The chahoua gecko (chewie) is the second-largest New Caledonian gecko. (The largest being the New Caledonian giant). Chewies can grow up to 10 inches.
Like other New Caledonian geckos, they are arboreal and accept powdered crested gecko diet. This makes them easy to feed. And although they are nocturnal, they are still fun to be around. A happy chewie will sleep in the open and be active from 6 pm onwards. This gives you plenty of time to enjoy their company.
Quick Reference Section
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Diplodactylidae
- Scientific Name: Mniarogekko chahoua
- Average Adult Size: 10 inches (254 mm)
- Lifespan: 15 -20 years
- Clutch Size: 2 eggs
- Egg Incubation Period: 90 – 120 days
- Food: Live insects or Crested gecko meal replacement diet
- Tank Size: 20 gallons
- Average Temperature: 80°H/65°L
- Humidity: 55 – 70%
- UVB Lighting: Optional
- Average Price Range: $850 to $1500
- Conservation Status: Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List
Facts and Information
Endemic to New Caledonia, the chahoua gecko can be found on Grand Terre (which is the biggest island of New Caledonia), the Isle of Pine, and the Isle of Belep. They occur at elevations of up to 500m (1640 feet).
Their scientific name is Mniarogekko chahoua. This species has several common names including chahoua gecko (which you most certainly know since I have mentioned it a few times already), Bavay’s Giant Gecko, mossy New Caledonian gecko, mossy prehensile-tailed gecko, and the short-snouted New Caledonian gecko.
The ‘mossy’ in their common name refers to their skin coloration pattern which is lichen or moss-like. This clever adaptation allows them to blend seamlessly into their environment. I will sometimes refer to them as the mossy prehensile-tailed gecko in this article.
The adult mossy prehensile-tailed gecko has a length of 8 to 12 inches, and 10 inches on average. Additionally, the snout to vent length of adults is 5.5 inches. They have a fully developed prehensile tail which doesn’t drop as easily as some other New Caledonian geckos such as the crested gecko.
They use this tail to help them climb and get a better grip by curling the tail around branches and other objects. The common pigmentation of this species is a mix of green and reddish-brown although they can be found in many several colors.
Chahoua Gecko Habitat
The mossy prehensile-tailed gecko can be found in riverine forests (forests found along rivers or wetlands) as well as closed forests. In their natural ecology, they spend their day in tree crevices during the day and forage & hunt at night in the canopy.
Although they are a tropical species, the temperature range in their natural habitat is not high (about 73 F during the day). Their habitats are, however, very humid environments. Taking this into account, the arboreal mossy prehensile-tailed gecko needs an enclosure with high humidity and a ‘room temperature’ temperature.
Chahoua Gecko (Chewie) Care Sheet
The chahoua gecko climbs, and as such needs a vertical enclosure. The species spend next to no time on the floor of their enclosure, rather they prefer to rest on branches, and climb during the night, with the help of sticky pads (Lamellae) on their toes and the tip of their tail.
The enclosure needs a secure screen top and doors that open in the front. Also, a glass enclosure is best as it is better suited for a high humidity environment than a wooden vivarium is.
Hatchlings can be housed temporarily in a shoebox. As they grow into subadults, move them to a 10-gallon enclosure. When they are adults, move them to a 20-gallon enclosure.
Now you may be wondering why it is necessary to keep moving them from one enclosure to another. Can’t you just start with a 20-gallon enclosure? You can but that is not a good idea. A youngling gets stressed when housed in an enclosure too big for it.
A stressed reptile may refuse to eat, end up severely malnourished and even die. Exo terra glass terrariums are simply the best choice for New Caledonian geckos. For younglings, the Small Vertical Exo Terra (12x12x18 inches) is ideal. And for adults, the Medium Vertical Exo Terra (18x18x24 inches) is ideal.
As an arboreal reptile, the chahoua gecko needs a lot of climbing opportunities. Provide this by providing a lot of plants (either live or artificial), bamboo poles, vines, ropes, driftwood, cork bark and reptile hammock.
This reptile likes to jump from one branch to another so if the objects set up in the enclosure aren’t secure, the gecko can end up injured when the object comes tumbling down. Some fantastic live plants include Pothos, Mother-In-Law Tongue, Fiddle Leaf Fig, and any plant which is hardy enough to support the weight of the gecko.
