Since “controversy” is explicitly about difference of opinion, it’s no surprise that the responses to our first “Prose and Controversies” (multi-species enclosures) are all over the map.  Responses range from “no, no, no” to “it works for me”.  Ideally, we can recognize that there is more than one way to do things.  Presenting different views about a particular topic should encourage readers to seriously consider others’ points of view and experiences, even if we continue to disagree.  The discussion can also continue through use of the “comments” section for this article.

Stay tuned for next month’s “Prose and Controversies” about housing in racks vs. display enclosures.

lizardman0126: I think it depends on the animal. When I just got my fat tail, I was watching a lot of videos on You Tube about leopard geckos and fat tails living together, I knew they couldn’t but I still wanted to see what will happen. So I put my juvenile fat tail in a small plastic cage and gently and slowly put in my leo’s cage. My fat tail is really chill, my leo, not so much. She ran right out her hide and rammed right at the cage. Then she looked at him with the same face they use when hunting. Then my fat tail is staring at the plants and looking around while a leo is trying to kill him. Know they can look at each other with out my leo freaking out. And that is my story.

 NicKtheGreeK1997: For me, that’s a no-no-no situation. The experts know what they are doing.

An enclosure, no matter how big it is, will not hold enough space to keep many individuals in distance. They will always get in contact, which can be easily fatal. And if it doesn’t, it will end up in very stressed not-eating reptiles, resulting in poor health.

In nature, they would have unlimited space to explore and normally most of the species would hold relatively big territories, which would protect. But let’s not forget how few animals survive in the wild. Three factors of the deaths are hunger, stress and getting eaten (some of the predators are other reptiles). CB animals have learned to live in small borders, although we shouldn’t forget that the instincts are never gone.

Another encountered problem is that in a big enclosure, the animals may not be able to get the proper amount of food and supplements, as many feeders will die, lose their nutritional values from the gutloading or dusting and of course, the reptiles will not be able to track them in the proper feeding time. The remaining insects can easily injure the reptiles and it can be stressful if they gather in relatively big numbers before consuming.

As for the experts that have successfully housed different species in 100+ gallon enclosures, well, they are experts and the enclosures are HUGE, but many newbies to the hobby want to see the animals they keep, so they house many reptiles in less space.

The successful attempts include a few docile and tolerant females in huge enclosures, well-set environment and a well organized feeding schedule. Of course they must have the same needs, but having different diets would help to reduce the feeding bullying and give an idea of how much each gecko consumes.

We all know that geckos prefer being alone; it’s animal abuse if you force them to fit in small boxes. An eating gecko is not always a happy gecko. Why not give your pet the best you can afford?

That’s my point of view and I think geckos should be housed individually, since they aren’t social species. I am by no means an expert and furthermore I cannot give advice. I apologize for the poor English.

 Alinda Buckingham: I have successfully kept mourning geckos in a dart frog terrarium for about 18 months. They are apparently healthy, reproducing, and I have not noticed any change in the health of my 6 year old dart frogs either. I don’t generally recommend multi-species enclosures, but the humidity and temperature requirements, as well as the fact that the two species keep themselves isolated to separate parts of the enclosure has worked well for me.

 Justin Tressler:  As for multispecies enclosures, I think it can be done, with the giant caveat of providing an overly large enclosure and making it provide more hiding spaces than there are even in nature. As I have never had a multispecies enclosure, this is all hypothetical. I believe that if you chose species from the same region that aren’t in competition for the same ecological niche, you could put them in the same enclosure. Granted this all hinges on providing a massive enclosure so that the animals are not forced to interact.

