Arid Gecko Care Sheet

Maria Zayas, DVM
By Maria Zayas, DVM on Aug. 18, 2023
Tibetan frog-eyed gecko

In This Article

Species Overview

Arid Gecko Species Overview

Arid geckos are native to deserts and arid grasslands throughout Asia and the Middle East. This care sheet outlines basic care needs for multiple arid gecko species, including: 

  • Tibetan frog-eyed geckos 

  • Leopard geckos

Frog-eyed geckos have stockier bodies and shorter tails compared to leopard geckos. A frog-eyed gecko’s skin is covered in scales, which helps the lizard absorb water through its skin. Frog-eyed geckos are named for their large, protruding eyes.  

Leopard geckos are friendly, docile reptiles named for their yellow skin with black, leopard-like spots. Unlike many gecko species, leopard geckos have functional eyelids. In fact, they can blink and even close their eyes while sleeping! 

While geckos can become tolerant of gentle handling over time, newly homed geckos need some time to adjust to their surroundings before being handled. Geckos may try to leap out of their pet parent’s hands, so they should only be handled over soft surfaces to minimize the risk of injury. Geckos often break off their tails as a defense mechanism to escape and run away from predators. Therefore, they should NEVER be held or restrained by their tails. 

Geckos shed their skin in pieces and commonly retain unshed skin over their eyes and toes. When this happens, they should be soaked in shallow warm water to increase their hydration to encourage shedding. 

Arid geckos tend to be nocturnal or crepuscular (most active around dawn and dusk). However, they can adjust to their pet parent’s schedule over time. 

All reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases including Salmonella bacteria, which is zoonotic (transmittable to humans). Pet parents should always wash their hands before and after handling their gecko or the habitat’s contents. 

Arid Gecko Characteristics 

Difficulty of Care 

Leopard geckos are appropriate for beginner hobbyists; frog-eyed geckos are recommended for intermediate hobbyists with some experience caring for reptiles 

Average Lifespan 

Up to 20 years with proper care 

Average Adult Size 

4–9 inches long, depending on species 



Minimum Habitat Size 

10 gallons for juveniles; 20+ gallons for adults 

Arid Gecko Supply Checklist

To keep an arid gecko happy and healthy, pet parents should have these basic supplies on hand: 

  • Appropriately-sized habitat (10 gallons for juveniles; 20+ gallons for adults) 

  • Live insects 

  • Substrate 

  • Moss 

  • Water and mealworm dishes 

  • Climbing décor 

  • Plants 

  • Heat light 

  • Heat fixture 

  • Multivitamin supplement 

  • Calcium supplement with and without vitamin D3 

  • Cricket keeper 

  • Cricket food 

  • Cricket quencher 

  • Thermometers 

  • Humidity gauge 

  • Sphagnum moss 

  • UV light 

  • UV light fixture 

  • Hideout box 

  • Plant mister 

Arid Gecko Habitat

Choosing the Right Enclosure 

Juvenile arid geckos should be housed in a tank that’s at least 10 gallons. Pet parents must increase the size of their gecko’s habitat to accommodate their growth as they mature. All enclosures should have a screened lid to allow for proper ventilation and prevent escape.  

With proper care, arid geckos will reach their adult size within one or two years. Single adult geckos need a tank that’s 20 gallons or larger. If you’re interested in housing multiple geckos in the same habitat, the enclosure’s size must be increased accordingly. Always provide the largest habitat possible. 

Recommended Products: 

  • Tanks for Juvenile Arid Geckos (10+ gallons) 

  • Tanks for Adult Arid Geckos (20 - 40+ gallons) 

Setting Up Your Habitat 

Habitats should be kept in a draft-free, well-lit area that’s not near an air conditioner or accessible to other pets, including cats and dogs. Do not place an arid gecko’s habitat on the floor or in direct sunlight.  

