Readers’ Questions Answered: Husbandry Issues

No matter how many caresheets we read, when it comes to a specific situation with one of our animals, we don’t always know what to do.  Sometimes adjustments are possible, sometimes it is too late . . .


Question 1:

I had a golden gecko who died suddenly one day. I found him dead. I was just curious if you gas ever had a gecko whose paws turned a dark color and appeared to be bleeding for no apparent reason? also are golden geckos harder to take card of than other geckos? I miss mine so much…

Laney Simmons responds: It’s never easy to lose something or someone we love.  Feelings of loss, sadness, grief can be overwhelming.  We question ourselves:  Was it meant to be or could I have done something to save my lizard?  Sometimes the answer is no.  Can there ever be another?  Many reptile owners will get another if one is lost.  It’s all experience, both good and bad, that we can learn from.  So, what can be learned from this tragedy?

If the gecko did not reach close to a normal life expectancy, more knowledge is needed before planning to keep another.  In addition to husbandry research, also all potential health issues should be explored.  If you have another gecko will you be able to recognize if it’s in distress?  Then take the proper steps for treatment?

Tedd Cook responds:  Golden geckos are very hardy animals and when kept correctly they usually do very well.  They are not considered a difficult species to keep.  I can’t really say why your animal died without more information.  Most golden geckos in the pet trade are wild-caught and have internal parasites. If your animal was not treated it is possible it had a heavy parasite load. As far as the feet “turning dark and bleeding” the only thing I can think of is the animal was burned.  Arboreal geckos have very sensitive feet, and they burn easily if exposed to high heat like a heat rock, unregulated heat pad, or direct contact with a heat bulb.  Another possibility is the animal was not shedding correctly due to low humidity and developed excessive skin caught around the toes that can constrict the tissues.  I’m sorry your animal died; you may want to review your husbandry and set-up to see if there’s something wrong there.  Also, buying captive bred animals is a better idea as they are much less likely to have parasites if purchased from a responsible breeder.  Finding captive-bred golden geckos can be difficult, but there are a few breeders out there.  If you do buy another wild-caught animal, be sure to take it to a qualified reptile vet to have a fecal exam done and have it treated for any parasites if necessary.


 Question 2:

Is there a posibility that the leopard geckos’s can digest the food to quickly if they have too much heat in the enclosure ?

Marcia McGuinness responds: I’m not sure if this would cause a leo to actually digest food too quickly, but excessive prolonged heat can cause poor appetite, dehydration, and calcium to metabolize too rapidly… just like temperatures that are too cool can cause metabolism to slow down. Calcium metabolism is controlled by the gecko’s parathyroid gland, and high temperatures can kick its function into overdrive. When this occurs, calcium is leached from the gecko’s blood and bones and the risk of metabolic bone disease (MBD) becomes much greater.

Tedd Cook responds: Leopard geckos won’t digest their food too quickly if temperatures are too high. Reptile metabolism is directly linked to their body temperature, and leopard geckos prefer to maintain a body temp of around 85F.  On the contrary, animals that are kept warm enough eat well and grow fast, as opposed to those who are kept too cold and can have many health issues linked to that.  However, if temperatures are too high you run the risk of dehydration, burns, and the potential to “cook” your gecko in a smaller enclosure.  Maintaining correct temperatures is a key part of reptile husbandry, and temperatures outside of the correct range can cause problems at both ends of the spectrum.

Angelicka Veach responds: Doing a quick online search through scientific journals I was not able to find any research on the subject, so this is from observations through my personal experience.  We already know that when temperatures are too low the digestion will slow and the animal will become sluggish.  If temperatures are too high the animal will again be stressed.  Rather than digesting food too fast, it may not eat due to the stress.  Also, before it affects digestion the high temperatures would probably burn the animal’s skin or cause it to die.  We helped to educate a boy who was misinformed about the temperatures he was using.  The person who told him to increase his temperature did not realize the boy was keeping his tank in a closet where there was not as much air flow, and a higher insulation rate.  He turned the temperature up, the cool side became warmer, and the animals were not able to cool themselves.  The animals ended up dead in about 3 days from this action.


Ted F. Cook II has had a life long fascination with animals, especially reptiles.  His started keeping herps at age 5 with a pair of red spotted newts given to him by his grandmother.  Over the years he has kept a variety of species, from Green Anoles to Monocled Cobras, but his true passion lies in the gecko world.  Over the past 7 years he has limited his collection to several gecko species, including Leopard, African Fat Tailed, Bent Toed, Crested, Madagascar Leaf Tailed, and Tokay Geckos.  He also keeps and breeds Amazon Tree Boas.  He resides in Buffalo, NY with a menagerie of over 100 reptiles, a rat, a betta fish, and two incredibly spoiled cats.  He is a small scale breeder of Leopard, Crested, and African Fat Tailed Geckos under the name of Tyrant Lizard Reptiles, and is working towards establishing captive bred lines of the more unconventional species that he keeps and loves.

Marcia McGuiness is the owner of Golden Gate Geckos, the Vice President of the Global Gecko Association, as well as an Advisor for the online community ‘Reptile Culture’. She has been working with geckos since 1995, and currently breeds leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius), fat-tail geckos (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus), western banded geckos (Coloenyx variegatus sp.), and three Australian knobtail species (Nephrurus levis, Nephrurus wheeleri, and Nephrurus milii). She also keeps green tree pythons (Morelia viridis) and Australian jungle carpet pythons (Morelia spilota cheynei). She lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband Glenn, has two grown children, and 4 grandchildren… with a fifth on the way.

Laney Simmons has a background in geriatric nursing which fed into her passion for lizard rehabilitation.  She and her partner own ByTheShore Reptiles and have been breeding many species of lizards and snakes for over 10 years.  They are active members of the Jacksonville Herptelogical Society.  She also enjoys growing orchids, making jewelry, baking and candy making.

Angelicka Veach, in addition to breeding geckos, has a full time job as an after hours emergency dispatcher for a phone company.  She began Retribution Reptiles LLC with Ryan Hauser in November 2009, based out of Cuyahoga Falls Ohio near Akron.  Angelicka became a member of the USARK in 2009.  Retribution Reptiles is currently breeding leopard geckos, and pictus geckos.  Angelicka also has a pet AFT and 2 milii.  Her other major hobby is studying the Japanese language and culture. She is also a facebook fanatic, and hardly goes a day without hitting that site.

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Written by Aliza

Aliza is a home care speech therapist living in the Boston area. She successfully bred a variety of gecko species between 2005 and 2017. She currently cares for a large number of geckos as well as a few frogs and bearded dragons. Other interests which she pursues in her copious free time include work in ceramics, practicing aikido and surfing the internet.


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  1. Hello,
    I found the responses to questions 1 & 2 helpful and informative.
    Good to learn as much as possible.
    Thank you.

    Melissa N.

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