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Malayan and Kuhl’s Flying Geckos – Breeding and Care

Ptychozoon kuhliHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Like most lizard enthusiasts, I was mesmerized by Flying Geckos at first glance. Early on, both Malayan and Kuhl’s Flying Geckos (Ptychozoon lionotum and P. Kuhli) were rare in the trade, but by the early 1980’s I found them readily available and integrated both into a Southeast Asian exhibit I maintained at the Bronx Zoo. I had some breeding success, but today’s stock remains largely wild caught.  Because they are both inexpensive and bizarre, Flying Geckos are often purchased by relatively inexperienced keepers. But while they can be hardy, prolific breeders, Flying Gecko ownership requires some forethought; hopefully the following information will prepare you.

Description

The 7 Flying Geckos in the genus Ptychozoon are among the most unique of the world’s 900+ gecko species.  Both the Malayan and Kuhl’s reach 6-8 inches in length and are distinguished by skin folds (along the head, flanks and toes) that enable them to glide through the air. A heavily-serrated tail assists in breaking up their outline. In overall appearance, I can best describe them as “amazingly bark-like”. 

Their color varies through a wide range of tans, grays and browns, and the skin is marked with an array of blotches and stripes.  Malayan and Kuhl’s Flying Geckos are difficult to differentiate by eye; the Kuhl’s tongue is often tipped in black, but I cannot say whether this always holds true.

Range and Habitat

The Malayan Flying Gecko inhabits Myanmar, Thailand, India, Malaysia and neighboring islands. The range of Kuhl’s Flying Gecko extends from southern Thailand through Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, Borneo and Sulawesi, and overlaps that of its cousin extensively.  Whether or not they hybridize, or utilize different niches within the same range, has not been researched. Other geckos are, however, known to partition habitats in species-rich areas; this article describes an interesting study carried out on Borneo.

Flying Geckos favor rainforests and other humid, densely-foliated habitats. However, they have colonized farms and human habitations, and it is from such areas that most are collected.

Captive Care

Malayan and Kuhl’s Flying Geckos may be kept and bred under similar conditions. As most in the trade are wild-caught, stress, mites and internal parasites are a major concern. As concerns medication, I’ve found them to be quite delicate; be sure that you use a well-experienced veterinarian to examine all new arrivals.

The Terrarium

Although wild-caught females may initially produce eggs, sustained captive breeding is only possible if the appropriate environment and diet is provided.  A spacious terrarium – a 20-30 gallon tank for a trio – is essential.  “Tall” style aquariums are ideal.  Flying Geckos spend most of their time on tree trunks, where their camouflage may be used to great advantage, and will be stressed if forced to use other resting sites.  Corkbark or native tree bark must be available, and the cage should be densely-planted (live plants are best).  Flying Geckos will not thrive in bare enclosures.

Temperature, Humidity and Light

Humidity should be maintained at 75-80% for most of the year (see “Breeding”), with a temperature gradient of 75-85 F.  Nighttime temperatures can dip to 70 F. A mix of sphagnum moss and a forest bedding, serves well as a substrate.

Flying GeckoAlthough Flying Geckos are nocturnal, wild individuals often spend their days in open situations, on tree trunks, and may therefore be exposed to UVB.  Low doses of UVB, as provided by a ZooMed 2.0 bulb, are likely beneficial.  Overly-bright environments should be avoided, so choose plants that do well in low light (pothos, snake and cast iron plants).  Incandescent heat bulbs  can be used to maintain temperatures; red/black night bulbs (which will assist in nighttime observations) or ceramic heater-emitters can be used after dark.  

Diet

Flying Geckos specialize in hunting flying and arboreal insects, and will not fare well on crickets alone.  Housefly cultures, silkworms, roaches, moths and other insects are essential to their well-being.  The comments in this article on Red-Eyed Treefrog Diets are largely applicable; please write in if you have any questions on this critical aspect of husbandry.

Breeding

Mature males may be distinguished from females by their pre-anal pores and the two scaly skin-folds that outline the cloaca. 

