The popular Tokay Gecko is a colorful and interesting gecko. This active gecko likes to bark “Tokay-Tokay” all night. The sound this gecko makes is the reason for the common name.
As feisty reptiles, they are best kept by reptile enthusiasts with some level of experience. They don’t like to be handled, and even captive-bred tokay geckos will bite and fight back if they feel threatened. This means keeping more than one male in an enclosure is not advisable.
Quick Reference Section
- Experience Level: Intermediate
- Family: Gekkonidae
- Scientific Name: Gekko gecko
- Average Adult Size: 12 inches (300 mm)
- Lifespan: 10 years
- Clutch Size: 6 to 8 eggs
- Egg Incubation Period: 90 to 120 days
- Food: Live insects
- Tank Size: 10 gallons
- Average Temperature: 85°H/75°L
- Humidity:60 – 80%
- UVB Lighting: Needed
- Average Price Range: $30 to $100
- Conservation Status: Least Concern on IUCN Redlist
Facts and Information
The tokay gecko is a nocturnal arboreal reptile that can be found in Asia as well as several Pacific islands. The binomial name of the species is Gekko gecko. They below to genus Gekko and the family Gekkonidae.
As you can see they are archetypal geckos, or what you would call a true gecko. There are two known subspecies – Gekko gecko gecko which is found throughout Asia and in the Pacific islands, and the Gekko gecko azhari found only in Bangladesh.
The tokay gecko is a large gecko reaching lengths of 12 inches. Their skin is generally brown or grey with red speckles. The body of this species is cylindrical and squat their limbs are well developed and uniform. There are several morphs of this species available. Most captive-breeds have blue coloration with red speckles.
They can be found all over East Asia from India and Bangladesh to China and throughout Southeast Asia in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Thailand, Lao PDR, and the Philippines. They occur at elevations of 0 meters to 1100 meters (0 to 3609 ft.) above sea level.
Tokay Gecko Care Sheet
Tokay Gecko Habitat
These arboreal lizards like on cliffs and in trees in both tropical and subtropical forests; and in urban settings amongst humans. Like many geckos all over the world, they thrive among artificial environments and that has become part of their natural habitats.
For these geckos, a large enclosure with a screen lid is best. A single tokay gecko can be housed comfortably in a 10-gallon enclosure while a pair can be housed in a 20-gallon long enclosure.
It is best to house them in terrariums. Performing maintenance on such an enclosure is simple. The 10-gallon tank I recommend is the Exo Terra 12 cubic in. terrarium. For a tank, I recommend the Repti Zoo Terrarium.
Decorate the enclosure with plants, cork bark, driftwood, ropes and hide boxes. The tokay gecko prefers a clustered enclosure with plenty of cover.
There are many substrate choices available to you. If you wish to go simple, newspaper or paper towels are excellent substrate choices. They are easy to find and easy to replace. Don’t use paper with colored or glossy prints, the ink can be harmful to the reptile. If you aren’t sure, use paper towels. The substrate should be about an inch or two deep.
Since paper isn’t the most attractive or natural looking substrate, you can use cypress mulch, coco coir, or orchid bark. You can find these materials at pet shops and the gardening section in most department stores. Similarly, you can lay the mulch or bark over paper.
The good thing about these substrates is that they hold moisture well. Since the tokay gecko thrives in high humidity, mulches and moss are excellent bedding materials. They also give the enclosure a more natural appearance.
Another choice is reptile carpet. This looks good and is easy to clean. Also, it doesn’t cause impaction.
Avoid cedar as it is harmful to tokay geckos.
Creating a temperature gradient is necessary to ensure the survival of the tokay gecko. As tokay geckos are reptiles, they regulate their body temperature using the temperatures of their surroundings. Heating just one end of the enclosure ensures that parts of the enclosure are cool while other parts are warm.
Use a heat lamp to create a basking area. The temperature under the basking lamp should be 90 to 105 F. The warm end of the enclosure around the basking spot should have temperatures of 85 F. The cool end of the enclosure can have temperatures of 80 to 75 F. Night temperatures can be in the mid-70s.
I recommend ceramic heat emitters since they can be on during the night as they don’t produce light, which needs to be off at night.
For light, I recommend a UVA/UVB emitting fluorescent light such as Reptisun 10.0 UVB Lights. This light needs to be on for 12 to 14 hours each day, and off during the night. Do not leave the lights on at night or the nocturnal tokay gecko can’t come out to feed and explore.
Leaving the lights on can be very stressful to the gecko. If you think you can’t fastidiously turn the lights on and off each day, invest in an automatic timer socket such as the BN-LINK 24 Hour Plug-in Mechanical Timer.
