New Caledonian Giant Gecko - Rhacodactylus leachianus
The Giant Gecko is a native of both the mainland and several islands off the shore of New Caledonia. There are several different locales that are based on the area that they originate from. The largest of the locales is the Grand Terre (mainland), while some of the smaller morphs such as the Pine Isle, Island E, Bayonnaise, Nu Ana and Nu Ami can be differentiated based on their patterning. These New Caledonian geckos are the largest living gecko species, and have won the hearts of many reptile keepers. Individuals are said to have distinct personalities, and range the gamut from big sweethearts to large, nasty biters with attitude.
DO NOT FEED WILD INSECTS OR INSECTS FOUND AROUND THE HOUSE – THEY MAY CARRY DISEASES THAT COULD BE DEADLY TO YOUR PET
Average Size: Varies depending on locale. Grand Terres are the largest and may be well over 200 grams and 17 inches total length.
Life Span: Well over 15 years if properly cared for.
Diet: Perhaps the best part of keeping Giant Geckos is that they do not need to be fed live prey. They are an omnivorous species, which in the wild eats both insects/ lizards/ small mammals and rotting fruits and flowers. In captivity they can be fed an excellent powdered diet produced by TRex reptile products. This diet, Giant Gecko Meal Replacement Powder (MRP), is mixed with water to make a nutritionally complete food that Giant Geckos just love! Alternatively, a fruit and meat baby food, vitamin/ mineral supplement/ honey/ spirulina/ bee pollen mix can be used in conjunction with small lizards/ pinkies/ insects such as mealworms, waxworms and gutloaded, mineral powder dusted crickets. The MRP powder is easier to use, but better growth rates are shown when lizards are fed. Growth rates when pinkies are fed are somewhere between those of feeding MRP and lizards. Most important, do not feed your Giant Gecko on only baby food, lizards, insects or pinkies. Either use a mix of foods, or a MRP.
Feeding: If feeding the TRex MRP solely most keepers feed either daily or every other day, leaving the dish in there for a second night. Since the Giant Gecko is nocturnal, feeding at night time just before lights out is recommended. If feeding live prey or killed pinkies with MRP, the alternative food should be offered no more than once a week. Mealworms should be fed very sparingly as they are very fibrous and can cause impactions. Crickets should not be larger than the width of the head of the smallest gecko in the tank. All crickets should be properly gutloaded and dusted with mineral powder (no phosphorous)/ vitamin supplement before feeding. Many Giant Geckos do not seem to be overly thrilled with worms and crickets; they far prefer lizards or mouse pinks.
Housing: Giant Geckos can be housed in either screen or glass/ plexi enclosures. In drier areas it is recommended that glass/ plexi cages be used to provide adequate humidity. In areas with higher humidity screen cages are excellent for providing adequate ventilation. Cages should be permitted to dry out entirely during the day following a heavy night time misting. Housing should be chosen to permit this to occur, otherwise problems with molding of the housing from too high of humidity can occur, or the animals can have retained shed due to low humidity. Some people prefer to go with cages having a greater percent of the sides covered with glass or plexi as the fecal material of R. leachianus tends to be somewhat runny, depending on their diet.
Size: Since the Giant Gecko is arboreal (lives in the trees) it strongly prefers a cage that is taller than it is long. Young geckos can be kept in small (ten gallon) cages until they are about 20 grams. Housing that is too large should be avoided when keeping very young geckos as they may have trouble finding their food. A single adult gecko can be housed in an enclosure that is 3 feet long X 2 feet deep X four feet tall. Multiple males should NEVER be housed together as they will fight to the death. Females can be housed together, though some may have personality differences and quarrel. Even males and females must be carefully paired for breeding as not all individuals are compatible.
Substrate: Paper towels or cage liners are by far the easiest substrate to use, though not very aesthetically pleasing. If males and females are housed together with the intent of breeding they will make finding the eggs much simpler, however. For a more pleasing set up cocofiber can be used as a substrate and planted nicely. Caution must be used if feeding insects on cocofiber however, as the geckos may ingest it when feeding. Reptile barks can also provide a nice substrate, though they carry the same risk of ingestion. NEVER use pine/ cedar chips intended for small mammals as they can make your gecko very, very ill.
