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Geckos are a widespread species of lizard that are found throughout the world in tropical climates. Due to their relatively small size and non-aggressive temperament, geckos have become an increasingly popular species for people to keep as pets. This guide to pet geckos should help you take the best possible care of your pet.
1. Feeding and care
One of the most popular species of gecko for the home pet owner is the leopard gecko. These animals come in a wide variety of beautiful patterns, and so are very popular with home pet owners. But like all reptiles, geckos require very specific care if they are to thrive in a home environment.
Food is the first issue to consider when thinking about keeping a gecko. Leopard geckos do not eat plants of any kind. The only food source they will accept is live insects. If you plan on taking care of a gecko, you need to be comfortable with providing them with this food source.
When feeding live insects to a gecko, it is necessary first to feed the insects with a highly nutritious powder in order to make them more healthy for your pet gecko. This process is known as ‘gut loading’, and you will need to do this for at least twelve hours prior to feeding the insects to your gecko. The most convenient type of insect to feed your gecko is crickets or mealworms, which can usually be bought live from any well-stocked pet store. You could also consider treating them with an occasional meal of superworms, which your gecko will love. Geckos are quite long-lived compared to some reptiles, so it is important that you provide your pet with the best possible food source to ensure a long and healthy life.
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As well as food, you will need to consider where your gecko is going to live. You will need a tank that will provide plenty of space for your gecko as it grows. Geckos can grow as big as 25 centimeters in length, and some species even reach 50 centimeters! So you will need a tank big enough to accommodate your gecko comfortably. For adult geckos, a 20-gallon tank is recommended, but if you keep multiple geckos in a single tank, you should get a tank bigger than that.
Geckos love to climb. In their natural habitat, they spend most of their time in the trees, on the hunt for the insects that make up their diet. So your tank will need to replicate that environment as much as possible. Make sure that your gecko’s tank has plants and branches that it can climb, and also some hiding spots. A half-log is great for this purpose since your gecko can shelter underneath it when it feels vulnerable.
You will need to line your tank with a substrate; orchid bark or coconut husk work best for this. They help to retain moisture in the tank, and will not harm the gecko if it accidentally eats some of them. Also, your pet gecko’s tank will need a well-fitting lid. Geckos can be surprisingly strong, and you don’t want your pet to escape and possibly get hurt.
Temperature is also a critical factor in gecko care. These tropical animals need heat to survive since unlike humans, reptiles can’t regulate their own body temperature. You will need to keep the tank in the range of 22-32 degrees Celsius, or 70-90 Fahrenheit at all times. Unlike some other types of lizard, geckos don’t need special UV lighting; a regular incandescent lightbulb can provide them with the heat and light they need. But you should ensure that the light bulb is screened off in a way that prevents your gecko from climbing up and touching its surface since that could hurt your gecko.
Bear in mind that geckos are nocturnal, so it is not recommended to keep an incandescent light bulb burning in the tank day and night. To heat the tank at night, it is better to use a nocturnal reptile bulb or a ceramic heating element. This way you can keep the tank heated without disturbing your gecko’s natural rhythms of rest and activity.
Also, due to their natural habitat in tropical climates, geckos need a very high humidity. You will need to keep the tank around 70% relative humidity, and by no means allow it to drop below 50%. This can be done easily and cheaply with a spray bottle filled with water, which you can use to periodically mist the inside of the tank. There are also electronic misting systems which you can buy that will automate the process and make it easier and more reliable. Make sure that you buy a good quality humidistat and thermometer so that you can always check on the environmental conditions in your gecko’s tank. These factors are key to keeping your pet gecko safe and healthy.
2. Health problems
Ensuring your pet gecko has the correct environmental conditions to enable it to thrive is the best method you can use to stop your pet gecko from developing health problems. Unfortunately, however, even with the best care in the world, some geckos can develop particular health problems that you will need to watch out for.
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A common problem for geckos, and indeed all lizards, is a condition called stomatitis, also known as mouth rot. This condition appears as a reddish discoloration around the gecko’s mouth, and can sometimes produce pus which looks a little like cottage cheese. If you see this problem developing, your gecko will need to be brought to a veterinarian for treatment as soon as possible.
You will also need to keep an eye on your gecko to watch for any wheezing or drooling. These are signs of a respiratory infection. Additionally, geckos are prone to parasitic infections of the skin. You may notice a red rash on your gecko’s skin, or it may have trouble shedding. This can sometimes be caused by a lack of humidity in the tank which causes the gecko’s skin to dry out and stick to them when they try to shed it. If this happens, you could try to raise the humidity in your gecko’s tank, but don’t hesitate to consult with a qualified veterinarian about any changes you intend to make.
Geckos can also suffer from internal parasites. These are harder to diagnose, but common signs include sluggishness, loss of appetite and unusual droppings.
These are all signs of gecko health problems that you must not ignore. Be sure to locate a veterinarian who has a lot of experience dealing with reptiles to take care of your gecko if it develops any of these health problems. All of these gecko health problems are treatable if caught in time. The key is to keep a close eye on the behavior of your pet gecko so that you will know if anything changes and can catch it in time.
