“Geckos’ Needs/Keepers’ Needs” Comments
We received many thoughtful responses to our questions about balancing geckos’ needs and keepers’ needs. While the responses reflect the individuals’ unique opinions, the consensus here, as you will see, seems to be a focus on “geckos’ health, keepers’ health”.
What are your compromises that allow you to care appropriately for your geckos without giving up all other aspects of your life?
I have made many of the same compromises that other keepers, both experienced and new, have had to make. The two biggest ones are time and money. My group needs about 3-4 hours a week for feeding and misting, and then an 8 hour day of tank cleaning at least once a month. Something that also has to be kept into consideration is that whenever I travel I need someone who is competent at their care to keep an eye on them, especially if I am gone for longer than a few days. Paired with that, I spend about $40 a month keeping them fed, watered, and warmed.
The last element for me is space. I keep my entire group in my room, so space is pretty limited. I have already gone to some pretty far lengths, and gave up a lot of things, to keep them all in my space with me. So, each time I get that fever to buy another, or expand into a new species, I have to think about this and everything else I have mentioned.
Now consider this is only 5 animals of 2 different species!
In my situation, I constantly remind myself of my limits and repetitively go over them in my mind in order to keep the balance I need to in order not become overwhelmed. I still need all the things I need to keep the animal that is me healthy too! In the end, their lives and well-being are more important than my wish to expand my collection.
But the thing that makes it all worth it is the joy and contentment I receive from keeping these wonderful animals, and I can happily say that my life has been better for it. I love being kept up by the sound of little claws on screen as someone walks upside-down in their terrarium, or a loud bump as someone jumps, and most of all the little laugh I get each time I notice two big eyes staring at me over the edge of their boundary.
How can you tell that your geckos are comfortable and well cared for despite the compromises you make?
I know my geckos are well taken care of when they look and act healthy and my youngsters put on weight like champions, but I also do my best to know all that I can about their care. Before getting into this hobby I did months of research, and to this day I still get my hands on all the information I can to better myself so that I can face anything these little critters might throw at me. There is a sea of information out there, you just have to look for it (and build up a good B.S. detector too).
I feel confident in my geckos’ health because I have background knowledge that tells me what is normal and what isn’t, as well as what steps I can take to better a situation and when it is out of my control and a vet visit is in order. The compromises I make are always done with their health and happiness in mind. For example, I might have to use a tub set up because I can’t afford a glass terrarium, but that does not mean it will be bare of plants and hiding spots, because those are necessary elements while glass is not.
REASEARCH, REASEARCH, REASEARCH! Seriously peeps, it’s important.
What do you consider “going too far” in gecko care?
On an animal to animal basis, I don’t really think there is a “too far”. If a keeper wishes to lavish care on one animal by making them a large naturalistic set up, as close to ‘wild’ as could be, then that’s their choice. But as a keeper of many, I don’t think that would be possible (unless finance, space, and time were not in question). Turning the house into a giant terrarium, on the other hand, would be totally out of hand (although I know most of us have thought of that!).
I feel that when someone wants to follow their passion, then they should go as far as they can dream. As long as each and every animal, including themselves, is healthy and living a good life, then what does it matter if you have 6 or 600. Everyone must find their own limits, and that is something you can only find by trying.
In my opinion, too far is when animals become neglected and their owners become overwhelmed.
What do you consider “not going far enough” in gecko care?
Not far enough is a much easier question to answer. When the care is not enough, it shows in the animals themselves. Animals that are living in an environment that is not adequate to their needs will show the signs, either by becoming ill and possibly dying, or in their personality. Many reptile keepers will tell you that their animals have personalities; I know mine do, so when something is not right it shows. Like a tiger in a cement bowl, they look miserable.
Along that same line, not knowing your animals well enough to notice when something like a mood-swing happens, or a female is going into season, or an individual needs something more, then that is certainly not going far enough on the keeper’s part.
What other thoughts to you have about balancing the keeper’s needs and the geckos’ needs?
Something I never thought about is how keeping these animals would affect my social life. I’m not the type who goes out much, but I have to be careful in balancing time with my family and making sure my emotional needs are met as well the animals’ physical ones are. Make time to hang out with friends, go on vacations (as long as the animals are taken care of!), and definitely make sure your loved ones and family know that they are heard and loved. Like my partner told me; “I will support you until it starts taking time away from us”, so I make great efforts to be sure those who are close to me know and feel that they are loved just as much as my animals.
