Updated: September 26, 2021 by Jennifer Munsell
Geckos are one of the best pet lizards to own. They are really cool to look at, and many of them are a breeze to care for, especially for a novice reptile enthusiast. There are 1,850 species of geckos all over the world, so you might be thinking: Which species of gecko is the best to keep as a pet?
In this guide, we have broken down our top 10 choices for the best gecko pets into two categories: arboreal and terrestrial.
Arboreal geckos are adapted to life way above the ground. They live among the branches and leaves of trees, so their habitats need plenty of vertical space and branches to climb on. Terrestrial geckos, on the other hand, spend most of their lives low to the ground and do not do much climbing at all.
Our list includes the giant day gecko, crested gecko, leopard gecko, leachianus gecko (commonly known simply as “leachie geckos”), Chinese cave gecko, Australian knob-tailed gecko, African fat-tailed gecko, chahoua gecko, gargoyle gecko, and the frog-eyed gecko.
Read on to find out which of these lizard’s needs best suit yours and will make the best gecko pet!
The Best Gecko Pets: Arboreal Species
Arboreal animals have specially adapted bodies that help them live in the branches and leaves of trees and other plant life. Many species of geckos are specially adapted for an arboreal lifestyle because of their light, flexible bodies and sticky toe pads.
Their toe pads are covered in tiny hairs called setae. The setae allow them to ‘stick’ to glass, walls, ceilings, and leaves so they can climb easily without falling down.
Putting an arboreal gecko in a terrestrial-style tank and not providing them with ample vertical space to climb and hide out in leaves will cause them stress and shorten their lifespan. It is important to keep this in mind when deciding on the right gecko for your lifestyle. For example, do you have enough space to accommodate a tall tank ideal for an arboreal gecko?
Additionally, having an arboreal gecko as a pet is the perfect opportunity for you to set up a bioactive enclosure. Bioactive enclosures allow your gecko to live in a mostly self-sustaining environment that is very similar to its natural environment. These enclosures also look really interesting to humans!
1. Crested Gecko
The crested gecko is known as the most popular gecko to own, second only to the wildly popular leopard gecko. They are adorable creatures that make great interactive pets. They have little crests along their eyebrows that run down the sides of their bodies, hence their names.
They are nocturnal geckos that love to jump around their enclosure. You will find great pleasure in handling them because they are generally slower-moving lizards except for when they jump. They will jump from hand to hand or from hand to face if you aren’t careful!
This jumping behavior is awesome to watch; however, it is the leading cause of injuries to crested geckos. If you’re looking for a gecko you can take out and play with, make sure you always handle your crested gecko over a flat, yet soft, cushioned surface so that if they jump and miss their mark, they will land safely and not fall very far to the floor.
A crested gecko’s tail is semi-prehensile and has a toepad on the end! One major drawback for some people is that the crested gecko drops its tail very easily. Once a crested gecko has dropped its tail, it cannot grow it back. This is a defense mechanism designed to give them extra time to run away from predators in the wild if they’re in a tight spot. They simply drop their tail, distract the predator with it, and run to safety!
Cresteds are easy to care for and do not require very complex setups, making them great for beginner reptile keepers. However, they do need to be misted with cool water daily, as this is where they get most of their water content from. They will not drink from standing water; instead, they drink up droplets on leaves, the sides of their enclosure, and even their arms!
Feeding cresteds is a dream! They can be fed a solid diet of prepackaged gecko food. This powdered food is packed with nutrients and protein, and all you have to do is mix it with some water. You can offer them some fruit, too!
2. Giant Day Gecko
The giant day gecko is the largest of all the day geckos. It is a diurnal gecko, which means it is mostly active during the day. This gecko is a vivid green color and is speckled with brilliant red markings.
The giant day gecko is a beautiful gecko to keep as a display animal. It is large, brightly colored, and active during the day. When you walk past or go to feed it, it will often climb up the glass and show interest in you.
Giant day geckos should be fed on a diet that includes live insect feeders such as crickets and dubia roaches, as well as a prepackaged gecko diet food because it contains essential nutrients.
However, if you are looking for a gecko you can frequently handle, then carry on looking down this list. This is because giant day geckos do not do particularly well with handling, as they are rather skittish. They can drop their tails and regrow them like many other species of geckos, but they are also able to slough off their skin if they are held too tightly or are desperate to escape.
If a stunning reptile with simple care requirements is what you are after, then this is the gecko for you. Just don’t expect them to cuddle up with you!
3. Gargoyle Gecko
The gargoyle gecko is very similar to the crested gecko in terms of care and behavior. It is small even as an adult and only requires a 20-gallon enclosure. Like the cresteds, it can drop its tail. However, it will grow back! The regrown tail does not look like the original, though, and won’t be as long.
