How Long do Day Geckos Live?
Day geckos are adaptable and hardy lizards, capable of thriving even in more adverse conditions. However, there’s one thing that varies wildly among wild and captive-bred geckos, and that’s their lifespan.
Wild geckos like around 6-10 years, give or take, depending on the species and environmental conditions. A variety of factors will influence the day gecko’s lifespan in the wild, and we will discuss these shortly.
Geckos bred in captivity will live longer than that. In most cases, day geckos live around 8 years in captivity, but that can change.
Day geckos can live upwards of 15 or even 20 years with proper care and maintenance over the years.
Factors that Influence Day Gecko Lifespan
Many animal lovers prefer geckos as pets for a variety of reasons. They are less noisy than other pets, don’t make too much mess, don’t get lost around the house, don’t need too much care, and can live for decades.
The latter is especially important because it allows gecko owners to bond with their geckos over time, essentially turning the lizard into a genuine family member.
However, your gecko’s lifespan longer lifespan depends on your intervention. Here are the main factors that will influence the gecko’s lifespan in the wild and in captivity.
In the Wild
Wild geckos deal with different problems than captive ones do.
- Habitat loss – Day geckos reside primarily in Mauritius and Madagascar, but they can also be found in many other areas, including many Hawaiian Islands and even Florida. These lizards have been introduced to various geographical regions as means of pest control due to the animal’s insect hunting proficiency. The problem is that the bulk of day geckos reside in a rather limited region, currently subjected to habitat loss due to human intervention. This will naturally impact the geckos’ lifespan considerably.
- Active predation – Geckos have a variety of wild predators like birds, mammals, other reptiles, and even insects like spiders and fire ants. So, only a handful of geckos will ever live to see old age.
- Food competition – Since geckos’ habitat is limited, they are somewhat forced to crowd in tighter areas, leading to territorial violence and food competition. Geckos are not exactly social creatures, and they don’t like to share their assets with other members of their species. The high competition over available resources is bound to cause some geckos to starve. This predisposes the reptile to Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) and nutritional deficiencies that will threaten the gecko’s life.
- Reproductive capabilities – Geckos require special conditions to breed successfully. These can be sabotaged by human intervention, changes in their habitat, overcrowding, predation, lack of proper nutrition, etc. As a result, geckos will breed rarer, causing the general population to lag behind in numbers.
In essence, wild geckos have it pretty tough. It’s the main reason why day geckos rank as endangered and are protected under the CITES treaty.
Captive geckos live a privileged life, to put it like that. There’s no predation, food shortage, or any direct threat to their lives, so they have everything going their way, in theory.
The main factors influencing a captive gecko’s lifespan include:
- Safety – There are no natural predators that the gecko should be worried about. This fact alone will boost the reptile’s lifespan since the likelihood of unnatural death is essentially eliminated.
- Increased comfort – The gecko won’t have to compete over space, food, or any other resource with other geckos. Unless, of course, you have two or more geckos in the same habitat. In this case, you need to monitor their dynamics daily to ensure they’re compatible with one another and that violence remains minimal. This increased comfort will eliminate the risk of gecko stress and keep the reptile calmer and happier in the long run. And the gecko’s mental health is essential for a long and prosperous life.
- Personalized and rich nutrition – It’s not uncommon for geckos to starve in the wild and experience a variety of nutritional deficiencies because of it. This problem no longer exists for them in captivity. Captive geckos have a variety of foods available, designed specifically to appeal to their preferences. This abundance of food boosts the gecko’s growth rates and secures a longer and healthier life over the years.
- Optimized living conditions – Nature can be unpredictable and unforgiving, and wild geckos struggle to find their place and safety. A well-crafted terrarium will eliminate that unpredictability, allowing the gecko to relax in a fully optimized setup. A well-designed gecko habitat delivers stable temperatures and humidity, offers adequate lighting, and promotes safety and comfort above everything else.
- Controlled reproduction – Geckos are far easier to reproduce in captivity than in the wild. They don’t risk their eggs being eaten by other animals or insects and can mate and produce babies throughout the mating season. This may sometimes be unattainable in the wild since gecko males and females won’t always find each other in time.
- Selective breeding – Selective breeding plays a major role in this list thanks to the human aspect of the process. Humans breed geckos based on specific features to preserve the desirable and discard the rest. One of the most desirable features of geckos is the longer lifespan. So, it’s only natural for gecko breeders to prioritize geckos with long lifespans over the rest. The net gain is an immense variety of geckos living longer than all of their wild counterparts.
Now’s the ideal time for a disclaimer. It doesn’t follow that captive-bred geckos always live longer than wild ones. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. I’ve chosen to speak in terms of absolute, ideal conditions.
In other words, geckos will live longer in captivity, provided the gecko owner does all the right things in this sense.
If your gecko lives in a filthy habitat, is constantly sick due to improper dieting, or stress out due to parasites, bacteria, or violent tankmates, expect an equal outcome.
The gecko will probably live a shorter and more miserable life overall.
How to Tell the Age of a Day Gecko?
While there are a few markers to consider when assessing a gecko’s age, there is no clear way of doing it. The only reliable way of accurately telling a day gecko’s age is by raising the gecko yourself. Other than that, nothing is nearly as precise.
That being said, you can rely on some general markers in this sense. Weight and size are pretty useful in this sense, provided that the gecko grows at a constant rate and enjoys a nutritious diet.
