Barking Gecko: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Care for Them

The Barking Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii), also known as the Western Thick-tailed Gecko, is a unique and fascinating species native to western Australia. If you are interested in keeping one as a pet, here is a comprehensive guide on how to care for them.


The barking gecko, or Underwoodisaurus milii in scientific terms, belongs to the Gecko family, also known as Gekkonidae. These geckos are social lizards that inhabit Southern Australia. They are terrestrial creatures, living on the ground in various environments such as wet coastal areas, leafy forests, dry woodlands, and arid scrublands with sandy soil. Barking Geckos prefer to reside in protected crevices within rocks or under loose bark near tree bases. They are primarily nocturnal, meaning they hunt for food during the night and are generally less active during the day.


Barking geckos are medium-sized lizards that exhibit a range of body colors from dark to light brown, gold, and orange, with white to yellow raised tubercles and a dense band of spots around the neck. They have a thick and broad tail that tapers to a point. Juvenile Barking Geckos are slow growers and can take up to six months to accurately determine their sex. They usually reach adult size in 18 months, with an average length of up to 4-5 inches from snout to tail tip and a weight of 20-25 grams.


Barking Geckos require a spacious and secure terrarium with plenty of hiding spots and climbing opportunities. For each adult barking gecko, a minimum of 30 x 30 centimeters of surface area should be provided as a general rule. These geckos thrive in group colonies and prefer to hide in cave-like dwellings that are kept on the warm side of their enclosure (refer to Heating section below). It's not advisable to house adult males together in the same reptile terrarium as they may engage in fights and cause harm to each other. A single male can be kept with multiple females, and several females can share the same enclosure. Avoid housing adult barking geckos with babies or other species of reptiles.


Reptiles are ectothermic (cold-blooded) and rely on the temperature of their surroundings to regulate their body temperature. To help your barking gecko regulate their temperature, place an under tank heat pad (UTH) on one side of their enclosure. This allows them to move back and forth within the enclosure to adjust their body temperature as needed. Thermal regulation is crucial for their metabolism, digestion, and immune systems. For barking geckos, it is recommended to maintain a temperature of 26-29°C on the warm side of their enclosure and normal room temperature (around 20-24°C) on the cool side. To ensure the proper temperature, use a reptile thermometer. It is recommended to use UTHs instead of overhead heat sources as they mimic the heat absorbed from the sun in the soil and rocks of their natural habitat, aiding in digestion.


Barking geckos, unlike other reptiles, are mostly active at night and do not require special lighting to keep warm or absorb Vitamin D from the sun. Adding extra overhead lighting can increase the temperature in the enclosure, so it is not necessary. It is important to note that Barking Geckos have sensitive eyes and poor eyesight in bright light, so they should never be exposed to direct sunlight.


To create a suitable substrate for your Barking Gecko's enclosure, we recommend using a 1”-2” layer of a non-silica sand and sifted peat moss mixture in a 50:50 ratio. It's important to maintain a slightly moist area on the cool side of the enclosure by misting with a water sprayer 2-3 times a week.


Barking Geckos require clean and fresh water to drink from and soak in.

Barking Geckos typically don't drink from bowls. Instead, they will lick water droplets from the walls of the cool side of their enclosure after misting. If no misting, then a water bowl should be made available.

A shallow water dish should be provided at least for bathing, and the water should be changed daily to prevent bacterial growth.


Barking geckos are enthusiastic eaters, primarily consuming live reptile food such as crickets, mealworms, and small woodies/roaches. It is essential not to offer prey that is more significant than about 3/4 the size of their heads to prevent choking. Juveniles should be given 3-4 small crickets or roaches every other day until they grow to about 2 inches in length. Then they should be given larger prey every other day until they become fully matured in about 12-18 months. Adults should be given 5-6 larger crickets or roaches every 3 days. Providing your gecko with a range of foods is recommended, however, barking geckos tend not to eat from bowls.

To ensure proper nutrition, it is necessary to dust food items with a mix of ultra-fine calcium powder every 2 or 3 feedings, and reptile vitamins once a week. You can obtain commercial reptile calcium powder and vitamins, such as ExoTerra, Zoo-Med, or Reptile One products. Put the calcium powder in a zip-lock bag or commercial cricket duster, and gently shake the live food items in the bag or container until they are coated. Similarly, vitamins should be administered weekly using the same method. Adequate calcium and vitamin supplementation is crucial to maintain the health of your barking gecko. Without proper supplementation, serious diseases such as Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) caused by calcium deficiency can permanently disfigure or ultimately kill your gecko.

To ensure the live crickets and roaches are nutritious for your barking gecko, feed them a balanced diet. You can offer pieces of whole grain cereal, oatmeal, squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, collard greens, and a slice of red potato for moisture to crickets. For roaches, a high-protein diet such as ferret food is recommended.


Moderate handling is tolerated by barking geckos. It is best to slowly offer your hand, kept low with your palm up, before picking them up when you need to handle your gecko. Avoid reaching down from over their head to grab them as they may become startled and perceive you as a predator coming down to attack them. Always handle your barking gecko with care, and avoid grabbing it by the tail. Like most lizards, when attacked or threatened, they can "drop" their tails. Losing a tail makes a lizard vulnerable to disease and infection until a new one grows back. Although Barking Geckos will eventually grow new tails, the regenerated ones are never as nice as the original.


Barking Geckos shed their skin every 2-4 weeks. Unlike other gecko species, they do not consume their shed skin. It's crucial to ensure that all the skin comes off, particularly around the eyes (eyecaps) and toes, as incomplete shedding can lead to digit loss from infection. To help remove any remaining skin on their toes, soak their feet in 1-2 inches of warm water, and use a gentle Q-tip. For the skin around their eyes, use a Q-tip soaked in mild saline solution or warm water, but be cautious not to harm them. If your Barking Gecko has difficulty shedding, try increasing the moisture level on the cool side of their enclosure or placing a damp paper towel inside their hide.


Barking Geckos require enrichment to keep them stimulated and healthy. Provide your gecko with a variety of hiding spots, such as caves and logs. You can also provide them with climbing opportunities, such as branches and vines. Do not use toxic plants or sharp or pointed decorations that could harm your gecko.


It is crucial to quarantine any new addition to your barking gecko colony, regardless of where you obtain it. The new gecko(s) must be separated from your existing reptiles for a minimum of 30 days, but 90 days is recommended. Many reptiles have died due to disease or parasite transmission from one infected gecko to others, making quarantine a necessary precaution.


Keeping a Barking Gecko can be a rewarding experience if you provide them with proper housing, substrate, temperature and lighting, water, enrichment, feeding, handling, and healthcare. Remember to do your research and learn as much as you can about these geckos before bringing one home.

Australian barking geckos are not only stunning and entertaining but also low-maintenance pets. They are a manageable size, do not require special lighting or complicated heating systems, and are more likely to remain visible than other reptiles, making them a joy to observe. Their voracious appetite for insects eliminates the need to prepare complex diets with fruits and vegetables. As social animals, several Australian barking geckos can coexist in a tank-style habitat. Unlike many Australian knob-tailed species, U. milii are less susceptible to stress and are easy to handle. With a lifespan of over 10 years, Australian barking geckos are rapidly gaining popularity as a mainstream pet species.