Gargoyle geckos are named such because of their moss-covered-stone appearance. Their skins are mottled and almost pixelated-looking in blacks, grays, and browns with red and orange markings on them.
Gargoyles are less common than cresteds; however, they are as easy to care for and are great for newbie gecko owners.
4. Leachianus ‘Leachie’ Gecko
The leachianus or ‘leachie’ gecko is one of the biggest geckos around; they can reach over a foot in length! This means they need more space, more food, and more care when handling.
Some leachies love handling and can bond very well with their owners. However, some leachies have spicy personalities and will refuse to be handled at all. They are bigger than most of the other geckos on this list, which means they have a painful bite.
Even though your leachie may not enjoy being handled, they are still great geckos to have as pets. They are easy to take care of, with similar care requirements to the cresteds and the gargoyles mentioned above.
A big bonus of this big gecko is that they hardly ever drop their tails. Many leachie owners have never seen a leachie with a dropped tail! These geckos are mottled green and brown with black and white markings that break up their shape to help them hide from predators in the trees in their natural habitat.
These are some of the most vocal geckos, and they will chirp, yip, and bark at you! Combine this with their wrinkly faces and cautious personalities, and you have a long-lived (20 years!) grandpa-style gecko!
5. Chahoua ‘Chewie’ Gecko/Mossy New Caledonian Gecko
The Chahoua or chewie gecko, also sometimes known as the mossy New Caledonian gecko or the short-snouted New Caledonian gecko, has many names, and it looks like a unique mishmash of the crested gecko, the gargoyle gecko, and the leachie gecko. Its snout and tail tip is similar to the gargoyle, its tail shape and eyelashes are similar to the crested, and its coloration is similar to the leachie.
The chewie gecko closely resembles a patch of moss on a branch, which helps them hide from predators in the wild. They move very slowly in a chameleon-like fashion and rarely dart around or jump like their crested cousins.
This behavior makes them amazing specimens for handling. If you are gentle and keep an eye out for the odd unexpected leap, then handling this gecko is a very chilled-out experience. It will allow you to really study your pet up close and personal, provided you properly socialize them.
Chewies do well on a prepackaged powder gecko diet and need a daily misting so they can lap up the water droplets, as they don’t like drinking from free-standing water.
The Best Terrestrial Geckos for Pets
Terrestrial animals are adapted to life on the ground, and some even live underneath it! Terrestrial geckos have specially adapted bodies that allow them to live on land. They do not have the ‘sticky’ toe pads of their arboreal cousins. Instead, they have little claws on their feet.
Another adaptation that sets them apart from arboreal geckos is their legs are usually longer, thinner, and stick out of their bodies. This allows them to lift themselves up off hot sand and run quite fast.
Terrestrial geckos need enclosures that are longer or wider than they are tall. In their enclosures, they should still have hides, longs, or other fun things that they can run around on, climb over, and explore.
6. Leopard Gecko
Leopard geckos are at the top of everyone’s favorite lizard list! That is because they make wonderful pets, especially for beginners and children looking for their first pet lizard.
These little geckos are easy to care for, fun to handle, and they chip and squeak to get your attention! Plus, they have adorable little faces, and they are a pleasure to watch run around their enclosure having fun or hunting their live feeders.
Leopard geckos are so popular that they have been selectively bred to come in many different morphs. Their coloration can range from nearly translucent, to yellow with black markings, to white with black markings, to solid colored with no markings at all.
Because they are so popular and frequently bred, they are very cheap and easy to find. Even many of the beautifully colored morphs won’t cost you an arm or a leg. Including their setup costs of a 20 to 30-gallon tank, some basic substrate, a couple of hides, and a temperature/humidity gauge, these geckos are the most cost-efficient of the lot.
They are purely insectivorous and thus need live feeder insects. They can be fed crickets, dubia roaches, Phoenix worms (black soldier fly larvae), or superworms. As a treat, they can also get a butterworm or a few waxworms once in a while.
Leopard geckos are also known to drop their tails; however, they do not do it often unless they are in dire circumstances. Their tails are one of the main fat stores on their bodies, and they do not drop them unless they feel threatened or their tail is hurt. They will grow it back slowly over time, though!
7. African Fat-Tailed Gecko
African fat-tailed geckos (often known simply as AFTs) are very similar to leopard geckos. They could be mistaken for the same species if not for their coloration differences.
AFTs and leopard geckos can both live for around 10 to 15+ years, so they will become part of your family for a long time. AFTs love being handled, and they are easy to handle for a newbie herper. Bonding with your AFT is a fun experience.
These geckos are also insectivores and can eat a diet of crickets, dubia roaches, and Phoenix worms, just to name a few.
If you want a long-lived, active gecko that loves a good cuddle, then this is the one for you!
