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Can Geckos Swim? What To Beware Of

You may be wondering if the water dish in your gecko’s vivarium is safe. Can geckos swim?

Geckos cannot swim and being submerged in water can negatively affect their health. However, they can float, making it appear that they can run on water or swim.

Being in the water for even a short amount of time can overstress geckos and lead to numerous health issues. Respiratory duress, immune system issues, and drowning are a few of the significant risks. 

Making the mistake of having a water dish that is too deep for your gecko to safely use could be fatal. They won’t willingly subject themselves to wet environments unless necessary, so let’s explore what happens when geckos get into the water and when they need it. 

Why Geckos Should Not Swim 

Respiratory Duress

Geckos are not meant to be submerged in water. Being exposed to water for long periods causes geckos to experience extreme body temperature shifts.

Water makes them cold; they then seek out heat and remain in the heat for extended periods until they overheat and seek relief in the water. This is a vicious cycle for a gecko.

It puts their body under a high amount of stress. Constant temperature shifts like this can cause respiratory infections. 

Signs of respiratory infections include the following:

  • exhaustion
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty breathing

Often when geckos have difficulty breathing, you will observe them breathing with their mouths open, wheezing, or hear clicking noises as they breathe.

If you notice any of these signs, take your gecko to a reptile specialty vet immediately. Chronic respiratory infections or prolonged and untreated infections can drastically shorten your gecko’s lifespan. 

Immune System Issues 

Extreme temperature shifts can also cause geckos to have immune system issues that lead to poor growth and secondary infection. When a gecko is in a vulnerable state, they are more susceptible to viral, fungal, and bacterial infections. 

Having a sick gecko is difficult and can be costly. It is essential to practice proper husbandry and make sure your gecko is getting its vitamins.

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a sick gecko

Experts recommend using gut-loaded insects as well as calcium and D3 dusting powder to keep your geckos healthy. 

Not all gut-loaded insects are the same, some are of higher quality and offer more moisture, and some are less loaded and aren’t as nutritious. It is vital to make sure you are feeding your insects high-quality food so that your gecko is, in turn, getting high-quality food.

You can buy premade food specifically made for gut loading, or you can make sure to feed them a wide variety of fruits and vegetables as well as grains, dry cat food, and tropical fish flakes sprinkled with reptile vitamins. 


The most obvious issue with having an unsafe water dish or pool in your vivarium is drowning. As mentioned above, geckos can’t swim.

They can float on water, but it takes a lot of exerted effort to do so. They can’t stay afloat long; they get tired and eventually sink, resulting in drowning. 

Geckos will sometimes fall asleep, fall into, or are unable to get out of an unsafe water dish. This can lead to drowning and is the reason why any water dish offered needs to be shallow and easy for them to maneuver out of without help.

Some gecko owners also provide a humid hide for their geckos to get the moisture they need without venturing into the water dish. 

When Do Geckos Need Water? 

Geckos are from dry, warm climates. They get most of their hydration from their food. Geckos need water to survive, regulate body temperature, and assist with shedding; however, they don’t necessarily enjoy it. In the wild, geckos will usually only drink water when the insects they eat are not enough, during shedding, or when gravid. 


gecko drinks water

Like most living things, geckos need water to survive. As mentioned above, geckos get most of their hydration needs from their food.

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It is suggested that you keep a small shallow water dish available for them when they aren’t eating insects with as much moisture. It is important to frequently change out the water and monitor it for any evaporation.  

Regulate Body Temperature 

Geckos thermoregulate, meaning they can adjust their body heat to remain comfortable. If a humid hide is not offered, you may notice that to accommodate thermoregulation your gecko will drink more water or even take short soaks in their water dish before hiding away to complete the process. 

Keeping your geckos’ water dish in a cooler area of their vivarium will make it easier for them to maintain their ideal temperature. The cool area of your gecko’s vivarium should stay between 70-77 °F, and a warm area should remain between 87-85 °F with a basking spot that stays between 90-95°F.

Because most geckos are crepuscular or nocturnal, it is believed that they don’t bask; therefore, they don’t need a basking area. However, this topic is up for debate, as many gecko owners observe their geckos basking from time to time, and it’s proven that a UVA/UVB bulb can help improve their immune systems and overall health.

To Assist with Shedding

Geckos tend to shed less as they get older, ranging from every two weeks as juveniles to once every month to a month and a half as adults. Hydration is essential for geckos right before, during, and right after shedding.

Geckos usually won’t eat for 24-48 hours before and after shedding cycles. As stated above, geckos get the majority of their water from food. With them not eating during the shed, they will need more water than usual. 

To Assist With Shedding

Signs of an impending shed include aggressiveness and lethargy. They also start to look grey or white once the skin begins to shed. If conditions are right, the shed should only take three days to finish.

During this time, geckos will likely stay in their humid hide and likely eat their shed after.