Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko)
Tokay geckos (Gekko gecko) are a nocturnal, carnivorous type of arboreal gecko widespread throughout southeast Asia and invasive an other parts of the world, including Florida (USA), Martinique, and the islands of Belize. They prefer tropical forest for habitat, but are also commonly found hunting insect pests in rural human homes. As a strictly arboreal species, they spend most of their lives up off the ground.
Tokay geckos average 10-12″ / 25-30cm long, but are capable of growing as large as 16″ / 40cm. Females are generally smaller than males. The wild type has a pale gray to blue base color and orange/red or black spots, depending on locality. The body is robust, with large lidless eyes, vertical pupils, a rounded snout, small but sharp teeth, bumpy skin, and sticky toe pads.
Tokay geckos are infamous for their bold, aggressive attitudes, so if this sounds intimidating, this is not the pet for you. But if you appreciate them for what they are and pay attention to providing high-quality tokay gecko care, you may expect your pet to enjoy a lifespan of up to 15-20 years.
Tokay Gecko Shopping List
These are products I personally recommend for setting up a functional tokay gecko terrarium. Some of the links in this care sheet are paid links — if you’d like to know why ReptiFiles uses paid links, visit this page.
- Front-opening 24”L x 24”W x 48”H terrarium, or larger
- 50w Arcadia Halogen Lamp, x2
- Zoo Med Mini Combo Deep Dome Lamp Fixture
- Lutron Credenza Plug-In Lamp Dimmer, x2
- 40w Exo Terra Ceramic Heater, x2
- Exo Terra Wire Light, Small, x2
- 24″ Zoo Med T8 ReptiSun 5.0
- 24″ Zoo Med T8 Reptisun Terrarium Hood
- Zilla 24/7 Digital Power Center
- Zoo Med Digital Thermometer/Hygrometer Combo, x2
- Exo Terra Mister
- Zoo Med Eco Earth, 20+ quarts
- Environmental enrichment
- Pangea Ultimate Gecko Ledge – Magnetic
- Repashy Calcium Plus LoD supplement
Tokay Gecko Enclosure Size
Tokay geckos need an enclosure that is large enough to give them adequate opportunity to explore, hunt, and generally exercise natural behaviors. They are also arboreal, which means that they need a terrarium that provides a generous amount of climbing space. Considering that the average tokay grows up to 12″/30cm long, the minimum recommended enclosure size for a single tokay gecko is 24”L x 24”W x 48”H / 60 x 60 x 120cm or similar. However, particularly large tokays will need a larger setup at least 36″L x 24″W x 48″H / 90 x 60 x 120cm.
Here are some enclosures that are appropriate for housing average tokay geckos:
- Zen Habitats 2’x2’x4′ PVC Panel Reptile Enclosure
- Maximum Reptile Essential 4 Vertical PVC & Aluminum Enclosure 2.0
For tokay geckos longer than 12″ / 30cm:
Can multiple tokay geckos be housed in the same enclosure?
No. Due to a tendency toward highly territorial behavior, it’s best to keep only one pet tokay gecko per enclosure.
Lighting & UVB for Tokay Geckos
Tokay geckos are nocturnal, which means that they are primarily active at night. However, they still need a light on during the day to help regulate their day/night cycle. Lights should be left on for 12 hours/day.
Because they are nocturnal, technically tokay geckos can survive without UVB lighting as long as they get plenty of supplemented vitamin D3. However, you are still going to get the best results from using UVB lighting rather than relying on supplements.
UVB lighting can be tricky, because in order to get the right strength of UVB (measured by UV Index, or UVI), distance must be considered. As a rough estimate, to provide appropriate UVB to a tokay gecko in a 48” tall enclosure, you will need one of the following:
Place the basking branch no closer than 6” below the lamp. UVB bulbs must be replaced every 12 months in order to remain effective.
(These recommendations are approximations. It is strongly recommended to use a Solarmeter 6.5 to determine the best placement to achieve a UVI of 1.0-2.0 in the basking area at the top of the enclosure.)
