Gecko: a reptile with surprising resources and completely harmless

Discover the fascinating world of these reptiles, from care to breeding

Photo of author

By Kenny G

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At the sight of a gecko in the house, most of us usually do not react really well. On the contrary, we are inclined to chase this reptile away from the home as quickly as possible, believing it to be dangerous. Yet this cute little animal has always been considered a symbol of regeneration, adaptability, strength and vitality, which is why it is found in many artistic representations and tattoos.

But what are the peculiarities that make this little reptile so special? Let’s find out together in this guide.

Is it dangerous?

The gecko is anything but dangerous. Popular belief on the contrary identifies the gecko as a genuine good luck charm that some people raise in their homes like any other pet.

Indeed, being a small lizard it goes after insects and spiders far more annoying and fearsome to human health.

Appearance and general characteristics of the gecko

The gecko (Common Gecko or Tarentola mauritanica Linnaeus), is a small reptile belonging to the suborder of saurians. Its family is the Gekkonidae, which in turn includes several subcategories that are widespread throughout the Mediterranean area, especially along the coastal belts.

Normally, the gecko is small to medium in size, not exceeding 16 centimeters (4 inch) in length including the tail.

The head is larger than the body, the snout pointed and the eyes large and round. It has a stout, distinctly plump and slightly flattened little body that allows it to squeeze in anywhere, even in the narrowest crevices.

The back and tail are gray or brown, but the colorations change depending on environmental conditions and light allowing it to take advantage of good camouflage skills.

The entire body of the gecko is covered with tubercles that give it a ‘rough‘ not to say ‘spiny’ appearance, a characteristic that arouses a sense of revulsion and fright in many people. The largest specimens are the males, while small geckos have more obvious dark streaks that they later lose as they grow.

The common gecko is the most widespread in Europe and is a close relative of the lizard. Exactly like the latter, it is absolutely harmless to humans, and by feeding on insects such as flies, mosquitoes, moths, and beetles it is definitely beneficial to humans and the ecosystem.

The gecko’s most obvious ability is its quick movement and ability to climb quickly anywhere. It is a territorial, stubborn and tenacious animal that defends its territory fearlessly and impetuously.

Few animals, in fact, dare to challenge a gecko in conquering a prey or a space, and this is one of the most amazing requirements of this miniature dragonet.

What are the natural habitats of geckos

They are a large family of reptiles found in different parts of the world. As a result, natural habitats can vary greatly by species and geographic region.

Many are adapted to similar environments, with some differences depending on the species. Here are some examples of common natural habitats for geckos:

  • Tropical and subtropical regions: many are found in tropical and subtropical areas of the world, such as rainforests, tropical forests, savannas, and coastal areas. These habitats provide them with a variety of plants, trees, shrubs and rocks that provide shelter, food and breeding opportunities.
  • Deserts and arid areas: Some species, such as leopard geckos, have adapted to live in desert and arid habitats. These geckos are able to survive in conditions of extreme heat and water scarcity, and are known for their ability to blend in with the rocky environment.
  • Aquatic habitats: Some gecko species are adapted to live in aquatic habitats, such as ponds, swamps and rivers. These geckos are able to swim and hunt aquatic prey.

Habitat of the Common Gecko

Some species such as the common gecko have adapted to live in man-made habitats such as cultivated fields, gardens, farms, and rural areas where they can benefit from the presence of insects and other small animals found in these areas.

The habitat of the common gecko in particular is stony grounds, quarries, dry stone walls, woodpiles, and especially buildings and homes where they love to stay without fear of human presence or that of other animals, including cats.

How to drive a Gecko away from the house: what to do?

We have already mentioned that the gecko is by no means a dangerous animal; on the contrary, it eats a large amount of insects and spiders. However, finding one in the house can be a problem for many people.

