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These are smaller sized geckos from the genus Phelsuma, and hail from the islands surrounding Madagascar. They are primarily green in color, with red spots between their eyes and nose and in the middle of their back. They get their common name from the beautiful gold speckling they develop on their necks, legs, and hindquarters down the length of their tails. A few exceptional animals may even have blue toes! They are commonly available in the pet trade, although most specimens are not captive bred in the US. Although captive bred babies seem to be few and far between, this species readily breeds and lays eggs in captivity, so perhaps in the future captive bred animals will be more readily available.
Beginners: (Day Geckos Keeper's Guide)[http://lllreptile.com/store/catalog/reptile-books-and-magazines/gecko-books/-/day-geckos-keepers-guide/] Advanced: (Day Geckos in Captivity)[http://lllreptile.com/store/catalog/reptile-books-and-magazines/gecko-books/-/day-geckos-in-captivity/]
Gold Dust Day Geckos reach lengths of 4.5” to 6”, depending on subspecies. With good diet and proper lighting, these geckos can easily live 10 years or more in captivity.
Small adult size does not necessarily mean these geckos should be placed in cramped quarters. A minimum size for an enclosure for one adult should be at least the size of the ZooMed Medium Naturalistic Terrarium, although if space allows, they do excellent in larger size terrariums. They can also be housed in traditional glass aquariums, but it may prove more difficult to conduct day to day maintenance without a front opening cage. Due to their high level of daily activity, larger cage sizes are highly recommended. For a pair of animals, especially if you intend to breed them, at least an 18 x 18 x 24” cage or equivalent should be used.
Substrate for these geckos depends on how you are setting up their cage. A planted, naturalistic vivarium is not only looks the best, but will also meet your geckos needs admirably as well. In a naturalistic vivarium, expect to use a combination of hydroton balls for drainage, polyfoam as a divider between your drainage and planting layers, and Ecoearth and Moss Growing Substrate to provide a nutritious soil mix for your live plants.
In a cage with artificial plants, a substrate that holds humidity and is easy to clean is ideal. This includes cypress mulch, orchid bark, Ecoearth, or other forms of compressed coconut husk. It doesn’t hurt to experiment with several types of bedding before deciding on a type you prefer.
When designing the cage for your gecko(s), keep in mind their natural behavior. As relatively small, bite sized geckos, they are naturally shy and prefer numerous hiding places and foliage in their cage. They love to climb, and every opportunity should be taken to provide them with plenty of vertical hiding places. Use of ZooMed Cork Rounds and Bamboo Hollows is highly recommended, as they provide similar hiding opportunities as the round tree branches they would hug in the wild. When they feel threatened, these geckos will immediately retreat to the opposite side of whatever surface they are on, and offering several cylindrical objects for them to hide on in their cage will help them follow their natural instincts. Cylindrical basking perches are especially favored. Not every surface in the cage needs to be a cylinder, however, and use of Cork Flats, Grapevines, Magnetic Ledges, and other wood products will add visual interest to your cage as well as offer hiding options for your geckos to choose from.
In addition to wood products, serious consideration should be given to providing Live Plants or other foliage options for your geckos to hide on. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, live plants also increase relative humidity in the cage, providing a beneficial microclimate for your geckos within their leaves. Since these little guys won’t eat the leaves, you can use just about any plant you desire within your cage. However, it’s probably best to use plants that can take tropical temperatures and moisture levels. Artificial Tropical Vines, magnetically attached Jungle Vines, and naturalistic fake plants can all be included as well.
In order to achieve and/or maintain the beautiful coloration these geckos naturally develop in the wild, the use of high quality lights is an absolute must. Without proper heat AND light, Gold Dust Day Geckos will eventually turn drab and dark, even if you purchased the most brilliantly colored specimen in the store. With this in mind, there are a few different ways to light and heat the cage, depending on your budget and preference.
The first and most traditional method is with fluorescent strip lighting, such as a ZooMed Reptisun bulb, used in combination with a basking light, such as a ZooMed Basking bulb or Halogen Light. In smaller cage setups, this is usually the best way to go, as you can use lower wattage basking bulbs in order to ensure you do not overheat the cage. Basking spot temperatures can and should reach into the low 90s, while the coolest side of the cage can drop down into the low 70s.
An alternate method that can be used if you are housing your geckos in larger terrariums is the use of a mercury vapor bulb, such as a ZooMed Powersun bulb or a T-Rex Active UV Heat Floodlight. Mercury vapor bulbs produce lots of UVB light and lots of heat, so care should be taken to ensure that your cage does not heat up too much when this bulb is on. Because of the large amounts of UVB and heat emitted from these bulbs, you may find your geckos develop their best color under these lights.
For the hardcore gecko keeper housing their animals in the largest possible cages, it is worth looking into more advanced (and expensive) lighting systems. Use of lights designed for growing plants indoors, such as Sodium Halide or Metal Halide bulbs, can develop the absolute best color in your geckos. However, these lights are very large, very hot, and typically very expensive, so research should be done prior to attempting to use these on your animals at home.
As a tropical species, Gold Dust Day Geckos should be provided with a lush, tropical environment in captivity. This means they typically need to be misted with water at least twice a day to increase the humidity within their cage, as well as provide water droplets on leaves for them to drink. While they may not often take advantage of it, a water bowl with clean, fresh water should be provided for them at all times.
In addition to misting with a hand spray bottle, use of a Terrarium Fogger is also highly recommended. While being aesthetically pleasing, these foggers will also increase humidity in a natural way, by providing a fine fog that will make condensation on leaves for your geckos to drink. Used on a naturalistic vivarium, it can be so effective at maintaining humidity that you find you no longer need to hand spray your cage again!
In captivity, these little geckos readily feed on most commonly available feeder insects. This includes (but isn’t limited to) small crickets, small roaches, small mealworms, waxworms, small silkworms, reptiworms, and hornworms. Every opportunity to provide variety to their diet should be taken, as this list of feeder insects is extremely short compared to the variety of insects they would consume in the wild. Because of this, supplementation with a high quality reptile multivitamin in combination with a high quality reptile calcium (containing D3) is highly recommended. Generally speaking, calcium should be offered about every feeding for egg-laying females, and every other feeding for non reproductive animals. Multivitamins can be offered weekly, or as often as is recommended on the label.
In addition to insects, Gold Dust Day Geckos readily consume most commercially made gecko diets. This includes the ZooMed Day Gecko Diet or the Repashy Meal Replacement Powder. Either one of these powders can be combined with the ZooMed canned fruit Mixins, providing a rich, nutritious treat for your geckos.
While very cute and pretty, these geckos are extremely sensitive and tend to stress easily, so handling is not recommended. In addition, their skin will also tear if handled too roughly, and their tails can drop. While their tails do regenerate, they will not look the same as the original, so care should be taken when handling is necessary to ensure they stay in one piece!
Some geckos eventually become habituated to their keeper’s presence, and will take food from their keeper’s hands. With patience, most become at least habituated enough to remain out and about while their keepers are in the room, making them enjoyable to watch and entertaining display animals.