Scientific Name: Rhacodactylus auriculatus
Sexing and Characteristics:
Sexing Gargoyle Geckos can be quite tricky in juvenile animals. Most are sexed from macro shots when sold as juveniles. It can be done by visual differences found between the two different sexes prevalent only in mature adults. Males have femoral pores on the underside of their thighs in a V shape. Females generally lack these pores. Males show two hemipenal bulges on the base of their tails. Females do not have 2 hemipenal bulges at the base of their tails.
Generally adult Gargoyle Geckos grow to a length of 7” – 10” and averaging a weight of 40g-60g. The majority of juveniles would be 3” coming out of the egg.
Substrate and Water Needs:
For bedding you can use a variety of things, Pine & Cedar are to be avoided as these are toxic to reptiles. When it comes to the substrate in your enclosure many people have varied opinions on which is best to use. You have the safe and economical option of kitchen paper. To some this is a great option especially if you have a large group of geckos or you have a breeding project. It’s cheap and easy to clean but you then have the less visual appealing aspect or the less natural view to your enclosure. The other great option and one that I would recommend is coco bark. This is usually sold in a brick format and you add water for it to expand. This makes a great substrate option not just Gargoyle Geckos but a lot of sub-tropical reptiles. It’s great for maintaining great humidity and it is also small enough to help prevent impaction although it’s not guaranteed. One other option is orchid bark as this also holds humidity well but the one thing to be careful of is to make sure it’s not too fine or too small because if your gecko is hunting it could accidently ingest some pieces and this can cause impaction which can lead to death in many cases.
As Gargoyle Geckos are a sub tropical species they require moderate humidity, a range of 50%- 70% is adequate. It is important to not allow your enclose to become too wet or too dry. These needs can be met by general misting of your enclosure. A small to medium sized water bowl will suffice. It is essential that fresh water is always supplied and available to your gecko. The majority of Gargoyle Geckos however will not drink from a localized water source and will receive their water intake from the misting that should be provided.
Lighting and UVB:
As Gargoyle Geckos are nocturnal, it is commonly thought that they have no specific lighting requirements. Being nocturnal means they spend most of the day time asleep and hiding and become active and hunt at night. However wild animals sleeping on branches and in trees during the day would still be subject to UVB reflected down through the canopy. It is true that Gargoyle Geckos can be kept without the use of UVB without suffering detrimental health problems as long as they are correctly supplimented, and many keepers do not use UVB. However in light of many studies on the beneficial effects of UVB provision on nocturnal lizards the HSI would recommend that (where possible) UVB is provided for Gargoyle geckos. If you choose not to use UVB bulb then occasional exposure to UVB for short periods of time can be beneficial to your gecko, even just an hour in the garden on a sunny day.
Spot bulbs or basking bulbs can be used for larger enclosures to provide a heat or a natural light source on a cycle.
Temperatures & Humidity:
If using a light or spot bulb as a basking spot you must make sure that it reaches a maximum temperature of 82 ° – 85 ° F, a good color bulb to use is red or blue. When it comes to heating, Gargoyle Geckos need very little as they are a sub tropical reptile they enjoy temperatures of 72° – 75 ° F and with the mentioned above temperatures for a basking spot. Little or no extra heating is required and many thrive at room temperature granted your room temperatures are what has been mentioned and don’t fluctuate too high or low within the recommended temperature ranges. The most ideal options to obtain the appropriate temperature in your enclosure are noted below.
- Basking / Infrared Bulbs
- Ceramic bulbs
The choice of heating system used is a matter of personal choice, however in ALL cases, a thermostat should be used as mentioned in conjunction with the heater, in order to avoid burns to the animal, and danger of fire.
- Gargoyle Geckos humidity should be moderate, around 50-70% which can be increased whilst shedding.
- A moss box can be provided when they are shedding to help assist them.
- If help is needed choosing heating/thermostat options, please do not hesitate to contact the Herpetological Society of Ireland & we will guide you in the right direction.
The first thing to be taken into account is that generally Gargoyle Geckos shouldn’t be housed together as adults unless it is for breeding purposes. They tend to thrive better when housed individually as this puts less stress on each animal, also it would decrease the chance of each animal losing their tail should they fight or one bully the other.
