The Tokay gecko is one of the largest and most impressive species of gecko available, often growing in excess of 14 inches total length with rare individuals exceeding that by an inch or two. They are the proud owner of one of the most easily identifiable scientific names; Gekko Gecko. Endemic to parts of India, The Philippines, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and New Guinea, this species exhibits a multitude of colorful patterns. They display colors ranging from vibrant to dark blue or green with spotted patterns of red to orange. However, if none of these patterns fit your choosing, there are selectively bred and genetic morphs available. Tokay Geckos are not for everyone, they are tenacious, fearless, and can inflict a fairly good bite if they get a hold of you. To those of us that love this species, their aggressiveness and attitude is part of what we find charming. Give them the time and effort needed and they can be tamed.
Unfortunately, this species is still imported in large numbers. The main issue with importing these animals is the stress and discomfort the species is put through. During importation is when problems such as dehydration, stress, and illness can occur. Imports are also usually heavily infected with parasites. The low cost of imports is appealing to some, however, once you factor in vet bills and medications, these imported animals are considerably more expensive than a quality captive bred Tokay Gecko. Find a good breeder and invest in a captive bred animal, there is no reason to buy imports.
Tokay Geckos do best in large tall enclosures. Don't skimp on the tank, go as big as you can go for these guys. The minimum size for an adult pair or single adult is a 18x18x24 terrarium. Juveniles can be raised in smaller habitats and then graduated to the larger housing as they mature and grow. Glass terrariums work best to provide climbing surface, egg laying sites, and humidity maintenance.
You can use a variety of different substrates in your Tokay set up, ideally, it should hold some moisture, be easy to clean, and readily available. Most people use coco fiber bedding, peat moss, or similar substrates. ABG substrate works nicely if you are going to have live plants in the vivarium as it is ideal for bioactive naturalistic vivariums due to its excellent drainage and aeration properties. ABG substrate is also an ideal environment for springtails, isopods, beneficial bacteria, and other helpful vivarium organisms.
Tokays love to climb and will need numerous structures in their enclosure to give them the opportunity. They also like to hide during the day inside structures such as bark tubes or areas that make them feel safe and secure. Cork bark works best as it provides both climbing and hiding areas, does not rot or mold, and is a natural, sustainably harvested product.
Artificial vines and plants will provide additional areas for hiding and climbing while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing look. Since Tokays are an arboreal (tree dwelling) species, choose decor and climbing structures that utilize all of the vertical space in your habitat.
Live plants can be used, however tokays are large and heavy bodied, so you will need to select foliage that is sturdy and robust so that it does not get trampled and destroyed. Live plants also help to maintain humidity and create a more natural and visually appealing vivarium.
This is a nocturnal, tropical species that require a temperature gradient ranging from 90 degrees Fahrenheit on the hot side, to 76 degrees Fahrenheit on the cooler end during the day. This type of temperature gradient is necessary to allow the gecko to thermoregulate, moving to the warm area or cooler area as needed to maintain proper body temperature. A good daylight basking bulb can achieve these temperatures while providing light and an appropriate photoperiod. Ideally, the photoperiod is set to 12 hours on and 12 hours off. A lighting timer is your friend here, and will keep the photoperiod regular and consistent. The temperature can drop to about 76-80 degrees at night. If night time heat is also required you can implement an infrared deep heat projector that can run both day and night and can be hooked up to a thermostat to control temperature and even provide an appropriate night drop. If using an infrared heater of any kind you will want to have a daytime non-heating light to provide the 12-hour photoperiod. LEDs work nicely for this, are inexpensive to run, and provide excellent visible light for viewing and live plant growth.
Tokays do not necessarily require UVB as they are nocturnal and spend most of the day hiding. It is however widely considered beneficial to use lamps that output UVA and UVB. We do recommend that you provide them with low output UVB lamps as they may occasionally want to venture out and soak up some of the potentially beneficial rays. The Arcadia 6% UVB T5 HO fluorescent tube lights are what we use for this species.
Tokay Geckos will readily eat just about any type of feeder insect and they will attack them with gusto. We recommend you feed your Tokays every other day. They can take down larger prey than other geckos, but you should try to keep prey items to no larger than the widest part of the gecko's head. Crickets are the most readily available food item and make a good staple feeder item. Another good staple insect is the Dubia Roach which can be raised at home with minimal effort. Mealworms, waxworms, soldier fly larvae, hornworms, and other feeder insects can also be offered occasionally and make for a good varied diet. Adults will readily eat pinky mice and these can be offered once or twice a month. Some will eat the Pangea Gecko Diets which are fruit-based foods. The fruit diets can be offered to geckos that will eat it, once a week.
