Leopard Gecko Taming

By Snaketracks / January 16, 2021

How to Tame A Leopard Gecko

If you need to tame your leopard gecko, then it means it is aggressive and you will first want to find the root cause of their aggression.

Leopard geckos are generally not aggressive by nature so there is usually a reason for their change in temperament. Aggressive behavior in leopard geckos can stem from many things such as natural instinct, hormonal changes, discomfort in their enclosure, or improper care and handling.

You must figure out the reason why they are acting this way in order to tame them properly according to the issue at hand. If you aren’t sure whether or not your gecko is acting aggressively, here are some signs they are of bad temperament:

How to tame a leopard gecko
Tame Leopard gecko being held in hand

Signs of Aggression

In order to reduce any hostile reaction, you want to first figure out what is causing them to be agitated to the point that they feel defensive.

Tail Wagging and Shaking

If your leopard gecko is slowly wagging its tail, it is probably on the hunt. You will notice they do this when they are feeding. You may see them shake the tip of their tail just before attacking.

Don’t confuse aggression with breeding behaviors. You may also see tail wagging or shaking if a male is in the presence of a female as a mating call.

If their tail is standing tall, this is how they scare off their predators but it is also a reaction to stress. If their tail is raised and swaying, do not handle your leopard gecko. If you see this reaction, give them some time before you try to make contact with them.

Tail wagging or shaking can also be a sign that it is very stressed so do not approach it, as it could bite you. Let it calm down and

You are a lot larger than them so, in their minds, you could be a predator. Show them you aren’t threatening by resting your hand in their terrarium after they’ve had time to calm down. They may try to explore you with their tongue.

Hissing, Screaming, and Charging

Maybe you’ve seen your leopard gecko hiss or gape it’s a mouth at you. They might even charge at you. This is a sign you have scared or startled them and that they are very stressed out.

When this happens, move out of their vision and let them be alone for a while before you try to interact with them from outside their tank.

Keep in mind that this can be a fairly common reaction, especially when your leopard gecko is in the juvenile stage. They will usually grow out of it.

If you only just got your leopard gecko, they may just be stressed out by the move so leave them alone for a week or so and let them settle in.

Asserting Dominance When Cohabiting

two leopard geckos outside in grass
two leopard geckos outside in grass

Sometimes aggression might not be inflicted on you, but a roommate. If you have leopard geckos cohabitating, they could even start fighting when one is claiming the territory.

Leopard geckos are solitary creatures in nature and will have those same needs in captivity. Keeping them together might not be the best idea, especially if they start getting territorial. One could lose a tail with all that stress and aggression.

Signs this might be happening is if one is following the other closely and trying to assert its dominance on it. You will want to separate them as soon as you see the first signs of asserting dominance.

If your gecko shows any signs of aggression, you should refrain from allowing them to cohabit anyway. It’s generally good to give leopard geckos their own separate enclosures, as they don’t need or want social interaction, to begin with.

Reasons for Aggression

Aggressive behavior in leopard geckos should be seen as your lizard feeling defensive. See it like that and understand what the reasons are as well as what you can do.

Their Enclosure

via GIPHY

As your leopard gecko grows, it will need more and more space to itself. They require three hides: one cool, one hot, and one humid.

They will need a lot of space to feel comfortable in their tank and any discomfort can lead to stress or agitation, leading to bad behavior. This is why you should always make sure you are financially and mentally prepared to take on the tasks of raising your leopard gecko.

It is recommended you give a single leopard gecko a 20-Gallon tank at the very least. The more, the better because that means more space and less discomfort for them. There needs to be enough room for them to explore around as well as for all three of their hides.

Once you give your pet a suitable amount of space and all the things they need to feel comfortable, you will hopefully see improvements in their behavior. This is a good sign for their overall well-being.

If you are at the start of your gecko journey have a look at our leopard gecko setup guide to get everything right from the start.

