A Touch of Gold: The Gold Dust Day Gecko

Fast Facts

Name: Gold dust day gecko
Scientific name: Phelsuma laticauda
Size: 6 - 9 inches (15 – 23cm)
Life Span: 10 - 12 years
Appearance: gold-yellow scales with red lines on head and back
Food: various insects, fruit
Temperature: 77 - 86F (25 - 30°C) day, 68F (20°C) night
Terrarium Size:  18x18x24” (46x46x60cm)
Sleep-wake rhythm: active day
Mating season: all year
Ease of Care: Easy

gold dust day gecko
gold dust day gecko (Phelsuma laticauda) close up

The gold dust day gecko was first discovered by Boettger in 1880 with the name Pachydactylus laticauda and then was remained five years later by Boettger to Phelsuma laticauda.

These geckos naturally found in the wet coastal regions of northern Madagascar and can commonly be found around human settlements. The gold dust day gecko is an invasive species to Hawaii and eats a majority of the natural gecko population of Hawaii.

The gold dust day gecko was the inspiration for the Geico gecko commercials and has since become a very popular gecko. These geckos are part of the smaller gecko family and can be relatively easily be kept by a beginner.

 

Size & Lifespan

Phelsuma laticauda is part of the genus of Phelsuma that is characterized as a smaller sized gecko family. The gold dust specifically reaches a size of 6 – 9” (15-23cm), where their tail accounts about half of their length. The females can also be identified as being smaller than the male counterparts.

With proper care, this gecko can reach an age of 10-12 years in captivity.

 

Characteristics

The gold dust (Phelsuma laticauda) is a small, rugged gecko with the body being approximately same length as their tail. The eyes are blue outlined with a u-shaped red strip that runs across their snout, between their eyes and with the possibility of a third behind the eyes. The top side is mainly green, yellow or blue-green with the abdomen being white.

 

gold dust day gecko
gold dust day gecko (Phelsuma Laticauda) close up

The entire body is covered with coarse scales with the addition of gold-yellow scales around the head, neck and upper body as if the gecko has been dusted with gold (hence the name). On the lower back, there are numerous red patches that fade down towards the tail.

 

As with most Geckos, the gold dust day gecko has widened fingers and toes that have developed adhesive lamellae that allow the gecko to climb on smooth walls and upside down. Also, as with most geckos, the “thumb” on the gold dust is underdeveloped.

Sex Differences:

In sexually mature males, there are visible femoral pores on the underside of the thighs. These pores also sometimes have a waxy like secretion. Another visual characteristic is that the males have a larger body size than the females. The third visual characteristics between the sexes are that the females have larger swelled sides of their throat where they store their endolymphatic system.

 

Behavior

Gold dust day geckos are very shy and should be approached cautiously. However, over time they can get used to you and will even take food from your hands occasionally.

These geckos communicate to each other through their gestures and quick movements. Males will defend their territories against other males, so it is not wise to house more than one male in a terrarium. Several females and one male can live together in relative peace.

 

Nutrition

As with all Geckos in the genus of Phelsuma, the gold dust day gecko is an omnivores (they eat both plants and animals). In the wild, gold dust geckos feed on various insects, fruit, and even other geckos. With such a variety of plants and animals eaten in the wild that cannot be easily replicated in a terrarium can lead to vitamin deficiencies.

Because of this, they should be fed a mixture of crickets, grasshoppers, and cockroaches with the insects dusted with calcium powered at least every other feeding. Gold dust day geckos are not picky eaters and will eat pretty much any insect that is small enough.

In additional to insects, vegetarian food such as mashed bananas, honey, fruit, or non-sweetened fruit porridge for babies should be offered at least every two weeks.

These geckos will eat until they start to become fat so it is important not to feed them too much. Females “cheeks” may become bigger, but they are not getting fat that is normal behavior.

Water should be given in a small bowl, and the geckos will lick water droplets from leaves, it is important that the water bowl is changed daily to keep it clean. Enriched vitamin water can also be added to the water to ensure your pet is getting enough vitamins in their diet.

 

Gold Dust Day Gecko Care

Adult gold dust geckos should be kept at the minimum a pair of two, the minimum tank size of 18x18x24” (46x46x60cm) is recommended for two to three geckos. For these smaller sized geckos, it is recommended that the terrarium has a solid front door instead of a top opening for ease of care and reduce the risk of them getting out.

Phelsuma laticauda is an excellent climber, so it is important to have a minimum high of 24” (60cm), this will also help them regulate their internal temperature.

The tank should be decorated with plenty of plants and bamboo perches to make your gecko feel safe and protected. In addition to that, gold dust day geckos require high humidity, so manual misting three times a day from a spray bottle is needed.

To make your life easier, you can add in an automatic fogger to automatically keep the moisture levels high. It should be set to run for one hour three times a day and the time and frequency can be adjusted to find the optimal humidity. The preferred humidity for these geckos is 50-60% during the day and between 80-90% during the night.

Lighting:

These geckos are day active. Therefore, they do well with lighting that is as close as possible to the daylight spectrum. It should be noted that these types of lamps give out a lot of heat and are suitable for larger terrariums. Because of this, they should be installed on the outside of the terrarium, so there are not any risks of burning to your gecko.

