Gekko gecko / Tokey - Care
|Scientific name:||Gekko gecko|
|English name:||Tokay gecko|
|Average age:||15-20 years|
|Reproduction:||oviparous / egglaying|
Gekko gecko, (Linneaus, 1758)
The Tokay gecko gets its name from the characteristic sounds (To-kay) that they produce. Despite the low price of wild-caught animals we do not recommend these geckos for beginners. There are often a lot of health issues with wild caught animals because the poor conditions in which they are exported and their reputation as the "pit bull" of geckos they rightfully deserve. They have a defensive character and strong bite.
Fortunately this species stole the heart of many and they are bred more regular in the hobby and there are now a large number of color and pattern variations. For someone who does not have the interest to hold an animal and has experience Tokay geckos are very interesting lizards to keep. Their defensive and shy behavior can calm down a with a lot of patience and in captivity many feed from the tweezers. These gecko have a form of parental care which is very interesting to observe
Physical Characteristics: The tokay gecko is a big gecko that on average gets about 25-30cm long with large specimens reaching 35-40cm. This makes it one of the largest gecko species. The base color is dark gray to light gray with red spots. They have a broad head and good eyes to see during the night. This species is entirely nocturnal.
Origin and habitat: Tokay geckos have a very large distribution thru almost entire Southeast Asia. This range extends from Nepal. Bangladesh to the southern part of Thailand including Cambodia, part of China, India, Indonesia, including the many islands, and several islands in the Philippines and Taiwan. This species is spotted in small parts of Africa and in Hawaii where there appear to maintain small (invasive) populations. Florida (USA) are also several small populations but it is not yet certain whether this population also reproduces or consists entirely of released animals.
They prefer tropical warm and moist areas but adapt relatively easily. They are also found a lot in close vicinity to people where they are found in large numbers on the walls, in gardens and even in homes where they prey on insects that care attracted to the light in the houses and garbage mankind produces. Naturally they prefer to live against tree trunks and among large-leaved vegetation. Today, these geckos are not only hunted to be kept as pets but also to be eaten because the Chinese think that eating this gecko increased fertility and libido. There is of course no scientific evidence for this and the idea is fully based on superstition.
In the wild, mainly males, but also females have a small territory. Often the males only allow females into this territory to mate and lay eggs which are protected mainly by the male. Other males are violently excluded and expelled from the territory. Their familiar call seems to vary by population. This call is meant to attract females and repel other males out of the territory.
Husbandry: The minimum size terrarium for a single animal is 60x45x60 and 60x45x90 for a couple. House these geckos only apart or per couple (1.1). Two males will certainly fight and also females can be territorial to specimens of the same sex. Not every male and female is compatible, so keep a good observation on interaction between animals housed together.
Quarantine: We recommend to place newly purchased animals in a fairly scarce decorated, well ventilated enclosure in which observation is easily done. Especially wild-caught animals need to be first set up in this manner. During quarantine newspaper or paper towel can be used as a substrate. This does not help to maintain the humidity but it is easy to replace and check, keeping it more hygienic. Because these lizards need plenty of hiding places u can use PVC pipes of different diameters. These function as a great hide but are also easy to clean and disinfect. Place the pipes in both horizontal, vertical and diagonal position so that multiple options exist for the geckos to choose from. Offer at any time clean, fresh water, specially wild-caught animals are often highly dehydrated. Note that many Gekko gecko do not drink from stagnate water somewhere on the bottom. One option is to place the waterdish higher in the enclosure, against a wall or between the hides. However, it is very important to spray almost daily. Mist the entire interior so everything is covered with drops of water so that the tokay can drink. Do this preferably just before or after the lights go of. This mimics the natural nocturnal rise in humidity and this is the period when the animals are active. Providing a drip system also improves the moisture absorption. Provide an average humidity of 65-80% during the day which can rise throughout the evening. Note that the terrarium must be humid but not wet for a long period after the misting. Good ventilation is important to prevent this. The average daytime temperature should be 26-29C with a hotspot of 35-40C. These geckos can tolerate lower night temperature but prevent a drop below 20C.
Because they are nocturnal animals, and avoid bright light would, we would not advise the use of a strong heatinglamp that emits a lot of light. Instead of this u can best use ceramic lamp or heater. This can be used both during the day and at night because they emit no light and therefore have no effect on the day / night rhythm. This way it is possible to control the day and night temperatures without effecting the natural lightcycle. Always connect these ceramic radiator with a thermostat and avoid the tokay can come into contact with the bulb to prevent burns. Another alternative which is mainly to be used is already heated reptile rooms is the placement of a heat mat on one of the sidewalls at the top. To observe the nocturnal behaviours you can us a nightlights or so-called "moon glow" light. These simulate natural moonlight and not disturb your lizards natural activity while you can observe them.
In order to mimic a natural day / night rhythm and possible elevate the daytime temperature u can use a UVB compact or fluorescent tube. These provide a natural but diffused light and tokay's have been observed that (briefly) basked in the UVB light. Which stimulates the natural vitamin D process.
Bio-Active: If your new tokay is settled and after faecal examination showed that no harmful parasites are present you can accommodate them in a more natural setup. These geckos are well suited be kept in a 'bio-active' terrarium. Their natural behaviour comes to its full right in a setup like this. In addition, such a residence is pleasing to the eye, easier to maintain and also the maintenance of the humidity is considerably easier than in a sparsely decorated terrarium like a quarantine setup.
