When it comes to water, many pet owners wonder whether or not their gecko needs it. After all, you rarely see your reptile friend approaching the water bowl or drink.
Such a situation can make you wonder: do geckos like water? Are they afraid to go near wet environments?
In this article, we’ll discuss the love-hate relationship between geckos and water. We’ll also explore when and how you should bathe your gecko. So, stick around for all the details!
The answer is that it depends. Most geckos need to drink water to hydrate and regulate their body temperature.
Sure, geckos don’t drink much water since they naturally come from dry environments. However, those reptiles need water to aid digestion, excretion, and shedding.
In the case of swimming, generally, geckos don’t like to submerge themselves in water. Again, this has to do with their natural habitat.
Typically, geckos live in hot, sandy climates with little plant coverage, so they’re not used to wet environments.
Still, some species are adapted to other environments, like rainforests, and can tolerate wet environments!
Regardless of their habitat, geckos obtain their water from their prey. Some make use of the morning dew and lick the droplets off their bodies to get hydrated.
Additionally, geckos, like most reptiles, developed special adaptations to conserve water. That explains why they don’t need to get near wet environments in the first place.
Yes! While they’re not adapted to aquatic life, most geckos can swim thanks to several mechanisms.
Like large vertebrates, geckos use all four limbs to generate forces to slap the water.
Thanks to their appendages, they follow the former movement by stroking. That creates air bubbles, helping them keep their heads and trunks above the surface and move in the water.
What’s more, geckos also use their tails to stay afloat like alligators, mimicking their smooth up-and-down movements.
However, that’s not the only adaptation that helps geckos swim. Geckos have super-hydrophobic skin.
The latter means that their skin doesn’t like water. Once they contact it, geckos’ skin repels the liquid. That helps reduce water drag and prevent slowing their movement while swimming.
Aside from their biological adaptation, physical factors, like the water’s surface tension, also help geckos swim.
For those who don’t know, surface tension is the liquid’s ability to resist external forces.
That physical phenomenon helps bodies float in the sea. Geckos rely on surface tension to walk on water and avoid sinking.
Despite having several adaptations that help them swim, geckos can still drown. Those reptiles’ swimming skills vary from one species to another.
For instance, Brazilian pygmy geckos are excellent swimmers. Naturally, those species live in the rainforests, which cover a large part of South America.
For that reason, the pygmy gecko doesn’t fear wet climates. They can walk, run, float, and relax in water easily.
The former species can even survive heavy rain! Thanks to their superhydrophobic skin and small size, pygmy geckos allow water’s surface tension to lift them and remain suspended as much as they like.
Leopard geckos, on the other hand, hate water. You won’t find them approaching the water dish other than for drinking.
Sure, they can swim when the situation calls for it, like when the temperature is too hot and they need to regulate it. However, that doesn’t mean your leopard gecko is enjoying it.
Like humans, geckos exert energy to stay afloat and swim. Once they’re tired, those reptiles might sink, and as you might know, reptiles can’t breathe underwater.
So, eventually, your gecko might drown if kept in deep water. To avoid all the hassle, place a shallow water dish in your gecko’s terrarium.
Additionally, only bathe the pet under your supervision, and don’t leave it alone in water regardless of the depth.
Yes, you can give geckos a bath. In fact, bathing your reptile pets is recommended on several occasions, such as shedding difficulties and impaction.
You can also bathe your reptile friend if they’re dirty or when the vet recommends it. However, that’s a rare occasion since geckos have self-cleaning skins.
Here’s when you should give your gecko a bath:
Geckos, like most reptiles, shed their skin. The former process is known as ecdysis. That biological process happens to make room for their growing bodies.
Geckos’ skins don’t stretch. As they grow, they make new layers to fit their larger bodies and remove the old, small ones.
The problem is that some old skin gets stuck due to poor hydration or low humidity. That’s especially true around the toes.
If left untreated, those bits of skin can hinder toe movement. Not only that, but they may restrict blood flow, causing the toes to drop off.
That’s when soaking your pet in a warm bath comes in handy. The former helps soften the hardened skin and facilitates shedding.
Gecko bowel impaction happens when objects block the tiny intestines. Several reasons can cause impaction, such as eating indigestible materials and loose substrates.
Additionally, fecal mass accumulation due to poor digestion can also cause bowel impaction, and if left untreated, the former can lead to death.
Soaking your reptile pet in warm water and massaging its belly can help them excrete those materials. Keep in mind that the water should be deep enough to cover your pet’s hips.
You can repeat the process twice a day until your gecko passes stool. However, take your pet immediately to the vet if the impaction persists.
While it’s better to let a professional do it, you can still wash your gecko. Here’s what you need to do:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with water and soap to avoid transferring pathogens to your pet.
- Fill a small container with warm water between 80ºF and 90ºF. Make sure the water isn’t too deep—around half an inch would suffice.
Pro tip: add sphagnum moss to the bath to make your gecko more comfortable.
- Add mineral oil or antifungal drugs if instructed by the vet.
- Let your gecko soak for 30 minutes. You can also pour warm water on its back.
- Using a Q-Tip, gently scrub the softened skin off your gecko’s body. Don’t rub or pluck any flakes, as that can cause skin damage.
- Wrap a clean cloth around your pet’s body, leaving the head exposed, and gently rub it using a circular motion to dry its body.
- Wash your hands thoroughly again and disinfect all the materials used.
It’s difficult to determine whether or not sand is bad for geckos, as the topic is controversial.
On the one hand, sand can be dangerous since your reptile pet can ingest it intentionally or unintentionally, causing impaction. That’s especially true for juvenile geckos.
Other potential difficulties include inhaling dust and fine particles. As a result, your gecko might develop respiratory problems or infections due to inhaling sand bacteria and mold.
On the other hand, sand is convenient since you can simply scoop the waste out of it. Additionally, it provides room for your geckos to burrow their bodies into it like they naturally do in the desert.
Not to mention, your reptile friend can eat sand to make up for a calcium deficiency.
Still, those particles are difficult to digest. So, it’s best to avoid using sand as a substrate.
If you want to use the former, make sure to feed your gecko in a dish to reduce the chances of sand-eating. Plus, provide calcium supplements to prevent intentional sand ingestion and metabolic bone disease.
That said, stop using this loose substrate once you notice sand grains in your gecko’s poop.
Yes, you can spray your gecko with water. Misting your gecko can help it regulate its temperature and remain cool.
The former helps meet the gecko’s high humidity requirements. That’s especially crucial during the shedding season.
Low humidity can cause skin dryness and exfoliating difficulties. To tackle that issue, mist your pet twice weekly to help remove any skin buildup.
As for young geckos, spray them with water daily, even when you keep them in a humidity box since they shed skin frequently. Of course, use a gentle mister and avoid large spray bottles or hoses, as they can do more harm than good.
So, do geckos like water?
Generally, geckos don’t like water unless it’s for hydration. While they can swim, geckos typically live in dry regions with little rainfall. So, they’re not accustomed to swimming unless in survival situations.
However, some species, such as the Brazilian pygmy geckos, are excellent swimmers and can survive in wet environments.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.