Yellow Headed Dwarf Gecko
- Common Group: Day Geckos
- Common Name: Kim Howell’s Yellow-headed Dwarf Gecko, Yellow Headed Dwarf Gecko
- Scientific Name: Lygodactylus kimhowelli, Lygodactylus picturatus (and subspecies)
- Distribution Area: East Africa
There are two species of dwarf geckos commonly imported and sold under the common name “Yellow Headed Dwarf Gecko”. Appearance is slightly different, with L. kimhowelli having a blue body with a pale yellow head, and black stripes going down the length of the body. L. picturatus has a pale blue body and a bright yellow head, with dark stripes and spots going down the length of the body. Of the two, only L. picturatus has marked sexual dimorphism, with the females being much drabber than the males but still having traces of yellow and blue coloration.
Both are found in East Africa, and are common throughout Tanzania. They are such a versatile and adaptable pair of species that they thrive in man-made habitats, and are often found on fences, buildings, and sign posts.
Size and Longevity
Yellow Headed Dwarf Geckos are a dwarf species of gecko, rarely exceeding 3” total length. Little is known about their natural lifespan, although an expected lifespan of 5 to 10 years is not unreasonable.
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 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. Tropical Vines, magnetically attached Jungle Vines, and naturalistic fake plants can all be included as well.
Heating and Lighting
Being devout sun worshippers, these little geckos need lots of light and UVB. There are two methods that can be used to provide these things. 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 sprayer 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, Yellow Headed Dwarf Geckos will also eat Repashy Gecko Meal Replacement Powder, or MRP, as well as ZooMed Day Gecko Food. Offering this food at least once a week will also help add variety to their diet, and can be mixed with fresh fruits such as bananas or with canned fruit products such as ZooMed Mixins.
Handling and Interaction
While very cute and pretty, these geckos are extremely shy and do not tolerate regular handling well. They are best left to observe in their cage, and with time become brave enough to remain active even with their keepers in the room. Exceptional individuals may become tame enough to eat off of their keepers’ hands with time, but this is the exception, not the rule.