Some of my compromises are just like everyone else’s; using a tub/rack system for space concerns,breeding my own feeders so I know exactly what my geckos are eating and don’t have to pay large amounts each week for food, and keeping living quarters at a bare minimum for the geckos. I try to add as much as I can fit, but of course, there is the balance of too much and too little. I also do a lot of DIY, like rack systems and incubator. I would love to spend the money on professional products someday, but my budget does not allow for that at the moment.
How I can tell my geckos are comfortable: Easy; they thrive. They grow well, shed well, eat well, people constantly say that they are beautiful, and they geckos don’t attack me or freak out when handled. I’ve never posted a picture of any of my animals and have anyone toss out a suggestion. I’m not bragging, but this type of admiration needs to be seen more often than it is. I’m proud of my geckos, and don’t hesitate when people ask to see them. I know they get exactly what they need because I don’t hesitate myself to ask questions and follow through.
I don’t think you could ever go too far in gecko care. I think all animals deserve as much as you can afford to give/offer them. Like I said previously, if I could afford to give my geckos all the bells and whistles, mansion sized housing, and a buffet variety of food, I would in a heart-beat without thinking twice. In a sense, they are my life-line. I live for these guys. Yes, I can/do make money off of these guys, but that’s because I choose to breed them and enjoy that aspect of life with them. If I were a collector, I’m sure I wouldn’t have THIS many geckos, and could offer much more to them, but that is the where this article comes into play; balance.
Not going far enough in gecko care happens a lot with ignorance. Either people don’t care enough for their animal, they don’t have the money or desire to spend the money on the animal, or they simply say, “Well my gecko likes it, so I’m going to keep it this way” and ignores the fact it has shed stuck everywhere, its tail is pencil thin, and it’s prolapsing all of its guts out. I understand being uneducated, as pet stores tend to give false information, but if you take the time to post a picture of your gecko, or ask a question, take the time to follow through with your question or the advice offered. I don’t know about you, but I think a healthy, well-fed and nourished gecko is MUCH more appealing and fun to have than a half-dead, skinny, pale colored one.
If you can’t meet the basic needs for your gecko to thrive instead of survive, don’t own one. Simple as that. You’re going to make both your life and its life hell on Earth if you decide to buy the animal, a 12″x10″ tank, toss it in there on some sand, and throw some crickets its way every other week. You won’t enjoy the gecko, the gecko won’t enjoy you or its life, and you will most likely end up getting rid of it or killing it.
In my personal experience I have a collection of 16 geckos (leopards, AFT and GDG are the species I keep)… I believe my geckos are comfortable enough because they, once used to the environment, have never been sick (my oldest gecko is 12 and has been with me for 10 years, without an issue), they eat regularly, and do not seem stressed whenever I need to handle them.
I personally believe there is not a “going too far” point; if a person has the chance to provide the best care possible, then go for it.
I consider not going far enough providing little space, extreme temperatures, or just the one typical feeder (mealworms), I believe they “deserve’ more than that.
I think that with organization and time efficiency one can achieve a personal balance between our needs and our pets’ needs. It all comes down to establishing priorities and schedules trying to meet as many of our animals’ needs as possible.
Balancing family and my hobby (reptiles) is not always the easiest. What I try to do is schedule working with my geckos when I am home by myself or late at night when I get home from work and everyone is asleep.
I monitor my geckos’ overall health regularly. I make sure they are bright and alert, in good weight, and eating well.
I consider “going too far” in gecko care when spending too much time and effort with your geckos negatively affects other aspects of your life and/or your health.
I consider “not going far enough” in gecko care when you do not fulfill your geckos’ needs. This can cause your geckos to become stressed and/or have health problems.
Balancing the geckos’ needs and the keepers’ needs is not always set to a rigid schedule. Each can require more or less time depending on the day, week, or even month.
One compromise I make to meet my geckos’ needs is njot being able to take a vacation on a whim. Trips that require more than a day or two away require appropriate planning either by means of housing your animals elsewhere for the duration, or by having a trusted friend oversee your collection while you are away. Finding someone both qualified and willing to babysit a bunch of reptiles is rarely an easy task!
