Animal Care/House Gecko
The House Gecko (scientific name Hemidactylus frenatus), is a native of southeastern Asia and the northern parts of Africa. Known as the Pacific house gecko, it is the most recently discovered member of a quartet of small, prolific and aggressive little lizards that become active at twilight. They can be seen climbing walls of houses and other buildings in search of insects attracted to porch lights, hence their name. Spread around the world by ships, these geckos are now common around Florida and other southern areas of the United States.
A tropical gecko, Hemidactylus Frenatus likes to live in warm, humid areas where it can crawl around on rotting wood in search of the insects it eats. Keep this in mind if you attempt to recreate its habitat should you decide to keep one as a pet.
House geckos are fast moving so catching them may be difficult. Be careful when handling them as their tails detach easily as a defense mechanism.
These small geckos grow to three to six inches in length and live about five years.
House Geckos in Captivity
Easy to care for, all you need is a vivarium which can be a ten gallon or larger fish tank, clean substrate [store bought or just potting soil] a secure cover for the tank, a heat source [such as an incandescent light bulb with reflector], some branches for your gecko to climb on, a rock for him/her to bask on, and some plants to collect droplets of water from your misting bottle as these geckos usually won't drink from a dish.
Choose a gecko from a reputable dealer. Make sure he/she looks healthy: a healthy gecko will have clear eyes nose and anus, be alert and active, have good looking skin and have a good appetite and be well fleshed out. Sick geckos may appear thin, have poor looking skin, discharge from the nose, eyes or anus, and appear lethargic. Some stores sell house geckos as snake food, so be aware of poorly treated geckos meant to be served as dinner.
If you want more than one gecko, do not house more than one male per tank as they will fight each other, and make sure you have all females unless you want to breed them.
Clean out your tank with a mild [3%] solution of water and chlorine bleach, then rinse until all odor of chlorine is gone. Besides daily removal of feces, be sure to clean the tank when it gets dirty [once a week to once a month].
Layer the bottom of the tank with a clean, non-toxic substrate such as coconut hair [available at your pet store], non-toxic wood shavings [avoid cedar] or ordinary potting soil.
Place a clean branch, a rock or two, and perhaps a piece of tree bark in the tank. Geckos love to hide on the underside of branches or chunks of bark during the day while they sleep. They also love to climb on rocks to bask as well as enjoy the stored heat.
If you wish, put in some small potted plants and keep them well watered. This will aid in keeping the humidity high in the tank as well as provide a more natural setting for your gecko. Using potted plants makes it easier to remove them for your frequent tank cleaning.
Put your light/heat source on one end of the tank so as to make a temperature gradient from one end of the tank to the other. Ordinary light bulbs in metal reflectors from a hardware store, placed on top of a metal screen lid, make excellent heat sources and provide a 'day' period that allow the gecko to sleep. Other heat sources that work well are ceramic heaters. Under tank heaters can also be used and can help maintain a minimum temperature.
Daytime temperatures of the vivarium should be around 29-32°C (85-90°F) on the hot side and 21-24°C (70-75°F) on the cool side during the day and 21-24°C (70-65°F) at night. Note: do NOT use an electric heater rock sold by some pet stores. They can malfunction and more than one gecko has died from excess heat created by these devices.
Try to keep the humidity in the tank around 75% by liberal spraying with de-chlorinated water from a spray bottle, well watered house plants or perhaps a humidor made of moss, wood chips, or coconut hair soaked in water and placed in a container on the opposite side of the tank from the heat source.
Since they are carnivorous you need to provide live insects for food, either crickets and mealworms purchased at a pet store or live bugs caught around the house. Choose crickets that are smaller than your gecko's head. Too large of a cricket can actually bite and wound a gecko.
It is best to supplement crickets and mealworms by dusting them with a calcium/vitamin powder available from your pet store. Feeding your gecko insects caught in the wild will help provide a more balanced diet as their guts will contain many varied nutrients that farm raised crickets will not. Feed just before evening every other day.
Be careful when handling your gecko because they have both a very delicate skin that can be easily torn and a detachable tail that contains a large proportion of the animal's fat stores. Losing a tail isn't too traumatic, but repeatedly losing a tail can weaken a gecko as they use a great deal of energy to replenish the lost tail and its fat store.
Be sure to wash your hands well after handling your gecko or any part of its habitat to avoid salmonella. Wearing disposable gloves can minimize disease transmission.