How Long Do Geckos Live as Pets (+How to Extend Their Life)

Updated: September 26, 2021 by Jennifer Munsell

How Long Do Geckos Live

You may have glanced at that tan house gecko in your home or garden and wondered about gecko lifespans. For example, how long do geckos live? Do all species have the same lifespan? Do they live longer in captivity as pets than they would in the wild?

Interestingly, many unique types of geckos commonly kept as pets can live anywhere from 5 to 25 years or more, depending on their species, genetics, and the quality of care they receive.

Crested geckos, for instance, will live 15 years on average, but house geckos can sometimes fade away at age 5 or even younger. The crested gecko’s extended lifespan makes it a popular pet for families with children, as they can grow alongside each other.

Other popular types of pet geckos such as leopard geckos and African fat-tailed geckos are fairly low-maintenance for beginners and also have similarly long lifespans.

Lifespan of Different Gecko Species

When choosing a certain species of gecko as a pet, many factors likely come to mind, such as appearance, coloring, or care needs, but life expectancy is also important. Below is a list of certain breeds of geckos commonly kept as pets and how long they live on average:

  • Asian house gecko – 5 years
  • Flying gecko – 8 years
  • Giant day gecko – 8 years
  • Gold dust day gecko – 10 years
  • Mediterranean house gecko – 10 years
  • Yellow-headed day gecko – 10 years
  • Madagascar ground gecko – 10 years
  • Tokay gecko – 10 years
  • Crested gecko – 15 years
  • Chinese cave gecko – 15 years
  • Gargoyle gecko – 20 years
  • Leopard gecko – 20 years
  • Chahoua geckos – 20 years
  • Caledonian giant gecko – 20 years
  • Frog-eyed gecko – 20 years
  • African fat-tailed gecko – 25 years

Read on to learn more about how long geckos live and the kinds of factors that affect their lifespans. We’ll also cover what you can do to ensure your beloved pet gecko lives a long, healthy life, regardless of its species.

Factors That Affect Gecko Life Expectancy

Age

Knowing your gecko’s age helps you gauge their life expectancy. Ideally, buy them as babies from a trusted breeder so you can verify their hatch date.

If you buy eggs or adults or purchase your gecko from a pet shop, you can’t be sure they weren’t captured in the wild, which means their genes may be affected, causing them to have a shorter lifespan.

Factors That Affect Gecko Life Expectancy

If you aren’t sure how old your gecko is, though, there are some ways to get a rough estimate.

Many species of geckos have distinct differences depending on how old they are. For example, baby leopard geckos have thick stripes that break up into spots as they get older, so that’s a hint you can keep an eye out for. For other geckos, check their length and weight against a gecko growth chart to guesstimate their age.

Enclosure Setup

Some of the slighter species can survive in a 10-gallon tank while bearded dragons – arguably the only reptile pet more popular than leopard geckos – need vivariums closer to 50+ gallons, making them quite costly by comparison.

That said, the size of the tank a gecko is housed in significantly affects how long they live. In the wild, geckos have the whole world to explore. They face more risks but have unlimited space. In captivity, if your gecko’s enclosure is too small, it will stress them out and even stunt their growth, leading to a shortened lifespan.

So, even if you opt for a smaller gecko, like a crested gecko, for example, it’s best to get a 20-gallon tank at the very least. However, if you’re looking into purchasing a larger species, you can go up to 50 gallons to ensure a long, happy life for them.

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Currently, we know of about 1,500 gecko species. While only a handful of them are kept as pets, their habitat in captivity significantly affects how long they live, regardless of their species.

Most species of geckos are nocturnal or crepuscular, meaning they are mostly active at night. Additionally, while all geckos are great at climbing, some are arboreal, meaning they live in trees, while others prefer living low to the ground.

You’ll need to keep these factors in mind when deciding on a certain species of gecko to keep as a pet. For example, if you put an arboreal gecko in a glass tank with no high spots or branches, they will become stressed.

Similarly, keeping a gecko that prefers staying low to the ground in an enclosure without safe flooring can cause them to accidentally ingest their substrate and become prone to choking or impaction. This is why it’s so important to learn about the exact species of gecko you plan on adopting and research their care needs and ideal enclosure setups to keep them happy and healthy for as long as possible.

As we mentioned earlier, stress from their environment will significantly decrease a gecko’s lifespan. In addition to being extremely unpleasant for the animal, prolonged stress will weaken their immune system and make them prone to many life-threatening, long-term illnesses.

In addition, many geckos’ ancestral anxieties will have them glass surfing as they seek shelter from unseen, perceived predators, especially if their enclosure is too small, not heated properly, or lacks adequate plant cover. If they feel exposed due to an improperly sized enclosure, the stress levels could shorten their lives.

So, to maximize your gecko’s lifespan, find out where their ancestors originated and the region they’re native to and match the living conditions in their native habitat. These living conditions will include heat, light, and humidity settings.

