Day Geckos (Phelsuma sp.) the Jewels of Herpetoculture
When it comes to captive species of geckos, few can rival the inherent elegance of Day Geckos (Phelsuma sp.) They’re generally considered to be a more delicate species of Day Geckos, but they can be a fun and rewarding species to keep. According to the most recent information, there are no less than forty seven separate species of the Phelsuma genera; of these, three are readily-available in the captive reptile market.
It’s those species I’ll cover in the following article. I won’t go into detail for each species, but more of a generalization so you get an idea of what’s involved with keeping a Day Gecko as a pet. The very first thing we must all understand about Day Geckos (Phelsuma sp) they’re a vertically orientated species. This means rather than a long terrarium, or enclosure, you must provide a taller, arboreal one.
Being vertically inclined, they have, lamella. This basically means in plain language, ‘sticky toes,’ these allow them to cling to smooth vertical surfaces; allowing them to climb seemingly impossible surfaces. Be sure to have a tight-fitting lid for any enclosure. This isn’t hard to do, most fish and reptile stores carry both.
Before even shopping for Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. or a Day Gecko enclosure, I’d strongly encourage you to pick up a book called Day Geckos in Captivity*, by Leann & Greg Christenson, which is published by Living Art.
This is an awesome resource for all of your Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. needs. A friend who had a lot of success with his Gold Dust Day Geckos Phelsuma laticauda read the book and passed it onto me.
Gold Dust Day Geckos Phelsuma laticauda spp.
These are smallest of the three species of Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. I’m covering here in this treatment. They obtain a total body length (TBL) of 4” to 5”. They have a bright green ground color, as do most Day Geckos (Phelsuma sp.) the significant markings on this particular species are the light shade of blue over the eyes, as if someone has placed eye shadow on their eyelids. They also tend to have a trio of three red lines towards the posterior area of the body, before the rear legs. As the common name implies, they also display a golden speckle pattern over their neck and shoulders area.
Standing’s Day Gecko Phelsuma standingi
This is the best Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. for beginners to start with, because they can be hand tamed rather easily. When adult size is achieved, they’re about 10” to 11” in (TBL). Standing’s Day Gecko (Phelsuma standingi) adults are a grey color with light turquoise coloration on the head and tail. Occasionally, there may also be small, circular grey patterns on the head and neck, or the “dorsum.” Juveniles usually have bands across the dorsum which eventually blend and fade out into the adult pattern.
Giant Madagascar Day Gecko Phelsuma madgascariensis grandis
As the name implies, this is the largest of all the Day Geckos (Phelsuma sp.) measuring a full 12” in total body length this really is a giant. Generally speaking this species of Day Gecko (Phelsuma sp.) is a lot brighter green than its compatriots, and there’s also another distinguishing mark as well. They have a red stripe starting at just behind the nostril and running to just before the eye on each side of their head.
Being considered one of the smaller species of Day Gecko Phelsuma sp., the Gold Dust Day Gecko Phelsuma laticauda laticauda can be housed singly in ten gallon enclosures which measure 24 1/4 x 12 1/2 x 12 ¾, or in male/female pairings. Some say you can house Day Geckos singly in five-gallon enclosures, but for me, that’s too small. For our other two species of Day Gecko Phelsuma sp., I recommend a minimum of a 20-gallon enclosure. This way if I want to pair them up later I can do so without buying a larger enclosure.
The enclosure should be either glass or acrylic and not the screen type of enclosures normally used for Chameleons. The reason for this is the screen enclosures will not hold the humidity necessary for keeping Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. in my experience. It can be done with screen enclosures it’s just more difficult.
Decorations will be the same for all three species of Day Gecko (Phelsuma sp.) mentioned here today. As already mentioned they are all a vertically inclined species, and if not provided with vertical services there are, believe it or not, serious medical complications which can occur. For further detail you can purchase the book mentioned earlier, as I have personally never experienced such ailments when keeping Day Geckos (Phelsuma sp.) Evidently, from research I’ve done this is somewhat of a common thing to happen with inexperienced keepers.
When it comes to the décor of Day Geckos (Phelsuma sp.) I usually go with the old standard of “Mother-in-Laws Tongue” or Snake Plant sansevieria plant. Something else that is a good idea to use in the enclosure is a cork bark* background that can be attached with aquarium silicone to the wall itself. Make absolutely sure you use only aquarium silicone, as any other may prove to be toxic to your pet.
Bamboo stalks are often used but you can also use cork bark tubes, which in my experience, are easier to obtain. The bamboo stalks or cork bark should be placed at 45-degree angles throughout the enclosure, The Mother-in-Laws Tongue or Snake Plant sansevieria plant can be placed somewhat in the middle of the enclosure in its own pot. (I would personally use two stalks, or tubes giving the Day Gecko (Phelsuma sp.) a choice which one to use.)
