• Thu. Jun 20th, 2024

Can Leopard Geckos Swim? Facts & Safety Guide


Jun 6, 2023
leopard gecko in a tank


leopard gecko in a tank

Many wild and domestic animals will swim to cool down, for fun, or to hunt for their next meal. Others prefer to keep their feet on dry land. Leopard Geckos will sit in shallow water to soften their skin for shedding or to cool down, but they can’t swim and don’t like being around too much water.

Since a water dish is often a recommended part of a gecko’s vivarium, it’s important to choose the right one to suit your pet’s needs. This guide will tell you why Leopard Geckos can’t swim and why they still need a source of water, even if they don’t want to splash around in it.

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Can Leopard Geckos Swim?

Unlike their feline namesake, the Leopard Gecko is not a fan of swimming. They can float for a short time, but that’s as far as their swimming ability extends. They don’t have the right body construction to be strong or even weak swimmers. Due to this, geckos can drown if they fall into their water dish.

Leopard gecko
Image Credit: Reinhold-Leitner, Shutterstock

Should You Let Your Leopard Gecko Swim?

Swimming might sound like a good way for your Leopard Gecko to pass the time, but their inability to swim makes it incredibly dangerous. Although they can float, their body isn’t designed to keep them above the surface for long. They also lack the ability to move their body in a way that enables them to right themselves in deep water.

Remember, these geckos are not native to an area that gets a large amount of water. They’re used to dry, desert climates. Being around too much water can be stressful for them and prevent them from drinking the water that they need or even prompt them to hide away in their vivarium rather than explore.

It’s safer and far healthier for your Leopard Gecko if you don’t try to encourage them to swim. You can leave a water dish in their vivarium so they can sit in it, but make sure it isn’t large enough for them to feel unsafe.

If you want your Leopard Gecko to have enrichment activities in their vivarium, you should find safe options, such as rocks and plants for hiding and live crickets for chasing.

How to Give Water to Your Leopard Gecko

Leopard Geckos are native to arid climates throughout the Middle East and Asia, so they don’t need as much water as other pets that you might keep. That said, providing clean water is still an important part of their care, both to manage their vivarium’s humidity level and for them to drink. There are several ways that you can give water to your Leopard Gecko.


When it comes to taking care of reptiles, misting them and their environment helps keep the vivarium humid and moist. It’s more time consuming than using a bowl of water, but you’ll be able to better monitor the humidity levels in their habitat.

leopard gecko on person's hand
Image Credit: akorolkova, Shutterstock

Shallow Bowl

Despite their inability to swim, Leopard Geckos do like to sit in shallow water. For this reason, you should use a shallow bowl to keep their water in. This serves two purposes. One, it enables your Leopard Gecko to soak their entire body whenever they need to—particularly when they’re shedding—and two, it can help manage the humidity level in their vivarium. It’s important to make sure the bowl is big enough to hold your gecko but is not so large that they risk drowning.

You must change the water frequently to ensure that your pet always has clean, fresh water nearby. The water should be changed at least once a day, especially if it’s dirty. Keep the water dish on the cool side of the vivarium.

Humidity Hides

Geckos are prey animals and will need places to hide throughout their vivarium. These areas help them feel safe, and one can serve as a cool, damp place. Your Leopard Gecko will visit this humidity hide to relax and take advantage of the moist air when they’re shedding.

You can purchase a humidity hide from a pet store or use an overturned container that’s big enough for your pet. To ensure that it’s humid enough, you’ll need to line it with damp sphagnum moss or paper towels.

Striped Leopard Gecko
Image Credit: Pepi M Firmansyah, Shutterstock

Why Is My Leopard Gecko Sitting in Their Water Dish?

Leopard Geckos might not be able to swim, but you’ll often see them sitting in their water dish. This is why the bowl needs to be shallow enough to prevent drowning but big enough that they can sit in it as much as they want. Your pet gecko will sit in their water dish for several reasons.


Despite being used to dry environments, water is still a necessity for their survival, and they will drink when they need to. Most of your Leopard Gecko’s hydration will be received from the insects that they eat. They can also eat fresh vegetables with a high water content to help regulate their hydration levels.

If they have a moisture-rich diet, you likely won’t see your Leopard Gecko drinking much, but it’s still a good idea to keep fresh water in their vivarium at all times. Every so often, you might see them sitting in the water whenever they want a drink.

close up of a leopard gecko drinking water
Image Credit: Gaschwald, Shutterstock

Regulating Moisture

Leopard Geckos are good at taking care of themselves, especially when their body’s moisture and temperature are concerned. You can help them by keeping the vivarium at the perfect temperature and humidity level, so your pet can dart from their cool spot to their basking area and back again whenever they need to.

Having a dish of water is another way for them to regulate their body’s needs. It will help moisturize their skin when it gets too dry during their basking and cool them down if they get too hot.


A natural part of your Leopard Geckos’ routine is shedding their skin. This process is much easier when their skin is moist. A humidity hide can help, and your gecko will likely spend a great deal of time in there when they’re shedding to soften their skin and make it easier to remove.

Sitting in their water dish has the same effect. It enables them to soften their skin and makes it easier and less painful to remove the shed layers.

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Although Leopard Geckos share a name with one of the best swimmers in the cat world, they don’t share the same swimming ability. In fact, they can’t swim at all and much prefer staying on dry land.

However, Leopard Geckos will sit in shallow water or a humidity hide if they need to moisten their skin while they’re shedding. They should have a water dish that’s big enough to suit their needs but not deep enough that they can’t touch the floor, to reduce the risk of drowning.

Featured Image Credit: Leroy Dickson, Pixabay

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