Gold Dust Day Gecko
Written by Tyler Wagner and Mark Hissett
The Gold Dust Day gecko is a staple of herp keepers and is one of the prettiest display pets available. They come from the island of Madagascar, an African country that has a very rich and diverse ecosystem. This species has also been introduced on a couple islands of Hawaii.
They have vibrant coloration of a base green, mixed with red spots and literally a beautiful dusting of gold specks. Gold Dusts have a snout to vent length of about 3-4 inches and will live 10 or more years. They are very alert and be aware that fast is an understatement for this species.
Sadly, P. laticauda is still offered from wild caught populations. With the poor environmental situation in Madagascar, it's essential that we as hobbyists strive to buy only captive raised specimens. This is not a difficult species to breed and there is no reason to obtain wild caught animals.
A single specimen can easily be housed in a 12" x 12" x 18" Exoterra (PT2602). A pair or trio should be housed in a larger 18" x 18" x 24" Exoterra (PT2607). The terrarium should be heavily planted and have lots of hiding spaces. We have successfully kept a group of four adult geckos in the PT2607 enclosure. However, we do not recommend this as they can be an aggressive species and weaker members may be subject to constant chasing, nipping, etc. We have never had a problem and believe it may be due in part to having two pairs as well as providing multiple hiding, basking and food locations.
Lighting is very important. For our breeding enclosure, we provide two Exoterra Compact Canopy units (PT2226) that each hold two compact florescent bulbs for a total of four Repti Glo 5.0 26W bulbs (PT2187). This lighting set up provides an optimal temperature gradient with hot spots at 90°F and shaded areas at 77°F.
We modified the Exoterra by building a ledge in the back using 1/4" plexiglass and aquarium silicone. This ledge has enough depth for soil and we planted a species of lip stick plant that hangs over the ledge. This has provided great spots for hiding and egg laying as well as feeding stations.
Other plants include Madagascar Jasmine and Dracaena deremensis "Warneckii". We tried to keep it as natural as possible and chose flowering plants that can add beautiful colours in the spring and summer. The substrate is done so the terrarium is self sustaining. The first layer is comprised of charcoal, topped with coconut fiber liner and nylon screen. The next layers are made up of worm castings and organic, fertilizer-free topsoil. This set up will only require regular watering and does not need to be changed for 3-4 years.
Note: The use of plain peat earth is not recommended as this does not keep the humidity up to the required 60-80%. MIST TWICE PER DAY!
Added decorations such as live moss, aquarium lava stone, jungle vines and drift wood complete the setup. Some like bamboo but that is up to your choosing.
We feed Repashy Day Gecko Diet, this is a complete maintenance food and all they really require. Even though the Repashy gecko diet has calcium in the mixture we add some extra SuperCal MeD to our food while the females are laying eggs. We also feed 2-3 week old (medium) crickets dusted with SuperCal once per week and rarely offer wax worms. Never feed any meal worms, they are just too tough to digest.
In our opinion, making your food at home is okay but we are strongly against the use of baby foods. If you must use some then try an organic, sugar-free brand.
For groups of 2 or more, we offer multiple feeding stations spaced apart to keep competition and fighting to a minimum. There is always someone who gets first chance at the station and then it goes in order from there. Having at least two feeding stations has worked well for us.
We do not provide water stations but mist twice daily. This is perfect for keeping humidity up and to provide for their water needs. This also aids in shedding and water uptake. There is nothing cooler than watching these guys shed, pulling off their skin and ingesting it. This is done for both a nutritional requirement and a defense mechanism to thwart predators.
Captive Breeding and Rearing of Young
Breeding Gold Dusts is a fun experience and this species can be very prolific. The first step besides a healthy diet and comfortable enclosure is to have a male and female. We recommend at least a trio (1:2:0) of the same size to keep fighting over territory and courting at a fair advantage. Sexing is not too difficult if you have experience with Day Geckos but if you make a mistake you may end up with time wasted or worse yet, injuries.
Females: Color wise, we find them a bit brighter in the greens but lacking the contrast of males. A healthy, ready to breed female will have a good sized pair of calcium sacs, just behind and under their eyes. These sacs are quite noticeable but not so on the males. The females also lack defined anal pore development and lack the waxy, yellow/orange tinge.