Substrate for the Day Gecko is a point constantly argued within the captive reptile communities for various reasons, and while I try not to fuel such things, I’ve no doubt this next statement will do so regardless. When keeping any tropical or sub-tropical species, I’ve always used either orchid bark or ground cover bark, which can be purchased at most home improvement stores for less than $6.00 a bag. In more than a decade of doing this, I’ve never had issues with mites or other bugs, fungus, or any other type of disease being introduced through the substrate. I can only relay my experiences, and for those wishing to follow my guidelines.
So be it if you feel safer buying “reptile” bark, the choice is yours. Lay down about a 1/2” – 1” layer of bark in the bottom of the entire enclosure and spray with water as needed in order to maintain proper humidity, which is covered next.
All of the Day Geckos (Phelsuma sp.) mentioned above can be kept at temperatures between 82-89 degrees Fahrenheit, with a ten-degree drop in temperature at night-time. In my observations of this species in captivity, Day Geckos require a period of UV Light of 12 hours per day, which matches the typical day/night cycle of your area. Provide a basking area of 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit near the UVB source. The heat can be provided by many different light sources or ceramic heat emitters of your choosing. Make sure you have and are using an accurate thermometer to prevent overheating. Keep the humidity levels at or around 60% by spraying with reverse osmosis water in the morning when the lights come on and the humidity will generally last through the day.
When it comes to feeding captive Day Geckos Phelsuma sp., there are a few things you can do. First off, do not feed only crickets or other commercially available bug species. Everyone has their favorite foods, they don’t eat them everyday, day in and day out, so you shouldn’t force your pets to do so either. Feed a varied diet of insects to your Day Gecko(s) Phelsuma sp. such as crickets, roaches, grasshoppers, and wax worms. All of these should be bought from commercial breeders and not caught in the home or outside. Those outside and in the home may have been exposed to pesticide which could cause severe reactions in your pet.
When purchasing insect feeders make sure they are no smaller than the width of the head of gecko and no longer than the length of the head.
All of the insects fed to your pet should be “gut loaded” for twenty-four hours in advance of being fed to your pet. This is done by placing them in a small enclosure with pieces of fruit, greens, etc. which they will feed on, and then pass on the ingested nutrients to your Day Gecko (Phelsuma sp.) They should also be dusted with a calcium supplement. I use Miner-All Calcium/Mineral supplement, Indoor prior to entering the enclosure where they are to be consumed. I will only put in enough insects that the Day Gecko (Phelsuma sp.) will eat in a one-hour time frame, otherwise the insects may tend to harass the Day Gecko and some crickets and grasshoppers can seriously injure smaller Day Geckos. Stay away from feeding mealworms of any kind, as they possess a hard shell covering which may cause intestinal blockage and injure the Day Gecko.
When in the wild, Day Geckos (Phelsuma sp.) eat nectar from various plants they encounter. Although this is somewhat difficult to maintain in a captive environment, all is not lost. It has been discovered that we have a ready substitute which seems to work extremely well, and we can even add calcium powder to it. Fruit-flavored baby foods are seemingly enjoyed as an alternative to nectar. They seem to like the tropical flavors best, and you can also feed a puree of mango, banana and other such tropical fruits as well. Personally, I go with the store-bought baby food and save the trouble.
Vitamins & Minerals
I have yet to find a product that will beat Miner-all, which is produced by Sticky Tongue Farms. It’s sold commercially and via their website. I have actually raised animals with it who wouldn’t eat when I ran out of the product and tried substituting another. I can only tell you the products I mention are top-notch in my experience & I use nothing else for Day Geckos. When it comes to calcium dosage, there is really no way to estimate how much is too much when dusting crickets or other bugs: however, when adding calcium to the baby food, I would consider it best to add just a thimble-full, or maybe a ¼ teaspoon at each feeding. Along with the other calcium intake, this should be more than sufficient to keep them at a constant rate of calcium intake. Typically speaking, healthy Day Geckos (Phelsuma sp.) will have two slight bulges at the base of the head that are commonly called “Calcium pouches” and are completely normal.
Water is one of the biggest requirements of life and when it comes to Day Geckos (Phelsuma sp.) this is no exception. With most species, there is a water bowl placed somewhere in the enclosure with the animal and changed on a daily basis. So what I do as a keeper, is use what is called a “dripper system.” This provides the Day Gecko water over time, and I can change or rinse the bowl as needed without flooding the enclosure. I also mist the enclosure early in the morning and let it dry during the day. The Day Geckos (Phelsuma sp.) seemingly enjoy this, as they are able to drink water droplets from the plants inside, and this also maintains a level of proper humidity. During the higher temperature summer months it may be necessary to mist your Day Gecko more than once a day.
In closing, Day Geckos (Phelsuma sp.) are a delicate and wonderful species that will provide a “hands off” keeper with many hours of enjoyment in caring for them. If you’re tired of the same “old” species, then I would highly recommend picking up a pair after setting up the proper environment, and learn what it means to live with a piece of living art.