Habitat Mates 

Do not house more than one male arid gecko in the same habitat, because they are territorial and will fight. Female leopard geckos of the same size can usually be raised in the same habitat. But, if one of the females is larger than the other, it can cause stress and competition for the smaller gecko. When introducing geckos to each other, they should be monitored to ensure they are compatible. 

Opposite-sex geckos should not be kept in the same habitat unless the pet parent is prepared for them to breed. Never mix different species of reptiles in the same habitat. 


Arid geckos need a thermal gradient in their enclosure so they can warm up and cool down as needed. The recommended temperature for the warm end of an arid gecko’s habitat is 88 F, while the cooler end should be kept at 75 F. Do not allow tank temperatures to fall below 70 F at night. 

Check the temperatures of your gecko’s habitat daily. Set up one thermometer in the warm area and one in the cool area so both zones can be checked at one time. A digital point-and-shoot thermometer can also be used to read habitat temperatures instantly. 

Recommended Products: 

Light & Heat Sources 

Like all reptiles, geckos are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature. An incandescent light or ceramic heat emitter should be used to create a basking area in the gecko’s habitat. The wattage needed for the heat bulb will vary depending on the size of the enclosure, the ambient temperature of the room in which the enclosure is kept, and the distance between the bulb and the gecko. Adjust the wattage of the bulb to maintain the recommended temperature gradient within the tank.

Note: Some light bulbs provide not only light to the tank but also heat and/or ultraviolet (UV) light.

Hot rocks should not be used because they can get too warm and cause injury. Under-tank heaters are also not recommended, as these geckos enjoy burying in their substrate and may burn themselves on the heater. If an under-tank heater is used, it must be controlled with a thermostat to keep the habitat’s temperature within a safe range and prevent the gecko from getting burned. 

Recommended Products:  

  • Light Fixtures & Hoods 

  • Heat Support 

  • Thermostats 

Overhead white lights should not be left continuously, as they will disrupt the gecko’s natural sleep cycle which can negatively affect their overall health. At night, switch to a red, blue, or purple heat bulb or a ceramic heat emitter that does not produce light. 

Recommended Products: 

UV Light 

Although arid geckos are nocturnal, studies show that daily exposure to UVA/UVB light can improve reptiles' immune system function and promote normal behavior. As a rule of thumb, pet parents should provide their arid gecko with 10 to 12 hours of UV light daily to imitate natural sunlight.  

Replace bulbs every 6 months (even if they still produce light) as their potency diminishes over time. A day/night timer can make it easier to maintain a consistent day and night cycle. 

Recommended Products: 

  • UV Light Emitters 

  • Timers 


Although arid geckos are native to the desert, they still need some humidity in their environment to support skin and respiratory health. The ideal humidity range for a leopard gecko's habitat is between 30–50 percent. A hygrometer (humidity gauge) should be used to measure the enclosure’s humidity. 

Recommended Products: 

When humidity levels fall too low, geckos are at greater risk of developing respiratory problems and will not be able to shed their skin properly.  

To maintain proper humidity levels, pet parents should add a water dish that’s wide enough and shallow enough for a gecko to soak in comfortably. Water dishes should be placed on the cool end of the habitat, rather than in the basking area, to ensure the water doesn’t evaporate too quickly. 


A paper-based bedding, soil, or reptile carpet should line the bottom of an arid gecko’s habitat. Gravel, wood chips, and walnut shells are not recommended materials for substrate, as they are abrasive to a gecko’s delicate skin.  

If you choose to use a loose substrate (such as sand) in your arid gecko’s enclosure, be sure to feed the lizard in a dish or separate feeding tank. Loose substrate is not digestible and can lead to fatal gastrointestinal obstruction if ingested. 

Recommended Products: 

Décor & Accessories 

Food dishes: Rather than being placed on the habitat floor, food should be offered in a shallow dish or feeding tank to lessen the chance of the gecko accidentally ingesting their tank’s substrate. They should ideally be fed in a separate feeding tank without any bedding. Special worm dishes are designed to keep wiggling live prey in one area. 

