Day Geckos Phelsuma species Natures Island Jewels

4 Apr

When it comes to the captive reptile species of geckos, few can rival the inherent elegance of the Phelsuma sp. They are generally considered to be a more delicate species but they can be a fun and rewarding species to keep once you have the correct information on how to care for them. According to the most recent information that I have been able to gather there are no less than 47 separate species of the Phelsuma genera.  Within the 47 species 3 are generally readily available in the captive reptile market.  It is those species that I will cover in the following article as well as their captive care and maintenance.  I will not go into detail for each species but more of a generalization so that you can get an idea of the work involved with keeping Day Gecko Phelsuma sp.

The very first thing we must all understand about Day Geckos Phelsuma sp is that they are a vertically orientated species.  This means that rather than a long terrarium or enclosure you must provide a taller one.  Being vertically inclined they have lamella this basically means in plain language “sticky” toes which allow them to cling to “smooth” vertical surfaces thus allowing them to climb seemingly impossible surfaces so be sure to have a tight fitting lid for any enclosure.  This is not hard to do by any means as most fish and reptile stores carry both.  Before even shopping for enclosures or Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. I would strongly encourage you to pick up a book called “Day Geckos in Captivity” by Leann & Greg Christenson which is published by Living Art.  This is an awesome resource for all of your Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. needs.  A friend that had much success with his Gold Dust Day Geckos Phelsuma laticauda read the book and passed it onto me.  This brings us to our first species that I am going to cover.


Gold Dust Day Geckos Phelsuma laticauda laticauda

These are smallest of the three species of Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. that I’m covering here in this treatment.  They typically obtain a total body length of 4” to 5”.  They have a bright green ground color as do most Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. The significant markings on this particular species are the light blue over the eyes as if someone has placed eye shadow on their eyelids.  They also tend to have a trio of three red lines towards the posterior area before the rear legs.  As the common name implies they also display a golden speckle pattern over their neck and shoulders area.

Standing’s Day Gecko Phelsuma standingi

This is the best Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. for beginners to start with when they originally begin to care for Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. because they can usually be easily hand tamed.  When adult size is achieved they are about 10” to 11” in total body length.  Standing’s Day Gecko Phelsuma standingi adults are usually a grey color with light turquoise coloration on the head and tail.  Occasionally, there may also small circular grey patterns on the head and neck or the dorsum.  Juveniles usually have bands across the dorsum which eventually blend and fade out into the adult pattern.

Giant Madagascar Day Gecko Phelsuma madgascariensis grandis

As the name implies this is the largest of all the Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. measuring a full 12” in total body length this really is a giant.  Generally speaking this species of Day Gecko Phelsuma sp is a lot brighter green than its compatriots and there is also another distinguishing mark as well.  They have a red stripes which start at just behind the nostril and run to just before the eye on each side of the head.


Being considered one of the smaller species of Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. the Gold Dust Day Gecko Phelsuma laticauda laticauda can be housed singly in ten gallon enclosures which measure 24 1/4 x 12 1/2 x 12 ¾ or in male/female pairings, some say you can house them singly in five gallons but for me personally that is too small.  For our other two species of Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. I recommend a minimum of a 20 gallon enclosure this way if I want to pair them up later I can do so without buying a larger enclosure.  Enclosures should be either glass or acrylic not the screen type of enclosures normally used for Chameleons.  The reason for this is that the screen enclosures will not hold the humidity that is needed by all Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. for survival.

Whether you choose glass or acrylic is really just a matter of personal preference when it comes to the Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. as they are not a heavy species which might knock down branches etc like a snake would and therefore the risk of scratching is removed.  Be aware though that acrylic is typically twice as expensive as glass.  A twenty gallon size enclosure measures 24 1/4 x 12 1/2 x 16 3/4.


Decorations will be the same for all three species of Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. mentioned here today.  As already mentioned they are all a vertically inclined species and if not provided with vertical services there are believe it or not serious medical complications that can occur.  For further detail you can purchase the book mentioned earlier as I have personally never experienced such ailments when keeping Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. but evidently from research that I have done this is somewhat of a common thing to happen with inexperienced keepers.

When it comes to the décor of Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. I will usually go with the old standard of Mother-in-Laws Tongue or Snake Plant sansevieria plant.  Something else that is a good idea to use in the enclosure is a cork bark background that can be attached with aquarium silicone to the wall itself.  Make absolutely sure that you use only aquarium silicone as any other may prove to be toxic to your pet.  Bamboo stalks are often used but you can also use cork bark tubes which in my experience are easier to obtain.  The Bamboo stalks or cork bark tubes should be placed at 45 degree angles throughout the enclosure and then the Mother-in-Laws Tongue or Snake Plant sansevieria plant can be placed somewhat in the middle of the enclosure within its own pot.  I would personally use two stalks or tubes giving the Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. a choice which one to use.

