Tokay Geckos are the second-largest of all gecko species, reaching lengths of up to 15 inches. These geckos are thick and strong but still incredibly quick. They’re also vibrantly colored, sporting shades of vibrant blues, grays, greens, reds, oranges, blacks, and more, covered in patterns of colored dots that contrast their base colors.
In captivity, these geckos can live for 10-15 years, so getting one is a serious commitment. However, they’re not a great fit for someone who’s new to owning reptiles. These aren’t the friendliest of geckos. They’re known for being aggressive, territorial, and difficult to handle. If you want a tame and docile Tokay Gecko, you’ll need a lot of patience and previous experience with similar reptiles.
Quick Facts About Tokay Geckos
|Species Name:||Gekko gecko|
|Care Level:||Moderate to high|
|Minimum Tank Size:||20 gallons|
|Tank Set-Up:||Cluttered with lots of hiding spots|
|Compatibility:||Only for experienced reptile owners|
Tokay Gecko Overview
The Tokay Gecko looks distinctly different from other common gecko breeds that you likely know. These geckos are much thicker and larger than most, with cylindrical bodies and large heads with powerful jaws for biting. Incredibly colorful, these lizards rely on their coloration for camouflage and can even adjust their shade darker or lighter to better hide in any environment, though they can’t change colors like a chameleon.
Further improving their camouflage are skin folds on their bodies that open up completely. This breaks up their shadow, making it impossible to see. When in danger, a Tokay Gecko can cast its tail off in several sections. The tail that was shed will continue to wriggle with vigor for long enough to distract any predators while the gecko escapes. It takes just 3 weeks for a new tail to grow back, though the new one isn’t usually as long.
These are aggressive and territorial lizards, making them difficult to tame. You should expect to put a lot of effort and time into gaining your Tokay Gecko’s trust before it will allow you to handle it. Be careful though, these geckos are known to deliver a pretty nasty bite. Even with lots of care and time spent, a Tokay Gecko will never be a truly handleable lizard, like other gecko species often are.
Tokay Geckos are also known for their loud vocalizations. These are used mainly as warnings to other lizards that are in or near their territory, as well as a mating call that males use to attract females. But the vocalizations are loud enough to warrant keeping your lizards far from your bedroom, lest you wake up each night to a cacophony of lizard calls!
How Much Do Tokay Geckos Cost?
Considering their size and beauty, Tokay Geckos are very affordable. On average, they cost just $40, though you should expect to pay substantially more if you’re looking for a specialized morph with unique coloration. That said, even Tokays with standard coloration are vibrant, colorful, and quite a sight to behold.
Remember, if you purchase your lizard from an online vendor, you’ll have to pay for shipping. Shipping is usually a flat rate fee between $40-$60, but that will cover multiple reptiles in one shipment. Luckily, Tokay Geckos are pretty common, so you should be able to find one in a local store where you won’t have to pay shipping costs. Even some big chain pet stores sell Tokay Geckos, so look around. Aside from big pet store chains, any pet stores that specialize in reptiles should carry Tokay Geckos.
Typical Behavior & Temperament
If you’re looking for a friendly lizard that you can hold or allow it to climb on you, then you’ll want to bypass the Tokay Gecko. Beautiful they may be, but friendly they are not. Tokay Geckos have a reputation for being very territorial, aggressive lizards that are not very handleable. Handling one at all requires lots of patience, time, and careful training, but you’ll probably incur a few bites along the way.
Appearance & Varieties
In the wild, Tokay Geckos come in two main varieties, red-spotted and black-spotted. Black-spotted geckos have spots that range from gray to black, while the spots on a red-spotted gecko can vary from yellow to orange to red. Base colors are just as diverse, coming in various shades of blue, green, gray, silver, and black.
While there are only two main varieties that occur naturally, multiple color morphs have been created in captivity through selective breeding. Some morphs are multi-colored, displaying base colors that change from head to tail. Others might display heads that are a separate color from the body or colors that don’t appear naturally.
How to Take Care of a Tokay Gecko
Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup
If you provide everything your Tokay Gecko needs, it can live for more than a decade. But these geckos have specific living requirements that you’ll have to meet.
Tokay Geckos are far larger than most other gecko species. As such, they require more space. A single Tokay Gecko should be housed in an aquarium that’s 20 gallons or larger. Tokay Geckos love to climb though, so if you can get a larger enclosure that’s tall enough for some climbing structures, your gecko will certainly benefit. It needs to have a secure lid since these geckos are so strong. You also want to ensure the enclosure you pick provides ample airflow. Glass aquariums are preferred since they allow heat to dissipate quickly.
The ambient air temperature in your gecko’s enclosure should remain between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, though it can cool off by a few degrees at night. In addition to keeping the enclosure warm, you’ll also need to provide a basking area under a heat lamp. Monitor this basking area with a thermometer so you can be certain it remains between 90-105 degrees Fahrenheit.
