Day Geckos are a group of arboreal diurnal geckos in the Phelsuma family. They vary in size and colouration but are generally bright, active and interesting species. In this guide I’ll be going over information about some of the most commonly kept pet species and their needs. This caresheet will cover housing, heating, lighting, humidity, water, social needs, handling and even breeding. Even if your specific Phelsuma species is not listed here, this guide should cover their needs.

Meet the Day Geckos

There are over 60 species of Day Gecko, but there aren’t that many well established in captivity. Here I’ll cover some of the more common Day Gecko species you might see available in captivity. As they have different housing and social needs, I’ll also cover these basics in each description.

Giant Day Gecko / Giant Madagascan Day Gecko (Phelsuma grandis)

The Giant Day Gecko is the most popular Day Gecko in the UK. This is a large, active, hardy species that readily breeds in captivity and have a wide habitat in the wild, which shows their adaptability. They can reach sizes of 10-12 inches and a bright emerald green with red markings. Individuals bred for more red markings are described as high red.

They should be kept singly or in an accepted pair. Two males will always fight, but even two females will fight if there is not enough space to establish territory. Keeping trios in small enclosures becomes difficult because the females will vie for dominance. Keeping a pair does result in extensive breeding and can result in breeding injuries and needs to be monitored carefully, so if you’re not intending to breed, keep either sex solo. Even if intending to breed, you’ll need to be willing to separate if problems occur. If you do have a very large enclosure, then a group is more likely to be successful as the females will space themselves out. Most zoos for example can keep these in groups with zoo-sized enclosures.

The very minimum size housing for a single gecko is a 45 x 45 x 60cm Exo Terra or Habistat Enclosure. We prefer to keep our adult breeding pair in our 24 x 18 x 36″ (60 x 45 x 90cm) Chameleon Enclosure. Any of our Chameleon Setups would be suitable for a pair, and the larger the better. There are also larger Habistat enclosures, for example 60cm wide or even 90cm wide. 90 x 45 x 90cm would be amazing for a group!

Neon Day Gecko, Yellow Headed Day Gecko (Phelsuma klemmeri)

A brightly coloured small Neon Day Gecko on a piece of bamboo, with bright yellow head, turquoise body and long black stripes down the sides.
Yellow headed day gecko (Phelsuma klemmeri) on bamboo.

The Neon Day Gecko, also known as the Yellow Headed Day Gecko, or Klemmer’s Day Gecko is one of the smallest species of day gecko, with adults reaching just 2.5 to 3 inches, including tail! They have a yellow head, a brilliant blue green body and a black stripe running down their entire body. They come from northern and western Madagascar, living in fields of bamboo. This is an endangered species in the wild, but breeds well in captivity if you can obtain a pair. This is a sociable species and very active and interesting to watch, but still needs to be kept one male to a tank.

Due to the small size and their general sociability, you could keep a small group such as one male and perhaps up to four females in a 45 x 45 x 60cm Exo Terra or Habistat Enclosure. Along with Mourning Geckos, this species is often kept frequently with dart frogs as they have no problem with sharing their space, and are an appropriate size for neither to be a threat to the other.

Koch’s Giant Day Gecko (Phelsuma kochi)

Koch’s Day Geckos are the least bright of the family, but still very attractive geckos with active and interesting behaviours. They are almost as big as the Madagascan Giant, at 8 to 10 inches, but don’t have the high reds or the brightest emerald greens. We would recommend a similar size enclosure as the Giant Day Gecko, which is a bare minimum of 45 x 45 x 60cm for a single adult, but as large as you can go is advantageous. We’d recommend keeping singley or in a pair, as females can be territorial as well as males.

