Tokay Gecko Gecko gecko
The tokay gecko is a medium sized, tropical lizard inhabiting much of Southeast Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and all adjacent islands. These feisty geckos do not seem to be intimidated by human presence and are commonly found near and within human habitations.
Tokay geckos prefer the hot, humid conditions of lush rainforest, but area highly adaptable, making them able to thrive in a variety of conditions, and furthermore making them an extremely hardy animal in the terrarium.
The natural beauty of this species has played a large role in this geckos popularity in the terrarium. Many keepers see past their irritable nature as a result of the magnificent colors and patterns they possess. Typically bluish-purple with orange spots, tokays are certainly an eye catching addition to any collection.
Size and Longevity
Tokay geckos are fairly large in the gecko family, attaining an adult size of 12 to 14 inches total length. Males are almost always larger than females, both in length and overall mass.
There is little known about the life span of tokay geckos in the wild, but in captivity they have proven to be a long lived species. Depending on the age of the animal when acquired, specimens in captivity can be expected to live between 15 and 20 years under optimal care.
Tokay geckos can be easily housed in a variety of different types of enclosures. If you live in a tropical or temperate zone where ambient temperature and humidity levels are acceptable, these geckos may be housed in screen enclosures much like those used to maintain chameleons.
However, all glass terrariums with secure screen lids are by far the most common choice, and probably the best one for the average gecko hobbyist.
Baby tokays can easily be kept in an enclosure with dimensions similar to those of a standard 10 gallon terrarium. As the animal grows it should be provided with proportionally larger living quarters. A single adult or male-female pair will thrive in a standard 20 gallon "tall" terrarium, but more space will be utilized by these active foragers, and is completely necessary if maintaining more than two adult animals.
Heating and Lighting
As a tropical species, tokay geckos require high daytime temperatures and slightly cooler evenings. Day time highs within the enclosure should fall between 85 and 90 degrees. This can be achieved with the use of a standard heat lamp, infrared bulb, or ceramic heat emitter placed strategically over one end of the terrarium. This will ensure that the side of the enclosure furthest from the heat source remains cooler, allowing the geckos to thermoregulate throughout the day as needed.
If your home remains above 70 degrees at night, little or no supplemental nocturnal heating should be required. However, in the winter, or if your home regularly drops into the 60's at night, a nocturnal heat source should be provided. Red heat bulbs, ceramic heat emitters, and under tank heating pads are all acceptable options for night time warmth.
It is unclear whether or not this species requires exposure to full spectrum lighting in captivity. In general, it is understood that nocturnal species typically do not bask under the sun, and therefore do not require full spectrum, lighting in captivity. However, the use of this type of lighting in the form of a fluorescent UV bulb cannot hurt, and may prove quite beneficial if you plan on incorporating live plants into your set-up.
Substrate and Furnishings
The bedding used in the tokay gecko enclosure should be one that promotes high levels of humidity without becoming rotten or stagnant. Reptile (orchid) bark or cypress mulch are ideal. Patches of sphagnum moss or live moss may be added to further increase humidity levels while also adding to the naturalistic appearance of the terrarium.
Tokay geckos like to hide during the day. Therefore ample hiding spots should be provided for them. They tend to prefer elevated or vertical areas to seek shelter in such as slabs of cork bark, cork bark tubes, or dense elevated foliage.
In addition to hiding spots, various climbing structures should be incorporated into the terrarium design. Sticks, tree limbs, rocks, and both live and artificial plants can all be used to create a natural yet functional habitat for these animals.
Water and Humidity
A large, sturdy water dish should always be present, and kept filled with clean water. While these geckos will seldom drink from a source of standing water, the evaporation from the bowl will increase the ambient cage humidity.
Tokay geckos prefer moderate to high levels of humidity. This is easily achieved by simply misting the entire enclosure contents twice a day with a hand held spray bottle of water. The lizards will drink the droplets that form, and the runoff will further aid in raising humidity levels.
Tokay geckos will thrive on a varied diet of insect prey. Appropriately sized (no longer than the lizards head is wide) crickets, mealworms, waxworms, superworms, and roaches should be staples in their diet. Adult tokays can be offered the occasional baby (pink) mouse as a source of additional protein and dietary variety.
These geckos have big appetites and fast metabolisms. They should be offered food no less than every other day. A feeding should consist of as many prey items as will be consumed in a 30 minute period. All food items should be lightly dusted with a quality calcium/vitamin D3 supplement. There are many different formulas available, so carefully read the manufacturers directions for the product you select.
Babies and immature geckos may receive supplementation at every feeding, but this can be reduced to twice a week for adult geckos.
In addition to living prey, captive tokay geckos often relish fruit baby foods. Offer a few teaspoons on a small dish after dark. Banana, papaya, and other tropical fruit flavors are most favored by this species.
Despite their popularity as terrarium subjects, tokay geckos are typically aggressive and do not take kindly to being restrained or carried around. These animals will bark, squirm, drop their tails, and bite in an effort to escape.
It should then go without saying that tokay geckos should not be viewed as a hands on pet, but more as a display animal. Handle only when absolutely necessary, and even then do so with extreme caution so as not to cause harm to the gecko or to yourself.
© LLLReptile & Supply, Inc 2007