Males fight savagely, and cannot be housed together.  A single male may be kept with multiple females.  Gecko skin is delicate, and bite injuries may occur during courtship and copulation; check also for dominance battles among females.

Stimulating Reproduction

In the wild, breeding likely extends through much or all of the rainy season (March to May through October, depending upon locale).  Increasing the frequency and duration of daily misting in the spring will encourage captives to come into breeding condition.  Novel food items and increased dietary variety should also be introduced at this time.  Some have reported that removing and re-introducing a male will stimulate interest.

Lowering temperature and humidity slightly during the fall and winter may also be useful, but is not critical (please write in for details). 

The Eggs

Gravid female swell noticeably, and their 2 eggs will be visible through the skin in time.  A well-fed female may produce 3, or possibly more, clutches of 2 eggs each.  I’ve recorded inter-clutch intervals of 2-3 weeks, but this time period is likely affected by many factors.

Eggs are affixed to bark, glass or stout plant leaves.  Be sure to provide ample nesting sites that can be removed for incubation, as the eggs are often broken during attempts to peel them from the deposition surface. Corkbark slabs are ideal, as they can be cut to fit incubators if need be.   

Incubation

Suitably-sized plastic terrariums, with the ventilation ports sealed, make ideal incubators.  Eggs under my care generally hatched in 60-80 days at 82-85 F, but temperatures of 70-90 F, and incubation times of 30-90 days, have been reported.

Eggs deposited on glass are difficult to remove; I’ve incubated House and Day Gecko eggs on glass by affixing a cup containing damp sphagnum moss over the eggs, but this is not an ideal situation.

The Young

Hatchlings average a bit over 2 inches in length and may be reared on fruit and other flies, small crickets and roaches, silkworms, moths, termites and similar insects (please see diet comments above). 

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.  Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. 

 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

 

Further Reading

Gecko Gliding Explained: excellent, comprehensive articles with photo of geckos “in flight”

Incubating Reptile Eggs

Kuhl’s Flying Gecko: great photos

Ptychozoon kuhli image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Manuel Werner

 

27 comments

  1. avatar

    this is the exact article i needed to find to learn about flying geckos before i get mine :)

  2. avatar

    Hi Eduardo,

    Sorry for the delay..storm related probs in NY. Thanks very much for the kind words. Please let me know if you need more info, and keep me posted on your progress, Enjoy, Frank

  3. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Thanks for your very interressant article.

    Sorry for my bad english…

    I’m french, and i breed ptychozoon kuhli. Your article helps me.

    I have a question about feeding for ptychozoon . I give them crikets, roaches, moth larva hive, pro worm, housefly when i have. I would like to give them eathworms and larva Cetoniinae. What do you think about it? They don’t really like crikets. I think they prefer roaches or larva and definitly moths, but it’s difficult to have moths. I can give them occasionaly silkworms…
    An other question, i give them one insect per day and one day diet. Some people give 4 crikets every 3 days. How often do you recommend and quantity ?

  4. avatar

    Hi Nathalie,

    Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.

    Earthworms are a great food item but most lizards refuse them, esp arboreal species, desert species, etc…I doubt flying geckos will accept them. Roaches, flies, moths, silkworms are useful options. Roaches, if themselves well fed, can be used as a basis of the diet. I also use “smooth” caterpillars, small beetles, termites and other local inverts during the warmer months I have posted several articles on collecting insects..please see this one and the others linked there.

    Frequency/meal size depends on age, temperature, types of food, general health…no hard/fast rules. Lizards can adjust their metabolisms, within reason, to fit food availability, so no need to change unless they are showing protruding hip bones, etc. 1-2 fast days each week should be provided, and frequent small meals are preferable to large, infrequent meals for flying geckos.

    Best regards, Frank

  5. avatar

    Thank you very much Frank for your complete answer:)
    Just one language question: fast day = diet ?

