The viper gecko is truly one of nature’s tiny marvels. Small Middle Eastern lizards, they weigh up to 6 grams and measure no more than 4 inches in length. These miniature geckos sport an eye-catching and intricate color pattern, but it is this species’ large, flat tail that really makes you stop and look twice, although they can drop it if threatened. Viper geckos make great pets despite being less popular and well known than other geckos like the leopard or crested geckos, but are harder to safely handle due to their small size.They can live up to 15 years with proper care. Today we’ll share top tips for finding and raising a viper gecko colony. We’ll look at their terrarium or vivarium requirements, humidity levels, temperature and ideal substrates. As well as how to handle and keep communal viper geckos happy in all male or all female groups.
- What is a viper gecko?
- Where do viper geckos come from?
- What do Viper geckos look like?
- Viper gecko size
- Are viper geckos good pets?
- Viper gecko temperament
- Do viper geckos bite?
- Viper gecko setup, humidity, heat, light and substrates
- Buying a viper gecko
Curious to learn more about the otherworldly viper gecko? Interested in adding a gecko to your family? You are in the right place.
What is a Viper Gecko?
A viper gecko is a small, social lizard breed. They eat a combination of different insects as a dietary staple, and happily live in all male or all female groups. Viper geckos were originally classified taxonomically as Teratolepis fasciata. Today, they have been reclassified as Hemidactylus imbricatus. The classification primarily relates to their unusual tail.
Where Do Viper Geckos Come From?
Viper geckos are a native species of the Middle East, most prominently in Pakistan. These desert dwellers have also been reported in Iran and India.
Viper Gecko Appearance
The viper gecko has garnered a number of nicknames due to this gecko’s intriguingly large, flat tail. The tail’s function is to store away fat against lean times. The viper gecko’s tail has been compared to a carrot top and a turnip top, which led to the nicknames of carrot tail gecko and turnip tail gecko.
But it is their keeled scales that gives these reptiles their best known colloquial name of “viper gecko.” Here, the word “keeled” means ridged and uneven in appearance. These geckos showcase elegant and intricate coloration and patterning.
Adult viper geckos display a distinctive cream, light brown and dark brown pattern arranged in horizontal stripes from nose to tail tip. These stripes are punctuated by cream dots that give the visual appearance of a crosshatch pattern.
How Big Do Viper Geckos Get?
Viper geckos are considered a dwarf gecko species. Amazingly, viper gecko hatchlings don’t even weigh one gram at birth! With a birthweight of less than one gram, there is really nowhere to go but up as a gecko grows up!
The average adult viper gecko will still weigh less than six grams and rarely get longer than four inches long from end to end (including their tail, which easily makes up one-third of their body length).
Are Viper Geckos Good Pets?
Viper geckos are small, quick and physically strong yet surprisingly fragile when handled. It is all too easy to harm one of these miniscule geckos without meaning to, so experts advise against handling them unless it is necessary for medical or safety reasons.
Plus, viper geckos are amazingly agile and they are great climbers. This means they may wriggle out of your hand and escape before you even have time to realize it! However, geckos are very interesting and fun to watch and can make especially good pets for people who have allergies to dogs and cats.
Viper Gecko Temperament
The viper gecko’s intimidating name seems to imply these geckos are poisonous or at the very least aggressive. But viper geckos are actually quite friendly and outgoing.
Do Viper Geckos Bite?
Viper geckos are considered to be a docile and social gecko species. But like any animal, a viper gecko might bite if they get startled or feel afraid. Like many other lizard species they do have teeth.
The main thing to be aware of with viper geckos is that these geckos can and will drop their tails if they feel threatened. This instinctual protective behavior can save their life in the wild and it does not inhibit a gecko’s ability to hunt.
But tailless viper geckos will then need to redirect a tremendous amount of energy to regrowing their tails which can put stress on their health. Also, the new tail will not look just like the old tail and these animals can only regrow their tails a limited number of times.
Overall, it is better to do everything you can to make sure your gecko never feels the need to drop their tail as a form of defense.
Viper Gecko Setup
Viper geckos are an arid reptile species. In a wild setting, these geckos live in dry desert regions where rainfall is sporadic and humidity seldom gets above 30 percent. However, it is still important to provide an area within the enclosure that offers higher humidity – what keepers call a humidity hut. You can pack this with a substrate that holds moisture like sphagnum moss and your gecko can enter and exit as needed.
The rest of the enclosure should reflect a more arid environment with low humidity and temperatures ranging from 75 Fahrenheit (24 Celsius) on the cool side to 90 Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) on the warm or basking side.
Because viper geckos, like all reptiles, are ectothermic, they rely on their surroundings to regulate their body temperature, which is why offering this type of temperature range is essential for their health and wellbeing. Viper geckos are also nocturnal in a wild setting and their lighting should reflect this wild preset. The enclosure should be a minimum of 8 feet by 8 feet by 8 feet for one adult viper gecko.
Can Viper Geckos Live Alone?
Wild viper geckos live in communities and they enjoy the company of others of their species. However, be aware it is generally not possible to tell the gender of a viper gecko until they reach full adult size, which can take 12 months or longer. This is important to know if breeding viper geckos is not in your future plans, as these geckos breed prolifically!
Where to Get a Viper Gecko
It is vital to only work with a reputable reptile breeder to adopt or purchase your viper gecko. Not only will this ensure you choose the healthiest reptile, but it also helps protect increasingly vulnerable wild populations from illegal trapping and trafficking.
Viper Gecko Lifespan
Viper geckos can live a decade or even longer with appropriate husbandry.
Is a Viper Gecko Right For Me?
Are you considering adding a viper gecko to your family? These social and smart reptiles make for great observation and can provide years of enjoyment and education for family members of all ages.
More About Pet Lizards
- Do crested geckos need UVB?
- What do lizards eat?
- Bearded dragon stress marks
- Can bearded dragons eat grapes?
- Leatherback bearded dragons
- Rataj et al. “Parasites in pet reptiles” Acta Vet Scandinavia Journal, 2011.
- Gamble, T. “A Review of Sex Determining Mechanisms in Geckos (Gekkota: Squamata)” Karger Sexual Development Journal, 2010.
- Allott, A. “The Reptile Smugglers” National Geographic, 2017.