Native to New Caledonia, the gargoyle gecko is easy to take care of and handle. Additionally, they are tough. They are called gargoyle gecko because their coloration and the bumps on their heads (which look like ears and horns) give them the appearance of a gargoyle.
Quick Reference Section
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Diplodactylidae
- Scientific Name: Rhacodactylus auriculatus
- Average Adult Size: 7 – 9 inches (178 -229 mm) / 60 – 70 grams
- Lifespan: 15-20 years in captivity
- Clutch Size: 2 eggs
- Egg Incubation Period: 60 – 90 days
- Food: Live mealworms or crickets / Meal Replacement Powder
- Tank Size: 15 – 20 gallons
- Average Temperature: 82°H/70°L
- Humidity: 60 – 80%
- UVB Lighting: Optional
- Average Price Range: $200 to $750
- Conservation Status: Least Concern on IUCN Redlist
Gargoyle Gecko Facts and Information
The binomial name of the gargoyle gecko is Rhacodactylus auriculatus. It belongs to the family Diplodactylidae which includes several other geckos (137 species to be precise).
It also has a prehensile tail which helps it to climb. This tail will grow back when dropped. The R. auriculatus also has toe pads and can climb branches, vines and other rough surfaces. It cannot climb sheer surfaces such as glass.
In the wild and in captivity, they come in many colors such as shades of brown, grey, orange, yellow, red and even white. The patterns of stripes and blotches on their body also vary depending on the morph
They generally reach total lengths of 7 to 9 inches. The snout to vent length of this gecko is usually about 4.5 inches. They reach maturity at age 15 to 18 months when they are about 34 grams in weight. However, they reach weights of about 60 to 70 grams.
Gargoyle Gecko Habitat
In the wild, the Rhacodactylus auriculatus is usually founded in the southern part of New Caledonia. They are endemic to scrub habitats. These are areas populated by shrubs and sparse trees. Unlike other geckos of the genus Rhacodactylus, they occur naturally only on the southern end of the main island of New Caledonia – which is located 1,210 km (750 mi) east of Australia in the Pacific Ocean.
Unlike many other reptiles, the gargoyle geckos often rest in plain sight during the day. The terrarium they are housed in can be plain or decorated with plants, branches, and fake rocks. However, it is important that the terrarium has enough room.
A single adult should be kept in a 15-gallon to 20-gallon enclosure. Hatchlings should be kept in a 5-gallon enclosure while juveniles should be kept in a 10-gallon enclosure. Also, hatchlings and juveniles must be kept in an enclosure which isn’t bigger than 10 gallons. The Exo Terra 20-Gallon Outback Terrarium is an excellent choice.
The gargoyle gecko is a solitary creature and is best housed alone. However, if you wish to keep more than a single specimen in an enclosure, follow these rules. Firstly, do not keep hatchlings in the same enclosure. Secondly, do not house two or more males in the same enclosure. You can house a single male and one to three females in a 30-gallon enclosure.
Because they can be hostile to one another, it is important to provide several hiding spots for the pursued gecko can escape to. The aggression between males can result in death and as such, it is unwise to house males together. Even among females, aggressive behavior is common. If this is the case, the aggressor needs to be housed alone. In all, they prefer to be alone.
You can also decorate the enclosure with branches, plants (fake or live), and fake rocks. Live plants help maintain the high humidity level that the gecko needs. However, since the gecko may ingest parts of the plant, ensure it isn’t toxic to reptiles. A good selection of plants for the enclosure includes weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), dragon plant (Dracaena), and Devil’s Ivy / Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum).
This species doesn’t dig and spend most of their time above ground and as such do well on reptile carpet as the Zoo Med Eco Cage Carpet which is attractive and easy to maintain. Similarly, they also do well on paper towels and newspaper. Other options include a peat moss and coconut fiber pulp such as Zoo Med Eco Earth Coconut Fiber Substrate.
Avoid any substrate that can prove harmful such as sand which is coarse, stones cedar and pine as they are toxic to reptiles.
Creating a temperature gradient is not a necessity when housing this species. However, the temperature of the terrarium must not exceed 85 to 87 F. If the temperature exceeds 87 F, it may be necessary to move the enclosure to a cooler room. Similarly, ambient temperatures should not drop before 65 F which can happen during winter.
During the day, the temperature should be between 78 and 82 degrees. During the night, the temperature can drop to as low as 72 F but ideally, the night time temperature can be around 75 F. As you can see, this is a normal room temperature range.
You may provide a basking spot with temperatures of 80 to 82 F, especially during the breeding season. A good heat lamp to consider is the Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter. Similarly, you can use a heat map such as the Fluker’s Heat Mat.
A thermostat such as the BoHoFarm Digital Heat Mat Thermostat must be used to regulate the temperature A thermometer such as the Habor Digital Hygrometer & Thermometer can be used to ensure the temperature is always within the right range.
While providing the right temperature range is straightforward since most rooms are within the required temperature range, providing the right humidity level can be tricky. This is because the species require humidity – 60 to 80 percent.
It is important to use a digital hygrometer such as the Habor Digital Hygrometer & Thermometer to regularly check the humidity level of the enclosure. If the humidity level falls below 50 percent, place a cool air humidifier in the room, or lightly mist the enclosure nightly. You can also do this to maintain a humidity level of 60 percent.
Gargoyle geckos don’t need additional lighting as far the lighting in the room follows a day-night cycle. Similarly, if the room and the terrarium receives natural sunlight, additional lighting isn’t required. Make sure the terrarium doesn’t receive direct sunlight as this can overheat the terrarium.
