How to Care for Your Central American Banded Gecko
Central American banded geckos (Coleonyx mitratus) are small, nocturnal, terrestrial lizards native to tropical and subtropical forest areas of Central America, although they can also be found in areas with rocky terrain.
Central American banded geckos are 5-7” long, with slender bodies and limbs, long toes, a triangular head, big eyes, vertical pupils, bumpy skin, and an unsegmented tail. They usually have a tan to brown base color with cream or yellow bands, dark markings, and a pale underside. Adults are more spotted than juveniles. Unlike most geckos, banded geckos have eyelids and don’t have sticky toe pads.
Central American banded geckos are less hardy than their leopard gecko cousins and less tolerant of handling, which makes them an intermediate-level pet reptile. With good care, they can live up to 15 years or more.
This care sheet can also be applied to Coleonyx elegans.
How much space do Central American banded geckos need?
A single Central American banded gecko should be housed in no smaller than a 20 gallon (30” x 12” x 12” or 24” x 18” x 12”) terrarium. This is larger than the typical recommendation, but anything smaller will be unable to support all of the equipment that is needed to create a healthy environment for your gecko.
Cohabitation (keeping multiple banded geckos in the same terrarium) is possible with this species. Unless you plan to breed, only house females together, and never put more than one male in the same enclosure, as they will fight! A 20 gallon terrarium will fit up to 3 geckos.
Do Central American banded geckos need UVB?
Central American banded geckos are nocturnal, which means that they are most active from dusk to dawn. Technically banded geckos can survive without UVB lighting as long as they get supplemented with vitamin D3, but the fact remains that they can’t thrive without it. Aside from helping provide a day/night cycle, UVB is also good for your gecko’s overall wellbeing.
It’s best to provide low-strength UVB lighting as part of your gecko’s enclosure. The best UVB bulbs for banded geckos are:
- Zoo Med Compact Coil Reptisun 5.0, 26w
- Zoo Med T8 Reptisun 5.0, 18”
The UVB bulb should be roughly half the length of the enclosure and housed in a fixture with a reflector. If you are using a compact coil bulb, it must be mounted horizontally rather than vertically. Place the fixture on the basking side along with the heat lamp.
UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so you can’t give your gecko UVB by placing its terrarium in front of an open window. This can also make your enclosure dangerously hot by creating a greenhouse effect! Also make sure that the fixture your UVB bulb is in does not have a clear plastic or glass bulb cover.
Lights should be on for 12 hours/day.
What basking temperatures do Central American banded geckos need?
Central American banded geckos should have a warm hide temperature of 86°F, as measured by a digital probe thermometer with the probe placed inside the warm hide. There should also be a cooler area on the opposite side of the enclosure around 77°F. Nighttime temps should drop to 64-68°F.
It’s best practice to provide heat for your gecko with two sources: a heat lamp and a heat mat. The heat lamp is for warming the air of the enclosure and providing short-wavelength infrared (heat) for the gecko to use as desired. The heat mat is for heating the warm hide to optimal temperature.
For the heat lamp, use a low-wattage white heat bulb placed on one side of the enclosure. If it's too warm, try a plug-in lamp dimmer. If it's too cool, you need a higher-wattage bulb. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. Place the gecko’s warm hideout/cave below the heat lamp.
If your cool side doesn’t get warm enough with the heat lamp alone, you will need a heat mat. The heat mat should be roughly the same size as the enclosure, placed under the terrarium. You must plug your heat mat into a thermostat set at 77°F to prevent the mat from overheating, which can be fatal! Place the thermostat probe inside the cool hide to accurately control temperature.
Heat sources should be turned off at night.
What humidity levels do Central American banded geckos need?
Central American banded geckos dehydrate easily, and need a moderate to high-humidity environment for best health. Average humidity should be 60-70%, as measured by a digital probe hygrometer with the probe in the middle of the terrarium. To maintain humidity, mist the enclosure nightly with a sprayer and occasionally mix water into the substrate.
However, you will also need to provide a humid hideout lined with moistened substrate and placed on the cool end of the enclosure. This should have the highest humidity in the terrarium.
What substrate is good for Central American banded geckos?
Substrate covers the floor of your gecko’s terrarium and helps make the enclosure more attractive, but it also helps maintain higher humidity levels and provides something for your gecko to dig in.
It’s ideal to use a substrate that imitates the “substrate” that the reptile naturally lives on in the wild. For Central American banded geckos, that means it should be tropical soil. It should have small particles, hold moisture well, and be loose enough to dig in. We recommend the following substrates for Central American banded geckos:
- Zoo Med ReptiSoil
- Zoo Med Eco Earth
- Eco Terra Plantation Soil
- Zilla Jungle Mix
Putting leaf litter on top makes a functional addition that provides extra hiding places as well as helps with humidity retention.
Substrate should be at least 2” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
What décor can you use in a Central American banded gecko terrarium?
It’s terribly boring (and stressful!) for a gecko to be stuck in an enclosure with nothing in it except substrate and food/water bowls. It doesn’t matter how big the enclosure is if you don’t put things in it for your pet to use and interact with.
At bare minimum, you will need at least two “caves” for the gecko to hide in. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:
- leaf litter
- small logs and branches
- climbing rocks
- additional hides
- live or artificial plants
It’s also best practice to cover three sides of the enclosure to help the gecko feel more secure in its environment.
What do Central American banded geckos eat?
Banded geckos are insectivorous, which means that they need a diet of insects in order to get the nutrition that their bodies need. How often these geckos need to eat depends on age: Juveniles should be fed daily, and adults fed every other day.
One meal should be 2 appropriately-sized bugs per 1 inch of your gecko’s length, or however much they can eat in 15 minutes.
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to prevent your gecko from developing a deficiency. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all of your gecko’s feeder insects.
Of course, don’t forget a small water bowl for your gecko to drink from! Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.
Do Central American banded geckos like to be handled?
Banded geckos are not as handleable as their leopard gecko cousins, and generally prefer to be left alone, as handling can be stressful for them. Enjoy watching them, instead! If you want to interact with your gecko, try hand-feeding them with a pair of soft-tipped feeding tongs.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please do further research with high-quality sources to obtain additional information on caring for this species.