Tokay Geckos vs Yellow-Headed Day Geckos: Unveiling The Best Fit For You


If you’re a reptile lover exploring the possibility of keeping a gecko as a pet, you might have considered the Tokay Gecko or the Yellow-Headed Day Gecko. Both are fascinating creatures, but they each come with their unique set of needs, characteristics, and considerations. This article aims to provide a comprehensive comparison between these two species, touching on their origins, physical attributes, behavior, care requirements, lifespan, breeding, and the legal and ethical aspects of owning them.

By the end, you should have a better understanding of which gecko might be a more suitable pet for you. So, buckle up, sit back, and let’s dive into the captivating world of the Tokay and Yellow-Headed Day Geckos!

Overview of Tokay Gecko

Origin and Habitat

The Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko) is one of the most recognized species of geckos, primarily due to its considerable size and distinctive coloration. Originating from Southeast Asia, this gecko is found across a wide range of habitats, from tropical rainforests and mountains to rural and urban human dwellings. In its natural habitat, the Tokay Gecko is primarily arboreal, preferring to live in trees and shrubs. However, it has adapted well to human-populated areas and can often be found clinging to walls of houses and other buildings.

Physical Appearance

Tokay Geckos are among the largest species of geckos, measuring up to 14 inches in length. They sport a unique coloration of bright blue or grayish body with bright red or orange spots, which often serves as a warning to predators. Their bodies are robust and slightly flattened, with a bumpy texture. Tokays have strong muscular limbs, equipped with adhesive toe pads, which allow them to navigate different surfaces with ease. The males are typically larger than females and can be identified by the presence of a hemipenal bulge at the base of the tail.

Behavior and Temperament

Tokay Geckos are nocturnal creatures, which means they are most active during the night and spend their days hiding. Known for their bold and aggressive demeanor, they are less likely to be handled by their owners. When threatened, they don’t hesitate to bite, and with their strong jaws, a bite from a Tokay can be rather painful. Their name ‘Tokay’ is an onomatopoeic reference to their loud vocalization, a two-note call sounding like ‘TO-kay,’ especially during the mating season. Despite their somewhat aggressive nature, with patience and regular interaction, Tokay Geckos can become more accustomed to handling over time.

Overview of Yellow-Headed Day Gecko

Origin and Habitat

The Yellow-Headed Day Gecko (Phelsuma klemmeri) is a small, vibrant species native to the northwestern regions of Madagascar. Their natural habitats are typically tropical rainforests, bamboo thickets, and sometimes human dwellings, similar to the Tokay Gecko. Being diurnal creatures, these geckos are active during the day, which sets them apart from many other gecko species.

Physical Appearance

Yellow-Headed Day Geckos are significantly smaller than Tokay Geckos, reaching a maximum length of just about 4 inches. The name ‘Yellow-Headed’ is descriptive of their striking coloration – a bright, sunny yellow head contrasting with a green body. This gecko’s body is sleek and cylindrical, with smooth skin. Just like Tokays, these geckos also have adhesive toe pads, an adaptation that aids their arboreal lifestyle. The sex of a Yellow-Headed Day Gecko can be determined by the size and shape of their body: males tend to be slightly larger and have more angular and bulky heads compared to females.

Behavior and Temperament

Compared to Tokay Geckos, Yellow-Headed Day Geckos are considerably more docile. They are quick and agile creatures, always on the move during their active hours. However, they can also be quite shy and prefer to retreat when faced with perceived threats. While handling should be minimized due to their delicate skin, these geckos can become quite accustomed to their owners and might even approach when they associate you with feeding time. Their behavior, coupled with their vibrant coloration, makes them an enjoyable pet for those interested in observing natural gecko behavior.

Comparison of Care Requirements


Given their size and arboreal nature, Tokay Geckos require a vertically oriented enclosure with enough height for climbing. A 20-gallon tank is the minimum for one adult, but larger is always better. The enclosure should include branches, vines, and foliage for climbing and hiding. A nighttime temperature of around 70°F and a daytime temperature of 85-90°F with a basking spot at 95°F is ideal for Tokays.

On the other hand, Yellow-Headed Day Geckos, being smaller, can do well in a 10-gallon tank. They too prefer vertically oriented enclosures with plenty of climbing space. Because they’re diurnal, they require UVB lighting to simulate daylight and support vitamin D synthesis. Daytime temperatures should range from 78-88°F with a basking area at around 95°F. At night, the temperature can drop to around 70°F.


Both gecko species are insectivores. Tokay Geckos have a robust appetite and can consume a variety of insects like crickets, mealworms, roaches, and sometimes even small mice. Given their larger size, they need substantial food to maintain their health.

Yellow-Headed Day Geckos also enjoy a diet of insects, including crickets, fruit flies, and small beetles. However, they also consume nectar in the wild, so incorporating some fruit puree or commercial gecko diet into their feeding regimen is beneficial.

Health Concerns

Both species are generally hardy if provided with the correct care. Metabolic bone disease can be a problem if they are not provided with sufficient UVB lighting and calcium supplements. They can also suffer from respiratory infections if their enclosure’s humidity and temperature aren’t appropriately regulated. Parasitic infections may also occur, more commonly if their enclosures aren’t kept clean or if new food sources introduce parasites. Regular vet check-ups are recommended to keep your gecko in the best health.


Lifespan and Breeding

Tokay Gecko

With proper care, Tokay Geckos can live for around 10 to 20 years in captivity, making them a long-term commitment as pets. As for breeding, they are oviparous, laying one or two hard-shelled eggs at a time. The female usually finds a secure, hidden spot within the enclosure for egg-laying. The eggs are then incubated at a temperature between 82-86°F, hatching after approximately two months.

