Distribution and discovery: The Mossy gecko is semi-arboreal species of lizard, native only to New Caledonia and the tiny islands that surround it. Known populations of the species are located in northern Grande Terre (mainland New Caledonia) and the Ils des Pins (Island of Pines). As with all species from New Caledonia, exportation of these animals from their wild habitat is completely forbidden, and so relatively little is known about the species.
Satellite Images of Southern Grande Terre (Left) and The Ils des Pins (Right) with various locales labelled. Images courtesy of Google Earth
Satellite Images of Southern Grande Terre (Left) and The Ils des Pins (Right) with various locales labelled.
Images courtesy of Google Earth
The perfect pet gecko?: Although they are not as commonly kept as some other Rhacodactylus species, the Mossy gecko is an extremely personable and entertaining species which soon becomes a favourite of those that keep them. Like the other Rhacodactylus geckos, the Mossy gecko has many qualities that lead to it being considered by some to be the 'perfect pet gecko' such as it’s moderate size, ease of care and excellent personality. Although not as generally hardy and handlable as other beginner’s choices such as the Leopard gecko, with the right set up and a good amount of patience and research, gecko novices can have great success with this species. Mossy Geckos can be extremely personable and amusing, and with a little time Mossy geckos can become the most placid of the Rhacodactylus. All of my adults are very tame and often enjoy time out of their vivarium. I put effort into every one of my hatchlings to try to get them used to handling as young as possible.
Morphology: Like all Rhacodactylus geckos, R.chahoua has adhesive pads called 'Lamellae' on it's toes and also on the tip of it's tail. This tail-tip lamellae is unique to the carphodactyline gekkonoid genera Naultinus, Hoplodactylus, Bavayia, Eurydactylodes, Rhacodactylus, and Pseudothecadactylus and may aid movement in their arboreal environment. Studies on the tail-tip lamellae have found it to be of the same basic structure as those found on the toes (Bauer 1999), constructed of thousands of microscopic hairs called 'Setae' which cause weak Van-der-Waals forces between them and a surface enabling it to stick. R.chahoua is also known as the 'Mossy prehensile tailed gecko' as its tail is the most prehensile of the Rhacodactylus, so much so in fact that it is able to coil into a complete spiral. All Rhacodactylus geckos are able to automize (drop) their tails as a predator response, however, unlike the Crested gecko, R.chahoua is able to regenerate its tail once dropped, although the regenerated tail will not look the same as the original. In my experience, I have found that the Mossy Gecko is unable to regenerate its tail after dropping it a second time. Like most reptiles, Mossy Geckos shed their skin regularly, a process called 'sloughing'. A gecko that is about to shed will normally have a whitish colour and its skin will look thin and papery (see picture to the left). The Mossy Gecko will use its mouth to help pull the old skin off, and sometimes even uses bark or wood to help rub it off. As you can see in the picture to the right, Finley has snagged the old skin of a piece of wood and is using it to help remove the skin.
All Rhacodactylus geckos are able to automize (drop) their tails as a predator response, however, unlike the Crested gecko, R.chahoua is able to regenerate its tail once dropped, although the regenerated tail will not look the same as the original. In my experience, I have found that the Mossy Gecko is unable to regenerate its tail after dropping it a second time.
Like most reptiles, Mossy Geckos shed their skin regularly, a process called 'sloughing'. A gecko that is about to shed will normally have a whitish colour and its skin will look thin and papery (see picture to the left). The Mossy Gecko will use its mouth to help pull the old skin off, and sometimes even uses bark or wood to help rub it off. As you can see in the picture to the right, Finley has snagged the old skin of a piece of wood and is using it to help remove the skin.
Size: As the third largest member of the Rhacodactylus genus (After R.leachianus and R.trachyrhynchus trachyrhynchus) Rhacodactylus chahoua are stockily built, reaching around 10inches total length (5"S-V). An adult Mossy Gecko will weigh anywhere between 45-75gm.
Lifespan: In captivity, the lifespan of these geckos is somewhat unknown, although it is speculated that an average of around 20years will be expected- Therefore these are not short-term, disposable pets and you will need to think about whether you can provide them with love and adequate attention and maintenance for their entire life BEFORE you buy one.
