Gargoyle Geckos

Description and Background

The Gargoyle Gecko (Rhacodactylus auriculatus) is a native species to the island of New Caledonia. Gargoyle geckos typically reach a length of 7-9 inches, half of which being it’s tail. There have been some cases of geckos reaching almost 15 years so they can be long lived reptiles if taken care of properly. Gargoyle geckos are arboreal, which means they live in the tops of trees. They are also nocturnal meaning they are asleep during the day but awake at night. Gargoyle geckos, like many Rhacodactylus species, have no eyelids so they use their tongues to moisten and clean their eyes. Their tail and bottom of their feet are covered in small hairs called setae. These structures are what allow the geckos to climb on virtually any solid surface, although gargoyle geckos have the most difficulty of any Rhac species. Gargoyle geckos come in many shades of colors such as grey, brown, white, yellow, orange, and red. They also have many types of markings such as stripes and blotching. Gargoyle geckos fire-up at night or when they are in feeding mode. This means that their coloration will be much brighter and vibrant. Gargoyle geckos are pretty docile and with a little bit of handling every day, they will make perfect pets. This is why they are becoming more and more popular in the pet industry.

Housing

Gargoyle Geckos do not need a lot of room to be comfortable, but the terrarium does need to be taller than it is wide. Gargoyle Geckos less than 4 months should be housed in no larger than 10 gallons. Sometimes, if you house young geckos in too large of enclosures, they may not eat. Gargoyle Geckos older than 4 months can be kept in a minimum of 20 gallon terrariums. You may also be able to use a screen enclosure as long as you find a way to keep the humidity up. There are many specially made enclosures out there for gargoyle geckos which have many benefits over a regular terrarium. They open from the front for easy access and are tall so the geckos can climb and have space to jump around. Most commonly used aquariums for gargoyle geckos are the ExoTerra Natural Terrariums. They come is sizes like 12 x 12 x 18 which is ideal for a young gargoyle or 18 x 18 x 24 which is good for 2 or maybe 3 breeding gargoyle geckos.


Temperature, Heating, Lighting

Gargoyle geckos like to be kept at room temperature, normally between 72 - 80 ºF (22 - 26 ºC) for most of the year. They can tolerate nighttime temperatures as low as 65 ºF (18 ºC) as well. Never allow the tank to reach around 85 ºF (29 ºC), as this will stress the animal out and cause illness. One side of the tank should be cooler than the other side so the geckos can thermo-regulate. Breeding geckos should be kept at temperatures of 75 - 78 ºF (24 - 26 ºC). A 4 month cooling period of 65 - 70 ºF (18 - 21 ºC) is needed for breeding Gargoyle Geckos to rest. 12 - 14 hours of light is appropriate for most of the year. 10 hours of light is needed during the cooling period for breeding Gargoyle Geckos. They can even cease breeding if given less than 12 hours of light. No light is needed at all but is useful if you would like to see your geckos. UVB light is not necessary but definitely useful to the geckos and live plants.

Humidity

The humidity level should not drop down below 50%. Geckos should have several hours of higher humidity, normally around 60% - 80%. In most cases this can easily be accomplished by misting the tank once or twice a day. An automatic mister is also a great investment as it saves you from remembering all the time. It is very important to allow the cage to dry to normal humidity in between mistings. Too high of humidity for too long will lead to mold and could potentially harm your geckos if they ingest it. Putting a small container filled with Sphagnum moss will help them with their shedding and consistently keep the humidity up in that one location.

Substrate

You can use peat moss or other soils that promote good humidity in the terrarium. If using soil or moss, put a layer of pebbles or Hydroton to drain excess water. Paper towels are also acceptable, although they are not very naturalistic. Gargoyle Geckos are messy eaters so if feeding them insects, then feed them in a separate cage so they do not ingest the soil or moss. 


