A tokay gecko can make an excellent pet for a seasoned reptile owner who is willing to put some time into tokay gecko care and be patient as the gecko adjusts to their new surroundings. They are timid and secretive by nature but can warm up to their masters with regular interaction. Some people even consider them to be good luck. Native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia, tokay geckos often live among humans where they can be found on walls and ceilings catching unwanted insects.
As the second largest species of gecko, tokay geckos are recognized for their bright colors and spots. Their most popular color scheme is gray with bright blue and orange or yellow spots. Tokay geckos can lighten or deepen their color to blend in with their surrounding habitat. They have larger heads than other gecko species, thick bodies and strong jawlines. They also have tails that detach when threatened, though they do grow back in a matter of weeks.
Tokay geckos have a bad reputation for being feisty and aggressive when handled and they are also prone to biting. They are forceful, with painful bites that may draw blood! Because they are nimble and their unique toe pads allow them to climb almost anything, be very careful when handling them and try not to lose them. Get to know your tokay gecko by trying to coax it out of its hiding area. Then have it sit on your hand above the terrarium for a few minutes every couple of days to build its trust. Keep your hand as flat as possible, so the gecko doesn't have a chance to bite. With regular interaction, the gecko will begin to warm up to you and make tokay gecko care easier.
Fun Facts About Tokay Geckos
- Tokay geckos are quite vocal and make a distinctive croaking noise to attract mates – their name actually originates from the noise they make, which sounds like "to-kay!"
- Baby tokay geckos like to hide in tiny cracks
- Tokay geckos have something that looks like a “third eye” on top of their heads which scientists think helps them navigate different lighting conditions
Average Size and Life Expectancy
One thing you should know about tokay geckos care is that these reptiles are one of the largest types of geckos. In captivity, they are known to grow up to lengths of 15 to 20 inches and weigh up to 400 grams. Females are smaller than males at about 8 to 12 inches. Tokay geckos can live up to 10 years on average, and some have even been reported to live 20 years with proper nutrition and tokay gecko care.
For a small tokay gecko, a 10-gallon aquarium or terrarium is a good selection for proper tokay gecko care. It is most beneficial to upgrade to a 20-gallon or larger enclosure once your gecko is fully grown, especially if you plan to house more than one together. However, never put two males together — they are territorial and will fight aggressively. Tokay geckos are arboreal, meaning they live in trees in the wild. In captivity, they thrive in spacious habitats with many spaces to climb and hide to simulate their natural environment. Decorate your gecko's space with both live and artificial plants, vines, branches, driftwood, sticks and caves to hide in. Be cautious about housing the gecko’s terrarium in your bedroom as their croaking noise is quite loud and may wake you up at night.
Hiding spots are very important because the tokay gecko will use them as safe places to sleep during the day or areas to retreat to when it feels threatened. For a more humid hiding spot, consider making your gecko a special area out of a small cardboard box filled with moist moss. Other hiding accessories include logs, bamboo tubes and reptile tunnels. A PVC pipe is also great because it can come in a wide variety of different sizes.
Tokay geckos, especially the young, like their hiding spots to be very snug fitting to make them feel secure. Provide a few hiding places as the geckos like to move around to different temperature and humidity levels as they please. For example, one hiding spot can be in a warmer, humid place while another is in a cooler, drier area. As you play around with the setup, you will learn what your particular gecko likes the most and optimize its housing for optimal tokay gecko care.
There are many types of substrates that you can consider using in your tokay gecko terrarium, including:
- Newspaper: We are listing this first because it is the simplest option. Though it is not the nicest aesthetically, it is effortless to change so you can easily keep the terrarium floor clean and free of bacteria.
- Cypress mulch or orchid bark: These can be excellent choices for contributing to the humidity in the terrarium.
- Coco peat and sphagnum moss: These can be used to place on top of loose mulches and bark to keep them from getting all over the place. Try to find long-fibered types, as short fibers may stick to the gecko if they become very moist.
For the best tokay gecko care, cover the floor of the terrarium with about 3 to 4 inches of substrate and keep it moist by misting it to help with the humidity inside the enclosure.
Temperatures for a Tokay Gecko
Tokay geckos thrive in warm temperatures between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They are OK with nighttime drops to the mid-70s, but temperatures below that may upset them and make it hard for them to be active and hunt prey. Tokay geckos need a basking spot, which can be created by positioning a heat lamp over the screen of the terrarium and then placing a branch underneath. That way, the gecko can easily climb as close as it likes to the heat source. Keep the temperature under the heat lamp pretty hot – around 90 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal.
You will want to have two thermometers in the tokay gecko’s habitat. One is to measure the heat under the lamp and the other is for the far side of the terrarium to make sure there is also a cool area. The gecko needs both warm and cool regions in the terrarium to properly regulate its temperature.
Tokay geckos are nocturnal – very active at night and asleep during the day. They are very withdrawn and will stay concealed during the day or even at night if there is any movement happening around outside its cage. At night, when everything is quiet, the gecko will slowly emerge from its hiding place to explore. You may notice the tokay gecko quickly rush back to its hiding place if it gets frightened.
Provide your tokay gecko with about 12 hours of UVB fluorescent light during the day to mimic daylight. This will help the geckos know what time of day it is, so they can regulate their sleeping and eating schedules. It will also provide them vitamin D3, an essential vitamin for the gecko’s energy.
Tokay geckos need high levels of moisture to stay healthy and be prepared to shed their skin easily. Humidity levels around 60 to 80 percent are perfect. Without proper humidity, geckos can experience trouble molting their skin, especially in the small areas around their toes. However, adequate ventilation is also required for the terrarium to dry out between periods of moisture. Otherwise, bacteria or fungus might grow and would be very unhealthy for your tokay gecko. A screen top on the terrarium will help to provide ventilation.
The most dependable way to provide humidity for your tokay gecko is to simulate a brief evening rainstorm by misting the terrarium with fresh, clean water from a spray bottle. You want the water droplets to remain in the terrarium for a few hours to allow the gecko to drink. However, these droplets should dry up after a while. If the terrarium is still very moist in the morning, you know you've sprayed too much. Try to avoid spraying the gecko directly, as they usually will get upset by the shock. You can also consider an automatic drip system that will keep the humidity levels consistent and also water the plants at the same time.
Tokay Gecko Diet: Water
Though not all tokay geckos will recognize a water bowl as a way to get hydration, it is still a good idea to include one in the terrarium. A tip for limiting the feeder insects from getting stuck in the water bowl is to place a small stone or branch inside so they can readily climb out.
In addition to the water bowl, you must also spray the inside of the terrarium to provide juicy water droplets for the gecko to drink. The droplets will form on the side walls and accessories for the gecko to lick off. This is the most natural way for them to hydrate, and probably the way they will choose most often.
Tokay Gecko Diet: Food
What do tokay geckos eat? We're glad you asked. Tokay geckos are very enthusiastic about eating insects and even eat small lizards in the wild. Some of the best insects for tokay gecko food include premium Dubia roaches, mealworms, waxworms, hornworms and silkworms. However, these insects need to be gut loaded before you give them to the gecko. Gut loading means feeding the insects a diet rich in vitamins and minerals at least 24-hours before serving them to the gecko. By doing so, you will pass along the nutritious diet to the gecko.
Feeder insects also need to be dusted with a powdered calcium and vitamin D3 supplement to provide your reptile with a nutritional tokay gecko diet that's essential for its bone growth and healthy nervous system. You can dust the insects by placing them in a container or bag with the powder and gently shaking. In addition, you should place a shallow dish filled with the vitamin-packed powder in the terrarium, so the gecko can take what it needs.
In addition to insects, dark leafy greens, vegetables and fruits as snacks make great tokay gecko food a few times per week. Some will even like to eat a pinky mouse now and then.
We hope you enjoyed learning about tokay geckos and have the materials you need to be a great owner. As long as you are familiar with reptile care, don’t worry about the bad reputation of tokay geckos. With regular interaction and proper tokay geckos care, they will warm up to you in no time. You will surely enjoy watching them interact with the habitat you created for them.
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