Giant Gecko Care Sheet, Rhacodactylus leachianus

Rhacodactylus leachianusThe New Caledonian Giant Gecko, Rhacodactylus leachianus, is the largest gecko of the genus and the largest known living gecko. Their ability to produce calls ranging from whistles and hisses to growls and grumbles has peaked the interest of even the most experienced gecko keepers. The varying color and patterns of the different localities makes an amazing display animal for any home vivarium or collection.

The body shape appears uniform from snout to vent with varying traits of each locality. Base color can range from green, brown, grey and even black with white, pink and yellow accent colors. While the Grande Terre localities (Poindimie, Mount Koghis, Yate, Mount Humboldt and Riviere Bleue) are the largest of the subspecies the Offshore Island localities (Isle of Pines, Menore, Bayonnaise, Moro, Duu Ana, Nuu Ana, Nuu Ami, Koe, Brosse, Caanawa) tend to be the most attractive with bands, blotches or spots of white, yellow or pink coloring.new caledonia map for rhacodactylus gecko

Housing
This species is greatly arboreal. In nature they spend the majority of their time in tree hollows or branches high in the tree top. To properly keep this species you will want to utilize three vertical cage sizes for the three stages of life; hatchling, juvenile and adult.

  1. Hatchling, should be housed in a 5 to 10 gallon enclosure at the maximum. These small cage sizes help the gecko feel comfortable much like it would in a tree hollow. Also helps this somewhat lazy species to feed on insects.
  2. Juvenile, should be housed in a 10-20 gallon (16L x 16W x 20H) enclosure at the maximum.
  3. Adult, should be housed in a 20-30 gallon enclosure at the maximum. We use 18 x 18 x 24 ZooMed cages for our single adults and at these dimensions there is too much cage space. An 18 x 18 x 18 enclosure would be better suited for these geckos.

  The enclosure should offer hiding places such as cork bark flats vertically orientated or cork hollows . Hatchlings can use paper towel rolls to mimic this natural hiding place. We also recommend thick branches wider than the body of the gecko is.

Keep in mind that an opaque enclosure or ABS plastic enclosure in either black or white will also help this species to feel secluded as they naturally are in the wild.

Temperature, Humidity & Lighting
Our Giant Geckos are kept between 72 °F and 80 °F for the majority of the year. All of our Rhacodactylus geckos experience a brumation period where the temperature falls to a low of 65-70 °F to prevent continued egg production. The temperature should never fall below 65 °F or rise above 85 °F as this species has a hard time tolerating these temperatures. The humidity should be between 60-80% with a proper humidity cycle. We recommend the humidity cycle, allowing the humidity to lower below 60%, to dry out the enclosure and prevent bacteria buildup. This species is susceptable to bacterial infection far greater than any of the counterparts in the genus. For prevention we do not mist the decor of the enclosure the gecko naturally rests on for extended periods of the day and rather mist the walls of the enclosure (exluding the floor). Lighting can benefit Giant Geckos a number of ways. Our Offshore Island individuals will often be seen sitting on the top of the branches under full spectrum lighting. It is also believed that proper lighting will aid in the development of color. We do not off full spectrum lighting any longer to our Giant Geckos and instead offer a day/night cycle through a skylight in the gecko room. Color has not been seen to diminish but there is pigment enhancing ingredients in the Crested Gecko Diet we offer our Giant Geckos.

Average High Temperature

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
°C 28 28 27 26 25 23 22 22 23 25 26 27 28
°F 83 83 82 80 77 74 72 72 74 77 80 82 78

Average Low Temperature

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
°C 23 23 23 22 20 18 17 17 18 19 21 22 20
°F 74 75 74 72 69 66 64 64 65 67 70 72 69

Average High and Low Relative Humidity

% Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
High 85 86 86 84 83 83 80 79 79 81 82 83 83
Low 74 75 76 75 75 76 72 70 68 68 70 72 73

Diet & Nutrition
New Caledonian Giant Geckos are omnivorous feeding on insects, small mammals, fruits and nectars. Hatchling to Juveniles will feed on a single robust cricket, feeder roach and meal replacement powder while adults may lose interest in crickets but continue to eat feeder roaches along with pinkie mice and meal replacement powder.

Meal Replacement Powder We started using Crested Gecko Diet by Repashy Superfoods before our first Giant Gecko purchase. This product is made from human grade ingredients and has helped problematic geckos that we acquired from keepers who did not provide a balanced diet. In short we highly recommend this product and as such offer it in the Reptile Specialty Store. Our Giant Geckos will consume 2oz (roughly 1oz a night) of CGD during the summer months.

