Gargoyle geckos (Rhacodactylus auriculatus) originate from southern New Caledonia, an island chain to the east of Australia, much like crested geckos. Their name comes from the bumps on their heads, which are reminiscent of horns or ears. These bumps, along with their prehensile tails and triangular-shaped heads, make gargoyle geckos identifiable.
Availability, Size and Lifespan
Their hardy nature, ease of care and striking color patterns have made gargoyle geckos thrive in captivity and widely available today. They are available at breeders, pet stores and online, though wild gargoyle geckos are currently at risk due to deforestation of their natural habitat and should never be purchased.
Adult gargoyle geckos can grow up to seven to nine inches from their nose to their tail.
Given proper care, this gecko may live up to 15 to 25 years.
Gargoyle Gecko Caging
Individual gargoyle geckos will be perfectly happy in a 10-gallon tank. By nature, gargoyle geckos are semi-arboreal, so give them something to climb, such as branches, hanging plants or standing cork bark. Geckos generally prefer tanks that are taller more than wider. They also tend to favor low, vegetative ground cover, so also provide some foliage.
If you bring home a baby gecko, don’t put them in an adult-sized tank; they may have a hard time finding their food.
Gargoyle geckos need high humidity (between 60 to 80%), so a solid-sided tank is best for controlling their environment. Your local pet store should carry hygrometers to help you regulate the humidity levels. Live plants can also help store and release humidity.
Spray your gecko’s environment twice a day – once in the morning and once at night – to help maintain proper hydration. After spraying, allow the tank to dry between sprayings to prevent bacterial development. During mistings, the tank’s humidity should approach 80 to 100% but drop back down as the tank dries.
Lighting, Temperature and Substrate
Gargoyle geckos are happiest in a range of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Since this is the range of most people’s homes, you will probably only need a small additional heating element for a basking area. A 40 to 60-Watt bulb should be sufficient, as the basking area should not exceed 85 degrees.
Make sure that there is an area in the tank significantly cooler than the basking area so your gecko can regulate its internal temperature. You may want a larger heat lamp for the winter months or if you prefer cooler home temperatures. Gargoyle geckos can handle nighttime temperatures that drop into the low 60s during the winter but no lower.
Since gargoyle geckos are nocturnal, turn off any daylight lighting at night. UVB lights are unnecessary, but low-strength UVB bulbs can be used if proper foliage is available for hiding.
For substrate, use shredded paper towels to prevent digestive issues when immature geckos eat their bedding. Once the geckos read three or four months of age, the substrate may be switch to a coconut husk-based substate. Larger geckos may still eat their bedding but are far less likely to develop digestive problems as a result. Bioactive beddings are a great option.
Gargoyle Gecko Food and Water
Technically omnivorous, wild gargoyle geckos eat a mixture of fruit, nectars, insects and the occasionally small mammal, such as pinky mice. You may use a fruit mix; these fruit mixes are dry powders that act as meal replacers when mixed with water. They come in a variety of flavors, so try and see what your gecko prefers.
Gargoyle geckos also accept feeder insects, including crickets, waxworms or butterworms. They tend to prefer larger prey and will be perfectly happy going after a cricket the size of their head. Dust the insects in a vitamin or mineral supplement containing calcium and vitamin D3 before feeding your gecko. Also, let the insects gut load by letting the insects feed on vegetables the day before feeding your gecko. You can also purchase dry gut-load mixes. Never feed wild insects to your gecko, as there is no way of knowing what parasites it might be carrying.
Always make sure that your gecko has access to a fresh bowl of water. Some geckos appear to refuse to drink. This is normal behavior and is another reason why you should spray the tank; even if your gecko doesn’t drink from its bowl, it may lap up the large water droplets.
Change the water at least every other day, and disinfect or change the water bowl on a weekly basis.
Handling and Temperament
As a rule, gargoyle geckos are territorial. If you are interested in having multiple male geckos, give each one their cage. If you house juveniles or females together, make sure they are roughly the same size. Otherwise, the smaller gecko might become a snack.
Although gargoyle geckos are territorial with each other, they are relatively calm when interacting with people. Even though they are generally nocturnal, you may find them camouflaging themselves against the vines and plants during the day.
When geckos feel stressed or frightened, they run for a hiding place and drop their tails, but don’t worry. The tails do regrow over time. However, this type of stress should be avoided.
For handling, try scooping up your gecko rather than grabbing from above. Try coaxing your gecko onto one of your hands by using your other hand to gently nudge their back end. Once in your hands, your gecko may sit or pace from hand to hand until it calms down. Some geckos do leap, so be ready. For example, baby geckos like to jump and have lots of energy. If your gecko is particularly energetic, use your hands like a treadmill – continuously put one hand in front of the other as your gecko walks.
Until you are used to your gecko’s behavior, it is best to sit on the floor when handling it to avoid high falls. After several sessions, your gargoyle gecko will probably grow accustomed to you and calm much more quickly when being handled.