Geckoes are becoming ever more popular as pets – and with good reason. They are a fascinating group, being very easy to care for on the whole and remarkably engaging little animals. Famous the world over for their extraordinary ability to climb vertical surfaces – including glass – in pursuit of their insect prey and their bizarre-looking habit of licking their own eyeballs, geckoes are some of the most well-known of all lizards.
Geckoes As Pets
Although the traditional “starter” species – the Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) remains as popular as ever – with experienced keepers as much as with beginners – a number of other kinds of geckoes have become increasingly popular as pets.
Some of the others seen for sale include:
- Bibron’s Gecko (Pachydactylus bibroni) – a tree-living lizard from southern Africa.
- Crested Gecko (Rhacodactylus ciliates)
– increasingly popular as a pet, this gecko was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1994.
- Gold-Dust Day Gecko (Phelsuma laticauda) – a beautiful example of Madagascar’s day geckoes; these are more challenging animals to look after, so they are probably best left to experienced keepers.
- House Geckoes (Hemidactylus sp.) – familiar animals in homes and hotels across the warmer areas of the world
- Tokay (Gekko gecko) – a large and aggressive species from southeast Asia; attractive and vocal – the common name comes from its mating call – this species is another one better suited to experienced reptile keepers; they are said to bite as hard as a small dog!
Gecko Housing Needs
A standard aquarium tank of 30 x 12 x 16 inches (75x30x40cm) will provide a good home for a male gecko and three or four females – although like all kinds of active lizards, as big a tank as you can accommodate, within reason, will let them live more natural lives. Given their ability to shin up glass – a trick the Leopard Gecko cannot do, incidentally – a well secured lid is obviously essential!
Although these lizards can be kept in groups, it’s best to avoid having more than one male in the tank unless it’s very large; as they are naturally territorial animals, fights will be inevitable and these otherwise docile animals can be horribly ruthless amongst themselves.
Bark chippings can be used for the tank flooring, but most keepers seem to prefer either purpose bought reptile carpeting, paper towels or newspaper. Other furnishings would include pieces of cork bark and other hiding places, secure climbing branches and a shallow water bowl.
Gecko Housing Temperature, Heating and Lighting
What is the ideal housing temperature for pet geckos?
For most species, a temperature of around 27C (82F) during the day, with hotter basking spots and dropping to 24C (75F) at night will be ideal. Heat mats are often used in combination with spot lamps or ceramic heaters to achieve the necessary level of heating, but whatever method you use it’s important to make sure your pets cannot get into contact with the hot surfaces of your heaters – and given their climbing abilities, this can be a challenge!
Many gecko keepers don’t bother with UVB – most species are nocturnal, after all – but for anyone with any of the day geckoes, a suitable UV source would be a good idea. For the majority of geckoes, red light bulbs which come on at night will allow you to watch your pets going about their business, without unduly disturbing their natural behaviour.
Feeding Pet Geckos
What do pet geckos eat? How much do they eat and how often do you need to feed a pet gecko?
In the wild, most gecko species eat a wide range of insects and other bugs, so keeping them in captivity calls for as varied a diet of suitable food items as you can manage. Depending on their size, they will eat between 2 and 10 crickets or their equivalent every two or three days, and good those these standbys are, wild-caught garden insects are very valuable additions. Larger species may appreciate the occasional “pinkie” too.
To Sum It Up: Geckos Can Make Good Pets
Some of the most engaging and interesting of all lizards – and amongst the easiest to care for – geckoes make great pets and given the variety of species available, there’ll always be something to interest the gecko-fan.