Yellow-Headed Day Gecko

Yellow-Headed Day Geckos have a slightly shorter lifespan compared to Tokays, typically living for about 6 to 8 years in captivity. Their breeding process is fascinating to observe. Like Tokays, these geckos are also oviparous. However, they lay a pair of eggs that are noticeably soft-shelled and are often visible through the translucent underside of the female prior to laying. Once the eggs are laid, the parents often exhibit guarding behavior. The eggs hatch in about 40 to 45 days at a temperature of around 82-86°F.

The Legalities and Ethics of Owning Geckos

Legal Considerations

Before deciding on a pet gecko, it is crucial to check local and national laws regarding keeping these reptiles as pets. Some areas have restrictions or require permits to keep certain species. Furthermore, ensure that your chosen pet is captive-bred rather than wild-caught, which leads us to ethical considerations.

Ethical Considerations

Wild-caught geckos often suffer high mortality rates due to stress and are likely to carry parasites, contributing to declining wild populations. They also may have difficulty adapting to captivity. By choosing a captive-bred gecko, you’re supporting ethical breeding practices and conservation efforts. Plus, captive-bred geckos are usually healthier and more comfortable in a domestic setting.

Choosing the Right Gecko for You

Choosing between a Tokay Gecko and a Yellow-Headed Day Gecko as a pet requires careful consideration of several factors.

Firstly, it’s essential to consider your personal preferences and lifestyle. Do you prefer observing your gecko during the day or night? If you like having an active pet during daytime hours, then the Yellow-Headed Day Gecko could be a more suitable option, given their diurnal nature. In contrast, the nocturnal Tokay Gecko would provide you with plenty of action during evening hours.

Secondly, think about the level of interaction you wish to have. If you want a pet that you can handle regularly, then neither of these geckos might be the best fit, as they can both be quite delicate and skittish. However, between the two, the Yellow-Headed Day Gecko tends to be less aggressive and may be more tolerant of occasional, gentle handling.

The size of the gecko is another consideration. Tokay Geckos are among the largest gecko species, whereas Yellow-Headed Day Geckos are significantly smaller. The size of the gecko will also influence the size of the habitat you’ll need. Larger geckos require larger habitats, which take up more space and may require more maintenance.

Lastly, consider the lifespan and commitment level. With a potential lifespan of 10-20 years, a Tokay Gecko is a long-term commitment and requires ongoing care throughout its life. On the other hand, a Yellow-Headed Day Gecko, with a lifespan of 6-8 years, may suit those looking for a shorter-term commitment.


Choosing a pet is a personal journey, and when it comes to selecting between a Tokay Gecko and a Yellow-Headed Day Gecko, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Both species offer unique experiences and challenges for prospective reptile owners. Tokay Geckos, with their striking colors, large size, and bold temperament, can be fascinating pets for those ready to embrace their nocturnal nature and strong personality. On the other hand, Yellow-Headed Day Geckos, with their vibrant appearance, diurnal activity, and somewhat shy temperament, can bring a slice of the tropical rainforest right into your living room.

It’s important to consider all aspects of care, including the right habitat, diet, health considerations, and lifespan, before welcoming a new pet into your home. Legal and ethical considerations also play a crucial role in this decision. Whichever you choose, remember that these are living creatures that deserve our respect, care, and commitment. Happy herping!


Are Tokay Geckos dangerous?

While Tokay Geckos are known for their aggressive temperament, they are not dangerous. They might bite when they feel threatened, and while their bite can be quite painful due to their strong jaws, it’s not venomous. Regular, gentle handling can help them become more accustomed to human interaction.

Do Yellow-Headed Day Geckos need UVB?

Yes, as diurnal creatures, Yellow-Headed Day Geckos need UVB lighting in their enclosure. This simulates sunlight and supports their natural biological functions, including vitamin D synthesis, which is essential for calcium absorption and bone health.

Can Tokay Geckos and Yellow-Headed Day Geckos live together?

No, it is not advisable to house different species together due to their differing needs and potential for aggression or territorial disputes. Additionally, the size difference could lead to the Tokay Gecko preying on the Yellow-Headed Day Gecko.

What do Tokay Geckos eat?

Tokay Geckos are insectivores and enjoy a variety of insects like crickets, mealworms, roaches, and occasionally small mice.

Can Yellow-Headed Day Geckos eat fruit?

Yes, in addition to insects, Yellow-Headed Day Geckos can eat fruit puree or a commercial gecko diet that mimics the nectar they would consume in the wild.

How long do Tokay Geckos live?

With proper care, Tokay Geckos can live for around 10 to 20 years in captivity.

What is the lifespan of a Yellow-Headed Day Gecko?

Yellow-Headed Day Geckos typically live for about 6 to 8 years in captivity.

How do I know if a gecko is right for me?

Owning a gecko is a long-term commitment that requires time, effort, and resources. Consider the size of the gecko, its lifespan, care requirements, and your lifestyle before making a decision. It’s also crucial to ensure you are abiding by local and national pet laws.

Do Tokay Geckos like to be handled?

Tokay Geckos are known for their strong jaws and defensive nature, which makes handling them a delicate task. While it is possible to get a Tokay Gecko used to handling over time, it should be done cautiously and respectfully.

Do Yellow-Headed Day Geckos make good pets for beginners?

Yellow-Headed Day Geckos can be a good choice for beginners who are interested in observing natural gecko behavior and learning about their care. However, these geckos have delicate skin and should not be handled frequently. Proper habitat setup, including UVB lighting and temperature control, is crucial for their wellbeing. As with any pet, prospective owners should thoroughly research their care needs before bringing them home.