Geckos are popular and beloved reptiles thanks to their easygoing temperament, friendly personalities, and adaptability. They can adapt quickly to life in captivity and are generally docile and friendly.
But which gecko species should you go for, and are there differences between the different species?
Today, we will discuss the 7 most popular gecko species to consider for your vivarium. So, let’s jump right in!
1. Giant Day Gecko
This species is more popular thanks to its lush green appearance, red spots, and its size and lifestyle. These arboreal lizards come from Madagascar but can also be found in Hawaii and Florida Keys if you plan on taking a trip into the wild.
The lizard is usually bright green with red spots spread across the back. Most specimens also have red ‘scratches’ on their face, reminding of the war paint that Comanches would wear into battle. The underbelly is typically white.
The giant day gecko can reach 10 inches at its maximum size, but many specimens remain as small as 4 inches.
The lizard is more likely to grow bigger and faster in captivity thanks to increased security, regular meals, and nutritionally-optimized diets.
Difficulty of Care – High
Unfortunately, this species isn’t fit for beginners. The main parameters to consider include:
- Temperature – 90-95 F for the basking area, 82-86 F for the main dwelling zone, and 75-80 F for nighttime temperatures.
- Humidity – 50-70%, preferably achieved via different means (moisture-retaining substrate, live plants, spraying, etc.)
- Lighting – UV lighting 10-12 hours per day.
The overall décor should mimic the lizard’s natural habitat with plenty of climbing spots and hiding areas.
So far, so good, so why does this lizard rank as high in terms of care difficulty? The main reason for that is the lizard’s temperament. Giant day geckos aren’t the friendliest lizards in the world which causes them to get stressed for a variety of reasons.
Loud noises, unusual lights, a dirty habitat, parameter variations – all these can stress your gecko daily.
They are also not fond of petting, so you’ll have difficulties handling and bonding with your lizard.
But, if you can find your way around these issues, the giant day gecko makes for a trustworthy companion, especially since it can live more than 10 years in ideal conditions.
2. Crested Gecko
I doubt there’s anything I could say about crested geckos that haven’t been said already. These geckos are among the most popular pet lizards in the reptile trade, alongside leopard geckos. Their name comes from the skin crest covering their heads and running down the dorsal area.
Adult crested geckos can reach 9 inches in ideal conditions and live up to 20 years or more in some cases. They also showcase an impressive pattern and color variety thanks to the vast morph variation.
Crested geckos prefer to live alone, but you can keep them in pairs or even groups, provided you have the space for it.
You should never house 2 crested gecko males in the same enclosure, no matter how much space is available there. These lovable lizards can quickly turn deadly against each other.
Difficulty of Care – Moderate
Here’s the deal: moderate is the best you will ever get when it comes to geckos, no matter the species. In fact, it’s the best you’ll get with reptiles in general.
That’s because reptiles are more sensitive to temperature, humidity, and environmental conditions than other animals.
Overall, geckos need:
- Temperature – Approximately 72-80 F for the main dwelling zone, 82-90 F for the basking area, and 65-75 F during nighttime. The temperature gradient should be top-to-bottom from hot to cold because crested geckos are arboreal lizards; their habitat is vertical.
- Humidity – Keep the humidity between 50 and 70%.
- Lighting – Lighting isn’t as important for crested geckos as it is for other species. That’s because crested geckos are nocturnal. Even so, provide your lizards with a 5% UV light source for proper vitamin D production.
The reptile’s habitat should include a variety of climbing and hiding areas, which is typical for arboreal lizards. Crested geckos are easier to handle once they’ve become accustomed to your presence.
The main idea is to allow the gecko the time it needs to learn its habitat and realize that you’re not a threat.
Keep the vivarium covered to prevent the gecko from jumping out. These geckos are excellent climbers and won’t hesitate to escape if given the chance.
3. Leopard Geckos
Leopard geckos rank as the #1 in terms of popularity and ease of care. These smiley lizards are both cute-looking and adaptable, requiring minimal care and showcasing an impressive morph variety.