Size comparison of adult male R.chahoua
Sexing: Maturity is usually reached at around 12 months in males and is obvious with the development of a bulge at the base of the tail. Before the bulge develops, Mossy geckos can be speculatively sexed once they reach 3inches total length using a 10X jeweller’s loope. Although a difficult practise to master, identification of pre-anal pores can confirm a male gender. However, correctly sexing females is more difficult as visible pores can develop late in some individuals (See photos below) Females should not be bred until they weigh at least 45gm. This is usually attained at around 15-18 months. Therefore immature females should not be housed with males until they are of size to avoid accidental breeding. The breeding of immature females of this species is even more detrimental to their health than with other species. R.chahoua eggs are the most highly calcified of all Rhacodactylus and so a close eye must be kept on even adult females to ensure their calcium levels do not ‘crash’ after laying. An immature Mossy gecko’s body is simply not strong enough to produce and lay eggs.
Male Crested Gecko preanal area (above) Click for larger picture
Female Mossy Gecko preanal area (above) Click for larger picture
Locales: Although Mossy geckos do not come in ‘morphs’ in the same way as Crested or Gargoyle geckos, there are 2 distinct divisions within the R.chahoua. Populations of Mossy geckos are found on Grand Terre (mainland New Caledonia) and the Ils des Pins (Ilse of Pines) and subtle differences can be found between the 2 populations. Therefore 2 forms of the Mossy gecko can be found dependant on their original location, and these are known as ‘locales’. Individuals originating from the Grand Terre population are known as ‘Mainland’ locale and those originating from the Ils des Pins are know as ‘Pine Ilse’ (or P.I). The identification of ‘locales’ in R.chahoua is something that is always under debate and it may not be possible to tell the locale of an individual simply by it’s aesthetics. Unlike the R.leachianus, where clear differences between well-defined locales exist (so much so that there are 2 sub species), the differences between chahoua are far more blurred. Well known scientist W.Henkel has said that through DNA analysis of the 2 locales, no genetic differences exist, and therefore from a scientific point of view, the 2 locales are the same. However, when chahoua were first exported for the captive market, only 1 or 2 pairs were collected, all from the mainland. The inbreeding that has had to occur to increase captive populations from this original small stock may have meant that the captive Mainland population of R.chahoua now differs from the wild population, and similarities in the original WC individuals have been intensified (such as a smaller average size and greener colouration) where in the wild it is much more diverse. It was 10years before Pine Ilse chahoua were collected and so from a genetic perspective, P.I chahoua are far less inbred than the mainlands. For this reason, P.I chahoua are sometimes considered more valuable from a breeder’s perspective, as they have ‘fresher’ genes. Obviously many captive bred Mossy geckos are a combination of the two locales, which has in many ways helped diversify the genetics of the mainlands. Before I list here some of the main traits associated with the 2 locales, I need to conduct more reading so please bear with me.
Locales: Although Mossy geckos do not come in ‘morphs’ in the same way as Crested or Gargoyle geckos, there are 2 distinct divisions within the R.chahoua. Populations of Mossy geckos are found on Grand Terre (mainland New Caledonia) and the Ils des Pins (Ilse of Pines) and subtle differences can be found between the 2 populations. Therefore 2 forms of the Mossy gecko can be found dependant on their original location, and these are known as ‘locales’. Individuals originating from the Grand Terre population are known as ‘Mainland’ locale and those originating from the Ils des Pins are know as ‘Pine Ilse’ (or P.I).
The identification of ‘locales’ in R.chahoua is something that is always under debate and it may not be possible to tell the locale of an individual simply by it’s aesthetics. Unlike the R.leachianus, where clear differences between well-defined locales exist (so much so that there are 2 sub species), the differences between chahoua are far more blurred. Well known scientist W.Henkel has said that through DNA analysis of the 2 locales, no genetic differences exist, and therefore from a scientific point of view, the 2 locales are the same. However, when chahoua were first exported for the captive market, only 1 or 2 pairs were collected, all from the mainland. The inbreeding that has had to occur to increase captive populations from this original small stock may have meant that the captive Mainland population of R.chahoua now differs from the wild population, and similarities in the original WC individuals have been intensified (such as a smaller average size and greener colouration) where in the wild it is much more diverse. It was 10years before Pine Ilse chahoua were collected and so from a genetic perspective, P.I chahoua are far less inbred than the mainlands. For this reason, P.I chahoua are sometimes considered more valuable from a breeder’s perspective, as they have ‘fresher’ genes. Obviously many captive bred Mossy geckos are a combination of the two locales, which has in many ways helped diversify the genetics of the mainlands.
