Common House Gecko

Hemidactylus frenatus

The common house gecko is native to much of southern Asia and has established breeding populations in eastern Africa, New Guinea, Mexico, Madagascar, Australia, and other tropical areas. It is found in a variety of habitats and gets its name because it is common near human habitations. Like other geckoes, house geckoes have specialized toe pads that enable them to cling and move effortlessly along walls and ceilings. They are frequently seen at night near light bulbs hunting for insects.

Common house geckoes are very popular among pet owners because they are small, inexpensive, and relatively easy to keep in captivity. They vary in color from yellowish tan with darker spots or blotches to pale grayish-white; they sometimes appear paler at night. These geckoes reach an adult length of 3 to 5 inches (including the tail) and can live for 5 to 10 years in captivity.

Did You Know?

House Geckos have specialized toe pads that enable them to cling and move effortlessly along walls and ceilings.

Sustainability

Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Little Cause for Concern

House geckoes are believed to be common within their native range and are not at risk of extinction in the wild.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When possible, purchase a captive-bred animal, as this will decrease the demand for wild-born individuals. In general, captive-bred reptiles may be healthier and live longer than wild-caught animals. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally wild-caught and/or imported animal.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Some Cause for Concern

House geckoes are established in numerous tropical regions outside their native range, including Hawaii and Florida. They prey on native insects, but it is not clear whether they have caused significant declines or extinctions in any species. In Hawaii, house geckoes have displaced native geckoes from preferred foraging locations on buildings, and to a lesser extent in the native gecko’s natural forested habitat. House geckoes are thought to have become so widely distributed by hitchhiking rides on ships and other transports, or as eggs in the soil of nursery plants; however, owners should be careful not to contribute to the problem by releasing their pets into the wild.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Little Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species.

Common house geckoes are fairly easy to maintain in captivity, although they should not be handled roughly as they can lose their tails. They require an insect-based diet, proper light, heat and humidity. Their enclosure should be cleaned several times a week. They are fast runners and climbers, and so can easily escape if not watched carefully. Like many animals in the pet trade, an unknown but potentially significant number of wild-caught animals die in transit.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before acquiring a pet house gecko, be sure to research its specific care requirements. Talk to your veterinarian about the proper diet and how to maintain a healthy weight for your pet.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Some Cause for Concern

A number of parasites have been documented in common house geckoes but these are not known to be harmful to humans or other animals. Also, like all reptiles, house geckoes can carry Salmonella. If ingested by humans, Salmonella can cause vomiting and diarrhea; these symptoms are usually mild in healthy adults but can be fatal to infants and young children, or anyone with a compromised immune system. It is important to wash hands before and after handling an animal. Salmonella can be transmitted from exotic pets to any member of a household, even those who do not handle the pet directly.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Reptiles often do not show signs of illness when harboring Salmonella. Regardless, when purchasing a pet ask the seller if the animal has been checked by a veterinarian and obtain a list of any medical treatments the animal has received. Always wash your hands after handling a reptile.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
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