As for any pet, food and water dishes should be cleaned and disinfected daily. 

Recommended Products: 

Hiding area: Pet parents should provide their arid gecko with two hiding areas—one on the cool end of their enclosure, and one on the warm end. Aside from offering privacy and security, hideouts allow geckos to have a space away from their enclosure’s direct basking area.  

If more than one arid gecko is housed in the same enclosure, make sure each lizard has their own dedicated hiding spots. Hideouts should not be placed directly in line with a heat source. 

Pet parents should monitor their geckos to ensure that they are not spending all their time in hiding and not getting the benefits of UV light. 

Recommended Products: 

Climbing branches and basking rocks: Pet parents must add a basking rock or sturdy branch to their gecko’s habitat so they can climb and bask as needed. 

Basking branches must be large and sturdy enough to support the gecko’s body. Otherwise, the branch could topple over and potentially cause injury. 

Recommended Products: 

Moss: Moist sphagnum moss can be added to the inside of a hideout box on the warm side of an arid gecko’s enclosure to create a humidity hide. Moss holds moisture well and can aid in healthy shedding. 

Pet parents can create a humid hide by using a commercially available hideout box or by cutting a hole in a plastic container. If choosing to make a DIY hideout, make sure that the hole doesn’t have any rough edges that could injure the gecko. 

Moss should be replaced often to prevent mold from forming. 

Recommended Products:  

Plants: Adding non-toxic live plants to a gecko’s enclosure can help increase the habitat’s humidity level and enrich the overall environment. 

Arid Gecko Cleaning & Maintenance

Pet parents should spot-clean their gecko's habitat daily, removing any soiled material and discarded food. Water and food bowls must be washed daily. 

An arid gecko’s habitat must also be disinfected and cleaned thoroughly at least once a week (or more often if more than one gecko lives in the same habitat). Pet parents should always wash their hands before and after handling their gecko or the habitat’s contents. 

Recommended Products: 

To clean a gecko’s habitat, take these steps: 

  1. Move the gecko to a secure environment. Remove any old substrate, décor, and accessories from the habitat. 

  1. Scrub the empty tank and any furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution. The bleach solution should stay on the habitat for at least 10 minutes to ensure that the surfaces are properly disinfected. If using a commercial habitat cleaner, follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

  1. Rinse the habitat and accessories thoroughly with water, making sure to remove any trace amounts or residual smells left by the cleaning agent or bleach solution.  

  1. Allow the habitat and its contents to dry completely before placing new substrate and clean accessories into the habitat. 

  1. Return the gecko to the clean habitat. 

Arid Gecko Diet & Nutrition

As insectivores, arid geckos primarily feed on insects. Young geckos should be fed daily, while adults can be fed every two to three days. 

Ideally, live insects should be fed instead of freeze-dried ones. Live insects are more nutritious, and geckos can enjoy some exercise while they chase and hunt live prey. Geckos should always have access to fresh, clean water. 

A well-balanced diet for an arid gecko consists of: 

  • Gut-loaded (recently fed) insects–including crickets, roaches, mealworms, superworms, hornworms, calci-worms and waxworms.

  • Only one or two insects should be offered at a time–always watch geckos during feeding sessions to ensure that no insect goes uneaten. Live, uneaten insects can injure a gecko and should not be left in their habitat. 

  • Butter worms, wax worms, and superworms are all high in fat and should only be fed as an occasional treat–Pet parents should vary their gecko’s diet by feeding them several types of insects. Any insects fed should be no bigger than the space between the gecko’s eyes. 

Recommended Products: 

Vitamin supplements; every other day, pet parents need to dust their gecko’s insects with a powdered supplement. Geckos need three vitamin supplements in their diet: a calcium supplement with vitamin D, a calcium supplement without vitamin D, and a multivitamin powder designed for reptiles. 

