Carrot-Tail Viper Gecko (Hemidactylus imbricatus)
Welcome to the ReptiFiles Viper Gecko Care Sheet! This care sheet was written by a professional reptile husbandry specialist, compiled based on reputable sources such as scientific research papers, natural history data, and the experiences of longtime keepers and breeders of this species. You can find a list of these sources at the bottom of this page.
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Introduction to Viper Geckos
Carrot-tail viper geckos (Hemidactylus imbricatus or Teratolepis fasciata) are a crepuscular, insectivorous type of terrestrial lizard native to western Pakistan and the drier portions of India. They generally prefer steppe area with plenty of rock cover.
Viper geckos grow up to 3-4″ / 8-10cm long, and are most recognizable by their fat, beet-shaped tails covered with large triangular scales. The rest of the body features a ladder-like pattern with brown, grey, beige, and/or white coloring. The head is relatively large with large eyes and vertical pupils. The legs are long and slender with sticky toe pads.
Although tiny and not particularly handleable, viper geckos are curious, active, and relatively hardy, making them interesting and rewarding little pets for any reptile keeper. When proper viper gecko care is provided, they are likely to live 10-15 years.
Viper Gecko Shopping List
These are products I personally recommend for setting up a functional viper 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 18”W x 18”H terrarium, or larger
- 50w Arcadia Halogen Heat Lamp
- 5.5″ Fluker’s Dimmable Repta-Clamp Lamp
- Arcadia T5 SO ShadeDweller 7% UVB kit
- Arcadia JungleDawn LED Bar
- Zilla 24/7 Digital Power Center
- Zoo Med Digital Thermometer/Hygrometer Combo, x2
- Josh’s Frogs Desert BioBedding, 20 quarts
- Hides/caves, x2
- Environmental enrichment (flat stones, hollow logs, thin branches, live/artificial desert plants, etc.)
- Food bowl
- Small water dish
- Repashy Calcium Plus LoD supplement
- Feeding tweezers
- Rescue RTU veterinary disinfectant
- Spray bottles (for misting and disinfectant)
Viper Gecko Enclosure Size
Viper geckos need an enclosure that is large enough to give them adequate opportunity to thermoregulate, explore, hunt, and generally exercise natural behaviors. Although viper geckos top out at 4″ / 10cm long, they are usually kept in groups, so the minimum recommended enclosure size for housing up to 3 viper geckos is 24”L x 18”W x 18”H / 60 x 45 x 45cm or similar. However, larger is always better!
Here are some enclosures that are appropriate for housing viper geckos:
- Zen Habitats 2’x2’x2′ Meridian PVC Reptile Enclosure
- Repti Zoo 34 Gallon Glass Reptile Terrarium (24 x 18 x 18)
- Exo Terra Medium/Wide Natural Terrarium (24” x 18” x 18”)
Can multiple viper geckos be housed in the same enclosure?
Absolutely! Viper geckos generally get along well in groups, and in fact I don’t recommend housing them singly. Even males appear to be able to live peaceably together when females aren’t around. If there are females in the enclosure, then there should be only one male in the group in order to avoid conflict.
As always, don’t house males and females together unless you intend to breed your geckos. The breeding of any reptile is a project that shouldn’t be taken casually.
Lighting & UVB for Viper Geckos
Viper geckos are crepuscular, which means that they are primarily active around sunset. However, they will become a little more active during the day once they’ve settled into a new home.
To help regulate their day/night cycle, a viper gecko’s lights should be left on for 10.5 hours during winter and 13.5 hours during summer. Alternatively, you can use a smart timer (I use Kasa) to sync your lights to your local sunrise and sunset times.
Technically viper 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 group of viper geckos in an 18” tall enclosure, you will need one of the following:
When the lamp is placed over mesh, the basking surface should be placed so the bulb is 8-12″ / 20-30cm above the gecko’s back when basking.
The bulb itself should be roughly 1/2 of the enclosure’s length, no more than 2/3. UVB bulbs must be replaced every 12 months in order to remain effective.
(These recommendations are approximations based on measurements taken with the abovementioned fixtures and assuming a 35% mesh block. 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.)
Viper geckos are primarily active at night, not daytime, but based on my experience it seems that they still benefit from the addition of a high-powered 6500K LED lamp in the enclosure. They seem to like to bask at close range under the lamp first thing in the morning and just before lights out in the evening.
I recommend the Arcadia JungleDawn LED Bar, spanning 75-100% of the enclosure’s length. As an added benefit, this lamp is fantastic for supporting plants in a bioactive setup!
Viper Gecko Temperature Requirements
Humans are warm-blooded, which means that our body temperature is automatically regulated. Viper geckos, however, are cold-blooded, and more specifically they are poikilothermic, which means they need to move between areas of different temperatures in order to regulate their body temperature. Here’s the range of temperatures that should be available in a viper gecko enclosure:
- Basking temperature: 90-95°F (33-35°C)
- Cool zone temperature: 75-85°F (24-29°C)
- Nighttime temperature: 70-75°F (21-24°C)
You will need one or two ~50w halogen heat bulbs for basking and creating the right ambient temperatures in your setup. The following equipment is recommended:
If this is too warm, use the dimmer switch to reduce the heat output or install a less-powerful white incandescent heat bulb such as the 60w Exo Terra Daytime Heat Lamp. If your basking area is too cool, you will need a higher wattage bulb.
