|Common Name:||Tokay gecko, Gekko gecko, takshak, hokkeng, hankok, awke|
|Scientific Name:||Gekko gecko|
|Life Span:||Average of 10 years, the oldest recorded is 20 years old|
|Size:||May grow up to 20 inches long, weighs 150 to 400 grams|
|Habitat:||Rainforests and in rural human homes|
|Country of Origin:||Asia and some Pacific islands (India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, and Indonesia|
Tokay gecko is a nocturnal gecko native to countries in Asia and several Pacific islands. It is known by many names across the Asian continent and has lived in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. But because of the natural interest of pet lovers and lizard collectors, this colorful lizard has been cared for and bred in captivity.
The Tokay gecko may look different from other pet lizards you have ever seen. It is larger with a flattened body and displays colors of blue-gray, orange, green and yellow.
The most prominent part of the Tokay is its eyes. It has very large eyes, somewhat protruded from its head with vertical pupils. The Tokay may close one eye or both at the same time but still, these make it interesting and at the same time scary.
The skin looks sleek and when touched, is soft and supple especially the skin on its belly. The surface of the skin is gray with red specks but it can somehow change color to match its environment. This lizard uses this unique trait to hide from potential predators and possibly to display its mood.
Male Tokay geckos are more colorful compared to females. Males are also larger than females and thus allowing them to mate easily with female Tokays. The males are also territorial and hence can become aggressive if they spot other males entering their territory.
The Tokay gecko has a largemouth. You can sometimes see Tokays with open mouths just lying around or basking. It has a strong muscular jaw so that it can bite hard exoskeletons of insects found in the rainforest.
Another impressive quality of the Tokay is its ability to climb and hold on to any object or surface for a long time. This is because of its footpads which can support the weight of the lizard’s body even on a vertical surface.
Compared to other lizards, the Tokay has a long and semi-prehensile tail. It has a very strong bite, therefore, it is not for inexperienced owners.
There are two currently recognized subspecies of Tokay geckos:
- G. g. gecko (Linnaeus, 1758) is a gecko found in the tropical parts of Asia. These are also seen in northern India to the eastern parts of Indonesia. This species has been introduced to different parts of the United States, Madagascar and West Indies.
- G. g. azhari Martens, 1955 a gecko found only in Bangladesh
Tokay geckos can live up to 10 years and the oldest recorded specimen has lived up to 20 years. Tokays that live in captivity may live longer considering that it lives in a protected environment free from predators. However, the natural diet of the Tokay in the wild may also contribute to living a healthy, long life.
Lately, there is a rise in the capture of Tokay geckos in the wild in response to a growing demand for this as pets and also as natural medicine. In several Asian countries, the Tokay gecko is kept as good luck charms because of the belief that this lizard has descended from dragons. It is also used in Traditional Chinese medicine called Ge Jie. This traditional medicine is believed to treat conditions of the lungs and kidneys.
The illegal capture and trade of Tokay geckos have affected its population and lifespan. It is feared that soon this gecko will become a threatened species in Asia because of indiscriminate capture. Buyers, especially Chinese traditional medicine manufacturers are paying thousands of dollars for Tokay geckos with higher amounts for large specimens.
The three stages of growth of Tokay geckos are as follows
Hatchlings come out of their eggs after a long incubation period of 2 to 6 months. These hatchlings are 2 to 3 inches long and hatch very active and ready to eat anything. The first meal of Tokay gecko hatchlings is the outer covering of their skin after these are born. The mother and father take care of their little ones until these grow into juvenile lizards.
Shortly after birth, the teeth of Tokay gecko young will grow and hence these will be more capable of defending themselves from predators. Juvenile Tokays may eat other young or hatchlings of the same species. These young geckos leave their nest at 10 to 12 months after hatching.
Tokay geckos mature at 12 months and at this time, it’s ready to find a mate. There are some hallmark signs that a Tokay is ready to mate which we will discuss fully later. Males can mate with several females while females can lay eggs once a month in the breeding season. Parent Tokays are quite responsible; they care for their young until these are mature enough to leave the nest.
Outside the mating season, adult Tokays live alone. These can become aggressive when cornered or interrupted. Tokay geckos in rural human homes are often seen in ceilings or walls especially at night, searching for prey.
In the wild, Tokay geckos are hungry, smart predators and will feed on insect prey such as super worms, crickets, waxworms, mealworms and cockroaches and many more. Their method of attacking pray is patient. They stay immobile for a very long time until finally, they use their large mouths to zero in on its prey.
