Leaf-Tailed Gecko Temperatures & Lighting Requirements

leaf tailed gecko in sunlight - leaf tailed gecko uvb and lighting

Lighting & UVB for Leaf-Tailed Geckos

According to data from Antananarivo, Madagascar, leaf-tailed geckos have evolved alongside an annual sunrise-sunrise cycle of approximately 13 hours/day during summer and 11 hours/day during winter. The exact numbers aren’t as important as the fact that there is a significant seasonal flux in the amount of daylight vs night. Simulating these rhythms in captivity allows for normal hormonal cycling in reptiles, which in turn improves their circadian rhythms, seasonal cycling, as well as general activity, appetite, and overall health.

The easiest way to accomplish this is with a digital programmable timer —  I prefer to use a smart power strip such as this one by Kasa for convenience. Plus, it allows me to automatically sync the lamps to my local sunrise/sunset times.


Although leaf-tailed geckos are classified as crepuscular, they tend to sleep out in the open during the day in the wild, naturally exposing themselves to small amounts of sunlight. Breeders and collectors generally agree that UVB is strongly recommended for the health of Uroplatus geckos.

Since leaf-tailed geckos are crepuscular forest-dwellers, they are classified under Ferguson Zone 1, which means that they don’t need to get a lot of UVB for it to be effective. If you have a Solarmeter 6.5 (recommended), the UVI at the basking branch should be between 1.0-2.0.

The type of UVB bulb you will need to use generally depends on the distance between the basking perch and the lamp, which generally varies with the height of the enclosure you are using. If you don’t have a Solarmeter, here’s a fair baseline for distancing with each bulb type:

The UVB that you choose should span 50-100% of the enclosure’s length. 

These estimations assume that the UVB lamp is placed above the terrarium mesh rather than inside the enclosure, assuming a ~30% mesh block. The above estimates also assume that an Arcadia ProT5 or Vivarium Electronics fixture is in use. For more details on adjusting basking distance based on mesh obstruction, see the Facebook group Reptile Lighting > Guides > Guide 1: Using T5-HO lamps above a Mesh Screen.

Note: Bark mimics like the Fimbriatus, Lineatus, and Alluaudi groups are likely to naturally receive more UVB than leaf mimics (Ebenaui group) due to their choice of microhabitat. These are the latest observations by herpetologist Mark D. Schertz.

General Illumination

Given that leaf-tailed geckos are primarily active around nighttime, their eyes are highly sensitive to light — it doesn’t take much to stimulate their day-night cycle, so if the UVB lamp is the only source of illumination in your enclosure, you’ll be okay. However, if you plan to use shade-tolerant live plants as part of your setup (which is extremely helpful for stabilizing higher humidity levels and a necessity of bioactive setups), then you will need a ~6500K LED plant grow light as well to nourish the plants.

By brand, I prefer the Arcadia JungleDawn LED Bar or the Bio Dude Glow & Grow lamp. LED grow lamps should span the full length of the gecko’s enclosure for maximum benefit.

Uroplatus Temperatures & Heating

Although some may try to tell you that leaf-tailed geckos can be “happily” kept at room temperature, the fact of the matter is that these geckos are still poikilothermic like other reptiles, which means that they need adequate opportunity to thermoregulate according to their needs. Furthermore, different species evolved to thrive at slightly different temperatures, depending on what part of the island they inhabit. All seem to benefit from a temperature drop at night, which also helps promote air circulation in glass enclosures.

The below temperature recommendations are sourced from Leaf-tailed Geckos — The Complete Uroplatus by Philip-Sebastian Gehring (2020).