Longevity, healthy weight gains, clear eyes and nostrils, and active eating responses are all evidence that my geckos are well cared for. On the few occasions that I’ve had to be away for multiple days, I have 2 family members that I trust to watch over my animals. Both are familiar with reptiles and have born witness to my care of them over the years. If neither of these 2 family members is available to watch over my geckos while I am away, then my only choice is to cancel my plans. No “ifs”, “ands”, or “buts” about it.
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of or witnessed an event where I thought someone was going too far for their geckos. These animals depend upon their keepers for every aspect that contributes to their health and longevity with absolutely no say in the matter. As willing caregivers, it is our responsibility to give the absolute best care possible and (to an extent) put our geckos needs before our own.
A sign of not going far enought to care for your geckos is considering your gecko a “disposable” pet and, as a result, refusing to take your animal to an experienced veterinarian. Much too often people use an animal’s size as a basis for determining how deserving that animal is for appropriate care and consideration. If one is unwilling to take a declining animal to a veterinarian, they are unfit to keep said animal.
As I know can be the case with any hobby, many reptile hobbyists can have a slight tendency to get a little overenthusiastic with their geckos and end up with more animals than they know what to do with. It is important to not let one’s reptile passion get so out of hand that quality of care is sacrificed for quantity of animals. A reptile keeper should not gauge his or her success by the number of animals in their collection, but by the level of care they provide to those animals.
I compromise a lot in my life to make sure the geckos are cared for properly. First thing being extremely short vacations, no more than 2 days during hatching season, which as you know can take up most of the year. Second would be time after work that would be used for relationships outside of gecko breeding / work. Third is my weekends are dedicated entirely to cleaning / feeding / checking all hatchlings for shed issues (if any) and gut loading a week’s worth of food for all the geckos.
The obvious signs of a comfortable, well cared for gecko are the chubby tail, vibrant color, growth rate, and absence of disease / sickness in my collection.
What I would consider going to far in gecko care would be if it affects you negatively in any aspect of life. Whether it be showing up late to work, missing work or putting you in financial hardship.
I dedicate a lot of time to the needs of the geckos but have managed to maintain physical relationships with family and friends, and an almost perfect attendance record at work.
I would categorize “not going far enough” with a few simple questions.
- Do your geckos have shedding problems?
- Do your geckos have feeding problems?
- Is there signs of sickness / disease in your colony?
- Are your geckos loosing weight or regurgitating food / refusing to eat?
My thoughts about balancing geckos’ needs and keepers’ needs are simple. I like to keep things simple and not over-think and become stressed. My balance comes in the form of management and self control. Being able to enjoy my hobby and private breeding program gives me extreme joy. Some people choose to sky dive, deep sea fish or drink at the pub. I choose to breed beautiful reptiles that bring a smile to my face. I think balancing needs is very important, you need to consider ones own personal life and health, but also consider the life and well being of your animals.
We have 6 geckos at home, 5 Cresties and 1 Leopard gecko. We decided early on that keeping geckos was a 20 year commitment so we planned accordingly. This meant habitats that simulated the geckos’ natural environment and enough space in our home to put them without turning our home into a reptile zoo. Our geckos are spread throughout our home, in quiet areas but are visible and easily accessable to us. Because the habitats are visible, we chose natural vivariums for each of our geckos. While this is not cost effective nor efficient for keeping large numbers of geckos, we found this method to be the most rewarding for the geckos and us. Keeping geckos also meant having enough time to handle each one every week.
For us, the geckos are pets first and foremost so handling and taming them is an important consideration. Our geckos are thriving under these conditions. Most rarely hide during the day and can be seen basking or sleeping out in the open. All have gained weight since arrival and have transitioned well to their respective forever homes. Those we have had since they were hatchlings are the most docile, sweet reptiles anyone could ever wish for. Additions to our family are planned well in advance of adoption. ‘Staycations’ are a part of our life now, as many non-reptilists are reluctant to care for our crew. Nonetheless, we find our geckos are worth the extra effort. Observing our group can be quite mediative also; that’s another advantage in keeping these amazing creatures.
Aliza is a home care speech therapist living in the Boston area. She has been breeding leopard geckos since 2005 and has also been successful in breeding Coleonyx, African Fat Tail and Gargoyle geckos. Other interests which she pursues in her copious free time include work in ceramics, practicing aikido and surfing the internet.