    I’ve tried earthworm. The male ate it, i’m sure. for the female, i don’t really know. Eathworm climbs and i don’t know if the female ate it or if the earthworm is in the susbtratum. The male is in quarantine with paper like sustratum.
    Have a good day,
    Nathalie

  6. avatar

    Hi Nathalie,

    Very interesting to hear that the male ate an earthworm…I wouldn’t have thought so, thanks.

    Fast day: do not feed on that day.

    Enjoy, best, Frank

  7. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    I hope you’re feel good.
    I have two questions about kuhli:
    Are females bigger than males? I have two youngs and the little female is bigger than the little male. It’s amazing because they have the same age and live in the same way (also diet).
    Another question about breeding:
    the male and the female (the adults) have their own terrarium. For the reproduction, the male is introduced into the terrarium of the female or conversely?
    Best regards,
    Nath

  8. avatar

    Hello Nathalie,

    Nice to hear from you. I don’t recall any definite size dimorphism, and cannot find any notes re that, but there is a good deal of individual variation, especially among growing youngsters. If you do breed them, it would be useful to keep size records, perhaps in time we can see if any trends develop. The male’s hemipenal bulges/pre-anal pores are the best indicators of sex. Introduce the male to the female’s habitat (a good general rule, although some reptiles vary re this). They usually live together well, but there is some evidence that removal/re-intro of the male stimulates breeding; I’ve seen this with a number of lizards, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and all…

    Please keep me posted; there are several ways to incubate eggs, depending on laying site, Best, Frank

  9. avatar

    Hello Frank,
    I hope you’re welll!!

    My female laid its eggs on the only window of the terrarium. There were a lot of other place in the terrarium, but she chose this place. Before laying, she stayed for long time in this place. I think she chose this place, She didn’t put herself there before. But the problem are humidty an temperatur. In this place, it’s 35° and about 50% of humidty day and 70% night. It’s next to the UVB neon and very high on the terrarium. I’ve took a cup containing damp sphagnum moss over the eggs, as you advise it. The size of my terrarium : 50*50*100, there is a heating lamp with thermostat for a high temperature : day 26 °, night 21°. The heating lamp is on the terrarium. I’m really surprised that the temperatures are so high at the top. For humidity, i have a rain system. In the middle, there is 80% of humidity day, and around 90% night. What do you advise me?
    Other question, i have a frien who has ptychozoon and she saw mites. What can she do?

    Have a good day and thank you a lot for yours answers.

    I will send you pictures by mail

    Nathalie

  10. avatar

    Hi nathalie,

    I’m fine, thanks, I hope you and yours are also.

    geckos often choose glass even when other spots would seem better. The cup incubator is best in this situation. I usually incubate at appx. 28 c, but 30 has worked for others, perhaps 35 would be okay, but I’ve not tried, Humidity should be fine; pl keep me posted.

    Some mites are innocuous, arriving as eggs with substrate etc…in this case she should see them more in the terrarium; if they are reptile mites, she has make a both of Betadine (iodine) diluted with an equal volume of water. Hold animal under, with hear exposed. Pour solution on the head, avoiding the eyes. Also dab around eyes, nostrils with cotton swabs. Rinse well with water and allow lizard to dry off in a warm holding tank.. Remove all substrate, etc; soak all, (and tank) in a bleach/hot water solution ( 1 cup bleach/gallon water) for 2 hours. There are sprays available for use with reptiles, but results vary, best, Frank

  11. avatar

    Thank you very much Frank!! You’re great!! I’m not sure that 35° is good. The UVB neon warms.

    I don’t know if eggs can hatch. But I feel reassured by thinking that the female did not choose this site accidentally.
    The future will say to it to us.
    Best, Nathalie from France

  12. avatar

    I’ve forgotten: thank you for my friend!!
    She ‘ll try betadine + water. In France, a lot of people use Fipronil for mites. But it’s too dangerous for gecko, i think.