Cleanliness

If tank size, equipment, and diet aren’t a problem, yet they’re still showing aggression, check that there is no issue with the cleanliness of their enclosure.

You mustn’t leave their waste, dead food, or calcium deposits in their tanks all day. You should be cleaning out their tank and taking out any food they don’t eat every day.

If possible, if they don’t eat their food after 15 minutes, just remove it. Also, make sure to clean their waste and any calcium they might have spilled while eating to ensure their comfort in a clean home.

Also keep an eye on their hides, making sure the temperatures are correct and that there is nothing dirty keeping them from hiding in them.

Too Much Handling

Holding a Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius)
Holding a Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) with its tounge licking its lips

Some owners might be a little too touchy with their cute little leopard gecko. We totally get it, they’re adorable when they rest on your finger or sit in the palm of your hand, but too much handling can cause stress.

When leopard geckos are stressed out, they may drop their tail. If you see that your gecko is distressed, do not handle it because it will just make them more anxious.

Handling your leopard gecko improperly can also cause your leopard gecko’s demeanor to change. Make sure you know how to handle your lizard correctly and that they are accustomed to handling before trying to carry them around with you for prolonged periods.

Temperature

Sometimes a leopard gecko’s aggressive behavior may be due to their discomfort in their environment. If it’s not the cleanliness or an issue with space, you will want to check and make sure that your hides and overall tank temperatures are healthy for your gecko.

Leopard geckos originate from the Middle East as well as parts of India, which are usually dry and hot climates. You will want to make sure to closely mimic temperatures of those of their natural habitat to ensure their health.

Indian and Middle Eastern nights can get pretty cold, which means they are habituated to various temperatures. They will need a cold side, a warm side with a basking area, and a humidity hide for shedding.

The cold end should be around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They prefer a drop in temperature at night, so you won’t need to get a nighttime lamp.

The hot end of their tank should be at around 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit with a basking light that is 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This is essential to their happiness and you will see them perk up when they are basking in the heat.

Their humid hide will be used to help regulate their body temperature and they also need that extra moisture to shed. 70 to 80 percent is the optimal temperature that is required for shedding.

Not having the right temperatures in their tank can lead to lethargy and even aggressive behavior. It will also stunt their growth which is why you have to pay attention to your hides and the temperatures of their tank.

Breeding Season

Two Albino Leopard Geckos on a cactus
Two Albino Leopard Geckos on a cactus

During the breeding season, your leopard gecko might become more aggressive than normal.

Male leopard geckos are more active and may become agitated more easily as they are searching for their mate. You may see signs of tail-wagging if there is a female around.

If you have multiple females together, you may see them turn on each other during this season as well, causing alpha females to reject other females. This may also lead to fights, so be aware, prepared, and keep a close watch.

Both genders will show more aggression during this time since their animalistic behaviors will show more prominently. Breeding season is a time of competition and all of them may become even more territorial; chasing one another or even starting fights with each other.

Make sure you are prepared to separate your geckos if any fighting goes on. It is recommended you keep them in their own individual tanks anyway unless you are trying to breed.

Either way, you will want to keep a close eye on those that are cohabiting or in a breed tank, even for a short amount of time.

A “Hot Female” or Alpha

If a female gecko is suddenly aggressive toward you or other geckos, there is a possibility she might be a “hot female”. Some in the leopard gecko community believe that aggression might be due to higher temperatures during her incubation, hence the name.

Some may also call this type of female gecko the “alpha female”. Hot females will often be meaner, more competitive, and more hostile than the rest. She could just generally have a more aggressive temperament to begin with as well.

Please do not exclude the possibility that she may be aggressive due to other possibilities as well. Check her tank and hide temperatures or try to find the root cause of her sudden aggression.

If everything is normal but she is still aggressive, you might have a hot female. These alpha ladies will be as territorial as the males and may not be able to share an enclosure with anyone else.

If you want to introduce two leopard geckos to each other, knowing one is an alpha, it is recommended that you only try to do so after she has reached full maturity, although it is not recommended at all.

