Are Day Geckos Good for Beginners?
Day geckos encompass a group of lizards consisting of more than 60 different species. Needless to say, they all vary in terms of size, color, patterns, behaviors, and requirements.
As a gecko lover looking to get your own lizard pet, you may have stumbled across the day gecko and fallen in love with some of the species available.
But the first question to ask yourself is – are these geckos beginner-friendly? The most straightforward answer is no, they are not.
Let’s see why!
Why Day Geckos Are Not Good for Beginners?
I would say that no gecko species is appropriate for a beginner. This stays true for day geckos due to their high maintenance requirements.
While these geckos have adapted to life in captivity, they haven’t been fully domesticated in the manner that dogs have been.
This means that the gecko requires living conditions nearly identical to those they would encounter in the wild.
This will obviously lead to some logistical problems since accommodating geckos in a natural-looking environment at home comes with several challenges.
Here are the main reasons why day geckos aren’t a good fit for inexperienced owners:
Precise Temperature Measurements and Fluctuations
Like all reptiles, day geckos are cold-blooded, so they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature.
The problem is that temperature fluctuations are necessary to keep the gecko healthy and comfortable.
In this sense, you need to:
- Ensure optimal temperature gradient – The gecko’s habitat needs to alternate cold, neutral, and hot zones with varying temperatures. This is to allow the gecko to change positions throughout the tank depending on its temperature needs. As you may suspect, this isn’t exactly easy to achieve.
- Day/Night temperature fluctuations – Geckos have a natural biorhythm in terms of lighting, temperature, and humidity. They use these parameters to distinguish between night and day and regulate their physiology accordingly. So, geckos require a day temperature between 80 and 85 and night temperatures between 72 and 77.
These 2 factors alone are enough to create more stress than you can handle if you’re not accustomed to a gecko’s requirements.
The Need for Stable UVB Lighting
One of the main health issues related to a variety of gecko species is calcium deficiency. Interestingly enough, calcium deficiency isn’t caused necessarily by the lack of calcium but by vitamin D3 deficiency.
The body needs D3 to metabolize calcium. If D3 is lacking from the animal’s diet, it doesn’t matter how much calcium it gets; it won’t be able to process it.
For geckos, the main source of D3 comes from sunlight which contains a spectrum of light frequencies, including UVB. UVB lighting is critical to both provide the lizard with a stable day/night cycle and ensure optimal D3 synthesis as well.
An important note here; UVB light bulbs are critical, and not even sunlight can replace them. So, placing your gecko’s terrarium in a sunlit room won’t cut it. While sunlight can easily get through the glass windows, the UVB wavelength won’t.
This will create the impression that your geckos are getting all the UVB they need, when, in reality, they aren’t getting any.
So, UVB bulbs are essential to help with D3 and calcium absorption and metabolization.
Humidity and Substrate
We’re mentioning these 2 here because they are related. For day geckos, the optimal humidity range sits between 60 and 80%.
These values will naturally come with some challenges, such as:
- Getting the right values in the first place – Increasing your terrarium’s humidity levels may seem easy, but it’s not. It actually takes quite a planning to get things done adequately. Spraying your gecko’s substrate regularly and calling it a day won’t do it. That’s because the humidity will drop soon after, and you can’t be spraying the terrarium constantly throughout the day. So, you need to rely on other practices as well, including adding a moisture-retaining substrate to keep the humidity up for longer.
- Replace your absence – Geckos only eat once every couple of days. This allows you to leave home for a couple of days, knowing that the gecko won’t starve in your absence. Humidity, however, will drop in that time, so you need to figure out a solution to work while you’re gone. A moisture-retaining substrate and live plants will keep the humidity up, but you also need an automatic mister to regulate humidity levels at given intervals.
- The risks of bacterial and fungal growth – These organisms tend to thrive in warm and humid environments that also hold plenty of decaying organic matter. So, ignoring your geckos’ need for regular cleaning will have more consequences than you might expect.