  13. avatar

    Hi Nathalie,

    Unfortunately, we do not have any hard/fast rules…gecko skin is likely a bit more permeable than other lizards, the scales are thinner, so some of the products that work for other species may be too harsh. Animal’s general condition, etc matters as well, which confuses treatment. We used commercial insect killing product designed for homes here in the US when treating snake mites for decades…some did well, others of the same species died quickly; now we learning that there are long term effects, sometimes the animal battles them off, sometimes they succumb years later…

    Sorry I have not checked out the site you mentioned, and I did see your FB note…thanks so much; spending lots of time with the little guy in the photos, plus writing deadlines, best, Frank

  14. avatar

    My pleasure , Nathalie.

    I think it’s worthwhile leaving as is…removing them is difficult, and it will be useful to have the info on what happens. once you have a good pair, they likely continue to breed, so we can make modifications next time if needed. This species does not likely have high UVB requirements, so you may be able to alter lighting a bit if need be as well, Enjoy, best regards, Frank

  15. avatar

    Thank you frank!!

    For mites, in France, we use Fipronil. It’s a dog and cat’s product against fleas and ticks….

    Have a good day, and soon on FB or the blog.

    Nathalie

  16. avatar

    Thx, Nathalie, Best, Frank

  17. avatar

    Hi frank,

    I hope, you’re well!!
    I’ll give you some news about my eggs and babies…
    Finally eggs incubated in 35 ° hatched on August 20 after 72 days. Others laid on July 15th were born on September 26th. Little babies in good health!!
    In all, my female laid 5 times, that is 10 eggs. I’m really surprised, I’ve saw on the web 3 times. But at this time, i still have 6 eggs in incubated and 4 babies. For the températures and humidity, those are the same… I’m interrested to know if you have ever seen this case. And i’m a little worry for its health…

    Best regards
    Nathalie

  18. avatar

    Hi Nathalie,

    Fine here, thanks, I hope you are well. Great to hear and valuable info to have on hand, thanks.

    I have seen similar situations with other geckos and unrelated lizards (i.e. basilisk); some tropical species take advantage of good environmental conditions by breeding as often as possible. It can deplete females, just as happens with budgies, cocktails and similar birds which do the same in captivity. With geckos, we don’t really know how to slow them down w/o compromising health. removing the male is not effective, and making the diet or habitat “less ideal” is risky. Best to be sure she is getting loads of CA..supplements all food, feed insects a high CA diet, etc ; if you crush CA powder into tropical fish flakes and mix well, crickets, roaches will consume; try offering sowbugs if you have a source, although not all will accept (they are good scavengers in any event) See this article.; Increase dietary variety when possible…calci-worms (phoenix worms) , house fly cultures, etc.

    watch for signs of CA deficiency..jaw abnormalities, swelling around leg joints…geckos will leach CA from bones and replace with softer, fibrous tissue if CA deficient). Try leaving a shallow bowl of CA powder in the terrarium as well…other species will sometimes consume directly…not sure if this has been documented with this species, but worth a try. Enjoy and pl keep me posted, best, Frank

  19. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Thank you very much for your answer!!

    So, for the CA, all insects are supplemented. I give to my crickets and roaches tropical fish flakes and dandelions. For sowbugs, i’ve tried, but she was not interested..As you’re suggest, I put a bowl of CA powder in the terrarium. She ate the empty eggs twice, for CA i think.
    She’s a little strange since two days, she exposes herself to UVB a lot, she must be tired…
    I’have two questions:
    do you know if studies about temperature sex determination were made for ptychozoon?
    Can i put all the babies in group when they are older (one month at least)? I have a problem of place. I would put the 6 babies in a terrarium size (45*60*60). they are 3 months, 2 months and 1 month. Naturally, i shall give food in quantity.

    Best regards
    Nathalie

  20. avatar

    Hi Nathalie,

    Thanks for the update…very interesting that she ate the egg shells – has been recorded for other lizards, but perhaps not for this species.

    I could not find anything on point re temperature/sex; this genus not well studied. A review of much of what is known re geckos in general is posted here.. As you’ll see from the notes on this species family (Gekkonidae), chromosomes, temperature or both are used by some.

    She probably is seeking to increase Vit D3 and CA levels; studies have shown that at least some lizards sense Vit D levels and alter basking behavior in accordance to needs; food choice is also likely affected. This article provides an interesting example. I’d be sure that the bulb is working well (within expiration date) and increase CA and Vit D in diet (they likely utilize dietary D also).