Esther: I have a 30 gallon breeder tank with a lot of rock piles, 2 large pieces of driftwood mounted at about a 45 degree angle, and a couple of caves.  It also features a rectangular deli container which has an oval cut out of the top and is filled with cocoa fiber substrate, same as the tank.  The difference is that the tank substrate is kept dry, while the substrate in the deli container is kept moist as a moist hide and/or egg laying box.  The residents of this tank are 1.1 Tucson banded geckos (Coleonyx variegatus bogerti). 0.1 granite night lizard (Xantusia henshawi), 1.0 long-tailed brush lizard (Urosaurus graciosus), and 2.0 side-blotch lizards (Uta stansburiana).  The Tucson banded geckos and the night lizard comprise the “night crew’ while the brush lizard and the utas (soon to be 2.2 as soon as the girls pass quarantine) make up the “day crew”.  While the lights are on, the brush lizard and the utas are always seen basking near the top of the driftwood branches or on top of the rock piles.  If they see a cricket, they dash off to grab it.  I see occasional pushups by the utas (there are 2 males, which I normally would never have together, which are a result of the vendor mistakenly sexing them as 1.1; one was near shed so it was hard to tell) but never any intraspecies aggression.  Nor is there any problem between the brush lizard or either male uta.  They are content to share basking places and are not in competition for food, as it is ample.  When the lights go out, the Tucson banded geckos come creeping out from their rock lairs or caves in search of a fat cricket.  Their slow and dainty movements, often accompanied by slow waving of their tails in the air, are quite amusing.  The night lizard is very rarely seen, waiting for complete darkness, even in the room, before she ventures out.  I have never seen any interspecies aggression between the geckos and the night lizard.  They co-exist as peaceful as can be.  Therefore, I must say that this particular tank and its inhabitants give me great pleasure and fortunately no social problems to have to solve. [ed. note: the reptiles in question are all quite small in size]

Cameron: I think that multi-species vivariums are an awesome idea but most people aren’t willing to sacrifice the space needed for it to be done correctly. I see people trying to keep 3-5 different species in 18x18x24 Exo Terra’s and that is just not a good idea for any animal. The fight over food, good basking spots and peaceful areas is a fight that will lead to stress or death. To do this successfully you need a nice sized custom built enclosure or something The size of a 100 gallon tank. It can be done if you want to put in the resourses and time.

chris: I have had multi-species enclosures as a child. By multiple I mean 2. My advice is don’t do it. If you find animals with identical husbandry and feeding needs they are still stuck with room mates they would never spend time with in close proximity in the wild. Risk to their health (stress is always hard on reptiles) vs. the reward of having 1 tank and 2 animals instead of seperate enclosures for both. For the small amount of time you actually view them just isn’t worth it. It also means you have to check in on them relentlessly to ensure that there are no issues and that everyone is eating.It ends up being more work than seperate enclosures.

Lee: When housing animals of different species within the same enclosure, an individual’s mind will usually sway to one of two directions: a desperate struggle for health and happiness or a warm and cozy environment, both physically and emotionally satisfying.

There are many factors to take into consideration prior to housing different species. The first and foremost factor is the two species’ regions. If one species’ living conditions are dry and hot they will not be able to be housed with species that require humidity and cooler temperatures. To successfully house two species, they must be from the same region with a healthy environment.  

In order to have a healthy environment for two different species, we must take into consideration:
– Both animals need to be comfortable at the same temperature.
– The Humidity level requirements must be in the same range of one another.
– The daylight cycle will factor.
– Species specifics (naturally aggressive, male/female tendencies).
-Animal Specifics (mating season, personality, weight, exposure to other geckos).
– Tank space.

One specific species combination that I’ve successfully been able to house together is my 5 year old Golden gecko (G. Ulikovskii) and my 4 year old Tokay gecko (G. Gekko). They are housed in an artificially planted 90Gallon tank (48x18x24) for the past 3 years. Daytime temps range from 85 – 95F with a basking spot of 103F. Night time temps range from 78F – 90F. The humidity readings sit between 50-80% at all times. They are housed on an eco earth/ coco husk/ fern bedding mix to retain moisture with a drainage layer just to make sure the levels don’t read too high for an extended period of time. There is a bowl of water that is readily available at all times along with 2-3 daily mistings to keep hydrated. There are 2 moist hides and 2 dry hides for security and each have their own space. There is an abundance of greenery and foliage of different shapes and textures such as hollow cork bark tubes, hollow bamboo tubes, sticks, logs, vines etc..

When I was going to first introduce these two together I had heard all of the horror stories about Tokay geckos being territorial and aggressive towards the same species, let alone another species. With that said, there has been a lot of monitoring of physical health, eating habits, sleep and every day behavior. I started by making sure both geckos went through a quarantine period as the tokay was a captive bred born and the golden is believed to be a wild caught. After approximately 5 months of quarantine, I wanted to reduce the chances of the Tokay being territorial, so I introduced the Tokay gecko to the Golden gecko.  Prior to introducing the two, weights were taken and a physical examination occurred.  After the first week of monitoring their behavior, we took the first weigh in with the two in the same terrarium and both were continuing to gain weight. I took both of their feeding schedules and combined them into one. I wanted to offer them as much variety as possible, with a staple diet of gut loaded/ coated crickets, a fat tomato worm monthly along with 2 refills of crested gecko diet weekly.

AlizaVisit Website

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.

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