Geckos are one of the cutest pets you can have. What makes them even more interesting is the fact that they change patterns as they mature.
You might wake up one day to find your pet gecko with a new look! This begs the question, can geckos change color?
Geckos can change color during many stages of their lives. Your pet gecko can change its color as it’s adapting to growing, shedding, or a new environment.
In this article, we’ve explained all the different reasons geckos might change their color and how to keep track of your reptile’s well-being from its colorful body.
Let’s dive in!
Yes! Geckos are masters of disguise. They can change their color to a variety of shades in a matter of minutes.
That said, there are over 1,000 species of geckos, and not all of them can change color. The most notable species of gecko that can change color are the Moorish gecko, or the Tarentola Mauritanica, and the leopard gecko, known as Eublepharis macularius.
Geckos can change their color when they’re hatchlings as well!
So, if you’re getting a pet gecko, don’t expect it to have the same color as it grows older. Instead, the gecko hatchling will gradually change color and pattern until it fully matures.
Younger geckos can have bright shades of yellow, green, or orange. As they grow, this color fades to a natural shade.
Geckos don’t just change color. They can match their color to the surrounding environment, so they can blend seamlessly.
That said, geckos camouflage to hunt and escape predators. Additionally, different geckos are able to change their colors to varying degrees so they can match their natural environment.
This means you’ll rarely find your gecko camouflaging inside its tanks, especially if you add vibrant, unnatural colors to the reptile’s habitat.
Unlike other reptiles that change color to maintain body temperature, geckos’ change in color isn’t a thermoregulatory response.
Alternatively, geckos can change color to blend in with the environment. This way, they can avoid predators as well as catch prey.
Some geckos might change color if they’re stressed. Naturally, if a gecko senses danger, it’ll need to hide. What better way to do so than to camouflage into the environment?
Depending on their home, geckos can also turn a shade or two darker or lighter. Even if they’re not trying to hide, these reptiles don’t like standing out. So, matching their environment is the safest option.
First, the reptiles assess the surrounding environment. However, they don’t consciously know what colors to change to. Then, they can automatically trigger a response in their skin.
Geckos can control the pigments in their skin cells with great precision. The amount of melanin present in each cell is responsible for how dark or light the gecko can get.
Moreover, geckos can control which parts of the light spectrum get absorbed into their skin and which bounce back. They can do this by altering the distribution of crystals within their cells.
Every couple of weeks, your gecko might start turning pale. This can be confusing, as the white color makes the gecko stand out more instead of camouflage.
In this case, your gecko isn’t actually changing color. It’s just shedding old skin. The shedding process can take a couple of days before your gecko returns to its normal shade.
Shedding is a natural process all geckos go through. The reason geckos shed is that the outer layer of skin can’t grow to accommodate the gecko’s growing body. Naturally, juvenile geckos will shed more often than adults.
Additionally, the skin might just get old. Even humans shed dead skin cells and old hair. The only difference is that geckos shed their entire skin at once!
Simply put, there’s no need for concern if your gecko’s skin turns white. If you find your reptile friend eating its old skin, that’s okay too! It’s just getting the nutrients it needs to grow.
Usually, your pet reptile’s changing color isn’t a cause for worry. Still, there are some instances where a different shade can indicate a health problem.
Here are all the reasons why your little friend might change color, other than camouflaging:
A lot of people can overlook skin infections in geckos. That’s because camouflaging reptiles often change color and shed. So, it’s tricky to spot any abnormal conditions in geckos.
The most common skin infection that geckos can have is dysecdysis. If your gecko is dehydrated, it won’t be able to shed its skin. Then, the skin buildup can cause infection and damage. Your small pet might even have trouble opening its eyes.
Mild cases of bacterial dermatitis can cause darkening in areas of the skin. This is frequently due to an unclean tank or environmental conditions. With minimal care and cleaning, your reptile friend’s skin will change back to its normal shade.
Tail necrosis is another infection that results in geckos’ skin darkening, particularly the tail area. The condition can happen if your gecko has trouble shedding.
If you notice any wrinkling, blistering, or scale changes in your gecko, alert your veterinarian as soon as possible.
The main reason geckos camouflage is to hide from predators. House geckos don’t face that concern. However, if your gecko is stressed, it might try to hide by changing color.
This can happen if there’s a change in the gecko’s environment, including its diet, the surrounding temperature, humidity, or even in the presence of noise.
As your reptile adjusts to its new habitat, it’ll regain its former color. Yet, you need to provide a comfortable home for your pet. Avoid handling your gecko too often and make sure you give it a proper diet.
As geckos mature, their skin darkens. They also develop distinct dark spots instead of the dark bands around their bodies.
Geckos mature at different rates. Though, the general rule of thumb to know if your pet is mature is if the dark bands on its skin disappear.
Suboptimal tank conditions can easily stress out your pet. The issue might be with the tank size, temperature, and humidity. Simply put, if your pet doesn’t feel at home, it’ll try to hide,
While geckos don’t typically change their colors to control their body’s temperature, it’ll get darker if it’s in the cold for too long. This causes the reptile to get a shade or two darker in order to preserve some heat.
If your gecko is too cold, you’ll notice it’s not moving as much. Your reptile can also nest near its heat lamp.
Since geckos absorb heat through their belly, you might find your friend crawling close to the bottom of the tank.
The ideal temperature for geckos is between 75℉ to 86℉. You can achieve this by placing a heating mat in your pet’s tank.
Too much heat can also cause your gecko’s skin to darken. If you have a UV lamp, the reptile’s skin can absorb too much harmful radiation, so its skin will change color. This is similar to tanning in humans!
Can geckos change color? The answer is yes!
Geckos are great at camouflage. They can alter the color of their body to blend in with the surrounding environment. This way, they can catch prey in the wild, or hide from larger animals.
Still, you can find your house gecko changing its color if it’s too stressed or if the tank conditions aren’t suitable.
That said, it’s completely normal for your reptile to turn pale every couple of weeks as it’s shedding. Additionally, juvenile geckos’ skin darkens as they grow older. They also develop spots!
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.