Gargoyle Geckos (Rhacodactylus Auriculatus)
Named for the horn-like bumps on their head, gargoyle geckos make great pets that are both fun to look at and also super easy for reptile beginners. They are simple to care for, widely available to purchase and are known to thrive in captivity. Gargoyle geckos have large, round captivating eyes and can be found in a variety of red, white, orange and yellow shades. You can find them in an assortment of different patterns and sizes. Gargoyle geckos are nocturnal, and once they wake up in the evening, they are very active and amusing to watch as they play around. If you have more than one, you may even hear your gargoyle geckos communicating with each other via a variety of squeaks, growls and barks.
Originally from New Caledonia, a semi-tropical island chain near Australia, gargoyle geckos in the wild live in dense forests and love to climb around in trees. Their claws have special branch-gripping abilities that make them excellent climbers, even though they cannot grip glass or other smooth surfaces. Working with the vertical tendencies of gargoyle geckos, you can create a very visually stimulating natural terrarium filled with branches, leaves, vines, hanging plants and bark.
Gargoyle geckos got their name from the knob-like or horn-like bumps on their heads that make them resemble stone gargoyles
Tail loss is very common for gargoyle geckos when they are stressed, and you will regularly see them in stores with no tails
A gargoyle gecko bite can hurt and make you bleed – they have pretty long and sharp teeth
The incubation temperature you use has an effect on the sex of the baby gargoyle geckos, males are produced at higher temperatures and females are produced at lower temperatures
Female adult gargoyle geckos sometimes eat the tales of their male counterparts, it's actually quite common
Average Size and Life Expectancy
Typically, gargoyle geckos can reach sizes of 7 to 10 inches and weigh up to 65 grams when fully grown. The babies are born about 1 inch long from snout to vent and weigh about 3 grams. You can usually buy the young geckos once they measure around 5 inches. Gargoyle geckos mature between the age of 15 to 18 months of age. If they are taken good care of, gargoyle geckos can live up to 20 years.
Once they get acclimated to being handled and having regular interactions with people, the gargoyle geckos will act tame and be easy to handle. While they are still young, you might notice the geckos opening their mouths widely. However, they shouldn't bite you if you are gentle with them. Gargoyle geckos may also voluntarily lose their tails when they are feeling threatened. No need to worry, they will regrow them.
Housing Your Gargoyle Gecko
Though a 10-gallon terrarium is sufficient for juvenile gargoyle geckos, it's best that you purchase a 20-gallon terrarium to fit adults, especially if you have more than one gecko. Once these geckos are full grown, they enjoy having a significant amount of vertical room to hunt and exercise, so be sure to go with a tall terrarium instead of a short one. If you live in a humid location, you can even use a wire mesh reptile cage.
Male gargoyle geckos are aggressive and can be quite territorial. They should not live with other males – instead, it's best to house a male-female pair together. You'll want to collect a variety of different materials for the gargoyle geckos to climb on and rest inside. Branches, bamboo, vines, driftwood and vertical cork flats are all great materials to use. Providing your gargoyle geckos with a variety of weight-supporting live and artificial plants to mimic a natural habitat will give them sufficient hiding places and will keep them more relaxed and healthier.
Substrate in Terrarium
For the floor of your terrarium, it is best to use a substrate that will hold humidity and achieve a more natural look. For example, peat moss, coconut fiber or cypress mulch are all great options. These are also excellent choices if you plan on housing live plants in the terrarium as well. If you want to ensure the terrarium is most importantly super easy to maintain, reptile carpet is a great choice.
If you have baby or juvenile geckos in your terrarium, avoid particulate substrates. The young geckos might try to eat the substrates and they will get sick. Instead, paper towel is a cheap and very easy to clean option. If using paper towels, make sure to replace them weekly.
Temperature inside Terrarium
Geckos are ectotherms, meaning their body temperature is dependent on external sources to stay regulated. Therefore, it is crucial for you to make sure the terrarium maintains proper temperatures. Gargoyle geckos prefer temperatures that are in the mid-70s. During the day, temperatures of between 75? to 83? are sufficient, and at night, low 70s are good. You will want to purchase a digital thermometer for your gecko's terrarium to ensure the temperature is not getting too hot or too cold. If the terrarium is getting too hot in the summer months (over 87 degrees), be sure to place the geckos in a colder room. Temperatures that are too dramatic can be harmful to the gecko's health.
To create a basking spot for your gargoyle geckos to lay in, purchase a low-wattage incandescent bulb (around 40-50 watts) and keep it in a back corner of the tank near some branches. Do not let the temperatures rise over 85?. A reptile heat pad is another option for a basking spot. Make sure to keep one side of the terrarium unheated so the geckos can cool down if they get too hot.
Even though gargoyle geckos are nocturnal reptiles and therefore spend most of the day sleeping in plants, some light during the day can be beneficial for their optimal health. For example, it can help to regulate their circadian cycles. A small wattage basking lamp will provide adequate lighting for this. You will also want to make sure the geckos also have a dark corner to escape the light if they find it necessary,
If you feed your gargoyle geckos a diet that is sufficient in vitamin D3, it's not entirely necessary for you to purchase a UVB light, though you can if you want. Otherwise, a fluorescent bulb is also adequate.
To keep your gargoyle geckos healthy, you need to keep the humidity level of the terrarium at 50 to 60 percent on average. Also provide periods of higher humidity, at levels of 80 to 90 percent. Mist heavily with safe drinking water in the evening and then let the terrarium dry to approximately 50 percent humidity before misting lightly again during the day. Having a variety of living plants will also help to maintain a sufficient level of humidity in the terrarium. Maintaining proper levels of moisture is essential to ensure the geckos will be healthy and able to shed their skins easily.
The gargoyle geckos like to hydrate themselves by licking droplets of water off the walls and plants in the terrarium. Even so, you should also provide them with a clean water bowl filled with filtered water. Some geckos will prefer to use the dish, and some will prefer to drink the water droplets off the walls – just try both and see what your gecko prefers.
In the wild, gargoyle geckos eat mostly fruit, nectars, insects and the occasional small mammals. To maintain good health, try to incorporate a variety of foods into your pet gecko's diet. There is a variety of pre-mixed powdered food options that you can purchase for your gecko at pet stores and online. You will mix the powder with water to create a paste for the gecko to eat.
In addition, you can purchase insects such as dubia roaches, mealworms and waxworms to feed the geckos once to twice a week. Dubia roaches are perfect for gargoyle geckos because they are about the size of the gecko's head. Gargoyle geckos prefer bigger insects over smaller ones. Sometimes, they can even be finicky about crickets and worms.
Before feeding, gut load – dust the insects with a calcium powder supplement that contains vitamin D3 – to ensure the geckos have a diet full of the essential minerals and vitamins. You can even try feeding your gargoyle gecko a frozen and thawed pinky mouse every now and then.
Gargoyle geckos are striking to observe, simple to take care of and perfect for beginner reptile owners. With minimal requirements, you can get their terrarium set up with ease. As long as you give your gargoyle geckos the proper care and diet, they will live long and prosperous lives, while providing you much entertainment along the way.