The fish scale gecko (Geckolepis sp.) is a 3-5” long, nocturnal, arboreal gecko native to Madagascar and the Comoro islands. Their preferred habitat is forest, but they can also be found among the limestone karst of Ankarana National Park.
Fish scale geckos have a large head, large eyes, vertical pupils, plumb body, stout limbs, stick toe pads, and a relatively thin, tapered tail. They generally have a gray to beige base color, with darker spots, bands, or stripes, and the scales are strongly iridescent. Something that makes these geckos highly unique is their unusually large scales, as well as their ability to slough those scales at a moment’s notice in order to escape the grasp of a perceived predator.
Despite their rarity, fish scale geckos are generally considered hardy and easy to care for, making them a beginner-level pet reptile.
Minimum terrarium size for fish scale geckos
The absolute minimum terrarium size for a single fish scale gecko is 12”L x 12”W x 18”H. Of course, larger is always better! Housing multiple fish scale geckos in the same terrarium is not recommended, and may result in fighting if attempted.
Do fish scale geckos need UVB?
Technically they can live without it with the right supplementation, but using supplements as a replacement for UVB exposure is imprecise at best, and can negatively affect the health of the gecko. So it’s safest and best to use artificial UVB lighting in your gecko’s setup.
The best UVB bulb for fish scale geckos in an 18” tall enclosure is going to be the Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 Compact Fluorescent, 26w, mounted horizontally in the Zoo Med Naturalistic Terrarium Hood. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp.
UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window doesn’t count as “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. And don’t forget to replace your bulb every 6 months to maintain consistent output!
Lights should be on for 11 hours/day during winter and 13 hours/day during summer to simulate seasonal changes in day length. All lamps should be turned off at night.
Best temperature for fish scale geckos
Fish scale geckos should have a low basking temperature between 80-84°F, as measured by a digital probe thermometer with the probe positioned in the basking area. The rest of the enclosure should range between 68-76°F, and nighttime temps can drop as low as 62°F.
Provide heat for your gecko with a low-wattage incandescent bulb. White heat bulbs are the best way to imitate the warmth of sunlight indoors, and considered to be a superior form of reptile heating by experts. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. Nighttime heating is not necessary.
Best humidity levels for fish scale geckos
Fish scale geckos are a tropical species, so the humidity inside their enclosure should be fairly high: 60-80% on average. Humidity should be measured via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.
Increase humidity by misting your gecko’s enclosure 1-2x/day with a spray bottle. Mist each evening, and then again in the morning and then if needed. Aside from raising humidity, this also provides your gecko with an important source of drinking water! If you are having trouble maintaining good humidity levels, use a cool-mist humidifier connected to a hygrostat.
Best substrate for fish scale geckos
Providing a layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help maintain correct humidity levels and creates a natural cushion for if they fall. It also helps make your enclosure more attractive!
We recommend the following substrates for fish scale geckos:
Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity.
Substrate should be at least 2” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a fish scale gecko terrarium
An empty terrarium makes for a stressed fish scale gecko, reducing its quality of life, and potentially even its lifespan. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!
Here are some décor ideas that fit with your gecko’s arboreal lifestyle:
What to feed to a fish scale gecko
Fish scale geckos are primarily insectivores, which means that they need to eat both plant- and animal-based foods to get the right nutrition. In the wild, they primarily eat insects, as well as some flower nectar and fruit. As pets, it’s best to feed them live insect feeders supplemented by high-quality, specially-formulated crested gecko diet (CGD).
How often fish scale geckos need to eat depends on age:
- Hatchlings and Juveniles — insects daily, CGD 2x/week
- Adults — insects 2x/week, CGD 1x/week
Feeder insects for fish scale geckos: dubias, discoids, red head roaches, crickets, hornworms, silkworms, grasshoppers/locusts
Best crested gecko diets: Pangea, Repashy, Leapin’ Leachie, Zoo Med, Lugarti, Black Panther Zoological, Gecko Pro
The key to balanced nutrition is variety, so make sure to offer a rotation of as many different foods as possible.
You will also need a calcium supplement. We recommend Repashy Supercal NoD, lightly dusted on all feeder insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
Of course, don’t forget small food and water bowls and a feeding ledge! Since fish scale geckos are arboreal, they prefer to eat and drink up off the ground. Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.
How to handle your fish scale gecko
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. While fish scale geckos have been reported to tame down well in captivity, it’s best not to count on this species as a pet that can be handled regularly. If you want to interact with your gecko, try hand-feeding it with a pair of feeding tweezers rather than holding it.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!
"Fish-scale gecko (Geckolepis sp)" by Michael Sale is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0