Before I list here some of the main traits associated with the 2 locales, I need to conduct more reading so please bear with me.
Mossy geckos have a variety of stunning colour and pattern combinations. The colours are generally mottled and patchy, with a remarkable resemblance to camouflage, or as the name suggests, mosses. Depending on the locale of the gecko, colours can vary widely. They can be found in mainly green, reddish brown, pale creams and greys, or combinations of all of these. Some of the most stunning are those that have equal amounts of red and green, red and black and those that are very pale.
In the same way as other Rhacodactylus, throughout their lives, chahoua will change colour in varying degrees in response to stimulus such as activity, time of day, lighting, mood and stress. This process is known as 'firing up' and sometimes the transformation can be quite pronounced.
Sleeping patterns: R.chahoua are a nocturnal animal; so don’t be surprised if they don’t appear to be moving in the day! Like us, they are creatures of habit and so will often pick a nice spot to sleep in during the day and return to the same spot every night! You don't have to be night owl to enjoy these animals however, they will often awaken around mid-late evening, providing plenty of time to enjoy watching them.
Alone or in groups?: Mossy Geckos are in general more territorial than Crested Geckos, and so the housing of pairs and groups must be judged on an individual basis. Although some keepers maintain happy healthy breeding groups, often with multiple females per enclosure, others find that certain individuals will show aggression toward tank mates and must be separated. This appears to be especially evident between females in breeding groups where a male is present. Therefore many keepers decide to house their R.chahoua in 1.1 pairs. Not more than 1 male should be present in each enclosure, and close attention must be paid to groups to ensure all animals are getting access to food and space. I house all hatchlings and sub-adults singly so I can observe the eating habits of each gecko so make sure each animal is as healthy as possible. Mossy Geckos should be housed only with others of the same species.
Vivarium Choices: Mossy Geckos are a moderately sized animal, capable of jumping surprising distances, and so require a reasonable size enclosure . As a general rule of thumb, 1 adult Mossy gecko requires 20 (US)gallons, and then each additional gecko in the vivarium requires another 10gallons (see the 'converters' at the bottom of this page for help calculating the volume of your vivarium). Hatchling and sub-adult geckos may be kept in smaller enclosures to ensure they have no trouble finding their food. I feel however that in most cases, this is unnecessary if the vivarium is well designed.
Normally, a glass vivarium is used, not only as it enables you to see your animals, but because it aids retention of heat and humidity. Screen tanks are also available and often used in the US, however the UK climate is often too severe for them to be very effective. A waterproof material such as PVC is usually added to some of the panels of these tanks so that humidity levels can be maintained. Wood is not commonly used with such species as it is susceptible to moulding and warping.
An ideal enclosure for these geckos are the 'Exoterra' glass vivariums (no smaller than the 45cmX45cmX45cm for adults), as the front opening doors enable easy access for cleaning and the screen top aids ventilation. Being semi-arboreal, the vertically oriented vivariums are the best option.
Decoration: The Mossy gecko is semi-arboreal, and therefore, lots of branches and vines must be provided for them to climb on. A tall vivarium is better than a long one for the same reason. Cork bark and mosses are particularly appreciated by this species as their colouration is designed to camouflage with these surroundings.
Lots can be done with a vivarium, so much in fact that designing the tank can become as much of an addiction as the geckos themselves!!! I have dedicated a separate section to describing some of the different options you have with regards to the vivarium as it is too much for this caresheet.
The most essential things in the vivarium are listed below;
A Water bowl - Water must be provided at ALL times. The water must be dechlorinated (no tap water) which can be done simply by using a water conditioner such as 'Exo-terra's Aquatize'. Generally, the dish should be large enough for the gecko to sit in, but not deeper than the animals height at rest. This prevents accidental drowning. You may observe that your Mossy gecko prefers to drink from water droplets left on plants after misting, but a waterbowl must still be provided so that water is accessible at all times. For geckos that prefer to drink from droplets, regular misting becomes even more important.