Gold Dust Day Gecko (Phelsuma laticauda)

A bright green, red and blue Gold Dust Day Gecko on a cactus
Gold Dust Day Gecko (Phelsuma laticauda)

Gold Dust Day Geckos are a medium size species of Day Gecko, getting around 4.5 to 6″ in length. They have more yellows and brighter blues than Giant Day Geckos. Gold Dust Day Geckos are not tolerant of others, even their own species and will frequently squabble. Males will almost fight, but females will also very frequently fight. We recommend keeping these alone or in a single pair. To keep a pair successfully, give them plenty of space, consider at the minimum a 45 x 45 x 60cm enclosure for one, or a 60 x 45 x 60cm or larger for a pair.

Lined Day Gecko (Phelsuma lineata)

This used to be one of the most popular Day Geckos in the UK, along with Phelsuma grandis. These days, there aren’t that many breeders, which is a shame, as the Lined Day Gecko is absolutely stunning, with a strong black line running along the sides of the body, high greens, blues and reds on their back, tail and head. They grow around 4 to 6 inches in size, around the same size as the Gold Dust Day Gecko above, so a 45 x 45 x 60cm is enough for a single or pair. Like many Day Geckos they are squabblers; so keep one male to a tank and limit females unless there’s lots of space available.

Peacock Day Gecko (Phelsuma quadriocellata)

The Peacock Day Gecko gets it’s names from the black circular markings on it’s side, ringed with bright blue. It may also have blue on the face, and around the eyes, with a stunning green body, and can have yellow markings as well. In short, an absolutely stunning gecko. They grow between 4 to 5″ and should be kept solo or in compatible pairs. A 45x45x60″ enclosure is ideal for a pair.

Standing’s Day Gecko (Phelsuma standingi)

The Standing’s Day Gecko is a little bit different in appearance to the other day geckos, with either mottled or striped brown, green and blue scales, usually with blue markings around the face and fingers. The eyes are ringed with bright, iridescent colours. They’re a large Day Gecko, getting around 10 to 11 inches, so due to their size, a 45x45x60cm is a very bare minimum for one, keeping two together or for a larger setup, consider larger Habistat enclosures, or going for our Chameleon Setups. Keep a solo male or a compatible pair.

East African Day Gecko (Phelsuma dubia)

The East African Day Gecko is the only Phelsuma species we see imported wild caught into the UK, because in addition to living on the western coast of Madagascar, it also comes from the tropical forests of East Africa and some African islands. There are not the same export restrictions from Africa as from Madagascar, and thus this species is more recently imported wild caught than all of the Madagascan species, which are protected. Be careful when buying wild caught lizards that they’re healthy and you understand you won’t know their history or age.

The East African Day Gecko gets from 4.5 to 6 inches or so and is not as brightly coloured as other species, with a duller green and faded red spots. Still a very attractive and interesting to watch gecko, so give them plenty of space, and keep solo or in pairs.

Lifespan for Day Geckos is estimated around 10 years for all species, although I’ve heard of some Phelsuma grandis living up to fifteen years or more. Whichever Day Gecko you ultimately go for, you can be guaranteed to get an absolutely amazing, interesting to watch display lizard.

Day Gecko Housing

In each of the above species I’ve suggested a minimum size enclosure for a single adult, or in some cases for a group. The Exo Terra and Habistat Glass enclosures, with front opening doors and mesh tops, are very popular for Day Geckos. These are easy to set up as bioactive, maintain humidity and medium temperatures. However, you should also consider our Chameleon Setups, including our wooden setups, which are appropriate as well.

Decor

Day Geckos come from dense rainforests or bamboo fields. They are arboreal and spend almost all of their time in branches, trees, leaves, climbing bamboo or just generally away from the ground. Your vivarium should be very well planted to mimic this natural environment, with lots of places to climb and hide. They do especially well with bioactive enclosures and live plants too.

Substrate

You will want a substrate that holds the humidity well and will not become moldy if damp. As we recommend bioactive setups were possible, a bioactive soil substrate is ideal. Orchid bark is also another option as is coconut fibre (also known as coir), or if going bioactive we recommend Arcadia’s Earth Mix.

Bioactive

Day Geckos thrive in bioactive setups. You can add our bioactive starter kit along with non-toxic live plants to your enclosure to kickstart this process.

