Chinese Cave Gecko Care Sheet

Maria Zayas, DVM
By Maria Zayas, DVM on Sep. 29, 2023
Chinese cave gecko

In This Article

Species Overview

Chinese Cave Gecko Species Overview

The Chinese cave gecko is a shy, fascinating lizard species native to rainforests in Japan, Vietnam, and China. Due to their hardiness and simple feeding requirements, Chinese cave geckos can make excellent pets for beginning reptile hobbyists. 

The Chinese cave gecko’s scientific name is Goniurosaurus hainanensis, but these lizards also are also known as “Hainan cave geckos” or simply “cave geckos.”  

Unlike many gecko species, Chinese cave geckos have functional eyelids. They also don’t have sticky toe pads and cannot adhere to smooth surfaces. To climb, they use their claws. 

As insectivores, Chinese cave geckos enjoy eating a diverse range of bugs, including crickets, mealworms, superworms, roaches, and waxworms. 

Chinese cave geckos are nocturnal (most active at night), so pet parents will often find them hiding under rocks or burrowed in their substrate during the day. 

Like other geckos, Chinese cave geckos use their tails to store fat and nutrients as an emergency energy source. They can also detach their tails if they are caught by a predator. Their tail will regrow within about 30 days, but the new tail will not look the same as the original. Never grab or pick-up a Chinese cave gecko by its tail. 

Chinese cave geckos thrive in cool, moist environments. Avoid high temperatures for extended periods of time, as Chinese cave geckos cannot tolerate these conditions.  

All reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, including Salmonella, which is zoonotic (transmittable to people). Pet parents should always wash their hands before and after handling their Chinese cave gecko or items from it’s enclosure.  

Chinese Cave Gecko Characteristics 

Difficulty of Care 


Average Lifespan 

10–12 years with proper care 

Average Adult Size 

Up to 8” long 


Insectivorous (insect-eating) 

Minimum Habitat Size 

30’ L x 12” W x 12” H tank for one adult 

Chinese Cave Gecko Supply Checklist

To keep a Chinese cave gecko happy and healthy, pet parents should have these basic supplies on hand: 

Chinese Cave Gecko Habitat

Choosing the Right Enclosure 

One adult Chinese cave gecko requires a minimum tank size of at least 18 gallons (30” L x 12” W x 12” H). If a small group of geckos is to be housed in the same enclosure, the minimum recommended tank size is doubled (i.e., 36 gallons or larger) to ensure each gecko has enough space to rest, explore, and establish territories within the habitat. All enclosures should include a screened lid to allow adequate ventilation and to prevent escape. 

Recommended Products: 

  • Habitats for a Single Adult Chinese Cave Gecko (18+ gallons) 

  • Habitats for Small Groups of Chinese Cave Geckos (36+ gallons) 

Habitat Mates 

Male Chinese cave geckos should not be housed together, as they are territorial and will fight. Small groups of females can be kept in the same habitat with up to one male gecko. A male-female pair can also be kept together successfully. Opposite-sex geckos should not be kept in the same habitat unless the pet parent is prepared for them to breed. 

When introducing geckos to each other, they should be supervised at first to ensure they are compatible. Introductions should always be done gradually and in neutral territory. 


Chinese cave geckos need a thermal gradient in their habitat so they can warm up and cool down as needed. The ideal basking temperature for a Chinese cave gecko is 80–82 F during the day, with cool zone temperatures set to 70–75 F. At nighttime, temperatures should not fall lower than 68–70 F. When not kept in an appropriate temperature range, reptiles are more likely to become sick. 

Pet parents must check the temperatures of their Chinese cave gecko’s habitat daily. Two thermometers—one in the warm area and one in the cool area—should be placed in the enclosure so that both zones can be checked at once. A digital point-and-shoot thermometer can also be used to read habitat temperatures instantly.  

Recommended Products:  

Light & Heat Sources 

An incandescent light or ceramic heater should be added to one end of a gecko’s tank to create a basking area for the lizard to use during the day. The wattage needed for the bulb depends on the size of the enclosure, the distance of the bulb from the reptile, and the ambient temperature of the room in which the enclosure is kept.

