We all know that reptiles can be expected to act differently from our other pets. They have some strange behaviors and habits that are difficult to explain. One of the most confusing things pet reptiles might do is hide away all day. Leopard geckos are known to spend long periods of time in their hides. So, is this normal?
You’re probably starting to wonder, “Why is my leopard gecko always hiding?”
Leopard Geckos are naturally nocturnal, so they may prefer to spend their days in darkness. Your leo might be hiding because their enclosure is too big, too dry or the temperature might be too cold or too hot. Geckos that are about to shed might hide. They could also be hunting, brumating, or feeling frightened.
In this article, we’ll talk about everything your need to know about your hiding leopard gecko. First, let’s discuss whether or not it’s normal for your pet to hide away.
Is It Normal For My Leopard Gecko To Hide Daily?
According to the RSPCA, the instinct to hide is normal and natural in reptiles. In the wild, reptiles are constantly faced with threats. Hides are a safe place for them to retreat when they need to rest or when they’re seeking shelter from a predator.
Not only do hiding spaces protect reptiles from predators, but they also protect them from the elements. Hides and burrows typically tend to be more thermoregulated than open air. Since reptiles are ectothermic, thermoregulated hides help them to stay at a reasonable body temperature.
So, the urge for your reptile to hide is normal. You should always provide any pet reptile with a good hiding space in its enclosure.
Will My Leopard Gecko Ever Come Out Of Hiding?
Even though it’s natural for your pet leopard gecko to hide, it’s also natural for them to emerge from their hides. So, you should expect your leopard gecko to emerge from their hides throughout the day.
Usually, your pet will come out to hunt, drink water, or even bask under a heat lamp. If your pet spends a full day in hiding, that could be a sign that something isn’t quite right with them. If they spend consecutive days in their hides, there’s definitely something wrong.
8 Reasons Why Your Leopard Gecko Is Hiding
If you’re worried because your leopard gecko is always hiding, there might be a simple explanation. Keep reading to see if you can figure out what’s turning your pet gecko into a hide-hermit.
1. They’re Nocturnal
One of the most natural causes of a leopard gecko spending time in their hide is the fact that they’re nocturnal.
In the wild, leopard geckos are most active at night. This has a lot to do with their natural environment. Leos are found in dry, arid, desert-like climates that can be very hot during the day. Leos will usually spend their days hidden in the shade or in a burrow. At night, they’ll emerge to hunt, wander, and maybe even socialize.
In captivity, some leopard geckos might transition to a more diurnal schedule. You may notice that your gecko follows your sleeping patterns and is awake and active during the day. Or, your gecko’s instincts might keep them on their natural night owl schedule. If your gecko continues to behave nocturnally, it may spend most if not their entire day hidden away in its hides.
In this case, your gecko should still emerge from their hide in the evenings. But, if you’re already asleep by that point, it might seem like they’re always just hiding!
2. They’re Hunting
Another thing that may explain why your leopard gecko hides is that they’re trying to be stealthy while hunting. Many nocturnal reptiles hunt by ambushing their prey. Snakes like carpet pythons, for example, will hide in burrows and strike out as prey walks by.
Leopard geckos may use similar techniques. Geckos don’t eat fruits or even vegetables, they only really eat live and moving insects. During feeding times, your gecko will notice that there are a few live bugs in their enclosure. They might choose to stay in their hides and hunt the bugs slowly, one at a time.
If it seems like your gecko is always hiding to hunt, you may be feeding them too much or too often. Your leopard gecko should finish their meals within about 15 minutes.
So, if they’re hiding to hunt for long periods of time, it may just mean that they’re not food motivated. Read our article here about how much to feed your leopard gecko if you’re unsure about it.
3. Their Enclosure Is Too Dry
Hides are naturally more humid that the air around them. If your gecko is always hiding, it might mean that its enclosure is too dry overall. Providing the proper humidity is so important for reptiles.
