Common Leopard Gecko Behaviors Explained

Just like us humans, each leopard gecko has its unique personality. There’s a rich tapestry of behaviors these petite reptiles exhibit, and understanding them is key to ensuring they stay healthy and happy.

In this article, we’re going to delve into the world of leopard gecko behaviors. We’ll start with the basics, by understanding what influences these behaviors, then move on to explore common actions like tail shaking and glass surfing.

But we won’t stop there – we’re also going to look into some unusual behaviors that might leave you scratching your head if you don’t know what to look for.

Different Leopard Gecko Behaviors Explained


1. Tail Waving

Have you noticed your gecko slowly waving its tail from side to side? It’s a defensive mechanism used when they feel threatened or unsure. It’s their way of saying, “Back off, buddy!”

They tend to do this when:

  • To ward off predators
  • To assert dominance
  • Before launching at prey

Tail waving is their way of telling perceived threats to keep their distance.

If you see your leopard gecko doing this, make sure to identify any potential stressors in their environment and remove them.

2. Tail Rattling

Tail rattling is a fascinating behavior in leopard geckos. You’ll notice them rapidly shaking or vibrating their tail, which is typically a sign of excitement or anticipation, especially during feeding or mating. It’s equivalent to a dog wagging its tail when it sees its favorite toy!

3. Licking and Flicking the Tongue

Licking is a significant part of a leopard gecko’s sensory experience. Leopard geckos, like many reptiles, use their tongue to explore their surroundings and gather information about their environment. They do this by flicking their tongue out, licking objects, or even the air.

This behavior helps them detect scents, and potential food, and get a better sense of where they are.

4. Tank Climbing and Glass Surfing

While leopard geckos can’t climb smooth surfaces, they might occasionally attempt to climb the sides of their tank, a behavior known as “glass surfing.” This can be due to various factors, such as stress, curiosity, or a desire to explore beyond their enclosure.

It’s important to monitor this behavior as constant glass surfing could indicate that something in their environment isn’t to their liking.

Here are some possible reasons for glass surfing in leopard geckos:

  1. Improper temperature
  2. Hunger
  3. Loose Insects in the enclosure
  4. Overcrowding in the enclosure
  5. Stress or anxiety
  6. Inadequate hiding places
  7. Improper lighting
  8. Territorial behavior
  9. Breeding season
  10. Illness or injury

5. Shaking Head and Swaying

You might observe your leopard gecko moving in a shaky or swaying manner, often accompanied by a slight head tilt. This behavior is typically seen during confrontations between geckos and is a sign of asserting dominance or readiness to fight.

If you see this behavior, it’s important to ensure your pet isn’t under any threat or stress.

6. Terrestrial/Ground Dwelling

Did you know leopard geckos can’t climb walls like other gecko species? They are terrestrial or ground-dwelling creatures. You’ll often find them exploring the floor of their enclosure, rarely attempting to climb.

Leopard geckos don’t have the adhesive toe pads found in other gecko species, which is why they are unable to climb walls and surfaces. Instead, they have evolved to thrive on the ground.

They enjoy burrowing and exploring their environment at ground level. Their physical features, including their sturdy body and claws, are more adapted for life on the ground.

I remember how surprised I was when I first discovered this. All geckos can climb, right? Not our little leopard friends!

7. Sleeping with Eyes Closed

Unlike most geckos, leopard geckos have movable eyelids. It’s one of the traits that set them apart from their gecko cousins. They blink to keep their eyes moist and clean from dust and debris. Most amusingly, they sleep with their eyes shut. This makes it easier for you to tell when your leopard gecko is taking a nap, quite endearing sight!

8. Hiding

Leopard geckos are natural hide-and-seek champions. They love to hide, especially during the day to get some shut-eye.

This behavior is a part of their natural instincts as they often seek out hidden spots during the day in the wild to sleep and hide from predators.

Therefore, it’s essential to provide multiple hiding spots in their enclosure. However, constant hiding and refusal to come out even during their active hours could be a sign of stress or illness.

Leopard Gecko Sounds

Leopard geckos are usually quiet, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make themselves heard when they need to! Their unique vocal repertoire can range from endearing chirps to unexpected barks, and even startling hisses.

  1. Chirping: This sound is soft and quite pleasing to the ears, like a songbird welcoming the dawn. Your leopard gecko might chirp when it’s content or exploring its surroundings. I remember the first time my leopard gecko, Scales, chirped. It was after setting up a new basking spot in his terrarium – a sure sign of approval!
  2. Barking: Now, don’t be alarmed if you hear a sound that reminds you of a puppy’s yelp! Leopard geckos can make a barking noise when they’re startled or feeling defensive. It’s their way of saying, “Hey, I need some space!”
  3. Hissing: This one is a clear sign of stress or fear. Hissing is a leopard gecko’s warning signal. Whenever Scales hissed – which was rare, thank goodness – I knew to give him some extra room and check if anything in his environment was causing discomfort.

Remember, every sound – be it a chirp, bark, or hiss – is a small window into their mind. Through active listening and observation, we can strengthen the bond with our beloved pets and make their lives happier.


If there’s one piece of advice I’d love for you to take away from this article, it’s to keep your eyes open. Observe your leopard geckos, watch their every move, notice the smallest changes.

As I’ve learned from my own experiences as a leopard gecko caretaker, these creatures communicate in subtle ways, and your keen observation can make all the difference in understanding what they’re telling you.

Please, don’t hesitate to seek additional help if you’re ever concerned about your leopard gecko’s behavior. Whether it’s doing further research or consulting with a vet or fellow gecko enthusiast, never shy away from seeking knowledge. After all, we’re all here for one thing – our love for leopard geckos.

Filled under: Lizards

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