Males: Males are typically vibrant and have a nice contrast, the gold and reds seem much brighter and their size a a tad huskier than the girls. They do not have calcium sacs but we have heard of reports that they may have a little bit so watch for this. Males have significantly developed anal pores and exude a waxy substance that is not hard to differentiate.
NOTE: If in doubt get females settled as a colony first and when you can find a gecko that is 100% male introduce him. This will let the girls get used to each other and prevent the chance that you introduce two males who will viciously compete.
In our opinion, conditioning the parents is simply done by providing a safe environment (hiding places) for mating and egg deposition. Feed Repashy daily and even add a couple calcium wells in case they wish to imbibe on some. We have four geckos in an 18" x 18" x 24" terrarium and as mentioned offer two feeding stations. We offer crickets from time to time.
Mating itself is usually not something you will see. We were able to catch them once. They do it in typical gecko mating fashion. In 3-4 weeks you will be able to see the eggs as small white peas in the females abdomen. She will scout the tank and select a safe spot to deposit, usually in the leave axils of the Dracaena. We found that after removing their eggs from a specific area a couple of times, they moved their laying sites. We have even found eggs buried in substrate. Once she finds a suitable spot she will fade in color and deposit her eggs. She may lay one or two, and they are stuck together but not glued to the deposition site, as some other gecko species do. We leave the eggs for at least 24 hours to allow the shell to harden and then retrieve them and place into an incubator.
The incubator is simply a deli container with Repashy SuperHatch and kept at an ambiant tempterature of about 77°F. This ranges in the summer and can get as warm as 85°F. We do not use any fancy machine, just the deli container kept in a safe location away from drafts.
The eggs take approximately 45 days to hatch and we are not sure if the sex is determined by the temperature, but we seem to have a good mix the way we do it so who knows.
Rearing of Gold Dust babies is not as difficult as one may think, certainly not as hard as some other day gecko species. However it can be time consuming. Once a baby hatches we place them in a small ExoTerra Faunarium (PT2250) that is lined with paper towel, a pastic or silk plant and a small bamboo piece or branch. We use nylon screen under the lid to keep the baby from escaping as they are very small and can get through little holes. As they grow, we increase the size of the Faunarium (every 3-5 months). We only keep one baby per container ensuring that the individual has an excellent chance to thrive without competition from siblings. All of our nurseries are kept under Repti Glo 5.0 T8 florescent bulbs (PT2160). Care includes a light misting twice per day and offering fresh Repashy daily. We also feed jumbo "wingless" fruit flies dusted with SuperCal MeD every two days from cultures made with SuperFly.
Baby Gold Dusts grow quickly and are easy to handle in the first several months. Once they start to reach sexual maturity at about 10-12 months of age they become very flighty so be careful…
Gold Dust Day Geckos are a fantastic species to work with. They are prolific, beautiful and charismatic in such a way that watching them can become addicting. Our group is either mating, quarrelling or basking in their habitat. Set up a piece of the Madagascar jungle in your home and try them out. Their care is relatively easy and as long as you follow the above basics, you can have a conversation piece in your home for years to come. Not to mention the fact that when the flowers bloom you'll add a slice of nature that most people only dream about. Enjoy and feel free to comment or contact us if you have any questions...
Special Notes and Pointers
1) We can not stress enough that providing a large natural enclosure is the best for this species. It will keep them living comfortably and will add the color and vibrance of a piece of the rain forest to your home. Choose plants that are native to regions around Madagascar, non-toxic, and design the enclosure to be as natural as possible.
2) When removing eggs be careful, they are fragile. We always let them dry a couple days before removal. If they are in a bad spot sometimes letting them hatch insite is needed. Though it may be tricky to catch the babies and watch for escapees!
3) Do not feed baby food. There are some homemade remedies available and that may be fine as long as they meet all the maintenance requirements in regards to nutrition.
4) Do not mix species… Why take the chance?
5) Change UVB bulbs every 10 months, do not wait for them to burn out.
6) Gold Dusts are escaped artists. Seal all holes and watch for spots they cram into. They have the ability to squeeze into the smallest areas so do body counts regularly!