Common House Geckos are becoming increasingly popular as more and more people begin to show interest in caring for reptilian pets. House geckos need very little in the way of basic care compared to some of the more complex reptilian pet options out there and make fantastic start-up pets. So if you think you’d like to get yourself a common house gecko, read ahead for a comprehensive guide on the setup, feeding, grooming, and general care of house geckos.
What Are House Geckos?
The title “common house gecko” encompasses not just one gecko species but several gecko species that are non-venomous and not of any danger to humans. Common house geckos are part of the Hemidactylus genus, containing 183 gecko species. This gecko species group also uses a series of alternative nicknames such as the moon lizard, wall gecko, or leaf-toed gecko.
They’re the ideal beginner’s pets for people wanting to keep reptiles – they pose no threat to their owners, they’re easygoing, simple to feed, and versatile when it comes to living in various environments. The most commonly seen house gecko species include:
- Mediterranean House Gecko (aka Turkish Gecko)
- Asian Common House Gecko
How Big do House Geckos Get?
Common house geckos tend to grow to a maximum size of around 5 inches, as is seen with Mediterranean house geckos and Asian geckos. They grow to this size within a year of being born, which is quite a rapid growth rate (roughly 0.1 inches per month) and should be monitored carefully when considering how small they start.
Creating a House Gecko Habitat
Whether you decide to have a single house gecko or multiple house geckos, you need to ensure you are creating a habitat large enough for them to be comfortable; the more space you can give them, the better (would you rather be locked in a single room or an entire mansion?).
The Ideal Terrarium
If you’re a little strapped for space, the absolute minimum we would recommend for a pair of house geckos is a tall 20-gallon tank with a screen lid. For a single gecko, you should aim for a tank with the dimensions 18″ H x 12″ L x 12″ W at the very least. This is because they need plenty of verticle height to climb just as they would in the wild. Additionally, you should clean the tank at least once a month for general hygiene reasons and protect your gecko’s health.
Most geckos are extremely adaptable, mainly thanks to their sticky toe pads, which allow them to move around freely in a wide range of environments, including vertical or even inverted surfaces. This means your gecko would be able to make use of every inch of space it is given, but it also means they can escape if given an opportunity. Therefore, gecko habitats need to be as escape-proof as possible as they are small, agile, escape artists capable of squeezing through the slightest gap.
Habitat Care Essentials
This includes temperature control, UV control, humidity control, and absolute essentials that need to be in every gecko enclosure.
A heat lamp is non-negotiable. All geckos require a heat lamp capable of maintaining a basking temperature of around 90°F at the main basking spot. They should also be given adequate shade that sits around 75-85°F during the day. To provide a realistic representation of the natural environment, the lamp should be programmed to drop the temperature inside the enclosure to around 72°F at night.
It’s best to use halogen heat bulbs to heat the enclosure instead of ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), which are not as effective. You should also avoid heated rocks as they can cause severe injury if the surface becomes too hot.
Unlike tropical gecko species, the Mediterranean gecko and Asian common gecko are capable of living without a UVB lamp. However, it is still recommended that you provide a UVB bulb for your gecko to ensure they receive the proper UV exposure vitamin D and give them a full day/night cycle to which they can adapt their routine.
Geckos require a moderately high humidity environment, with the ideal level being about 60-75% humidity. This can be monitored with the use of a digital probe which should be as central in the tank as possible for an accurate reading. If the reading drops too low, you can raise the humidity using a fine mist spray bottle.
It is recommended that you spray the tank down once in the morning and once at night to maintain that humid environment. The water droplets will also provide essential drinking water for your gecko to enjoy.
Substrate and Decoration
So this is where you can play around and have a bit of fun creating the ultimate playground for your new reptilian friend. Of course, the substrate itself should be as natural as possible just in case your gecko eats some of it – this means avoiding pebbles or any un-digestible.
We would recommend using something like shredded coconut fiber bedding, cypress mulch, chemical-free leaf litter, or bark for the base 2-4 inch substrate layer of your gecko’s enclosure to replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible. If you are on a strict budget, it is also possible to use shredded paper litter instead. You should clean the substrate daily and replace the contaminated substrate every 3-4 weeks.
For general decoration, you should stick with live plants as much as possible with some sturdy fake plants for additional climbing surfaces. Geckos also love to have a variety of surfaces to climb over, so try to include a couple of rocks and branches as well.
House geckos also need to have an area to rest to feel safe from invasion. These shelters can be easier found at your local pet store and are often made from corn. If you have more than one gecko, provide two sleeping areas so that they have the choice to be apart.
