Chit-Chats (AKA House Geckos)
Filed in Fish/Reptile, Geckos
House Geckos, otherwise called Chit-Chats because of the chirping sounds they make, are robust, nocturnal geckos. They have fine granular skin that often appears transparent. The lamellae, or the sticky adhesive found on its feet, are very well developed. A Chit-Chat is usually brown to beige in color with darker blotches and stripes, depending on its mood and the light intensity of its environment.
Commonly found in regions of South East Asia, chit-chats have also been found in other areas around the world, such as in East and South Africa, North Australia and Mexico. You could say that they're both a tropical and desert type of gecko.
Wonder what kind of Chit-Chat you have? Well, because there are roughly 60 species, it would be hard to determine exactly what kind you have. However, the most common House Gecko is the Hemidactylus Frenatus, which averages about 5 inches in length.
Chit-Chats need a tall, humid terrarium lined with pieces of bark, rocks, and hollow logs (which should stand). Add a few potted plants and a shallow bowl of water (kept full and clean on a regular basis) to promote humidity, and you've got the perfect home for your gecko.
Be sure to include a secure lid to your tank, too. A wire mesh top is good since it's secure and allows beneficial air flow to circulate the throughout the tank.
Try to keep the temperatures in the tank between 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, then reduce to room temperature at night. You may also mist or spray the tank every evening.
You can feed your Chit-Chat a variety of small insects, such as crickets, grasshoppers, and wax-worms. Adult house geckos can be feed two small crickets or three to four waxworms every other day. Young geckos can be fed one small cricket or about two waxworms every day.
Adding supplements is also very important for House Geckos of any age. Juveniles and adults should be given supplements at every feeding. Some owners choose to dust the food in the nutritional supplements prior to feeding, to ensure supplementation. Pregnant females should also be given supplements at every feeding, which will help make up for the large nutritional depletion caused by laying eggs.
You can also feed the insects a food called "gut-load," which is a nutritional powder that is fed 24 hours before you feed them to your geckos. Feeding the insects will increase their nutritional value. Your gecko gets most of its nutrition through the insect's stomach or "gut." So gut loading gives your Chit-Chat gecko extra nutrition that he or she cannot get while living in captivity. Don't forget, you should pick one or the other. Either "gut load" or dust them.
Tip: never feed your gecko insects from outside. Insects from outside may have been feeding on chemicals that can make your gecko sick.
Due to the small size of your gecko, relatively speaking, a shallow water dish is recommended. The dish should be full at all times, as well as cleaned and changed daily. This routine will help retard bacteria and fungus growth. The water dish also helps maintain tank humidity, which not only makes the tank a friendlier environment for your gecko, but also will help when it's time for him to shed. Even though these geckos come from arid climates, their burrows tend to have moderate humidity. People can supply this humidity by moistening the area under the hide boxe. But take care to ensure the that the overall cage isn't wet or overly humid.
Watch out for dehydration. If your gecko doesn't get enough water he may become sick. If you notice your gecko licking the side of his cage, it could be a sign of dehydration. Although geckos like to lick the sides of their home, use the behavior as a reminder to check the water level in the dish to make sure it's filled. Licking the sides of the cage is often a way of trying to get water. If you quickly spray water on the sides of the cage, this could help re-hydrate your gecko. Or if he's very dehydrated, gently take your gecko out of its cage and immerse it in a sink full of luke-warm water for a few minutes. If your gecko cannot swim, build a platform that is tall enough to submerge part of the gecko, but not tall enough that water will go over its head. Never leave the gecko unattended while in the water.
Hanlde with Care
Here are a few tips when you do handle your gecko:
- Do not grab your gecko tightly. This can cause your gecko to suffocate, panic, or injure itself.
- Do not pull your gecko off of the side of the cage, log, floor, etc. If you pull them up it could cause damage to their feet. To get him off of the log or rock, simply place your hand in front of the gecko then gently push their back legs until he walks onto your hand.
- Never allow your gecko to be shaken, thrown, turned upside down or fall. Never pull or let him hang from his tail-even if it's the kind that can be pulled off. Having a tail removed is no day in the park, it is painful.
- When handling your gecko, keep your eyes peeled. Geckos are quick and are known to make unexpected movements. Make sure the room you are in is secure, with no open doors or windows. If you do happen to have a gecko with a habit for playing hide and seek, use this tip for a quick return; first, make the room as cool as possible (shutting off lights, closing blinds, etc.), then place a heat lamp in the middle of the room. The heat of the lamp will draw in the little rascal.
- After handling your gecko, wash your hands. Geckos, even clean ones, can carry bacteria such as salmonella, which can make humans sick. Hands should be washed with antibacterial soap and warm water. Don't overly handle your gecko.
- Occasionally, unusal stimuli in the environment can cause stress in your gecko, which can lead to loss of appetite, or hiding and biting (although, this doesn't always mean something is wrong). In the case of major stessors, if you want to give your gecko some long-term privacy, cover the tank with a towel or blanket for about a week. This will give him sufficient time to calm down. Any unusual or stressful behavior should usually be checked out with a vet.
For more information on your House Gecko, consult some of these books:
Reptiles, by Bill Brant. April, 1994.
Lizards...Their Care and Breeding in Captivity, by John Coborn. Tetra Press. 1987.