Dwarf Geckos: Pretty Terrarium Inhabitants

Dwarf geckos are often suggested to newcomers to terrariums and in fact, the tiny lizards immediately inspire any halfway-interested reptile lover. Their variety of colors, their behavior as well as the simple way of just standing still, magically attracts looks. You could wait hours for the next movement, but geckos don’t really tax the patience of their observers that much. Rather, they are considered lively and active. The dwarf geckos in particular are impressive as pretty terrarium inhabitants, which not only look good but are also easy to care for. But is it really that easy to keep pygmy geckos?

Dwarf geckos in detail

Curiously, almost all dwarf variants of an animal species are considered easy to care for, based on the assumption that small bodies also require less space. It is often the smallest representatives of a species that even need more space. They are usually more agile, active and faster on the move. They are also usually more sensitive, especially to stress. In addition, they have no place in human hands, the little creatures are too fragile.

Dwarf geckos are no exception. Although geckos are generally relatively robust and “only” need a species-appropriate terrarium with optimal climatic conditions and the right feeding, the small dwarf geckos are not necessarily less demanding just because they are small.

Their size does not indicate that they only have minor needs. A few very important tips for keeping dwarf gecko should therefore also be considered by beginners so that they and the animals can enjoy each other for a long time.

Systematics of Lygodactylus

The scientifically described genus Lygodactylus includes around 60 species of dwarf geckos, all of which are considered diurnal. In a broader sense, they are representatives of the Gekkonidae (gecko family). Whereby all geckos, big or small, belong to the scaled reptiles and thus to the scaled lizards. Consequently, they are also cold-blooded animals.
What is special about the Lygodactylus is their maximum body size of approx. 4 to 9 cm, and that in adult specimens. Most species come from tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and Madagascar, only two are also found in South America.

They are all characterized by round pupils, visual orientation, are diurnal and have adhesive lamellae on their toes – and on the underside of the tail tip. This special characteristic enables the lizards not only to find a perfect foothold with their feet, but also to use the tip of their tail to climb.

Furthermore, as with many geckos, the tail is regrowing. In case of danger, the lizards can push off their tails, for example because they are held on to it, and thus free themselves from an emergency. However, regrowing tails have a different shape, do not reach the original length, but form adhesive lamellae again. This shows how important climbing is for the survival of the animals.

And in fact, most dwarf geckos can be found in trees and even spend most of their lives there. In other words, they live arboricol. Only a few species inhabit the ground, most prefer tree trunks, walls and rock faces. There they find perfect footing, plenty of hiding places and even food in the form of smaller insects.

However, since geckos are becoming more and more popular as pets, the small lizards can now be found in terrariums all over the world. The best-known domesticated species is undoubtedly the yellow-headed dwarf gecko, also known as the yellow-headed day gecko or dwarf striped gecko. It is easily recognized by its yellow colored head which contrasts with the rest of the blue-grey body.

However, many breeders (and keepers) place increasing value on color diversity. And so, among other things, tabby, blue shimmering and aquamarine dwarf geckos are also becoming more popular. Color effects and patterns are so diverse that they can hardly be summarized. This makes the little geckos look particularly pretty in the terrarium.

Behavior of geckos

While many hunters are active at dusk or at night, pygmy geckos delight their owners with a predominantly diurnal lifestyle. As a result, their hunt and their typical behavior can be observed excellently. In the terrarium they like to climb from one level to another, explore hiding places and look for live food.

For terraristic enthusiasts, species-appropriate husbandry also means keeping a harem, i.e. a group of several females and one male. In the wild, young animals are driven out of the territory at the onset of sexual maturity. When keeping pets, the owner places the offspring in their own terrarium in good time. However, if reproduction is undesirable, a same-sex group of only 2 to a maximum of 3 animals is recommended.

Incidentally, both males and females change their color to dark brown when they feel disturbed or have an argument. It is therefore important to pay particular attention to this sign of stress.

The right terrarium for dwarf geckos

If you want to get dwarf geckos as pets, you should of course ensure that the keeping conditions are as species-appropriate as possible. Above all, this includes a sufficiently large terrarium, technical accessories to meet the climatic requirements, as well as knowledge about the diet or feeding of the animals and any diseases that may occur.

Space requirements

Since dwarf geckos should not be kept alone, the minimum size for a terrarium is based on the space required for two adult animals. 40 x 40 x 60 cm (L x W x H) are the lower limit – the more, the better. The height is striking in this regard. While other terrariums tend to be set up lengthwise, the container for dwarf geckos must be vertical. This stems from her love of climbing. First and foremost, the little lizards are drawn high. Their territory is distributed more from top to bottom than from left to right. The floor serves as an alternative area, but most of the time is spent vertically.

In addition, as is well known, warm air also rises, so the dwarf geckos usually find it more comfortable there. If necessary, they can visit the lower guild or hole up in caves where the temperatures are cooler.