Meanwhile. Captive Tokays have similar diets but may also be fed with pinky mice. Some expert owners gut the mice before these are given to the lizard. Supplements are a challenge to consume and are often placed inside the mice or dusted on it.
Juvenile Tokays should be fed once a day together with calcium supplements. Adults may be fed every other day.
Tokay geckos are nocturnal creatures and hence, they sleep in the morning and hunt prey in the evening. In the wild, these lizards sleep alone in lairs, under barks of trees, rocks and small openings wherever it feels safe. Tokays sleep in a heads-down position.
When kept at home as pets, you should feed it in the evenings since it will mostly sleep in the morning. Prepare a tank or cage with some rocks or pots where it can crawl in and sleep. Keep its area quiet in the mornings so it can sleep peacefully.
Lizards like Tokay geckos love to stay in shallow water to cool down and just to take a drink. When preparing a tank or cage for your pet, place a small vat of water where it can drink. This must be replaced daily.
Geckos are maybe good swimmers but can drown in very deep water. To avoid this, simply settle with a shallow vat or pan of water in its cage or tank.
Development and Reproduction
Tokay geckos are solitary animals and will only seek company when its mating season. Mating happens fast and once the female lays her eggs, the male and female geckos will take turn guarding the egg. Many predators will gladly take the Tokay eggs so it’s a must to guard these 24/7. Also, the parents brood over the eggs to regulate temperature.
Females lay one to two eggs. She glues the egg on a surface, therefore, these won’t move and will only do so once the baby lizards hatch. One of the ways that Tokay geckos manage to travel around the world is when the eggs are stuck onto anything. A female may lay her eggs on the packaging, on furniture or any item and this may be shipped around the world!
How to Breed
If your pet Tokay has made a nest on an unlikely area in the tank or cage, do not attempt to remove the clutch. Doing so will make the female stop laying eggs. Usually, any disturbance in the things found inside the cage can lead to the female ceasing egg-laying for at least the next season.
Do not disturb the Tokay’s eggs inside the cage or tank. The female will naturally lay another pair of eggs every month or after the set and will total 6 to 8 eggs. The female will also lay in the same place where she placed the first clutch. As long as the male is inside the cage or tank, the female will continue to lay eggs.
As much as possible, remove the males on the third or fourth set to allow the female to rest. If the male remains in the tank, the female will continue to lay eggs and this can lead to nutrient deficiencies and kidney failure.
It’s not true that a Tokay will eat their eggs. Females will only eat infertile eggs as well as eggshells of previously hatched Tokays but will never eat her eggs.
And just as males are territorial. Females will compete for a male. Therefore, never place unrelated females and a single male inside a cage or tank because this won’t end well. A female will use her powerful bite to attack and bite the haunches of the unrelated female. The victim will either break her back or suffer from other serious injuries due to the fight.
Some Tokay gecko owners notice peaceful related female Tokay geckos living together with one male in large tanks or enclosures. The females use a single nest alternately but don’t do this unless the tank or cage is large enough.
Common Health Problems
Tokay geckos may suffer from the following health conditions
Similar to other lizards, Tokays are susceptible to stomatitis or mouth rot. Common symptoms of stomatitis include redness and swelling along the mouth area, oozing pus or cheese-looking discharge from the mouth. Excess saliva could indicate that your pet is suffering from a respiratory infection.
Parasitic infections on the skin as well as inside the body are common. You can tell that the lizard has a skin infection that appears as a rash or an inflamed patch of skin. Geckos are like other lizards, these shed yearly. If your Tokay has difficulty shedding then this could be another type of skin problem.
Bites and other injuries
After a fight, a Tokay gecko may suffer from severe injuries including the loss of a tail or limb. The lost limb or tail will grow back but it can take many days or weeks. Also, the bitten area may have cuts, marks and severe injuries that need immediate treatment.
If these happen, take your Tokay gecko to a vet to provide the necessary medical treatment. Your Tokay can lose blood or can suffer from irreparable injuries if you don’t act fast.
To prevent illness, take your Tokay gecko to a vet for regular check-ups and treatment. A vet can diagnose early any medical condition and to check for any nutrient problem which should be addressed fast.
Another way to prevent illness, especially injuries is to separate males from each other. If you have more than one males, create a separate enclosure for each and if possible, place their tanks or cages far from each other.
Allowing males to live side by side or even females side by side can lead to competition for the strongest and can lead to fights.
If you spot a sick male or female, take this to the vet at once to prevent the spread of the illness to other lizards.
