Species group: Geckos
Scientific name: Gekko gecko
In spite of (or, for many fans, “because of”!) their pugnacious attitudes, Tokay Geckos continue to grow in popularity year-by-year. The ultimate “big lizard in a small package”, they make fascinating pets, are beautifully-clad in an array of colors, and are not shy about exhibiting a range of fascinating behaviors (or about anything else!).
The huge natural range extends from Nepal through northeastern India, Bangladesh, southern China and most of Southeast Asia to Indonesia. Introduced populations are established in Hawaii, Florida (of course!), Texas, Martinique, Belize, Guam, and Taiwan.
Tokay Geckos are nocturnal and entirely arboreal, being found on tree trunks and rock faces in rainforests, overgrown thorn scrub, riverside thickets and similar habitats. They also adapt well to human presence, often colonizing farms, plantations, and homes within villages and even in such bustling cities as Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Miami. Alleged medicinal properties have led to local extinctions in parts of Thailand, Vietnam and China.
Appearance / health:
Tokay Geckos are stoutly built. Males may reach 12-14 inches in length, while females generally top out at 8-10 inches. Among geckos, they are exceeded in length and bulk only by the New Caledonian Giant Gecko and its relatives. They vary greatly in appearance from one another, but all are attractive. The body color may be cream, gray or blue-tinted, and sports innumerable speckles of orange, various shades of red, and brown. Hobbyists have developed several unique color morphs.
With proper care, Tokay Geckos can reach 20 years of age. Respiratory diseases can take hold if your pet is kept at sub-optimal temperatures, and metabolic bone disease is common in animals that are not provided with ample calcium and/or Vitamin D3. Rodent-heavy diets have been linked to intestinal blockages and kidney/liver diseases.
Behavior / temperament:
Tokays bite readily and hard, and they hold on for dear life. They will violently resist being grabbed or otherwise restrained, but some allow themselves (after much time!) to be gently nudged ono a hand. Most owners treat them as “hands-off” pets. They are not suitable pets for children.
Tokay Geckos are highly arboreal and do best suited in “high style” aquariums of 20 gallon capacity or larger. The terrarium should be stocked with plentiful hiding spots in the form of rolled cork bark, above-ground caves, and sturdy live or artificial plants. A mix of cypress mulch and sphagnum moss makes an ideal substrate. Tokays and other nocturnal geckos do not require UVB radiation. Red/black night-viewing bulbs will enable you to observe them after dark.
Ambient air temperatures should range from 75-82 F, with a basking spot of 86-90 F. Large enclosures will allow your pet to thermo-regulate by moving from hot to cooler areas. This behavior is important to long-term health, and is usually not possible in small cages. Humidity may be kept at 50-85%, but they are relatively undemanding in this regard. Males call out Tokay-Tokay! on a near-nightly basis to reinforce territorial claims, and both sexes vocalize upon as a means of communication - best to locate their terrarium well-away from bedrooms!
Male Tokay Geckos are territorial and should never be housed together. Pairs, youngsters, and all-female groups usually co-exist, but must be watched carefully.
The natural diet is comprised mainly of beetles, moths, spiders, tree crickets, roaches, and an array of other invertebrates. Small lizards, snakes, rodents, nestling birds, over-ripe fruit, nectar and sap are taken on occasion.
Captive Tokay Geckos need a varied diet. Crickets alone, even if powdered with vitamin/mineral preparations, are not an adequate diet. Earthworms, roaches, locusts, crayfish, calci-worms, crickets, butterworms, silkworms, and other commercially-available invertebrates should be offered regularly. Insects should themselves be provided with a nutritious diet for 1-3 days before being offered to your pets. Adults can be offered a pink mouse every 7-10 days. Do not use adult mice, as the fur may lead to impactions. A mixture of papaya/apricot baby food, honey, liquid reptile vitamins and water should be offered weekly.
Food (other than vertebrates) should be powdered with a calcium supplement. Vitamin/mineral supplements should be used 2-3 times each week.
Tokay Geckos rarely drink from bowls, but will lap water that is sprayed onto foliage.
Mature males exhibit exceed females in length and weight, and exhibit larger pre-anal pores and a bulge (indicating the hemipenes) at each side of the cloaca. Breeders should be at least 1-2 years of age. Your pets may reproduce without temperature manipulation, but more consistent results will be had by subjecting them to 4-6 week period of slightly cooler temperatures (72 F by night, 76-82 F by day), lower humidity levels, and a reduced day length of 10 hours.
Pairs must be watched carefully, as females are bitten behind the neck during copulation. Clutches containing 2 eggs (rarely 1) may be produced 3-4 times each year. The eggs are typically glued to aquarium glass, bark, or within the leaf whorls of sturdy live plants. Those that cannot be removed without damage may be incubated in place by securing a plastic cup over the clutch. Eggs so held should be lightly misted every-other day. Eggs removed for incubation should be set a mix of 1 part vermiculite to 1 part water (by weight) at 80-85 F. Incubation time varies greatly, even at similar temperatures, and may range from 50-180+ days.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
prettiest geckos, coolest looking lizards, Great hearty lizard, orange polka-dots
wild caught ones, little punks, nasty lil bite, handling, Ouch!, wild caught, feisty temperaments
barking, largest geckos, loud bark, nocturnal arboreal species, bug killing machines
Tokay was Not Okay (for me)
Now, keep in mind, this is MY experience with a Tokay gecko. Each animal is different, and I've heard that many Tokays are docile, or at least not aggressive. I may have had an unusually aggressive one. If you are interested in getting a Tokay, please research them thoroughly and get one from a breeder/store that has handled them from birth and you can trust to tell you about that particular animal's temperament. Either way, it's not a good pet for a young child, since reptiles can carry bacteria that can make them sick (older children, teens, and adults are better at hygiene so they shouldn't have a problem with any bacteria present), and if it does bite, it can be extremely painful.