Insects should be gut loaded and dusted before offering them to your gecko. Feed your insects a high-quality insect food for at least 24 hours before feeding them to your geckos. We recommend dusting insects with a calcium powder like PangeaCal With D3 every other feeding and dusting with a multi-vitamin like Herptivite once a week. Breeding females may require additional feedings and calcium supplementation.
Since this is a tropical species you will need to pay some attention to humidity. Look to have periods of high humidity that fall to moderate humidity over a period of hours. To achieve this you can mist the enclosure heavily in the evening which will raise the humidity and allow your gecko to drink the droplets of water that collect on the sides of the tank and on the furnishings. Over the course of 10-12 hours, the humidity should drop to around 60%. If the humidity is regularly dropping to 50% or below you may need to mist more often. A water dish is recommended as a secondary water source, although they generally prefer to drink the droplets created by spraying.
A hand sprayer or garden type pump sprayer will work nicely for small collections. You can also invest in an automated misting system if you want to simplify your life a bit, especially if you have multiple enclosures. The Mist King Systems are considered the gold standard in misting systems. The basic unit comes with a dependable pump, one misting nozzle (upgradeable to 10 nozzles) reservoir kit, programmable digital seconds timer, tubing and tubing clips. To run more than 10 nozzles you will need the bigger more robust Mist King Ultimate Misting System.
To properly keep Tokay geckos, you will need to make a substantial investment in a rather large terrarium, proper lighting and heating, as well as the necessary cage accessories. It is vital to keep a close eye on the temperatures inside the terrarium as well as the humidity.
A good temperature and humidity gauge is an essential tool for keeping and breeding Tokay Geckos. These are often referred to more technically as Thermometer Hygrometer combo meters. They are quite accurate and will ensure that you have the two most important parameters met for this tropical species.
Tokay geckos are a very rewarding species to work with. Captive breeding is becoming more and more common as the reptile hobby evolves. People are realizing the value of healthy captive bred Tokays because they are so much healthier, more colorful, and can be tamed.
To breed Tokays, you first need to make sure that you have a healthy adult pair. Never keep mature males together as they will often fight violently. Sexing is fairly easy. Young sub adult males have obvious femoral pores (when viewed through a magnifying loupe. Adult males have femoral pores that are visible to the naked eye and sometimes have a wax-like secretion coming out of the pores. Males femoral region will feel sticky to the touch whereas females will feel smooth. Females have smaller, less developed pores. Males have very pronounced cloacal spurs, as well as distinct cloacal pores. Females have reduced cloacal spurs and pores. See pictures below. We recommend keeping these in pairs as fighting can occur between females in some cases.
Make sure to provide plenty of structures for climbing and hiding, including cork tubes of various diameters. They should have choices of dwelling spots on both the cooler side and the hot side of the terrarium. Foliage throughout the enclosure will provide cover and a sense of security. This is essential for breeding, egg laying, and preventing the pair from eating their newly hatched offspring.
Nutrition is particularly important for breeding and egg laying. Feed a variety of insects and offer occasional pinky mice as well as the fruit based foods. Gut loading the insects is a crucial step so make sure you feed the insects a quality insect diet as well as assorted fruits and vegetables. During breeding season, the females will require more food, as well as extra supplementation. Breeding success is much higher when food is varied and supplemented properly. We dust insects with Pangea-Cal with D3 two out of every three feedings and mix in a little Herptivite once or twice a week. A small dish of Pangea-Cal without D3 is kept in the habitat in case the female needs to replenish her reserves.
Heavy misting, daylight for 12 or more hours, and warmer temps will induce breeding. We allow the temps to drop slightly during the North American autumn starting in October. During this time, we mist less creating slightly cooler and considerably dryer conditions. Beginning in January we boost the temperatures back up a couple of degrees and begin misting more regularly with occasional very heavy mistings. Within 45 days or so we begin to see eggs being laid. The female will find a suitable spot and will glue her eggs to the surface. Usually in a cork tube or on the back of a cork slab.
Tokay gecko eggs should be left in the enclosure with both parents. The female will often guard and possibly even brood the eggs until they hatch. Although there are reports of parents cannibalizing the young, we feel this is due to not enough space, hiding areas, improper nutrition, or improper conditions. It has been suggested that a male may cannibalize a hatchling if it is not his, which could happen if the female previously bred with another male and has retained sperm from that mating. Hatchlings can be left in with the adult pair for several months, however we remove them after 45-60 days. The newly hatched geckos will consume a relatively large insect but when there are hatchlings in the tank we tend to feed smaller size prey items to help ensure success.
Once removed, hatchling Tokay Geckos are cared for exactly like a miniature adult. Similar sized geckos can be housed together if you provide enough hiding and climbing areas, as well as plenty of food.