For healthy pets, use only quality pet food. Tokay owners use fresh food to feed their precious pets. When it comes to supplements, ask your vet for the best recommendations. Some vets may recommend a different type of food for juvenile geckos as well as for adult ones.
Finally, always make it a habit to clean your Tokay gecko’s tank or cage. A dirty cage can lead to bacterial infections, parasites, and smelly odors. Your Tokay will thank you for it.
To fully understand a Tokay gecko, in case you want to have one as a pet, you need to learn all about its unique characteristics and behaviors. There are hundreds of lizard species on the planet but the Tokay gecko is unique because of the following traits:
Tokays are nocturnal. They are active at night to mate, hunt for food, to defend their territory and to eat. Don’t expect your pet gecko to get out of its lair in the morning because it will never work. And because it’s nocturnal, you must place its tank or cage in an area of your home where it’s quiet.
Good But Dangerous Bite
The bite of a Tokay gecko is so powerful it can bite very hard insects and small prey in the wild. Its powerful bite also allows it to defend its territory. The problem arises when it feels threatened because it can bite even its handler or owner. This is why Tokay geckos are not recommended for first-time lizard pet owners.
And if you want to remove a Tokay gecko who has entered your home, call animal control service or any similar agency in your country. You might end up with a nasty bite if you decide to handle this yourself.
Never allow anyone to tap the tank or provoke the Tokay gecko. This may become very aggressive and bite.
The unique call of a Tokay gecko has earned its name. It sounds like “To-Kay, To-Kay!” something that can send a thrill down your spine. Experts say that this sound is often made by the lizard when it’s mating season. The sound, similar to a loud bark, is also made when the Tokay is fighting for territory.
So, never place two male Tokays together. These lizards will make the noisiest, most annoying sound that will wake everyone up. Since the Tokay is nocturnal, keeping one in your bedroom will wake you up. It can bark loudly even in the middle of the night.
As mentioned, Tokay geckos are very territorial and thus will fight any gecko or any animal for that matter, to defend its territory. It can fight hard for its space and when it’s engaged in a fight, you can expect a bloody end.
Lizards like the Tokay can fight by biting the tail and the legs of their enemies. Their strong bites can injure their opponents severely until they lose a tail or a leg. But don’t worry about this because just like other lizards, a Tokay can grow his tailback.
Tokay geckos can even remove its tail on purpose when it feels threatened when grabbed by the tail. It can take many weeks though especially when the gecko is older and has a bigger body.
If you’re looking for a cuddly pet then a Tokay gecko is not the best choice! It detests hugs, cuddles, and petting because it feels like it is being captured or threatened. You’ll likely get bitten if you want to wrap your arms around a large Tokay.
Some experts say that a part of having lizards as a pet is knowing how to handle one. Just relax, don’t grip too hard but make sure not to drop them. Hold your pet more often so they’ll get used to it.
Tokay geckos are champion climbers. These have pads that allow them to stick to any surface even rough cement walls. These pads will help Tokays remain vertical for a very long time. Contrary to the belief that a Tokay can jump off walls and stick to your skin, the lizard may be happy to be alone stuck to a wall or tree instead.
Do Tokay Geckos Hibernate?
Tokay geckos don’t hibernate. Tokay’s are indigenous to Southeast Asia and here, there are no winters or cold climates. Tropical climates like Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, and others have a warm climate almost all year and thus you should keep your geckos warm all year as well.
If you live in a country where you enjoy winter and fall, it’s a must to keep your pet Tokay under a lamp to maintain its body temperature. Tokays are cold-blooded and cannot produce body heat to keep them warm during wintertime. These animals rely on their environment to maintain their body temperatures which is important for the lizard’s digestion and metabolism.
When a Tokay gecko is kept in a cold environment, it can suffer from pneumonia, poor appetite, and indigestion. This can even kill your gecko. Tank or cage temperatures should be between 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and should be checked and maintained during the winter.
So as early as fall, check your lizard’s cage to ensure that the lights, reflectors, and thermostat are all working well to keep your Tokay nice and warm.
Tokay geckos will shed their skin as they live. Juvenile geckos will shed more often compared to older lizards. This is because younger geckos tend to outgrow their skin. Usually, a healthy adult may shed their skins every five weeks.
Shedding is complete in just 24 hours but may also extend up to two days. Shedding may also be painful for geckos especially when the tank temperature is too hot or too cold. You will know that your gecko is about to shed its skin when it is agitated. It may refuse to be held and may become aggressive.