Tokay Gecko Temperature Requirements
Humans are warm-blooded, which means that our body temperature is automatically regulated. Tokay geckos, however, are cold-blooded, and they need to move between areas of different temperatures in order to regulate their body temperature. In the wild, tokay geckos warm up by basking in a warm patch of sunlight. In captivity, sunlight can be replicated with a white incandescent heat lamp.
- Basking area temperature: 90-100°F (32-38°C)
- Cool zone temperature: 80-85°F (26-29°C)
- Nighttime temperature: 76-80°F (24-26°C)
Due to their size, you will need two ~50w halogen flood bulbs for basking, such as the Arcadia Halogen Lamp in a dual dome lamp such as the Zoo Med Mini Combo Deep Dome fixture. This wattage should be plenty, but results will vary based on your room temperature. If you notice that the basking area is too warm, dial down the heat down with a lamp dimmer or switch to a lower wattage bulb. If your basking area is too cool, you will need a higher wattage bulb.
The basking area should be a vine or branch directly under the heat lamp. Because your gecko is arboreal and will be living in a tall enclosure, the warmest temperatures will be at the top (near the heat lamp), and the coolest temperatures will be toward the bottom. You will need vines, branches, and foliage at all levels to allow for proper thermoregulation.
To track basking temperature, use a digital probe thermometer, with the probe zip-tied to the basking surface under the heat source. Most reptile-brand digital probe thermometers function well.
Because tokay geckos prefer warmer nighttime temperatures than present in the average home, you will likely need a lightless heat source for nighttime heating. One or two low-wattage ceramic heat emitters connected to a lamp dimmer or on/off thermostat is likely to be your best bet for creating comfortable nighttime temps for your tokay.
Tokay Gecko Humidity Requirements
Tokay geckos do best in a high-humidity environment with humidity levels between 60-80% as measured by a digital probe hygrometer with the probe placed in the middle of the enclosure. Humidity levels that are consistently too high or low can cause health problems for your gecko. However, it is natural for humidity to be lower in the warm area and higher in the cool area. It is also normal and healthy for humidity levels to rise at night and fall during the day.
To raise the humidity in your gecko’s enclosure (and provide an extra source of drinking water), use a pump-style pressure sprayer such as the Exo Terra Mister to wet down the enclosure every evening, and in the morning if necessary.
Tokay Gecko Substrate Options
Because tokay geckos are arboreal (tree-dwelling), they don’t spend much time on the ground. Although it’s not necessary to use bedding for them, it’s very useful for helping to stabilize humidity. It also acts as a cushion if they fall from their perch, which may happen while they are hunting.
It’s best to use a moisture-retentive substrate that is similar to the soil in a tokay gecko’s natural habitat. Here are some reliable options:
- DIY tropical mix: 60% organic topsoil, 40% coconut fiber
- Zoo Med Reptisoil
- Zoo Med Eco Earth
- Exo Terra Plantation Soil
- The Bio Dude Terra Fauna bioactive kit
Only 2″ / 10cm should be needed, unless you are planting the plants directly into the substrate. For best results, add a generous layer of leaf litter on top.
Feces and urates should be removed daily, and contaminated substrate should be scooped out and replaced. Substrate should be completely replaced once every 3-4 months, depending on your needs.
Decorating Your Tokay Gecko Terrarium
Decorations play a vital role in your gecko’s enclosure as environmental enrichment. Enrichment items encourage exercise, stimulate your pet’s natural instincts, and help promote overall wellbeing. And, of course, they make the enclosure look nicer! Without décor, your terrarium is just a glass box with dirt and a feeding ledge. Just because tokay geckos can climb up glass doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have other climbing materials available — they also need places to hide that are not on the ground.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- cork hollows
- live or artificial plants
- magnetic ledges
Arrange these items in a way that encourages your gecko to climb and explore, offers plenty of shelter, and creates areas of both light and shade.
Feeding Your Tokay Gecko
Tokay geckos are insectivores, which means that they need a varied diet of insects to get the right nutrition. In the wild, they eat mostly insects such as cockroaches, grasshoppers, and centipedes, but they are also known to occasionally eat frogs, lizards, and snakes. For pets, it’s best to offer primarily insects, with the occasional vertebrate treat.
Juvenile tokays should be fed daily, and full-grown adults should be fed every other day. Offer as many insects as the lizard is capable of eating in a 5-minute period, no larger than the gecko’s head.