The base is a minimum of 10 cm thick layer of ground cover that consists of a mixture of (coco) earth, moss and leaves placed on a drainage layer. Plants grow very well when planted in a substrate like this. Which are a huge help to create shelters as to maintain a higher humidity. U can add several invertebrates to the substrate to function as the clean-up crew. You can use springtails, woodlice and other isopods like harmless millipedes. These small helpers will feed on the waste your gecko produces and keep the substrate in a good condition. Plant several large-leaved plants for the tokay to hide among and some climbing plants to decorate it further. Tokay prefer a smooth surface and therefore like to sit on the glass walls of the terrarium. So it is a good option not to use a backwall or use a smooth cork plate as a background. This gives the animals always one secure place to hide against and plants can grow against it. Offer also many branches with a smooth a surface. Bamboo is the best choice for this but you can also use trunks where the bark is taken of. Combine and use logs and bamboo with different diameters. Hollow bamboo stems are perfect a hiding place and many geckos will lay their eggs in these bamboo stems. Mist every day, spray on the decoration, leaves and backwall so the geckos can drink the drops left behind. Note that most tokay do not like getting wet. So do not spray directly on the lizards, they will not appreciate this.
The tokay is sometimes released in a reptile room or combined with large diurnal tropical lizards like water dragons etc. to eat leftover food or escaped animals. These hunters are very good at this. Always keep in mind that the other occupants of the enclosure cannot harm your tokay. In addition tokay will not hesitate to eat a smaller reptile. Make sure the gecko cannot escape from the reptile room and the lizard gets enough food. If needed you can place a feeder dish with mealworms or sometimes feed a pinkie mouse to make sure the gecko gets enough food. We have kept tokay together with Asian tortoise but would not recommend the release of these animals in an entire reptile room. Although they will often stay in a certain territory. There is a great potential risk of them spreading parasites and other pathogens thru a large part of your room. And then there is the fact they defecate on your walls and enclosures…
Diet: This gecko is a good hunter and eats all almost everything that fits in its mouth. So feed a varied diet. Young animals can feed on small crickets, grasshoppers, Isopods, waxworms and moths, dubias and mealworms. Adult animals have the same diet only bigger including large grasshoppers, crickets and field or steppe crickets, mealworms and zoophobas. Dust the insects is at least 2x per week with a calcium powder supplement containing vitamin D3. To give egg-laying females extra calcium you can use pinkie mice. Do not use these as a staple diet but as an addition on an already varied diet. Feed young tokay 5x a week, adult animals can be fed on average three times a week. Feed if needed egg producing females a bit more.
Handling: The tokay is known for its defensive character and firm bite. They have a strong bite in proportion to their size and their mouth is full of small sharp teeth. An animal that feels threatened will posture high on the legs, and open its mouth. Sometimes they even make noise. If you then get closer they will try to bite. This bite is often short and meant as a warning. However, when you grab the animal you will get a stronger response. Many people hold their tokay directly firmly behind the jaws and the possible reaction (bite) that comes from this is firm. This reaction is a logical result given an animal feels threatened and will defend himself. The tokay will not quickly release but often continue to hold on. If a gecko holds you like this, you can best provide a surface to the animal. If the animal has the impression that it can escape safely this will let go and run away.
There are enthusiasts who have gotten their tokay a bit more calmer and less defensive. This is done with a lot of patience and winning their trust. This often starts with learning the gecko to feed from tweezers. If they are used to this, the forceps is being held closer and closer to yout other flat hand until it is above the hand. This way the animal needs to walk on your hand to get the insect and possibly get used to short handlings on a flat hand. Becoming less and less threatened of the flat hand. making it possible to move your gecko not only easier but also significantly less stressful for the owner as well as the geckos. If you do not want to grab a defensive gecko and avoid unnecessary stress. Move it with the hollow shelter it is sitting in.
Reproduction: Depending on the conditions this species will reproduce almost throughout the year. In some areas there are certain seasons in which the pairings and oviposition frequency is highest. In the terrarium where often the conditions are quite similar throughout the entire year there is no real season where mating activity is at its highest and they will breed all year long. Tokay couples seem to form a close bond and pairs will stay together for a long time, defending their own territory. Also the female will often chase other females out of this territory. But, not all males and females are compatible, so ones you have a fitting pair it is best not to separate these. Unless the female is getting no rest from the male.
The Gekko gecko lays an average of two eggs, sometimes three at a time. Sometimes a single mating can provide multiple fertilized clutches in a single season. The eggs are white and round and are stickt firmly in a vertical shelter. Often females lay their clutches on the same spot each time. Make sure that you don’t disturb this place to often. On average, the eggs hatch at 30C after 55-60 days. The incubation period is strongly influenced by the conditions and clutches can take significantly longer to hatch when they are incubated in the terrarium they are laid in. In nature these geckos are observed to have parental care. The male and female protect their young and even after hatching the young remain near the parents in the same shelter.
In a terrarium this behaviour can disappear. So pay attention to the behaviour of your animals. If the eggs are protected, you can leave the clutch with the parents. However it may be wise to remove the eggs and incubate them in a separate incubator. Preventing the young is hatched in the same enclosure as the parents and end up being eaten.