3. Behavior and temperament of geckos
One big reason for the popularity of geckos as pets is their temperament. These lizards are far more docile and good-natured than some other reptiles. For this reason, geckos are often chosen as a person’s first reptile pet.
With that being said, there are certain aspects of gecko behavior that you will need to be aware of if you plan on keeping a gecko as a pet. One of the main issues inexperienced owners find with geckos is that these lizards are nocturnal. This means they are most active at night when most humans are trying to sleep. As a result of these nocturnal habits, you may want to consider not keeping your gecko’s tank in your bedroom, otherwise its night time activities may wake you up.
Geckos are beautiful animals, and it’s tempting when you keep one as a pet to want to play with it and handle it as much as possible. But bear in mind that geckos are not especially comfortable with being handled by humans. If you handle your gecko too much, especially before it has become familiar with you, you may cause stress which can lead to other health problems.
Geckos are generally not very aggressive lizards, but if they feel threatened they may bite. Tokay geckos, in particular, are known for having a painful bite. If you do need to handle your gecko, try to hold it gently but firmly behind the head so that it cannot get its mouth to your hands.
It is not recommended to keep two male geckos in the same tank. In the wild, geckos will fight over mates, and in captivity, they display the same behavior. If you intend to keep multiple geckos as pets, it is a good idea to keep any males in separate tanks from one another, although males and females can share a tank quite happily.
Never grab a gecko by its tail. Like other lizards, geckos have the ability to shed their tail, and they will do this if you grab them by it. This could cause your gecko to escape. Losing their tails does not harm geckos, and the tail will eventually grow back. While your gecko is regrowing its tail though, you may want to consider giving it some extra food and separating it from any other geckos that share its tank. Sometimes, a tail that has been regrown will look different to the one that fell off, either in color or in shape. Don’t be alarmed – this is perfectly normal!
4. Caring for a baby gecko
When choosing your new gecko, make sure you get a gecko from a reputable breeder. You should aim to get a gecko that was born and bred in captivity. The reason for this is that geckos caught in the wild could be harboring diseases or parasites which may not be immediately apparent. Captive bread geckos are far more likely to be in perfect health.
Many breeders recommend getting a baby gecko so that the animal will bond more fully with his human owner. Baby geckos are certainly cute and charming pets. But because they are smaller than adults and their bodies are still growing, they require a little extra care to ensure that they don’t develop any health problems.
Just like the adults, baby gecko’s eat only live insects. But when feeding your baby gecko, you will want to consider its smaller size and perhaps feed it smaller insects. Baby geckos can be offered small crickets and mealworms every day. Just make sure that you are not offering it insects that are larger than the width of the gecko’s head, to ensure that it can eat them without problems. You can provide a small dish inside the gecko’s tank with the insects inside it, but if your baby gecko is too small to climb into the dish, it may be necessary to hand feed the insects to your gecko one at a time. Try to only feed as many insects as the gecko can eat in a single sitting, and if any insects are left in the tank over an hour after eating, make sure to remove them. Insects left in your gecko’s tank may start to chew on its skin, causing health problems for your pet. Also, make sure that your baby gecko is getting enough water. You can do this by placing fresh water in a small dish in the coolest part of the tank. Replace the water daily. As well as drinking, geckos will often bathe in the shallow dishes of water, and it is important to keep this water as clean as possible.
Baby geckos are adorable, and you’re going to be tempted to want to play with your gecko as much as possible. However, baby geckos can be skittish, and it is best to avoid handling them as much as possible for the first two weeks after they come into your home. Give your gecko some time to acclimatize itself to its new environment. Handling it at this time can cause stress, which will lead to other health problems. It is also better to avoid handling your baby gecko until it is at least 3 inches or 7.5 cm in length. Below this size, geckos are quite frail, and it is very easy to hurt them by handling them too much.
Once this waiting period is over, you may want to handle your gecko to get it used to being held. You can do this for 5 to 15 minutes per day. Just remember that your baby gecko is much smaller than you, and needs to be handled very gently in order to ensure it doesn’t get hurt. Geckos can easily absorb chemicals and pathogens through their skin, so make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before handling your baby gecko so that you don’t introduce some harmful agents onto its body. Also, you will want to wash your hands again after you have handled your gecko. This way, you will protect your health and your pet’s.
One recommended method of holding a baby gecko is to have it sit in your open palm, and offer your other palm in front of the hand that the lizard is in so that the gecko can climb onto that hand. You can repeat this process again and again, allowing the gecko to walk over the palms of your hands and get used to being handled and touched by you.
Geckos as Pets
Thanks to their interesting looks and docile nature, geckos can make great pets for anyone looking to welcome a reptile into their life. Because their needs are relatively simple, geckos are often the first reptile that someone will keep as a pet, before branching out into other species that require more specialized care. But this doesn’t mean the gecko’s don’t have their own particular needs. If cared for properly, your pet gecko could be your companion for a long time. On average, a leopard gecko will live 6 to 10 years, and some males can live as long as 20 years. So it’s important to start your relationship off right. Hopefully, this guide to pet geckos has given you some valuable information that you can use to provide the best possible home for your pet gecko.
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