Can Leopard Geckos Climb?

Leopard Gecko Hatchling on a plant

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If you’ve seen lizards and geckos climbing up glass and walls,  you may wonder, “Can leopard geckos climb?” 

The short answer is “No,” leopard geckos cannot climb like some other gecko species do.  Species like crested geckos or Tokay geckos have sticky pads on their feet that allow them to climb up most surfaces.  Instead of these foot pads, leopard geckos have small claws on the end of their toes.

Why Leopard Geckos are not Good Climbers

There are several sub families of geckos, of which leopard geckos belong to Eublepharidae. The distinguishing features of Eublepharidae are in the eyes and toes. Eublepharidae have moveable eyelids and clawed toes, while other members of the Gekkonidae family have no eyelids and toe pads for climbing called lamellae.  You may notice your leopard gecko can blink and close its eyes.  The lack of toe pads limit a leopard gecko’s climbing ability.

Leopard geckos are terrestrial, which means they stay close to the ground.  They can climb up rocks and large branches, but will usually not venture very high.

Gecko Comparison

Take a look at the geckos in the photos.  The first is a crested gecko.  Note the big round eyes.  These guys are staring contest champions because with no eyelids, they cannot blink.  Also notice the toes.  The wide webby parts are the toe pads.  Underneath these pads are tiny hairs that allow the gecko to stick to most surfaces and climb.

Compare these features with the leopard gecko in the second photo.   Note the ridge around the eyes. Leopard geckos can blink and close their eyes.  Also note  how thin the leopard gecko toes are compared to the crested gecko, and how the leopard gecko have much more pronounced claws.

Let’s take a closer look at those feet.

Gecko feet with toe pads
Gecko Toe Pads for Climbing

Leopard Gecko Claw
Close up of Claws

The close up of the gecko foot in the first photo clearly shows the sticky toe pads that allow some geckos to climb. Compare this with the leopard gecko claws in the second photo.

Leopard Gecko Enclosure Considerations for Climbing

Since you can expect that your leopard gecko won’t be doing much climbing, your gecko will appreciate if you plan your tank or enclosure accordingly.  Opt for a tank that is longer or wider instead of tall.  Your leopard gecko does not need the extra height, though will definitely appreciate the additional floor space.  A 20 Gallon Long, or “20L” may be the ideal tank size if you’re going with a glass aquarium. 

Your leopard gecko may climb up on a the top of a hide or branch, but most likely won’t perch for long periods.  They absorb heat from underneath, and will want to stay where they can absorb hear through their bellies.

A flat rock or decoration that would absorb and hold heat on the warm side of the tank may be a favorite place for your leopard gecko to climb and explore.

About the author

About the Author: H. Evan Miller & Leopard Gecko

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