There are at least 1,500 species of geckos in the world. However, two species have become extremely popular and rank among the most commonly kept pet lizards: the leopard gecko and the crested gecko.
“By far, the most popular geckos continue to be leopard geckos due, no doubt, to their extremely manageable size, calm demeanor, willingness to be out in the open and relative ease of care,” said Michael Griffith, marking specialist at Segrest Farms. “Crested geckos are also popular thanks to their calm nature. Both geckos can become accustomed to handling as well.”
While these two are the most popular geckos, a number of other species are found in the pet trade.
“Some of the other geckos that are available are African fat tails, gargoyle geckos, giant day geckos and tokay geckos,” said John Mack, owner of Reptiles by Mack. “However, they tend to sell to the more experienced collector versus your average customer. The larger trend that we are seeing is that stores are stocking more and more of the leopard and crested morphs, which gives the customer a large variety of colors and patterns [within the same species].”
Leopard geckos have long been pet store staples. Crested geckos have been available for less time, but their popularity with hobbyists has skyrocketed.
“Crested geckos in captivity have gone from virtually unknown to one of the most popular pet reptiles for good reason,” said Allen Repashy, president of Repashy Superfoods. “Their beauty, hardiness, personality, variety and fecundity are all contributing factors to their popularity, but their ability to be kept on a pre-made diet, without the necessity for feeding live insects, puts them in a class of their own.”
Manufacturers have taken note of the popularity of geckos.
New complete starter kits are often popular with beginniner hobbyists. Zoo Med offers complete starter kits for keeping the two most popular gecko species.
Zoo Med’s Repti-Habitat Leopard Gecko Kit contains a 10-gallon terrarium with sliding screen top, ReptiSand substrate, thermometer, lighting fixtures, day and night heat bulbs, a care guide and supplement samples.
The Crested Gecko Kit is a similarly complete package for that species. It includes the cage, substrate, realistic plastic plant, cork bark hide, care booklet, food and supplements.
Zilla’s Tropical Vertical Kit, although not specifically for geckos, is perfect for crested geckos and other tropical tree-dwelling species. It includes the terrarium, Mini Halogen Dome, Mini Halogen Bulb, substrate, textured background and a humidity and temperature gauge. With the addition of UVB lighting, this kit could also be used for day geckos.
Most geckos require hiding places in their enclosure in order to feel safe. Depending on the type of gecko, these can be caves, cork bark sections, dense foliage or other species-appropriate spots.
For leopard geckos and most other ground-dwelling species, Exo Terra offers the Gecko Cave in three sizes. It has a rocky appearance that blends in well with most cage décor.
For crested geckos and other arboreal species, there is the Exo Terra Canopy Cave. It clips easily to the side of the terrarium, offering an elevated hiding spot arboreal geckos are sure to use. It has a viewing area, so even if the gecko is hiding the owner can see it without disturbing the lizard.
Most geckos eat live insects or a mix of live insects and soft fruits. Cresteds have the advantage of thriving on a packaged diet.
Repashy Superfoods offers a complete line of nutritious diets for reptiles. For geckos, the company has Crested Gecko Meal Replacement Powder in two varieties, Grubs ‘N’ Fruit Gecko Diet, Crested Gecko Mango Superblend and Day Gecko Meal Replacement Powder. For leopard geckos and other insect eaters, there is the Grub Pie.
Most geckos tend to hide during the day and be active at night, which presents challenges to the retailer. It’s hard to sell something a customer has difficultly seeing. There are ways around this.
“Some of the reptile care manufacturers like ZooMed and Exo-Tera now have some great hides that attach to the inside of the cage and yet allow the Gecko to be seen through the glass,” Mack said. “Also, price tags with a photo of the species have been proven to help increase your sell through.”
“One of the most successful tools a store can use is to keep an adult gecko on display to help sell the less impressive and hard to see juveniles,” Repashy said. “Having well-trained staff willing to take out and display an adult to a customer who shows interest is a powerful tool. Having educated staff that can give care, guidance and recommend related products and foods is very important.”
“Using a pre-made diet in store, such as one of our four Crested Gecko Formulas, and having it available for sale is a great way to show how easy it is to feed [crested geckos],” Repashy said.
According to Griffith, attractive setups can make a big difference.
“The best advice for retailers and keepers alike for shy and nocturnal species is to take the time to carefully set up a great-looking enclosure for them,” Griffith said. “By setting up a well decorated, beautiful enclosure you get two key benefits: your gecko will be more comfortable (and thus more likely to be somewhere visible) when there is an abundance of cover, and you end up with an attractive display even when you can’t see the lizard.”