Habitat: Giant Geckos love their vertical space. Bamboo poles, branches and vertically placed cork flats will make your geckos very happy. They are also especially fond of plants, such as Mother- in Law Plants, Pothos (which is extremely hardy) and anything else hardy enough to support their weight, both live and fake. The more hiding places that you give your gecko the less stressed it will be, and consequently healthier. Cork curls also make excellent hides and can be siliconed in place on the sides of the enclosure.
Grooming and Hygiene: Giant Geckos require very little actual grooming. Most important is to maintain adequate humidity to prevent retained sheds. In the case of a retained shed the gecko can be carefully soaked in warm water, or placed in a small plastic container (with holes punched) with damp paper towels for 30 minutes twice daily until the shed is removed. Always wash your hands before and after touching your gecko or habitat contents to help prevent Salmonella and other infectious diseases
Temperature: Giant Geckos prefer to be kept at room temperature (from 65- 80 degrees F). They experience stress at temperatures over 85 or under 65 degrees. It is advisable to provide a 75 watt light bulb for your gecko to bask under should it choose.
Lighting: As a nocturnal species your Giant Gecko will likely not come out when the lights are on, nor do they have any lighting requirements. If you are going to plant your tank a full spectrum bulb is recommended
Water: Provide a constant supply of clean, fresh, filtered, chlorine-free water in a shallow bowl that cannot be tipped over. Using a plant mister, mist your Giant Gecko heavily twice daily. They will eagerly lap the water off of the surfaces in their enclosure, and the misting will provide much needed humidity.
Habitat Maintenance: Change water in the bowl daily; remove feces daily. Thoroughly clean the tank at least once a week.
Normal Behavior and Interaction: Giant Geckos are a nocturnal species that will spend all day sleeping. Once they get up in the evening they are amusing to watch wandering around their cage. At night it is not uncommon to hear growls, squeaks, barks and yips as they talk to each other in the same cage, and to geckos in other cages. If you intend to handle your Giant Gecko start while it is young. A large adult male that has never can be handled can be an intimidating sight as it attacks its owner during cage cleaning, and can leave a nasty bite mark. However, individuals that are handled gently and regularly from a young age can make sweet, gentle pets. It is important to remember that some of this depends on the personality of the individual gecko and that even with regular handling some may never learn to like being held.
- Misting bottle
- Water dish
- Food dish
- Meal Replacement Powder
- Live or fake plants
- Cork bark/ bamboo/ branches
- Tank/ screen enclosure with secure lid/ door
- Light, if desired
- Paper towels or Cocofiber for substrate
Two warnings should be heeded, however. First, Giant Geckos may hold still for a very long time when being handled and then take a leap! Animals that are not accustomed to handling should be kept close to the ground until they have lost their desire for flight. Second, if your Giant Gecko drops its tail it will never look the same again, though it will grow back. Rough handling and overly stressing your gecko should be avoided if you want your pet to retain its caudal appendage.
Signs of a Healthy Pet:
Common Health Issues and Red Flags:
- Active and alert
- Healthy skin
- Clear eyes
- Eats regularly
- Clear nose and vent
If you notice any of these signs, please contact your exotic animal veterinarian.
- Weight loss or decreased appetite
- Mucus in mouth or nose
- Bumps, sores, or abrasions on skin
- Labored breathing
- Paralysis of limbs or tail
- Abnormal feces
- Inability to climb
- Kinked tail
- Floppy jaw
As with all pets in this category, it is important that you find a veterinarian that practices in EXOTICS – this is critical. The typical small animal practitioner may not have sufficient knowledge in this area. Even this guide is general in nature and should not be used to diagnose your pet.
I would like to Thank Genevieve LaFerriere for writing this caresheet. She breeds and sells geckos, visit her website: http://gensgeckos.tripod.com/