Substrate is point which is constantly argued within the captive reptile communities for various reasons and while I try not to fuel such things I have no doubt that this next statement will do so regardless.  When keeping any tropical or sub-tropical species I have always used either orchid bark or groundcover bark which can be purchased at most home improvement stores for less than $6.00 a bag.  In the decade plus that I have been doing this I have never had issues with mites or other bugs, fungus, or any other type of disease being introduced through the use of such materials.  I can only relay my experiences and for those that wish to follow my guidelines so be it if you feel safer buying “reptile” bark then feel free the choice is yours.  Lay down about a 1/2” – 1” layer of bark in the bottom of the entire enclosure and spray with water as needed in order to maintain proper humidity which will covered next.

Environmental Conditions

All of the Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. mentioned above can be kept at temperatures between 82-89 degrees Fahrenheit with a ten degree drop in temperature at night time.  In my observations of this species in captivity there should be a photoperiod of 12 hours per day of UVB exposure which matches the typical day/night cycle of your area.  Provide a basking area near the UVB source of 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit.  This could be provided by many different light sources or ceramic heat emitters the choice is yours.  Keep the humidity levels at or around 60% by spraying with revers osmosis water in the morning when the lights come on and this way the humidity will generally last through the day.



When it comes to feeding captive Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. there are a few things you can do.  First off, do not feed only crickets or other bug species that are commercially available.  Everyone has their favorite foods but they don’t eat them everyday day in and day out you shouldn’t force your pets to do so either.  Feed a varied diet of insects to your Day Gecko(s) Phelsuma sp. such as crickets, roaches, grasshoppers, and wax worms.  All of these should be bought from commercial breeders and not caught in the home or outside.  Those outside and in the home may have been exposed to pesticide which could cause severe reactions in your pet. When purchasing insect feeders make sure they are no smaller than the width of the head of gecko and no longer than the length of the head.

All of the insects fed to your pet should be “gut loaded” for twenty fours in advance of being fed to your pet.  This is done by placing them in a small enclosure with pieces of fruit, greens, etc which they will feed on and then pass on the ingested nutrients to your Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. They should also be dusted with a calcium supplement prior to entering the enclosure where they are to be consumed.  I will only put in enough insects that the Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. will eat in a one hour time frame otherwise the insects may tend to harass the Day Gecko Phelsuma sp. and some crickets and grasshoppers can actually seriously injure smaller Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. Stay away from feeding mealworms of any kind as they possess a hard shell covering which may cause intestinal blockage and injure the Day Gecko Phelsuma sp.


When in the wild Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. eat nectar from various plants that they encounter.  This is somewhat difficult to maintain in a captive environment, all is not lost however.  It has been discovered that we have a ready substitute which seems to work extremely well and we can even add calcium powder to it.  Fruit flavored baby foods are seemingly enjoyed as an alternative to nectar.  They seem to like the tropical flavors best and you can also puree mango, banana and other such tropical fruits and feed that as well.  Personally I go with the store bought baby food and save the trouble.

Vitamins & Minerals

Personally, I have yet to find a product that will beat Miner-All which is produced by Sticky Tongue Farms and sold commercially and via their website.  I have actually had animals raised with it that wouldn’t eat when I ran out and tried substituting another product.  I can only tell you that the products I mention are top notch in my experience & I use nothing else.  When it comes to calcium dosage there is really no way to estimate how much is too much when dusting crickets or other bugs.  However when adding calcium to the baby food I would consider it best to add just a thimble full or maybe a ¼ teaspoon at each feeding which along with the other calcium intake should be more than sufficient to keep them at constant rate of calcium intake.  Typically speaking healthy Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. will have two slight bulges at the base of the head and these are commonly called “Calcium pouches” and are completely normal.


Water is one of the biggest requirements of life and when it comes to Day Geckos Phelsuma sp this is no exception.  With most species there is a water bowl placed somewhere in the enclosure with the animal and changed on a daily basis.  So what I do as a keeper is use what is called a dripper system and this provides water over time and I can change or rinse the bowl as needed without flooding the enclosure.  I also mist the enclosure early in the morning and let it dry out during the day; the Day Geckos Phelsuma sp. seemingly enjoy this as they are able to drink water droplets from the plants inside and this also maintains a level of proper humidity.  During the higher temperature summer months it may b advisable to mist more than once a day.


In closing Day Geckos Phelsuma sp are a delicate and wonderful species of gecko that will provide a “hands off” keeper with many hours of enjoyment through their care.  If your tired of the same “old” species then I would highly recommend picking up a pair after setting up the proper environment and learn what it means to live with a piece of living art.

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