As you can see, humidity is a sensitive topic. You should always rely on a hygrometer to check humidity values regularly and learn when your intervention is needed.
One of the perks of having a gecko is watching it shed; a process which can last up to 48 hours or more. But the shedding process comes with various health risks, most of which are related to poor environmental parameters, among other things.
Geckos will gradually shed their skin in one go and eat it in the process. This allows them to get a boost of nutrients since they won’t be eating during the shedding.
The issue is that improper care can lead to complications during shedding. If the temperature or humidity is suboptimal, your gecko’s old skin may harden, trapping the gecko’s limbs and cutting the circulation.
This will lead to gangrene shortly, as well as bacterial infections. In some cases, the gecko will need to undergo surgery to remove the trapped limb altogether.
You can help the gecko shed its stuck skin, but that’s a difficult and sensitive process that requires precision and know-how to prevent complications.
Day geckos are not genetically prone to any meaningful health issues besides MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease.) This condition relates to poor calcium and D3 intake, which often result from inadequate diets and an improper UVB setup or lack of.
But geckos will struggle with other health problems as well. These include parasites, bacterial infections, skin disorders, and digestive issues. These are not genetically triggered but more like the result of inadequate maintenance and care.
Poor humidity will also lead to respiratory infections and shedding issues, the type of which we’ve mentioned previously.
As you can see, several factors come into play here, and these can quickly overwhelm an inexperienced gecko keeper.
So, I would advise against acquiring a day gecko if you’re not familiar with reptiles in general and geckos in particular.
What do Day Geckos Need?
If you’ve decided that you can take on day geckos as long-term pets, you now need to brainstorm their setup and requirement specifics.
Here’s what a day gecko needs to remain healthy, happy, and comfortable over the years:
Tank Size and Layout
The size of the tank varies based on the gecko’s species and size. Some geckos prefer more, while others are content with less. An 8-inch gecko will do just fine in a 20-gallon terrarium, so you can use this as your starting point.
See how your gecko behaves in the tank and consider increasing or decreasing its size if the reptile shows signs of stress.
When it comes to crafting the ideal tank layout, consider the following:
- An aerated lid – All geckos are apt climbers, thanks to their sticky toe pads. They like to elevate themselves whenever they can since this protects them from predators and allows better vision over the hunting grounds. This also means that the geckos can easily climb the tank walls and get out. To prevent that, consider having a lid with holes in it to ensure proper aeration.
- Various climbing spots – Plants, tree bark and branches, and bamboo sticks can all provide the gecko with a hospitable and safe environment. Geckos will spend most of their time climbing and resting elevated. Crafting their environment accordingly will make them feel closer to nature. Plants are especially important due to increasing the habitat’s humidity and providing geckos with a fresh source of water. Geckos love to drink water from the plants’ leaves instead of their regular water bowl.
- The proper substrate – The ideal substrate for geckos should retain moisture, be easy to clean, and support the live plants. I recommend combining soil, peat moss, and orchid bark for a multi-layered and nutritious substrate. Feel free to experiment with different substrate materials, so long as they provide you with the 3 benefits I’ve mentioned.
- Hiding areas – Geckos like to live in lush environments, providing a variety of hiding areas. These are necessary for calming stressed geckos and allowing them to rest or retreat during the day. Tree bark is a good option, along with wood tubes covered by leaves and plants.
These measures should increase your gecko’s comfort considerably, so long as you tweak them accordingly.
We have already discussed the need for optimal temperature, humidity, and lighting, as these form the basis of any stable and flourishing gecko habitat.
When it comes to setting up these parameters, consider the following:
- Species-specific requirements – Not all day geckos enjoy the same parameters. You should always inform yourself of your gecko’s specific requirements to prevent inconsistencies between what the gecko needs and what you provide.
- Ensure a stable gradient – These parameters must vary on a gradient throughout the gecko’s terrarium. So, your gecko needs to have places with higher temperature, humidity, and lighting and areas with lower values. This way, the gecko can migrate from one part of the tank to another, depending on its needs.
