Geckos are creatures belonging to the reptile family. With a body structure similar to that of a house lizard, geckos come in different colors and patterns. Most geckos are nocturnal and excellent climbers, and make great pets all over the world.
Geckos are among the most colorful lizards in the world. They range from 0.6 to 24 inches in size. The longest is the Kawekaweau, which is extinct, whereas, the shortest is the Jaragua Sphaero. Being nocturnal creatures, they have excellent night vision, and some can also change colors at night. Most ground-dwelling geckos possess great camouflaging properties, which help them hunt their game.
House geckos live in human habitations, and are often welcomed, as they get rid of insects and mosquitoes. Geckos are unique to the lizard family. Due to their vocalizations, they produce a variety of sounds, from chirps to squeaks. A majority of the species of geckos also have excellent adhesive abilities; each of their footpads have spatula-shaped setae (bristle-like structures) arranged in lamellae (lamellae are small plate-like structures, often seen on fish gills), which enables them to stick to all kinds surfaces easily without the use of any fluid. It is observed that geckos cannot hold on to Teflon for longer periods due to its low surface energy.
A very interesting but useful feature of geckos is their ability to hyper-extend their toes in a way of a peeling action. So, when a gecko needs to step forward on a vertical wall, it peels of the toes of two legs and sticks them forward, and then does the same with the other pair of legs. All geckos shed their skin at regular intervals, and the presence of moisture speeds up this process.
All geckos, except those from the Eublepharidae family, do not possess eyelids. They use their tongue to moisten their eyes and clear off dirt and debris on them.
Species: Hemitheconyx caudicinctus
Origin: Western Africa; from Senegal to Cameroon
Length: 8 – 14 inches
These geckos are quite docile, but they are a bit shy too. The fat tail is for storing body fats. They are nocturnal and have almost no adhesive capabilities. Like all geckos, they feed on insects and worms. These are mostly occurring in shades of brown and tan/beige stripes.
Species: Pachydactylus bibronii
Origin: Southern Africa
Length: 6 – 8 inches
Originally from the South-African forests, Bibrons are mainly found in rocky terrains. They are not very popular as pets, due to their erratic nature and capability to bite. These geckos are diurnal and ground dwelling, with no adhesive capabilities.
Species: Correlophus ciliatus
Origin: Southern New Caledonia
Length: 4 – 5 inches
Also referred to as eyelash geckos, these have hairlike projections near the eyes, resembling eyelashes. As the name suggests, these geckos are famous for their crests, which run from each eye extending up to their tails. The species was thought to be extinct, but was rediscovered in 1994, and falls in the vulnerable category, according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). These geckos are nocturnal, arboreal, and excellent climbers.
Species: Stenodactylus petrii
Origin: Northern Africa and Israel
Length: 2 – 3 inches
These are small dwarf geckos, but feature really large eyes, thus popularly called frog-eyed geckos. As compared to their size, they have pretty long tails, ranging from around 1 – 2 inches. They are mostly found in the arid regions of North Africa and Israel, and are well-versed in camouflaging and hunting. Unlike other geckos, these cannot climb up smooth surfaces. Dune geckos are active at night, and rest in burrows and caves during the daytime.
Species: Rhacodactylus auriculatus
Origin: Southern end of the island of New Caledonia
Length: 8 – 9 inches
Gargoyle geckos, being nocturnal and arboreal, require a lot of sturdy vines and branches to climb on. Their toe pads are moderately adhesive, and cannot stick to sheer surfaces. An ideal terrarium for these geckos as pets should include substrates which are humid, such as moss or coconut husk. A lot of branches and vines could also be introduced to make this gecko feel homely.
Species: Phelsuma laticauda
Origin: Northern Madagascar
Length: 6 – 9 inches
These are very colorful geckos, mostly occurring in shades of green, yellowish-green, and rarely even blue. They are very appealing, with tribal prints on their body, including three horizontal rust-colored stripes on the snout, and three vertical stripes on the lower back. The eyes are lined with a light shade of blue. They are great climbers when it comes to smooth, vertical surfaces like bamboos or tree trunks.
These lizards feed on insects, fruits, or on plant nectar, and are inhabited typically in trees and human habitations. The name Gold-dust comes from the tiny golden speckles seen on their coats, whereas, day geckos is the term given to diurnal (active in the day) geckos.
Species: Hemidactylus garnotii
Origin: Philippines, Southeast Asia, Southern Florida
Length: 4 – 5 inches
These geckos are grayish-brown during the day, and fade to a pale shade at night. They are also referred to as ‘fox geckos’, due to their relatively long snout. Indo-Pacific geckos are nocturnal climbers, and feed on insects. They are mostly spotted in crevices of houses, under loose tree barks, mangrove forests, and mostly natural habitats. These geckos are also widely distributed in the urban and suburban areas of southern Florida.
