Length: 8 to 16 inches (22 to 41 cm)
Life Expectancy: 10 years
The origins of tokay geckos sprung from various countries in Asia. They are commonly found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Nepal, New Guinea, Philippines, Melanesia, and Southeast Asia. Tokays are the second largest species of geckos, and they are hugely appreciated for their captivating, vibrant colours.
Tokay geckos are more suitable for experienced herpetologists. They are very feisty pets that have a tendency to bite, making them difficult to handle for new reptile owners and children. These lizards are not a fan of being touched, so it is best only to handle them when necessary.
Tokay geckos have an average lifespan of ten years. Some may even live up to twenty years old. Good care is the foundation to ensure that they live a long life.
Where did tokay geckos come from?
Tokay geckos, also known scientifically as Gekko gecko, are common across Asia. They can be found in several countries and regions including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Nepal, New Guinea, Philippines, Melanesia, and Southeast Asia.
Due to accidental shipping trade via cargo shipments, the gecko species grew in number in Hawaii and Florida. In Belize, Martinique, and the Lesser Antilles, tokay geckos are considered pest species. The species got their name from their courtship call’ to-kay, to-kay.’ The natural habitats of these lizards are rainforests, trees, rock crevices, and cliffs. Sometimes they can be found in human homes as well.
Are tokay geckos endangered species?
The tokay gecko population is large and spreads throughout Asia. They are not considered an endangered species, but they are one of the most heavily trafficked animals in the world. This puts them at great risk of becoming endangered species in the wild. There have been reports of localised tokay extinction in some places.
The reason behind the boom of the illegal tokay gecko pet trade is not because they are kept as family companions. Tokays have long been a part of traditional Chinese medicine. They are believed to be effective remedies to various health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and cancer. However, these claims are not scientifically proven by conventional medical specialists.
The use of this threatened species as medicine is not only in China but in many countries as well. For instance, they are of high demand in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, and some parts of America and Europe.
To address this issue, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) officially listed the tokays in Appendix II. By doing so, this curbs the wildlife trafficking of the species.
Trading of tokays will be heavily regulated. Exports of these gecko species should be accompanied by a permit. Countries are also required to provide annual reports on importing and exporting of tokays to CITES.
What does a tokay gecko look like?
Tokays have big bodies and large heads. Their eyes are wide and bulging. They have strong jaws and small, sharp teeth. Needless to say, their bite is quite painful and may draw blood. Similar to most gecko species, they have adhesive toe pads. Therefore, they can easily climb on plants and walls.
Tokays have prehensile tails since they commonly live in trees. This gives them the ability to move from one branch to another efficiently. When stressed or facing a threat, they can drop their tails as a defence mechanism. Fortunately, tokays can regrow their lost tail.
The species is quite popular amongst reptile owners due to its vibrant colouring. There are two types of tokay morphs: red-spotted and black-spotted. They usually have a base colour of light grey-blue. Then, this is covered polka dot spots that may vary from red and light yellow to bright orange and red-brown. Tokays can lighten or darken their skin colour to blend in with their environment.
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How big do tokay geckos get?
Tokays are the second largest species of geckos. Males tend to be smaller than females. Adult males measure approximately 8–12 inches (20–30 cm), whilst full-grown females can grow around 13–16 inches (33–40 cm). Both sexes have an average weight of 140–200 grams. It will take about eighteen months for hatchlings to become fully matured.
Do tokay geckos shed?
Tokay geckos do shed their skin. Young ones frequently shed compared to adults. A fully matured tokay sheds skin every four to five weeks. Keeping a high humidity during their shedding season is a must.
This is to prevent stuck sheds, which are dried skin that is difficult to remove. These can cut off blood circulation on tokays and may result in loss of limbs, tails, or toes.
It is advised to maintain a humidity level of 60–80%. To achieve this, you can spray water in the enclosure at least two to three times a day. If you are too busy to do this, consider buying an automatic mister so that it will do the job for you.
Whilst high humidity is important, too much can cause skin problems such as skin rot. So, make sure to use a screen cover that allows the cage to breathe. Do not forget to check the humidity of the tank with a hygrometer multiple times a day.
Provide a shedding box for your pet lizard to make his shedding easier. You can use a cup or a box to make this. Fill it with a damp paper towel or sphagnum moss to boost humidity.
Place rough ornaments inside the tank, such as tree barks and rocks. Your pet will rub his skin on these surfaces to remove their old skin.
