You’ve gone on-line, spoken with folks at the pet store, or friends that own reptiles to researched the purchase of your first gecko. You’ve purchased the enclosure and additions necessary for a healthy animal. Finally, the day comes when you purchase the gecko you’ve had your eyes on for a while or most beautiful gecko at the show. Your pet comes home with you and is introduced to its new home.
You try to remember all the points you read or talked about before the purchase but a couple days later, your new pet is not eating or is hiding all the time. What do you do now? In this article, I hope to cover those First Gecko Questions everyone has.
We’ve all been there and had the same questions. No need to feel you are not adequately caring for your new gecko. They have certain needs that are fairly basic but they also have some behaviors during those first few days that point to signs of adjustment, stress, or even ill health.
As you’ve researched their needs, a proper enclosure has been selected and setup before bringing them home. The heat is adequate to their needs. The correct type and number of hides have been added (terrestrial or arboreal-tree climbing). Dishes have been added if the species need vitamin supplements, water, etc. Lighting is appropriate for the gecko as some are nocturnal and do not require direct lighting and others roam during the day and may need special UVB lighting requirements.
Another point you’ve probably read or talked about before bringing your pet home is that it should be quarantined from other animals. This is best for the new animal and for any existing reptiles you might already have. Never introduce a new gecko into the enclosure where others are living. This is important from a health standpoint and will eliminate the new animal from being bullied by the existing animals in the enclosure.
When you introduce the gecko to its new home, it is very normal for it to quickly find the deepest, darkest hiding place and spend a couple of days there. It’s best to allow it to acclimate on its own. Excessive handling at this time will only add stress to the gecko. The most important activity you want to see from your gecko during the first few weeks is drinking and eating. Once a feeding pattern is established you can feel more comfortable handling your new pet.*
“My new gecko isn’t eating. What should I do?!?” is a very common question I hear from new owners. They have gone about giving their new animal the best care they can only to have the gecko ignore offered food! Well, this might not be a problem. Again, geckos may not eat the first couple of days. They are adjusting. Once they feel comfortable, they will eat. The best advice I can give the new owner is to monitor the situation. Only introduce a couple of insects at a time. Watch to see if they are being eaten before adding more. Make sure there are no hiding places for the insects. If you are feeding the mixed diets for crested geckos (highly suggested), mix it up a bit more watery then normal so it lasts a bit longer. Watch for any signs of excrement. If you find feces, they are eating! You may not see them eating but they are. If however, they have not eaten after 3 or 4 days, you should consult the internet to confirm their requirements and give the prior owner a call. They should be able to tell you whether there were any special requirements not discussed at the time of the sale or if you are doing anything differently than they were. Another great source for troubleshooting at this time can be internet forums such as Repashy.com, reptilerooms, faunaclassified, or geckoforums.net. If the animal goes longer than 5 or 6 days not eating, there is something else at work stressing the gecko, or there may be a potential illness. At 6-7 days without food, it is advisable to take the gecko in to a vet for a check.
While we all especially enjoy watching our animals eat, it is actually just as important, if not more, to keep your new gecko hydrated. The younger the gecko, the increased importance this becomes. Whether they require a dish or a misting once a day, this need must be met. For young geckos, I like to add a paper towel in their new enclosure and keep this moist. I feel this acts as a source for water as I’ve seen them lapping at the towel, and serves as a source of moisture needed as younger geckos shed more often than older geckos.
While there seems to be a number of requirements with owning a new gecko, there really are only a few that will insure a healthy, long lived pet.
In summary, some notes to remember about your new pet:
- Assure the gecko’s enclosure is setup correctly- proper heat, hides, dishes
- Always quarantine (no other animals in their new enclosure)
- Minimize handling the first week- even though this is very difficult
- Hydrate- have water available in dishes or mist (depending on the needs of the specific gecko)
- Eating- the gecko may not eat the first day or two. Watch for signs of excrement
*Important Note- when your gecko is being handled, never squeeze the animal. This WILL cause internal injuries and might be fatal to the gecko. Always closely supervise young handlers and encourage them to allow the gecko to walk/jump from hand to hand.