They don’t feel the need for social interaction, so don’t worry about your alpha female getting lonely; they prefer it that way.

Shedding

shedding leopard gecko
Leopard gecko shedding in its enclosure in a rock hide

Shedding can be a stressful time for leopard geckos because they need to put in the work to remove their skin. They may naturally become more stressed out or more aggressive than usual.

It is best to give them their space when they are in the shedding season since they can be quite snappy and moody. Don’t try to interact with them too much and do not try to handle them.

If you see them in their hide for long periods of time or they eat a little less, don’t be worried about this behavior. They don’t want to interact with anyone until their shedding is over, so let them do their thing for a few days!

Do not interrupt their shedding because you want to handle your lizard. It is crucial that you let them go through the process or you will mess up their growth process. You must let them finish undisturbed or you might get nipped at.

Taming Your Leopard Gecko

Woman holding a leopard gecko in her hand
Woman holding a leopard gecko in her hand

Now that you’ve identified the reasons as to why your leopard gecko might be showing aggression, you might now want to know how you can solve the behaviors at hand.

You should try to fix the individual issues if it is something environmental like temperatures, humidity, or their diet. They may also just need some adjustments from you and how you react to them if the issue is due to over handling or aggression is toward you.

Typically, if there are environmental issues, check all your temperatures and get as accurate as a reading as possible then make your adjustments and see if their demeanor improves.

Try to give them some space and let them have their time alone then see how they act when you calmly try to approach them next. Be sure to be calm and understanding when you do come to handle them again.

Do not randomly try to pick them up quickly or stroke them when they don’t want to be touched. Be sure to read their body language and respond in a way that is suitable to their needs in order to lessen their anxiety.

Educating yourself on how to keep your leopard gecko happy and comfortable can save you a lot of time and energy. It will also help you tame your aggressive lizard when needed.

You want to work on regaining their trust. It is recommended to start earning their trust through tong feeding or even hand-feeding them. This can be an intimate experience that will allow them to feel like they don’t need to be afraid around you.

Do not force-feed them by putting the food directly at their face, but show them that you are the one providing them with the food by being present and getting up close.

After the precautions and needed steps have been taken, and only after they seem less stressed out or defensive should you move on to trying to handle them again.

Handling can be a form of bonding and increasing trust but do so gently to introduce or re-introduce it to them. Start out by putting your hand in their cage or a piece of clothing with your smell on it to get them accustomed to you and your scent, making it less threatening to them.

Some owners might just not realize that maybe the way or how frequently they handle them could be the cause of their aggression as well. You can also learn proper handling techniques from YouTuber, Pet Adventures, here:

Taming your leopard gecko is all about earning or re-earning their trust when they feel threatened by you. Remember that and react accordingly.

Signs of A Happy Leopard Gecko

Once you’ve figured out the issue and made your changes to accommodate your leopard gecko, you might be now looking for signs that they are happy in their enclosure, even after the aggression subsides.

A leopard gecko that is actively moving around, climbing, hunting, exploring, or eating and pooping properly are some good signs of a happy gecko.

Healthy leopard geckos sleep during the day and use their hideouts and basking spots when needed, meaning they are actively regulating their temperatures.

In reality, some leopard geckos will be more aggressive than others. Keep that in mind that it may just be your specific gecko’s nature.

Animals will act more honestly on their instincts than humans do, so whether they’re comfortable or defensive, you can pretty much tell by how they react.

Conclusion

There are many reasons for aggression in leopard geckos. If you see your gecko acting aggressively and don’t know why, then you should try to factor out any of the listed issues above.

Try your best to understand their situation and educate yourself on how to handle it. You may see aggression start to go away when you adjust accordingly.

Be patient with your leopard gecko and just understand that we are large, scary, predatory beings to them at first. We need to prove to them, show them, and give them reasons to trust that we actually love and want to care for them.

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