Introduction to Gecko LizardsGeckos as Pets
There are over 700 species of gecko lizards worldwide. The Leopard Gecko is the United States most common gecko lizard pet. The African Fat-tailed Gecko is also a favorite among herpetologists. The Helmeted Gecko looks like a Horned Toad but is easier to handle. Another popular pet is the Tokay Gecko lizard.
Geckos are ectothermic reptiles, which basically means they are unable to regulate their body temperature. They lay eggs and have scales. Reptiles have little to no glands in their skin. Geckos vary in size from 1 ½” to 14+”. About ¼ of the gecko population has adhesive toes.
There are four 4-subfamilies of geckos:
The Eublepharinae subfamily has five genera within itself.
The Gekkoninae subfamily is the largest with sixty-four genera. T
The Diplodactylinae contains 16 gecko genera.
The Sphaerodactylinae contains only 5 genera.
The Leopard Gecko Lizard (EUBLEPHARIS MACULARIUS)
The Leopard Gecko is by far the most popular gecko in the southern states. This is largely due to the fact that they are very easy to maintain and breed and generally have a captive life span of 15-20 years.
This reptile is a rather large gecko reaching up to 12 inches long when full-grown. Juvenile geckos of this species have dark bands encircling their whole body, while adults have dark purple spots, hence the name. You don’t need to worry about them scaling their enclosure walls because they lack adhesive toe pads.
These creatures rarely bite and don’t draw blood. They possess moveable eyelids and are nocturnal. Their main food is crickets, mealworms and the occasional insect. When Leopard Geckos hatch they are about 3 ½” and when they are full-grown tend to be 8-12” long.
One leopard gecko needs at least a ten gallon terrarium and as much as a twenty-gallon tank. Twenty gallons is ideal for two leopards, because any smaller and they will “go” anywhere. The males of this species like most other geckos are territorial and will use about ¼ of their tank as a restroom.
Because these geckos have their origins in the hot African deserts, they are nocturnal. Since they are nocturnal, they are usually hidden under some bark or something in their enclosure. These creatures rarely come out at day, but do scurry about at night.
They need their tank temperature to be around 85˚ F. during the day and 75 ˚ F. at night. This may require a heat lamp to maintain these temperatures. It is advised to spray some water in their tank if you live in a dry part of the country. The rain forest lagoon, one of the products in the www.TurtleTub.com product line, is ideal for this gecko lizard.
The African Fat-Tailed Gecko (HEMITHECONYX CAUDICINCTUS)
The African Fat-Tailed Gecko makes a good hardy pet providing it doesn’t get sick on the way. This is because they are almost always exported from Africa. This species is closely related to the Leopard Gecko, and obviously has its roots in Africa.
When full-grown they are more average in size than the Leopard Gecko measuring about 8 inches. As their name suggests they have fat tails. This particular gecko tends to be shy and is nocturnal. Their diet, much like their cousin’s, consists largely of crickets and mealworms, but since they are wild caught, they eat bugs more often.
They like to have a bark substrate and prefer the temperature to be similar to the Leopard Gecko. A 20-gallon terrarium is ideal for 1-2 geckos. They use one corner of the tank for the bathroom and lack adhesive toe pads. They also need water sprayed in daily. The males of the species are territorial, so it is advised not to have two males in close quarters.
Helmeted Gecko (GECKONIA CHAZALIAE)
This gecko as mentioned before looks very similar to the horned toad, but are much easier to maintain. This species originated in Africa, and thus likes a very hot climate. (85-95 F. = day, 75-80 F. = night) Their diet consists mainly of crickets and small insects.
Its camouflaged sandy skin coloration is a natural defense. This species is primarily nocturnal and is very docile. There is a ridge behind its head giving the illusion that it wears a helmet.
At 4 inches, it is one of the smallest gecko lizards. Males of this species like most other are territorial. Because of their diminutive size, they require as little as a 10-gallon tank for two. They lack adhesive toe-pads.
Tokay Gecko (GEKKO GECKO)
This is a rather well known species among advanced keepers. They are tree dwelling and nocturnal. They are very bold and aggressive, and have been known to bite and draw blood. They grow to be a monstrous 12-14 inches long!
They are very territorial; they will fight to the death if necessary. These creatures possess adhesive toe-pads. A 15-20 gallon terrarium is ideal for 1-2 geckos. They prefer 75-85 F. at the daytime and 65-75 F. at night. For shade they like big-leaved foliage. They have a varied diet of crickets, mealworms, cockroaches, spiders etc.