17 Secrets For Keeping Tokay Geckos
Tokay geckos are one of the most unique types of pet geckos. Are the Tokays the right animal for you, however, and what do you need to know about them?
Tokay geckos are one of the most peculiar-looking pet geckos you can get. Coming in a wide range of vibrant colors and spots, these large geckos are gorgeous, but they are more than just eye-candy too. The second-largest species of geckos, the Tokay come from East Asia and are both vocal and quite independent too.
So, what does this mean for you – is a Tokay a good pet option for your terrarium or should you look for a different lizard?
Why should you get a Tokay Gecko?
When it comes to reptiles, it’s usually the more docile ones that are recommended for pets. That’s not exactly the case for Tokay geckos. Unlike most other geckos and pet lizards, the Tokays are feisty, self-minded, have a low tolerance for being handled and played with, and they can be outright aggressive when provoked.
Of course, calling them “dangerous” would be pretty relative – they are not crocodiles. However, they are not for first-time reptile owners either. Instead, Tokay geckos are best for experienced herpetologists.
So, if you know how to handle a self-minded and opinionated lizard, if you like arboreal reptiles that are experts climbers, and if you find the Tokays’ adorable sports as charming as we do – this may be the right gecko for you.
The 17 secrets for keeping a Tokay Gecko:
Tokay geckos are gorgeous and fascinating animals but they are definitely not for everyone. One of the more complicated geckos to look after, Tokays require a stable and experienced hand, plenty of preparation, and quite a bit of training and socialization. Here are the 17 secrets you’d need to keep in mind before getting this lizard as a pet:
Tokay geckos have prehensile tails. The Tokays are an arboreal lizard which means that they can use their tails as a fifth limb to climb and stick on tree branches. This makes them an especially fascinating pet to have as they won’t just stay at the bottom of their terrarium, walking around.
However, it also means that you’d have to make their terrariums suitable for an arboreal animal that likes to climb on stuff.
What does this mean for you?
Add some nice decoration in the Tokay’s enclosure – tall tree branches, complex rock formations, some big toys, and so on. It’s also a good idea to add some new stuff from time to time to give them something to explore.
As for the rest of the terrarium itself – we’ve got more on that below.
These little guys can both detach their tail and then grow it back. Speaking of the Tokay’s tail, these reptiles have the awesome ability of most other geckos to separate their tails when they get scared. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to scare your gecko nor to force them to commit self-harm. But, it’s still fascinating.
Plus, the other good news is that – unlike some species like the Crested gecko, Tokays can regrow their tails after removing them.
They are nocturnal. This is a trait Tokays share with most other geckos. This means several different things for you:
Your Tokay won’t be overly active during the day and you should keep it that way – it’s unhealthy and stressful for the reptile if you wake it when the sun is up.
You can play freely with your Tokay in the evening, however.
The feeding of the lizard should be after dark as well – we’ll cover the details below.
It’s wise not to put your Tokay’s terrarium in or near your bedroom because these reptiles can be quite loud.
Tokays are very vocal. Most geckos and lizards enjoy “talking” when they are upset with something but the Tokay gecko is especially loud. They make a very specific croaking sound that sounds similar to “To-kay! To-kay!”, hence their name.
This is especially fun to observe and laugh at, however, it’s also somewhat annoying if it’s 3 AM and you’re trying to sleep. So, plan the position of your Tokay’s terrarium accordingly.
This is a pretty big lizard. Geckos may be small compared to other reptiles but Tokays are the second largest gecko which still makes them quite formidable.
With a 10 to 12 inches (24 to 30 cm) average total body length and a maximum length of 14 inches (35 cm) Tokays can get quite big. This is important for your reptile’s tank, for the food you’ll have to feed it, and for handling it – all of which we’ll cover below.
Tokay geckos are solitary and territorial animals. This one also applies to many other geckos but is especially important with the Tokay. These geckos are so territorial that placing them with a second gecko – especially a male – is guaranteed to result in bloodshed.
Tokays can also be a bit aggressive toward humans. Like most small dogs, these reptiles aren’t really aware of their small size – if you’re doing something they don’t like, they won’t think twice about biting you. And, besides – Tokays may be small compared to us but they are not actually that small for a gecko and their bite can hurt.
So, should you just not handle them at all?
