This is my inaugural article, and since I’m writing mainly to contribute helpful reptile and amphibian care information, I thought I’d start off with one of my all time favorite reptiles, the New Caledonian gargoyle gecko, scientifically known as Rhacodactylus auriculatus. Much has been written about the gargoyle gecko’s close cousin, the crested gecko (Rhacodactylus ciliatus), but for some reason, not as many hobbyists pay attention to what is arguably an even more interesting species.
Some of the first gargoyle geckos in captivity were brought back from New Caledonia in the 1980’s, and originally, very high prices were asked for them. Nowadays, they tend to be just a bit more expensive than crested geckos, usually in the $50 to $100 range, with rare color morphs sometimes a bit more. They are a stout bodied gecko, with striking silver or blue gray eyes and a typically calm, non-aggressive demeanor. Most of mine are actually more handleable than crested geckos, and I rate cresteds as among some of the more laid-back geckos, with maybe only leopard geckos as being more docile. They also tend to get just a bit bigger than crested geckos, and are more likely to be out in the open during the day.
Gargoyle geckos might be the ideal beginner reptile. They do not require live foods, as they readily eat a commercially available powdered diet called “Repashy Meal Replacement Formula”, they require nothing in the way of special lighting, and they prefer to be kept at what most people consider “room temperature” (about 70 to 75 degrees F). Even leopard geckos, bearded dragons and ball pythons require more care than that!
To get started for one adult gecko, you’ll need at least a 10 gallon sized aquarium with screen lid, and if you plan to have a pair or trio, 20 or 30 gallons would be better. Do not put two males together in the same cage, or mix animals with too great of a disparity in size. Some sort of substrate will be needed for the bottom of the enclosure, I use paper towels and change them out weekly, but newspaper or coconut fiber can also be used (for adults). These geckos are not terrific at scaling glass, but appreciate appropriately sized branches for climbing on and fake plants for sleeping in. They will also readily drink from a dish of clean water. They like a fairly high level of humidity as well, so mist them in the evenings.
If you wish to try your hand at breeding, these geckos are very easy to breed. They do not require any sort of temperature cycling. Just put a male with a female, give her some place to lay the eggs (I use deli cups filled with moist coconut fiber), and be prepared for your female to attempt to eat the male’s tail. Fortunately if this happens, they will regrow the tail, unlike their cousins, the crested geckos. Apparently it gets them in the mood. Females will lay two eggs every 28 days after being fertilized, and can retain sperm for about 6 months after mating. Eggs can be incubated at 70 degrees F, or just simply put in a deli cup with moist vermiculite and set on a shelf if room temperature is in the 70’s.
Neonate and juvenile animals can be kept exactly like adults, with scaled down enclosures. If you keep them in terraria too large, they often have difficulty finding their food. They may have to be separated and reared individually, as they can be aggressive tail biters even as babies.
One of the most appealing things about gargoyles is their relatively unmapped potential for breeding morphs. People are not yet breeding them on the same scale as leopard or even african fat-tailed geckos, and so therefore there is probably a lot of opportunity for new colors and morphs to be tapped. So far, the species is naturally somewhat polychromatic, and so we have not just brown gray or white animals, but reds and oranges and pattern varieties like reticulated and striped.
So, if you’re looking for a great personable gecko for a pet, or a good beginner reptile, or even a first breeding project, these animals are one of my top picks. They are becoming more easily available and could even be the next “big thing” in the world of herpetoculture.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are solely this author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wandering Herpetologist website.