Cape Dwarf Day Gecko

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  • Common Group: Day Geckos
  • Common Name: Cape Dwarf Day Geckos
  • Scientific Name: Lygodactylus capensis
  • Distribution Area: East Africa

Natural History:

A dwarf species from East Africa, these little geckos are relatively drab in coloration compared to their more commonly kept cousins. Because of their less flashy coloration and relatively rarity in the hobby, little is known about them in wild. Cape Dwarf Day Geckos are often imported along with Yellow Headed Dwarf Geckos, and are frequently mistaken for female Yellow Headed Dwarf Geckos. The differences between the Cape Dwarf Day Geckos and other small, cryptically colored species from the area are very small, and differentiating between the species is difficult at best. These little geckos easily drop and regenerate their tails, and it is not uncommon to see most that are available in the hobby with regrown tails.

Recommended Reading

Beginner: Day Gecko Keeper's Guide Advanced: Day Geckos in Captivity

Size and Longevity

As a dwarf species of gecko, Cape Dwarf Geckos rarely exceed 2.5” in total length. Longevity is unknown, although a lifespan of at least 5 years should not be unexpected. Housing


Small adult size does not necessarily mean these geckos should be placed in cramped quarters. A minimum size for an enclosure 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.

Substrate and furnishings

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.
Decor and Cage Furnishings

When designing the cage for your gecko(s), keep in mind their natural behavior. As 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. 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.

These geckos are much shyer than their boldly colored counterparts, such as the Electric Blue Day Gecko. This should be kept in mind when designing their cage, and plenty of hiding spaces provided for them.

Heating and Lighting

Perhaps because these geckos are so cryptically colored, they do not seem to bask as readily or as obviously as other brightly colored geckos in their genus. However, this does not mean the option should not be provided to them. Depending on the size of your cage, this can be achieved a couple different ways.
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.

At night, if temperatures in your home drop below 70 degrees, it is recommended to use some form of nighttime heating. A 40 or 60 watt Nightlight Red bulb should provide plenty of heat; keep in mind that the cage needs to be about 75 degrees at most at night.

Water and Humidity

Coming from a tropical to subtropical climate, attention to humidity is a must. In addition to a dish with fresh, clean water provided daily, you should also mist your cage every day. Use of a hand spray bottle or pressure spray bottle is one way to add humidity to the air. A ZooMed Reptifogger is another way to add humidity, and is highly recommended both for its humidity increasing abilities and because it just plain looks cool. If you want a higher quality misting system, use of a Mist King may be what you’re looking for. In the end, it doesn’t matter so much how you add humidity to the cage, it just matters that additional moisture and humidity is added at least twice throughout the day.


In captivity, these little geckos readily feed on most commonly available feeder insects. This includes (but isn’t limited to) small crickets, fruit flies, 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, it is recommended to offer a powdered gecko diet to dwarf geckos. You may not see your Cape Dwarf Geckos chowing down on their gecko mix as readily as other species, but it does help add variety and nutrition to their diet. The ZooMed Day Gecko Diet is one formula worth using, especially in conjunction with their canned fruit “Mixin’s”. An alternate formula is the Repashy gecko Meal Replacement Powder, a formula commonly used for Crested Geckos and their cousins.

Handling and Interaction

While very cute, these geckos are extremely shy and do not do well with frequent handling. These tiny, understated gems should be treated like the delicate creatures they are and left in the cage. Exceptional animals may become habituated to your presence, but it is extremely uncommon. Most Cape Dwarf Geckos prefer to run and hide as soon as their keepers come into the room, although with patience they will eventually come out of hiding and resume their daily routine.

Notes on Breeding

By Jennifer Greene

If breeding these geckos is your goal, housing them in a cage somewhat larger than the bare minimum is recommended. An 18 x 18 x 24 sized ZooMed Terrarium is what I use at home, and find that it allows for a large range in temperatures suitable for these geckos, especially since I use a 100 watt Powersun bulb on the terrarium for heat and UVB. In addition, all this space allows for the geckos to escape each other, something very much needed for the female, as the male will continually court and attempt to breed her if there are not enough hiding places for her to get away from him. The courtship display is actually somewhat comical; the male will position himself to be as visible as possible to the female, and then will rapidly bob up and down, sometimes wiggling his tail in addition to the bobbing. Slowly but surely, with each new fit of bobbing, he will get closer to the female. Once in a while, she will let him mate with her, but most of the time she simply runs away when he gets too close.

The geckos will breed year round if kept warm enough, but I allow mine to cool down somewhat in winter with cooler ambient temperatures and a more significant night time drop of temperatures into the 70s. Once night time temperatures begin to remain above 75 at night, in combination with an increase in daytime ambient temperatures, you should notice an increase in courting behavior from the male. Within the first month of increased temperatures, the first eggs are often laid. Due to the extremely shy nature of these cryptically colored geckos, they often hide their eggs within cork crevices, rather than pasting them on the sides of the cage like other, brighter colored species. In a living vivarium with live plants, no additional work needs to be done to encourage the eggs to hatch - as long as the cage is kept humid (I use a reptifogger on a timer, set to go off 4 times a day for 1/2 hour each time) and the night time temperatures do not drop below 75, the eggs will hatch. Incubation time can vary widely, especially depending on location of the eggs within the cage. Eggs closer to the heat lights will often hatch in as little as 2 months, eggs lower in the cage may take up to 4 months to hatch.

If dwarf geckos are the only animals you are keeping in the cage, you can leave the babies in the vivarium with the parents. Anecdotal evidence claims that the babies often watch the behavior of the adults and from that, learn to eat the gecko food paste as well as where to locate water and prime basking areas. Whether this is the case, or just coincidence, is not known for 100% certainty, but it is interesting to note. Conditions within a planted, living vivarium are perfect for these tiny, miniscule little baby geckos, and it is best to simply leave them within the cage to find the microclimates they thrive best at. I have never offered special prey items for my baby dwarf geckos, and have found that they often eat the tiny bugs that naturally flourish in the substrate of a well planted vivarium, as well as hunt down the tiniest crickets that come in the usual batch of small crickets I offer my adults regularly.

After 3 to 4 months, the babies can be considered well started enough to begin to consider moving to their own enclosures. After 10 to 12 months, most can be considered full grown or nearly so.

I hope you have found this brief discussion of Cape Dwarf Gecko breeding helpful!