Day geckos belong to the genus Phelsuma and family Gekkonidae. Day geckos are actually a common name of a group of over 60 species of small lizards that vary in size, appearance, and behaviors.
Popular pet day geckos include the giant day gecko that is recorded to live up to 20 years but more commonly lives six to eight years in captivity.
Day geckos, in general, are not good geckos for beginner reptile keepers. For those with some reptile experience who want to venture into the day gecko realm should research giant day geckos, gold dust day geckos, or lined day geckos.
Day Gecko Behavior and Temperament
Unlike many other lizards, day geckos are active during the daytime. They are generally pretty fragile and it is not a good idea to handle them since their skin is quite delicate. They also can be somewhat territorial and should be housed alone. Males are especially territorial but even mated pairs may fight and need to be separated.
Day geckos are excellent climbers. Their toe pads have tiny filaments (setae) that allow them to cling to almost any surface, including glass walls and ceilings. This makes them excellent escape artists so secure enclosures are a must for day geckos.
Like most geckos, this variety doesn't tolerate being handled very well; it can cause the animal to stress enough that it may drop its tail, a defensive mechanism in the wild. While their trails will regenerate, it's better for the animal not to be pushed to this level of stress in the first place.
Housing the Day Gecko
The exact cage set-up and environment required will vary a bit with each species of day gecko. As a general rule of thumb, though, day geckos need a tank that is taller than it is wide with branches to climb on.
Stalks of bamboo can be placed in the tank along with branches or live plants, such as snake plants, bromeliads, or other tropical plants for more climbing options and aesthetic appeal. Lots of cover and hiding spots should be provided to make your day gecko feel secure.
A substrate peat moss, potting soil (no vermiculite), or orchid bark can be used as bedding on the bottom of the cage but, whatever you choose, make sure it is not too large that it will cause an obstruction or impaction.
Temperature and Humidity
Again, exact requirements vary with species but daytime temperatures should be between 80 and 89 degrees on the high end and between 70 and 80 degrees on the low end, usually during nighttime hours.
All day geckos need fairly high humidity in their enclosures, ranging anywhere from 50 percent all the way up to 85 percent. The use of live plants and a proper substrate will help maintain humidity levels along with regular misting of the tank.
Day geckos need exposure to ultraviolet light so fluorescent UVA/UVB emitting reptile bulbs are necessary. An incandescent light bulb should be used to provide heat for the basking spot and if more heat is needed, ceramic heat emitters or under tank heating can be used.
Sometimes a variety of heat sources must be implemented to achieve ideal day and night time temperatures so thermometers are also very important to utilize. Be sure to use heat sources that aren't too close to the gecko itself, to avoid burns.
Food and Water
Insects make up the bulk of a day gecko's diet in captivity although some will also eat various tropical fruits such as papaya, mango, or even fruit baby food.
The insects and fruit should also be supplemented with a multi-vitamin, calcium powder, and vitamin D3 (no phosphorus). Offer these foods on a rotation every two to three days.
Be sure to thoroughly research your day gecko of choice prior to taking him home so that you can have the appropriate cage, lighting, humidity, and food ready for its arrival. This will help decrease your gecko's stress during the transition into his new environment.
Choosing a Day Gecko
As with most breeds of gecko, it's ideal to obtain one from a reputable reptile breeder. This way, you can ensure the gecko is captive-bred (which reduces potential exposure to disease) and you'll be able to get the gecko's full health history.
If you notice a gecko with dry, flaky areas on its skin, this could be a sign of a parasite or other infection, because it shows the animal may have difficulty shedding.
Health geckos have clear eyes and healthy appetites. If possible, ask the breeder if you can watch the day gecko eat before deciding on buying it. As long as the animal doesn't refuse food, you can expect it to be in relatively good health.
Common Health Problems
Geckos and most other lizards and snakes need to shed their skins on a regular basis as part of their healthy growth. If a day gecko lives in unsanitary conditions, or in an enclosure with incorrect humidity, it may not be able to shed properly. It's also a sign of a gecko that's feeling stressed.
Parasitic infections afflict many gecko breeds, and unfortunately, day geckos are no exception. The signs of a parasitic infection are often only detected by a reptile veterinarian during a fecal exam.
There's also metabolic bone disease to consider. This is a serious illness that affects many reptiles and happens when an animal has calcium and vitamin D deficiency. This leads to weakened bones, which is very painful for the gecko. If left untreated, metabolic bone disease can be fatal.
If you suspect your day gecko has any of these illnesses, take it to a veterinarian who specializes in reptiles for a diagnosis and treatment.
Species Similar to Day Geckos:
While the majority of geckos are nocturnal, if you're trying to choose which is the best option, here are a few others to consider:
You also may want to check out our profiles of other gecko breeds.