Clad in brilliant colors, day geckos are among the most beautiful of all lizards. Active by day, they are ideally suited for life in naturalistic terrarium. Despite their appearance, many are hardy, long-lived, and relatively easy to keep and breed.
Depending upon the classification system used, 50-70 species have been identified and placed in the genus Phelsuma. The majority live in Madagascar, but some inhabit the Andaman and Comoros Islands groups, Mauritius Seychelles, and Round Islands. Some species have been introduced to Hawaii, East Africa, and Florida.
Day geckos inhabit a variety of habitats from rainforests to arid areas. Most are arboreal, living on bamboo, banana and palm trees. Many have adapted to life in and around villages, while others are threatened with habitat loss.
Day geckos range in size from 3 inches to 12 inches, and all species are extremely fast and agile. Like many other geckos, members of the genus Phelsuma are able to crawl across smooth vertical surfaces and ceilings. Plate-like structures on their toes called lamellae give them this astounding capability. Each lamella is covered with tens of thousands of hair-like projections called setae. Each seta is in turn covered with hundreds of projections known as spatulae. These microscopic structures, when spread over a relatively large surface area, allow for this incredible behavior.
All continents except Antarctica, mainly in tropical, sub-tropical and desert zones.
Varies by species
Because of their speed and fragility, day geckos are best kept for observation and should not be handled. Their skin can tear easily, and like many other lizards they are able to release their tails along break points when they are grabbed, allowing them to escape relatively unharmed.
Escaped lizards can be caught in small nets, so it is always a good idea to have one handy near your enclosures.
Males should not be housed together due to aggression. Aggression can even be a problem when keeping multiple females or juveniles together. Adults are best kept singly or in pairs. In large terrariums it may be possible to keep a trio or several juveniles, but they should be monitored to ensure that all are getting access to food and basking sites.
Setting up the terrarium
Vertically oriented glass enclosures are preferred for day geckos. The size of the tank depends on the species of gecko and the number being kept together, but 15-20 gallons is a good place to start for most smaller species. A variety of branches, vines, artificial, and live plants can be used to increase climbing surfaces and provide visual barriers. Several basking sites should be offered, especially when multiple geckos are kept together.
Coconut fiber, peat moss, cypress mulch, and Douglas fir bark are all suitable substrates. These substrates can retain moisture and are able to be cleaned regularly without breaking down your entire enclosure.
These diurnal lizards will not thrive without a source of UVB light. Fluorescent reptile bulbs are an ideal source for Vitamin D synthesis, which is necessary for many reptiles. Fluorescents and any other bulbs that give off bright light should remain on for 12-14 hours per day.
Heat & Humidity
Ambient temperatures should range from 80-88°F, with a basking spot of 90-95°F. Heat lamps should be placed to create a thermal gradient in the enclosure, so the geckos can regulate their body temperature. Temperatures can drop slightly at night, but if the ambient temperature drops significantly, ceramic heat bulbs or red bulbs can be used.
Most day geckos, even those that are not found in true rainforests, will benefit from several mistings per day with lukewarm water. Heavy rainfalls occur often throughout their range, and geckos will use the opportunity to lap up most of the drinking water they need. The tank should not remain constantly wet, but with heat and proper ventilation the terrarium should dry out between mistings.
Day geckos should be fed 4-5 times per week. Crickets can make up the bulk of the diet, provided that they are given nutritious food for several days prior to feeding. Other insects that can be used include small roach nymphs, wax worms, meal worms, silk worms, and more. Wild insects can also be collected provided you are familiar with toxic species in your area and can collect from locations that have not been treated with pesticides.
Wild day geckos also consume ripe fruit, nectar, pollen, and sap. A mixture of fruit-based baby food, honey and a powdered calcium supplement should be offered three times per week. Soft ripe fruits such as mango, papaya and banana can also be used.
A powdered multivitamin supplement should be provided in addition to the calcium offered with fruit or nectar. This can be used to coat crickets or other insects and should be given on days when calcium supplements are not being used.
Daily Care and Maintenance
Check your geckos for signs of injury and disease such as swollen limbs or jaws and dull coloration. Unshed skin on the toes or tail can eventually constrict blood flow and cause gangrene or loss of limbs if left unaddressed.
Daily care includes misting, feeding, and removing waste from the substrate as well as the walls of the enclosure.
Salmonella bacteria, commonly present in reptile and amphibian digestive tracts, can cause severe illnesses in people. Handling an animal will not cause an infection, as the bacteria must be ingested. Salmonella infections are easy to avoid via the use of proper hygiene. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any animal. Please speak with your family doctor or veterinarian for more tips on preventing Salmonella, or please read our care guide Cleaning and Disinfecting Recommendations for additional instructions.
When it comes to your new pet, knowledge is the best way to choose an appropriate addition to your family. Learn as much as you can about your new friend before you bring him home to ensure your pet enjoys a long, healthy life.
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