If you spot this, leave your gecko alone. Just a few minutes before shedding, their skin will look very pale. The skin will shed in fragments and it is common for Tokays to eat their old skin. Experts say that Tokay’s eat their skin because this is nutritious (a good source of protein) and is also a way to prevent predators from knowing where they are.
During the shedding phase, your pet may refuse to eat. This is natural so you don’t need to worry. Just make sure that there is enough nutritious food after they have shed. Offer mealworms, crickets, and other nutritious insects after shedding will help build their energy levels.
In the wild, Tokay geckos live happily on the floor and trees of the rainforests of Southeast Asia. It prefers to remain on land where it can look for insects and small animals. Tokays are among the largest species of geckos and therefore may need a large 20-gallon tank.
Take note that this large tank is only for one gecko. Place one gecko for each tank since these lizards are highly-territorial. You must have another tank or cage where females can lay eggs and where hatchlings may also stay.
Inside the cage or tank, place strong branches where your Tokay can climb but not very near the edge of the tank that your gecko may escape. Use potted plants to provide foliage or you may use plastic plants instead.
Geckos love to sleep in crevices, holes and anywhere there’s the cover. You can add logs, tree barks, and large rocks so your gecko can sleep during the daytime. Create “hiding spots” so it can crawl in, be comfortable and sleep.
The tank or cage should have a strong and secure lid. Tokays are strong and may pop the lid open easily. An escaped gecko may become stressed as it wanders in your home so always keep the lid of your Tokay tank secure and locked.
Lighting and Humidity
You must keep your tank at 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit at nighttime. You don’t need a UVB bulb because these creatures are active at night. Use an incandescent bulb for daytime heating. A reptile bulb or a ceramic bulb should be used for nighttime heating.
To provide tank heating, use a heating pad. Maintain humidity levels at 70% by spraying the tank with a mister. Don’t allow the humidity to drop below 80%. Use the ideal substrate to maintain tank humidity. A digital thermometer and hygrometer can help monitor the temperature and humidity more accurately.
Tank Bedding and Accessories
Consider using orchid barks or coconut husks as a substrate. These materials will retain moisture better and will also be a soft and comfortable place for your lizard to remain in. During shedding, you can line the tank with paper towels. This is soft and comfortable for your Tokay plus will make clean-up easy. Use natural paper towels and not those that have designs or colors.
Tank cleanliness and sanitation is important to keep your Tokay gecko healthy and fit. You need a
cleaning schedule and use the best materials to thoroughly clean the tank. Cage maintenance should be done daily, weekly and every month.
Spot cleaning needs to be done daily by removing poop or dirt that you may find. Clean the substrate or change it as necessary depending on the type of substrate you are using. If you’re using paper towels, change these at least once or twice a week. Wash the tank with warm water and soap using a soft brush. Wash the tank as well as all the accessories inside it.
The food and water bowls should be washed twice a week. Check the tank for any dead insects or poop hiding inside the nooks and crevices.
There are many different cleaning products you can use to thoroughly clean a Tokay tank. First, are disinfectants which are antimicrobial products that can be used to clean accessories and the tank itself. A disinfectant product does more than just clean but it will kill viruses, spores, protozoa, and bacteria. The most common disinfectant is bleach and you need to mix this with water before use.
Meanwhile, sanitizers are also cleaning products that mainly remove microorganisms in the tank but you need to use a cleaning product beforehand. Finally, sterilization is the process of removing microorganisms including fungi and spores using chemicals, steam or boiling water.
After using any of these cleaning techniques, use paper towels to dry the tank interiors and exterior dry before placing the accessories in and before you place the gecko back in its home.
Place a shallow dish of water inside its tank so that your Tokay geckos may drink. Use a wide heavy bowl made of clay or porcelain so that it won’t be knocked over by the large lizard. Change this water often as it can harbor dangerous bacteria that can cause sickness.
Geckos may also swim in large pans of water but not in deep tank water. It may splash around, just enjoy being in the water for a while. Change this water often as well. Make sure that the water you used for drinking and for splashing around is safe to use for your pet.
Availability – Where to Get One?
Tokay geckos are very popular pets and may be purchased from a local pet store or an online shop. However, because of conservation efforts and its cultural significance, it may be very expensive to buy one. You may also end up paying for more online because of shipment fees.
In some countries like the Philippines, the Tokay gecko is fast becoming a threatened species because of indiscriminate hunting. In this country, collection, transporting and the trade of Tokays as well as other gecko species should be done with a license. Without a license, you may be fined a million Philippine pesos and jailed for 12 years in violation of Republic Act 9147.