  • alluaudi
    • Day — 68-77°F / 20-25°C
    • Night —  64-68°F / 18-20°C
    • Basking — 79°F / 26°C
  • ebenaui
    • Day — 75-82°F / 24-28°C
    • Night —  68°F / 20°C
  • fetsy
    • Day — 77-81°F / 25-27°C
    • Night —  72°F / 22°C
    • Basking — 91°F / 33°C
  • fiera
    • Day — 75-79°F / 24-26°C
    • Night —  68°F / 20°C
  • fimbriatus
    • Day — 77-81°F / 25-27°C
    • Night —  72°F / 22°C
  • finaritra
    • Day — 75-79°F / 24-26°C
    • Night —  64-68°F / 18-20°C
  • finiavana
    • Day — 75-79°F / 24-26°C
    • Night —  68°F / 20°C
  • fotsivava
    • Day — 75-79°F / 24-26°C
    • Night —  59°F / 15°C
  • giganteus
    • Day — 75-79°F / 24-26°C
    • Night —  72°F / 22°C
  • guentheri
    • Day — 77-82°F / 25-28°C
    • Night —  68-73°F / 20-23°C
    • Basking — 95°F / 35°C
  • henkeli
    • Day — 77-81°F / 25-27°C
    • Night —  72°F / 22°C
    • Basking — 92°F / 33°C
  • kelirambo
    • Day — 75°F / 24°C
    • Night —  55°F / 13°C
    • Basking spot recommended
  • lineatus
    • Day — 75-79°F / 24-26°C
    • Night —  no data
    • Basking — 82-86°F / 28-30°C
  • malahelo
    • Day — 75-82°F / 24-28°C
    • Night —  68°F / 20°C
  • malama
    • Day — 75-82°F / 24-26°C
    • Night —  64-72°F / 18-22°C
  • phantasticus
    • Day — 75-82°F / 24-26°C
    • Night —  64-72°F / 18-22°C
  • pietschmanni
    • Day — 75-82°F / 24-26°C
    • Night —  68°F / 20°C
    • Basking — 82°F / 28°C
  • sameiti
    • Day — 25-28°C
    • Night —  24-26°C
    • Basking — 30°C
  • sikorae
    • Day — 77-82°F / 22-25°C
    • Night —  64-68°F / 18-20°C

How to Heat Your Leaf-Tailed Gecko Terrarium

The best heat source for a leaf-tailed gecko is a heat lamp. White or clear low-wattage incandescent/halogen bulbs work very nicely for daytime heating. Ceramic heaters and heat projectors are less optimal, and colored bulbs should be avoided entirely.

In implementing the above recommended temperatures in your leaf-tailed gecko terrarium, your heat lamp should create an area of warmth that is roughly equal to the maximum daytime temperature specified by these numbers (unless a higher basking spot temperature is indicated as optimal). This will help create the ideal temperature gradient for your gecko to thermoregulate with. 

  • A basking spot should only be implemented if it will not raise overall terrarium temperatures to dangerous levels. Leaf-tailed geckos overheat easily — this means that providing a basking area may not be safe in enclosures that are too small to accommodate an appropriate thermal gradient!!

Heat Lamp Recommendations

If you are using a small terrarium hood like the Zoo Med Naturalistic Terrarium Hood to house your lights, I recommend the Exo Terra Daytime Heat Lamp. The exact wattage you need will depend on enclosure size, design, room temperature, and other factors, but start with the 25w and go up or down from there depending on your needs.

If you are using a small 5.5″ dome lamp like Zoo Med’s for your heat bulb, then I recommend starting with the 25w Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Lamp

Temperature Monitoring

Track your terrarium’s temperatures by using at least one digital probe thermometer with the probe placed in the basking area. Another thermometer should be placed in the shade in the middle of the setup to make sure your ambient temps are staying within the safe range.

For additional help with controlling your temperatures, rheostats and proportional thermostats are very handy for preventing overheating. Rheostats (lamp dimmers) are more hands-on than thermostats, which make adjustments automatically.

If you are struggling with low daytime temperatures in your enclosure, you will need to add another heat bulb or switch to a higher-wattage bulb.

Current Weather in Uroplatus Habitat

Do leaf-tailed geckos really live at the abovementioned temperatures?

Yes! Check out these nifty live weather reports/forecasts from areas where Uroplatus geckos have been recorded on iNaturalist:

Fianarantsoa, Madagascar (southeast)

Moramanga, Madagascar (east central)

Ambanja, Madagascar (north)

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