Diet and Feeding

You can feed the geckos just the Pangea Fruit Mix Complete and they'll be totally okay. It is recommended to feed your geckos this at least 4 - 5 days a week. Other options are feeding insects such as crickets, silkworms, waxworms or roaches. The insects should be no larger than the space between the gecko’s eyes. Whenever feeding them insects, make sure to dust them with good calcium and vitamin D3 powder. Also, you must "gut load" your insects to insure that they are actually nutritious for your geckos. Gargoyle geckos will also eat virtually any fruits and vegetables offered to them. Baby food puree is also often offered to them with great success but only as a treat.


Water

Gargoyle Geckos normally drink the water off of the walls and plants that you spray. This alone is a major reason that you should mist your tank daily. A water dish should also be present in the tank for drinking and humidity. Most geckos will not drink from the water dish, but some have been known to become trained to drink out of them. Only use distilled, dechlorinated, or reverse osmosis water. 


Shedding

Gargoyle Geckos typically shed once a month. The shed is almost never seen because it happens over the period of a day. The way to tell if your gecko is about to shed is if their skin becomes very dull and opaque. The high humidity requirements tend to make this process very quick and painless. Areas to watch out for are the tails because there have been problems in the past with the tips of the gecko's tails not properly shedding. Soaking them in warm water for 30 minutes should help the skin come off much easier. A shed box may also be placed in the terrarium to aid in shedding. This could be as simple as a Rubbermaid container placed in there with a hole cut into the lid and moist sphagnum moss placed inside of the container. 

Handling Gargoyle Geckos

They are very hardy geckos, therefore they are pretty easy to handle. Geckos that are newly purchased or less than 2 weeks old shouldn’t be handled. Wait about 1 - 2 weeks for newly bought geckos to start handling about 5 - 10 minutes a day. Once they are comfortable you can handle them for no more than 20 minutes a day. You may have to hand walk the geckos if they are jumpy to get them to calm down. Also watch out for high jumps. When holding them, keep them close to the ground so if they manage to jump from your hands they will not fall too far to the ground and get hurt.


Cleaning

Cleaning is very simple for Gargoyle Geckos. Spot cleaning should be done at least once a week. The more geckos you keep in one cage, the more frequent you need to spot clean. Once a week you may also want to wipe off the glass because the geckos like to walk in their food and track it all over the place. Once a month you should take everything out of the tank and clean it with an appropriate cleaning solution, like chlorhexidine. Chlorhexidine is what most breeders recommend to use and is what veterinarians use for disinfecting everything. Completely reptile safe and will dry in 5 minutes. If using soil and moss, change that once a month as well to prevent bacteria growth.

Health

The Gargoyle Gecko's health is normally very good and disease free. They tend to be very hardy geckos. A few common diseases include:


Diarrhea: This is a very easily reversible condition that happens mostly when the geckos diet is high in pureed foods. Make sure to feed the gecko a well balanced diet of insects and Pangea Fruit Mix.


Dysecdysis: This is a skin disorder and it happens when the gecko cannot shed properly. This disease normally happens when the humidity drops too low for too long. This can be fixed by soaking the gecko in water for an hour and peeling the skin off.


Floppy Tail Syndrome: This happens when the gecko sits vertical on glass walls. This will make the pelvis unable to support the tail and cause the tail to flop around. The only way to really prevent this is to make sure there are hides in the enclosure that are horizontal, allowing your gecko to rest its tail.


Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD): This is basically a lack of Calcium, Vitamin D3, and/or Phosphorous, which weakens your Gargoyle gecko’s bones. Signs of MBD are bumps in the legs, back or tail, or jerky and spastic movements. Most of the time MBD can be treated by making sure you have the correct temperatures and providing adequate multivitamins to a well balanced diet.


Pneumonia: This is a respiratory condition and can happen when the gecko tank is poorly ventilated. This can often occur when the temperature remains too low for too long. This can be fixed by raising the temperature and adding screens for ventilation. 

