Knob-Tailed Gecko Care Sheet Guide

Knob Tailed Gecko (banded knob tail gecko)
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Knob-Tailed Gecko Care Sheet

Knob-tailed Geckos are native to Australia and widespread all over the country. They got their name from the small knob at the tip of their tail.

Australia is an ecologically and morphologically diverse radiation of over 120 species of geckos in three families; the Pygopodidae, the Carphodactylidae, and the Diplodactylidae (Han et al. 2004). Knob-tailed Geckos belong to the Carphodactylidae family.

The following nine species are recognized as being valid (and some have recognizable subspecies):

However, there is the opinion that there are in fact 11 (instead of 9) sub-species of Knob-tailed Geckos; the two species that are frequently placed into a separate genus, are the Underwoodisaurus (Bauer 1990; Wilson and Swan 2008). Source: https://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/2440/64291/8/02whole.pdf

Quick Reference Section

  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Family: Carphodactylidae
  • Scientific name: Nephrurus
  • Other Names: knob-tails, barking gecko
  • Average adult size: 
    • Smaller species of knob-tailed geckos, including Nephrurus wheeleri, N. levis, and N. deleani, have a snout-to-vent length of approximately 4 inches.
    • The largest of the knob-tailed geckos, Nephrurus amyae, has an SVL of approximately 5 to 5.5 inches.
    • Tail sizes also vary among knob-tailed gecko species. Nephrurus amyae has a relatively short, narrow tail, but N. levis and N. wheeleri have longer, broader tails.
  • Weight: 0.7 to 1.0 ounces (20 to 28 grams)
  • Lifespan: 10 to 15 years
  • Reproduction: oviparous
  • Clutch Size: ‎1 or 2 eggs
  • Egg Incubation Period:  ‎4 to 6 weeks
  • Food: In the wild, knob-tailed geckos eat a highly varied diet of ants, spiders, cockroaches, crickets, scorpions, caterpillars, beetles, and even smaller geckos and skinks
  • Average Temperature:  a thermal gradient from 26 celsius on the cool end to 30 celsius on the warm end should be provided
  • Humidity: depends on the Knob-tailed gecko sub-specie. Some do not require much humidity, while some others do and can be provided just by moistening slightly the sand at one end of the cage.
  • UVB lighting: not required
  • Average price range: prices vary from $150 to $250 for the more common species to thousands of dollars for rarer species
  • Conservation Status: least concern

Interesting facts about the Knob-tailed Gecko

Another name for the knobtailed gecko is the “barking gecko.” When geckos feel threatened, they wiggle their bodies, swing their tails, and bark loudly at their predators.

Knob-tailed geckos eat their old skins for nutrients and habitat sanitation. So, do not worry if you don`t see their old skin!

How does a Knob-tailed Gecko look like?

Pernatty Knob Tailed Gecko (Nephrurus deleani)
Pernatty Knob Tailed Gecko (Nephrurus deleani)

Lizards of this genus are easily distinguished by their short bodies, large heads, small legs, and short, carrot-shaped tails that often end in a small knob.

Geographical Distribution

Knob-tailed Geckos are widespread across Australia  (each subspecies occurs in a different area within the country).

For more on this have a look at book The Action Plan for Australian Lizards and Snakes 2017.

 Knob-tailed Gecko Habitat

Smooth Knob tailed gecko (Nephrurus levis pilbarensis)
Smooth Knob tailed gecko (Nephrurus levis pilbarensis)

The Knob-tailed gecko is found in a wide range of habitats, including arid, semiarid, open woodland, arid scrubs, spinifex covered desserts, sand-plains, and dune-fields.

 Knob-tailed Gecko enclosure requirements

Both adult and baby Knob-tailed geckos are best kept individually.

A 10-gallon aquarium or terrarium (as pictured above) appropriately houses one adult knob-tailed gecko of any species.

For babies, plastic boxes of  14 inches long, 7.5 inches wide and 4.5 inches tall are enough.

Substrate

Knob-tailed geckos need a natural recognizable substrate (if kept on newspaper, leaf litter, or other substrates, they will not know what to do with it) Natural fine sand works wonderfully. Zoo Med has a good one you can use. Be sure to clean the sand with a filtering scoop as well.

Some species, especially Nephrurus levis (Three lined knob tail gecko) and N. deleani (Pernatty knob tail gecko), are known for digging and creating small burrows and tunnels in their substrate.

Therefore, slightly moist sand provides the right conditions for them to dig their burrows.

Other species, such as N. wheeleri and N. amyae, create enclosed environments inside their hide boxes by plugging up the entrance with moist sand.

Temperature

Knob-tailed Geckos need a temperature gradient in their enclosures: a thermal gradient from 26 celsius on the cool end to 30 celsius on the warm end should be provided.