Depending on the morph, you can acquire a leopard gecko at prices between $25 and $3,000 or more.
The typical leopard gecko can grow up to 8-10 inches and comes with a yellow main color with black spots. These lizards can easily live 20 years or more in captivity, provided you ensure stable parameters, personalized diets, and good overall care.
Difficulty of Care – Easy
Remember when I said that you won’t get anything above ‘moderate’ in terms of gecko difficulty of care? Well, I excluded leopard geckos from that assessment. These are by far the easiest lizards to maintain.
The core parameters to consider include:
- Temperature – Basking spot up to 88 F, main dwelling area around 75-80 F, and nighttime temperatures of 70-75 F.
- Humidity – Stick to 30-40% humidity values, depending on your gecko’s preferences.
- Lighting – Go for a 5% UV light source, similar to that of crested geckos.
The décor should be standard for this species, with many horizontal spaces, open areas, and hiding places.
Leopard geckos cannot climb due to not having sticky toe pads, which means that they rank as ground dwellers. Have a variety of rocky hiding spots for them to keep them comfy and secure.
Leopard geckos don’t mind the occasional handling and petting but don’t go overboard with it. Avoid holding your lizard if it appears stressed or aggressive.
Regular monitoring and habitat cleaning are necessary to prevent skin infections, a typical care routine for all gecko species.
4. African Fat-Tailed Gecko
Thanks to their many similarities, African fat-tailed geckos are often mistaken for leopard geckos. They look pretty much the same, with only minor differences, typically in the pattern area.
This species comes with fat tails (fatter than those of leopard geckos), where they store fat. The color pattern mixes various colors like light brown, dark brown, white, yellow, etc.
Almost all specimens have a white longitudinal line traversing the back from head to tail. African fat-tailed geckos can grow between 4 and 11 inches, depending on the genetic makeup and quality of care.
They can also live between 15 and 20 years based on the same considerations.
Difficulty of Care – Moderate
African fat-tailed geckos aren’t too demanding in terms of diet or housing conditions. Provide one gecko with at least 20 gallons of space and keep their habitat warm, humid, and well-aerated, and it won’t ask for much else.
The primary requirements include:
- Temperature – The basking spot should reach temperatures of 87-90 F, the dwelling zone should be between 75-85 F, and the colder regions can go as low as 70 F.
- Humidity – Aim for a humidity range of 40-60%.
- Lighting – Standard UV lighting for 10-12 hours per day for a proper cycle.
The overall setup should mimic the lizard’s natural environment with open areas, rocky hiding spots, and plenty of terrain variation. These lizards can’t climb, so the ideal habitat layout is horizontal.
Overall, African fat-tailed geckos are docile and friendly and require minimal care. They are great for kids, provided you teach them how to handle the reptile safely.
5. Frog-Eyed Gecko
Frog-eyed geckos are less popular but equally interesting and cute. They won’t go past 7 inches in most cases, with most specimens staying as small as 5 inches. Frog-eyed geckos are very snake-like looking, with visible scales covering their bodies.
The head alone is approximately 30% of the entire body, with large amphibian-looking eyes.
Most specimens showcase intricate patterns, often a mix between leopard and tiger. Expect warm colors like yellow, brown, pink, and everything in between.
These reptiles can live between 12 and 20 years in captivity, depending on the care level and genetic makeup.
Difficulty of Care – Moderate
This is a land lizard, mostly prevalent in desertic areas. Their artificial habitat should mimic the natural geographical area that frog-eyed geckos prefer to dwell in.
The main environmental parameters include:
- Temperature – 85-90 F for the basking spot, 76-82 F for the main dwelling area, and similar temperatures during nighttime.
- Humidity – Frog-eyed geckos don’t need humidity levels as high as other species. The ideal humidity value is around 30% and lower, but check your reptile’s comfort level to adjust this parameter as necessary.