Stuck sheds do occur, but not often. If this happens, get a shallow water dish and pour a small amount of water. Place your tokay inside and allow him to soak for at least twenty minutes. Always supervise him when doing this to prevent drowning.
Once the time is up, use a moist cotton ball or a cotton bud to remove the stuck shed. Rub it on the area gently until the dead skin is removed. In case this does not work, you can also use a shedding aid to get rid of the stuck shed.
What does a tokay gecko set-up need?
A 20-gallon tank is the recommended enclosure for geckos. Pick one that is made of glass and has a front and top ventilation. This is a good choice for trapping in humidity whilst ensuring that the enclosure does not become too stuffy.
Tokays are quite strong, and they can escape the tank if given a chance. Thus, double-check the lid to make sure that it is secure. This gecko species can be very loud at night, so it is not a good idea to place the tank inside the bedroom.
In general, geckos require three important areas in their enclosures. These include hiding places, activity areas, and basking spots. Activity areas are places where your pet lizard can explore. These primarily make up a large part of the enclosure.
There should be at least one basking place for each tokay. Add more if you have multiple tokays in the tank. Meanwhile, a minimum of two hiding spots is recommended. However, you may need to make more if you decide to house more tokays.
Substrates and Ornaments
Lining the bottom of your tokay’s tank is necessary. This helps in maintaining humidity and simulates the natural look and feel of his environment. Orchid bark, coconut peat, cypress mulch, and sphagnum moss are safe substrates that you can use.
Avoid buying cat litter, corncob bedding, hardwood chips, gravel, and sawdust. These are dangerous for tokays as it can be accidentally ingested, resulting in choking and impaction.
For decorations, place corks, grapevines, live and artificial plants, driftwood, and sticks in the tank. Fake caves, logs, tunnels, bamboo tubes, and PVC are good options for hiding areas. Be careful in choosing ornaments. Make sure that they are free from pointy edges to keep your tokay safe from injuries.
When buying wood decors, stick to those that are safe for geckos and free from harmful chemicals. Hardwood including oak, maple, and tulip tree are excellent additions to the vivarium.
Do not get pine, eucalyptus, or cedarwood since they have substances that can damage your pet’s respiratory system. Keep thorny wood and chemically treated wood out of the tank as well.
The tank should observe a good temperature gradient. This means one side of the vivarium should be warm whilst the other is cool. For tokay geckos, the recommended temperature gradient during the day is 80–90 degrees Fahrenheit. In the evenings, it should be around 70–80 degrees Fahrenheit.
An incandescent bulb is a good heat source during the day. Opt for a ceramic heat lighting or a nocturnal bulb at night instead of a heating pad. That’s because tokays are climbers. Provide a basking spot for your pet as well. The ideal temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Attach a heat mat outside one of the side panels of the enclosure to get this temperature. Since the heat mat does not produce light, there’s no need to turn it off at night. Regulate the heat by using a thermostat or thermometer.
You can use ceramic heat lighting or red nocturnal bulbs to keep the tank well-lit. In the summertime, there should be twelve to fourteen hours of daylight. As the winter season begins, the hours must be reduced to ten.
It is not mandatory to get UVB light bulbs. However, some experts to encourage pet owners to use it as it is believed to be beneficial for overexposure reptile health. UVB lighting can be used as daylight. Note that it should be on for only four to five hours. Excessively exposing tokays to UVB rays can cause eye damage.
Tokay geckos require a high humidity level of around 70%. Make sure that it does not go below 50% or else they may overheat or suffer dehydration. Misting the tank at least two times a day and placing water dishes inside the vivarium help maintain moisture.
On the other hand, if the tank is too high in humidity, allow it to dry out for a few hours. Do not ignore the excessive dampness of the tank. If the humidity levels don’t get reduced, bacteria will quickly proliferate inside the enclosure. This also puts your pet lizard in danger of developing skin problems and respiratory issues.
How often do you need to clean a tokay gecko’s tank?
Spot-clean the tank every day. This includes removing faeces, uneaten food and shed skin. To keep bacteria from thriving on your pet’s food bowl and water bowl, wash them daily. Getting rid of the old substrate and replacing it with a newer one should be done about one to two times a week.
Every week, make sure to clean the interior of the tanks using a reptile-safe disinfectant. Full cleaning of the vivarium must be done weekly.
It is best if you start cleaning at dusk and early morning when your lizard is awake. This will prevent you from disturbing his nocturnal sleeping cycle and lessen his stress during cleaning.