- Day/Night fluctuations – The gecko’s natural habitat offers fluctuating parameters depending on the time of day. The terrarium should mimic these conditions to support the lizard’s biorhythm. Fortunately, you can achieve this degree of control by investing in some good terrarium equipment such as a hygrometer, a UVB lamp, and a heat source, along with a thermometer. The goal is always to check your gecko’s environmental parameters to make sure they remain within the ideal limits.
Important note – the difficult part isn’t necessarily creating the perfect setup for these conditions, although that’s a challenge too.
The tricky part is maintaining these conditions over the years, given that some gecko species can live upwards of 20 years in captivity.
Day geckos are omnivorous. So, they consume fruits and insects several times per week to get their full of nutrients. The problem is that the geckos’ diet in captivity is different from the one in the wild.
Your goals should be to accommodate your geckos’ nutritional needs so that the reptile’s diet resembles its natural eating habits.
Naturally, you can’t meet the conditions present in the gecko’s natural habitat to the letter. So, the day gecko’s diet demands more than a mix of fruits and insects.
I recommend keeping the following in mind:
- Commercial foods may not work – Gecko-specific foods are available in all reptile-oriented shops, and these are quite nutritionally optimized. The problem is that not all geckos will accept them. If your gecko doesn’t like commercial food, you’ll need to figure out another way of feeding your beloved pet.
- Diversity is a strength – Geckos need to receive a diverse diet to provide them with a full range of nutrients. Providing them with the same meals regularly out of comfort won’t cut it. You should always strive to offer your gecko a diverse and balanced diet to ensure optimal nutrient intake. Consider various fruits and insects like crickets, mealworms, papaya, mango, silkworms, and locusts, as well as anything your gecko might eat naturally.
- Food supplementation – In most cases, geckos require adequate supplementation to prevent the risk of developing calcium and other nutritional deficiencies. Most gecko owners prevent these problems by offering vitamin-filled insects packing a serious nutritional punch. These are available on sale, but you can also ‘create’ them at home by dousing the insects in vitamin powder; a good and fast way of boosting their nutritional content.
- Home-grown insects – I recommend using home-grown insects over any other feeding method. Wild-caught insects will often come with various chemical contaminants, parasites, and bacteria that could harm your gecko. This isn’t a problem in the gecko’s natural habitat since it’s not as polluted as urban areas are. Getting the insects from gecko or reptile shops isn’t a better alternative, either, since you can’t account for how the insects were grown. It’s always better to have an insect nursery at home, providing your gecko with live, fresh, and tasty insects whenever they need them.
So, establishing the ideal diet for your geckos takes quite a bit of brainstorming, as you can see. Fortunately, adult geckos only eat once every 2-3 days, given that they have a slow metabolism and like to conserve their energy.
Even so, ensuring that your geckos eat well is worth it. This will keep the geckos’ immune system strong and boost their growth, coloring, and personalities in the long run.
A full gecko is a happy gecko.
Solo vs. Gecko Colony
Geckos are not social creatures, so don’t expect them to form thriving communities anytime soon. They are rather territorial and will not accept other geckos in their environment as easily.
Gecko males, especially, have a predilection toward territorial violence. Their testosterone-fueled behavior will create quite the stir since they are known to often fight to the death for territorial and mating rights.
Females, on the other hand, are more lenient and will get along in ideal conditions. By ‘ideal conditions,’ I mean a habitat with optimal living parameters, plenty of hiding areas, and sufficient space for all occupants.
Female geckos are less likely to engage in territorial violence, although that can happen, provided they are crowded, lack a proper diet, or their habitat is dirty.
If you’re not proficient in gecko care, I advise starting with one gecko and moving upwards with time.
A pair would be the next logical step since whatever works for one gecko works for 2 as well. Plus, you don’t need to upgrade the tank’s size too much.
Setting up a colony must come with several years of experience handling geckos, so don’t take it lightly.
