Terri the Lizard Lady
RHACODACTYLUS GECKOS, which come in six individual species common in the pet trade (R. auriculatus, ciliatus, chahoua, leachianus, sarasinorum, and trachyrhynchus), originally came from New Caledonia, located off the coast of New Zealand. There they resided in the treetops in rainforest-like conditions. Keep this in mind when setting up their enclosures. Make the cage tall rather than wide, and decorate it with plastic vines, branches, cork tubes or slabs and even dowels. Also, the temperatures that they tolerate are much lower than one usually associates with reptiles. Rhacodactylus geckos like the same temperatures at which we are comfortable, between 65F and 80F. They can take temperatures in the low sixties for limited periods of time (as night-time in winter) if allowed to warm up to the mid-seventies during the day. They cannot tolerate heat much over 80F for any period of time. High temperatures stress them greatly, and they can die if exposed to temperatures over 90F for very long.
WATER: Always provide clean, fresh water in water dishes in their enclosure. Do not use soft water. Use distilled or reverse-osmosis water for misting to avoid etching of the glass/plastic. If you have good clean well water, use that for their drinking water. I add drops of ZOO-MED’S REPTI-SAFE to their drinking water and the water you mix their food with.
Mist well at least once per day, but preferably twice per day in winter when the furnace tends to make the air drier, morning and night. Mist heavily enough that the last drops have just evaporated when you return 12 hours later for another misting. You don’t want the cages sodden; mold is deadly and must not be tolerated.
PLEASE KEEP THE GECKOS ON THE Pangea Gecko Diet (Crested (Now classified as: Correlophus ciliatus) Gecko Diet) available from sources listed at http://www.pangeareptile.com . ABSOLUTELY NO BABY FOOD. All of my geckos have been raised from day one on the diet, and after a short period of adjustment in their new home, should resume feeding normally. If they seem to be taking too long to settle in, you might tap a few drops of food onto the sides of their mouths until they lick it off, then a few more drops to get them started again. Do not wait longer than 3 days to get them eating.
IF YOU FEED INSECTS, please do so no more than once per week dusted with MINER-ALL or CGD. Appropriately-sized crickets or roaches are recommended. If in doubt, start with smaller ones and watch to see the ease with which they are eaten. Do not feed mealworms since their exoskeleton is tough and may cause impaction which can be fatal. If you feed B. dubia roaches, putting them into a steep-sided plastic dish keeps them from escaping and hiding under the substrate, which they generally do almost immediately! Wax worms may be fed only rarely since they are high in fat.
IF YOU FEED INSECTS, AVOID USING NATURAL BARK OR PEAT SUBSTRATE since they can ingest it along with the bugs and become impacted. Paper towel and Repti-carpet are good, safe substrates which I use in my enclosures.
NEVER HOUSE DIFFERENT SIZES OF GECKOS TOGETHER The fastest way to identify unscrupulous “breeders” at shows is to see whether they have multiple geckos together in one cage. Even clutchmates should be separated into their own critter keepers after 2-3 months of age, at which point they become aware of each other, to avoid tail loss and other injuries.
Young geckos should be kept in individual kritter keepers by themselves. They are NOT like puppies or kittens which prefer a companion to play with. These animals do better kept alone until old enough to breed, or when kept as pets.
Once they become adults at about 35 grams, (for ciliatus, sarasinorum and auriculatus, other weights for chahoua, trachys and leachianus), 2 or 3 females may be housed together in a large-enough enclosure, although occasionally you may witness personality conflicts. A 20-gallon tall will house up to 2 adult females, or one pair. 3 females or a trio may live companionably in a 39e lizard lounge.
MALES MUST NEVER BE HOUSED TOGETHER. THEY ARE TERRITORIAL AND MAY FIGHT TO THE DEATH. Animals in captivity should never be placed in such an unfair situation. I consider that to be cruel, inhumane and unnecessary. At the very least, one will lose ground quickly and may die from inadequate access to food and water and the stress of the situation.
STRESS IS A VERY REAL THREAT TO THESE GECKOS; too much handling is stressful to them although a few minutes of gentle handling daily should be alright. I recommend an enclosed, carpeted area such as a living room or bathroom where you can sit on the floor so that if the gecko jumps out of your hands, he has only a short hop to a soft landing. Also in an enclosed area, the gecko can be readily recaptured in the event that it jumps away and keeps going. One time-proven method is to let them climb from hand to hand to give them the sense that they’re going somewhere. Just remember that these pets are more display animals than cuddle-bunnies, and don’t over-do it.
NEVER GRAB THEM BY THEIR TAIL since several of the species may drop it and it will never grow back, notably the cresteds (ciliatus) or if it does, it will not match the original patterns or colors. A tailless gecko can live a perfectly normal life, however, if it should lose its tail.
CATS! Cats are natural predators of geckos and must be kept away from any temptation. A cat springing onto a gecko’s cage may pierce the gecko with its claws should the gecko be clinging to the top screen of its cage. Cats can pull the screen top off of a cage, or rip the screen if motivated and will torture the defenseless gecko to death if allowed to. I cannot stress enough how often I have heard “Oh, my cat ignores my reptiles and would never bother them” only to later hear of the poor gecko’s horrible demise.,
MEDICAL ATTENTION: If you have any concern about your animal’s behavior being abnormal, feel free to contact me immediately. I would rather spend an hour reassuring you that his behavior is normal or trouble-shooting what the problem might be than find out later that it died because you weren’t sure anything was wrong. Geckos are very secretive about letting on when they aren’t quite right, (it’s a survival tactic that can work against them), and often by the time you discover them lying flat on the floor with sunken eyes and limp feet, it is almost too late. I recommend Vernon Hills Animal Hospital at 1260 S. Butterfield Road, Mundelein, IL 60060, (847-367-4070 ) as an excellent resource in this area. Dr. Stephen Barten is the pre-eminent reptile veterinarian in this area and he has saved several geckos I know of including 2 of mine. Should you ever need to consult him, I would very much appreciate it if you mention that I have recommended him to you. I would counsel anyone thinking of buying a pet gecko to ask your family veterinarian whether he/she treats exotic pets such as geckos just to know in advance. The “gecko bible”: Rhacodactylus: A Complete Guide to their Selection and Care, by Philippe de Vosjoli, Frank Fast, and Allen Repashy. 290 pages, 250 color photos. $39.95. Published by Advanced Visions Inc. before it goes out of print.
Since I keep careful breeding records, it is easy for me to come up with another "unrelated" gecko should you ever want one. Repeat customers will get a break in price.
Feel free to call or email about any concern or question that comes to mind. I love hearing that my youngsters are doing well and also love seeing pictures of them as they grow. I don’t mind visiting if invited, and at about 6-10 grams of age I can use my 30x loupe to give you an educated guess about their gender. I have pictures of the youngsters and their parents in my files that I am happy to share. IF YOU EVER DECIDE THAT YOU NO LONGER WANT THE GECKO YOU GOT FROM ME, I WILL BE HAPPY TO TAKE IT BACK. Don’t hesitate to call me if your child tires of it or it no longer fits into your family.
Don’t hesitate to call or email to discuss any points for which you require more explanation. I am always happy to talk geckos, and am dedicated to making sure folks succeed with their new pet! You will find rhacodactylus to be very hardy and easy to care for if their simple needs are met, and to be overwhelming addictive!