Golden geckos, which are native to Vietnam and southeast Asia, are intriguing lizards even though they aren't as popular as many other pet lizards. Males can be yellow-golden in color (sometimes with markings), while females tend to be darker and have more green on the body. Female golden geckos tend to be a bit smaller than males. This may not be the best gecko for a new lizard owner, as they have nocturnal habits. But if you're a night owl, this could be the pet gecko for you, although they do have an aversion to being handled.
Scientific Name: Gekko ulikovskii
Common Name: Golden gecko
Adult Size: 7 to 8 inches
Life Expectancy: 10 years
Golden Gecko Behavior and Temperament
Golden geckos are skittish and have delicate skin, so they are not good candidates for handling. They also have a bit of a reputation for biting when stressed. This may not be the best gecko for a new lizard owner, but if you're patient when handling is necessary, your gecko can eventually become docile.
Like many geckos, the golden will shed its tail when very stressed; they can also regenerate it. However, this is an extreme response from the gecko and it should never be picked up by its tail.
Housing the Golden Gecko
A 20-gallon tall terrarium is sufficient for a golden gecko, but a bigger habitat is a better home as golden geckos are active lizards. Golden geckos need vertical space for climbing so use a tall tank. Males are quite territorial so they should only be kept one to a cage. They have specialized toe pads that allow them to effortlessly move along vertical surfaces, and they can even cling upside down.
The substrate for golden geckos should be something that retains moisture, such as reptile bark or shredded coconut fiber bedding. Some keepers also use pure soil but avoid using potting soil, which often contains perlite, an inorganic material derived from mined volcanic glass of the same name. It can cause impactions in lizard if too much is accidentally ingested.
Golden geckos need room to climb, so provide branches, driftwood, and faux silk plants or live plants. They also need hiding spots such as reptile caves or clay plant pots that are placed on their sides. Make sure there are no sharp edges in the habitat. If you have multiple geckos, be sure to provide enough hiding space to allow them to hide from each other.
A daytime temperature gradient of 75 to 90 F should be provided for golden geckos, with a drop at nighttime to 70 or 75 F. Heat can be provided via a ceramic heating element or a reptile bulb inside a reflector. Place any heat source only on one end of the tank so that the other end stays colder. Do not rest a heat source right at the top of the tank, as these climbing geckos could get too close and burns could result.
Since golden geckos are nocturnal, there's no need for special light spectrums. However, many experts suggest that providing some UV lighting is still beneficial to a gecko's overall health. White incandescent bulbs or blue reptile bulbs can also be used during daytime hours, and red reptile night bulbs can be used at night.
Golden geckos need a moderate to high humidity level; aim for 60 to 80 percent relative humidity. As humidity is very important, the best way to measure it is to get a hygrometer and monitor levels daily. Provide humidity with regular misting; the geckos will likely drink from water droplets that collect from the mist.
Food and Water
Golden geckos should be fed a variety of live prey insects. Crickets can make up the main part of the diet, with the addition of waxworms, mealworms, butterworms, roaches, and other pesticide-free, live insect prey. A gecko's prey should be gut loaded prior to feeding and also dusted with a calcium supplement two to three times a week; use a multivitamin dusting once a week as well.
Feed your golden geckos in the evening. Juveniles should be fed daily but adults do not need to be fed every day. Some keepers recommend randomizing the feeding schedule to keep the geckos interested in their prey. For instance, feed every other day, then feed two days then skip a day, and so on. Feed as much prey at one time as the gecko will eagerly eat.
Golden geckos will often eat fruit as well. You can try mashed bananas, pureed baby food, or sliced fruit; goldens especially like tropical fruits such as mangos.
Provide a small shallow water dish with fresh and clean non-chlorinated water every day. They may use this more for soaking than drinking as golden geckos, like other geckos, prefer to drink water droplets that collect on the surfaces of leaves.
Common Health and Behavior Problems
One of the most common ailments among geckos is a metabolic bone disease (MBD), which is the result of insufficient calcium and vitamin D it the animal's diet. Geckos with MBD will display a poor appetite and tremors and sometimes can suffer painful limb deformities.
Golden geckos that are undernourished or that live in an enclosure with insufficient humidity often develop a condition called dysecdysis. This condition causes the gecko to have difficulty shedding and can also affect its vision. When it first develops, it looks like a patch of dry or rough skin.
Like other geckos, goldens are also prone to respiratory infections, including pneumonia. If your gecko is drooling or wheezing or has excess mucus around its nasal passages, these symptoms likely indicate respiratory problems.
All of these conditions should receive treatment from a veterinarian who specializes in reptiles and especially lizards. Most geckos will recover from the above illnesses if treated in a timely manner.
Choosing Your Golden Gecko
Golden geckos are usually readily available from breeders since they tend to be lower-profile and less popular compared to leopard geckos or crested geckos. Be wary of wild-caught golden geckos since you don't have any way of knowing their health history or about any parasites they may be carrying. Captive-bred golden geckos tend to be healthier.
Before you purchase a golden 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.
Similar Species to the Golden Gecko
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Otherwise, check out other types of reptiles and amphibians that can be your pet.