The first rule to observe in this case is to act with some common sense: it is not necessary to drive the animal away violently or hurt it. There are all-natural tricks and remedies that can induce the gecko to spontaneously leave our home and prevent it from reoccurring.

The first trick is to sprinkle some mothballs here and there. The gecko detests this odor and will certainly not stay in the house for long if it gets even the slightest whiff of it. Placing it in drawers or in the dampest crevices certainly won’t see geckos walking along the walls of our living room….

The other thing that the gecko just will not tolerate is water. Try spraying some cold water on the animal and you will see that it will go away with a bang realizing that it is not welcome.

Exactly like lizards, the gecko is also able to self-amputate its tail, which allows it to agilely get rid of the end part of its body that could end up in the clutches of predators or other animals. Keep in mind in case you plan to catch the gecko by the tail!

In case the gecko has already peeped into the house and does not decide to leave it for any reason in the world, we can gently use a nice fishing net and try to catch it. Certainly not an easy task given the speed with which it moves and its ability to squeeze into all crevices, but with a little patience…

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Geckos can stick to surfaces because their toes are covered in hundreds of tiny microscopic hairs called setae.

How long does the gecko live and what does it eat?

A gecko reaches sexual maturity between 4 and 5 years of age, and its life span generally extends to about 10 years. Females of some species of these reptiles reproduce by parthenogenesis, that is, without the aid of the male.

As mentioned, the gecko feeds mainly on mosquitoes, flies, moths, spiders, beetles and midges. Occasionally, it also hunts ants, winged and otherwise, and small invertebrates. Not infrequently, they also feed on fruit and nectar.

In winter, geckos take refuge in underground burrows and in the ribs of trees to protect themselves from the cold and to sleep, but without entering into actual hibernation.

Trivia about the gecko

Scientists and researchers around the world have studied the gecko’s truly extraordinary ability to adhere to any surface. Credit is due to the special paws with which this little animal is equipped.

The toes, in particular, are small engineering masterpieces of nature: they have tiny pads and a series of longitudinal lamellae that allow the reptile to not slip and climb with extreme ease.

Basically, it is as if it has hundreds of bristles that adhere perfectly to even the most slippery surfaces. To detach them, the animal does not have to struggle, but simply changes their inclination. The only material the gecko’s paws cannot adhere to is Teflon.

But what if you want to raise them at home? Care and breeding

If we had succeeded in convincing you about their usefulness we would be very happy but….taking care of them in captivity requires attention to several key aspects to ensure their well-being.

Here are some tips to know:

  • Be sure to provide them with a suitable habitat: for example, an appropriately sized terrarium with appropriate substrate (e.g., sand, bark or newsprint), hiding places, climbers and a heat source (such as an infrared lamp or heating pad) to create the proper temperatures.
  • Temperature and lighting: they are cold-blooded animals and need proper temperature regulation. You must provide an area of heat in the terrarium so they can thermoregulate with also proper lighting with UVB lamps to ensure sufficient vitamin D3 synthesis.
  • As for feeding, you must offer them a balanced diet suitable for the species. Most geckos are insectivorous and as we described to you earlier feed on insects such as crickets, grasshoppers and butterfly larvae. Be sure to offer a variety of insects and supplement the diet with powdered vitamins and minerals. Some species may also require fruits, vegetables or nectar.
  • It must then have access to fresh, clean water at all times: a small bowl of water in the terrarium is fine, making sure it is of adequate size and that it can drink without risking drowning.
  • I also recommend cleaning the terrarium: you must remove any feces or uneaten food. Change the substrate and clean the accessories periodically to maintain a clean and hygienic environment.
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Who’s smiling there? 😉

Veterinary checkup

If you notice signs of illness or abnormalities in behavior, you can consult a veterinarian specializing in reptiles. It is important to have regular checkups to ensure the overall health of your pet.

It is always advisable to do extensive research on the specific species and consult reliable sources or reptile experts for detailed information on the care and husbandry of geckos in captivity.