Scientific Name: Coleonyx Mitratus
This animal originates from Central America ranging from Guatemala southward to Costa Rica .
The Banded Gecko is a small sized lizard that is very easy to house and care for making it a great reptile for the beginner or expert enthusiast. Babies can be as small as 1 1/4 - 2". Adults reach a length of 4 to 7 inches and are very hardy. They can live 10 or more years in captivity.
Though not as large as the Leopard gecko, these attractive and endearing animals are easy to handle though not quite as personable. Observing should be a larger part of owning than handling. Young animals tend to be banded. The bands break as they age resulting in darker spotted patches of color ranging from beige to yellow and dark brown over a lighter body color. Some specimens can even be pink. With proper care these animals can have a life span of 8 to 10 years in captivity.
Reptiles are Ectothermic (having a body temperature that varies with the environment). Heat may be provided with an overhead lamp or an UTH pad (Under Tank Heater). The temperature of either heat source should be controlled with a rheostat or thermostat and determined with a digital probe thermometer or an infrared temperature gun. A temperature gradient should be established in the habitat providing a range no cooler than 75 on the cool side and no hotter than 88 on the warm side during the day cycle. The temperature can drop as low as 70 F. at night with no ill effects and most reptiles benefit from a cool down at night. Temperatures below 65 degrees F. for a prolonged period can result in respiratory infections. The reptile will move around within its habitat to obtain thermoregulation (control of its body temperature).
High humidity can also result in respiratory issues as well as mold and skin problems. A relative humidity of approximately 35% is recommend. 50% is the top range for this animal and can be measured with a hygrometer. A screen top should be used on the cage to reduce humidity. Many do very well in dry habitats but a humid hide is basic and required equipment for proper sheds. The humid hide should be placed on the mid to cool range of the habitat, not on or under the heat source. Mist daily and clean and replace bedding as needed, at least weekly. A dark hide (commercially produced coconut ½ shell or a small reptile cave) should be provided in addition on both the cool and the warm sides of the habitat to permit the animal to feel secure as it moves around to control its body temperature. If slate/rocks are stacked, be sure they are secured and cannot slide to injure or crush a pet.
A single animal can be housed in a 10 gal. aquarium but it’s always recommended to give your pet the most space you can provide. In the wild, these animals range large areas searching for food and mates. Exercise is a part of your pet’s health. Suggested substrate (flooring) for an adult is paper towels, non-adhesive shelf liner, aged newspaper (2 wk. or longer), felt type reptile carpet with a short nap (so as not to snag mouths or toes), or slightly textured ceramic tile (not smooth or gloss). Loose bedding poses impaction (ingestion of particles which clog/block the intestines) issues. Baby and juvenile geckos should only be housed on paper towels - never on a loose substrate. Sand for adults is strongly discouraged but if you must go there please use fine grained, uncolored washed play sand. This animal does not live on sand in its native habitat and the impaction risk is high. Geckos are a lunge feeder and will get loose substrate in their mouth when they are grabbing prey.
Due to being territorial, two males cannot be housed together as adults however you can keep one male with two or more females. Several females may be housed together if the space is adequate. A single gecko may be housed in a 10 gal. aquarium. A 20 gal. long tank is recommended for housing 2-4 geckos together. Geckos are solitary in the wild meeting up only to mate or fight. They are territorial and become more so as they age. Keep this in mind for your pets. Always rearrange the tank and provide a larger enclosure when adding new animals with resident/establishes ones to reduce territory issues.
If a male is kept with females, they will breed. Either toss newly laid eggs or be prepared to incubate and care for the young.
This gecko is basically terrestrial (ground dwelling). It lacks the feet pads of other species used for climbing smoother surfaces or clinging to glass. Please keep this in mind when handling your pet (it can fall easily) and setting up its habitat. Plastic or live plants (species safe) offered for climbing should be sturdy and offer horizontal leaves as opposed to vines or vertical climbing plants. Your pet will appreciate easily accessible ledges, hollow logs and hides as opposed to things to climb.
Banded geckos are nocturnal (active at night) so UVB lighting is unnecessary. However they do need a white light source to simulate a day/night cycle. Daylight should be provided for 12-14 hours a day. A low wattage red spectrum light may be used in the evening to encourage normal activity for viewing since the reptile doesn’t see in the red range and will think it is dark. Though this species is active at night, it is relatively quiet and won’t disturb your sleep. Babies can emit a squeak when startled or insecure which is referred to as a “bark” so do not be alarmed if noise suddenly emits from your new pet. They lose the tendency to vocalize as they age and become adult.
Your objective is to provide the pet with a temperature gradient to move around in and not exceed its cool and hot requirements. There is no “so many watts for so many gallons” formula to offer you. The temperature in the habitat will vary depending on the heat source you use and your ambient room temperature. It must be established and monitored. This animal requires 12-14 hr. of day light which can be provided with a normal household energy saving light bulb. It requires a warm side around 85-88 degrees F. (which you can provide with a normal household bulb or UTH pad) and a cool side of approx. 75 F. during the day. At night, the warm side can drop to 70 F. and the cool side to 68 F. without health issues.
Get to know your pet’s tail! Odd as that may sound – it is the indicator of his overall health. If the tail stays the same and he’s not eating? He’s okay. Reptiles do have periods where they just lose interest in eating and don’t need calories.
