The tails on leopard geckos are one of the most fascinating parts of their bodies. Their tail should normally be fatter than their stomach area. Leopard geckos that have a real thin tail are unhealthy or possibly sick. In this article, I want to discuss everything about leopard geckos tails.
Leopard Gecko Tail Loss
Like a lot of lizards, leopard geckos can drop their tails. They do this to distract the predator that might be trying to eat them. Their tails keep moving for a short duration of time after it detaches. It is a defensive mechanism that distracts the predator long enough so they can run into a hide.
Care After Tail Loss
Firstly, relax 🙂
Don’t freak out if your gecko drops their tail – it’s a natural mechanism and won’t harm them long term.
Just remember they are going to be more scared about it than you. So let your gecko chill out quietly in their hide for about 30 minutes to an hour. If you try to pick them up after losing their tail, they will be very panicky. So leave them be for a while to calm down. You might need to calm yourself at the same time as it can be a bit distressing to see. But don’t worry, just remember, it is a natural defence mechanism.
If your leopard gecko is in the sand, I would remove them right away though. The reason is that we don’t want sand to get in their wound – it could get infected and they could even die as a result.
First Aid Wound Care
- If your leopard gecko has cage mates, remove the one that lost their tail and keep them on their own for a while.
- In their new habitat make sure you just use paper towels or gecko carpet for a substrate.
- With their moist hide make sure you remove their moss. You don’t want that to get in their wound. I would use a paper towel for their moist hide.
- You can use a disinfectant with a cotton bud to treat the geckos wound – just gently dab the area. I found this excellent article on disinfectants for reptiles: click here.
If you notice that your leopard gecko is swelling up, oozing or getting red you might want to consider taking them to the vet right away.
Load Up On Food
Since a good amount of their food reserve is stored in their tail, you are going to want to make sure you give them plenty of food so they can recover quicker. I do recommend getting some wax worms because they help fatten up your leopard gecko. Only give them 2 or 3 wax worms a day because they can get addicted to wax worms. It’s important to feed them extra calcium to make sure they are getting the proper nutrients to recover quickly.
How Long Does A Leopard Gecko Tail Take To Grow Back?
If you feed them properly, it usually takes about 65 days for it to grow back fully. It won’t ever look the same, though. Instead, it will be smoother and have a knob shape to it.
Can You Stop A Gecko Losing Their Tail?
It’s common for leopard geckos to drop their tail if they are frightened. Maybe you picked them up by their tail, and you freaked them out. If so, just make sure you handle them more carefully, and don’t pick them up by the tail. Then it shouldn’t happen again.
Sometimes leopard geckos fight (even two females). So it’s important to separate them if they are fighting. Two males should never be housed together.
Personally, I have never had my leopard geckos lose their tails. But in case it ever happens to you, at least you now know why – and what to do about it.
Leopard Gecko Tail Behavior
Geckos do use their tails for communication – so you can sometimes tell how they are feeling by what they do with their tail. So what does it mean when a leopard gecko shakes its tail?
Wagging Tail Slowly
If they are waving or shaking their tail slowly, this is normally a signal to other geckos to say “I’m here, and I know you are there too”. Often they will lower their bodies to the ground when they do the slow tail wave.
Rapid Tail Wagging
The fast tail wave/shake is typically done by a male in the presence of a female. It’s a sign to let the females know that there is a male about, and that he knows the ladies are there.
Defensive Posture & Tail Wagging
As you will probably know, geckos can ‘drop’ their tails if a predator is after them as a diversion tactic (“eat that not me!”). But this is extreme – it takes a lot of effort to regrow a tail, so they don’t want to be doing that often!
So geckos have a defensive response where they will lower their body while keeping their head high to look at the source of the threat. They then point their tail in the air and slowly wag it. This could be in response to a predator, another gecko that they are wary of, or even you if you surprised them or they aren’t used to you yet.
This behaviour applies to males and females so if you see a female leopard gecko wagging her tail at a male, then she is probably not sure of him and being defensive.
If you see your gecko in this posture, don’t pick them up as you are likely to scare them even more and get bitten. Instead just stay calm, still and quiet until your gecko realises you are not a threat and relaxes. If you are trying to get your gecko used to you so you can handle them, then just take your time. You can build up to slowly moving your hand into the tank – not near your gecko, keep it at a distance – and then hold it still. Your gecko will learn that it is not a threat after all and eventually it will come and investigate instead of behaving defensively and/or running to hide.
So if you see your leopard gecko waving their tail at least you now have a better idea of what is going on in their head.