and the entire process is a lot more complicated than it is for mammals like dogs.
But once you get a grip on the terminology and the difference between bathing and soaking, it all starts to make sense!
What do you think? Are you going to opt for a soak next time your leopard gecko has some stuck on toe shed?