Housing Geckos Together
If you’re thinking of adopting more than one gecko, there are a few things you should be aware of:
- It would help if you did not pair a male and female together outside of mating season to avoid unwanted pregnancy and seasonal aggression.
- Two males can be kept together; however, males tend to fight and should be monitored carefully to begin with. Only once you are certain they can get along can you leave them unattended more frequently.
- Two females can be housed together without any real problems.
- When having one or more geckos in a single enclosure, they should always be monitored closely upon first introducing them so that you can look out for any signs of aggression.
Exercising a House Geck
Though geckos do love a good basking surface and will spend hours relaxing in the heat, they do also require some exercise at least once a week. However, exercise should never occur immediately after eating as a gut loaded with feeder insects would not particularly agree with excessive motion while trying to digest.
Take your gecko out of its enclosure whenever you think it could do with some extra exercise and place them into a wide, secure space to run around. You may also want to set up a heat lamp in the areas so that they can stay warm while they’re exploring. Though keep in mind that most geckos are nocturnal, so you may not get a lot of movement out of them should you try to exercise them in the middle of the day.
Do not leave your gecko unattended while it is out of its enclosure.
As previously mentioned, they are escape artists and can quickly become lost if you take your eyes off them. In addition, geckos can become an invasive species in the local area if they get out and survive the local temperatures.
Feeding a House Gecko
Geckos live on a diet of appropriately sized insects, all of which need to be alive. The following insects are ideal for the average house gecko diet:
- Flightless fruit flies
- Mealworm beetles
- Discoid roaches
- Dubai roaches
- Bean Beetles
When feeding your gecko, you should be careful to select slightly smaller insects than the gecko’s head to enable them to swallow their food properly. Four or five insects should suffice per meal. A growing gecko has a healthy appetite and usually needs feeding daily, while adult geckos should be fed 3-4 times a week.
You may also find that your gecko needs additional supplements – calcium and vitamin supplements can be found in powder form and be dusted on top of feeder insects before they’re eaten. The calcium supplement can support healthy skeletal growth while additional vitamins maintain overall health.
A water bowl is also recommended to ensure they have plenty to drink throughout the day. Be careful to provide a shallow bowl that doesn’t come above your gecko’s head to avoid drowning. They should be able to paddle but not swim to be on the safe side.
A lot of reptile owners don’t think of the need to keep the live food alive. Gut loading is a term used to describe feeding the live insects you later intend to feed to your gecko. It is recommended that the food you give to the insects will also be something that will benefit your gecko once broken down. An example of some excellent foods to give to your feeding insects are:
- Commercial powdered diets
- Gel balls
- Chick or hog mash
- Carrots for mealworms
- Non-acidic fruit and vegetables
- Avoid broccoli and spinach
How to Handle a House Gecko Properly
Geckos are extremely agile built to escape predators – this means if you were to mishandle your gecko, there is a high chance they will attempt to escape you as a self-preservation response. Therefore, it is not recommended that you handle your gecko unless necessary. If this is the case, then you should take the following advice into account:
- Clean your hands thoroughly with gecko-safe soap before continuing.
- Keep the tank’s opening as small as possible to avoid them escaping.
- Place your hand flat and scoop them gently from underneath.
- Never pick a gecko up with your fingers from its underbelly, as this can squeeze them and cause discomfort and stress.
- If needs be, gently coax them into the right direction using your other hand – being careful not to make them feel trapped.
- Hold the gecko low over a soft surface – do not hold them high up in an open space as they may panic, jump away and injure themselves.
- Do not stroke the gecko once you are holding them.
- Let the gecko move as it wants to within the confines of your hands.
- If they begin to show signs of stress, replace them in the tank quickly and gently.
Grooming a House Gecko
Fortunately, house geckos don’t require a lot of grooming. They naturally shed their skin, much like snakes, which is a process they will undergo on their own without any real need for assistance. However, it is recommended that you make sure the water bowl is properly topped up if you think your gecko might be starting the shedding process, as water can very much aid them if the shed skin starts to get stuck.
Besides maintaining a human environment to enable your gecko to shed properly and collecting any discarded skin, there isn’t much else required of a gecko owner in terms of grooming. Just be mindful that you also keep yourself properly groomed by washing your hands thoroughly before handling your gecko or anything in the tank, and ensure that you are regularly cleaning out the tank to maintain proper hygiene.