- Lighting – Natural lighting should suffice. If the room isn’t lit enough, go for a small UV lamp with 2-7% intensity.
Frog-eyed geckos are some of the hardiest species available in the reptile trade today. They don’t even necessarily need a water bowl since they will absorb all the water they need from the air and substrate via their skin.
This is a more-than-welcomed evolutionary adaptation for a lizard that spends its life in arid and desertic environments.
Unfortunately, frog-eyed geckos aren’t too keen to be handled and petted. Keep your distance and only handle your gecko when absolutely necessary for cleaning and maintenance purposes.
6. Gargoyle Gecko
There’s no denying that gargoyle geckos are some of the prettiest reptiles you can get. They can reach 10 inches in good conditions and exhibit visually-striking color patterns that no other gecko species possess.
There are no 2 specimens alike due to the enormous pattern variation, but some common points do exist. The overall color pattern is often intricate, with color splashes and tree-trunk-like designs that aid with camouflage.
The lizard’s pattern speaks volumes about its preferred living environment. In terms of coloring, gargoyle geckos are all over the place, mixing grey with brown, green, brown, red, yellow, rust, etc.
Difficulty of Care – Moderate
These lizards are adaptable, friendly, and hardy, so they don’t need any ludicrous living conditions to thrive. Their habitat should be vertical since these are arboreal lizards and form a lush ecosystem with branches, vines, plants, etc.
The main living conditions should include:
- Temperature – These reptiles don’t need a basking spot. Based on this, the main dwelling area should sit between 75 and 80 F, while the cooler region should revolve around 72-74 F.
- Humidity – Go for humidity values between 60 and 70%. A digital hygrometer would be ideal for monitoring and adjusting humidity accordingly.
- Lighting – The standard applies here. Aim for 10-12 hours of natural light per day, or opt for low-intensity UV light for proper D3 synthesis.
Gargoyle geckos are generally docile and friendly, but try not to handle them too often. They aren’t fond of human interactions, which is typical among geckos and reptiles in general.
Also, gargoyle geckos prefer to live alone or, at most, in bonded pairs. Don’t keep more than 2 in the same habitat, as these reptiles aren’t fond of social interactions.
Males can also exhibit territorial behavior, and violence is always one of their go-to reactions.
7. Tokay Geckos
We close today’s list with another cute species. Tokay geckos can reach 15 inches in captivity, which is enormous by gecko standards.
This species is absolutely a thrill to look at. Standard Tokay geckos are either purple or blue with red or orange spots sprinkled over the entire body.
Morph variations exist in terms of color and pattern display.
An interesting aspect of this species is its vocalization ability. The lizard’s name actually comes from its vocal range and screams that sound like ‘To-kay.’
Difficulty of Care – Moderate
Unfortunately, Tokay geckos aren’t fond of handling. You can tame them to a degree so they learn to live in peace in captivity, but that’s about it.
Tokay geckos are notorious for their more aggressive behavior and feisty temperament. They are also highly territorial, so you can only have one per enclosure.
- Temperature – The ideal basking spot temperature should revolve around 85-90 F, and the colder area can sit between 70 and 80 F. A smooth top-bottom temperature gradient is necessary to meet this reptile’s needs.
- Humidity – The ideal temperature range is between 60 and 70%.
- Lighting – Natural lighting is sufficient for this nocturnal animal, but low-intensity UV light may also help.
These are the go-to gecko species, with some exceptions, whether you’re a beginner or advanced.
No matter the species you’re going for, consider the following tips:
- Keep environmental conditions stable
- Always keep humidity within the ideal parameters to prevent respiratory and skin infections
- Geckos need peace and quiet when shedding
- Feed geckos a varied diet and consider calcium and vitamin D3 supplementation to avoid deficiencies and MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease)
- Handle your gecko sparingly and only if in a good mood
- Contact your vet if your gecko shows signs of disease or stress, even if mild (even mild conditions can aggravate fast)