Live Feeders A lot of new keepers will often offer a number of crickets to their Giant Gecko and notice little to no interest from the Giant Gecko. This is where the criticism of the lazy or laxidaisy behavior comes into play. We found that a good amount of movement on the ground floor of the enclosure actually makes this species uncomfortable. Offering one cricket of a robust size and measuring the width between the eyes will coax the gecko to eat. As the Giant Gecko grows older you may offer feeder roaches and pinkie mice. We offer pinkies only once or twice a month and feeder roaches weekly. This species may appear as a difficult eater to the novice keeper.

Weekly Feeding Routine On a consistent routine your geckos will be familiarized with the food and how often it is fed. We like to feed all our Rhacodactylus geckos 4 times a week. We offer fresh Crested Gecko Diet three times a week; Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We allow the diet to stay in the enclosure until we replace it on that third night. We find that as the diet becomes ripe the geckos tend to consume more of it. In nature a piece of fruit that falls to the ground and begins to ripen (not spoil) allows for the geckos to be more apt to smell, find and consume the fruit. On Sunday we remove all food from the enclosure and offer live prey that has been dusted with vitamins and minerals and gut loaded the night before. Any mixed but unserved diet is placed in the refrigerator or freezer for future feeding.

Handling and Taming
Each individual will have its own personality and acceptability to handling. This species has been coined as having cage aggression and believed to stem from protecting their territory in the wild. However, there are some individual geckos that do not exhibit the same cage aggression and previously mentioned and can be removed from the enclosure without problem. We handle our Giant Geckos weekly if not every other night. Using a glove to remove them from the enclosure or a tightly knit terry cloth towel to prevent injury from bites to the handler. Once removed from the enclosure the temperament is calm and relaxed especially from a non-threatening handler. We often remove an aggressive individual to allow them to rest on our shoulder as we clean and feed other geckos. Hatchling to juveniles are less apt to express cage aggression and more likely to be flighty. For these geckos we use the hand walking method to calm and relax the gecko. After a while they become tame and allow us to remove and handle without any problems. When these geckos start reaching maturity we have noticed they start presenting signs of cage aggression with threatening stance and growls, grumbles or clucking and whistles. This is the point we begin using gloves. Great care should be given to handling this species to prevent injury to the handler.

Sexing
Sex can be determined at 3" SVL using an 8x photographers loupe. Males will have pre-anal pores, and a post-anal hemipenile bulge. Females may also have femoral or pseudo pores that can trick an untrained eye. Femoral pores lack the distinctive dark pit with crinkled edges and can appear smooth and shiny or slightly dimpled.

Breeding
Breeding Giant Geckos may be a daunting task and the main reason they continue to be expensive to own. This species forms compatible pairs and should be housed as such. However, a compatible pair can become incompatible at any time and often the smaller of the two (generally the male) will receive injuries that can be fatal. There are a few tricks that can be done to help introduce a pair.

Familiarity Place two separate enclosures side by side with one individual gecko in each. Allow the geckos to visually see each other. The screen side of an enclosure will help for scent and smell acceptance. Territorial Females?Releasing a male into a females enclosure should be done with a means to protect the male and judge the females demeanor.

Signs of Copulation The male will often make clucking noises and head bobbing to warrant his interest in copulation with the female. You should observe the pair as much as possible during introduction and copulation to intervene if aggression becomes apparent. Even a compatible pair can become incompatible at any time.

Incubation
This species is Temperature Sex Determined. Incubate eggs between temperatures of upper 60 °F and lower 80 °F. The higher the temperature the lower the incubation time and greater chance of producing males. The lower the temperature, the longer the incubation time and greater chance of females produced.

Juvenile Care
We house juveniles in medium to large Kritter Keepers for their first year of life. With a single cricket an offering and Crested Gecko Diet being the primary source of nutrition. Cage furnishing is paper towel substrate and paper towel rolls for climbing and hiding. A single fake plant like hanging ficus is also offered. We keep the same feeding schedule for hatchlings to juveniles as we do adults. The only difference is the amount of food offered. Tom's Kritter Keepers with the locking top hold humidity the best but to ensure a proper humidity cycle we drill 20 1/4" holes on either side for greater ventilation.

 

Comments

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In our experience a large arboreal enclosure is inadequate for this species. The gecko will become uncomfortable, feed less and could die. The smaller the enclosure with a cork round hide of appropriate size will help to make this species feel comfortable and eat. Also, the enclosure should retain humidity for a good amount of time but have proper ventilation to evaporate will aid in feeding.

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Hi, So it is actually better to keep this species in a small, tight enclosure? Because it is a large gecko species, many seem to feel it needs a lot of space. Clearly they do fine in much smaller tanks. An 18 x 18 x 18, as you recommend, is hardly an arboreal tank and neither is an 18 x 18 x 24 to be honest. I guess they just don't need it?

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