The minimum enclosure size for each adult Gecko should be around 24” x 16” x 16” (H x W x D). Proper Ventilation is a must to maintain a healthy animal. It is important to provide plenty of hide spots for your Gecko so that if they feel stressed they can hide away. They should be provided both on the ground of your enclose and from above as they are mostly an arboreal Gecko. This can be achieved by providing plenty of branches and foliage. This also helps keeps your Gecko active and healthy as they can climb and jump.
Young Gargoyle Geckos are best kept in small enclosures that mimic the requirements mentioned above. Secure hides should be offered as they often have trouble obtaining the correct temperatures in larger enclosures and this could cause them to go off their food.
Omnivorous – Gargoyle Geckos enjoy a diet of both fruit (non citrus) and insects. This means that they are omnivorous. There is a specific formulated diet out there that is available for Crested Geckos but Gargoyle Geckos benefit from this formula just as much. It can be made on its own just with water. Some geckos can be reluctant to take to this formula so it is commonly mixed with fruit flavored (peach, banana, apple, pear) baby food to try wean them on to the formula as it is more beneficial for them and it contains all the vitamins and nutrients they need.
Gargoyle Geckos will often take insects as well such as crickets / locusts and as a treat wax worms. It is very important that all insects are dusted with appropriate calcium supplements to help maintain a healthy gecko especially females as large amounts of calcium deposits are used when creating eggs. If not using the crested gecko formula that is available it’s important to supplement any fruit food that you make or if using baby food. As mentioned above clean and fresh water should be provided daily.
In terms of a feeding schedule the made up formula / supplemented baby food can be left with your gecko for 1-2 days at a maximum. A days rest can be given then new food made up and left in for the same period. If feeding insects such as crickets / locusts they shouldn’t be left in for no longer than a few hours. If your gecko doesn’t want to eat them they may attack and bite your gecko. Most tend to have a feeding schedule of the formulated / baby food 2/3 times a week and one day of insects. This is purely gecko dependant as every gecko is different. Juvenile geckos should be fed more frequent than adults.
Supplements, Nutrition and Usage:
Supplements and Vitamins are an important part of your gecko’s diet. It is important to use these for appropriate growth and bone development. They should however be used appropriately as too much can be just as bad as too little. If proper gut loading is done you should only need to apply the supplements once a week. An easy way to do this is to use a Ziploc bag or a beaker. Apply half a teaspoon of the powdered supplements to either and then put the insects in and give a gentle shake.
Gargoyle Geckos are very easy to take care of, probably the reason why they are becoming much more popular in the hobby today. They have easily met climate requirements as well as diet requirements. The majority handle well when matured. Care must always be taken though because they have the ability to drop their tail as a defense mechanism. It does grow back. This process can take a lot out of your gecko, if this happens you should ensure your gecko is given a clean and sterile environment with appropriate heating and humidity to ensure the tail area does not become infected.
Some Words on this Species:
Gargoyle Geckos are part of the Rhacodactylus family. Others that are a part of this family are Crested Geckos. They are mainly native to New Caledonia and its surrounding islands. They are one of the hardier Rhacodactylus species and can tolerate handling quite well with proper care.
If you take care of your gecko and meet its requirements it has been recorded that they can live a long life (up to 15 years). As mentioned Gargoyle Geckos are nocturnal and thus will be most active at night and during the evening. You may notice your gecko making chirping or barking noises and this is even more prevalent during mating. You will notice that they use their tail nearly as another leg, they use it to assist them climbing between the foliage and branches. This also has the tiny hairs that are found on the toes of other geckos and allows them to stick to almost any surface. Unlike the other Rhacodactylus species mentioned (Crested Gecko) Gargoyle Geckos are not as agile when it comes to their ability to stick to objects.
Gargoyle Geckos can be a rewarding pet and given some time and bonding, they can become hardy handlers. It’s always important to never grasp or grab your geckos suddenly, this leads to increased stress levels and there is always the possibility that your gecko will drop its tail. While Gargoyle Geckos have the ability to regenerate their tail it is never the same as the original. If it does happen it is very important to take extra care of your gecko. Give it a clean and sterile environment, make sure it has plenty of water and is fed regularly.
Caresheet Courtesey of The Herpetological Society of Ireland 2009