Is it okay to house tokay geckos together?
These gecko species are solitary animals. Wild tokay geckos only meet to reproduce. Most of the time, they don’t get along with each other. The same goes for captive-bred tokays.
Male tokay geckos are extremely territorial. They are more likely to end up fighting each other to death if housed together.
It is okay to keep a male and female pair if they are of the same size. Never house a large tokay gecko with a smaller one. It will often result in the bigger gecko bullying, the smaller one.
Bear in mind that not all male and female pairs get along with each other. So, make sure to pick a pair that can live harmoniously together.
Housing a trio of tokays is fine too. It must be composed of one male and two females. Avoid adding a new female to an established male-female pair. The new female might end up getting attacked by the two in an attempt to protect their territory.
Do tokay geckos make good pets?
Tokay geckos best fit pet owners with experience in handling reptiles. Meanwhile, they are not a good match for newbie herpetologists and children. These lizards tend to be territorial and aggressive. Thus, they are highly intolerant of handling compared to other geckos species like leopard geckos or crested geckos.
However, tokays will become more lenient once they have properly adjusted to their new home and family. With that said, handle your pet lizard only when necessary. If possible, limit handling time to four to five minutes. Let him scurry on your hand freely. Do not clamp down your hand on his body since it will scare him off and lead him to bite you.
Nutrition and Feeding
What do tokay geckos eat?
In the wild, tokays primarily feed on small insects and animals. For captive-bred tokays, it is best to resemble what they naturally eat. Their diet should consist of a mix of crickets, mealworms, pinkie mice, waxworms, roaches, and silkworms.
The insect should be gut-loaded twenty-four hours before being served to your pet. Their meals may comprise a variety of vegetables, fruits, and gut-loading products.
Only feed your lizard commercially produced gecko food. Do not give him wild insects that you can find outside. These are potential parasite carriers and are exposed to various harmful chemicals.
Tokays often rely on the dews found on leaves for drinking. However, it is always a good idea to keep a bowl of freshwater around. Make sure to throw out the remaining water at the end of the day to prevent bacteria from thriving on the water bowl.
How long do tokay geckos live?
Tokay geckos can live for about ten years. If well-taken care of, they can live up to twenty years. Make sure to meet your lizard’s daily needs to keep him in good condition and thus prolonging his lifespan. He should have safe and clean housing, nutritious meals, and a stress-free living environment.
Keep up with his regular vet check-ups. Be watchful for early signs of illnesses. These include poor skin condition, lethargy, lack of appetite, mucous, sores, and breathing difficulties. If your tokay gecko is showing these symptoms, get him checked by the vet immediately.
How often should tokay geckos eat?
Juvenile tokay gecko feeding should be done at least once a day. Adult tokays can be fed every two to three days. Their daily staple food can be crickets, dubia roaches, and silkworms. Waxworms and mealworms are treats that should be served two to three times a week only.
The size of the insects should be no bigger than the space between your gecko’s eyes. This is to prevent choking and stomach obstruction. At least twice a week, the insects must be dusted with calcium and vitamin D3 supplements.
If you want to feed your pet with a pinkie mouse, do it once a month to keep him from gaining weight.
Cost of Ownership
How much do tokay geckos cost?
Owning a tokay gecko will cost you around £50–£70. The total price for purchasing a complete vivarium set is approximately £200–£250. The complete set includes the tank, substrate, ornaments, thermometer, and heat mat.
If you get pet insurance, you will need to pay about £4 every month. The cost of buying tokay food will vary depending on what type you choose. Here is a list of gecko food and their corresponding prices:
- 60 grams of mealworms – £1.88–£1.99
- 500 crickets – £1.88
- A tub of 250 wax worms – £8.21
- 10-pack 1–2 grams of frozen pinkie mice – £3.22
- 15-Pack 16–20 mm medium dubia cockroaches- £2.99
- Silkworms – £4.99–£5.99 depending on the size and quantity
- Unknown to many, the tokay gecko has a third eye, which is located at the top of his head. It is also called the median eye or parietal eye. This is associated with the pineal gland on the brain. Unlike normal eyes, the third eye cannot capture imagery. However, it is sensitive to light.
- The tokay gecko has skin folds that are extremely useful in concealing him whilst resting on trees. When this skin folds completely open up, they blur the line between the gecko and the tree bark, preventing the gecko from casting a shadow as well as acting as camouflage.