Climbing material – Mossy geckos are classified as semi- arboreal, spending the majority of their time climbing in the lower canopy of the lowland rainforests of Southern Grand Terre and the Ile des Pins. Therefore, in order to be happy and active in the captive environment, Mossy geckos need things for them to climb on. Mossy Geckos can reach weights of 80gm, and can be clumsy, so branches should be sturdy and thick enough to support the weight of the animal as it jumps from branch to branch (see bottom of paragraph). A range of options are available, from collecting wood from outside, to purchasing some of the wide range of exotic woods and vines or artificial vines made by companies such as Exo Terra and T-Rex. If you do collect wood from outside, you will need to take into consideration the type of wood, as woods from pines, cedar and other sappy species can be toxic, and it will also need to be properly sterilized using either a soaking in bleach solution followed by thorough rinsing, or baking in a hot oven followed by freezing to eliminate and insects of bacteria that the wood may be harbouring.
Hiding Places - Being Semi-Arboreal, the Mossy gecko will spend a portion of its time in the rainforest floor, seeking refuge from heat or protection as it sleeps during the day. Therefore coverage needs to be placed on the floor of the enclosure also. Geckos tend to get stressed if they feel exposed, and so it is important that your animal feels secure in its home. Hiding places should be provided at floor level as well as higher up as it also helps them whilst hunting livefoods. Hiding spots can be created with plants, pieces of driftwood, or anything you can think of! Many reptile manufacturers also make pre-formed hides which are suitable as long as the opening is large enough for a fully grown gecko. My favourite option is to use plants. Not only does it provide hiding and sleeping places for the gecko, it also creates an attractive display which adds another level to keeping exotics. You can use live plants, as long as they are non-toxic to animals (List of safe plants) and have no sharp points (i.e Cacti and some Bromeliads). Be aware that many commercial plant stores use fertilizers and pesticides. You will need to change the soil as far as possible and gently wash the leaves to ensure no residues are left. More information on planting can be found in the vivarium construction section.
If you are less green-fingered, you can use silk or plastic fake plants. These are available from exotics companies and pet shops, or for a cheaper option, you can use those found in handicraft and hobby stores.
Before adding the fake plant to your tank, you will need to test the dye to ensure it is colourfast. Do this by submersing the plant in a bowl of lukewarm water and rubbing it. Pat dry with kitchen towel and if any dye leaches, it is unsafe to use. Dried, sterilised leaf-litter also provides a fantastic hiding spot for these geckos.
Suitable Substrate - There is much debate about what constitutes a 'suitable' substrate for geckos. I, along with many people believe that the safest option is to steer clear of loose substrates such as wood chippings, gravel and sand. It is believed that the gecko can easily ingest loose substrate whilst hunting, and often have difficulty passing it through, which can lead to a build-up of the material in the animals stomach called 'impaction'. The only real cure for this is surgery, which is risky in such small reptiles.
Click here to view a photograph of sand impaction - Warning Graphic.
For young geckos especially, the best substrate option by far is kitchen towel. This is safe from impaction, easily replaced and cheap. It is also useful for monitoring your geckos 'movements'. I use paper towels in my hatchlings enclosures so I can monitor them closely. Another relatively 'impaction safe' option is to use linolium floor tiles, or a product called Lizard-liner or Cage Carpet, which is a synthetic grass, much like astroturf.
The Mossy Gecko's natural habitat is lowland rainforest, and so many people choose to use peat compost (without vermiculite) or a product called coco-fibre. The coco-fibre (also known as coco-earth, eco-earth or other variations) comes in brick form, and expands on addition of water to form a dirt type substrate. Another natural option is smooth large river rocks, planted with mosses as I use in my adult set-ups. R.chahoua particularly appreciates mosses and lichens in the vivarium. More information and photographs of this style of set up can be found in the vivarium construction section.
As Mossy geckos are not a desert species, there is no need to use sand, as is a controversial subject with desert living species. In my opinion none of the various forms of sand should be used.
NOTE: When putting together your vivarium, it is important to make sure everything is secure. Mossy geckos like to jump, and so there is always the possibility that injuries can occur if something collapses when they land on it! This also applies to sitting under things as many animals have been known to get stuck or squashed by tank decoration. Never assume your gecko cant get into somewhere - it will try and it could get stuck.
Heating: New Caledonia has a variable and relatively cool climate, and so specialist heating is not needed. An ideal temperature range is from 65-80F (21- 28 C), with a slight drop at night. If exposed to temperatures of over 85F Crested geckos can go into hyperthermic shock which can be fatal. Therefore, adequate ventilation during summer and a good thermometer are vital. During winter, a small heatmat attached to a thermostat can be used to maintain temperatures in the correct range. It is good practice to place the heatmat in one of the lower corners of the vivarium (on the outside of the glass stuck to either the back or side wall, or placed underneath). This enables a temperature gradient to develop in the tank allowing the geckos to choose the temperature most comfortable.
