Like all reptiles, Leopard Geckos shed their skin throughout their lives. This is a perfectly normal and healthy process for Leopard Geckos to go through, even though it looks a little strange to us mammals!
So strange, in fact, that it can cause new owners to worry that something might be wrong with their little Leo the first time they witness a shed.
By the end of this article, you will know all you need to know about shedding – what to do (and what not to do), why, when, and how often it will happen, and any problems you need to look for along the way.
Why Do Leopard Geckos Shed?
Let’s start with a little background info. Why do Leopard Geckos, and other reptiles for that matter, shed their skin in the first place?
A reptile’s skin doesn’t grow with them as they get larger. This means that as they grow, their skin will get tighter and tighter. If your parents ever made you wait until the new school year to replace a pair of shoes that were getting too small you’ll know how uncomfortable this can feel!
Luckily for your gecko, nature takes over when it’s time and begins the process that will swap out this old layer of skin for a new one.
As well as allowing your Leo to grow, shedding can also remove external parasites along with old scars or signs of damage that are discarded with the old skin.
What Happens When A Leopard Gecko Sheds/ How Do I Know If My Leopard Gecko Is Shedding?
Leopard Geckos start getting ready to shed well before the actual event and there are some telltale signs to look out for that will let you know a shed is on the way.
When your Leopard Gecko is getting ready for a shed their skin will start to become dull and their usual skin pattern will start to fade. As this continues, your gecko will start to turn a pale-grayish color.
While this is happening, nutrients from the old layer of skin start getting reabsorbed to help the body grow the new layer of skin and the old layer of skin gradually starts to detach from the body.
There are some behavioral changes you may notice alongside the visual cues as well.
Your gecko will start to show less interest in food and will stop eating altogether as the shed gets closer.
It’s also common for geckos to appear sluggish during this time and you may notice that they either become more aggressive or shy away from you. Any (or all) of these behaviors are perfectly normal and only temporary. Your gecko should return to normal once the shed is over/
How Often Do Leopard Geckos Shed?
Leopard Geckos will shed every 1 to 2 weeks for the first 6 months and then around once a month until they are fully grown. Adult Leopard geckos will shed once every 4 to 8 weeks.
|Leopard Gecko Age||Shedding Frequency|
|0 – 3 Months||Once per week|
|3 to 6 months||Once every 1 – 2 weeks|
|6 to 18 months||Once per month|
|18 months +||Every 4 – 8 weeks|
Leopard Gecko Shedding Frequency By Age
How Long Does It Take For A Leopard Gecko To Shed?
It will usually take between 1 and 3 days from the time your gecko’s skin starts turning pale or dull for the shed to complete.
Once the gecko starts to remove its skin, that part of the process will usually last around an hour but can take up to 24 hours to fully complete.
Leopard Gecko Shedding Problems
If your gecko is healthy, it should be shedding on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case so let’s look at some of the common problems owners have when it comes to shedding.
Why Isn’t My Leopard Gecko Shedding?
The first problem with shedding is not shedding at all!
Before worrying about your gecko not shedding though, be sure that you’re not just missing it. If the conditions are right and the shed goes well, your gecko could start the shed, remove the skin, and eat it all within 24 hours so it can be easy to miss while you’re going about your (non-gecko-related) business.
As mentioned already though, if your gecko is healthy it should be shedding. If you’re sure that your gecko’s not shedding, take it to see a vet who can check for any health problems that might be getting in the way.
A stuck, or partially stuck, shed is going to be the most common problem you see with your Leo. Preventing stuck sheds is by far the best solution to this problem so here are the most common causes of stuck sheds and what you can do to avoid them:
Lack of moisture
As soon as you notice the signs that a shed is imminent you need to increase the humidity in your gecko’s tank. Misting their habitat 1-3 times per day will help to raise the humidity and this will give the gecko a nice moist hide that will shed more easily.
Make sure that your gecko has access to clean water at all times too, although that should be a given for any careful gecko owner and not just a consideration for shedding.
Vitamin deficiency brought about by a poor diet is another common cause of shedding problems.
Make sure that your Leopard Gecko has a high-quality supply of gut-loaded staple insects – crickets, mealworms, locusts, etc so they have the nutrients and energy they need for a successful shed.