Air conditioning and lighting technology

Speaking of temperatures: the terrarium should be between 25 and 32°C during the day, depending on the location. In other words, “places in the sun” can be a little warmer, while caves must be able to cool down. At night, on the other hand, it can generally get a little cooler, 18 to 22° C are completely OK. Timers serve as a helpful support to automate the day and night rhythm. Both the air conditioning technology and the lighting can thus be optimally regulated.

For the latter, an intensity and duration applies that would also prevail in the natural environment. It can therefore get hot under the spots as long as the lizards have free choice of place and can withdraw again if necessary. It is important that they cannot burn themselves on the lamps. Outdoor installations are usually the best solution. In the summer months, the daytime is about 12 hours, in winter just under 6 hours. The geckos do not need transitional seasons as we know them, although the seasonal change should not be too abrupt.

The humidity, in turn, can easily be maintained manually using a water spray bottle. The goal here is 60 to 80% humidity. Dwarf geckos also love to lick water droplets off plant leaves, but this does not replace the fresh water supply.

Design options

In fact, lighting and heating do not take up too much space. Modern concepts can even be included in the design. For example, there are heatable stone slabs and slabs of slate on which the lizards can warm themselves. UV light lamps stimulate the metabolism and thus support vitamin production, but should be out of reach for the climbers so that they don’t burn themselves on the hot lamps. If necessary, protective grilles will help if outdoor installations are not possible.
In principle, the dwarf geckos move back and forth between everything that is within reach. A back wall made of cork, peppered with branches, is very suitable, for example. If you don’t like doing handicrafts yourself, you can also use a pre-formed terrarium background for dwarf geckos. Often the first hiding places and caves are already incorporated. Large-leaved plants, lianas and roots offer further retreats. The dense planting mimics the natural habitat while providing fresh oxygen and pleasant humidity. This means that natural plants are clearly preferable to artificial plants.

As a result, the floor itself will already be almost filled. A layer of sand and earth insulates the rest of the terrarium from below and completes the design. It is important that the food animals cannot hide too well in there so that the dwarf geckos can actually prey on them. Loose bark and the like should therefore be avoided.

Otherwise, the terrarium can realize the individual ideas of a tropical tree as the mood takes you. A frontal glass plate is recommended, so that life in the now in-house biotope can be wonderfully observed.

Diet of dwarf geckos

It is particularly exciting to watch pygmy geckos hunting and eating. Thanks to their adhesive lamellae, the tiny reptiles move surprisingly quickly and are truly successful in finding prey. As ambush hunters, they first wait patiently until the object of desire comes near them. At that moment, they react with lightning speed. A short sprint, tongue out and the prey is already in the mouth with a bite.

Since this behavior promotes both their physical and mental fitness, pygmy geckos should be fed live food. The menu includes:

  • house cricket
  • bean beetle
  • wax moths
  • grasshoppers

Crawling as well as flying prey is welcome. Due to the minimal size of the dwarf geckos, the food animals themselves should not be larger than 1 cm. A rotation of 2 to 3 times a week is sufficient, otherwise, the geckos get fat too quickly. The feeding itself should also be monitored as far as possible. Does every animal get enough food? Are there any behavioral problems that indicate illnesses? Such a short, regular health check for the dwarf gecko can never hurt.

If food supplements are required, the feed animals can also be sprayed with vitamin preparations, optionally with calcium. A varied diet and drinking water that is freshly provided every day, for example in a shallow bowl, are also important.

Not to forget the fruit content:

  • overripe bananas
  • fruit nectar
  • fruit puree and puree
  • passion fruit
  • peaches

In the case of finished products, it is essential to ensure that the ingredients are sugar-free. If you are unsure, you can also ask your trusted pet shop directly.

Socialize dwarf geckos

Now that the dwarf geckos are so small and peaceful, it occurs to many beginners that they want to socialize with other reptiles. What may work to a certain extent in the aquarium should be avoided in the terrarium: the socialization of different species.

On the one hand, dwarf geckos are seen as prey by numerous larger lizards and snakes and are summarily consumed. On the other hand, the geckos themselves have a pronounced territorial behavior. Penned up in the terrarium, species-appropriate keeping quickly reaches its limits. And the stress would significantly endanger the health of the animals.

So if you want to keep different animal species, you should consider a second terrarium. The redesign of the equipment is usually unnecessary and also causes unnecessary stress. Once the dwarf geckos have settled in, they don’t like changes in their territory. Exception: Up to now, there have been no retreat options or the design was not ideal.

In any case, the colorful lizards themselves offer a wonderful view that can be admired anew every day. Depending on the light, their scales shine in different facets and the terrarium comes to life at the latest when they are fed. With dedication and patience, terrarium beginners can learn a lot from the small dwarf geckos and have quickly found an appealing company themselves.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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