The tokay gecko thrives in very high humidity. The humidity levels need to be 60 to 80 percent. While the enclosure needs to be humid, it also needs to be relatively dry.
Spray the enclosure daily, right before the lights go off. The reptiles usually drink from the water droplets. You can also provide an additional dripper or a bowl of dechlorinated water. Change the water often.
Feeding the Tokay Gecko
As carnivores, tokay geckos tend to feed mostly on live insects. They eat mealworms, crickets, superworms, dubia roaches, and even pinkie mice. Any food small enough to fit into the mouth is acceptable. They don’t eat dead prey so feed them live insects exclusively. Place the insects on a plate to reduce the risk of impaction.
As with other geckos, feed the tokay gecko as much as it can eat in about 10 minutes. This should be about five insects. Feed juveniles, about four times every week. Feed adults about three times every week.
It is important to supplement the gecko’s food with vitamin supplements. Dust the insects with vitamin D3 and calcium supplements. I recommend the Repashy Calcium Plus as it contains all the needed nutrients for healthy growth. Additionally, gut-load the insects before offering them to the gecko.
After feeding remove all uneaten live and dead insects from the enclosure.
Tokay Gecko’s Temperament
This nocturnal reptile has a reputation for being feisty when handled. Their bites are painful so you need to be careful when you handle them. With regular handling, they become less aggressive. However, regardless of what you read or have heard, they generally remain feisty their entire lives especially if they are wild-caught.
This aggressive nature of the tokay gecko extends to any creature they perceive as a threat including other male tokay geckos. Males housed in the same enclosure will fight to the death. They are best housed alone as they are territorial and solitary reptiles.
They are also quite noisy, especially adult males. They bark during the night when they are most active. This can disturb your sleep, so it isn’t best to house them in your bedroom. Don’t expect a docile pet when you keep a tokay gecko. Because of their aggressive nature, it’s not advisable to house them in homes with children.
Tokay Gecko’s Lifespan
This species has an estimated lifespan of 10 years in captivity, but they are known to live up to 20 years.
Common Health Concerns
Metabolic bone disease (MBD)
This is one of the most common diseases geckos suffer from. MBD is usually caused by calcium and vitamin D3 deficiency. Symptoms include humped back, swollen/deformed limbs, kinks, weak jaws, bowing of the spine, and uncontrollable twitching.
To prevent MBD, feed the reptile adequate amounts of calcium/vitamin D3 in the right proportion and increase the reptiles’ access to UVB light. Geckos suffering from MBD need to be diagnosed and treated by a qualified herp vet.
The tokay gecko can easily ingest substrate such as mulch while they try to catch and eat their prey. This is usually not a problem unless they ingest too much substrate.
This problem is particularly common among small juveniles. Symptoms of impaction include constipation and loss of appetite. Have a qualified vet treat the reptile. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
Internal and External Parasites
Newly acquired tokay geckos may be infested with parasites. External parasites such as mites are easy to spot (they are tiny moving dots that generally gather around the eyes and mouth).
External parasites can be treated with mite spray such as Reptile Spray. Internal parasites are more difficult to spot. Symptoms to look out for include smelly excrement, loss of appetite, and loss of weight. These are best treated by qualified herp vets.
These are the most common health problems this species faces. With proper husbandry, you can reduce the probability of these health problems occurring to almost zero.
Pricing and Availability
Although not rare, they aren’t as common as leopard or crested geckos. This may be because they are less docile. However, with that said, you may come upon them at reptile expos, and even at a reptile pet shop, or two.
They are generally not expensive. Be prepared to pay about $30 to $50 for a single tokay gecko. Some morphs such as the Reduced Pattern can cost as much as $200.
Tokay geckos are significant geckos in East Asian cultures. They are believed to have supernatural powers. In Southeast Asia, they are considered to bring good luck and fertility.
In many parts of Asia, they are poached for use in traditional medicine. This has led to significant reduction in wild population sizes in many Asian countries. However, on the IUCN Red List, they are concerned to be species of Least Concern.
There are no direct conservation measures in place for the species. According to the IUCN Red List, this isn’t currently needed however regulation of the trade of this species would be advantageous.
While the tokay gecko is a feisty gecko, they are very colorful and pretty. Their nocturnal nature means that you get to enjoy their company when you get back from work or school. While most tokay geckos available on the market are wild-caught, captive-bred tokay geckos do exist.
Captive-breeds are easier to handle and come with no health complications. Wild-caught geckos are usually infested with both internal and external parasites, and are extremely feisty.
If you have any comments or questions, we would love to hear them.
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