8. Frog-Eyed Gecko
The frog-eyed gecko is not very popular because they are a little more difficult to get your hands on. However, they make fantastic pets for herp enthusiasts who have successfully kept leopard and African fat-tailed geckos in the past.
They need a little more attention than other ground-dwelling geckos, but they give back to their owners by being incredibly inquisitive and engaged in the world around them.
They are primarily yellow to tan in color, sometimes white, with dark brown markings along their backs. They are very active and will often race around their enclosures for exercise.
If you are wanting a gecko you can easily handle, though, the frog-eyed gecko is not the one for you. They are easily stressed by handling and prefer to watch the world around them rather than participate in it. They can live for up to 20 years, so make sure you are ready for this commitment!
8. Chinese Cave Gecko
Chinese cave geckos are becoming more popular in the pet industry. That is because they make stunning pets! They look very similar to leopard geckos and African fat-tailed geckos, except for their coloring.
These geckos look epic, almost like the more goofy and dorky leopard gecko’s cool biker cousin.
They come in solid black with red markings, gray with yellow and black banding, speckled gray and black with red markings, etc. They truly are spectacular geckos to look at. This is all topped off with the fact that they have red eyes!
They are easy to take care of, feed on the same diet as the leopard gecko, and have the same handling requirements. The biggest difference is price because they are not as common.
10. Knob-Tailed Gecko
Last but certainly not least is the Australian knob-tailed gecko. This gecko has one of the most bizarre-looking tails in the animal kingdom. It is round with what looks like a worm (the knob) sticking out of it.
They are relatively new to the pet industry, so they can be fairly expensive. They are also the only lizard on this list that can be kept by reptile owners in Australia!
If you are gentle with their delicate skin, they are great to handle. They are quite unique and with their big round eyes, pudgy heads, and narrow bodies. Sitting with them on your hand for 20 minutes or so every day will be a treat.
They have simple care needs, similar to the leopard gecko, so a newbie herper can care for them with a little bit of extra research.
FAQs About Gecko Pets
Do all geckos need UVB lighting?
Most diurnal geckos like day geckos should receive some UVB lighting. This is because they would have exposure to the sun in the wild while they are active during the daytime, so they need an equivalent amount of UV rays in captivity.
Nocturnal geckos and crepuscular geckos such as leopard geckos do not necessarily need UVB lighting. They would not receive this in the wild as they are mostly active at night. However, UVB lighting will not hurt them, and it may allow you to see their coloration better.
What is a healthy photocycle for geckos?
A photocycle refers to the schedule of light and dark that your gecko gets each day. A normal photocycle for most geckos is 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark.
If you have lights installed in your gecko’s enclosure, then they should be on a timer to avoid them being left on and causing your gecko stress. You could also set an alarm each day to remind you when to turn the lights on and off manually.
Can I keep multiple geckos together?
Certain species can be very territorial and prefer to be alone, such as Tokay geckos.
However, if you have a large enough enclosure with multiple hides and feeding spots, then it is possible to house multiple frog-eyed geckos, leopard geckos, crested geckos, or giant day geckos within the same tank. It all depends on the species of gecko you intend on adopting.
Can I use sand as the substrate in my gecko’s enclosure?
In general, you should not use sand as a substrate in your terrestrial gecko’s enclosure. Sand and many other loose substrates can be ingested and block the digestive tract, causing impaction, which can cause serious harm and even be fatal.
Instead, you should use flat, non-loose alternatives like tiles or reptile carpets that are easy to clean and your gecko cannot accidentally ingest.
How do I set up a bioactive enclosure?
Bioactive enclosures can be hugely beneficial to whichever reptile you are keeping as long as they still meet the habitat requirements for that reptile. Although they can be tricky and time-consuming to set up, particularly for beginners, they look great and are worth it if you’re willing to do some extra research.
The basics of a bioactive enclosure are:
- Having a good drainage layer
- Maintaining healthy plant life and preventing rotting
- Maintaining good ventilation to prevent mold from growing
- Keeping a comprehensive cleanup crew of isopods and superworms
Do I need to feed my gecko a supplement?
Yes, most geckos require a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement. Although they do not need as much calcium as a bearded dragon does, for example, a lack of these supplements will lead to metabolic bone disease. MBD is painful, irreversible, and fatal in severe cases.
Even if you feed your gecko the prepackaged, powdered gecko diet food that contains all of the protein and most of the nutrients it needs, you still need to give your gecko additional calcium and D3 supplements to ensure their bones and muscles stay strong and healthy.
Hope this information will help you make the best decision when it comes to choosing the gecko for you. That is why we compiled this guide on the best geckos to keep as pets just for you!
Our top 10 best pet geckos are by no means the only geckos that make good pets. There are many unique varieties of geckos out there, such as other types of day geckos, the tokay gecko, house geckos, and flying geckos that all make great pets depending on your experience level and preferences. The ones we listed above are just our personal favorites!