A bioactive setup is the most natural setup you can create for a reptile and is suitable for a wide range of species. In a bioactive setup you will use an organic soil based substrate and live plants in the vivarium – ficus, pothos, bromeliads and dozens more plant species are appropriate – many of which we sell in store! Live plants create a beautiful, natural display and increases both air quality and humidity. The enclosure is then populated with small insects which recycle some of the waste produced by the inhabitants (although you still need to regularly spot clean). This is what we call bioactive and we will be happy to walk you through bioactive setups in depth in store.

Day Gecko Heating and Temperature

As Day Geckos are arboreal, the temperature difference is actually between the top and bottom of the tank, rather than side to side. This is usually achieved by heating the tank from above and then having good foliage layers to allow shade. As heat rises the unheated bottom of the tank will always be relatively cool.

Day Geckos are heliocentric (sun-seeking) and the correct heating and lighting are essential to their health. You will want a basking spot mounted at the top of your tank, either using a clamp lamp outside a glass and mesh enclosure, or mounted inside a wooden vivarium. If the light is inside the tank, you’ll need a ceramic lamp guard that stops the gecko from sitting on the bulb. The wattage of your basking bulb will depend on the size of the tank, but the temperature you’re aiming for is between 80 and 85F (26 – 29C) at the top of the tank and 72 – 77F (22 – 25C) at the bottom of the tank. The temperature can drop to 72 – 77F (22 – 25C) overall at night. In the UK this will mean you need night time heating. We suggest a heat mat on a thermostat to the rear of the enclosure in a glass tank, or a ceramic bulb on a thermostat is also an option for a wooden vivarium.

UVB Lighting

Day Geckos are diurnal and whilst the rainforest canopy does filter some of the UV rays, they still need relatively high levels of UV. We recommend a UV Index of 3-4 at the basking zone. This is where the gecko most commonly spends it’s time, which is likely to be the middle to top of the tank, not the bottom of the tank. At a distance of 12-15″ you can obtain this with an Arcadia T5 6% UVB or T8 12% UVB, at a taller distance of 15-24″ you’ll need a T5 12% UVB or the equivalent strength.

If you’re using a glass tank with a mesh lid, the UVB light will be on top of the lid and the mesh will filter some of the rays. If you are using a wooden tank, the UVB will be inside the tank, without that filter, so you can use a slightly lower strength UV bulb to get the same output. You will however need a UV guard if the bulb is within reach of the gecko, to stop them sitting on it and burning themselves.

Your lighting should be on for 10 – 12 hours every day, and make sure you change it at the manufacturer’s recommended time frame which is usually between 6 and 12 months.

Day Gecko Humidity

Humidity should be an ambient of around 60% with spikes of up to 80% through daily or twice daily spraying. If you are using a bioactive setup your humidity is likely to remain naturally higher./ So you’ll need to judge how often you need to spray by monitoring the enclosure with a humidity reader.

Having a larger water bowl can also increase humidity, as can having elevated water bowls nearer to the heat. Having running water will also increase humidity. Be aware that all water sources should be cleaned and changed regularly.

Day Gecko Diet

Day Geckos are omnivores and in the wild eat a variety of nectar, fruit and insects. In captivity they will take a wide range of livefoods, crickets, mealworms, locusts, waxworms, all of which should be calcium dusted. They will take small pieces of fruit, such as peach, nectarine, mango, apricot, banana, passionfruit, pear and other soft fruits – the sweeter the better, as they often eat nectar in the wild. These can be pureed, mushed or chopped up very finely. Some will eat insect Jelly Pots as an occasional treat.

You can also feed them Repashy Diet which is formulated for Crested Geckos and Day Geckos. They can eat the classic Crested Gecko diet, or any of the fruit-based powdered diets, in addition to the livefood. Livefood should be gut fed before feeding and supplemented with a good quality calcium and D3 powder.