To track enclosure temperatures, use two digital probe thermometers, with one probe on the basking surface and the other probe on the cool end. Most reptile-brand digital probe thermometers function well.
Viper Gecko Humidity Requirements
Viper geckos should have fairly dry ambient humidity levels below 50%. However, they also need access to areas of higher humidity (moist hides) to use as needed. Ambient humidity should be tracked via digital probe hygrometer with the probe placed in the middle of the setup.
To raise the humidity in your enclosure, you can use a spray bottle to lightly mist the habitat 2-3x/week. The enclosure should be well-ventilated enough to dry out fairly quickly. Make sure that the moist hide(s) are always kept moistened, but not soggy. Moist hides can be plastic or resin caves from the pet store, or they can be as simple as the space under a piece of cork bark.
Viper Gecko Substrate Options
Substrate is an important part of a viper gecko terrarium because this species likes to have the opportunity to dig. A good substrate also helps maintain optimal humidity levels and creates a natural humid hide. Here are some substrate options which resemble the natural conditions of viper gecko habitat:
- DIY mix: 60% organic topsoil, 40% fine sand
- Zoo Med ReptiSand
- Exo Terra Desert Sand
- Josh’s Frogs Desert BioBedding
- Bio Dude Terra Sahara
You will need at least 2″ / 5cm of substrate. This requires at least 15 quarts in a 24″ x 18″ enclosure.
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 Viper 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, so don’t be afraid to go a little crazy! And, of course, they do make the enclosure nicer to look at.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- slate stacks (secured with silicone or grout)
- cholla wood
- manzanita twigs
- cork tubes
- cork flats
- magnetic ledges
- artificial plants
- live desert plants
- 3D backgrounds
Arrange these items in a way that encourages your geckos to climb and explore, offers plenty of shelter, and creates areas of both light and shade.
Feeding Your Viper Gecko
Viper geckos are insectivores, which means that they need a varied diet of insects to get the right nutrition. Juvenile viper geckos (<1 year old) should be fed daily to every other day, while full-grown adults should be fed 2-3x/week. Offer as many insects as the gecko is capable of eating in a 5-minute period, with each feeder being smaller than the animal’s head. A good way to measure your gecko’s appetite is to offer feeders in a bowl at first before letting the feeders roam around the enclosure for hunting.
Feeder insects for viper geckos: crickets, isopods, dubia roach nymphs, discoid roach nymphs, buffalo beetles and larvae, small mealworms, small superworms, silkworms, hornworms
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 is a solid all-in-one supplement for getting started. For best results, use as directed by the label.
Always keep a small bowl of clean water available for your viper geckos. This should be shallow enough that a gecko can climb out if it falls into the water. Scrub out the water bowl every week with veterinary disinfectant such as Rescue or F10SC for good hygiene.
Handling Your Viper Gecko
Viper geckos are tiny, and they can be rather fast when they want to be, which means they’re more of a look-but-don’t-touch display animal rather than a pet that you can handle regularly. But don’t lose heart! Aside from being quite fun to watch, you can also interact with your pets by offering them feeder insects from a pair of feeding tweezers.
However, wait at least 2 weeks for your geckos to settle into their new home before trying to introduce yourself. Note that juveniles are generally more skittish than adults.
Anderson, J.A. 1964. A Report on the Gecko Teratolepis fasciata (BLYTH, 1853) J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 61 (1): 161-171.
Crepuscular Species . (n.d.). Arcadia Reptile. Retrieved June 28, 2023, from https://www.arcadiareptile.com/lighting/crepuscular-species/
Dickenson, S. (2011, October 4). Hemidactylus imbricatus: A Gecko of Many Names – Gecko Time. Gecko Time. https://geckotime.com/viper-gecko-hemidactylus-imbricatus/
Hemidactylus imbricatus. (2023, May 25). Reptilia. https://reptilia.nl/terrarium-dieren/chordata-chordadieren/reptilia-reptielen/sauria-hagedissen/hemidactylus-imbricatus/
Honschek, O., & Winter, M. (n.d.). Hemidactylus imbricatus (Originally known as Teratolepis fasciata). DwarfGeckos.Com. Retrieved June 28, 2023, from http://www.dwarfgeckos.com/other_dwarf/h_i/hemidactylus_imbricatus.php
Obelgönner, L. (n.d.). Hemidactylus imbricatus – BAUER, GIRI, GREEBAUM, JACKMAN, DHARNE & BHOUCHE, 2008. Reptile Care Database. Retrieved June 28, 2023, from http://www.reptile-care.de/species/Gekkota/Gekkonidae/Hemidactylus-imbricatus.html
Sunrise and sunset times in Hyderabad. (n.d.). Timeanddate.Com. Retrieved June 28, 2023, from https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/pakistan/hyderabad
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Viper Gecko – Hemidactylus imbricatus (Captive Bred). (n.d.). Josh’s Frogs. Retrieved June 28, 2023, from https://new.joshsfrogs.com/sp/viper-gecko-hemidactylus-imbricatus-captive-bred-geck007
Viperngeckos. (n.d.). DRAGONZOO.de – Wir Haben Laufend Nachzuchten Unserer Leguane, Agamen, Warane, Geckos Und Schlangen Zur Abgabe. Retrieved June 28, 2023, from https://dragonzoo.de/viperngeckos/