House Gecko

The House Gecko, scientific name Hemidactylus frenatus, is a native of southeastern Asia and the northern parts of Africa. Known as the Pacific house gecko, the Asian house gecko, or simply, the house lizard, it is the most recently discovered member of a quartet of small, prolific and aggressive lizards (or Gekkonids) that are nocturnal. They can be seen climbing walls of houses and other buildings in search of insects attracted to porch lights, hence their name. Spread around the world by ships, these geckos are now common in the southern half of the United States as well as large parts of Australia. They grow to a length of between three to six inches, and live for about five years.

A tropical gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus thrives in warm, humid areas where it can crawl around on rotting wood in search of the insects it eats. The animal is very adaptable and may prey on insects and spiders, displacing other reptiles.

Like many geckos, this species can lose its tail when alarmed. And like all geckos, its call or chirp rather resembles the sound "gecko, gecko". However, this is an interpretation, and the sound may also be described as "tchak tchak tchak" (often sounded three times in sequence). In Asia/South East Asia, notably Malaysia and Singapore geckos have local names onomatopoetically derived from the sounds they make: Hemidactylus frenatus is called "chee chak" or "chi chak" (pr: chee chuck), said quickly. Also commonly spelled as "chicak" in Malay dictionaries. while in the Philippines they are called "butiki" in Tagalog or "tiki" in Cebuano.


In this species, the snout is longer than the distance between the eye and the ear-opening, and is 1.3 to 1.5 times the diameter of the orbit. The forehead is concave and the ear-opening is small and roundish.

The body and limbs are moderately sized. The digits are moderately dilated and free; the inner one has a sessile claw. There are 4 or 5 lamelli under the inner digits, 7 or 8 (seldom 9) under the fourth finger, and 9 or 10 under the fourth toe.

The upper surfaces of the body are covered with small granules. The largest granules are on the snout; on the back these granules are intermixed with more or less numerous irregularly scattered round convex tubercles which are always much smaller than the ear-opening, and which are sometimes almost entirely absent.

The nostril is pierced between the rostral, the first labial, and three nasals. There are 10 to 12 upper and 8 to 10 lower labials. The mental is large, triangular or pentagonal. There are two or three pairs of chin-shields, the median is in contact behind the point of the mental.

The abdominal scales are moderate in size, cycloid and imbricate. The male has a series of 30 or 36 femoral pores, which are not interrupted on the preanal region.

The tail is rounded, feebly depressed, and covered above with very small smooth scales and six longitudinal series of keeled tubercles. The underside has a median series of transversely dilated plates. The tail serves in many species as an energy or fat like storage which the animal uses under abnormal feeding conditions. Though fragile, the tail regenerates to its original shape if detached.

The coloration of the animal is grayish or pinkish brown above. This tint can be uniform in color, or more or less distinctly marbled with darker markings. The head is generally variegated with brown. On the side of the head, a more or less defined brown streak, light-edged above, passes through the eye and in some individuals extends along the side of the body. The lower surfaces of the animal are whitish.


  • Worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions.
  • Philippines (Palawan, Panay, Calamian Islands, Luzon etc.), Japan (Ryūkyū, Bonin).
  • Polynesia, Micronesia (Caroline Islands: Pohnpei), Melanesia, Solomon Islands [McCoy 2000]
  • Somalia (Lanza 1990).
  • Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion, Rodrigues, Comoro Islands (Mayotte), Nossi Be = Nosy Bé (probably Nosy Mitsio, Seychelles, India, Pakistan, Andaman Islands, Nicobar Islands, Bangladesh, Bhutan.
  • Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Malaysia, Burma (Myanmar) Vietnam, Thailand.
  • Indonesia (Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Bali, Lombok, Sulawesi, Ambon.
  • Australia (Cook Island, CKI, coastal Northern Territory, coastal Queensland, coastal Northern New South Wales,South Australia, Western Australia).
  • Western Samoa, New Caledonia.
  • New Guinea, Fiji (introduced).
  • Taiwan, China (Hong Kong, Guangdong, Hunan, Hainan, S Yunnan).
  • El Salvador (HR 33: 65), Mexico (Yucatan), Belize, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras [HR 31: 53; Isla de Utila: HR 32: 57], Costa Rica, Nicaragua.
  • Introduced to Mariana Islands (Guam) and New Caledonia.
  • Introduced to USA (Hawaii, Florida, Texas, Philadelphia, PA and Alabama).
  • Found in Desert Hot Springs, California and Arizona as well as parts of Texas, such as Austin, San Antonio, and the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Also found in Philadelphia, PA. *Type locality: Java
  • Introduced to USA (New Mexico)
  • Starting to appear in England

House Geckos in Captivity

House Geckos can be kept as pets in a vivarium with a clean substrate, and typically require a heat source in order to regulate their body temperature, and a system of humidifiers and plants in order to provide them with moisture.



  • Cook, Robert A. 1990 Range extension of the Darwin house gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus. Herpetofauna (Sydney) 20 (1): 23-27
  • Darevsky I S; Kupriyanova L A; Roshchin V V 1984 A new all-female triploid species of gecko and karyological data on the bisexual Hemidactylus frenatus from Vietnam. Journal of Herpetology 18 (3) : 277-284
  • Edgren, Richard A. 1950 Notes on the Neotropical population of Hemidactylus frenatus Schlegel Natural History Miscellanea (55): 1-3
  • Edgren, R. A. 1956 Notes on the neotropical population of Hemidactylus frenatus Schlegel. Nat. Hist. Misc. 55: 1-3.
  • Jerdon,T.C. 1853 Catalogue of the Reptiles inhabiting the Peninsula of India. Part 1. J. Asiat. Soc. Bengal xxii [1853]: 462-479
  • McCoy, C. J.;Busack, Stephen D. 1970 The lizards Hemidactylus frenatus and Leiolopisma metallica on the Island of Hawaii Herpetologica 26 (3): 303
  • Norman, Bradford R. 2003 A new geographical record for the introduced house gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus, at Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico, with notes on other species observed. Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society. 38(5):98-100 [erratum in 38(7):145]
  • Ota H 1989 Hemidactylus okinawensis Okada 1936, junior synonym of H. frenatus in Duméril & Bibron 1836. J. Herpetol. 23 (4): 444-445
  • Saenz, Daniel;Klawinski, Paul D. 1996 Geographic Distribution. Hemidactylus frenatus. Herpetological Review 27 (1): 32

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