For instance, many day gecko species can grow up to 9-11 inches and weigh around 50 to 80 grams, based on the reptile’s gender.
These geckos will measure approximately 3 inches at birth and reach their full adult size in approximately one year.
So, if you possess one of these species, these indicators can be quite valuable in assessing the lizard’s age.
The problem is that these markers can also be deceiving. If you didn’t raise the gecko yourself, you have no way of knowing the conditions that the gecko was raised in.
Or the food it has received over time. Improperly fed geckos will experience hindered growth, similarly to those kept in suboptimal temperatures. Anything that stresses the gecko will impact its growth rate consistently.
So, in essence, the only way to tell a gecko’s age is by raising it yourself from newborn to adult.
How to Make Your Day Gecko Live a Long and Happy Life?
The good news is that you can actually improve your gecko’s life quality considerably over the years.
This will result in a larger, happier, healthier gecko with a longer lifespan than you would expect.
If that’s your goal, and it should be, consider the following strategies:
- Always source your gecko wisely – You can acquire your day geckos from a variety of places, including unreliable private sellers and specialized marketplaces. These sources are notorious for delivering suboptimal specimens, often sick, with poor genetics, or kept in improper conditions with lacking diets. I would avoid both of these options if you aim for quality over anything else. You should instead contact an experienced gecko breeder who can vouch for the specimen’s health and pristine genetic background. You want a gecko coming from healthy parents with no genetically-inherited diseases and long lifespans.
- Create the ideal habitat – The structure of the habitat should reflect the gecko’s preferred natural setup. Learn about your gecko species of choice and create the dream habitat for your gecko to enjoy. Build the terrarium vertically, since geckos don’t use the horizontal space much, and decorate the environment with plenty of plants, leaves, bark, and several useful decorative elements. Doing so will keep your gecko safe, healthy, and comfortable, boosting the reptile’s lifespan as a result.
- Avoid bad tankmates – I should say avoid any type of tank mates. Day geckos are solitary creatures, so they don’t like the concept of sharing. Especially space and food. If you do plan on keeping a pair, consider increasing the tank’s size and only choose 2 females or a male and a female. You should never pair 2 gecko males, no matter the tank’s size. The males are too violent over their territorial disputes, so they are not compatible with one another. Even so, you should always monitor your geckos’ dynamics since tensions can arise at any moment; these animals have almost no social sense.
- Adjust environmental parameters wisely – Geckos need 3 basic environmental parameters done right: lighting, temperature, and humidity. These should rest on a gradient and need to fluctuate depending on the time of day. For example, the temperature should vary between 72 and 80-85 F (the higher values describe daytime temperatures) and a basking area of 90-95 F. The basking area is where the gecko goes when in need of quick warming. Regarding humidity, aim for a 60-80% value, depending on the time of day and the lizard’s needs. Geckos also need UVB lighting to help with calcium and D3 synthesis, as well as a healthy day/night lighting cycle. I suggest investing in a thermometer and a hygrometer for increased control over these essential parameters.
- An optimized diet – Day geckos are omnivorous animals. They need a diet consisting of fruits and insects, preferably with as much variation as possible. I recommend feeding your geckos once every 2-4 days, depending on their needs and appetite. And most importantly, feed them healthy, flavorful, and easy-to-eat food. Keep in mind that some geckos may reject commercial gecko food altogether, at which point you will need to improvise. Live insects are highly valuable, preferably doused in calcium powder, D3, or other minerals to prevent nutritional deficiencies.
- Constant monitoring – This is one of those life-and-death factors that I cannot overstate enough. Even if everything is right, you should also monitor your gecko constantly to assess its overall health and behavior and improve your chances of detecting health issues earlier. Day geckos, and most geckos in general, are predisposed to health issues like MBD, respiratory infections, compaction, skin infections, parasites, etc. They are not overly vulnerable but are more sensitive than other animals. The good news is that detecting these health issues in time will dramatically increase the chances of recovery, safeguarding your gecko from an early death.
- Shedding issues – Geckos shed approximately once every 4 weeks, although the timeframe may vary slightly. They do so because their skin isn’t elastic and doesn’t expand as the reptiles grow. Geckos require specific environmental parameters during shedding, along with complete peacefulness and privacy. Don’t handle the gecko, don’t touch or disturb it, and give it some breathing space. In case of shedding complications, you should help the lizard eliminate the residual skin with care to prevent gangrene, limb loss, and even death. You can read one of my other shedding-related articles where I discuss precisely how to achieve that safely.
- Work on your interaction with the gecko – Geckos aren’t exactly the cuddliest of pets since, as reptiles, they lack the ability to display attachment or any emotions for that matter. So, you shouldn’t handle the gecko too often, especially if it seems uncomfortable. If you do, you will stress the animal, which will take literal years off of its lifespan. Gecko stress is a known killer because it affects the lizard’s immune system and opens the door to infections and parasites.
I agree that this list looks like a handful, but it’s more manageable than it seems. All of these recommendations will become part of a seamless routine over the years.
Day geckos aren’t exactly beginner-friendly due to their rather intricate care demands and preparations necessary to accommodate them.
But, for an experienced gecko owner, day geckos are some of the most rewarding pets.
Learn as much as you can about geckos, follow this guide, and stick to a stone-carved maintenance routine, and your pet lizard will honor you with its presence for decades. Hopefully.