Pet parents should alternate between the two types of calcium supplements. If a gecko’s insects were dusted in a calcium supplement with vitamin D for their last feeding session, then a calcium supplement without vitamin D should be used next. A multivitamin powder should be used once or twice a week. 

To dust insects quickly and efficiently, place insects in a bag or disposable plastic container along with a powdered supplement. Then, shake the bag lightly until the insects are coated evenly in powder. 

Recommended Products: 

  • Calcium Supplements with Vitamin D 

  • Calcium Supplements without Vitamin D 

  • Reptile Multivitamins 

Fresh, clean water; water should always be available and replaced daily. Water dishes should be large enough for the gecko to soak in if needed. 

Do not offer fruit or vegetables to an arid gecko–their bodies are not designed to digest them.  

Arid Gecko Feeding Guidelines 

Live insects must be ‘gut-loaded’ with a nutrient-dense insect supplement to improve their nutritional value, before being fed to a gecko. Gut-loading diets are fortified with vitamins and minerals to help provide optimal nutrition to the reptiles that feed on them. Insects should be gut-loaded 6–12 hours before being fed to an arid gecko. 

Recommended Products: 

  • Gut-loading Supplements 

  • Insect Housing 

  • Insect Diets 

Arid Gecko Grooming & Care

Shedding: Most arid geckos shed every four to eight weeks. To aid in shedding, geckos should have access to a humid hide filled with moistened sphagnum moss or substrate. 

If left in a habitat that’s too dry, arid geckos are at an increased risk of keeping shed skin around their eyes and toes. Eventually, the retained shed may cut off blood circulation to the gecko’s toes or cover their eyes, preventing them from seeing the insects they eat. 

Handling time should be minimized while the lizard is shedding. At least twice a week, pet parents should soak their arid gecko in a large, shallow container of warm water to help them shed their skin more easily. The water container should be wide enough to allow the lizard to submerge its entire body while keeping its head above water. 

Arid Gecko Veterinary Care

Annual Care

Arid geckos should be seen by a veterinarian once annually. They can be transported using a ventilated plastic lidded bin, which may need an additional heat source, and can be purchased or designed from materials in your home. It is recommended to take pictures of their enclosure, diet, heaters, lights (including exact specifications from the packaging), etc., so your veterinarian can assess their husbandry as part of the exam.

Signs of a Healthy Arid Gecko

  • Clean, clear, bright eyes

  • Intact skin

  • Clean and clear nostrils

  • Good body musculature including through the tail

  • Formed droppings

  • Clean vent

  • Good appetite

  • Bright personality

When to Call a Vet

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lethargy

  • Eye discharge, swelling, sinking, or stuck shed

  • Skin ulcers or other lesions

  • Nasal discharge

  • Oral ulcerations

  • Muscle/weight loss

  • Abnormal droppings

  • Discharge, staining, or protrusion from the vent

Common Illnesses in Arid Geckos

Arid Gecko FAQs

How do you take care of a desert gecko?

Desert geckos need enclosures that maintain their required temperatures throughout as well as their basking area, humidity levels, and climbing and hiding needs. They need a light schedule and appropriate diet as well.

How hard is it to take care of a spotted gecko?

Spotted geckos are great beginner pets that are easy to take care of once you set up their enclosure.

Should I soak my gecko in water?

Geckos don’t need soaks for the most part. However, it can be an important tool around shedding time or if you have trouble maintaining their humidity levels.

Do geckos like cold or warm?

Geckos like warm air. They rely on the temperature around them to help maintain their body temperature.

How long do desert geckos live?

Desert geckos in captivity can live up to 20 years.

Do geckos need a heat lamp?

Geckos needs a temperature gradient across their enclosure. This can be established a few different ways, and a heat lamp is one of them.

Featured Image:

Maria Zayas, DVM


Maria Zayas, DVM


Dr. Zayas has practiced small animal and exotic medicine all over the United States and currently lives in Colorado with her 3 dogs, 1 cat,...

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