The western banded gecko (Coleonyx variegatus) is a 4-6” long, nocturnal, terrestrial lizard native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. They are desert generalists that can be found in a variety of arid habitats.
Western banded geckos are slender lizards with a tapered head, large eyes, slender limbs, long toes, smooth skin, and an unsegmented tail. Unlike most other geckos, they have eyelids, and they do not have sticky feet. Their pattern is typically cream or yellow with tan, brown, and/or black bands and spots.
Western banded geckos can make good pets because of their small size and nature as habitat generalists. However, they have a low tolerance for handling and are sensitive to improper husbandry, making them intermediate-level pet reptiles. With good care, they may have a 15+ year lifespan.
If banded geckos are native to your area, that is not a reason to capture one from the wild instead of buying from a reputable breeder. Do not steal reptiles from the wild to keep as pets!
Minimum terrarium size for western banded geckos
The minimum terrarium size for a western banded gecko is 30”L x 12”W x 12”H, or a 20 gallon “long” tank. Of course, larger is always better — if you provide, they will use it! This is especially the case if you want to house multiple geckos.
Housing multiple banded geckos in the same terrarium is not required, but it is possible to do, as they seem to get along in groups. A 20-gallon enclosure can house up to 3 geckos. Never house males together, as they will fight. Males and females should only be housed together if you intend to breed them.
Do western banded geckos need UVB?
Technically they can survive without it, but they are healthier when it is provided. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your gecko needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits.
The best UVB bulbs for banded geckos are:
- Zoo Med Compact Coil Reptisun 5.0, 26w
- Zoo Med T8 Reptisun 5.0, 18”
For best results, house the UVB bulb in a reflective fixture. The bulb should be roughly half the length of the enclosure. Compact coil bulbs should be mounted horizontally, not vertically, for best results.
UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window isn’t “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!
Lights should be on for 14 hours/day during summer and 10 hours/day during winter. This should be done gradually to simulate seasonal changes in day length, and helps regulate your gecko’s hormonal rhythm for better health.
Best temperature for western banded geckos
Western banded geckos should have a warm hide temperature of 91°F, cool side temperature between 72-77°F, and nighttime temps no lower than 65°F. Heat sources should be turned off at night. Place a digital probe thermometer on the cool side of the enclosure to make sure it never gets too warm.
It’s best to provide heat for your gecko with a combination of a heat mat and low-wattage heat bulb. Heat bulbs (especially halogens) are better at imitating sunlight, and considered to be a superior form of reptile heating by experts. This is for heating the air of the enclosure. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. The heat mat is for keeping the warm hide at the right temperature, and should be plugged into a thermostat with the probe placed inside the warm hide.
The heat lamp should be placed on one side of the enclosure, with the warm hide directly below. A heat mat is only necessary if the heat lamp doesn’t get the warm hide to a high enough temperature. If the heat lamp is too warm, dim it with a plug-in lamp dimmer. If too cool, you need a higher-wattage bulb.
Best humidity levels for western banded geckos
Western banded geckos do best in an environment with 30-40% average humidity, as measured by a digital probe hygrometer with the probe in the middle of the terrarium. However, they also need access to a humid hideout lined with moist substrate or coconut fiber to give them a place to go when they need more moisture, such as when they’re shedding. The humid hide should always offer >70% humidity.
Best substrate for western banded geckos
Solid substrates like slate tile and terrarium mats are popular with geckos because of the myth that geckos will get impacted if housed on a “loose” substrate. However, this is only a danger with unhealthy animals. If you’re nervous, you can certainly use a solid substrate, but it’s best to use a naturalistic loose substrate.
“Loose” substrates that mimic a reptile’s natural environment present a low impaction risk, cushion the animal’s joints, and offer a place where they can exercise natural burrowing behaviors.
We recommend the following substrates for western banded geckos:
Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity.
Substrate should be at least 3” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a western banded gecko terrarium
An empty terrarium leads to a bored and/or stressed gecko. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of decor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors.
At bare minimum, you will need at least two hides/caves for the gecko to use. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:
For best results, cover three sides of the enclosure to help your pet feel more secure in its home.
What to feed to a western banded gecko
Banded geckos are insectivores, which means that they need to eat a variety of insects to get the right nutrition. Juvenile banded geckos should be fed every day, and adults should be fed every other day.
Offer 2 insects per 1 inch of your gecko’s length, or however much they will eat in 15 minutes. Insects should be no wider than the space between the gecko’s eyes.
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to help keep your gecko healthy. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all of your gecko’s feeder insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
How to handle your western banded gecko
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Banded geckos are small and fragile, and handling can be very stressful for them, so it’s best to keep the handling to a minimum. Instead, try interacting with your pet via hand-feeding with soft-tipped tongs.
*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!
"Tucson Banded Gecko, Coleonyx variegatus bogerti Klauber, 1945" by Misenus1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0