Here are Reasons Why Your Leopard Gecko is Digging

By Frank Miller •  Updated: 09/19/23 • 

Part of the fun of owning a leopard gecko or any other lizard pet is to watch it as it goes about its normal activity in the enclosure. One of the habits I’ve observed in my year of owning leopard geckos is digging the substrate. When I would try and put it back to flatten the substrate, the leopard gecko would dig again.

If this is a habit you’ve observed about your leopard gecko, then several reasons can be attributed to digging. In this article, I’ll discuss several reasons your leopard gecko might be digging around the substrate.

1. Looking for a Hiding Spot

Hiding spots are provided to a leopard gecko to hide away from potential danger and sleep. Without a hiding spot in its enclosure, a leopard gecko feels exposed and very vulnerable. In the wild, leopard geckos usually hide when they spot danger. Their legs are short and made for short dashes or quick bursts of digging rather than trying to outrun a predator.

In captivity, and with no hiding spot provided, a leopard gecko might try to dig for safety. This is why a hiding spot is always recommended for leopard geckos. Before your leopard gecko gets used to its new enclosure, a hiding spot is very important to avoid stress.

In the worst case, a stressed leopard gecko will drop its tail, avoid eating, and become weak and lethargic. A hiding spot, rocks, or other furnishings in the enclosure can help a leopard gecko hide in case it feels threatened.

> Recommended Reading: 7 Signs of a Stressed Leopard Gecko

2. High Enclosure Temperatures

Leopard geckos are natural creatures, which means their days start at dusk as the sun goes down. When temperatures get too high in the wild, a leopard gecko moves to cooler areas. However, in the vivarium, high temperatures inside could leave the gecko with no cool spots to run to for shelter.

This prompts your Leo to dig the substrate in order to find a cooler spot. To avoid this, always check the temperatures inside the vivarium to avoid overheating your leopard gecko. You should also have a warm side where your leopard gecko can absorb heat and a cooler side to enable thermoregulation.

The temperature difference throughout the enclosure is called the temperature gradient. Supply an artificial heat source on one end of the enclosure that reaches 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t make it too hot, or the leopard gecko will dehydrate. The coolest part of the cage can be left to fall to normal room temperatures.

3. Females Looking to Lay Eggs

One of the ways a breeding female leopard geckos betray themselves is by digging up the substrate and spreading it all over. This signifies she is ready to lay eggs, and you’ll need to offer her a place to lay them safely. An egg container is the best and safe spot to offer a leopard gecko to lay her eggs.

Egg containers can be many things. A clear plastic food container, plastic storage food container, or other containers you can get or recycle from your past trips to the grocery store.

A clear storage container is good because you can keep an eye on the eggs without disturbing them. Once you’ve chosen your container, add about 2 to 3 inches of your chosen medium, and make some depressions using your fingertips. The depressions should be deep enough to bury the eggs halfway inside.

> Recommended Reading: Best Substrate for Leopard Geckos

4. Too much light in the vivarium

Leopard geckos are nocturnal, which means they are mostly active at night. If you’ve observed your leopard gecko, you’ll notice it will usually come out when the lights are dim or out. In the wild, during the day, a leopard gecko spends most of its time under warm rocks heated by the sun.

In captivity, the light inside the enclosure should not be too bright and should only be set up in one spot. If the lighting inside is too much and there are no hiding spots, your leopard gecko can start digging, trying to escape.

5. Instinct, Fun, and Curiosity

Sometimes, none of the above apply to leopard geckos, and digging might not be a sign of anything. A happy leopard gecko will move about the enclosure; some dig the substrate when exploring. Digging for fun and curiosity is especially common among younger leopard geckos.

For older leopard geckos, digging might be a sign of boredom. You can add different furnishings in the enclosure, such as plants, rocks, climbing vines, and lizard hammocks, to distract it from digging the substrate.

Frank Miller

Frank Miller is the Founder of Lizard Advisor and owns several pet lizards, from leopard geckos, bearded dragons, crested geckos, chameleons, and others. The mission of this website is to make owning a pet lizard very easy for everyone, but mostly beginners. And each year, he continues to help more people learn more about lizard care and much more.