All About Day Geckos as Pets

Day gecko
Day gecko. Getty Images/Peter Weber

Day Geckos

Day geckos belong to the genus Phelsuma and family Gekkonidae. Day geckos are actually a common name of a group of over 60 species of small lizards that vary in size, appearance, and behaviors. 

Popular pet day geckos include the giant day gecko that is recorded to live up to 20 years but more commonly lives six to eight years in captivity.

What Species of Day Gecko Makes a Good Pet?

Day geckos in general are not good geckos for beginner reptile keepers but for those with limited reptile experience who want to venture into the day gecko realm should research giant day geckos, gold dust day geckos, or lined day geckos.

Day Gecko Behavior

Surprise! Day geckos are active during the day unlike many other lizards. They are generally pretty fragile and it is not a good idea to handle them since their skin is quite delicate. They also can be somewhat territorial and therefore need to be housed alone. Males are especially territorial but even mated pairs may fight and need to be separated.

Day geckos are excellent climbers. Their toe pads have tiny filaments (setae) that allow them to cling to almost any surface enabling them to climb glass walls and ceilings. This makes them excellent escape artists so secure enclosures are a must for day geckos.

Cages for Day Geckos

The exact cage set-up and environment required will vary a bit with each species of day gecko. As a general rule of thumb, though, day geckos need a tank that is taller than it is wide with branches to climb on. Stalks of bamboo can be placed in the tank along with branches or live plants (snake plants, bromeliads, or other tropical plants for more climbing options and aesthetic appeal.

Lots of cover and hiding spots should be provided to make your day gecko feel secure. A substrate peat moss, potting soil (no vermiculite), or orchid bark can be used as bedding on the bottom of the cage but, whatever you choose, make sure it is not too large that it will cause an obstruction or impaction.

Temperature and Humidity

Again, exact requirements vary with species but daytime temperatures usually fall between 80-89 degrees Fahrenheit (27-31 degrees Celsius) and drop to 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit (21-27 degrees Celsius) at night. All day geckos need fairly high humidity ranging anywhere from 50% all the way up to 85% depending on the species. The use of live plants and a proper substrate will help maintain humidity levels along with regular misting of the tank.

Lighting for Day Geckos

Day geckos need exposure to ultraviolet light so fluorescent UVA/UVB emitting reptile bulbs are necessary. An incandescent light bulb should be used to provide heat for the basking spot and if more heat is needed ceramic heat emitters or under tank heating can be used. Sometimes a variety of heat sources must be implemented to achieve ideal day and night time temperatures so thermometers are also very important to utilize.

Feeding Day Geckos

Insects make up the bulk of a day gecko's diet in captivity although some will also eat various tropical fruits such as papaya, mango, or even fruit baby food. A diet made for geckos that eat fruit is also available from Repashy Superfoods. The insects and fruit should also be supplemented with a multi-vitamin, calcium powder, and vitamin D3 (no phosphorus).

Offer these foods on a rotation every two to three days.

Be sure to thoroughly research your day gecko of choice prior to taking him home so that you can have the appropriate cage, lighting, humidity, and food ready for his arrival. This will help decrease your gecko's stress during the transition into his new environment.

Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT