Resource Center Menu
Arid Gecko

Arid Gecko Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

arid gecko care sheet

Includes leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius) and Tibetan frog-eyed geckos (Teratoscincus scincus)

 

Overview

Arid geckos come in a variety of interesting colors and patterns and can be a great option for first-time lizard pet parents. Leopard geckos are perhaps one of the most popular pet reptiles. They are found in nature in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indiaand Iran. As pets, they are small, docile and generally friendly. With regular handling, they can become very tame and often enjoy daily handling by pet parents. Much less commonly kept as pets, frog-eyed geckos are found in nature in Asia and the Middle East. In general, frog-eyed geckos are not as outgoing or as docile as leopard geckos.

 

Typical appearance and behavior

  • Leopard geckos are named for their white and yellow skin with black, leopard-like spots. They have been bred in captivity to come in many different skin color combinations and patterns, which are referred to as “morphs”
  • Unlike other gecko species, leopard geckos have eyelids
  • Frog-eyed geckos are stockier-looking and have shorter tails than leopard geckos, and they have skin that is covered in scales to help them absorb water. They do not come in as many different color patterns as leopard geckos and get their name from their large, bulging, slit-like eyes
  • New pet geckos may be skittish and typically require some time to adjust to being handled
  • They may try to jump when handled, so should always be held over a soft surface to help prevent injury
  • In nature, geckos are nocturnal (active at night) and hide under rocks or burrow into substrate during the day. As pets, they often adapt to pet parents’ schedules to interact more during the day
  • Geckos are able to break off and release (“self-amputate” or “drop”) their tails to escape when grabbed by predators. Never grab a gecko by their tail
  • Leopard and frog-eyed geckos do not have sticky toe pads like other geckos, so are not able to climb smooth vertical surfaces
  • Geckos make chirping and squeaking sounds to communicate and typically become more vocal when they are hungry
  • Geckos also communicate by waving their tails slowly back and forth and up and down when they feel threatened and shaking the tail tip when they are excited
  • Will reach adult size in 9 to 18 months, depending on their species, and under ideal conditions; upgrade habitat size as your reptile grows

 

Characteristics

Care Difficulty Leopard gecko—beginner Frog-eyed gecko—intermediate
Average Life Span Up to 20 years with proper care
Average Adult Size 4-9 inches long, depending on species
Diet Insectivore
Minimum Habitat Size 18” long x 10” wide x 12” tall for one gecko

 

Habitat

 

Habitat size

  • House in an appropriately sized habitat for the species with a well-ventilated but secure cover to prevent escape. A 20-gallon tank is ideal for one gecko. A larger tank is needed if housing more than one gecko

 

Building your habitat

  • Habitat – Habitats should be kept off the floor and away from drafts, direct sunlight and overly curious predatory pets such as cats and dogs. Provide hiding areas (at least one per gecko) such as half logs or commercially available reptile caves, plus nontoxic plants, branches, rocks and cork for climbing; keep hiding areas in the warm zone but away from the heat source, and fill them with damp sphagnum moss to help promote normal shedding
  • Humidity - Maintain humidity below 50 percent and use a humidity gauge to monitor it regularly. These geckos are desert reptiles, so they don’t need high humidity. When humidity is too low, however, geckos have trouble shedding. Provide an open, shallow bowl of warm water for geckos to soak in and to increase habitat humidity
  • Substrate - Provide commercially available substrate or reptile carpet. Gravel, wood chips and walnut shells are not recommended. If using a particulate matter bedding such as sand, feed your reptile in a dish or feeding tank to reduce the ingestion of substrate, which can cause potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal tract obstructions   
  • Temperature – Geckos require a temperature gradient ranging from 88°F in the basking spot to 75°F in the cool zone. Tank temperatures should not fall below 70-75°F at night. An incandescent heating bulb or ceramic heat emitter can provide heat during the day, and a red, blue or purple heat bulb or ceramic heat emitter can provide heat at night. Under-tank heaters are not ideal for geckos, as they like to bury in substrate where an under-tank heater may get too hot. Hot rocks should never be used, as reptiles sitting on them commonly get burned. Monitor temperatures with at least two thermometers
  • Lighting - While arid geckos are nocturnal, studies have shown that they can utilize vitamin D. Provide 5.0 ultraviolet (UV) lighting for 10 to 12 hours a day to help geckos make vitamin D in their skin so that they can absorb dietary calcium; a fluorescent bulb can be used to provide UVB light in the basking area during daylight hours only Change UV bulbs every six months as their potency wanes