Have a hide box half-filled with vermiculite/perlite mix, peat moss, or potting soil. A substrate that holds moisture well. Thi hide box will be used for egg-laying and/or shedding.
Using paper towels is easy, affordable and effective, although it isn’t very nice to look at. With paper towels, you can spot parasites such as mites, change in fecal matter, and eggs more easily.
Other substrates to use as bedding include a mix of coco fiber and sterile soil, peat moss, and reptile bark mix. These loose substrates can lead to intestinal impaction when ingested. To prevent this, don’t place feeder insects on the substrate.
For hatchlings and newly acquired geckos, always use paper towels for the first month or so. Similarly, use paper towels for sick geckos.
Lastly, toxic substrates such as cedar and pine chips are best avoided. The use of these two substrates by keepers is usually down to inexperience.
The ambient temperature for the mossy prehensile-tailed gecko’s enclosure has to be kept rather cool (mid 70s). Nevertheless, these reptiles appreciate a heat lamp. The heat lamp needs to get a temperature of about 82 F, give or take 2 F.
A very heated lamp can be very bad for the health of this species. If your house is warm enough (mid 70s), you can get away with not installing and heat lamps or heat mats. I recommend a 60W ceramic heat lamp such as the Zacro 60W Reptile Heat Lamp.
Alternatively (if you use a spot light that needs to go off at night), tape a heat mat to the outside of the terrarium to the side, not underneath. The heat mat must be set to about 74 F. This ensures nighttime temperatures don’t drop too low. I recommend the Zoo Med Repti Therm Under Tank Heater. It is a large heat mat and will provide adequate amounts of heat.
Always use a thermostat controller to ensure the heaters never get too warm. For the heat mat, I recommend the iPower Thermostat and for the heat lamp, I recommend the WILLHI Thermostat.
As with all New Caledonian geckos, the chahoua gecko requires high humidity levels. Most keepers keep the chahoua gecko’s tank even more humid that the Chahoua gecko’s.
A humidity level anywhere between 55 to 75% should be good enough for the chewie. Have a good hygrometer such as the ThermoPro TP50 Digital Hygrometer in the enclosure especially if you are a beginner.
This helps you track humidity levels. If you are an experienced reptile breeder or keeper, you should have no problem knowing what a humid enclosure should be like.
Mist the enclosure twice a day (allowing the tank to dry between mistings), have a full water bowl, and keep the substrate damp to acquire the desired humidity level.
Alternatively, you can place a cool air humidifier next to the enclosure.
The mossy prehensile-tailed gecko doesn’t need UV light as far as it is fed a diet that contains vitamin D3 such as crested gecko meal replacement powder, or insects dusted with vitamin D3 supplement. If the reptiles are kept in a live vivarium, the plants need UV light.
You can place the enclosure in a sunlit room. Ensure the enclosure isn’t in the direct path of sunlight. Position the enclosure in such a way that it doesn’t receive direct sunlight. This ensures the glass panels don’t heat up.
Fluorescent bulbs can also be used to provide the plants with UV light.
Feeding the Chahoua gecko
As omnivores, chewies accept fruits, insects, pinkie mice, and meal replacement diets such as the crested gecko meal replacement powder. The most popular choice is the one developed by Allen Repashy called the Repashy Crested Gecko MRP Diet.
It has been fed to New Caledonian geckos have several decades now with much success. It comes all the nutrients such as vitamin D3 and calcium. They also accept fruit puree and puree baby food although these do not contain all the needed nutrients. As such, I don’t recommend them.
Mix the Gecko meal powder with two parts water and offer it to the geckos in a shallow bowl. Feed them three or two times a week. Leave the food in the tank for a day and a half before removing it. Supplement this diet with live insects twice a week alongside the Gecko meal powder.
Alternatively, if you wish for your gecko’s staple diet to be live insects, dust the insects with calcium and vitamin D3 powder before offering them to the gecko. It is also advisable to gut load crickets and live insects.
For crickets, you can use the Fluker’s Cricket Quencher and Fluker’s High-Calcium Cricket Diet to provide the needed nourishment. What the crickets eat is passed onto the gecko. Gut-load mealworms and roaches as well. As with the meal powder, feed the geckos three to twice a week.
