There are many different opinions when it comes to heating in leopard gecko tanks. Some people will say that all you need is a heat mat and that´s it. Others only heat with a heat bulb. Some people use both, a heat mat and a heat bulb to create the right environment for their leopard geckos.
In this article you will learn if you really can heat only with a leopard gecko heat mat and what the best heat mats are. Further you will learn about a great alternative to a heat mat.
Do Leopard Geckos Need “Belly Heat”?
This is a common term, especially in forums or any other leopard gecko online communities. Most people say that leopard geckos need belly heat to be able to digest their food. This isn´t really true.
Leopard geckos are cold-blooded, like all reptiles. They need their environment to get their body on temperature. If they don´t have any possibility to get their body on temperature they can´t digest their food or move properly.
The truth is, that they simply need heat, like all reptiles. That´s it, they don´t need especially belly heat or something like that to digest their food.
So if the heat comes from above or from below is not really relevant.
Can You Heat Only With A Heat Mat?
I get this a lot: “Leopard geckos don´t need any lighting, they just need a heat mat!”Sure, you CAN do that. Leopard geckos are nocturnal, that means they are active during the night and light is not as important for them as it is for bearded dragons for example.
Personally, I use a light bulb as well. In my opinion it is way more natural for leopard geckos to simulate a day and night cycle. Leopard geckos come out at night and in the wild they heat up on warmed up stones and through the last sunbeams.
However, I understand if people rather go with only a heat mat. Using only heat mats is cheaper than using bulb and mat combined, and it is less work.
So you can do as you wish. Here are is one of the best heat mats you can currently get. (When choosing the size of your leopard gecko under tank heater, make sure that the mat covers one third of your tank.)
You Need A Thermostat As Well
Those heating pads can get hot as hell and I am not joking here. You can even kill your pet with them if you just plug them in without a thermostat. With a thermostat you can control the exact temperature. So if you get a heat pad, you must get a thermostat as well. Get a thermostat here!
Why You Might Want To Go With A Heat Stone
I learned about the benfits of heat stones when I talked to Esther Laue. Esther Laue is a german leopard gecko keeper who´s leopard geckos both are 38 years old. The oldest leopard geckos I know. I asked her about how she keeps her geckos and her approach is very natural.
She uses a lot of hides and natural substrate. She also uses a hot stone as a roof of a little cave she built inside the leo habitat.
Her leos crawl inside the cave in the evening to get on temperature. Esther turns on the heat stone at night so that the cave gets warm and the leopard geckos have a great place for heating up.
The great thing about that is, that you always can place the hot stone in a different spot of your tank.
You can use it as the roof of a cave you buildt, like Esther does. You could also place it under a couple of stones to heat up the other stones around.
It is very easy to create different temperature zones in your leo habitat exactly how you want it. And if you want to change some things up in your tank, you can always place the stone exactly how you need it. Further the stone contributes to a natural looking habitat.
Be Careful When Using Heat Rocks
Some heat rocks can get really, really hot. Reptiles do not feel if their skin gets burned. They just keep lying on the stone as long as they feel they need the warmth. Therefore I recommend to check how hot your heat stone really gets.
If it gets to hot, you should place it under a couple of rocks, so that you leopard gecko has no direct access to the rock. Using this heat stone as roof for a cave might be the safest option if it gets really hot.
Should You Combine Heat Mat And Heat Bulb?
You can definitely do that. You might ask yourself now, why you should do that, since you can go way cheaper with just using a heat mat. Simulating a day and a night cycle creates a very natural environment for leopard geckos.
People like Esther Laue who are very dedicated when it comes to leopard geckos do exactly this and as you see, she is incredibly successful with it. Remember, her leopard geckos are almost 40 years old and still in great health.
I keep my leopard geckos the same way. I have a very natural leo habitat and I simulate day and night in my tank. So far I did not have any problems with my leo. It has never been sick.
Although there are a lot of other factors that come into play when it comes to the health of leopard geckos, of course.
I use a normal heat bulb and slate slabs as hot stones. The slate slabs get warm during the day since they are placed near the hot spot. They stay warm for a couple of hours during the night, providing enouth heat for my leo.
It really depends on your situation and your beliefs. If you don´t have a lot of money at the moment you can definitely heat your tank only with the heat mat. If you want you can upgrade your tank with a light bulb later.
However there are a lot of people who only heat with heat mats and do not have any problems at all. Try it out. I showed you the best heat mats your can get for your leopard gecko above. Keep in mind that you can also use a heat stone instead, which is a more customizable solution and might be a great choice for a beginner.