 

Cleaning your habitat

  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect water and food bowls daily. The habitat should be spot-cleaned daily to remove droppings and discarded food. Thoroughly clean the habitat at least once a week:
  • Place the gecko in a secure habitat
  • Scrub the tank and furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution
  • Rinse the tank and all furnishings thoroughly with water, removing all traces of habitat cleaner or bleach smell
  • Dry the tank and furnishings before putting the gecko back into the habitat

 

Feeding

 

What to feed your arid gecko:

  • Arid geckos are insectivores. A well-balanced arid gecko diet consists of:
  • A variety of insects, including crickets, roaches, small mealworms, calci-worms and waxworms. Offer gut-loaded (recently fed) crickets no larger than the space between the gecko's eyes
  • Provide insects in a shallow bowl, off the habitat floor, to avoid accidental ingestion of substrate, or feed in a separate, empty feeding tank

 

Things to remember when feeding

  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times
  • Feed juveniles daily; adults can be fed every two to three days
  • Vitamin supplementation should be alternated every day by sprinkling food lightly with powdered calcium without vitamin D and calcium with vitamin D, plus a multivitamin supplement once a week. Insects can be lightly dusted with calcium and vitamin supplements by placing them inside a plastic bag with the powdered supplements and shaking the bag lightly to coat the insects prior to feeding them to the lizard

 

Care

Geckos regularly shed their skin; ensure humidity of habitat is at appropriate level to allow proper shedding. To facilitate shedding, at least twice a week, provide warm water in a shallow container that allows the gecko to immerse their entire body, and provide a shed box (a hide box with sphagnum moss) to aid in shedding

 

Where to buy

 In store only Arid geckos are available for purchase at your   Petco location. Please call ahead to check availability.

 Supplies

 

Habitat mates

  • Do not house males together and do not house different reptile species together
  • Males housed with females may breed

 

Health

 

Signs of a healthy arid gecko

  • Active and alert
  • Clear, bright eyes with no swelling or discharge
  • Full, muscular tail
  • Supple skin with no sores, swellings or discoloration
  • Droppings are firm, not runny or bloody
  • Eats and passes stool regularly
  • Clear nose and vent

 

Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.)

  • Weight loss or decreased appetite
  • Discharge or bubbles from eyes, mouth or nose
  • Lesions, swelling or discoloration of skin or retained shed
  • Lethargy
  • Sneezing, runny nose, difficulty breathing
  • Weakness or paralysis of limbs
  • Runny or bloody stool or lack of stool

 

Common health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueGastro-intestinal disease Symptoms or CausesRunny stools, caked or smeared stool around the vent, weight loss and loss of appetite; may be caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infection or nutritional imbalance. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian.
Health IssueMetabolic bone disease/vitamin deficiency Symptoms or CausesInability to absorb calcium due to insufficient UVB light or inappropriate diet or supplementation. If untreated, can lead to skeletal deformities, soft or fractured bones, swollen limbs, decreased appetite, weight loss, lethargy, seizures and death. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and provide ample UVB lighting and proper amount of calcium/vitamin supplements.
Health IssueEye problems Symptoms or CausesIrritation, squinting, watery to crusty discharge; may be due to substrate getting into eye, shed skin retained under eyelid, improper humidit. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and ensure proper substrate and humidity.

 

Additional care sheets

 

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as salmonella bacteria, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider having a pet other than a reptile.

Go to cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about geckos and disease.

 

The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.