Species: Eublepharis macularius
Origin: Arid and semi-arid regions of Pakistan and Northwestern India
Length: 8 – 11 inches
Leopard geckos are very popular pets all around the world. They have leopard-like spots, which give them their name. By behavior, these are very placid, docile, and calm creatures. A leopard gecko is the best bet for beginners in gecko taming, as it is easy to take care of, doesn’t require a large terrarium, and available in a variety of color morphs. It is a nocturnal lizard, belonging to arid regions, and lacks adhesive toe pads. Unlike others, leopard geckos possess movable eyelids.
Species: Phelsuma madagascariensis madagascariensis
Origin: Eastern coast of Madagascar
Length: 7 – 9 inches
Belonging to the same genus, Phelsuma, as the Gold-dust Day geckos, these are also very similar in appearance to them. With a base of green, they have a rust-colored horizontal line crossing each eye and extending till the nostrils. On the back, they have red-brick-colored dots. These too are diurnal, and feed on insects, fruits, and nectar. They are great climbers and highly territorial.
Species: Hemidactylus turcicus
Origin: Mediterranean region
Length: 4 – 6 inches
Mostly tan or yellow-colored, these geckos are nocturnal climbers. They are typically house geckos, feeding on insects, and are completely reliant on human habitations for their homes. They take shelter in unseen areas, like crevices and cracks. They are recognized for their distinct high-pitched calls, which sound like squeaks, possibly expressing a territorial message.
Species: Tarentola mauritanica
Origin: Western Mediterranean regions of Europe and Northern Africa
Length: 4 – 6 inches
Mostly spotted on crevices of houses or on walls, these are popularly known as common wall geckos, and have great climbing skills. Their color is brownish gray, with darker or lighter spots, and the intensity of the colors change according to the light being lighter at night. These are nocturnal lizards, but are also active during the day, more on sunny days, especially at the end of winter. They mostly feed on insects.
Species: Rhacodactylus leachianus
Origin: Island of New Caledonia
Length: 10 – 14 inches
Rhacodactylus leachianus is recognized as the world’s largest extant gecko. Its length ranges from 10 – 14 inches, and its weight is around 120 – 400 grams. Both nocturnal and arboreal, their toe pads and tail, both have adhesive properties, making them strong climbers. They primarily feed on insects, roaches, crickets, and meal-worms, and occasionally on small mice.
When it comes to taming these lizards, they are great pets . One shouldn’t mishandle them, as this makes them aggressive and they may bite.
Species: Hemidactylus bowringii
Origin: Southern Asia, including, India, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, etc.
Length: 3 – 4 inches
This most common house gecko in Hong Kong is a favorite pet, as it feeds on mosquitoes, roaches, and tiny moths and gnats. Being a nocturnal species, these geckos turn lighter or darker in color with respect to the temperature. It’s not surprising to see them climb glass and similar sheer surfaces, as their toes are extremely adhesive.
Species: Gekko gecko
Origin: Northeast India and throughout Southeast Asia
Length: 8 – 16 inches
Tokays are the second-largest gecko species, with lengths of 7-20 inches, and weights around 150-400 grams. They are nocturnal, arboreal geckos, and are extremely strong climbers, with strong adhesive capabilities which can hold their bodies to vertical surfaces effortlessly. Their body color ranges from light-bluish to light-grayish, and they have colored spots that add to their distinctive appearance.
Though very common as pets among hobbyists, they are capable of inflicting painful bites, hence are not advised for newbies as pets. These geckos are mostly inhabited in rainforest trees and cliffs. The male Tokay is said to be highly territorial.
Geckos as Pets
~Having a gecko as a pet is a lot different from keeping a dog or a cat. Reptiles are cold-blooded, egg-laying creatures. They need to be warm all the time and constantly regulate their body temperature. They feed on insects, and are mostly nocturnal. Nevertheless, geckos make fantastic pets, and it is quite easy to take care of them.
~If you are planning to tame a gecko, you will need a terrarium; the size will differ as per the type of gecko you wish to buy. For a regular leopard gecko, an ideal terrarium would be of 10 gallons. You need to use some substrate material for the flooring (coconut husk, moss, orchid bark, cypress mulch, etc.), depending on the type of your gecko.
~Reptiles need constant heat, and your gecko will need some too. An under tank heat pad is the best option, or even a nocturnal red bulb could be used. Be careful to only heat one side of the terrarium, and monitor the heat with a high quality thermometer, as overheating may be fatal to the lizard.
~Give your gecko some space. Create hides, both on the warm side as well as on the cool side of the terrarium, so that it can rest in the daytime. All geckos eat insects, especially crickets, meal-worms, and wax-worms. Remember that its prey should not be bigger than the width between its eyes.
~Geckos are exotic pets, so always refer to guides and care-sheets when handling them. Never hold a gecko by its tail. Most geckos will drop their tails in defense. For those which bite, you will need to wear gloves initially while handling them. Geckos, unlike dogs and cats, shouldn’t be played with or handled frequently, as they may become aggressive and lunge or bite.