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Caring for Your Gecko

By: Mariya Lysenkova

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The gecko is a popular reptile because it is easy to raise in captivity. Geckoes come in many different bright colors, including green and yellow. They average about 8 inches in length and live anywhere from 20 to 25 years.

Here's what you need to know to keep these reptiles successfully:

  • Never house two males together, as they will battle for territory. You can tell the sex of a gecko after it is 3 months old by examining its lower belly. Males have large pre-anal pores arranged in a "V" near the base of the tail; females don't. Males are also more stout and have larger heads than females.

  • Housing geckoes is simple. A reptile cage or a 10-gallon aquarium is fine for one gecko; 20 gallons is great for up to three geckoes. Put in a few well-washed rocks and pieces of wood to give them climbing space. Line the aquarium with newspapers or sand. You can also use a sand-like substrate available through pet suppliers that allows geckoes to take in extra calcium. Be sure to put in a small box or two for the gecko to play and hide in. Keep in mind when you set up the tank that leopard geckoes are nocturnal and native to a desert environment.

  • Geckoes do not need special lighting. You may want to install a light bulb so your gecko will stand out. However, a gecko's tank should be heated to a temperature of 80 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit with a heat pad or incandescent bulb.

  • Geckoes should be fed insects. The best foods are crickets and mealworms and, occasionally, baby mice, or "pinkies." Feed these insects a specialized iguana food, vegetables or fish several times before giving them to your gecko so they will be more nutritious for your pet. Nutritional supplements that contain both calcium and vitamin D are essential. Dust your gecko's food with the supplement. And be sure to provide your gecko with a water supply.

  • Most geckoes that have been raised in captivity are used to being held. However, reptiles are not known to enjoy human contact. Avoid handling them too much as this may lead to stress. When you do handle a gecko, never hold it by the tail. It can easily break off. Make sure that small children do not handle the geckoes without supervision.

  • Like other reptiles, geckoes can excrete Salmonella bacteria. Proper hygiene is essential. Disinfect and clean cages regularly, but do not clean cages in food preparation areas (kitchens) or bathing areas. Wash hands/equipment between animals, after handling, and before eating or smoking.

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