Quiet and Peacefulness
Geckos are easily stressed by loud noises, flashy lights, or constant movement around their habitat. It’s not to say that they’re overly sensitive, but they do appreciate their time of peace and quietness more than other pets. Geckos tend to be more sensitive when new to the habitat, as they’re still in the accommodation phase.
So, try not to handle your gecko too often and keep the terrarium in a less circulated room, less prone to loud noises, lights, or commotion.
If it wasn’t obvious by now, geckos are relatively difficult to maintain. So, make sure you’re ready for them.
Do Day Geckos Like to Be Handled?
This generally depends on the gecko itself. Some allow for some petting, others do not. It also depends on the gecko’s current state of mind since these are not robots but living and breathing animals.
The gecko may sometimes be too distracted or looking for some peace time. Trying to cuddle it during those times may make the reptile uncomfortable, causing it to wiggle and look for a way out.
Then there’s the fact that all geckos possess that reptile ‘blood,’ making them impervious to emotions. Geckos won’t display affection or attachment because their brains haven’t developed to accommodate those feelings.
So, expect the gecko to recognize you as its owner, but don’t expect affection.
More importantly, don’t hold the gecko against its will. If it tries to escape, put it back into its habitat. Holding it by force will stress the animal unnecessarily and even cause the gecko to lose its tail in the process. Sure, it will regenerate over time, but is it worth it?
What Geckos are Good for Beginners?
If you simply love reptiles and geckos, you clearly need to work your way around the issue of gecko’s care difficulty.
We’ve already discussed that day geckos aren’t the ideal choice due to their high maintenance requirements, so what other options are there?
Here are some gecko species that you can care for even as a beginner:
- Leopard Geckos – Few gecko species are as popular as the leopard gecko. These lizards come in a leopard-like pattern, are easy to care for, within reasonable limits, and are pretty docile. They don’t mind being handled as other species do and will only rarely bite when threatened or uncomfortable. Don’t worry, their bites don’t hurt and won’t cause any damage. These pros make the leopard gecko ideal for children.
- Leachie Geckos – These beasts can reach a foot in length and are similar in appearance to the Komodo Dragon, minus the ferocity and poisonous bite. Don’t worry, Leachi geckos are harmless, even if rather territorial and with colorful personalities, to put it like that. It’s also worth noting that Leachie geckos are quite loud at times since they possess a wide range of vocalizations. If you’re set on getting one, provide it with ample living space since they like to roam their territory quite a bit.
- Flying Geckos – Yes, this species is as interesting as it sounds. Flying geckos grow up to 8 inches, possess toe membranes, and are known to leap between trees in the wild. They won’t display this behavior in captivity due to the lack of space but will nonetheless display an energetic and skittish behavior. These geckos don’t like being handled, so try not to catch them or hold them for too long. Other than that, they are easy to care for over the years.
- Crested Geckos – Crested geckos are a staple pet in the reptile business. They are highly recognizable thanks to their head crest and big, rounded eyes. These nocturnal geckos are easy to maintain and even accept some mild handling, although you shouldn’t get your hopes up. They don’t appreciate being held too frequently. Crested geckos can live up to 15 – 20 years or more in captivity.
There are a variety of other gecko species you can get as a beginner, including Mediterranean house gecko, common house gecko, African fat tailed gecko, etc.
I recommend always assessing the species’ characteristics before purchasing your favorite gecko. This is to ensure that the gecko has all the pet qualities you want.
And always consider the pricing. A Chahoua gecko will rank between $800 and $2,000 or more, Leachies vary between $600 and $1,000, while a regular house gecko is available for as low as $5. So, always consider your budget too.
Day geckos are exotic pets that come in an astounding variety of colors, patterns, sizes, and behaviors. Just because you know one species doesn’t mean you know another.
Sure, some characteristics are universal among geckos as a whole, but others will vary wildly, including personalities, environmental parameters, etc.
If you’re ready to invest in a day gecko, here’s the best piece of advice you could get. Always get your gecko from a reputed breeder with a solid reputation in the business.
This will ensure the gecko’s solid genetic pool and prevent health problems along the way.
For everything else, you have this article for reference.