Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko) Care Sheet
Tokay Geckos are indigenous to Asia as well as parts of India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. As a result of captive release or escape, they are now an invasive species found in Florida, Hawaii, and some Caribbean Islands.
Wild tokay geckos inhabit rainforest trees and cliffs. Where human habitation occurs, these geckos can be found clinging to the walls and ceilings, usually around lights. (They eat the insects that are drawn toward the light during the evening hours.)
Tokay geckos are typically a striking blue-gray color with bright orange and blue spots. They are a larger lizard reaching lengths up to 12". This species has the ability to adhere to smooth services with the help of the lamellae found on the pads of its feet.
The tokays skin is covered in bumps known as skin tubercles. Skin tubercles give texture to the tokay which also helps to break up its pattern against the background of the terrain.
Tokay geckos are an arboreal species. This means that they spend the majority of their time off of the ground. Tokays would benefit most from taller cages than they would shorter cages with more floor space.
Tokays can be housed alone or a male can be housed with several females. You should never house two males together as their territorial nature will certainly lead to fighting.
The smallest enclosure used should be a 20 gallon tank.
Click here, Arboreal Conversion, to learn more about converting a tank into something for arboreal species, like Tokay Geckos.
Tokay geckos prefer a moderate humidity level. A substrate like coconut husk, which retains moisture extremely well, will also help keep the humidity levels in their proper range.
Tokay geckos prefer hot and humid environments. A basking spot of 85-95 degrees is ideal with an ambient temperature around 80-85 degrees. An evening drop in temperature of 5-10 degrees is suggested.
As an arboreal species, Tokays don't benefit from under the tank heating as they will not come into contact with it very often. Incandescent lighting is an ideal way to heat Tokays. To aid in evening temperature changes you can use a blue or red "night" light. In order to maintain adequate temperatures you will need to figure out which wattage lets off enough heat to maintain proper temperatures within your enclosure. Since each enclosure is built differently and comes in different sizes there is no way to determine what wattage will be strong or weak enough to maintain temperatures.
A photoperiod is a cycle of light, and a cycle of darkness. The typical photoperiod is 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. During the summer months, to replicate seasons, lighting can be done in the cycle of 14 hours of light and 10 hours of darkness. It is detrimental to all animals that a proper photoperiod transpire. If the room you house your tokay in is not brightly lit each day, you should be providing another means of ambient light.
This species does not require expensive UV lighting.
Tokays like the air to be humid just as much as they do hot. An average humidity of 70% is ideal. Allowing it to drop to 50% before rising again will help simulate the rain cycles.
You want to avoid allowing the humidity to fall lower than 50%. The lack of humidity can cause shedding issues, especially with younger tokays.
Unlike terrestrial species, tokays do not require conventional "hides". As an arboreal species, the tokay would do best with either live or artificial plants and branches. The plants and branches, which should be affixed to the sides and back of the terrarium, will provide the natural hide spots that Tokays would encounter in the wild. These locations will create a sense of security for your tokay allowing them to de-stress.
Food - Water
Tokay geckos are voracious feeders. A diet of crickets, roaches, super worms, mealworms and waxworms is best. Rotating through different feeder insects will ensure a varied diet. You can also add some diversity to their diet by offering them a shallow dish of fruit flavored baby food or crested gecko diet. This is a great treat for those tokays that will eat it.
Calcium should be left available in a shallow dish, especially during breeding season. Feeder insects can be covered in a supplement of vitamins (Herptavite) and calcium once a week before being offered to your tokay. This supplementing will reassure you that your gecko is getting the proper nutrients.
Gut Loading Feeder Insects
Just about everyone has heard the saying "You are what you eat". Well this is also true for your tokay gecko. Feeding a varied diet, and supplementing your gecko is only a portion of offering your tokay a nutritious diet.
Feeder insects purchased online and at pet stores are fed an unknown diet. We also are not made aware of when they were last fed. As a rule, it is always best to feed the prey you intend on feeding your tokay for at least 24 hours before they are fed. This ensures that the feeder insects are thoroughly gut loaded and contain the maximum amount of nutrients that they can hold. In feeding them nutritious and vitamin enriched foods, those nutrients will then get passed on to your tokay gecko. This is where the term "gut loading" has come into play. Essentially, you are loading the feeder insects gut with vitamins and minerals that will be passed on to your gecko when it is consumed.
The food items used to gut load your feeder insects will be dependant on the species of insect being fed. Waxworms and crickets have different dietary needs as do mealworms and silkworms. As a result, it is important to know the dietary requirements for each species so that you can adequately provide them with a nutritious gut loading prior to feeding them to your tokay gecko.
A shallow dish of clean water can be left in the enclosure at all times though it may never get used. Many tokays will not drink water from a bowl. You will need to either provide a drip system, which will offer both drinking water as well as aid in raising humidity, or you will need to spray the enclosure at least once per day. The drops of water that are found on the plants you are providing, as well as the walls of the enclosure, will offer droplets like that left behind by rain. This is a natural way for them to ingest water.
Tokay Geckos can climb walls because of the special padding found on the pads of their feet. This padding, known as lamellae, in conjunction with an electrodynamic force, allows them this ability.
Lamellae is the plural form of the word lamella. Lamella, which is a thin plate-like structure, is technically the housing unit for the true means in which the tokay can adhere to surfaces.
The real magic in the tokays ability is hidden in microscopic hairs called setae. Positioned on the lamellae are millions of these setae. To understand how this is possible, image something so small that it is 100 millionth of a meter long. At the tip of each setae, there are even smaller hairs called spatulae. Each setae houses 1,000 of these spatulae. According to National Geographic, spatulae are only 200 billionths of a meter wide. These fine hairs allow the tokay gecko the ability to make more surface contact. It's in this surface contact that the magic of dry adhesion transpires.
Surface density is mass divided by area / the quantity per unit of surface area.
The amount of spatulae that comes into contact with the surface, and its proximity to the surface, is dramatically increasing the surface density and make it sufficient for van der Waals forces to provide the adhesive strength applied when these geckos scamper up vertical surfaces.
Van der Waals forces
Johannes Diderik van der Waals is the Dutch scientist and thermodynamicist in which Van der Waals forces were named. His work on the equation of state for gases and liquids explains how molecules and atoms interact and bond with one another under various conditions.
In the simplest of terms, this process traps and bonds molecules on the surface of the structure being climbed and at the tips of the spatulae found at the end of the setae. The vast amount of spatulae present on the surface has increased the surface density. With the amount of intermolecular force being applied to each spatulae over such as small area, a dry bond takes place.
To truly understand the sheer number of contacts that are being made, you need to understand how many individual hairs are touching the surface simultaneously, each having their own molecular bond. The face of a dime is capable of housing over one million setae. Since each setae has one thousand spatulae at its tip, you would have one billion points of contact each holding an individual bond with the surface. It is in this surface density and the size/shape of the spatulas that allow for this magnificent feat.
Tokay geckos are known to be an aggressive species of gecko. They have been referred to as "the pit bull gecko" (This is an unfair name to both the Tokay as well as Pit bulls.). This species is best used as a display animal opposed to one you may wish to handle unless you invest the time into taming them. Untamed Tokay Geckos will bite.