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Day Gecko Care – Terrarium Set Up and the Best Supplies

Gaily clad in brilliant, neon-hued colors, Day Geckos (Phelsuma spp.) are among the most desirable of all lizard pets, so here is a short article about Day Gecko care.  Many are hardy, long-lived, and relatively simple to breed…but only if they are housed in a properly-designed habitat.  Active and alert, these cautious animals fare poorly in bare enclosures, but are ideally suited for life in naturalistic, planted terrariums.  The security provided by dense plantings and well-placed branches will put Day Geckos at ease and allow you to view a wide range of fascinating behaviors.

Setting up the Terrarium

Day Geckos are highly arboreal and must have climbing opportunities.  “High-style” aquariums make fine homes.  A pair or trio of Spotted, Yellow-Throated or other small species can be kept in a 15-20 gallon aquarium.  A 30-55 gallon tank will accommodate the same number of Standing’s, Madagascar or Giant Day Geckos.  Always opt for the largest terrarium possible.

Phelsuma madagascariensis

Photo uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Manuel Werner, Nürtingen, Germany

Day Geckos need spacious enclosures that mimic their natural habitat.  Live plants such as Pothos and Philodendron will provide visual barriers between tank-mates and a sense of security.  Rolled cork bark and hollow bamboo sections make ideal hideaways and perching sites, and should be arranged both horizontally and vertically.

Be sure to establish plenty of basking sites near heat and UVB bulbs, as dominant individuals may exclude others from these important areas.

The terrarium’s screen lid must be tightly secured with clamps. Read More »

Has Anyone Observed This?….. Madagascar and Standing’s Day Geckos (Phelsuma madagascariensis grandis, P. m. madagascariensis, P. standingi) maintain excellent health and reproduce without a UVB source

It is well known that many species of lizard, turtle and crocodilian require ultraviolet light of a specific wavelength (290-310 nanometers) in order to synthesize Vitamin D3.  This vitamin, in turn, allows the reptiles to make use of the calcium in their diets.  Such reptiles (which generally bask in the sun in the wild) develop calcium deficiencies and a host of related problems if denied UVB in captivity.  This occurs despite their being offered a diet high in calcium.

Day geckos of the genus Phelsuma seem to require quite high levels of UVB in captivity.  Several species, and gravid females in particular, develop bulging “chalk sacs” (calcium stores) behind the head, and are quick to succumb to health problems in the absence of UVB.

Some years ago, however, I observed a situation that caused me to question what I knew, or thougMadagascar Giant Day Geckoht I knew, about this subject.  A number of Madagascar, Madagascar Giant and Standing’s Day Geckos were released into a densely-planted indoor “rainforest” in NYC’s Central Park Zoo.  The lizards thrived and reproduced, and, when last I checked, had been doing so for several generations.  Animals that are captured from time to time exhibit excellent bone density and overall good health, despite the fact that they have no access to natural or artificial UVB.

The aviary in which they live supports a wide variety of spiders, beetles, roaches, sow bugs and other invertebrates, as well as nectar and fruit producing plants.  I imagine that the lizards, amid this banquet, have found a source of calcium that is usable in the absence of UVB, or D3 that can be absorbed from the diet.  I will keep you posted as to further developments.

I have since spoken with lizard-keepers who maintain day geckos without UVB.  However, as we know little of the interaction between calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin D3 in these animals, a good deal of experimentation is needed, and the results are spotty.  The lizards at the Central Park Zoo are the most robust I’ve seen, and the population has remained so for 15 years or more at this point.

Red-eared Sliders, Chrysemys picta elegans, also suffer from calcium deficiencies if unable to bask under a UVB source – yet I know of a number of instances in which perfectly formed specimens were raised without such.  Again, I can only guess as to the explanation.

I tend to encourage dietary variety in my nutrition articles, due in part to experiences such as described above.  We really know very little about many common reptiles and amphibians, especially concerning nutrition.  I would greatly appreciate hearing about experiences you may have had – good or bad – regarding UVB light and diet.

The abstract of an article about Zoo Zurich’s “free-ranging” colony of Madagascar Giant Day Geckos is posted at:


An Introduction to Geckos

Some of our most familiar and desirable of reptile pets, such as the leopard gecko and the brilliantly-colored day geckos, are members of a fascinating family of lizards that I would like to introduce today.

The 1,050 or more species of geckos comprise the second largest of lizard families, the Gekkonidae (the largest is the Scincidae, or skinks). They range throughout the world, reaching their greatest diversity in desert and tropical habitats. “House geckos” of several species follow human habitation and are widely transplanted, including into the southeastern USA. Geckos range in size from the various Shaerodactylus species, some of which are full grown at 1.2 inches in length, to the New Caledonian giant gecko, Rhacodactylus leachianus, a bulky creature that tops out at nearly 15 inches. Several other species, now considered extinct but which may possibly still survive in Madagascar’s forest canopy, reached 24 inches in length.
Adult Leopard Gecko
Geckos generally lay 2 eggs, although some bear live young. Arboreal types often glue their eggs to tree branches or building walls. Most are insectivorous, but many take nectar and over-ripe fruits as well. The voracious tokay gecko, Gekko gecko, consumes nestling birds, small rodents and bats, snakes and other lizards. A number of species are highly endangered while others, such as the leopard gecko, Eublepharis macularius, are pet trade staples. Many have a long association with people, being welcome in homes for their insect-catching abilities and sometimes regarded as good luck symbols. Some years back, a store in NYC even rented tokay geckos for use as roach-control agents. However, the males’ habit of calling loudly (“Tokay-Tokay!”) at 4 AM and their pugnacious dispositions rendered the scheme less-than-profitable!

The ability of many geckos to climb sheer walls (even glass) and to run upside-down on ceilings was first recorded by Aristotle in the 4th century BC. Only recently has the secret behind this remarkable phenomenon been discovered. The toes of many species are covered with layered pads known as lamellae, which in turn support thousands of microscopic hair-like structures called setae. Their action against a surface sets up a weak molecular attraction known as the van-der-Waals force, and this, it seems, is the source of their unique method of adhesion. This phenomenon Tokay Geckois being studied with a view towards creating new adhesives for use in industry.

Members of this huge family have evolved startling adaptations to a number of basic themes. To cite just one example – depending upon the species, tails are used to distract predators (by disengaging from the body), plug burrows, extrude noxious secretions, create sound, communicate with others, convey stability while gliding, store food and grip branches.


If you have a special interest in geckos, you may wish to join the Global Gecko Association, or to visit their website for further information:


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