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Buying a Gecko from a *gasp* Pet Store?!

Believe it or not, brick-and-mortar pet stores can be a reasonable place to find a quality pet gecko.

Now hear me out because not all pet stores are created equally. There is a right way to run a pet store and there is a wrong way to run a pet store. We’re going to outline some of the things you can look out for when you would prefer to shop at a retail store.

First thing to do is avoid Big Box stores altogether. Not everyone has this option though. If your only option IS Big Box, try to make friends with some of the reptile department employees. They will probably be willing to give you an inside track on which animals are doing well, which aren’t, maybe even when the next order will be coming in.

For those of you that missed it, check out our Dos & Don’ts of Buying Geckos Online

Things to keep in mind

Regardless of who you buy from, try to find out when their new animals are delivered. If you can buy an animal as soon as it’s received by the store, you have a better chance of minimizing stress. The fewer transitions, the easier it is getting adjusted to the new home.

Another perk of buying from a store is you can buy the exact same food they were feeding your animal. Keep the food as consistent as possible. This will be a huge help during the transition to your home. When you buy a reptile from anyone you should ask: “What is it eating, and when did it eat last?”

Most stores will be gracious enough to allow you to inspect your pet before you buy it. Be courteous and ask what the store policy is. Oftentimes it’s VERY stressful to take an animal like a gecko out of its enclosure just to be looked at for a couple of minutes before being put away. Some stores may have policies that prevent holding animals just for the sake of holding them – it’s for the animal’s protection – so don’t take it personally.

What to look out for

When choosing a gecko, you want to be cognisant of the time of day and whether the species is diurnal – awake during the day – or nocturnal – awake at night. A healthy gecko should be active, alert, have a strong appetite.

The gecko should be able to walk without dragging its body. Both eyes should be mostly open (during waking hours!) and responsive to stimuli. You also want to look closely to see that the nose, mouth, and vent are clear of any crust, discharge, etc. All toes should be intact. There should be no stuck shed. An alert gecko would respond to being inverted, trying to right itself. And lastly any changes in appetite can be cause for concern. If you’re ready to buy, try asking if they will feed the gecko in front of you so you can see their feeding response.

Another consideration to make is stores with higher animal turnover aren’t necessarily good or bad. A store practicing good husbandry will have healthy animals under their care no matter how long they’re in store.

Avoid “rescuing” the ill and neglected

We all know the familiar pull of a “rescue” animal we see languishing in a pet store. Try to avoid buying these animals and taking them home. Instead, try finding a thoughtful, not rude, way to bring it to the staff’s attention.  This way they can help the animal and put it somewhere where it can recuperate. 

To post about your pet store rescue success stories, head over to!

In summary, I would not rule out brick and mortar stores for quality animals. Mom and pop shops have the knowledge and management that cares about animals. Just make sure you know what warning signs to look out for and don’t try to be a “rescue hero”.

Let us know below what you love about your local pet shop! What do they do that keeps you coming back? Do they sell geckos at your local pet shop?

What do you think?

Written by Bianca Ryan

One Comment

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  1. A great article Bianca. The tips you give are so helpful.
    I bought my Leopard Gecko from a family run pet shop and each family member had a special interest in the different animals and supplies they sell.
    When asked she knew lots about the geckos, such as who the breeder was, the morph type and age of the gecko. They also gave me a caresheet that included the feeding and Supplements routine that they use for young Leo’s. They also provide after purchase advice.

    Also what really astounded me was the questions she asked me. Such as had I done any research, was the tank set up already and so on.

    I could tell that she wanted to ensure the gecko I was buying was going to a good home.
    It was such a nice experience. So not all pet stores are bad.

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