Reptiles are not only ectothermic but can also lose hydration through their skin. That means if they’re in a climate that’s too dry, they’ll quickly start to become dehydrated. If your gecko feels dehydrated, it’ll naturally hang out in its humid hide.
While it’s great that your gecko is staying hydrated by hiding, dehydration in reptiles is not something to take lightly. Dehydration can cause issues like constipation in your pet which would just be better to avoid in the first place. We’ll talk more below about how to keep your leopard gecko tank in the proper humidity range.
4. They’re About To Shed
Have you noticed that your leopard gecko hides away for a few days at a time and then emerges with a shiny new set of scales?
Your pet might always be hiding when they’re about to shed.
Shedding is a natural process that occurs every 4 – 8 weeks in adult leopard geckos. During shedding, leos may turn white, hide, and even stop eating.
It’s natural for your gecko to hide while they’re shedding. They feel safer in their hides. Plus, hides are more humid than the surrounding air and humidity can help them shed their skin more easily. Dehydration is just one of many things that can cause your leopard gecko to stop shedding.
Usually, the shedding process goes quickly. However, if the shed takes a few days, it might seem like your gecko won’t ever emerge from its hide.
5. Their Enclosure Is Too Big
Have you ever heard of an enclosure being too big for a pet? Well, it can happen!
Leopard geckos are naturally flighty animals. They’re aware of their surroundings, and the more they have to keep track of the more on edge they might be. If your gecko’s enclosure is too large, it might not feel comfortable enough to sit out in the open.
If there is too much empty space for your gecko to watch, it might choose to hide instead. Retreating to the hide is a tried and true survival tactic for leopard geckos. So, if they feel overwhelmed with the size of their enclosure, they may choose to spend most of their time hidden away.
Leopard geckos are one of the few pet reptiles that stay very small for their entire lives. It’s okay to keep your leopard gecko in a smaller enclosure like a 10 or 20-gallon tank. That way, they won’t always be hiding from the open spaces and corners they can’t see.
6. It’s Too Hot Or Too Cold In The Enclosure
We talked earlier about how burrows and hides are natural thermoregulators. These small spaces stay insulated and humid, so they don’t fluctuate in temperature as much as other spaces in an enclosure.
Like other ectotherms, leopard geckos can’t regulate their temperature internally and have to rely on external sources to heat up or cool down. Moving to sunny or shady spots is one of the ways that reptiles thermoregulate in the wild. If your gecko’s enclosure is too hot or too cold, they might choose to stay in their hides most of the time so that they don’t overheat or freeze.
Although leopard geckos are one of the easiest pet reptiles to keep and maintain, they still have pretty specific temperature requirements. We’ll talk about what temperature you should keep your gecko’s enclosure at next.
7. They’re Scared
If your leopard gecko is always hiding when you’re around, they might be scared!
Your leopard gecko could be afraid of you or of something else in their environment. If you think your leopard gecko is retreating and hiding from you, that’s not a good sign. You’ll need to do some work to repair your relationship and gain your pet’s trust back.
Good handling practices and treats are a great way to help your gecko get used to your presence. Eventually, they should start to come out more when they see you and start to associate you with positive experiences.
If you’ve changed up your gecko’s environment, they might hide for a few days at a time. Environmental changes like a new rock feature or a new water dish could set your gecko’s alarm bells off. They might start to feel threatened and seem like they’re hiding for long periods of time. After a few days, your gecko should get used to the change and start to come out of hiding again.
8. They’re Brumating
Brumation is a less intense reptile version of hibernation. Brumation is a state when your reptile’s heart rate and metabolic rate slow drastically. Brumating animals don’t move and aim to conserve as much energy as possible.
In the wild, certain reptiles brumate during the winter to help maintain body temperature and conserve calories. Obviously, when an animal brumates, they’re in a secure space like a hide or a burrow.