Lighting: Being nocturnal, it is currently believed that Mossy Geckos do not require artificial UVB lamps in captivity. Full spectrum and UVB light bulbs can be bought in pet stores but are expensive, and need replacing every 6-12months to maintain UVB output. In the wild, UV light is used by the body to produce vitamin D3, and so in captive situations without UV lamps, proper supplementation is vital (See Feeding and supplementation section).
A good day/night cycle is still beneficial, and so artificial lighting can be placed on a timer in order to simulate daylight cycle. My lighting set-up is timed to come on at 7am and turn off at 6pm. Make sure however, that the bulb you use does not produce a lot of heat or you will risk overheating. Any bulbs placed inside the vivarium require a guard to prevent burning. The best option is to place the bulb outside the vivarium where is cannot burn the inhabitants.
Red or blue coloured bulbs can be bought for night-time viewing of your animals at their most active. It is believed that they cannot see these wavelengths of light so it, in theory does not interfere with their natural activities. I have not used these however so I cannot speak from personal experience.
Humidity: Correct humidity levels are important to the gecko's health and also aid the shedding process. Therefore a good hygrometer is an essential in the vivarium. In New Caledonia, the humidity levels vary quite widely throughout the year, but a moderate level of humidity is needed. 55-70% humidity is a good range to aim for, although they can survive in more humid conditions for short periods. When humidity is too low, the gecko will have trouble shedding its skin, particularly on the tips of the toes and tail, which can result in constriction of the blood vessels and ultimately, the trapped flesh will die and fall off (this is particularly problematic with young geckos). Levels that are too high can increase the risk of respiratory problems.
Adequate humidity can be easily maintained by spraying the vivarium once or twice a day. This should also be done with dechlorinated water. Features such as waterfalls and larger water bowls also aid humidity and so misting may need to be done less. The amount you need to mist your tank will largely depend on the temperature, size, set-up and even the material the tank is made of, which reiterates the necessity of a hygrometer.
Good ventilation is essential, and can be easily created with a screen lid (such as those found on the Exo-Terra cages or created by modifying traditional plastic lids.)
Feeding: The Mossy Gecko is partly frugivorous, it’s wild diet consisting of non-citrus fruits as well as the usual insects. Mossy Geckos can be fed daily, or every-other day with most diets. It is best to feed your geckos in the late evening or before you go to sleep, as they will be at their most active at night. This is particularly important with livefoods as they can quickly hide themselves if left and have also been known to bite the animals while sleeping.
There are a number of options open to Mossy Gecko keepers, but the best all round option is to use a meal replacement powder. The company ‘T-Rex’, in conjunction with renowned US breeder ‘Allen Repashy’ has developed a complete diet range for all of the Rhacodactylus species, which provides all of the nutrition needed to keep the species healthy. Crested Gecko Diet (CGD) is commonly available in small 1.35oz pots in most pet stores, or can be bought in larger quantities online from the US and is perfectly safe to feed to Mossy geckos. The Gargoyle Gecko Diet (GGD) has a higher protein content than the Crested Gecko version (30%:20%), and may also be fed safely to Mossy geckos. The diet is fed either daily, or every-other day, and comes in powder form. The powder is mixed with water in a 2:1 (water:powder) ratio by volume, until it resembles a runny babyfood in consistency. This thickens over a few minutes. The CGD is formulated to provide all nutrition necessary, but live insects can be fed in addition to provide interest and hunting experience. I feed all of my animals on CGD as I feel it provides the best nutrition and also prevents Calcium crashes after laying.
Like most gecko species, Mossy Gecko’s can be fed live-feeder insects of a suitable size, such as Crickets, Roaches and Locusts. Feeder insects should be fed live, and should be no bigger than the width of the gecko’s head to avoid choking. There are many different feeder insects available in many pet shops, or online.
As an additional treat, some Mossy Geckos enjoy eating pinkie mice (young, hairless mice) which you can buy frozen at most reptile shops. The Pinkies are defrosted in a mug of hot water, chopped into bitesize pieces (I use scissors) and fed to the gecko (I use a pair of tongs to attract the geckos interest by wiggling the piece of Pinkie). Pinkie mice are too fatty to be fed as a staple diet, but can provide a great treat especially for females, who love the fat and calcium from the bones. It is important to note that live Pinkie mice should NOT be fed to geckos; the mice still have teeth and have the potential to do significant damage to the gecko.