Tail Loss

Most Gargoyle Geckos will not lose their tail but if they do, there is no need for alarm. Most tail losses occur from aggression, pinched tails, or even trouble shedding. Their tails WILL eventually regenerate and there will be no harm done to the gecko itself. It is merely a defense mechanism. In fact, the gecko will lose little to no blood at all because the capillaries in the tail close almost instantly. This means that a tail loss is not a medical emergency, and it will recover very fast. The new tail that eventually grows looks similar to the original only it is darker in color and sometimes patternless.


Breeding Gargoyle Geckos

Males can be as young as 9 months old when beginning to breed. Females should be at least 14 months old to begin breeding to increase success. Females should be around 40 grams when ready to successfully breed and males should be at least 30 grams. One male can be kept with 2 or maybe 3 females to start breeding. Keep the temperature between 75 - 79 ºF (24 - 26 ºC), dropping about 5 ºF at night. Lightly mist the cage 1-2 times daily, particularly at night when they are active. Give the breeding geckos high quality food to help with the eggs. Mostly dusted crickets (Calcium and D3 powder) along with the Pangea Fruit Mix. An egg laying container should be placed inside the terrarium. The container should be large enough to hold the gecko and dig 3 - 4 inches down. Container substrate should be 50/50 moistened eco earth and sphagnum moss. Hide the container so the gecko feels safe enough to lay the eggs there. Check the container everyday and remove the eggs immediately so they don’t dry up. Females will lay a new clutch every 25 - 35 days. Place eggs in an airtight container with 2 inches of slightly moistened SuperHatch. Do not turn the eggs over as this will kill them. Mark the top of the eggs just in case they get moved for whatever reason. Open the container once per week to allow ventilation for a few seconds. Eggs should be kept at around a steady 72 ºF (22 ºC) and hatch in approximately 65 - 90 days. The higher the temperature, the shorter the incubation period. The lower the temperature, the longer the incubation period, which is normally better. If you have a pair of geckos that is not breeding, you must looking at key factors such as temperatures, age, nutrition, and cage space.

Sex Determination

Determining the sex is easiest when your gecko is older than 6 months. Male Gargoyle Geckos will have a very noticeable hemipenal bulge, which normally develops between 5 - 9 months of age. Females lack this bulge. For Gargoyle geckos younger than 6 months, you will have to use a jeweler’s loupe to try and determine their sex. For males you will see 3 or more rows of visible pores on their underside by their vent. They will be white pores with a dark center to them. Females will have one or sometimes 2 rows of pseudopores on their underside as well. Their pores will be lacking the dark center.


Baby Gargoyle Gecko Care

Care for baby gargoyle geckos is identical to adults with few exceptions. Babies should be kept in no larger than a 10 gallon tank or critter keeper. In fact, they may even be more comfortable in a small Herp Haven Kritter Keeper. Tanks should be simplistic with paper towels, few branches and easy food access. Hatchlings may not eat until their first shed is complete, normally 2 - 3 days old. You may even have to help them shed the first time. Spray the tank 1 - 2 times a day and feed them 1/8 inch crickets or Pangea Fruit Mix. Do not hold babies until about 2 - 3 weeks of settling into their new enclosure. 

Recommended Items Checklist

Exo Terra terrarium

Exo Terra Compact Top Canopy

1 Repti-Glo 5.0 compact light

1 Repti-Glo 2.0 compact light

Ecoearth/Coconut Fiber

Magnetic hides and food dishes

Water dish

Pangea Fruit Mix Complete

Automatic mister/Spray bottle

Shedding hide

Sphagnum moss

Cricket Food

Cricket Water

Calcium and D3 vitamin powder (Only if feeding insects)

Spray bottle

Chlorhexidine

Hydrometer

Thermometer

Digital Scale

Hydroton Balls(If using live plants)

Zoomed Terrarium Mesh (If using live plants)

Live plants (philodendron, ficus, pothos, dracaena, bamboo)