Geckos need a very humid environment. For a Tokay, 70% humidity is ideal, but anything between 60%-80% should suffice. Don’t let the humidity in the tank fall below 50% though. Humidity can be maintained by misting the enclosure with a spray bottle. However, you have to be careful not to overdo it. If the environment is too wet, it could cause health problems for your gecko. Use a hygrometer to ensure that humidity remains at appropriate levels. We prefer the 2-in-1 thermometer/hygrometers that let you keep track of humidity and temperature with one simple device.
You want to choose a substrate that will retain some moisture and help keep the enclosure humid, but you don’t want it to be wet, soggy, or stick to your lizard. Coconut fiber is a great choice, as is orchid bark.
Your Tokay Gecko will need two lights. One light can be a natural light fluorescent that just provides light during the day. The other light will need to be a basking lamp that generates heat. Each lamp will require a dome, and you can even put them on a timer to automate your life and make caring for your gecko a bit simpler.
Tokay Geckos love to have loads of hiding spots. They prefer to have a cluttered living area that’s covered in logs, rocks, and live plants. These lizards also spend a lot of time climbing, so branches and other items they can climb up and perch on will be appreciated.
Can Tokay Geckos Be Housed Together?
For the most part, Tokay Geckos are best left as solitary lizards, only introducing a single male and female when you want them to mate. In the wild, this is how they mostly live, with males displaying very territorial aggression and only allowing females in to mate, lay eggs, then leave. But in captivity, if you’re willing to put in some careful work and watch the situation unfold, you might be able to house two or three of these geckos together, but there are guidelines to follow.
First, mature males should never be housed together. The stronger male will eventually chase the smaller or weaker male off and may cause serious harm to it in the process. This is true even for males that got along as juveniles. You also don’t want to add a second female to an enclosure with a female that has already mated, as they can become quite territorial. However, you can often keep two females together with a male, provided they were all introduced before mating took place. If you introduce a second female later, the original female may have partnered with the male in the enclosure, and they could team up to expel the new female from their territory, which could damage or kill your second female.
If you’re set on housing multiple Tokays together, your best bet is a pair; one female and one male. As stated, two females can be housed with a male if you cohabitate them at the same time, before mating has taken place. Otherwise, it’s safest just to keep each gecko in its own enclosure.
What to Feed Your Tokay Gecko
Tokay Geckos are far from picky eaters. In fact, they’ll eat just about anything that moves and is small enough for them to overpower. This means other lizards and a variety of insects in the wild, but in captivity, your gecko will be feeding on mealworms, crickets, waxworms, roaches, silkworms, hornworms, and even baby mice.
Make sure to gut load your insects before feeding them to your gecko. Gut loading is when you fill the insects with nutritional food just before offering them to your gecko so it can get the benefits of the nutrients they’ve eaten. Also, don’t forget to dust them with a multivitamin to keep your gecko strong and healthy.
Keeping Your Tokay Gecko Healthy
Tokay Geckos are strong, resilient creatures. Even though they’re not recommended for beginners, it’s mainly because of their aggressive temperament, not because they’re difficult to keep healthy. As long as you keep their enclosure at the right temperature with sufficient humidity and your gecko has plenty of space, food, and water, it should live a healthy and long life with minimal input on your part.
Tokay Geckos are extremely easy to breed and they don’t usually require any encouragement, provided they’re both in good health. For geckos in the wild, the breeding season spans several months, starting in the springtime when it starts to become more humid and daylight hours increase. You can replicate this by simply increasing the humidity in the enclosure and adding an extra hour or two of light each day. Increase feeding slightly so the female has plenty of energy for laying eggs.
You’ll know the male is attracting the female when you hear its loud vocal mating calls. If your male and female are paired together, simply increasing the light and humidity should induce mating. For lizards kept separate, you’ll need to carefully introduce the female to the male’s habitat, watching for any signs of aggression to ensure your female doesn’t get injured.
Are Tokay Geckos Suitable For You?
If you’re new to exotic reptiles, then it’s not recommended for you to start with a Tokay Gecko. While they are beautiful creatures, they’re not particularly friendly. Handling them takes a lot of patience and experience, which you should gain on a friendlier, easier-going species like a Leopard Gecko.
For the experienced lizard keeper looking for a challenge that’s unique with a bit of wow factor, then a Tokay Gecko might be a good choice. You should be comfortable with lizard bites if you’re going to get one though, bites are common due to their aggressive and territorial nature. But with lots of patience and understanding, you can tame a Tokay and get it comfortable with handling, which, to many herpetological enthusiasts, is a major prize and accomplishment all on its own.
Featured Image Credit: Thichaa, Shutterstock
An avid outdoorsman, Dean spends much of his time adventuring through the diverse terrain of the southwest United States with his closest companion, his dog, Gohan. He gains experience on a full-time journey of exploration. For Dean, few passions lie closer to his heart than learning. An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more.