Mashed fresh, non-citrus fruits should be provided in addition to just livefoods. Mango and Banana are particular favourites of most Mossy geckos! Many keepers feed fruit flavoured babyfoods to their geckos in replacement of fresh fruit, however I will not feed this to my animals for a number of reasons. Not only do the prepacked babyfoods contain many preservatives and chemicals which are undesirable, they are also high in sugar, which most often leads to the gecko refusing to eat the far more nutritious CGD, and is much less healthy for the animal. Rhacodactylus geckos do not eat citrus fruits in the wild due to its Citric acid content, however almost all store-bought babyfoods list Citric Acid as an additive which is yet another reason that I do not feed my animals babyfood.
Animals that have not been raised on CGD may be reluctant to switch to the complete diet, and so babyfood/fresh fruit may be added, and then reduced in quantity as they are weaned from the sweeter option. I raise all of my hatchlings on CGD and so all usually feed well on it by the time they leave me. I strongly advise that CGD continues to be fed as the staple diet.
Here is some information on some of the common feeder insects...
Crickets - Come in either Black or 'Silent' Brown variety. Silent browns are usually preferable as they make less noise, and as they have a shorter lifespan, there is less risk of infestation. In themselves, they are relatively low in nutritional value and so must be dusted with supplement, and gutloaded before feeding. The average lifespan is approximately 3 weeks from birth. Downsides to Crickets are the noise and smell of keeping them, and the occasional escapee is common. Easily available in many different sizes, inexpensive, and generally considered as a good stable feeder insect for most species.
Locusts - Locusts make less noise that Crickets, and are slower moving so are easier to catch for most reptiles. However, they are much more expensive than Crickets and so are not commonly used as a staple. Locusts have a longer lifespan than Crickets, but also get to a much larger size, so adult locusts are an unacceptable food item for Crested Geckos for risk of choking. Locusts have a similar nutritional content to Crickets, and so require supplementation and gutloading. Breeding is relatively easy, and so a colony of Locusts may provide a reliable food source and also an interesting display, as adults are quite beautiful.
Roaches - Roaches are becoming more and more popular as a food item in the reptile keeping community. One of the species most commonly used are Blata Lateralis and other tropical species. It is thought that due to the climate in the UK, tropical species cannot survive outside of the container and so infestation is not a problem. However I cannot say whether that is strictly true or not. Like all roaches, they are very prolific and so a colony is easy to maintain and are often available via websites and some shops. Escapees can be reduced by putting a line of Vaseline around the rim of your container, as they will not climb above the Vaseline. The nutritional content of roaches is higher than Crickets and Locusts, but still require supplementation.
Mealworms - Mealworms make a poor choice as a staple feeder insect due to the high level of Chitin in their outer coating. The material is difficult to digest and can actually cause impaction in some cases. Horror stories of mealworms 'burrowing' through live animals from the inside float around the internet, but these are unconfirmed and unlikely to be true. In any case, many keepers remove the heads from the mealworms before feeding as they do have nasty jaws. I do not feed mealworms to any of my animals, although they would be fine for an occasional treat.
Morio/Super worms- These are a very large version of mealworms, which are an even worse choice, in my opinion, than mealworms. The jaws on these worms are quite large and can inflict considerable damage to a gecko, and are mostly far too large to be fed to a Crested gecko.
Waxworms - Waxworms are also a bad choice of staple feeder as they have a high fat content which can lead to problems with obesity and fatty liver disease, however they are a great treat item, and useful for feeding females that have just laid a clutch. They do not have the same chitinous coating as mealworms, and so are a much better choice. Waxworms are readily available online and from pet stores, mostly delivered in small plastic containers filled with sawdust. They will survive for a number of weeks, before encasing themselves in a cocoon. If given the right conditions, the moths will emerge and can also be used as a feeder item, or used to start a colony.
