“Can I make room in my heart for a gecko?” joked my hubby Pat.
When an overwhelmed Marine-wife friend of ours asked if we’d adopt her family’s pet, a house gecko, how could I say “no”? The woman is parenting three little kids alone for a year while her husband is stationed abroad. But what do I know about geckos?
“House geckos [$6.99 each] are an easy lizard to get started with,” offered Ryan, salesman at Pet Kingdom in the Sports Arena area (619-224-2841). “There are others that are just as easy but a little more friendly, as far as handling goes. Like the crested gecko and the leopard gecko — those are easy to keep, a little bigger than the house geckos, and easy to handle.
“The house gecko is a uniformly brown-colored lizard, a typical-looking lizard,” Ryan continued. “Very hardy. They grow to three and a half to four inches, and they live for a few years. They have sensitive skin; they don’t really like being handled. They are not a lizard that would be easy to take out of the tank.
“These guys are nocturnal. They’re hiding a lot during the day and coming out at night. So regular daytime-to-nighttime temperature drops [here in San Diego] are usually adequate for them.”
Ryan recommended a glass tank, nothing less than a 10-gallon ($24). “An 18-gallon tall tank, which has the same footprint as a 10-gallon, would be what I would recommend for a couple of geckos. They are an arboreal species — they live in trees — so they like to be up.
“You are going to be misting these guys a couple times a week. It adds a little bit of humidity and aids with shedding. Also, a lot of geckos don’t drink out of water dishes very well. They don’t see standing water as water, so whenever you mist down the tank it leaves little droplets on the side and on their cage decorations for them to drink.”
As for bedding, “You don’t want anything that’s going to rot or mold whenever it gets wet. You want a coconut fiber or a bark.”
“I like orchid bark — clean, small chips,” said David, one of the owners of Animal House Pet Store in North Park (619-295-8834). “I put live houseplants in the tank and leave the plants in the pots because then they’re easy to water.”
For one to two geckos, “I like a ten-gallon terrarium [$31.99]. You can even put three in there if you have a lot of foliage. A lot of people say that geckos don’t need a roommate, but I think they do.”
With regard to food, “We sell live crickets — 15 crickets for a dollar. House geckos would get small crickets. I recommend throwing 15 to 20 crickets in there a couple times a week.”
House geckos ($6.99 each) like a warm environment. “They like the tank in the upper 70s, low 80s. So if your house gets cooler than that in the winter, then you do need to do heating on them.”
As for cleaning the tank, “One to two geckos, you can go probably 30 days if you clean out the dead crickets. More geckos than that, you would have to clean it every two weeks. Wipe down the glass, also, because they do have a tendency of pooping on the glass.”
“I would recommend a different gecko for a beginner lizard owner,” said Ramy at Reptile City in Mission Valley (619-280-7387). “I’d go with either a crested gecko or a leopard gecko because most of those are captive bred. We don’t like to encourage people catching animals out in the wild. All of our geckos are hatched out of an egg in an incubator. When it’s born out of the egg and opened up into a cage, that’s all the gecko really knows, and it lives longer. The leopard gecko or the crested gecko can live 20 years in captivity.”
Leopard geckos and crested geckos run $50 to $100 at Reptile City. “The price depends on whether it’s a male or a female and the coloration. Certain colors are more expensive.”
Ramy filled me in on the leopard and crested gecko. “The leopard gecko originally comes from Pakistan. They live between the rocks and sand, so that’s the kind of environment you want to duplicate. They eat crickets or worms. Crested geckos come from a small island off New Zealand called New Caledonia. They eat crickets and a little bit of fruit.”