Leopard geckos are popular pet reptiles known for their striking patterns and coloration. If you’re a leopard gecko owner, you may have noticed your gecko’s colors seem to change and shift. So do leopard geckos actually change color?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, leopard geckos can change color, but it’s usually temporary and caused by factors like temperature, environment, mood and health. Their overall color pattern stays the same.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the details of leopard gecko color change – from the different types of color change and what causes them to whether certain morphs are more prone to color shifts. We’ll also provide tips on bringing out your gecko’s best colors.

What Causes Leopard Geckos to Change Color?

Temperature and Environment

Leopard geckos are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external temperatures to regulate their body heat. As a result, the temperature of their environment directly impacts their color. In cooler temperatures, leopard geckos will become paler and grayer to absorb more heat.

Meanwhile, warmer temperatures cause them to darken. Their coloration helps them camouflage into their surroundings for protection. Often a dark leopard gecko signals that environment is warm and suitable.

Mood and Health

A leopard gecko’s color can also indicate its mood or health. Stress and fear may trigger a gecko to fade to a paler color temporarily as a self-defense mechanism. On the other hand, contentment and comfort in their environment leads to bolder, brighter colors.

Any drastic color change can signify an underlying health issue like shedding complications, malnutrition, or disease. Always monitor your pet’s coloration for insight into any problems.

Shedding Cycles

During shedding cycles, leopard geckos will also experience distinctive color changes. Their coloration fades and skin takes on a grayish, milky hue when they are ready to shed. This is because fluid builds between the old and new skin layers, making them appear duller until the old skin fully sheds off.

Afterwards, their new vibrant skin is exposed. Geckos typically shed every 4-6 weeks, so owners can anticipate this temporary paler shade in consistent intervals.

Different Types of Leopard Gecko Color Change

Darkening/Lightening of Base Color

Leopard geckos can undergo significant alterations in the shade of their base body color over their lifetime. Hatchlings often emerge quite light in tone, sometimes even whitish or yellowish. As they mature, many leopards darken dramatically to a tan, brick red, or even brownish hue.

However, the degree of darkening can vary based on morph genetics and conditions like temperature. For example, some lavender albino strains retain a lighter pinkish tone lifelong. High temperatures can also cause temporary lightening in wild types with darker base colors.

Vividness of Spots and Markings

Along with base color changes, the intensity of a leopard gecko’s spots and bands may also increase or decrease. Young leopard geckos tend to have faint, hazy markings that become much more pronounced and striking looking with age.

Things like nutrition, lighting conditions, genetics, and temperature can impact the vividness of their patterns. Albino strains often lack most markings entirely. While healthy, well-fed geckos typically display crisp, high-contrast bands and spots, those under stress may fade and appear more dull.

Eye Color

Eye color in leopard geckos can range from golden or light brown to bright crimson red. Albinos have darker burgundy irises. Unlike body color, eye color is not significantly alterable, though some subtle shifts can occur.

For example, darkened “eclipse” eyes may lighten slightly from jet black to dark gray. Red eye color could lose a bit of richness over time. But in most leopard geckos, eye color remains quite stable lifelong once fully developed after hatching.

The exception is with color-changing morphs like the eclipse, which transforms eye color along with the body.

Do Certain Morphs Change Color More?


Albino leopard geckos are one of the most popular morphs, and they tend to be more sensitive to color change than normal leopard geckos. Their lack of melanin means they cannot produce dark pigments, so their colors are limited to yellows, oranges, and reds.

When exposed to heat, albinos will become more vibrant, showing bright yellows and oranges. Without heat, they fade to pale yellow or cream. This striking shift from pale to vivid colors makes albinos’ color changes very noticeable.

Eclipse/Enigma Morphs

The eclipse and enigma morphs are known for their dark eyespots and sensitive color changes. When warm, eclipse geckos exhibit a pattern of bright yellow, orange, and lavender blotches over a dark gray base color.

But when cooler, the blotches fade to pale gray or purple against a light gray background. Enigmas display a similar shift from vibrant to muted colors based on temperature. Their sensitivity is due to a genetic mutation affecting pigment distribution and melanin.

Other Temperature-Sensitive Morphs

While not as dramatic as albinos, many other morphs will show subtle color shifts with temperature changes. For example, yellow/orange morphs like tangerine and carrot tail become richer and more vibrant when warm.

White and yellow morphs also darken slightly when cooler due to growth of darker pigments. Morphs with polygenic traits like striping, spotting, and reverse striping may show color variations in their markings.

Overall, most morphs will show at least minor color differences between their warm and cool states.

Tips for Enhancing Your Gecko’s Color

Optimal Temperature and Humidity

Leopard geckos thrive in warm and humid environments between 82-88°F during the day and 70-75°F at night. Maintaining proper temperatures and a humidity level around 40-60% allows their colors to fully develop and prevents respiratory infections.

Full Spectrum Lighting

Full spectrum lighting that mimics natural sunlight is crucial for bringing out vivid colors in leopard geckos. Bulbs that emit UVA and UVB radiation help them synthesize vitamin D3 to properly absorb calcium in their diet.

Nutritious Diet

Feeding your leopard gecko a balanced diet with proper calcium-to-phosphorus ratios promotes healthy skin pigment production. We recommend mixing and matching feeder insects like mealworms, crickets, silkworms, etc. dusted with calcium/vitamin D3 supplements 2-3 times per week.

Minimize Stress

Stress from inadequate housing, improper handling, or aggressive cage mates can cause color loss in leopard geckos. Provide plenty of hides, limit handling to short sessions, house geckos separately if needed, and their gorgeous patterns and colors will shine through!


While leopard geckos don’t completely change their colors and patterns, their hues can shift in response to temperature, health, moods and shedding cycles. Certain morphs like albinos and eclipse are especially prone to color fluctuations.

By optimizing their environment, lighting, nutrition and minimizing stress, you can help bring out the brightest, most vivid colors in your leopard gecko all year round. Their beautiful colors are one of the joys of leopard gecko ownership, so take steps to keep your gecko looking their best.

Similar Posts