Geckos are a type of lizard from the family Gekkonidae. Because they are lizards, that means they are also reptiles. A-Z Animals says there are believed to be more than 2,000 different species of gecko found around the world, and not only that — experts believe there may be many more species of wild gecko that are yet to be discovered. They live on every continent except Antarctica.
What do geckos eat?
Since they are adapted to a wide variety of ecosystems such as tropical rainforests, deserts, jungles, grasslands, and mountains, a wild gecko will have a varied diet based on where he lives.
Certain types of geckos are more commonly chosen as pets than other types. For instance, the leopard gecko is the most popular wild gecko pet. Since there are so many different varieties of geckos, some varieties are not suitable to be selected as pets because they may be endangered due to habitat loss or population pressure from other predators in the habitat.
A wild gecko will eat a varied diet of just about anything that is small enough for him to put in his mouth. Some things on which geckos will nibble include fruit, worms and other invertebrates, insects, small rodents, plants, and even other hatchling geckos.
A-Z Animals says that in the wild, a gecko can have a wide range of sizes, with the largest known being the Delcourt's gecko (which Scientific American says is recently extinct). That lizard grew up to just under 2 feet! The smallest, on the other hand, is the Jaragua Sphaero found in the Dominican Republic. That tiny critter averages less than 2 centimeters in length, which is not even a full inch long.
The larger geckos have many more food options available to them. A-Z Animals says that the larger species of gecko hunt small birds, reptiles, and even mice. Some species of wild gecko are also known to eat a small amount of plant matter, such as moss.
Common house gecko
The varieties of tropical gecko are the most common house gecko pets. House gecko care is pretty easy, including feeding them. According to Petco, tropical geckos range in size from 4 to 12 inches, and their most common dietary food is insects.
Petco says that your common house gecko will love insects such as crickets, roaches, mealworms, and waxworms, particularly if those insects have been recently fed themselves. (That is called "gut loading," and it is important.) Surprisingly, the golden gecko might even like to eat fruit-flavored baby food.
The food that your gecko eats should be based on her size. For instance, a cricket given to a gecko as food should be no larger than the space between your gecko's eyes.
Feeding a bearded gecko
Bearded geckos, or "beardies," as Reptiles Magazine calls them, are one of the species of wild gecko that will eat plant materials and are also large enough to eat small mice. Feel free to feed these not-so-picky reptiles insects such as crickets and mealworms and also chopped veggies.
Geckos do need a vitamin/mineral supplement and calcium, which can be given by dusting the insects with some of the powder. Finely chop zucchini, carrots, collard greens, or mustard greens to feed to him, and do the same with fruit, such as kiwi, banana, mango, etc. Choose healthy, vitamin-rich foods and sprinkle the appropriate amount of powdered supplements on these foods, too.
Think of foods that deliver a high nutritional punch. While romaine lettuce is a good choice, iceberg lettuce is not as nutritious. The supplement powder can be sprinkled on lettuce, too.
Feeding a leopard gecko
Unlike the beardies, leopard geckos do not eat plants, so feed them no fruits or vegetables. For this common house gecko, live insects are a must. Stick with mealworms and crickets. Do not feed small mice to this insect-eater.
Reptiles Magazine recommends "gut loading" the insects you feed to your leopard gecko. This means the insects themselves should be fed a nutritious powdered diet at least 12 hours before your leopard gecko gets them. There is a special insect food that is available for this purpose. Feeding your crickets before you feed them to your gecko is as simple as placing the insects in a tub of their special diet with a water source.
Reptiles Magazine says a good feeding amount is two appropriately sized insects for every inch of the leopard gecko's total length. They don't have to be fed every day; every other day is fine. For a gecko who is 4 inches long, being fed eight mealworms three or four times a week is sufficient.
Do geckos make good pets?
While lizards and other reptiles such as geckos aren't as cuddly as other traditional pets, they are interesting and fun in their own right. No, they don't have the soft, fluffy fur of house cats or the bouncy personality of a puppy you're training. However, Lizards 101 lists a lot of reasons why geckos make great pets.
They don't need to be fed too often, and they don't have a hard-to-follow diet. Some geckos, particularly the bearded gecko, have a lot of personality, and you can really get to know them. While calling them "affectionate" may not be the right word, you can interact with them. They are generally not aggressive and can be held.
Pets for people with allergies
Since geckos are not covered with fur, they are a good choice of pet for people with allergies. They are visually interesting — think of them as being like a miniature dinosaur that you can keep in your house. Although they are nocturnal (active at night), they are quiet animals. Also, they have little to no smell.
Geckos can live for a fair number of years. You could have from six to 20 years to get to know your pet depending on the type of gecko you get.
Do geckos carry diseases?
Any egg-laying animal has the potential to transmit salmonella. The New York State Department of Health says that although turtles, frogs, iguanas, snakes, geckos, and other reptiles are often kept as pets, salmonella can be a serious disease in humans.
Salmonella is a bacteria illness that causes diarrhea in humans. It is transmitted through direct or indirect contact with amphibians and reptiles or their droppings. The bacteria can also be present in their water.
Protection from salmonella
Take simple precautions to protect yourself from salmonella. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling your gecko or anything in the gecko's habitat. Supervise hand-washing for children, and since children under 5 are more susceptible to serious complications from salmonella, avoid letting very young children (or people with compromised immune systems) handle your geckos.
Some other simple precautions include not letting the geckos roam freely around the living areas of your home. When bathing them, use a gecko-specific bathtub and clean it well after use.
- A-Z Animals: Gecko
- Scientific American: People are Modifying Monitors to Make Gargantuan Geckos
- Petco: Tropical Gecko
- Reptiles Magazine: Bearded Dragon Care Sheet
- Reptiles Magazine: Leopard Gecko Care Sheet
- Lizards 101: Pros and Cons of Owning Various Pet Lizards
- New York State Department of Health: Salmonella Infection from Frogs, Turtles and Lizards