I was nervous when I first heard about leopard gecko brumation.
I had to be convinced that this is a natural and healthy way for some reptiles to rest over the cooler months during the winter in their natural habitat.
Knowing this, I decided to research, write an article and let you what we have done for the past 2 winters with our leopard gecko brumation process.
Leopard Gecko Brumation
The brumation of a leopard gecko occurs when their metabolism slows down over winter months around December to the end of February.
During this time, they will reduce their activity levels, not eat, hide for a lengthy period of time and stay in cooler parts of their vivarium or enclosure.
Experienced reptile caregivers do not advise this process to occur in leopard geckos under 1 year of age. Never artificially cool a vivarium for the purpose of trying to force brumation.
How To Perform Gecko Brumation
- Wait Until this leopard gecko is 1 year or older.
- Your gecko must be healthy and fit for brumation to be beneficial and not forced.
- Their tail should be plump with plenty of fat reserves.
- If any illnesses or parasites are found 1 month prior or less, delay brumation for forgo it altogether.
- At the end of November stop giving them food.
- Allow your gecko’s digestive tract to be cleared without any trapped food producing toxic fecal matter.
- Reduce heating to get room temperature in the enclosure to 60-72°F.
- If you provide a light source at this time, make sure it is heatless.
- Keep giving your leopard gecko fresh water.
- If a gecko loses more than 10% of his/her weight during brumation, this process must be stopped or intervened by the help of a vet.
- Starting at the end of February or 1st day of March, it’s time to bring the heat source back in to wake up your leopard gecko gently.
- Wait 1-2 weeks before offering food. Your gecko must return to actively drinking water first.
This is the process of brumation we have witnessed and aided in our leopard gecko. There is no one size fits all method, but overall, our gecko’s vet advised us of this strategy and it has worked for 2 winters in a row and counting.
What to Do When Leopard Gecko is in Brumation
Making sure the brumation process is going well depends on some external factors that you can control.
- Provide hiding spaces in cooler areas of the enclosure. The spot should be dark, tight and cool.
- Stop feeding your gecko 2 weeks prior to the start of brumation to allow them to empty their bowels fully. Any impacted food could become toxic while they are dormant.
- If you can find a way to weigh your gecko during brumation with a small kitchen scale, do so gently at this time. You want to make sure they haven’t lost more than 10% of their body weight.
If they have, brumation should stop because they do not have enough fat reserves in their tail to carry on. A vet should intervene and assess the overall health of this gecko at this point.
Gecko sleep shouldn’t be confused with brumation. I will explain this as well in the next article.
How Long is Too Long for Brumation?
Your reptile companion should not pass the month of March during a normal process of brumation. It usually starts in December and lasts 3-4 months.
Our leopard gecko’s brumation started on December 1st and will end at about the first day or two in March. If your reptile companion continues brumation over this period of time and refuses to come out of hiding or drink water, a visit to the vet might be in order.
You don’t want brumation to last longer than this amount of time. You can gradually increase the heat source to encourage them to wake up. Do not try to feed a gecko coming out of brumation right away. They must be able to drink water first.
Should Leopard Geckos Brumate?
This is a tough question for me to answer because I didn’t want my leopard gecko to go through this process under my care.
I am told it was optional and up to us to decide. If you can sustain warm temperatures year round, you can choose not to encourage brumation for your leopard gecko.
When considering the desire to breed our leopard gecko in the future we learned that brumation helps them prepare and synchronize their bodies for mating season.
If your leopard gecko is already refusing food closer to December, they might not want you to decide. They might already act sluggish and reserved. The nights grow longer and temperatures drop slightly through the evening.
Your leopard gecko may wish to brumate for this winter period and by following some of the tips we have written out in this article above, we think it’s useful and helpful, but you can make the ultimate decision in the end.
How To Get Leopard Geckos Out of Brumation
The first week or two is funny for a leopard gecko waking up from their slumber over the winter months. Brumation has ended, but this doesn’t mean they are starving.
Try to focus on giving them fresh, clean water first. They must resume some activity for their guts to wake up too. They may act slightly wobbly. 2 days to 2 weeks is a usual period of time to wait before offering them food.
It is ok if you have to remove the food you have initially offered. We wait about 10 days for our leopard gecko to eat a nourishing meal.
Gradually raise the heat back to normal in the enclosure once your leopard gecko has emerged from brumation. A rapid increase is not advised.
Everything happens on gecko time at this point and it’s a beautiful thing to witness and be part of. This is why I’m convinced that leopard gecko brumation is right for us moving forward to our third consecutive winter.
Thank you for visiting PocketPetCentral.com for the best information to help you enjoy the life of your pocket pet companion in a fun, safe & healthy way.