Even though your leopard gecko is living indoors, it still might brumate. Changes in daylight, air pressure, and hormones may still signal brumation, even though your pet is living in a temperature-stable environment. If it’s getting close to winter, and your leopard gecko hides away and stops eating, they may be brumating.
How Long Will Leopard Geckos Stay In Their Hides?
So, how long will leopard geckos stay in their hides?
Ideally, your leopard gecko shouldn’t spend any more than 2 consecutive days in its hide. Adult leopard geckos need to eat about every other day (depending on their size and age).
Leopard geckos are so small that one or two missed meals might be detrimental to their overall health. So, geckos won’t usually stay hidden for more than a couple of days. If they do, it could be a sign that something is wrong or that they’re brumating.
How To Get Your Leopard Gecko Out Of Hiding
Even though it can be natural for your gecko to hide, it’s not very fun. You want to see your pet and interact with them. Here are a few things you can do that might make your pet leo feel more comfortable and eventually come out more.
Handle Them Regularly And Gently
Handling can make or break your relationship with your pet reptile. Unlike dogs to cats, reptiles don’t naturally want to cuddle or be petted. That’s why the way that you handle your gecko is so important.
When you first get your gecko home, don’t rush into handling. After a few days, once they’re settled in, you can start picking your gecko up. You’ll want to keep handling sessions short and stress-free, especially at the beginning. It’s also not a bad idea to give your pet a few treats while they’re out with you.
This video shows some great tips and tricks for beginners on how to handle leopard geckos.
Hopefully, with the right techniques, your leopard gecko won’t hide every time they see you.
Ensure That Their Environment Is The Right Temperature And Humidity
Another great way to make sure your gecko isn’t always hiding is to keep their environment perfect for them. Temperature and humidity imbalances can cause your lizard to retreat into their hides.
For leopard geckos, you’ll want the relative humidity to stay around 40% at all times. Temperatures in leopard gecko enclosure should range from 70F – 90F. Your gecko’s home should always have a cool side and a warm side. That way your gecko can move to adjust their internal temperature as needed.
Give Them Time To Get Used To Their Surrounding
Finally, if you’ve just gotten your pet or changed something in their environment, you need to give them time to adjust.
Leopard geckos have the instant to run and hide when they’re threatened. Even though we know they’re not in danger in captivity, they don’t know that. A change in their tank might alarm them and cause them to take cover.
Be patient, and hopefully, your gecko gets brave and comes out of their hide eventually. If they don’t emerge after a few days, you may need to remove some of the things in their enclosure that are scaring them.
Frequently Asked Questions
If we haven’t answered some of your more specific questions in the article so far, here are a few more answers!
How Do I Know If My Leopard Gecko Is Unhappy?
If your leopard gecko is always hiding, it can seem like they’re unhappy or stressed. It can be difficult to gauge your pet’s emotions. If a leopard gecko is “happy” it’ll likely be eating, pooping regularly, and spending time outside of its hide. Unhappy geckos may lose their appetites and may stop coming out of their burrows.
How Do I Make My Leopard Gecko More Active?
The best way to encourage activity for your leopard gecko and get them out of its hide is by offering live food. Live bugs are both mentally and physically stimulating for geckos. Feeding your gecko one bug at a time will also make them work more for their food and get them to be more active during meal time.
Why Won’t My Leopard Gecko Come Out Of His Hide?
Leopard geckos stay in their hides for natural and unnatural reasons. Leopard geckos in their hides might be shedding or brumating. On the other hand, cold temperatures, and dry environments may cause your gecko to stay in its hide for too long.
Hopefully, this article has given you some great potential answers as to why your leopard gecko is always hiding. Though some of the causes for hiding are instinctual and normal, others are not.
It’s important to figure out whether your gecko’s hiding is a problem and if it is, what you can do to fix it. Geckos shouldn’t spend days hidden away so if your scaly friend has been in their hide for too long, it’s time to take action!