    Young can be housed together…key is to provide enough hiding and basking sites, plenty of visual barriers, cover and to watch for signs that none are becoming weaker/thinner than others. Dominant ones may prevent basking , feeding by their mere presence…aggression not always obvious.

    Nice to hear all is going well, enjoy and congrats, Frank

  21. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I’m happy to tell you that everything is ok. I followed your advices for the female and the babies. I’ve put a bowl of CA and she took a little. For the bulb, i use a zoomed neon 5.0. It is recent. I think she’s well, she laid two new eggs on 9th december. She ate once again the empty eggs.
    That is 12 eggs in all. It is a reward for me, but it makes many babies and i have to show ingenuity to care all this small world…
    For the moment, i have 8 babies less one he was adopted this week-end. The older is alone, four are together in a terrarium with two UV bulbs and a spot, and the last ones are in a fauna box. The last ones seem to me more little and more fragile than the other… I’ll see for the 4 last eggs.
    I’ve read the article about genetic, but i didn’t understand everything, so i will use my experience to know if the temperature of incubation has an impact of the sex for this gecko.
    When i’ve took the adopted baby, he’s 4 months, i’ve saw two little scaly skin-folds, but not something sure…

    Thank you again for your kindness and your hep,

    Nathalie

  22. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I’m happy to tell you that everything is ok. I followed your advices for the female and the babies. I’ve put a bowl of CA and she took a little. For the bulb, i use a zoomed neon 5.0. It is recent. I think she’s well, she laid two new eggs on 9th december. She ate once again the empty eggs.
    That is 12 eggs in all. It is a reward for me, but it makes many babies and i have to show ingenuity to care all this small world…
    For the moment, i have 8 babies less one he was adopted this week-end. The older is alone, four are together in a terrarium with two UV bulbs and a spot, and the last ones are in a fauna box. The last ones seem to me more little and more fragile than the other… I’ll see for the 4 last eggs.
    I’ve read the article about genetic, but i didn’t understand everything, so i will use my experience to know if the temperature of incubation has an impact of the sex for this gecko.
    When i’ve took the adopted baby, he’s 4 months, i’ve saw two little scaly skin-folds, but not something sure…

    Thank you again for your kindness and your hep,

    Nathalie

  23. avatar

    Hi Nathalie,

    Thanks very much for the update…I’m happy to hear how well all has gone. very good to know that she takes CA from a bowl..not all will. There’s likely some degree of variation concerning incubation temps…most species seem to have a range of temps wherein sex is determined. We have a great deal to learn, so your experiences are important to note down. Best, Frank

  24. avatar

    Hi frank,

    A little message before new year!
    I have a little question about the lifespan of ptychozoon kuhli. I’ve found various informations about it: 3 years, between 5-8 years and between 7-10 years?

    Cross a good new’s year

    Nathalie

  25. avatar

    Hi Nathalie,

    Unfortunately the zoo-based list that tracked longevity was discontinued before this species was kept very much. On that list, related species in the genus, acquired as adults, are recorded as living for 5-7 years. Hard to evaluate the pet-trade reports, but 7-10 years would not be unreasonable…and some species break typical trends and outlive their relatives; I’ll be rooting for your animals to set the standards! A happy and healthy new year to you and yours, Frank

  26. avatar

    Hi Franck,

    I hope you’re well!!

    Some News about my season of reproduction with ptychozoon kuhli, 14 eggs hatched between the 20/08/2013 and the 14/05/2014 – 12 births, but a baby died in 6 days, so 11 viables babies. I noted 73 days of incubation in 34 degrees the day and 24 degree the night. I’m really happy, it was a great experience, and if all is good, I foresee a new season in 2015. Have a good day!! Best Regards Nathalie

  27. avatar

    Hello Nathalie,

    Wow…wonderful results! Thanks very much for the update…the difference between day/night temperature is very interesting, and useful to have. Best regards, Frank

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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