A digital hygrometer or infrared temp gun can be used to monitor the temperature to make sure that it is not too hot for the geckos when setting up the enclosure.

Heating is best applied by a heating element.

An under-tank heater works well with an aquarium or terrarium.

Flexwatt heat tape or heat cables work well with rack systems.

The heating element should be placed on one side of the enclosure, to get the required gradient.

Lighting

Knob-tailed geckos are nocturnal, so they do not need overhead lighting or basking lights. In fact, this type of lighting can stress the gecko.

Knob-tailed Gecko feeding in captivity

knob-tailed geckos can be feed with crickets (start a cricket farm) or cockroaches four to five times a week.

Also, mealworms (start a mealworm farm) would do a good meal.  However, knob-tailed geckos cue in on the movement of prey items, and mealworms are not as visually stimulating as some insects, so they might not induce a feeding response.

They can eat fairly large meals when compared with other geckos of similar size, but care must be taken not to feed them too large food items.

They hunt at night and emerge from their burrows early in the evening, so they should be fed at that time.

It is convenient to gut-load all prey items with fresh vegetables or a commercial gut load to provide the most nutrients.

Furthermore, it is important to dust feeder insects with a vitamin-mineral supplement containing calcium and vitamin D3 right before feeding time.

Tip: don’t throw insects in the cage during the day or during the day when they are sleeping or they will lose their dusting and can cause other problems. Crickets will lay eggs in the moist end sand which will hatch in the warmth and you’ll have baby crickets everywhere.

The baby crickets will annoy and stress the geckos out a lot, so it is a good practice to pinch the ovipositors of the female crickets to make sure no eggs are laid before feeding. If you notice baby crickets in the cage, replace the substrate immediately to remove all the baby crickets.

Water & humidity:

Orange Rough Knob Tailed Gecko (Nephrurus asper)
Orange Rough Knob Tailed Gecko (Nephrurus asper)

Water is an important requirement even if water dishes are not necessary for a knob-tailed gecko’s cage. Spraying the cage twice a week is the best way to give a gecko the proper amount of water.

How you water your knob-tailed gecko depends on what species you have. For rough-skinned species, such as Nephrurus amyae and N. wheeleri, spraying the top of the hide box with enough water to last for one to two days is appropriate.

These knob-tailed geckos prefer a slightly drier environment, and they don’t require humidity. They lick water from the sides of the cage or hide box, or they absorb water through their skin.

For smooth-skinned species, including Nephrurus levis, N. l. pilbarensis and N. deleani, a more humid environment is preferred.

The best way to create more humidity is to directly spray the sand underneath (or inside) the hide box.

Humidity will be contained within the hide box and provide enough moisture to render additional misting on top of the hide box unnecessary.

Accessories

One to two hide boxes should be included within the cage to provide shelter and security for the gecko.

Hide boxes should be placed on the small and dark side rather than the large and open side, and they should have only one entrance-exit hole.

 Knob-tailed Gecko temperament

Rough Knob tailed gecko (Nephrurus asper)
Rough Knob tailed gecko (Nephrurus asper)

Even if Knob-tailed geckos are tolerant of handling,  they are not as tolerant to handling as other gecko species.

Allowing a knob-tailed gecko to walk from hand to hand for short periods is OK, but it is not recommended to keep the gecko from its cage for prolonged periods.

Some species, such as Nephrurus levis and N. wheeleri, might drop their tails if they’re really stressed, but they will regrow them. Other species, such as N. amyae, cannot drop their tails. When they feel threatened, they often growl and bark to defend themselves.

Common Health Concerns

Knob-tailed geckos need to shed all of their skin every two to four weeks to prevent infection. Common places for their old skins to stay connected and cause infections are the toe joints. Infections could cause them to lose a toe or two!

Pricing and Availability

Banded Knob tailed gecko (Nephrurus wheeleri)
Banded Knob-Tailed Gecko (Nephrurus wheeleri)

Knob-tailed geckos are rarely if ever, found in common pet stores;  however, certain reptile specialty shops may carry some Nephrurus species on occasion.

Knob-tailed geckos can regularly be found from breeders specializing in these species (several species and subspecies of knob-tailed geckos have been in captivity for years).

Prices vary from $150 to $250 for the more common species to thousands of dollars for rarer species.

Knob-tailed geckos can be bought online at https://www.morphmarket.com/us/c/reptiles/lizards/knob-tailed-geckos and at http://www.geckosetc.com/available_knobtail.html

Conclusion

Knob-tailed Geckos are fun to watch and keep, but they are nocturnal and secretive individuals. Therefore, if you want a very interactive pet, knob-tailed geckos should not be your choice as they are best viewed from the other side of the glass.

Do you own a Knob-tailed Gecko? Tell us about it in the comments!

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