Geckos as Pets

In many places, Geckos are among the most commonly seen of all lizards – in fact, those known as House Geckos often move indoors, where they are often valued for their insect-catching abilities. Others, such as the Leopard Gecko and the brilliantly-colored Day Geckos, are among the most familiar and desirable of reptile pets. Recently, species formerly unknown even in zoos, including the bizarre Leaf-Tailed Geckos and the massive New Caledonian Giant Gecko, have made their way into the pet trade and are being bred in large numbers.

Whether you desire a rare oddity, hardy “starter pet”, or a colorful lizard that glides like a minute flying squirrel (or something else!), there’s a Gecko for you – just be sure to check our species descriptions, as their needs vary as greatly as their lifestyles!


The world’s 1,500+ Gecko species comprise the second largest of all lizard groups…only the skinks (family Scincidae) exceed them in diversity. The 8 Gecko families are placed in the Infraorder Gekkota. Tokay and other “typical Geckos” are classified in the family Gekkonidae (961 species), while the family Eublepharidae contains the ever-popular Leopard Gecko and its 30 relatives.

Range and Habitat

Geckos are found on all continents except Antarctica. They reach their greatest diversity in tropical and subtropical regions, but several range into temperate zones. House Geckos follow human habitation and, as stowaways, have been widely transplanted; several Caribbean and Asian species are established in the southeastern USA.

From deep below-ground to the treetops, and deserts to rainforests, one Gecko or another has colonized just about every habitat imaginable – several can even glide from tree to tree like miniature flying squirrels!

Appearance and Temperament

Geckos range in size from the 1.2 inch-long House Geckos (Shaerodactylus spp.) to the New Caledonian Giant Gecko (Rhacodactylus leachianus), a thick-set creature that tops out at nearly 15 inches. The eyelids of most Geckos are fused and clear, like those of snakes, but Leopard Geckos and their relatives have movable eyelids.

The ability of many Geckos to run upside-down on ceilings was first recorded by Aristotle in the 4th century BC. Utilizing toe pads known as lamellae, which support microscopic, hair-like structures called setae, certain Geckos set up a molecular attraction known as the Van-der-Waals force. This unique form of adhesion is being studied with a view towards creating new adhesives.

Geckos are largely similar in body-shape (although members of the family Pygopodidae are legless) but have evolved many adaptations to a number of basic themes. For example, depending upon the species, tails may be used to distract predators, plug burrows, create sound, communicate with others, convey stability while gliding, store food, or grip branches.

Pet Gecko temperaments vary by species. Crested Geckos can be skittish. Most accept gentle handling, but care must be taken to avoid unexpected leaps and falls. African Fat-tailed Geckos usually take handing in stride, and rarely try to bite. However, they will defend themselves by biting if handled roughly. Tokay Geckos 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 Tokay's as “hands-off” pets. They are not suitable pets for children.

Gecko Housing

Geckos require terrariums that are suited to their particular lifestyle (i.e. desert-dweller, arboreal species, burrower, etc.). Day Geckos and other diurnal species should be provided with UVB exposure, but Leopard Geckos and other nocturnal types can do without. A large terrarium is essential if a healthful temperature gradient (areas of hot and cooler temperatures) is to be established.

Gecko Diet

In the wild, the vast majority of the world’s Geckos feed upon ants, beetles, spiders, moths, and other invertebrates, but many take nectar, sap, and over-ripe fruits as well.

In captivity, a wide variety of insects supplemented with powdered calcium and vitamins is essential for proper nutrition. Nectar mixes containing fruit, baby food, and honey are useful for many and essential to others (i.e. Day Geckos); commercial foods for nectar and fruit-feeding Geckos are also available.