My particular Tokay gecko was a nasty little critter. He bit, or tried to bite, anytime someone tried to hold him or touch him. That's why his name was Damian. Once, he got loose while I was cleaning his cage when I lived with my mom. She caught him, but he bit her on the fleshy part of the hand between the forefinger and thumb. Though a Tokay's teeth are rather short, their jaws are known for being extremely powerful. I've even heard that they can break a finger with the strength of their bite, so my mom was lucky she wasn't bit on the finger. Still, there was a ring of tiny teeth marks on her hand after. Another time he got loose, I was terrified to try to catch him myself, so I went and got a construction worker who was working outside our house, explained the situation, and asked if I could borrow his heavy gloves. He and his coworker volunteered to catch the lizard themselves. It took them quite awhile to do it, as Damian was fast and sneaky. Each time I cleaned his cage, changed his water, or fed him, it was a nightmare to do it without letting him free and scaring anyone in the vicinity.
However, luckily, they are relatively low maintenance pets, so that the necessity for interacting with them isn't too frequent. They need fresh water daily (luckily mine would ignore me changing it if he was happily napping in his log), fed insects a few times a week, and their cage cleaned only about once a month (or less if it gets stinky or moldy in the meantime). They are beautiful looking and pretty hardy. Would make a good pet for a brave college-age or older person. They are also supposed to make an interesting sound, like saying "tokay" (hence their name), but I'd never heard my lizard make any such noise..
From NellieLaurie Oct 28 2015 7:00PM
I have updated this article since I originally wrote it. This animal was sold to a friend, so I do not currently have a tokay anymore. I have only had experience with one tokay, so my experiences will not be the same as everyone else. Appearance: Tokays are very beautiful with vibrant colours of oranges, blues, and greens. They are easily one of the most stunning lizards I have seen. They are considered the second largest gecko species in the world, and their size definitely shows it. Temperament: Tokays are generally very shy and timid. Many things seem like a predator to them, so they will run away, give warning barks and bites, and will even clamp down and hold on with their mouth. I wouldn't consider them aggressive but defensive. Handling: These lizards do not want to be handled. They can be frightful of people and will let you know if they don't like being harassed. I would liken their attitude to "mini-trex's," and if they bite, many times they will hold on and not let go for a while. It is possible to tame them, however, it is stressful on the gecko, so it can potentially take a lot of time and effort. Considering most individuals are wild caught, I would minimize handling unless you are certain on trying to adjust it to handling. You will likely have a better chance of having a "tame" tokay by purchasing and working with a captive bred gecko. Visibility: These geckos tend to hide and will be out more likely at night. Wild-caught tokays will usually hide if you come toward them, but they can become comfortable enough not to run if you want to watch them. Activity level: There is limited activity during the day, but once night falls, you'll be able to see and hear them jumping, climbing, hunting, and possibly barking. Habitat, Maintenance, and Cleaning: The tank is simple enough: a tall, front-opening enclosure with ventilation. There are two options you can take then: a planted or non-planted. Planted enclosures are fun since you get to create your own little ecosystem, and it looks more natural. I used soil and coco fibre/eco earth as substrates for my tokay, however, other substrates are options as well. I would mist the enclosure to maintain humidity and provide water drink. If you create a bioactive, planted enclosure, you will not need to clean. Feeding: Tokays are extremely voracious eaters. They will eat practically anything you give them with enthusiasm: roaches, worms, crickets, mice, etc. Health: Considering most tokays in captivity are wild caught, many of them will carry common parasites that will need to be dealt with. A fecal exam can be done by a vet to check for parasites.I would recommend getting a captive-bred tokay to avoid most health issues. They aren't very costly, and it will decrease your chances of having extensive vet bills. Environmental needs: If your research is done right, your tokay's needs can be met with very little difficulty. Overall, tokay geckos are more of a display animal than an interactive one. I would label this more as an "intermediate" lizard since the care and temperament are a little more than someone with no reptile experience may want to handle. A warning to those who want a "tame" tokay. If you would get rid of a tokay just because you can not tame it, then I would reconsider getting this animal. If you are still set on trying to have a tame tokay, a captive-bred would be your best bet..
From Skinkerdoodles Dec 30 2014 10:20PM
How can I say this simply, no no no no no no no. Not that I don’t like aggressive animals, because truthfully I do, but good lord never again. I’ve never needed stitching from an animal bite before but boy did it bleed. Seriously, they have very sharp teeth that will easily cause lacerations. They do have really cool color patterns, but hey I have a grudge against these guys so why not just tell you how I really feel.
First of all, I feel like the name Satan is very easily deserved, and I would easily name each one I encounter Satan. They really are horribly temperamental animals and that goes without saying. So lets get this out of the air, no I did not try to handle it, and I shall refer to the thing as it from now on. I was simply trying to drop its food in and give it some water, and then bam, hand in mouth, blood on enclosure, me in hospital, and lizard back to store. To be honest with you, I’ve heard that it was kind of a freak accident, not that they aren’t aggressive enough to as they are, but I don’t care. I used to own an alligator snapping turtle, and that thing was like a little kitten by comparison. It’s really a darn shame too because they do have a wonderful coloration to them. However no amount of colors can make the devil attractive so here we are. Did i mention they bark? Yes, that’s right, they bark. I knew this going into the ownership but I figured hey it can’t be that bad (I was wrong) so why not give it a try. The saddest part is, I wanted one since I was little, I always loved the colors, but unfortunately I don’t like when things literally bite the hand that feeds. My advice, stay away, or have fast hands..
From ManoftheNorth Apr 5 2014 4:24PM