A guide to keeping the Gargoyle Gecko (Rhacodactylus auriculatus) in captivity, including housing, heating, lighting, diet, handling, breeding and more! You may also be interested in reading our Crested Gecko care guide – the care for both species is almost identical.
Meet the Gargoyle Gecko
The Gargoyle Gecko comes from New Caledonia and has a very small habitat in the wild, which is threatened by deforestation. Luckily this species breeds readily in captivity and all the individuals you see in the UK should be from many generations of captive bred animals. Gargoyle Geckos reach about 8 inches in length and are available in a variety of natural colours, from pale grey to dark grey with cream highlights, mottled or striped. Some individuals have orange or a rust red stripe down their back.
This is a shy species that you might not see very often during the day, but comes out readily at dusk and in the night. Although shy, they’re not fearful of humans and are generally quite happy to be woken up during the day and handled for short periods of time.
Gargoyle Gecko Housing
The ideal enclosure for Gargoyle Geckos would be one that is tall and can withstand humid conditions but is still well ventilated. If using a wooden vivarium you need to make sure that it is fully sealed with aquarium sealant to ensure it can take the moisture without warping the wood, and you may wish to line the substrate of the tank, especially if creating a bioactive setup, something that Gargoyle Geckos thrive in. The solution to many of the problems that come with a wooden vivarium is to use a purpose built arboreal reptile terrarium such as Exo Terra enclosures. These are purpose built with reptile needs in mind, with good ventilation and easily affixed hoods offering light and heat.
A 45 x 45 x 60cm Exo Terra would be ideal for an adult gargoyle gecko or a pair, or you could go larger in any of the glass tanks such as Habistat or Exo Terra. We have put together a 45x45x60cm Exo Terra Setup that is suitable for both Crested and Garogyle Geckos equally.
- Crested or Gargoyle Gecko Setup (45x45x60cm)£220.00 – £300.00
Gargoyle Gecko Heating Options
As Gargoyle 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. Gargoyle Geckos prefer low temperatures and the gradient for them is much slighter than in other species. It’s important to make sure they don’t overheat.
The temperature requirements for a Gargoyle Gecko are as follows:
|Daytime Gradient||72 – 80F||22 – 26.5C|
|Night Gradient||65 – 75F||18 – 24C|
Daytime heating options can be provided with a low wattage heat bulb, whilst night time options can be provided either with a ceramic heater bulb or with a heat mat. Any heating devices should be controlled by a thermostat for safety.
Gargoyle Gecko Lighting Options
Gargoyle Geckos are nocturnal and were previously thought not to have UVB requirements, but it’s now been shown that even nocturnal reptiles (which often exhibit crepuscular behaviour in the wild) can benefit from UVB rays. You can read more about this in our extensive UVB lighting guide. Our Gargoyle Gecko Setup now comes with UVB as our most basic option as this is how important we think it is for both Gargoyle and Crested Geckos.
Creating a photorealistic light period and offering a low percentage UVB bulb will foster a more active gecko that exhibits natural behaviour. It can also enhance appetite and even colouration! Research done by Arcadia Reptile suggests a UV Index of 2-3 for Gargoyle Geckos. A T5 Shadedweller kit should provide this UVB if the basking height of the gecko is 10-15″ (not the bottom of the tank, but the areas that they inhabit). If you have a very tall tank you could increase this to a T5 6% or equipvalent T8 12% bulb but due to Gargoyle Geckos spending a lot of time at the top of the tank, the Shadedweller is usually more than adequate.
If you choose not to use UVB we recommend using a low wattage LED bulb to provide a natural daylight photoperiod.
Gargoyle Gecko Humidity
Humidity should be at least 70-80% and daily or twice daily spraying should be done to ensure the levels are kept high. If you are using a bioactive setup your humidity is likely to remain naturally higher than if you are using cage carpet or paper towel as a substrate. 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.