Sub Par Habitat
An easy-to-overlook aspect of the shed is where it actually happens. In the wild, your Leo would have access to all kinds of rocks, soil, and other textured surfaces to rub against and help remove that loose skin.
If his tank is full of smooth objects he might be missing a vital tool to get the shed over the finish line so make sure there are a variety of rough surfaces that can be used to scrape off those last few bits of skin.
Leopard Gecko Shedding Too Often
This is less of a problem and more of a concern that owners tend to have. There is no set schedule for your Leopard Gecko to shed so it’s hard to say what would be ‘too often’ or ‘not often enough’.
Keep in mind that shedding is mainly a response to your gecko growing and their skin becoming too tight so ‘excessive’ shedding might just be down to overindulging at mealtimes – think buying new pants during the holiday season after one too many desserts!
If your adult gecko is shedding more than once a month and not eating, or not eating for more than a week after a shed, you should take it to the vet to get checked out.
Should I Help My Leopard Gecko Shed?
Ideally, your Leopard Gecko will complete its shed without any need for you to get involved and the only help you need to provide is making sure it has the right habitat and environment.
It can be tempting, and some owners even think it’s enjoyable, to help your gecko shed its skin but there’s always a risk of damaging the sensitive new layer of skin if you remove the old layer too quickly.
If your gecko shed does get stuck though, and it’s showing signs of being stressed because of it, you will need to help remove the stuck sections of skin.
Here are a few ways you can help your gecko with a stuck shed and they are ordered from least to most invasive (and dangerous) so we suggest you try them in this order:
Gently (remember, your gecko is likely to be quite stressed at this point) place your gecko into a shallow container of slightly warmed water and let it soak for around 15 minutes.
Hopefully, this will soften and loosen the skin to the point that your gecko can remove it by itself and complete the shed.
2. Humidity Hide/Shedding Box
If they don’t already have one in their tank, we strongly suggest you buy or make your gecko a humidity hide. Your gecko can then use this as a shedding box to try and get the last of the old skin off.
3. Shedding Aid
A shedding aid will work in much the same way as water, it just cranks up the dial on the process a bit.
Spray directly onto the skin and if required, gently rub it in with a Q-tip to help penetrate further.
4. Removing Skin Yourself
This should only be a last resort because of the risk of injuring your gecko but if you need to manually remove part of a shed the main thing to remember is to TAKE. IT. SLOW.
Be as gentle as possible and NEVER rip the skin off just to get it over with – we’re not talking about a band-aid here!
This video is a great example of the care and patience needed for this delicate procedure.
Common Questions About Shedding
What Can I Do To Help Prepare For A Shed?
The most important thing is to be aware that your gecko is getting ready to shed and adjust the humidity in the tank accordingly. Apart from that just make sure they don’t get too stressed out and the shed should be fine without your help.
Can You Hold A Leopard Gecko When It’s Shedding?
No. Your gecko’s skin will be a lot more sensitive and the gecko itself will be irritable and potentially aggressive towards you so unless it needs help with a stuck shed, best to steer clear for the duration of the shed.
Should I Feed My Leopard Gecko While It’s Shedding?
No. Leopard Geckos tend not to eat during the shedding process so there is no need to provide food during this time.
Do Leopard Geckos Eat Their Shed?
Yes! Leopard Geckos will often eat their old skin so no need to be alarmed when you see them do it.
Why Do Leopard Geckos Eat Their Shed?
Mostly because it’s full of nutrients. Growing (and shedding) a whole layer of skin takes a lot of time and effort so why let all that work go to waste when you can recycle it into a tasty snack instead?
Does It Hurt A Leopard Gecko To Shed?
No. Shedding does not hurt Leopard Geckos provided it completes successfully. It can become painful if a shed gets stuck, especially on your gecko’s extremities (tails and toes in particular).
Is Shedding Stressful For A Leopard Gecko?
Although it doesn’t hurt, shedding can be stressful for a Leopard Gecko. This is because they will stop eating before a shed and the entire process can take over 24 hours to complete. This stress is only temporary and will not have any lasting negative consequences.
Now you’ve seen that shedding is a natural and (usually) straightforward process that all reptiles go through. Next time you notice some uncharacteristic behavior, you should be able to work out if a shed is imminent or if there is something else you need to worry about.
As long as your Leopard Gecko is happy and healthy and has a suitable habitat you should see plenty of trouble-free sheds for years to come.