Phoenix worms /Calci-Worms - Phoenix worms are a relatively new feeder item, which remain quite expensive, but do have many benefits. The nutritional content of the Phoenix worm is much better than others, with so much calcium that it is not necessary to supplement with calcium (D3 is still required however). The Phoenix worm has a very long lifespan, and come in a variety of sizes, however they will not grow once you have bought them, so there is no chance of them outgrowing your geckos. They are packaged similarly to waxworms in a plastic container, with a medium that will sustain them so no additional feeding is required. Phoenix worms are available in some shops, online and at reptile shows. The UK importer for Phoenix worms is www.Pollywog.co.uk and you can order from his website.
Supplementation: If you feed only the Crested Gecko Diet, no additional supplements will be needed as it is a complete diet. However, if CGD is not the only thing in their diet, supplements may be necessary as the diet will have been altered.
The correct supplementation of Calcium and vitamin D3 is particularly important in keeping healthy animals, and is often misunderstood. In the wild, animals produce vitamin D3 in their skin via exposure to UVB light. In a captive environment, the natural synthesis of vitamin D3 cannot occur and so it must be provided artificially. Vitamin D3 is used by the body in order to uptake Calcium, and without D3 the body cannot utilise the Calcium it obtains in it’s food and it will suffer Ca deficiency problems such as MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) even if it is eating enough Calcium. Therefore, D3 must be supplemented to captive animals. However, if too much artificial D3 is given, the animals body will uptake too much Calcium, and the results can be as debilitating as MBD itself. It is important to know if your supplements include D3 or not. D3 should not be supplemented everyday, and so a pure Ca powder (such as Calypso) is needed in addition to a combinational supplement that includes the D3 (such as Nutrabol). CGD includes both Calcium and low levels of D3 making it safe as an everyday food source.
Here are examples of the supplementation regimes that should be followed with various diets…
CGD: Requires no additional supplementation. Additional pure Calcium may be safely provided
Livefoods (once or twice a week) and CGD: Dust feeder insects with pure Calcium 1-2 times a week. No extra D3 needed.
Livefoods (more than twice a week) and CGD: Dust feeder insects with a multivitamin including D3 once a week, and dust with pure Calcium on other feeds.
Livefoods only (Not Recommended): Dust feeder insects with a multivitamin including D3 twice a week and with pure Ca on other feeds.
Livefoods and Fresh fruit/babyfood: Dust feeder insects with pure Calcium. Add supplement powder including D3 to fruit/babyfood twice per week.
Gutloading: In themselves, feeder insects are relatively low in nutritional value. All livefoods need to be fed in order to keep them alive, and so by feeding the insects with nutritional foods the content of the livefood can be boosted. Most feeder insects will drown if left a dish of water to drink, and so by far the easiest way to provide moisture is with fruit and vegetables such as potato and apple, which also provide essential vitamins and minerals which are then passed on to the gecko. Crickets and Roaches will eat almost anything, and so a range of items can be used to gutload them, from fish food, to vegetables, to specifically made gels which are designed as a gutload. Leftover CGD is a perfect gutloading item, as the insects appear to enjoy it, and its very high in nutritional content.
|The Mossy Gecko is one of the harder Rhacodactylus species to breed. Before introducing male and female/s, all geckos must be healthy, and weigh at least 45gm. This ensures that they remain healthy during egg production and have the reserves necessary to do so. |
During the mating process, the male will mount the female, and grasp the soft fleshy part of her neck with his mouth. Various clicks and noises may be heard whilst mating is happening, and although it may look quite rough, it is perfectly normal. After copulation, the male will dismount and begin to lick his hemipenis, which will be protruding from the cloaca. The male will lick the area until they return to their normal position. NOTE: If the hemipenis can still be seen a few hours after copulation, then a prolapse may have occurred. This will require veterinary attention. Please see the Medical Heath section for more information on what to do.
The gestation period is usually between 30-35 days. The female will produce 2 eggs in each clutch, and usually lays around 3 clutches per year. Sperm may be retained in the female and used to fertilise eggs, usually up to 4 months after a single copulation. It has even been noted that fertile eggs have been laid 8 months after mating.
The female will usually bury her eggs in a moist substrate to ensure that they do not dry out. It is important to supply females with a suitable lay-box for her to deposit her eggs. If no suitable place is provided, it may lead to the female becoming egg-bound. An open container, large enough for the gecko to sit in (such as a Cricket tub or Tupperware box) should be filled with damp substrate, a few inches deep. Suitable substrates may be Coco-earth, peat compost, Sphagnum moss or a mixture of these with vermiculite. The lay-box should be concealed to provide a private and secure place for the female to lay. This can be done with pieces of cork bark or driftwood, or anything you can think of. Mossy geckos are often reluctant to use lay boxes and so one of the issues that keepers find with breeding Mossy geckos is that their eggs dry out before they are discovered. For this reason I line the entire bottom of the vivarium with 2-3inches of moist peat moss so that if they are laid outside of the lay box they do not desiccate as they would on kitchen towel.