If you do not have an accurate reptile/postal scale, the easiest way to do this is to photograph the reptile the day it arrives. The settling in period may cause some pets to get uneasy and not eat. This doesn’t mean they are in trouble. If it takes two weeks before he eats – it just does! Take another picture when he does resume eating and compare them. If his tail is the same – he’s fine. So there is no need for you to stress, or to cause him to, because you are pestering him with your worry!
Since this animal is nocturnal it doesn’t get sun to help it process vitamin D. MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) is a real concern. Vitamin or calcium powder should include Vitamin D3 (aids with the absorption of vitamin D). This vitamin is mandatory for nocturnal animals. Babies’ gut loaded (fed good foods prior to being fed to your pet) insects should be dusted (place the insects in a baggie with small amounts of the vitamin and calcium powders and shake to coat them) 3-4 times a week and an adult’s gut loaded insects should be dusted 1-2 times weekly. Calcium powder without D3 should be provided in a shallow bowl within the habitat at all times.
Insects can pose an impaction risk. Your animal’s head is the feeding guide throughout its life. Insects should be no larger than the space between the reptile’s eyes to avoid a choking or impaction risk. If on occasion you can’t find insects of the proper size – offer more of a smaller size instead of one that is too large.
The staple diet should be an insect which can be gut loaded (fed nutritious foods before they are fed to your reptile). Crickets and roaches are the preferred bugs of choice due to the ability to gut load them easily. Both are available for purchase on line or crickets can be obtained at your local pet store. Please do NOT feed your pet wild caught insects as this introduces fertilizer, pesticide, petro-chemical, fungal, bacterial and parasite issues.
Variety is the key to life so you can spice things up for your pet by offering new food items. Supplemental insects include nutritious soft grub-type worms such as Silk (seasonal & feed on Mulberry leaves) or Phoenix (highest in calcium) and if size appropriate, Superworms (all can be ordered at most pet stores). Meal worms have a very high chitin shell content compared to the little meat ratio and are not a good staple insect. They are very hard to digest and pose impaction risks for young or sick animals. Butter and Wax worms should be offered sparingly as a treat item only due to their high fat content, but are useful to put weight on a reptile in trouble.
Feed your young pet all the gut loaded and dusted insects it can eat in half an hour to an hour, depending on how bad a hunter it is. This is a good reason smaller and uncluttered enclosures are a good housing for babies. Increase the size of their home as they grow and become better hunters.. Aesthetically pleasing is not always best for the pet. Feed an adult all it can take in 20-30 min. Remove uneaten insect as they pose many problems. The insects are not gut loaded beyond an hour. They will clean the dusted powders off in an hour. They will climb on and bite your pet. They will graze on the feces and then – do you want your pet to eat them? Many reptiles bothered by insects left in their habitat will cease to eat at all.
Rough handling can result in a dropped tail. Though the tail will regenerate, it will not be as pretty as the original so care should be used during handling. The tail is important to the health of the animal as fat reserves are stored there. In the event a tail is lost, the animal should be separated from others and housed on clean paper towels until the wound heals to reduce the risk of infection and ensure the animal is getting enough to eat. If the reptile is healthy, a new tail should regenerate within a year. A tail can be shed as a defensive reaction to being handled. As with any new animal, it will need a “settling in” period. The animal should be observed but not handled when it first arrives for a full week, possibly two. It may not eat for several days, up to a week, until it feels secure in its new surroundings and begins to eat. During this time, the animal should not be handled. It should not be handled until you are sure it is settled and eating well.
If your animal is still not eating within a week, double-check your husbandry (housing size, floor substrate, hides, temperatures, humidity, etc.) with reliable instruments. His basic requirements must be accurately accounted for. Peel and stick or round meters are simply unreliable. An animal being housed too cool or too hot cannot digest properly and may not eat.
The temptation to hold a new animal is overwhelming. We know this. We have the same impulse. Resist it. This can’t be stressed enough: “Give your gecko time to settle in.” Your pet will adjust more quickly and you will reap the benefit of owning a happy and healthy animal. Give it time to adjust to the sights, sounds, heat, light and smells of its new home. It takes time. Handling causes stress and delays eating. During this time, talk softly to your new pet when cleaning or feeding to help him get used to you.
After 1-2 wk. the long awaited moment will arrive. This has given you time to observe your pet and come to know its particular habits. Wait until the pet is awake and active. When you begin to handle your pet start slowly for the first few days and keep handling minimal (1 - 2 minute once a day) to permit the animal to become secure that when you touch it, it will not be harmed. A ‘hand over hand’ method is recommended. Place the animal on your forearm and allow it to walk the length of your arm. As it nears your hand, place the other arm under and forward of the first, permitting the reptile to walk from one hand to the other arm without being restrained or frightened. Be diligent and prepared to prevent the animal from jumping or falling with an open hand to block it. Avoid grabbing the reptile or making big/fast movements. When returning it to the habitat, simply cup a loose hand over the pet using your fingers as a ‘cage’ to prevent it from jumping or running and to stress the reptile as little as possible.
Slowly increase the time of handling by 2-3 minutes every few days to give the reptile time to trust you and in no time at all – you’ll have a trusting pet that will enjoy attention from you.
Your new gecko will need to be three months of age or older to determine sex visually. You can gently lift the gecko clasped between your pointer-finger and thumb or turned it gently onto its back in your palm and observe the vent area. A male will have two hemipene bulges on the tail side of the vent and a “V” shaped row of large and shiny pores on the ‘tummy’ side of the vent.
The female can have this row of pores, but they will be very small and not shiny. She will lack the bulges on the tail side of the vent.