Leopard geckos are often thought of as nocturnal because they sleep during daylight hours. Leopard geckos are crepuscular, not nocturnal. This means leopard geckos are most active in the twilight hours between dusk and dawn.
Leopard geckos will spend most of their days sleeping, curled up in hides or in shelter. They don’t regularly bask in direct sunlight like some lizards (where they’d be easy pickings for predators.) That doesn’t necessarily mean leopard geckos are up and about all night.
Crepuscular vs Nocturnal
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So, leopard geckos sleep during the day. Sounds pretty nocturnal, doesn’t it? What’s the difference between nocturnal and crepuscular?
Most people are familiar with the concept of nocturnal – being active primarily at night and sleeping much of the day. Bats, owls, foxes, and raccoons are some common examples of nocturnal animals. Typically, they only come out at night.
The word crepuscular originates from the Latin term for twilight, “crepusculum.” Just because an animal isn’t active during the day, does not mean it’s nocturnal by nature. There is time between day and night.
At dawn, the early sunlight is taking the chill out of the night air, and the light driving the nocturnal creatures back to their shelters. At dusk, the warmth of the day have not fully faded and the half light adds an advantage to both hunt and avoid predation.
Wild Leopard Geckos
For leopard geckos in the wild, desert temperatures at dawn and dusk are cooler than during the day, and not as chilly as a desert night after the sun drops completely. During twilight, the fully nocturnal animals are still hunkered down.
This means less competition for food. Leopard geckos will spend most of their days in their burrows or under rocks and come out during the twilight hours to hunt.
More importantly, there is less opportunity for leopard geckos to become prey of other animals. Primary predators of leopard geckos are snakes, larger reptiles (well, larger than the leopard gecko), or mammals like foxes.
When diurnal animals are getting ready to call it a day and nocturnal creature have yet to wake is the best time for leopard geckos to be out and about. The waning sunlight at dusk or first few rays of sunlight cutting through the darkness make it difficult for both diurnal and nocturnal animals to see. If it’s harder to see, it’s harder to hunt, which bodes well for leopard geckos.
Pet Leopard Geckos
For your leopard gecko at home, it mostly means they’ll be most active in the early morning or evening. You’ll want to plan your pet’s feeding schedule and the time you spend with your leopard gecko accordingly.
Pet leopard geckos will spend much of the daytime hours in their hides or under cover within their enclosures. If you rarely see your leopard gecko during the day, it’s usually not cause for concern; they’re just following their natural body clock.
Leopard Gecko Lighting; Day and Night Cycle
It’s important to make sure you have a distinct day and night cycle for your leopard gecko. You may have your gecko’s enclosure is in a room that gets enough natural light, and this may be sufficient from a schedule standpoint. Be careful the enclosure does not get too much direct sunlight, as this can increase the temperature inside the tank.
You can also mimic the day and night cycle with lights on timers. A simple Christmas tree timer may do the trick. You could also opt for a smart plug that can be controlled directly or programmed from your phone. Most of these will have settings to turn the power on or off automatically at sunrise and sunset (and adjust the time throughout the year), and are quite useful for keeping a natural schedule.
We use the Kasa smart plug for our habitat lighting, and also have a few of them throughout the house.
Make sure you have everything you need for your leopard gecko habitat and visit our HABITAT SETUP Page.
Wrap up: Are leopard geckos nocturnal?
Contrary to popular belief, leopard geckos are not nocturnal, but crepuscular. It’s a small distinction, since both crepuscular and nocturnal animals are not active during the day.
Just like leopard geckos are not basking in the sunlight, they aren’t active at all hours of the night (when nocturnal predators are on the hunt.) They may be sometimes seen during the day or night, but spend their most active hours in the twilight.
You’ll find evening or early morning hours the best time to feed or interact with your leopard gecko.
For more facts and nuggets of knowledge, check out out post about leopard gecko facts and information.