Best feeder insects for tokay geckos: crickets, dubia roaches, discoid roaches, red runner roaches, grasshoppers/locusts, hornworms, silkworms
Crested gecko diet and pinky mice should be offered as occasional treats no more than 2x/month.
The key to providing a healthy, balanced diet for your pet is VARIETY. Provide as varied of a diet as you possibly can, and you will be rewarded with a healthier pet that always looks forward to mealtime.
Feeder insects need to be “dusted” with a light coating of calcium powder before every feeding to balance their calcium-phosphorus ratio, and adding a multivitamin to the routine helps prevent deficiencies from developing.
There are many options, but Repashy CalciumPlus LoD is a solid all-in-one supplement for getting started. For best results, use as directed by the label.
Although your gecko will get drinking water from daily mistings, it’s best to always keep a bowl of clean water available on a magnetic gecko ledge. This bowl should be scrubbed out with veterinary disinfectant such as Rescue or F10SC weekly for good hygiene.
Handling Your Tokay Gecko
Generally speaking, tokay geckos are more of a look-but-don’t-touch display animal rather than a pet that you can handle regularly. However, they can be tamed if you’re willing to put in the work.
The key to taming a tokay gecko (and any reptile, really) is building trust. It simply takes a while to tame tokays, and they’re not very forgiving. The best way to build trust is to stay hands-off and start with offering insects or treats via soft-tipped feeding tongs. Over time, as the gecko gets more comfortable with you, it may be convinced to climb onto your hand/arm before returning to its enclosure. However, never grab it!
Wait at least 2 weeks for the gecko to settle into its new home before trying to introduce yourself.
Aowphol, A., Thirakhupt, K., Nabhitabhata, J., & Voris, H. K. (2006). Foraging ecology of the Tokay gecko, Gekko gecko in a residential area in Thailand, Amphibia-Reptilia, 27(4), 491-503. doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/156853806778877121
Baines, F. M., Chattell, J., Dale, J., Garrick, D., Gill, I., Goetz, M., Skelton, T., & Swatman, M. (2016). How much UVB does my reptile need? The UV-Tool, a guide to the selection of UV lighting for reptiles and amphibians in captivity. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research, 1, 55. https://doi.org/10.19227/jzar.v4i1.150
Crepuscular Species. (n.d.). Arcadia Reptile. Retrieved January 10, 2022, from https://www.arcadiareptile.com/lighting/crepuscular-species/
Daza, J. D., Mapps, A. A., Lewis, P. J., Thies, M. L., & Bauer, A. M. (2015). Peramorphic traits in the tokay gecko skull. Journal of Morphology, 8, 915–928. https://doi.org/10.1002/jmor.20389
Gekko gecko / Tokey – Care. (n.d.). Het Terrarium. Retrieved January 10, 2022, from https://www.hetterrarium.com/en_GB/a-46622758/info-lizards/gekko-gecko-info-care/
McCurley, K. (2014, February 27). Tokay Gecko Care. Reptiles Magazine. https://www.reptilesmagazine.com/tokay-gecko-care/
Red-spotted Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko). (n.d.). INaturalist. Retrieved January 10, 2022, from https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/34615-Gekko-gecko
Tokay gecko. (2016, April 25). Smithsonian’s National Zoo. https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/tokay-gecko
Tokay Gecko Care. (2021 2). Pangea Reptile. https://www.pangeareptile.com/store/tokay-gecko-care.html
Toth, M. (2020, February 29). Breeding Tokay Geckos: What it’s like to breed and keep these misunderstood “Demons” by Mike Toth. The Herpetoculture Network. https://herpetoculturemagazine.com/breeding-tokay-geckos-what-its-like-to-breed-and-keep-these-misunderstood-demons-by-mike-toth/
The ReptiFiles Tokay Gecko Care Sheet is a simplified care summary, not a full ReptiFiles care guide. While I have done my best to ensure that the information contained is accurate, due to time constraints, the research behind ReptiFiles care sheets is not as thorough as the research involved with my full-length care guides. I strongly encourage readers to do their own research from high-quality, reputable sources outside of just this care sheet as part of preparing for your new pet reptile.