Adjust the wattage of the bulb to maintain the recommended temperature gradient within the tank. Some light bulbs provide not only light to the tank, but also heat and/or ultraviolet (UV) light. Pet parents should check the light sources they are considering to be clear of their function in the tank. 

Note: Some light bulbs provide not only light to the tank but also heat and/or ultraviolet (UV) light. Pet parents should check the light sources they are considering to be clear of their function in the tank. 

Heat sources should be attached to a thermostat to keep temperatures within a safe and comfortable range. 

Hot rocks should not be used because they can get too warm and cause injury.  

If an under-tank heating pad is used, it must be connected to a thermostat to prevent the lizard from getting burned.   

Recommended Products: 

  • Light Fixtures & Hoods 

  • Heat Support 

  • Thermostats 

White lights should not be left on continuously, as they will disrupt the chameleon’s natural sleep cycle and negatively affect its overall health. At night, switch to a nocturnal or infrared light to ensure the lizard can rest. 

Recommended Products: 

  • Nocturnal/Nighttime Lamps 

UV Light 

Even though Chinese cave geckos are nocturnal, they need daily exposure to UVB light to help them metabolize vitamin D, absorb calcium, and stay healthy and stimulated. Be sure to provide 5.0 ultraviolet (UV) lighting for 10–12 hours a day.   

Since UV lights differ in intensity, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on bulb placement relative to the pet. In general, UV lights should be placed about 10 to 12 inches above the basking area.  

Replace lights every six months, even if they still emit light.

Do not block the UV light source with glass or plastic, as this will block and filter out UV rays. 

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As a tropical species, Chinese cave geckos thrive in environments with moderately high humidity levels. Humidity should be maintained at 60–80% and monitored with a hygrometer (humidity gauge). If humidity levels fall too low in the habitat, lizards are at a greater risk for respiratory infection and will not be able to shed their skin properly. 

Recommended Products: 

To keep their gecko healthy and hydrated, and to help ensure they shed properly, pet parents should mist the lizard’s habitat and its décor daily. A shallow bowl of water that’s large enough for the gecko to soak in should also be kept on the cooler end of the enclosure. To prevent fungal and bacterial growth, ensure the tank is well-ventilated so that humid air can escape. 


Chinese cave geckos need at least 2-inches of substrate in their habitat. Pet parents should use a substrate material such as sphagnum moss, coconut fiber, or orchid bark, that retains moisture to mimic the high humidity levels of their native environments. These materials can be used alone or layered over a base of paper-based bedding in the gecko’s habitat. 

Be sure to spot-clean and replace substrate daily: if bedding gets too wet, it will stick to the gecko’s feet and eventually grow mold.  

Avoid substrate made of small particles, such as sand and bark chips. These materials can irritate a gecko’s sensitive eyes and are indigestible, meaning they can lead to fatal gastrointestinal obstruction if eaten. 

Recommended Products: 

Décor & Accessories 

Hiding areas: When it comes to decorating, pet parents should mimic their gecko’s native habitat by providing lots of places to climb and hide! Caves, tunnels, hide boxes, and logs create space for the lizard to hide away to feel secure.  

Each gecko needs at least two hiding spaces in its habitat—one on the cool end of their enclosure, and one on the warm end of their enclosure.

Pet parents should monitor their lizard to ensure that it is not spending all its time hiding and not getting the benefits of UV light. 

Recommended Products: 

Water dish: Most Chinese cave geckos will drink the dew left on their habitat from daily misting. However, pet parents should always provide their gecko with a bowl of fresh water where the gecko can soak and absorb water to stay hydrated. 

Water dishes should be large and shallow enough for the lizard to soak in them if needed. 

Place water dishes on the cooler end of the habitat to prevent the water from evaporating too quickly and raising humidity levels in the habitat. 

If they aren’t soaking on their own, pet parents should soak their lizard for 10–15 minutes once a week (or more often, depending on species). 

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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 eating its tank’s substrate.  

Geckos should ideally be fed in a separate feeding tank without any bedding. 