But despite these efforts, illegal trade exists. The number of illegal traders has continuously increased over the years. Poachers are lured by lucrative trading deals with Chinese buyers who are willing to pay a huge sum of money for large Tokay gecko specimens.
How to Care for a Bearded Dragon?
Here are some tips on how to care for a Tokay gecko
Keep the tank heated
Tokay geckos cannot regulate body heat because they are cold-blooded animals. Use a heating mat and an efficient lamp to provide comfortable radiant heat inside the tank.
Keep the tank humid
Use water sprayer and mist the inside of the tank often to maintain humidity. Use a digital hygrometer to check for humidity levels. Take note that humidity can easily go down if the tank is too warm or hot so check this often.
Always keep the tank clean, create a regular cleaning schedule
Parasitic and bacterial infections of the skin and gut are usually due to dirty surroundings. You can avoid these by keeping the gecko tank clean. Go from spot cleaning, daily, weekly and monthly general cleaning. Keep in mind that it can be hard to tell if your pet is sick so prevention is the best.
Leave the Tokay alone when it’s shedding
Shedding happens every few weeks and this can be very painful for your gecko. As much as you want to help it, it’s best to leave it alone. Shedding is a natural process so don’t be alarmed. Just support your pet by leaving a bowl of food after it is done shedding. It won’t eat as this happens but after it has shed, it will be very tiring and very hungry.
Feed high protein food
Tokays require protein-rich food, especially during the juvenile phase. Sneak in supplements by dusting insects and mice with supplement powder or placing a pill or tablet inside mice. Give it a variety of foods so it can develop a good appetite.
Don’t place the tank in a high traffic area at home
Never place the tank in the living room, kitchen or playroom. Tokays are night animals and will appreciate it if you place it in a quiet area where it can sleep and recuperate in the morning. The basement is a good place to place a Tokay tank because it’s very quiet and where it can be still all day long.
Remove males to save females
When males are left for a longer time with females, the female will continuously lay eggs and this is not good for her health. She could end up very tired and spent. So after two or three clutches, remove the male and place it inside another tank or cage.
Don’t provoke your pet
Never provoke a Tokay or else suffer a nasty bite. Handle it with care. Use a thick glove if you’re new to handling a gecko. Use a comfortable hold and don’t squeeze too hard so it won’t feel threatened. The more you handle your gecko and support it as you pick it up the more it will feel secure.
Monitor the growth and development of your pet
You must have a diary of your pet’s growth and development. Use a measuring tape or ruler and just stick this along the bottom of the tank to easily measure your pet. Use a small weighing scale to check for its weight. Observe any changes in the skin, eye color, mouth color, and overall temperament.
Take it to a vet for any medical emergency
Any noticeable medical problem should be consulted right away. A vet that specializes in reptile care would be the best option.
Wash your hands after handling a Tokay gecko
Wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling your pet. This minimizes the spread of any disease that your pet may have and to avoid contaminating your pet’s tank as well.
How much does a Tokay gecko usually cost?
A Tokay gecko is one of the most common yet very expensive geckos online and offline. The price can be as expensive as $100 or more for larger Tokays. The price may depend on the size, age and the gender of the specimen.
How big can Tokay geckos get?
Tokay geckos can be as large as 12 to 14 inches when mature. Males are larger than females and may live long in the wild than in captivity.
Are Tokay geckos poisonous?
Don’t be too worried about the intense color of the Tokay gecko because this is not poisonous. However, these can bite if stressed so be careful in handling them.
Can you tame a Tokay gecko?
Some pet owners claim that the Tokay may be tamed and should be done early during the juvenile stage. And if you want to train it, do it when it is healthy, well-acclimated and is not shedding.
Why is a Tokay gecko dark or light in color?
Tokays and other geckos can blend into their environment; this is a defense mechanism known as camouflage. Some geckos will also change color because of stress. Tokays can become very pale in color right before it sheds its skin; it can become darker in color when provoked.
Will Tokay geckos eat fruit and vegetables?
Tokay geckos prefer to eat insects such as mealworms, super worms, cockroaches and crickets. They may refuse to eat fruits and vegetables.
Can you keep male Tokay geckos together?
Tokays are very territorial and will fight for their territory if they can. Therefore, you should never keep males together otherwise, they will fight and become injured.
How long can Tokay geckos go without any food?
In the wild, Tokays can go for 10 days to a few weeks without eating but as much as possible don’t do this to your pet. It may refuse to eat anything while shedding and when in stress.
Can female Tokay geckos make the sound of the male species?
Yes, female Tokays are capable of making the sound that males make but they rarely do it.