Health Issues

Just like any other type of pet, geckos are prone to certain illnesses that can significantly affect their lifespan if they are not cared for or treated properly.

Initially, you may not think your gecko needs to see a vet. However, all pets should see the vet once or twice a year for routine check-ups, including and especially exotic pets like geckos that have more specific care needs than animals like dogs or cats.

While vets are technically trained to care for all animals, reptiles are specialty pets, so you will need to find a vet that specifically focuses on the health and care of reptiles.

Talk to the breeder or pet store where you bought your gecko. They can advise you on finding local gecko experts and veterinarians. Get friendly with said reptile vet so you can reach them in emergencies, since in some cases, they may be the only one available for miles!

Some common health scares that geckos are prone to include:

  • Skin problems – reduced handling and shedding baths can be helpful
  • Mouth rot – sometimes called infectious stomatitis; that red, pus-filled mouth calls for a vet! Surgery may be necessary to remove damaged tissue in the gecko’s mouth in severe cases.
  • Dysecdysis – this is the technical term for shedding issues, sometimes known as “stuck shed”; try shedding sprays and warm baths for your gecko to assist with shedding
  • Metabolic bone disease (MBD) – MBD is extremely painful and often fatal as it weakens and deforms a gecko’s bones if they are calcium deficient. Calcium supplements will help to prevent this.
  • Parasites – these could come from contaminated food or contact with feces. Many parasites require prescription medications to treat, so regular vet visits are essential.
  • Respiratory challenges – Respiratory infections are typically caused by humidity within a gecko’s enclosure being too high. These infections cause unpleasant symptoms like drooling and wheezing, so they will need urgent attention from the vet!

You might notice other things about your gecko that seem worrying but are actually harmless. For example, you may find teeth lying around their tank. Many species of geckos have about a hundred teeth or more that they’re constantly shedding and replacing. Your gecko gets a new set of teeth every 3 or 4 months, depending on their species and age, so shedding them is normal.

Additionally, you might notice your gecko eating their skin after they shed it, and you may worry that it’s a sign of nutritional deficiency. It’s not – geckos routinely do this in the wild to gain additional nutrients from their shed skin, so just leave them be.

In the great outdoors, shed skin can leave a breadcrumb trail for predators, so geckos will also eat these sheddings for self-preservation, even in captivity. Since adult geckos shed every month or two, you’ll often see them nibbling at those pieces of skin. As long as they’re getting plenty of calcium, there’s no harm done.

Stress

Stress is a big contributor to a decrease in the overall lifespan of any animal. Geckos are small creatures so any amount of stress to them is a large amount of stress, even if it seems small to you.

Identify the Stress

If your gecko is chirping and barking repeatedly, look around to see if you can find the cause of your gecko’s stress. Causes of stress may include:

  • Incorrect enclosure setup in terms of the height versus the length of the enclosure
  • Incorrect heating or lighting settings
  • Incorrect humidity settings
  • Your gecko is constantly disrupted by people or other pets walking past them
  • Your gecko’s enclosure is in a very busy or noisy part of your home

Dealing with the Stress

Remove the stressor and let your gecko rest in the dark for a while so they can calm down. If the timing is suitable, you can offer a soothing treat. Just be sure not to feed nocturnal reptiles during the day or diurnal geckos at night, as this can upset their sleep patterns.

What If There Is No Obvious Cause of Stress?

If you can’t see any obvious cause of stress, your gecko might simply be in “mating mode.” This just means they’re trying to serenade a mate like they normally would in the wild. If you have eliminated all possible causes of stress then do some research on your gecko’s mating rituals.

Mating seasons differ by breed, so it may help to confirm the timing with your breeder or pet store supplier or research the gecko’s mating seasons online. In general, most types of geckos get broody between late winter and early spring.

Diet

A gecko’s diet is very important in keeping it healthy and preserving its lifespan. If your gecko has gaps in its nutrition, they will not be able to develop and maintain their body and live a long, healthy life.

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Staple Food Items

 

Geckos are insectivores! This means they mainly eat insects. However, there are other food items such as fruit that you can offer as treat items.

Geckos should have a range of insects to get their protein and nutrition from. These include:

  • Mealworms
  • Dubia roaches
  • Phoenix worms (also known as black soldier fly larvae)
  • Crickets

A great option for geckos is premade gecko mix! It is packed with nutrition and protein and all of the things your gecko needs!

Treat items:

  • Waxworms
  • Butterworms
  • Earthworms

Supplements

As far as calcium supplements go, for most geckos, you can get a brand of calcium that doesn’t have Vitamin D3 because nocturnal geckos don’t need much sunlight anyway.

As for day geckos and other diurnal species, they’re awake in the daytime so they get their Vitamin D from natural light and UV bulbs. As a result, that excess D3 isn’t essential for them, either.

FAQs About Gecko Life Expectancy

You now know a little more about gecko lifespans and lifestyles as well as the factors you need to keep in mind to maximize their lifespans in captivity.

However, you probably still have questions. Here are some popular ones commonly asked by novice reptile keepers. You can add your queries in the comments section.