During the summer, your gecko will need 14 hours of daylight, and it can be dropped down to 12 hours during the winter months. These geckos prefer temperatures between 77-86F (25-30° C) during the day, and there should also be local hot spots that reach up to 91F (33°C) near the top of the terrarium provided by a daylight 25W basking spotlight. During night time the temperature should be dropped down to approximate room temperature 68F (20°C).

The terrarium should be full with lots of plants and bamboo perches and ledges at multiple different levels so you gecko can regulate its temperature effectively.

Cleaning your tank:

With the introduction of isopods or springtails (shown below) into your terrarium. The cleaning of your tank will become self-contained. Isopods and springtails are great additions to your terrarium as they will eat gecko poo and the corpses of their dead. This leaves the maintenance required on the tank to a minimum.

Tank Setup

Drainage layer:

A drainage layer such as pebbles, a false bottom out of egg creates, or hydroton balls should be the first step of a new tank setup. This layer will allow water to drain and stop the soil from becoming anaerobic.

Hydroton Balls
Plants growing in “hydroton balls” (expanded clay pebbles) by Geek2Nurse licensed under CC BY 2.0

Picking a divider:

A divider such as a window screen or plastic mesh should be added, large enough to allow roots to grow through but it needs to be small enough mesh so the substrate does not fall through.

Picking a substrate:

A substrate that has lots of nutrients should be picked. It should also drain well, so there is no extra water held in the substrate causing mold and other issues.

Furnishings:

The next step is picking the right furnishings for the aesthetics as well as the health of your gold dust day gecko. Bamboo perches, a gecko ledge, live plants, and wood should be added. The perches should be at different levels so your gecko can regulate their temperature throughout the day.

Note: Gold Dust’s like cylindrical objects in nature as their natural behavior of hiding is to move to the other side of a cylindrical object.

Moss:

Since these geckos are a tropical animal, they require lots of humidity. Adding a layer of sphagnum moss will help to hold in the moisture, regulating the humidity throughout the terrarium.

sphagnum moss
sphagnum moss (sphagnum) growing in nature

Plants

It is important to remember when adding in your plants to remove as much potting soil as possible. This will help reduce the risk of introducing parasites, worms, and mites into the terrarium. Also, as a general rule, the plants should be watered at least once a week.

Many plants can be introduced into your terrarium; it is good to remember that along with cylindrical objects, gold dust day geckos like to climb on large, flat leaves. Some plants that do well in a terrarium with this type of tropical environment include; Silver Tree, Anthurium, Wandering Jew, Begonia Thelmae, Silver Philodendron, and Devil’s tongue.

Silver Tree:

Silver tree “Norfolk” (Pilea Spruceana)

Anthurium:

anthurium
Anthurium

Wandering Jew:

wandering jew
Purple wandering jew

 

Begonia Thelmae:

Begonia Thelmae
Begonia Thelmae” by Ruud de Block licensed under CC BY 2.0

Devil’s Tongue:

Sansevieria
Devil’s tongue (Sansevieria)Devil’s tongue

Breeding

Gold dust day geckos are prolific breeders and females can lay eggs all year round. They can produce eggs up to six times a year, but it is recommended that there is a resting period of 4 months between breeding periods.

After successful breeding, the female will lay two hard-shelled eggs in 25 to 30 days. Before the female lays eggs, feedings should be reduced, and the terrarium temperature should be lowered to 68F (20°C)

Once they eggs are laid, they should be moved to an incubator. The young hatchlings are not safe with their parents as they are prone to eat their offspring.

Moving to an incubator:

Unlike bird eggs, reptile eggs do not need to be flipped or rotated. For small gecko species, including the gold dust day gecko, the hatchlings are attached to the wall of the egg not floating inside. Therefore, it is important not to rotate or flip the eggs when transferring them from how they were laid as they could drown.

The eggs should be placed inside a small deli container(Shown below) with approximate a 1 oz (35g) layer of vermiculite. The vermiculite should be mixed with 2.5oz (75g) of water.

Deli Food Storage Container
16 oz (453g) Deli Food Storage Container

Once they eggs are placed in the incubator, the incubator should be set at 77-86F (25-30°C) with a relative humidity of 60 to 80 percent. The sex of the offspring depends on the temperature, at a temperature of 79F (26°C) females will be exclusively hatched. It is also important to check the weight of the container every two weeks and water should be added as need.

After about 55 to 65 days, depending on the temperature the eggs will hatch at a length of 1 ¼” – 1 ½” (35-40mm). At this time the two hatchlings should be separated from each other.

Newly hatched gecko care:

When separating the newly hatched geckos, line a similar container with sphagnum moss and a small cut piece of bamboo to provide a place to hide and perch.

One day after hatching the first molt usually takes place, and after 7-10 days you can attempt to feed your baby geckos. Gold dust day gecko newborns can be given a mixture of flightless fruit flies and crested gecko food. During this time it is important to mist the small containers twice daily at the minimum manually. After 12 months the geckos will reach sexual maturity but will continue