Social Needs

Day Geckos are notorious squabblers. Males are territorial and dominant and will fight – sometimes to the death – with other males, but females too will generally squabble – sometimes with injuries caused – with other females unless there is enough space to establish their own territory. When we say squabble we mean that these geckos will have negative interactions with each other, there may be chasing, tumbling, pushing and biting – the biting is what can potentially cause an injure. The intent is usually to assert dominance or make the other gecko leave, so females squabbling isn’t the same as males who fight much more seriously, but it’s still a negative interaction with the potential for injury.

We often recommend keeping more than one female in reptile species to a male, to ensure the males attention is shared between females, but in Day Geckos it’s generally better to keep in compatible pairs only. Some males and females, especially those introduced later in life, will also fight! You can add more than one female in an enclosure that has a lot of space. For example zoo style enclosures, or very large display enclosures, but you’ll always need to keep an eye on them and be aware there could be territorial squabbles in the future.

The exception to this is Phelsuma klemmeri, who are a much more sociable species and females usually get along fine.

Mixing Phelsuma with other species

You may see Phelsuma being mixed with other species. We personally do not recommend housing them with anything other than dart frogs. They will fight and potentially injure or be injured by other lizards, and larger tree frogs pose a health threat. Because dart frogs are generally terrestrial, they rarely come into contact – but it’s still possible for your Day Gecko to injure a dart frog – in particular we do not recommend keeping Phelsuma grandis in with dart frogs, as they are large enough to eat them. Generally we say not to mix species, if you do decide to mix them, Phelsuma klemmeri are the smallest and most sociable. If you are specifically looking for a species to go into an established dart frog tank, consider mourning geckos which are a very passive species.

Read our Mourning Gecko care guide and our Dart Frog care guide if looking for more information about these species.

Handling your Day Geckos

This section should really be titled NOT handling your Day Geckos. Day Geckos are a display species. They do not enjoy being handled, are nervous and skittish, and also have very sensitive skin that can easily be torn or damaged. They are very fast and it’s extremely hard to allow them to walk on you freely without escape, whilst gripping them tightly causes distress and potential damage.

However, that’s not to say you can’t interact with them. A Day Gecko that trusts you and is used to your presence may hand feed from you eventually, and may even walk on your hand safely inside the tank, but in general, we’d describe this species as a display species.

Breeding Day Geckos

If you have a pair of healthy Day Geckos, kept at the right temperatures and humidity to simulate their natural environment, you should experience no problems in getting them to produce eggs. Phelsuma breed readily in captivity as long as their food is plentiful and they are healthy, mature adults.

Mating can be a very vigorous process with Day Geckos, so monitor the female carefully. She may need to be separated because of injury, or simply for a resting period. You must always be prepared to have a second setup with the correct conditions for the adults, as well as needing setups for the babies that hatch.

Two eggs will be glued in what the Day Gecko female considers to be a safe spot in the enclosure. This is usually in the corner of the tank, near the top, or on a branch or leaf. In some situations you will be unable to move these eggs as the glue is very strong. Day Geckos can accidentally trample their own eggs. If the eggs cannot be removed, you can try to tape a clear container around them to stop the adults from walking over them and destroying them. If they’re laid somewhere they can be removed, you may want to remove and incubate them for safety measures. Once the eggs hatch it is critical that you remove the babies as soon as possible, and this is why hatching in an incubator can be preferred – most adult species will eat the young if they come across them, so you cannot leave the babies in the tank to grow up with the adults.

As the eggs are laid in twos, you’ll need multiple enclosures for each set of eggs if the hatchlings are different sizes and these enclosures need to be of adequate size, temperature and UVB. Once they’re 6-8 weeks old and well established, you can sell them on to their new homes. If you’re selling to private individuals, always make sure they have the right setup ready.

I hope this caresheet has helped you decide whether or not to get a Day Gecko, or how to set up your enclosure if you already have your heart set on one. If you have any Day Gecko questions, just drop them in the comments!

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