Does size affect gecko life expectancy?

Like bearded dragons, most gecko hatchlings are around 3 or 4 inches long. But unlike their more social cousins, geckos typically only grow to 10 to 12 inches on average. Some giant species like the gargoyle gecko, leopard gecko, or day gecko can grow to 14 inches or more when they’re fully grown.

Interestingly, size doesn’t seem to have much to do with gecko life expectancy. Many small species can live to 20 years or more, and there are some large species that only live to around 10 years or less.

Can my gecko fall and die?

You’re sure to have seen geckos crawling up walls and ceilings. Still, you might feel your heart in your throat if your gecko gets up too high.

Luckily, most geckos have ‘hairy feet’ that help them cling to surfaces, so your gecko is unlikely to lose their balance and injure themselves after a fall. These tiny hairs are referred to as setae.

That said, if they manage to escape their enclosure, they may sneak out of the house and get lost. Alternatively, they might eat insects with parasites or insecticides that could make them sick.

So, keep your gecko’s scaling tactics confined in their tank, but don’t worry too much about them falling, unless they’re one of the rare species of geckos that lack setae, such as leopard geckos. If your gecko is one of these rare ground dwellers, make sure they don’t have any high surfaces in their enclosure they could fall from, and be very careful when handling them.

Does color affect how long geckos live?

Depending on where you live, you’ve probably seen many different types of geckos crawling along the walls and corners of many homes. Common wild geckos such as house geckos are often tan-colored and indistinct, so you might not know if you’re seeing the same gecko or seven different ones, which makes it harder to gauge their age.

Many species of geckos kept as pets are often more colorful because that’s what attracts your attention at the pet store. In most cases, they’ve been carefully bred to display certain vibrant colors known as morphs.

Interestingly, color doesn’t have much to do with a gecko’s life expectancy. It’s more about the gecko’s breed, which comes with its own life expectancy, as well as genetics and quality of care.

On average, the aforementioned house geckos live the shortest, while gargoyle geckos, leopard geckos, and Calendonian giant geckos can live to 20 years or more. All of these geckos come in a range of colors and markings.

My gecko’s tail fell off! Will she die?

Fortunately, no, but tail dropping is quite stressful and uncomfortable for them. When they’re faced by a threat, escaping a predator, or evading a risky physical situation, some species of geckos might drop their tail. Pet geckos will also sometimes drop their tails if they’re stressed out.

Because so many gecko species are nocturnal and unsocial, this stress could come from something as innocent as having house guests whose noise (and attempts at petting) might worry your gecko. Remember, geckos have thin, sensitive skin, which is part of why they’re so averse to touch.

You may notice warning signs before the tail drops – your gecko might squeak, lift their tail, twist it around, or hiss and squeak defensively. If this happens, let go of your lizard and give them space.

Thankfully, if their tail does drop, it will grow back. Still, it’s a good idea to check in with the vet if your gecko has dropped their tail recently, just in case they’re sick.

Do old geckos need special care?

In general, senior pets need specialized care. For example, old cats need their claws clipped to prevent ingrown nails. Old dogs may need softer food as their teeth decline.

Similarly, as geckos approach their last days, they might get lethargic, lose their appetite, and spend more time hiding. Some will need assistance eating, as in their old age they aren’t as efficient or fast hunters as they used to be. Others might need a bit of help shedding as their bodies become weaker and less flexible.

Your gecko does recognize you, so even if they may not enjoy touch as much as other lizards, you’ll have noticed they like interacting with you, and they may perk up when you enter the room. Spend as much time with your elderly lizard as you can, and be sure to be up-to-date with their vet checkups. Offer soothing baths and softer, slower moving foods like hornworms to make them comfortable.

Who is the world’s oldest gecko?

In humans, it’s often stated that 30 is when you start to die. While geckos rarely get this far, the oldest leopard gecko made it 28, according to the Lehigh Valley Zoo.

Wrapping Up on Gecko Lifespans

So how long do geckos live for? We now know the answer to this question. Wild geckos live five years on average. But with adequate space, minimal handling, and regular vet visits, a pet gecko can live for a decade or two, particularly if they belong to a hardier species.

To sum up, you can improve your gecko’s life expectancy by:

  • Not breeding her – making gecko babies can take 5 years off her life!
  • Maintaining proper humidity levels; this can be anywhere from 30% to as high as 70% depending on their species
  • Make sure your diurnal gecko has proper UVA and UVB lighting. Most nocturnal and crepuscular geckos are fine with only warming UVA, though they do benefit from a small amount of UVB (2% to 5% output is sufficient).
  • Offer a balanced diet and feed your gecko at the right times.
  • Make sure your gecko’s enclosure has plenty of places to climb and hide.
  • Find a vet that specializes in geckos (or at least reptiles).
  • See this vet twice a year, and get pet insurance to cut your vet costs.

Do you have a gecko yet? How long have you had them? Share your tips for raising healthy geckos!

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