Worm dishes are designed to keep wiggling live prey in one area. 

Food and water dishes should be cleaned and disinfected daily. 

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

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

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

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:  

Chinese Cave Gecko Cleaning & Maintenance

Spot-clean your Chinese cave gecko's habitat daily, removing any soiled material and discarded food. Water and food bowls must be washed daily.  

A Chinese cave gecko’s habitat must 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 its habitat’s contents.  

Recommended Products:  

To clean a Chinese cave 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.  

Chinese Cave Gecko Diet & Nutrition

Offer your gecko a variety of gut-loaded (recently fed) insects. Young geckos need to be fed daily, and adults need to be fed every other day. Geckos should always have access to fresh, clean water.  

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. 

A well-balanced diet for a Chinese cave gecko consists of gut loaded (recently fed) insects such as:  

  • Crickets

  • Roaches

  • Mealworms

  • Superworms

  • Hornworms

  • Calci-worms

  • Waxworms

Only feed as many insects as the gecko can consume in a 15-minute period, and 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, waxworms, 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 time geckos are fed, 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

  • A multivitamin powder designed for reptiles

Young geckos should be given a calcium supplement daily; adults should be given a calcium supplement every 2 to 3 days. 

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.  

Feeding Guidelines: Gut-Loading Insects 

Before being fed to a gecko, live insects must be ‘gut-loaded’ with a nutrient-dense insect supplement to improve their nutritional value. 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 for 6 to 12 hours before being fed to an arid gecko.  

Recommended Products:  

  • Gut-loading Supplements  

  • Insect Housing  

  • Insect Diets  

Chinese Cave Gecko Grooming & Care

Shedding: Healthy Chinese cave geckos will shed multiple times a year. Geckos shed their skin in patches instead of in a single piece like snakes. 

To aid in shedding, geckos should have access to a humid hide filled with moistened sphagnum moss or substrate. During shedding, mist the habitat more frequently to help increase humidity. 

If left in a habitat that’s too dry, Chinese cave geckos are at an increased risk of retaining 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.  

Chinese Cave Gecko Veterinary Care

Annual Care

Chinese cave geckos should be examined once annually by a veterinarian. A travel carrier can be made from plastic containers with added ventilation. They will need traction on the bottom of the container which can come from transferred substrate from their enclosure. Be sure to bring pictures of packaging for all lights, diet, substrate, decorations, supplements, medications, and their enclosure. The veterinarian will review this information as part of the examination.

Signs of a Healthy Chinese Cave Gecko

  • Clear, clean, bright, equally sized eyes

  • Clean and clear nostrils

  • Clean, pink oral cavity

  • Bright colors

  • Docile but alert nature

  • Clean vent

When to Call a Vet

  • Eyes that are cloudy, have discharge, or are swollen

  • Nasal discharge

  • Lesions inside the mouth

  • Dull, muted colors

  • Lethargy

  • Poor appetite

  • Changes to droppings

  • Discharge from mouth

  • Stuck shed, especially around the toes

Common Illnesses in Chinese Cave Geckos

Chinese Cave Gecko FAQs

Are Chinese cave geckos good pets?

Chinese cave geckos make great pets. They are easy to handle, gentle, easy to care for, and interesting to look at.

How big of a tank does a Chinese cave gecko need?

The recommended tank size for a Chinese cave gecko is about 20 gallons though they can sometimes be kept in slightly smaller tanks depending on their size.

Are Chinese cave geckos hard to take care of?

Chinese cave geckos are easy to take care of, especially compared to other reptiles. They don’t need a lot of space or your time, have less lighting and humidity needs than many reptiles, and don’t even need to be fed every day.

Is a Chinese cave gecko a leopard gecko?

While Chinese cave geckos and leopard geckos are in the same family, they are not the same type of gecko. They can have similar physical features but Chinese cave geckos are slimmer than leopards.

Can you handle a Chinese cave gecko?

Chinese cave geckos can be handled and are generally gentle geckos. They aren’t as interested in being handled as other gecko species though so be sure not to over-handle them and cause stress.

Featured Image: Getty Images / Moonstone Images

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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