Originally native to southeast Asia, common house geckos make interesting pets. Common house geckos have established breeding populations in many warm climates of the world. They are thought to have become an invasive species largely by hitchhiking on ships and other transportation and then breeding successfully at the destination. Their colors can vary from a yellowish tan with dark spots to a pale grey-white, and they often appear lighter in color at night. These animals are so plentiful and easy to obtain that most animals sold as pets have been "wild-caught" right in the home. Because home dwellings are their natural habitat anyway, they adapt very well to life in captivity with the attentive keeper. However, if you want to keep one of these geckos in a colder climate, it will need a warm and humid enclosure. As pets, they are too quick for frequent handling, but their climbing abilities are amazing to watch.
Common Name: Common house gecko, Pacific house gecko, the Asian house gecko, wall gecko, house lizard, or moon lizard
Scientific Name: Hemidactylus frenatus
Adult Size: Length of 3 to 5 inches (including the tail)
Life Expectancy: 5+ years in captivity
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Common House Gecko Behavior and Temperament
While common house geckos can live in wild ecosystems, they are commonly found around human habitation, including on the walls and ceilings of houses in tropical climates, which is how they got their name. They are beneficial visitors because they are good at keeping insect populations in check, so many people welcome their cohabitation in their homes. Typically, they eat the insects that are drawn to light sources in and around the home at dusk and dawn.
Housing the Common House Gecko
Common house geckos have specialized toe pads that allow them to effortlessly move along vertical surfaces, and they can even stick on surfaces upside down; they show very unique behavior for a reptile, as they climb the windows of their tanks with ease.
A 20-gallon tall terrarium is sufficient for a pair of common house geckos but bigger is better when it comes to their housing. Keep in mind that house geckos always want vertical space for climbing so use a tall tank rather than a long one. House geckos need climbable furnishings in their tall enclosures so provide branches, driftwood, and silk or live plants.
Males are territorial so keep males one to a cage. Females do get along with others so if you want a group of geckos, make sure you only have one male in your enclosure to avoid fighting. Even when kept alone, these lizards need hiding spots such as reptile caves or small clay plant pots placed on their sides. If you are housing more than one gecko in a cage, be sure to provide enough hides to give all of your lizards options to choose the best space to hide from each other.
For reasons of both tank cleanliness and air quality, the ground layer of your tank is an important consideration. Give your common house geckos a substrate (floor lining) that retains moisture without being noticeably wet, such as reptile bark or shredded coconut fiber bedding. Sand and washable reptile carpeting are not ideal for these geckos as they do not aid in creating a humid environment. To clean the soiled substrate, simply remove the soiled flooring and replace any divots of ground with material from elsewhere in the tank or fresh bedding.
Common house geckos are from a humid subtropical climate, therefore, do your best to mimic this in their enclosures. Try to maintain a daytime temperature gradient of 75 to 90 F with a nighttime low of 65 to 75 F. Heat can be provided by utilizing ceramic heating elements or reptile bulbs in a reflector fixture. A heat mat may also be useful for supplemental heat, but it will not be very useful in heating the ambient air since it is located under the terrarium. Use white light reptile heat bulbs during daytime hours. At night utilize a red or purple night time bulb for heat.
Common house geckos are nocturnal, so they do not need as much special UVB lighting as day-dwelling reptiles. However, many experts feel that providing UV lighting to mimic sun rays is still beneficial to the overall health of nocturnal animals that sleep during the day; therefore, it is still recommended to use a UVA/UVB light bulb during the daytime.
House geckos need a moderate to high humidity level in their enclosure so aim for 60 to 75 percent relative humidity which you can measure with a hygrometer. Provide humidity with regular misting, a shallow bowl of water for evaporation, or a fogger; you will find that your geckos mostly drink from water droplets that have collected on the glass and the furnishings from the mist.
Food and Water
House geckos should be fed a variety of small prey items. Crickets can make up the main part of their diet with the addition of fruit flies and other small flies, silkworms, the occasional mealworm, and other insects. Gut load the prey prior to feeding a gecko; dust the prey with a calcium supplement two to three times a week, and a dusting of a multivitamin once a week.
Feed your common house geckos in the evening. Juveniles should be fed daily but adults can be fed every other day. Feed as much prey as your house gecko will eagerly consume over a 10 minute period. Provide a small shallow water dish with fresh water daily even though common house geckos may prefer to drink from condensed water droplets; your lizard may use this bowl for soaking.
Common Health and Behavior Problems
The common house gecko has adapted to human dwellings in tropical regions Where both humidity and insects are ubiquitous in the environment. When these animals become pets In more temperate latitudes, however, they need extra care from their owners to provide for their dietary and environmental needs.
All geckos can develop a metabolic bone disease (MBD), which is the result of insufficient dietary calcium and vitamin D. Geckos with MBD have a poor appetite, exhibit tremors, and sometimes, they can even develop painful limb deformities.
These geckos also get respiratory infections, including pneumonia. If your gecko is drooling or wheezing or has excess mucus around its nasal passages, these symptoms likely indicate a respiratory infection.
Seek out an exotic animal veterinarian who specializes in reptiles and especially lizards. Most geckos will recover from these maladies if they are treated in the early stages.
Choosing Your Common House Gecko
Owners of pet common house geckos should be careful not to contribute to the invasive species problem by releasing them into the wild in foreign zones. But if you catch a house gecko in North America to keep as a pet, you won't be doing harm to the species overall. Due to climate change, their range is increasing northward, and the reach of this urbanized species that lives symbiotically with humans is predicted to spread on many additional continents beyond their native Asia.
Before you acquire a common house gecko, inspect its skin for any sign of dry patches, which could indicate problems shedding. If possible, arrange to watch the animal eat to ensure it has a healthy appetite before taking it on as your pet.
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