The geckos don’t require UVB light if their diet contains vitamin D3. If you have live plants in the terrarium, you may need to provide grow lights. Any white light that the gecko is exposed to have to follow a day-night cycle (12 to 14 hours of daylight during the spring and summer, and 10 hours of light during the fall and winter.)
Feeding the Gargoyle Gecko
In the wild, members of this species feed on insects, small rodents such as mice, and even smaller lizards and geckos. They also eat fruits and nectar. In captivity, they accept a wide range of foods. This makes feeding very easy.
Most breeders feed them with crested gecko meal replacement powder. With these, you just need to add water. They contain all the nutrients needed. The geckos readily eat this. Companies such as Repashy or Pangea specify in this.
Some excellent meal replacement powder brands include Repashy Crested Gecko Meal Replacement Diet, and the Pangea Banana/Papaya Fruit Mix Complete Crested Gecko Food.
If you do not find meal replacement diets, the reptiles also accept fruit puree or puree baby food mixed with chicken puree and supplements such as the Zoo Med Reptile Calcium with Vitamin D3.
They also eat live insects just like other geckos. For hatchling and juveniles, you can offer crickets and other insects which are no larger than the width of their head.
As they grow, they usually lose interest in crickets. You can feed adults dubia roaches. You have to gut load the insects for about 48 hours or motte before feeding them to the gecko. Similarly, dust the insects with a reptile supplement that contains vitamin D3, calcium, and all the other needed nutrients.
You can feed the geckos, live insects as either a primary diet three times a week or as a treat if the meal replacement diet is the primary diet.
Feed them three times a day. If you are feeding them insects, feed them as much as they can eat in a single feeding. This is between 5 to 12 insects depending on their size. Some breeders also feed them 2 insects for every inch of their body. The meal replacement diet should remain in the enclosure for about 24 hours before removal.
Always provide a shallow dish of water at all time.
Gargoyle Gecko’s Temperament
They don’t mind being handled regularly. However, they need to attain a length of at least 3 inches from snout to vent, before you handle them. Similarly, you have to allow the reptile to settle in their new environment right after acquiring them.
This should take about 2 weeks to a month. When you do handle them. each handling session should be at most 5 minutes for the first couple of weeks. This ensures that the lizard becomes accustomed to you.
Eventually, depending on the behavior of the gecko, you can increase handling time to as much as 20 minutes. An exercise such as hand walking, which requires that you place our free hand next to the hand with the gecko so it can move from one hand to another ensures that gecko becomes used to you.
When handling them, do so close to the ground or floor in case they fall. Adults rarely ever bite. However, hatchlings and subadults may bite when scared. While their bites can result in lacerations, this is superficial and harmless.
Gargoyle Gecko’s Lifespan
As with other geckos, gargoyle geckos are long-lived. With proper diet, and care, the average gargoyle gecko can live up to 15 to 20 years.
Breeding Gargoyle Geckos
Like their cousin, the crested geckos, they are bred successfully and regularly by breeders all over the world. The Gargoyle Gecko reaches maturity when it is 15 to 18 months old and weighs about 34 grams. You must not sex small geckos as it can lead to complications.
Because they are aggressive towards one another, it is important to keep an eye on both the male and the female during the mating period. A lay box has to be provided. This is similar to a hide box, however, it should contain damp substrate such as moist coco coir.
There are three basic morphs of this species include the reticulated, striped and blotched. These descriptions refer to the patterns found on their skin. Reticulated morphs don’t have any patterns.
Striped morphs are covered in stripes. Finally, blotched morphs have blotched color patterns. Popular morph colors include red, orange, white, yellow, gray and a mix of two or more colors.
Gargoyles are hardy pets and hardly suffer from any health issues if properly cared for. Ensure that, they are fed regularly and receive all the needed nutrients, their enclosure is clean, and lastly, the humidity levels are within the recommended range.
Here are the most health issues –
- Dehydration – This usually happens when humidity levels are low or temperatures are too high. Symptoms include a stuck shed, sunken eyes, lethargy and inability to climb. if your specimen dehydrates, check the change in humidity levels during the course of the day. Also, mist the enclosure more often.
- Floppy Tail Syndrome (FTS) – this is when the tail hangs to the side or over the back when the gecko is upside down. This can cause difficulties when the gargoyle defecates or lays eggs. It can lead to deformity of the spine. A herp veterinarian can amputate the tail. To prevent this, ensure the gecko has several hiding spots to sleep in. This ensures that it abstains from sleeping upside down frequently, which is the main cause of this health issue.
- Metabolic bone disease – A lack of vitamin d3 and calcium can lead to this bone disease.
Other health issues include tail loss, mites, and parasites.
Pricing and Availability
Although the prices vary depending on the rarity of the morph, a specimen generally costs between $250 to $1000. (They can cost less or more than the general pricing.) As you can tell, they are substantially more expensive than other geckos.
Although the natural habitat of the species is under threat, the species is listed as of least concern according to the IUCN Red List. The threat of deforestation means that the species are currently being considered for protection against exportation under the CITES treaty (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
While gargoyle geckos are not as popular as crested geckos are, they are just as cool. They are easy to care for and don’t require special lighting and heating.
Feeding is also easy since they enjoy meal replacement diets which come in powdered form and are easy to store. The biggest responsibility is remembering to mist their enclosure daily. These unique and cool looking reptiles are perfect for both beginners and seasoned enthusiasts.
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