The gargoyle gecko is coveted for both its beautiful, vibrant coloration as well as its easygoing and relaxed nature. A polymorphic species, gargoyle geckos also make popular pets because they can take on a variety of colors and patterns, including yellow, brown, white, gray, orange, and red.
Among their other defining traits are a triangular-shaped head, large bulging eyes, and semi-prehensile tail, as well as the round toe pads associated with other types of geckos. They also have cranial bumps that resemble horns, which is how they earned their unique name.
Most often found in the southern parts of New Caledonia, a small island nation east of the Coral Sea and Australia, the gargoyle gecko is a hardy, low-maintenance reptile that can make a great pet.
Common Name: Gargoyle Gecko
Scientific Name: Rhacodactylus auriculatus
Adult Size: 6-10 inches
Life Expectancy: 15-20 years
Gargoyle Gecko Behavior and Temperament
The gargoyle gecko is known for its friendly nature. They adapt well to life as a pet and should live long, healthy lives assuming they are receiving proper care and having their basic needs met.
When stressed, you may notice your gargoyle gecko release its tail--it will take a few months to grow back. Though they will tolerate handling, be sure the first handling sessions are short with a day or two in between to give your reptile the time and space to learn to trust you.
Though they are usually rather docile, the gargoyle gecko can exhibit territorial behavior when housed with other geckos. However, in some cases, a single bonded pair can be housed together.
Gargoyle geckos are crepuscular, meaning that they are most active during both dawn and dusk. So don't be surprised if your gecko seems to remain still for most of the day and then starts climbing as the sun begins to rise or set.
Housing the Gargoyle Gecko
Fortunately, you're not going to need a significantly large enclosure for the gargoyle gecko. While it's possible to house them in a 10-gallon tank, a larger reptile vivarium (aim for at least 12x12x12) is recommended. Either glass or plastic will assist with humidity retention, and you may want to look for a front-facing door and vents.
These are arboreal geckos, which means they will want ample height to climb. The taller the tank, the more it will replicate their natural environment. You can add some climbable branches and vines, and even a small box for hiding at the bottom of the enclosure. Like most reptiles, the gargoyle gecko will appreciate a place to hide.
Unlike some other reptiles, gargoyle geckos don't require a particularly hot environment. Since these geckos are highly adaptable, you may not even need supplemental heating or light. However, most gecko owners opt for a heat source such as a heat lamp, preferably with white or clear low-wattage incandescent/halogen bulbs.
You'll want to be sure that temperatures don't reach 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are using a basking lamp, aim to keep one side of the enclosure in the upper 70s or low 80s, while the other side hovers around 74 degrees.
Gargoyle geckos can benefit from some form of light during the day, which will help regulate their day/night cycle as well as improve appetite, activity, and overall health. Aim to have their light on for about 12 hours a day.
The gargoyle gecko requires moderately high humidity levels--aim for between 60 and 70 percent humidity in their enclosure at all times. A digital hygrometer can help gecko owners to monitor humidity levels, as well as adjusting the vents to ensure you’re trapping enough moisture.
The substrate and plants can also be misted on a daily basis if needed. Depending on how well your gecko's enclosure holds humidity, you can mist heavily in the evening and then provide a light mist in the morning. The excess droplets can also be used as a drinking source for your gecko.
Incorporating live plants in your gecko's enclosure can also be helpful to maintain proper humidity levels -- a few options are Philodendron scanden, Devil’s Ivy, and Ficus benjamina.
You'll want to choose an absorbent substrate for your gargoyle gecko, such as bark chips, a mixture of soil and moss, or even newspaper. Just be sure the pieces are very small to prevent your gecko from consuming them.
Food and Water
Though they're omnivores, the gargoyle gecko is considered to be picky. Some may avoid eating live insects, for example, and may need to be fed commercial fruit- and vegetable-based foods. When being kept as a pet, these geckos are routinely fed waxworms and mealworms, crickets, and dubia roaches.
You can opt for gut-loaded insects as well as dusting them with calcium and multivitamin supplements (aim for every other feeding) in order to boost the nutritional value within their diet.
Though they generally don't drink a lot of water, it's still best to include a small water dish in your gecko's enclosure. A shallow dish is best because they may occasionally choose to soak in order to help with shedding, and be sure to clean and replenish the water regularly.
Common Health Problems
The gargoyle gecko isn't associated with any significant health problems, although they are prone to common ailments that affect reptiles--these include bacterial issues, respiratory infections, and metabolic bone disease.
Fortunately, these diseases can often be preventable. For example, metabolic bone disease occurs when your pet doesn't take in enough calcium since reptiles require UV exposure to naturally synthesize calcium. Respiratory infections are usually caused by improper temperature and humidity levels in your pet gecko's enclosure. A source of UV light and calcium supplements with their food can help ward off bone disease, while bacterial infections can be avoided with proper cleaning.
Choosing Your Gargoyle Gecko
Among the least expensive of all the species of gecko, you can typically take home a gargoyle gecko for as little as $50 (although some can cost up to a few hundred dollars). There are certain traits that can cause a gecko to run closer to $1,000. Keep in mind that a female gecko is generally more valuable (and likely more expensive) than a male.
You can find gargoyle geckos in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and they can also vary in size to a certain degree. You may want to inquire about the traits that your gecko has been bred for; in gargoyle geckos, for example, many breeders will selectively breed for their knob or horn size. You'll also want to observe your gecko for how it reacts to handling, as most gargoyle geckos will take time and patience to adapt to being handled by a human (and even then most will only tolerate it sporadically and for short periods of time).
Different Species of Gecko
If you're interested in other pet gecko species, why not check out: