Native to Pakistan, viper geckos (Teratolepis fasciata) are named for their keeled scales, the same kind of scales found on some vipers. They’re also sometimes called turnip-tailed or carrot-tailed geckos, a reference to their conspicuously thick tails. These fascinating little geckos are small and hardy, making them an excellent desert species to bring home!
Viper geckos exhibit a unique ladder pattern with black, grey, beige, and white colors. Their intricate patterning and keeled scales give them a very unique and beautiful look–there is nothing out there that quite like the latticework of viper geckos!
One or two viper gecko adults can be housed comfortably in an 8x8x8 enclosure, but we recommend at least a 12x12x12 enclosure for groups of three to six animals, with larger enclosures housing more individuals. Hatchlings and juveniles can scale smooth surfaces, so be sure to secure any small potential escape routes in your enclosure! Whereas housing males together in many gecko species results in territorial aggression, viper geckos are communal: males and females of this species can be housed together with no issues!
Viper geckos are terrestrial and inhabit arid, rocky areas in Pakistan. Sand, such as Repti-Sand, works well as a substrate. So long as the animals are kept healthy and hydrated, and temperatures are correct, impaction is not a risk. Feces and urates should be cleaned from the substrate at least once a week.
These geckos are nocturnal, and they hide in rock crevices during the day. In captivity, many items can be repurposed as hides, such as cork bark, slate, or upside down plant saucers.
At night, viper geckos come out and forage for food. They will climb rough surfaces, and low rocks, manzanita branches, and cork bark can be provided. Viper geckos also like to dig, so it is important that any cage items placed on the substrate are light. Any heavy items, like slate or rocks, should be supported by the bottom of the enclosure instead of being placed on top of the substrate.
Viper geckos should be kept at temperatures ranging from 75 to 85F. A heat pad or heat lamp should be used to provide a hot spot of around 95F during the day. This temperature can be monitored with a temperature gun. Hides should be provided on both the cool and warm side to allow your gecko to thermoregulate without sacrificing security. Being nocturnal, this species requires no special lighting. Temperatures can drop down to 68 F at night.
These geckos do well provided ambient humidity ranging from 40-50%. This species should be misted at least two or three times a week at night in order to leave droplets of water in the enclosure (such as on the enclosure walls and any items) from which the geckos will drink. The enclosure should have enough ventilation such that it dries out within a few hours of misting. A shallow water dish can be provided but is not necessary with consistent misting. Viper geckos will take advantage of a humid hide for shedding, hydrating, and even laying eggs.
Viper geckos will not exceed 3 to 4 inches as adults. Healthy individuals will have plump tails, in which they store fat. Note that this species is capable of letting go of its tail when feeling threatened, so care should be given when handling this species.
Given proper care, is estimated that these geckos can live up to 10-15 years in captivity.
As insectivores, viper geckos will enjoy a diet of our feeder insects. A staple of crickets works best, with other small feeder insects (dubia roaches, waxworms, small mealworms) offer occasionally. A good rule of thumb for size is to only offer insects whose length does not exceed the space in between the gecko’s eyes. Generally, hatchling viper geckos should be fed insects measuring around ⅛-inch, with subadults and adults being moved up to ¼-inch insects.
Feeder insects should be gutloaded and dusted with a vitamin/mineral supplement. Offering insects in food dish is not necessary but will minimize the number of bugs that escape and hide among the enclosure.
Viper geckos males have bulges at the base of their tail as well as femoral pores between their hind legs.
Viper gecko males and females can be housed together. A brumation period (hibernation) in the winter or increasing the length of day in the summer is recommended to incite breeding. Females will lay pairs of eggs in the substrate (or humid hide, if one is provided) once every 2-3 weeks, which can be carefully removed and incubated. Eggs will hatch within 60-80 days. As prolific breeders, care should be taken to provide females with plenty of calcium, and breeders should be observed weekly and removed from breeding if necessary.
Links of Interest:
Supreme Gecko Care Sheet – Supreme Gecko care sheet on viper geckos