Exotic Explorations: Geckos!

Exotic Explorations Geckos- w

Welcome to exotics month, Calgary Humane Society Supporters!

That’s right, all August long we will be celebrating some of the more… unusual… animals that we see at Calgary Humane Society! If you have a topic you would like to see covered, please let us know on our Facebook community because we would LOVE to answer your questions!

Today on the blog we’re bringing you a feature you’ll see all month long… Exotic Explorations! We will be looking at the good, the bad and the just plain unique of all our favorite exotic species! And what better animal to start with then the noble gecko?

Gaggles of Geckos!

First, ‘gecko’ does not refer to a singular type of pet. There are dozens of different gecko species available and each one will have different husbandry requirements. There is an incredible diversity when you compare different gecko species, so, as always, if you are thinking of adding one of these cool critters to your family it is definitely best to do a LOT of research about what gecko will be the best fit for your family

What’s So Great About Geckos?

Most of the geckos you see as pets stay relatively small, making them a great choice for those who don’t have room for a huge tank. Depending on the species you choose, a 10-20 gallon tank could be enough. If you choose an arboreal gecko (one that would live in trees in the wild) you will need a gecko tank that is tall with plenty of foliage to climb and hide in. If you choose a terrestrial (ground dwelling) gecko the height of the tank will not matter as much. Because many geckos are happy in a moderately sized tank, they can be a great choice if you live in a smaller space.

Geckos TOTALLY have personalities! Gus and Gertie Gecko have been part of the Humane Education team for several years here at the shelter (sadly Gus passed away earlier this year – RIP Gus) and they each have their own personality. Gertie is docile and agreeable while Gus was more feisty. Gertie was happy to be handled and petted, making her a great gecko ambassador. Gus was more playful and would try to climb the wall or otherwise get into mischief at any opportunity.

Most species of geckos can be safely handled and many are very social. Handling geckos does take some practice and skill though. If you are looking for a gecko that is easy to handle, this is definitely something to research carefully because there are a few species that have a reputation for being grumpy and biting (we’re looking at you, Tokay geckos).

What Do Geckos Eat?

That depends on your gecko species! Most geckos will eat bugs (mostly crickets), fruit/vegetables or a combination of the two. Crested geckos (like Gus and Gertie) are primarily frugivores (fruit eaters) but crickets are also part of their diet. Other geckos, like leopard geckos only eat insects (worms, crickets, etc.). If your gecko is an insect eater, you may have to “gut load” your insects to make sure your gecko gets everything they need to be healthy. “Gut loading” insects means feeding the insects specific foods before feeding the insects to your gecko.

Do Geckos have Special Housing Needs?

Absolutely. Each species of gecko will have a specific range of temperatures, level of humidity and environment that they need to thrive. The captive gecko’s habitat should mimic where they would live in the wild, but sometimes you may run across some instructions to prevent your captive gecko from getting sick. For example, certain substrates (what you put on the bottom of the tank) may mimic the natural environment but be dangerous for captive geckos due to the potential for the substrate to be eaten.

Geckos Sound Pretty Cool. Give Me 10 More Cool Facts About Geckos!

Challenge accepted!

  1. Many types of geckos stick to walls and windows, but they don’t use suction cups! Instead gecko feet are covered with setae and spatulae – little tiny adhesive hairs that helps geckos stick to stuff!
  1. Many types of geckos chirp! Seriously, they chirp! In fact, geckos can make a lot of different noises, including growling and barking! One theory behind the name “gecko” is actually due to several gecko species sounding a little like they are saying “gek-ko” when they chirp.
  1. Several species of geckos exhibit caudal autotomy. This means their tail can come off if grabbed by a predator. If a gecko’s tail comes off it will often continue to twitch in order to distract the predator.
  1. Contrary to popular belief, not all species of geckos re-grow their tails if they lose them. Crested geckos, for example, do not re-grow tails.
  1. Some geckos have eyelids and some do not! You could probably win a staring contest against a leopard gecko (they blink) but a crested gecko will have you beat (they don’t have any eyelids). Geckos without eyelids have a special scale over their eye and will lick their eyes to keep them clean.
  1. Most geckos are ambush hunters, so they will hold very still until their prey walks by, then grab it!
  1. Geckos kept incorrectly (like those who do not get enough calcium in their diet or those that don’t get enough UV light) can develop a serious condition called metabolic bone disease. MBD can even be fatal if not caught early and treated.
  1. Washing your hands regularly and keeping the enclosure clean is very important for everyone who keeps reptiles, including those who keep geckos. Geckos can be carriers of salmonella so unclean enclosures and poor hand hygiene can lead to problems.
  1. Some geckos are nocturnal while others are awake during the day. Do your research when you are choosing a gecko, especially if you are hoping to spend time with them during the day or are a light sleeper (nocturnal geckos will sometimes chirp at night).
  1. There are about 1,500 species of geckos worldwide and they range in size from less than 16 millimeters (Sphaerodactylus ariasae) right up to 14 inches (Rhacodactylus leachianus). Remember we mentioned above that some geckos growl? Rhacodactylus is one of those geckos, which has earned it the name “devil in the trees” in its homeland of New Caledonia.