Breeding Phelsuma Geckos and Raising Hatchlings

Day geckos of the genus Phelsuma are generally considered quite difficult to keep in captivity, they are also quite shy and very fast, and, unlike leopard or crested geckos, should not be handled. They do, however, have two attributes that makes them very rewarding pets, most species have stunningly bright colours,and they are diurnal and can be observed throughout the day. The species are native to islands of the Indian Ocean, especially Madagascar and Mauritius.

Day geckos are highly territorial, two males should never be housed together. In the wild they are solitary, the female only enters the male’s territory when she is ready to breed and does not remain with him. However, it is possible to house pairs together, although vigilance is needed, even if they appear to get on well, in case the male becomes aggressive towards the female. Introducing the two geckos for the first time is a risky business, it is safer to introduce a male (who is usually more aggressive) to the female’s tank, he will be wary because of the new environment and less likely to fight. The smaller and medium species usually reach sexual maturity when they are nine months old. Large species (P. madagascariensis and P. standingi) might take eighteen months.

Maintaining genetic diversity is very important, and it is essential that only unrelated males and females are bred. Otherwise inbreeding will lead to producing weaker offspring, in which recessive mutations accumulate and will eventually do great harm to the captive collection of the species. Day gecko females produce one or two eggs at a time, depending on the species they may be glued to glass or furnishings. The eggs are often removed out of the enclosure and incubated at the correct temperature, however this is sometimes impossible since the eggs might be glued deep inside a bamboo tube. The sex of the offspring is not genetically determined but depends on environmental factors during incubation, usually the temperature.

For most species an incubation temperature of 82F and 60% humidity produce good results. The eggs will hatch after 30-90 day on species and environment. If the eggs were incubated in situ baby geckos must be removed as soon as they are hatched, to prevent them being harmed or eaten by their parents. The exception to this is P. klemmeri, which is not as aggressive and can be kept in “family” setups. The hatchlings should be kept individually, to prevent competition where some juveniles grow much more slowly than their dominant sibling. The young geckos should be housed in small enclosures (small kritter keepers are ideal). Maintaining high humidity is even more important than for adults since they desiccate easily. They should be fed daily on fruit puree/baby food supplemented with calcium and on drosophila and pinhead crickets. The size of the crickets can be increased as the gecko grows. Correct nutrition and supplementation with calcium and vitamin D3/ UVB light is essential to prevent weak bones and skeletal deformities.