Water is important. At all times, have a sturdy shallow bowl of water. The bowl needs to be shallow so the gecko can’t accidentally drown in it. The gecko may defecate into the water, this is perfectly normal. Change the water daily and clean the bowl with a brush and clean water only. Detergent can be harmful to the reptile.
Chahoua gecko’s Temperament
Chewies are very individualistic. As such, one chewie will tolerate handling with no problem at all, while another may be hard to tame. Regardless, with persistence, taming a chewie should not be tough.
If you acquire an adult, give it a couple of weeks to acclimatize to the new surroundings before handling it. For juveniles and hatchlings, ensure they are three months old before handling them.
The juveniles are very energetic and jump a lot, place the first hand with the gecko next to the second so they can move from the first hand to the second, then put the first hand in front of the second for they can move to that, and repeat.
Handle them regularly but no more than five minutes per session. They will be tamed in no time.
Chahoua gecko’s Lifespan
The exact lifespan of the species Mniarogekko chahoua is unknown although they live to be over 15 years. With good care, it is possible to keep them until they are 20. They are long-lived reptiles and this must be considered before acquiring one.
Common Health Concerns
The mossy prehensile-tailed gecko is a hardy reptile that can go all its years without any serious health issues. To ensure the gecko is healthy, upon acquisition have a herp vet examine it. A healthy chewie eats well, is active and alert, and has healthy skin, clear eyes, vents, & nose. Here are some common illnesses that affect this species.
Metabolic bone disease (MBD)
When the lizard doesn’t get enough calcium or cannot process calcium, it develops MBD. When left untreated, the gecko can end up dead. Symptoms include weak jaw, twitching limbs, bumps, and a kinked tail. Prevent this by ensuring the gecko’s diet contains enough calcium and vitamin D3.
I suggest feeding them crested gecko meal powder, this contains adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D3. If you feed them live insects, then increase the amount of calcium dusted onto the insects. See a vet if the case is severe.
These tiny parasites can be frustrating. They reproduce quickly and infestations can easily occur. They appear as tiny moving red, or black dots around the eyes and mouth of the reptile.
They bite and irritate the reptile. Infestations are rare unless the reptiles are already infested before you got them. Place newly acquired chewies in a tank with paper towel substrate since it is easier to notice mites on white paper. Treat a mite infestation with products such as Reptile Spray.
Intestinal impactions and prolapse
This happens when a lot of substrates is ingested. It usually occurs with babies and adults that are fed live insects. Keep babies in an enclosure with paper towel substrate. Also, offer live insects on a plate. Symptoms include constipation and lack of appetite. In the case of impaction, see the vet immediately. Failing to treat impaction is fatal.
These are the most common health issues to watch out for. Other less common health concerns include egg binding (a gravid female being unable to lay stuck eggs), and internal parasites such as Entamoeba invadens (the gecko will be tired, look bad and lose weight; contact the vet immediately).
Pricing and Availability
The chewie is a relatively expensive reptile because they are difficult to breed. They are also quite rare but can be found online, and at trade shows and exhibitions.
On average, they cost about $1000. While there are no morphs, several distinct traits exist such as White Collar. Also, mossy prehensile-tailed gecko from different localities may look different.
The species is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, and their population is falling. The main threat to the species includes forest degradation which leads to loss of habitat.
Other threats include illegal collection and trade of specimens, and the introduction of the electric ant (Wasmannia auropunctata). The ants reduce the abundance of tree-dwelling insects and arachnid which wild chewies feed on.
The exotic chahoua gecko (chewie) is unique and gorgeous. Due to their rarity, they are sought after by reptile enthusiasts around the world. Although they are simple to look after, negligence can have a detrimental effect on their health.
The enclosure must be humid, and they require a lot of vegetation (artificial or live). They are easy to feed and easy to tame. If you have any information or questions about M. chahoua kindly drop a comment.
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Tuesday 17th of January 2023
Is it better to hand feed my chahoua or to put crickets/dubias in the enclosure and let him hunt? I adopted him at almost 3 years old and have no prior knowledge as to how he was fed
Wednesday 18th of January 2023
@gracie, I would let him hunt so he/she gets a little excercise and satisfaction from eating.