The enclosure should be checked daily, and eggs removed carefully. Unlike poultry eggs, once laid reptile eggs should not be turned for risk of drowning the developing embryo by severing the attachment to the shell. A small mark or line should be carefully drawn on the top of the egg in pencil to ensure that they do not get turned by accident. Mossy gecko eggs are the most calcified of all Rhacodactylus and therefore females need to be monitored carefully around egg production to ensure their calcium levels do not ‘crash’. The calcified nature of R.chahoua eggs also means that the hatch rate is not as high as with other species. Many keepers record a successful hatch rate of around 50%.
Mossy Gecko eggs should be maintained at a temperature between 72-79F. Although an incubator as used for reptile eggs requiring more heat is not needed, a steady temperature should be maintained, and so a home-made incubator is perfect for this job. Eggs should be kept in a plastic container, such as a Tupperware tub or tackle box on a substrate of moistened vermiculite or perlite. A few small holes may be pierced into the container, although if you find that humidity is difficult to maintain, an airtight box, opened twice weekly to freshen the air will work just as well.
Eggs should hatch between 60-100 days. Lower temperatures will result in longer incubation times, but overall will lead to healthier, stronger hatchlings. Higher temperatures result in shorter incubation times, but the hatchlings may be weak due to developing too fast. It is not a race to produce hatchlings the fastest, but the healthiest hatchlings possible. Once hatched, the hatchling should be carefully transferred to a small, ventilated container such as a 'Faunarium'. Any perlite/vermiculite stuck to the hatchling should be carefully removed, as when the hatchling has its first shed, the incubation medium may cause the gecko to choke. Young Mossy geckos may be skittish and fast, and so handling should be kept to a minimum to avoid stress and accidents.
Hatchling enclosures should be kept minimally, with either no substrate, or kitchen towels to avoid impaction or accidents. It also helps monitoring of the hatchlings 'movements'. A small dish of water, and a dish of CGD (Crested Gecko Diet) should be provided as soon as the gecko hatches. The gecko may need encouragement to start eating the CGD, so apply a small drop onto its nose, and watch it lick it off. It will soon begin eating the CGD readily. If the gecko is feeding on CGD, then livefoods are not required, however, suitably sized livefoods may be given a few days after hatching if you decide to.Geckos should not be offered up for sale until they are at least 4 weeks old. This may all depend on the individual gecko, and those that are weaker or smaller than others may need to be kept for longer. Geckos younger than this are very fragile and do not cope well with the stress of moving, and even more so where courier and delivery is involved.
| Although a very controversial topic in the Rhacodactylus community, hybrids of R.ciliatus and R.chahoua have been successfully produced in captivity. |
ciliatus/chahoua hybrid. Courtesy of Mike @Dragontown
Due to the more predictable nature of Crested gecko reproduction, the vast majority of hybrid breeding projects have used a male chahoua and female ciliatus. The hatch rate for these geckos is very low, partly as the shell is highly calcified (a trait inherited from R.chahoua).
The controversy of hybridization stems largely from concerns about the captive gene pool becoming 'tainted' with hybrid blood. At present, only male hybrids have been produced, so HybridXHybrid breeding has not been able to be attempted. However, the hybrids are fertile, and attempts at breeding a hybrid back to a female Crested or Mossy gecko have allegedly been successful. The 75:25 hybrids that would result from breeding a hybrid back to a pure look increasingly similar to the pure animal, and this is where the fear that the pure gene pool would be tainted comes from.
Hybrids are very rarely offered up for sale due to their rarity in the hobby, but also due to this controversy. The sales of such hybrids are closely monitored and vetted to ensure that 'unscrupulous' breeders do not jeopardize the captive population, and turn the cynics fears into reality.At present, no other success in hybridizing the other Rhacodactylus species have been successful.
Bauer A.M. Morphology of the adhesive tail tips of carphodactyline geckos (Reptilia: Diplodactylidae) (1999) Journal of Morphology 235:1 pp.41-58