House Gecko Health Problems
There are four main health complications you will need to look out for when it comes to owning a house gecko, all of which can be treated to improve or even cure the problem:
Metabolic Bone Disease
MBD is the direct result of a gecko not receiving the correct minerals and vitamins in early life. Specifically, a gecko is affected by MBD if it has not received the proper amount of calcium and vitamin D needed for healthy growth. MBD is characterized by:
- Reduced appetite
- Body tremors
- Deforming around the limbs and spine
In order to offset the symptoms of MBD, the gecko needs to be fed a corrected diet containing the appropriate nutrients and vitamins. They may also need a change of environment for them to be able to synthesize their new supplemented diet more easily. Young geckos generally respond better to treatment as they are still developing. However, older geckos can be left with permanent damage if the condition has been neglected for an extended time.
This is when a house gecko is struggling to shed its skin properly – hence our emphasis on providing the right environment when it’s time to shed. There are some signs to look out for that may indicate if your gecko is struggling to shed:
- Dry skin
- Showing signs of stress, confusion, and skittishness (caused by poor vision)
- When shedding takes significantly more time to complete than the average 24 hours
- Unexplained physical damage or behavior which vision problems may cause
If unshed skin is left for long enough, it can cause restrictive damage to the limbs. Therefore, if you think your gecko might be struggling to shed properly, you can give it a warm shower to boost humidity. If they still seem to be stuck, you should take them to your vet to be checked over.
Gastroenteritis is a problem with all animals that can occur if they eat something that doesn’t agree with them or something has gone off. With geckos, eating dead insects can cause gastroenteritis. This condition causes the following symptoms:
- Water feces
- Shrunken tail
Gastroenteritis can become lethal if left for an extended time without any improvement. If your pets do not seem to improve after 24 hours, we would suggest contacting your vet for advice and possibly arranging an appointment to have them checked over.
Geckos do have some natural parasites that don’t necessarily cause harm. However, geckos with weakened immune systems can start experiencing problems with these parasites or even pick up new parasites from their food or an external source. Parasites can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Runny or particularly pungent feces
- Unexplained weight loss
- Increased or decreased appetite
Parasites require veterinary intervention to be treated effectively. There are various treatments for parasites that depend very much on the type of parasite your gecko has contracted.
Q: How long does house gecko live?
A: So long as they are properly cared for in the correct environment, a Mediterranean house gecko can live upwards of five years in captivity. Geckos are prey creatures, meaning they don’t typically survive for as long as they can do outside of the protected house gecko terrarium. Some gecko species can live for over a decade in captivity, though this is not common with the house gecko.
Q: How fast do house geckos grow?
A: Common house geckos reach full maturity at around one year. In that time, they will grow to around 4-5 inches in length. After that, the growth rate is typically around 0.1 inches per month until they reach their maximum size.
Q: Do house geckos like to be held?
A: House geckos are small, fragile creatures with a naturally alert and cautious temperament owing to their place as prey in the natural food chain. As a result, a gecko will not particularly enjoy being held, especially when their tails can so easily be detached from their bodies if they’re mishandled. Some geckos can adapt to being held, or even form a bond with their owners, but you must always be careful to read their body language and understand when they should and shouldn’t be picked up.
Q: Does a house gecko bite?
A: House geckos tend to er on the side of “flight” rather than “fight” and, as a result, won’t generally bite a person if they approach them. However, this is not to say that they won’t try to defend themselves if they feel backed into a corner and unable to escape. Turkish and Mediterranean geckos are not venomous, nor are they particularly strong. Therefore, they are not likely to cause any damage if a stressed gecko bites you.
Q: Do house geckos make noise?
A: Yes. House geckos do make sounds that are mostly likened to a chirping noise. They’re not particularly vocal animals, but they make this sound when they are in mating season as a call to attract the opposite sex or feel distressed. Geckos can make this sound in general, though it is more unusual for them to make a sound without a clear reason.
Q: Do house geckos eat dead insects?
A: No. Geckos require a diet of live insects to live a full healthy life. If you were to try and feed dead insects to a gecko, they would refuse to eat and starve. This is down to their instinct to hunt and eat insects. Live insects also help geckos get some exercise and help them to hone and practice their natural hunting ability.
Q: Does a house gecko swim?
A: Not quite. Geckos can travel across the water using an unusual move not strictly classed as swimming but rather a running motion. Using this technique, geckos can travel across the water at an impressive pace. This means that a gecko should never be placed straight into the water but put inland near water to approach it properly.
Q: Do house geckos lay eggs?
A: Female house geckos can lay up to two hard-shell eggs at once. The female gecko’s ovaries can carry up to four eggs, with each egg at a different stage of development. By doing this, geckos can minimize the amount of time it takes to be ready to lay more eggs.