Giant day geckos (Phelsuma granids) are arboreal lizards that originate from Madagascar. As they explore their enclosure, you may even see them walking along the walls and ceiling! The bright red markings on their heads are the source of their other common name, crimson day geckos. Their diurnal habits and fantastical colors make them wonderful display animals.
Availability, Size, and Lifespan of Giant Day Gecko
Giant day gecko males grow up to 12 inches long. That’s truly a giant in the gecko community! Female geckos generally are an inch or so shorter. When you care for a gecko properly, you can expect them to live at least eight years on average. Some geckos have even made it as long as 20 years! Until the mid-1980s, giant day geckos were rare and highly sought-after.
Today, they are available for purchase at reptile expos, from online breeders, as well as local pet stores. They can range in price between $45 and $250, based on color patterns and age. Wild-caught geckos from Madagascar are still occasionally available but are usually less healthy than their captive-bred counterparts. Madagascar geckos are an endangered species.
Giant Day Gecko Caging
These large geckos require large terrariums. Cater to their arboreal nature by filling the space with branches, cork bark, bamboo, sturdy plants, or climbing toys. Fit the decorations firmly into the substrate, so nothing falls while your gecko is climbing. Arrange the décor so that there are multiple routes from one side of the enclosure to the other, and make sure that some of the terrains are elevated above the bottom of the terrarium. Delicate plants will be trampled as your gecko climbs on them, so make sure to use heartier ones.
Include plant foliage since day geckos like having the option to rest in the shade and lap water off flowers and leaves. Place the furnishings so that there are multiple spots to catch water. If you want to use live plants, ficus, devil’s ivy, and philodendron are excellent options. Mist the enclosure to reach a humidity level of 55 to 65%. Install a hygrometer to keep an eye on the humidity level. The enclosure should be ventilated well enough that water droplets from the mistings are dry by the next day. You can mist with a spray bottle by hand, or you can install an automatic misting system. Giant day geckos require high ventilation to prevent the humidity from becoming too excessive. Use a tall glass enclosure that includes ventilation at the top and front.
Spot clean the environment as needed and thoroughly clean the enclosure once a month. When cleaning, remove your geckos, all bedding, and all furnishings. Clean the enclosure with a commercial reptile-friendly disinfectant or a DIY cleaner. Make your cleaner from a few tablespoons of bleach, a few tablespoons of soap, and a gallon of water. Follow the commercial disinfectant instructions, or rinse the enclosure and furnishings until the smell of the cleaning solution is gone. Dry the furnishings before replacing them in the enclosure.
Lighting and Temperature
Create a basking spot and temperature gradient by placing all heating elements on one side of the enclosure. The basking spot should be about 90°F. During the day, the terrarium’s cool end should be about 75-80°F, and the warm end, about 85°F. At night, the temperatures can drop to the low-70s. A thermometer can be used to keep track of temperatures and ensure a healthy range that mimics their tropical home. A heat bulb above the basking spot should be adequate for daytime heat, and an infrared light bulb for nighttime heat. Under-tank heaters or heat mats attached to a side panel can be used for additional warmth.
Since heat mats don’t give off light, they can be kept on 24/7. If the room you keep your gecko in is cold, the heat mat and bulb may not be enough. Install a thermometer in the terrarium to monitor its temperature. Include a UV light during the day to maintain your gecko’s immune health. If you have live plants in the terrarium, set up a fluorescent or NatureSun light. Keep the daylight on for 12 to 14 hours daily. You can rig a timer to turn the lights on and off automatically.
Use a substrate that holds moisture to aid the humidity levels. Do not keep hatchlings on a loose substrate as they can choke on them. EcoCarpet is a useful substrate for hatchlings. Sphagnum moss can be used as a top layer for adult giant day geckos. If you have live plants in the enclosure, lay down a drainage layer, dividing mesh, and top it off with a nutrient-dense soil. Bioactive substrates are an excellent choice for this type of animal.
These geckos are omnivorous and eat a combination of insects and fruit or nectar.As pets, these geckos will be happy with a combination of gecko diet mix and crickets. Brown crickets are the best bet for day geckos, but locusts and black crickets are great options, too. Feed your gecko insects that are no longer than the space between your gecko’s eyes. Offer the gecko diet mix once a week to your giant day gecko.
Waxworms, mealworms, and Phoenix-worms are great occasional treats. These fatty worms should only be offered once or twice a week to mature geckos. Fruit powder diet mixes are available from pet stores. Day geckos eat powder mixes designed for crested geckos. Feed the fruit diet to your gecko 3-4 times a week, along with live foods. Dust the feeder insects with a mineral/vitamin supplement that includes calcium and vitamin D3. If you can, feed your gecko above the ground, as they naturally eat elevated in the tree canopy.
Furnish a shallow dish filled with clean water. Gently mist the terrarium once a day as day geckos generally prefer to lick water droplets from leaves. Still, the water dish serves a dual purpose as it adds further humidity to the terrarium. If you are concerned about chlorine in your giant gecko’s drinking water, you can add ReptiSafe Water Conditioner to the water. Even if you don’t see your gecko drink from the water dish, change the water every day and clean the dish once a week.
Handling and Temperament
Juvenile giant day geckos can be kept as a group, but some may lose their tails during confrontations. There is no need to panic, these lost tails grow back. Adults are usually happier housed alone or as a single male with multiple females. Males should not be kept together as they are territorial. Generally, day geckos don’t like being handled, but experienced and careful gecko-keepers can successfully handle them. If day geckos feel threatened, they can slough off their soft skin as a defense mechanism. Your gecko will drop its tail or slough off parts of its skin if it startles or feels threatened, so remember to approach it carefully when you remove your gecko from its enclosure. They bite only as a last resort. Remember to wash your hands before and after handling your gecko to maintain your pet’s hygiene.
Unclean enclosures and incorrect humidity levels can result in partial skin sheds. Partial sheds should not be peeled off as this can damage your gecko’s skin. Unsanitary conditions can also result in a parasitic infection, which can cause additional health problems. Insufficient calcium or vitamin D results in metabolic bone disease (MBD), which weakens your gecko’s bones. MBD is fatal if it’s not treated by a veterinarian, so prevention is the best course of action. Stressed geckos turn a dark green color. Giant day geckos seem less susceptible to disease than other reptiles.