A common lizard seen in pet stores is the nocturnal and arboreal, Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko). This feisty lizard is often affectionately called the “pit bull” of the lizard family due to their tenacity and powerful jaws. Those of us who have owned them can attest to the fact that they aren’t shy about biting if they feel threatened. But it would be both unfair and inaccurate to characterize the Tokay as mean, nasty or temperamental. There is a lot more to them than just being jaws with legs.
One of the first things you’ll notice about a Tokay Gecko is how much time they spend avoiding you. Usually you’ll find them tucked away under their hides, hanging upside down and sleeping. At least during the day. After the lights go out these nocturnal reptiles begin to explore their enclosure. During this time they will hunt for food that you have left in their vivarium. This is also the time when you are most likely to hear the males calling out to the females. That’s assuming you have males. If you have several males (never ever ever keep males together in the same enclosure) their barking can be deafening! But during the day, or when you have artificial lights on they will stay hidden.
Because of their inclination to remain out of view you should be aware that they don’t make the greatest display animals. You should also make certain to provide them with plenty of hiding spots in their vivarium. Driftwood works great as do old clay flower pots. With the flower pots you can break a small hole near the rim, flip it upside down and put it in the Tokay’s cage. Mine really like using this area to lay their eggs.
Making your Tokay comfortable
While I’ve found Tokay Geckos to be resilient they have certain husbandry requirements that must be met in order for them to thrive. These geckos are tropical species that need the proper amount of heat, humidity and airflow.
- Heating requirements of the Tokay Gecko:
During the day I’ve found the best temperature for a Tokay to be between 80 and 85 degrees. In my experience they seem to thrive when the ambient air temperature in their vivarium is set at 82 degrees during the daylight hours and dropped down to 78 degrees at night. To aid in digestion you should provide a basking spot that sits at between 89 and 95 degrees. I should also point out that an under the tank heater is the preferred method of giving these geckos as basking spot. First they do not require UVA/B lighting and secondly they are nocturnal which means a bright light shining on them will cause a great deal of stress. Temperature requirements of the Tokay Gecko:
- Ambient air temperature days: 80 to 85 degrees (optimal in my experience 82 degrees).
- Ambient air temperature nights: 73 to 78 degrees (optimal in my experience 78 degrees).
- Basking temperature: 89 to 85 degrees using an under the tank heater.
- Humidity requirements of the Tokay Gecko:
As a species that is native to tropical climates the Tokay Gecko thrives in humid environments. My own experience with them has shown me that they do very well when the humidity is kept between 70 and 75 percent. While they can tolerate drops in to the mid 40 percent humidity range it can cause health problems if they have to endure it for long. Too much humidity can be almost as problematic as too little. Because you need to keep the air flowing through the Tokay’s enclosure you will have to spend some time figuring out what needs to be done to keep the proper humidity levels. Using a good substrate that holds moisture helps a lot in this area. Cypress mulch is some of the best you can buy. You can get it at a garden center for a lot cheaper than you can at a pet store and despite what marketing tells you the pet store version isn’t any better for your animals. Because cypress mulch holds moisture so well I’ve found that spraying the enclosure down with tap water once in the morning and again in the evening is more than adequate to keep the humidity levels where they need to be.
- Places to climb and sleep:
I mentioned before that Tokay Geckos like to hide and sleep. Usually they like to do this upside down under some kind of cover. I’ve found the more vertical I make their habitats the better they do. By that I mean the more stuff I can give them to climb over, under, on and around the healthier they seem to be. One downside to this is when it comes to getting them out to clean the cage. Sometimes you can spend a lot of time looking under the vivarium furnishings to catch them. I’ve also found that getting some fake vines to string throughout their enclosure is appreciated. But be certain the fake vines are not scented.
Meeting the nutritional needs of the Tokay Gecko
A healthy Tokay Gecko and Leopard Gecko is a voracious eater. They will almost never turn down a meal. Anything they can catch and overpower is fair game including small mice. It should also be noted at this point that the Tokay Gecko is an obligated carnivore. This means it can not eat vegetables or grains. Don’t worry though you won’t be feeding your Tokay mice very often because they are too rich for them on a regular basis. Many people feed crickets but I prefer to feed Blaptica Dubia roaches. Once you start using them for feeding your lizards you’ll never want to touch another cricket again. Here is an article that I wrote about breeding and raising your own Blaptica’s. They also make a great tarantula food!
As far as how much to feed your Tokay with the Dubia’s I’ve usually feed them several every other day. I when I feed I put the roaches in a plastic Rubbermaid container and sprinkle them with some reptile calcium. The Tokay’s will climb into the container and grab their fill. You can let the roaches run loose in the cage since they can’t climb or fly they won’t get out. I personally don’t do this just because I tend to find that instead of being eaten they have managed to dig down under the substrate and hide. If you’re going to feed crickets you’ll need to make sure that you remove any that the gecko doesn’t eat because if you don’t they will chew on your Tokay. That’s another reason I recommend Blaptica Dubia roaches. They won’t start eating each other and your lizards.
Housing Tokay Geckos together
I often have people ask me if they can keep more than one Tokay in the same cage. The answer is fairly straightforward. Never house males together. They will fight and it will often result in a death. If you do keep males together, stop. On the other hand you can keep 2 or 3 females together without any problems and you can also house one male with two or three females. In my experience doing so will result in eggs more often than not. If you do find eggs they will usually be stuck to something like the underside of a log or a clay pot. Just leave them alone. If you try to remove them from where they are you will destroy them. They don’t need any special incubation. If your Tokay found the environment suitable to lay eggs that means it is suitable for them to hatch as well.
If you follow these simple guidelines you will provide an adequate home for your Tokay Geckos and they will thrive in your care.