Tokay geckos are an arboreal species of gecko commonly available in the pet trade. They are one of the largest species of geckos. Tokays are typically a blue-gray base color with orange spots. They’re known for their aggressive attitude and named for their mating call which is a very distinct “TO-Kay!” sound. They are one of few species that will actually bark when threatened. They’re also a very popular form of pest control in the home. Some people release them in their house and they will thrive on eating insects and other small pests around the home.
Tokay geckos are native to southeast Asia; wild populations are now thriving in Florida as well due to escaped pets and being released by the owners.
Being an arboreal species from a tropical climate, tokays spend much of their time hiding above the ground. In the wild, they will rarely feel the need to go near the ground. They are strictly nocturnal–sleeping during the day and exploring/feeding at night.
Adult tokays average between 12-14″ total length, usually closer to 12″. Hatchlings are generally only an inch or two in length.
Tokay geckos are known for their aggressive attitude. They’re often very nervous, extremely fast (when spooked, they may disappear in the blink of an eye), and will not hesitate to bite. They have been nicknamed “The Pitbull of the Gecko World.” Tokays will usually gape and bark when they feel threatened. Their bites can be quite bloody and extremely painful…especially when the gecko decides to clamp and refuses to let go, clamping down harder every time you try to work your finger free.
It is not known exactly how long tokays may live in captivity. I personally have seen a tokay that was obtained as a wild-caught adult and was still perfectly healthy 10 years later. It measured 16″ in length with a section of its tail missing. One of the oldest tokays on record was at least 23 years old.
Hatchlings will readily eat pinhead/small crickets.
Adults will readily eat crickets, locusts, roaches, large mealworms/superworms, and the occasional pinkie mouse (as an occasional treat or to give females that extra boost of calcium during the breeding season).
Insects MUST be dusted with a calcium and multivitamin powder at least once every two to three feedings in order to prevent tokays from getting MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease). This is usually necessary with many species of reptiles.
Tokays like it on the warm side. A daytime temperature of 75*F on the cool side and 90*F on the warm side would be best. This can be achieved by using a red bulb, higher wattage incandescent bulb, or a ceramic heat emitter. I have found that heat rocks/under tank heaters tend to work fairly well and also help to boost the humidity when combined with a daily misting. Nighttime temps should be between 70*F and 80*F (preferably around 75*F). Since tokays are strictly nocturnal, a basking spot and/or uv lamp is not necessary, although they have been known to occasionally bask under a lamp in larger enclosures when a basking spot is provided.
Tokays need fairly high humidity (70% to 90% recommended; no lower than 50%). Misting the cage once or twice daily should provide sufficient humidity. If you use a soil substrate (I have personally found ORGANIC peat to work perfectly–I stress the word ‘organic’ as substrates with added fertilizers can be fatal to your gecko) with live/artificial plants, you should have no problems with a daily misting. A screen top should also be used rather than a solid top as a solid top will prevent the cage from receiving adequate airflow and you’ll find that everything inside the cage molds very quickly.
Minimum Required Space
Tokay geckos tend to do best in larger enclosures. The absolute minimum enclosure size recommended is a 20-gallon high aquarium for a pair. However, tokays in smaller enclosures are typically more agressive and territorial. With tokays, bigger is always better. When kept in very large cages, they are noticeably more social with their cage mates as well as much easier to breed. They also tend to be less aggressive toward their handlers.
Tokays do best in pairs or in groups of one male to multiple females. It is not recommended to house multiple males together unless you have a very large enclosure with many hides as males tend to be territorial and will frequently fight, which may result in death.
I have never successfully bred tokay geckos so rather than typing up a bunch of information off the top of my head that may not be anywhere near accurate, I’m going to paste the information from Chris Newsom, a fellow reptile hobbyist who I know has produced some beautiful tokay geckos.
Breeding may occur most months of the year in captivity, and is stimulated by lowered barometric pressure and misting. Tokays don’t require much breeding preparation, other than good body weight to stimulate breeding activities. In order to get mine breeding I mist them every other day during the fall and feed like crazy until November. Once November hits I mist only 2-3 times a week and reduce feeding to 3-4 times a week. The photoperiod is also adjust to what it is outside. If the sun rises at 6:45 am, their light and all my other lizard lights are going on at 6:45 am. And if the sun sets at 7 pm, their lights are going off at 7 pm. This lets them know what time of year it is. Around early March I start misting and feeding every other day again and come April I’m feeding and misting every day. By late April or May I get my first clutch of eggs and about 1 month after that time I’m averaging a clutch a month from the female. This lasts until about August. Hatching takes about 3 months exactly maybe give or take a day or 2. The hatchlings go through a post-hatching shed within 24 hours of shedding and 5 days later they are eating crickets. Hatchling care is the same for adults, keep them humid and warm basically.
Never buy a tokay expecting to “tame” (I use this word very loosely) it down. Tokays usually will remain aggressive their entire life. Most people have not been able to succeed in taming their tokays by handling them; they’ve only succeeded in losing a lot of skin and blood. With a lot of work and dedication, I do believe tokays can be worked with enough to TOLERATE some handling, however, you must understand that they are by no means “tame” and may still turn around and tag you. I have owned many tokays and have yet to own one that didn’t tolerate mild handling. I wouldn’t consider any of them “tame” but I could usually handle them and not end up missing a chunk of my finger.
If you wish to try and get your tokay(s) to be tolerant to handling, I feel the key to it all is gentleness. If you try and pick up your tokay by grabbing it around its belly from behind and hanging onto it’s neck with your thumb on its head to keep it from turning around and locking it’s jaws onto your knuckle, it’s going to be aggressive towards you. However, if you pick it up very loosely and continue to hold it very loosely with minimal restrictions, it will be much less aggressive. When you first begin, you shouldn’t work with your tokay for more than a few minutes…it will stress very easily and stress can easily kill a gecko. As it gets adjusted to the handling, gradually keep it out for longer and longer periods of time. I used to get mine out and lay on my bed watching tv, letting my tokay sit on my chest with my hand lightly cupped over it to keep it from getting scared and taking off running. I have been working with my current pair of tokays for almost a year now. One is just now starting to tolerate handling while the other was tolerant of handling after only a few short months–all tokays are different though.
The Reptile and Amphibian Problem Solver by Robert & Valerie Davies (Published by Tetra Press, 1997).
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