Gargoyle Geckos are a fairly secretive species and feel secure in the thick rainforest canopy, safe from predators. They often stick to the underside of branches, blending in very well. To provide security and that feeling of safety, ensure there is plenty of foliage and branches of varying sizes. They are particular to the underside of upright cork bark or bark branches.
Gargoyle Geckos will also thrive in a bioactive enclosure and you can read about that below.
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). For an easily cleaned, but still attractive option, there is always cage carpet but you will want to keep an eye on humidity levels as an enclosure with cage carpet will be drier than one with orchid bark or soil.
Gargoyle 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.
Gargoyle Gecko Diet
Gargoyle 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. These can be pureed, mushed or chopped up very finely.
We feed all our adult Gargoyle Geckos exclusively with Repashy Grubs and Fruit and Repashy Fruit based powders. Whilst Repashy don’t have a formula of powdered diet specifically for Gargoyle Geckos, all of the Repashy powders suitable for Crested Geckos are suitable for Gargoyle Geckos too. If you are not feeding much livefood we recommend Grubs and Fruit which has higher protein levels, you can mix or alternate with any of their fruit based flavours to give you geckos variety.
We recommend feeding juvenile Gargoyle Geckos livefood if possible to help their growth but an exclusive powdered diet is still fine, you’ll just see slower growth and need to ensure your gecko is definitely eating it.
Handling your Gargoyle Gecko
Gargoyle geckos are very laid back lizards and I personally consider them more easily handled than Crested Geckos – who are also very handleable! Gargoyle Geckos don’t tend to jump very often, but they can leap if they feel threatened. Babies may be a bit nervous as they get used to you, but adults tend to mimic their namesake and simply sit on you. When you handle them let them sit or walk on you, don’t grip them tightly and never hold them by the tail, which they can drop. Gargoyle Gecko tails do grow back, unlike Crested Gecko tails which don’t.
Breeding Gargoyle Geckos
Finally I want to touch on breeding Gargoyle Geckos. This is a relatively easy species to breed in captivity and here at Reptile Cymru we’ve been breeding them successfully for many years. The most important thing is that you have healthy adults that are in very good condition. We recommend keeping two females in a tank to a male, and separating them for the winter. Females must be at least 40g in weight, but the more mature she is, the better, as breeding can take a lot out of them.
You’ll need to make sure you have an incubator ready and setups for your hatchlings as well.
Courtship is fairly simple, they know what to do and if a male and female are housed together, they will do it without you needing to do anything special! Around four weeks after mating the female will produce two eggs. This will then continue every four to six weeks for the breeding season, with sometimes as many as ten clutches in a year, although five to six is more common. You will need to provide a secure, damp place for her to lay her eggs. We use moss boxes – that’s a box with a hole in the lid, a layer of coir or humidity holding substrate on the bottom and then a layer of sphagnum moss. We check for eggs every day and keep it damp during the breeding season.
Eggs will need to be removed and incubated at around 72-75F ideally, although they will hatch between 70 and 82F. Incubating at a hotter temperature will result in faster developed eggs, but these can be much weaker. At 72F it will take about 100 days incubation. At 82F it will only take 60 days – but do you really want to rush it and have weaker hatchlings who might not make it? Patience is key when breeding reptiles. You can use a reptile egg container or you can use any tub with a layer of vermiculite or perlite in the bottom.
Once the Gargoyle Geckos hatch they will need to be placed into a simple setup that provides adequate temperature, humidity and feeding opportunities. Subsequent hatchlings might hatch four to six weeks later and will be much smaller, so you may need separate small setups for each clutch. After about six to eight weeks once you’re sure they’re growing and eating well, you can set about finding new homes for them.
Overall Gargoyle Geckos are a fantastic starter lizard that can be kept without any prior reptile keeping experience. If you’re thinking of getting a Gargoyle Gecko and would like to tell others, or if this care guide has been useful to you, please share it!