Not necessarily – Tokays just need a bit more socialization and training to be taught how to behave in your arms. Here’s a good video on taming a Tokay by Dbcb Exotics:
Keeping a male & female or female & female Tokay together is possible but tricky. Two males may be a No-No but two females can work. You will have to socialize them pretty well and it’s also smart to make sure that they are of the same size. However, as far as the terrarium is large enough, it can work.
A male & female combo can work too but then you’ll run into the whole “unwanted breeding” situation.
This is a carnivore gecko with quite an appetite. Tokays are meat-eaters with quite an insatiable appetite. These geckos can be fed a wide variety of insect prey such as cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms, waxworms, superworms, and more.
While with other geckos and many snakes we typically recommend frozen and/or pre-killed prey, Tokays prefer live prey. That being said, they can tolerate some packaged diet products as well, especially as a supplement for their live prey.
Tokays can eat fruits too, especially when they are young and if we’re talking about tropical fruits. Just cut a few pieces and put them in their enclosure to see how they’ll react. But the live insect prey needs to be the main course.
As for a feeding schedule, juvenile Tokays need to eat every 24 hours but adults can be fed just once every couple of days.
Tokays prefer to drink water from the tree branches. You read that right – in nature, Tokays actually drink moisture droplets that occasionally gather on leaves and tree branches. This is easy to replicate in a terrarium – just spray some water over the branches and other decorations in the reptile’s enclosure.
That being said, it’s still a must to add a bowl of water as well – reptiles get dehydrated very easily when they don’t get enough water and moisture around them.
Watch out for parasitic skin infections and some other health conditions. Like other gecko species, Tokays are susceptible to mouth rot or stomatitis. This condition is recognizable by the reddish look around the lizard’s mouth.
Parasitic skin infections are also possible as are internal parasites. The former are noticeable if your gecko has difficulties shedding its skin and the latter’s main symptom is sluggishness and lethargy.
All of the above can be treated if you catch them early. That’s why it’s important to monitor your reptile every day and to always have access to a good vet that specializes in reptiles and geckos.
Get the right tank. We shouldn’t skip the most important part – the size of the terrarium. As Tokays are pretty big, a 20-gallon tank is a must at the very minimum. But we’d recommend 30+ gallons if/when possible. Also, make sure that it’s tall too – these are arboreal lizards, they don’t just like to climb, they need to do so. At the same time, make sure that the tank is secure as Tokays are quite adventurous and would be happy to get out and explore your home a bit.
The right temperature is crucial. Tokays are tropical lizards so maintaining a proper temperature in their tanks is a must. The recommended temperature range is 80 o to 90o Fahrenheit (27o to 32o Celsius) during the day and 70o to 80o Fahrenheit (21o to 27o Celsius) at night. It’s also smart to maintain separate temperature areas in the tank – one warmer and one cooler – this will make it even better and safer for the Tokay to always have the right temperature for the moment.
Maintaining said temperatures can be done with a standard basking light incandescent bulb, a ceramic heater, or both. You’d also need a couple of thermometers in the tank to monitor the temperature changes.
UVB lights are optional but a good idea. This goes for most nocturnal reptiles. While UVB light isn’t a must, many experts still maintain that it helps with the lizard’s immune system and overall health. Additionally, using a red nighttime light can allow you to watch your gecko without interfering with its day-night cycle.
Hygrometers are very useful for your terrarium. As tropical lizards, Tokays need a nice balance of 50-70% relative humidity in their tank. As with the temperature, keeping one side of the tank with a higher humidity and the other – with lower – is a good way to satisfy your Tokay’s needs. Getting a hygrometer or two is obviously a must for that. As to how to increase a Tokay’s tank’s humidity, that’s easy – just grab a water spray bottle and start spraying.
Humidity hides/boxes are a wonderful thing. These contraptions are excellent for giving your Tokay another way to find the humidity levels it needs. What’s awesome too is that humidity boxes are very easy to make DIY-style – for example, take a look at this instructional video from Jessica’s Animal Friends:
Pick the right substrate for your Tokay. The substrate is crucial both to help your Tokay feel good in the terrarium and to maintain the right humidity levels. Plus, a good substrate can make the tank look quite nice. For a tropical reptile like the Tokay, we’d recommend coconut husk or orchid bark. When the Tokay is shedding, however, you can use something as simple as newspapers or paper towels to make the cleaning much easier.