Gold Dust Day Gecko Care Guide

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Gold Dust Day Gecko Care Guide

gold dust day gecko care guide

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Gold dust day geckos are beautiful and amazing.  And they are recommended for beginner keepers.  If you are an owner, or are considering becoming one, we have a community forum gold dust day Gecko forum that can help answer your questions.  Our forum is moderated by knowledgable zoologists, who can help guide you to provide wonderful care for your Gold Dust Day Gecko. 

What are Gold Dust Day Geckos?

If you want a strikingly beautiful pet that takes little care and you don’t need one you can handle frequently, you could do worse than the small but gorgeous Gold Dust Day gecko.  These dazzling lizards are one of the most spectacular of the day geckos, and are often referred to as “living jewels.”

gold dust day gecko care guide

They are a vivid green to yellowish green with a speckling of fine golden dots across the neck and shoulders. The name “gold-dust day gecko” is often applied to both Phelsuma laticauda laticauda, and Phelsuma laticauda angularis, however, the subspecies should really be referred to as the angulated gold-dust day gecko.

Both subspecies have a green body, a whitish belly and upper eyelids lined in blue. However, back markings differ somewhat. Phelsuma l. laticauda has three elongated red teardrops along its back, while P. l. angularis has pinker chevron- or arrow-shaped markings pointing toward the head. There is a difference in adult size as well, with the angulated being the smaller of the two at 4 inches snout to vent length, while P. l. laticauda may grow to 5 inches. Hatchlings reach sexual maturity between six and 12 months old. Angulated may live up to 10 years, whereas the larger species have been reported to live more than 18 years in captivity.

Originally, both subspecies were indigenous to Madagascar, but now are a common sight in Hawaii. Rather than arriving as a stowaway as other geckos and skinks have, the gold dust day gecko was illegally smuggled in and released. The entire Hawaiian population stems from only eight lizards a University of Hawaiʻi student released in 1974!

Day geckos have round pupils and like most other geckos lack eyelids, instead having a clear, fixed plate covering their eyes which they clean with their tongues. 

Day geckos have toe pads consisting of tiny lamellae which allow them to walk on plain vertical and inverted surfaces like bamboo or glass. For this reason, they have a reputation as brilliant escape artists.

 It is fairly easy to sex these geckos, as males have well-developed femoral pores on the undersurface of their rear limbs, while females have well-developed endolymphatic chalk sacs on the sides of their necks. These sacs store calcium, which is needed for egg production.

Both subspecies are somewhat fragile since their skin is quite delicate. They also can be somewhat territorial and should be housed alone or in mated pairs. Like many geckos, this variety doesn't tolerate being handled very well.  Handling induced stress can result in tail drop, as these lizards are autotomous.  Yes, their tails will regenerate, but its unwise to push this species to this level of emotional distress in the first place. Also, their tails will not look the same as the original colors.

Housing Design for Gold Dust Day Geckos

gold dust day gecko habitat

If your gold dust day gecko is a small, adult size, it does not necessarily mean these geckos should be placed in cramped quarters. They can be housed in traditional glass aquariums, but it may prove more difficult to conduct day to day maintenance without a front opening cage.

Large Cages for Active Geckos

Due to their high level of daily activity, larger cage sizes are highly recommended. An enclosure 12x12x18 is acceptable, but bigger is betters. For a pair of animals, especially if you intend to breed them, at least an 18 x 18 x 24” cage or equivalent should definitely be provided.  A vertical arrangement is best, but since they are not strictly arboreal, a little latitude in orientation of the habitat is permitted. 

Because this highly active, bold yet paradoxically shy animal dislikes handling, a bioactive setup that will minimize handling for cleaning purposes and maximize a stable humidity is highly recommended.

Substrate - Bioactive or Orchid Bark

Given the behavioral traits mentioned above, the less fussing with their habitat, the better.  Also, they prefer a very rich environment, full of items to climb on and explore.  Therefore, a bioactive set-up is ideal for this species.  Be sure to include all of the usual microfauna needed in order for a bioactive set-up to work.  There are detailed instructions on setup elsewhere on this site.

Whilst any loose substrate has the potential to be accidentally swallowed, many keepers have found this to not be a problem when coarse orchid bark is used in conventional or bio-active housing set-ups.  With a bioactive enclosure, it is advised that the top layer be composed of both dead leaves and some additional sphagnum moss to prevent ingestion of smaller particles that comprise the deeper bottom layers. 

Regardless of the type set-up you choose, one that is conventional and requires cleaning once a month, never use sand as a substrate.  This is not a burrowing species, and sand always presents a threat of impaction, if enough is accidentally ingested during feed behaviors. There is no need to use it.

Decor and Cage Furnishings - They love to climb!

gold dust day gecko climbing

When designing the cage for your gecko(s), keep in mind their natural behavior. These lizards are food for a number of natural enemies, therefore they tend to be shy and prefer numerous hiding places, both on the floor and also vertically. Lots foliage in their cage will keep them happy. They love to climb, and every opportunity should be taken to provide them with plenty of vertical hiding places.

ZooMed Cork Rounds and Bamboo Hollows are good choices, as they provide similar hiding opportunities and a similar feel to the round tree branches they would clamber on in the wild. Like tree squirrels, when threatened or alarmed, these geckos will immediately retreat to the opposite side of whatever surface they are on. Offering several cylindrical objects for them to hide on in their cage will help them follow their natural instincts. Artificial magnetically attached jungle vines, and naturalistic fake plants can all be included as well.

Should you use live plants and foliage?

Serious consideration should be given to providing live plants or other foliage options like silk plants for your geckos to hide on. For a bio-active set-up, live plants are essential, but in a conventional enclosure, silk and plastic plants may be more practical.  One feature of live plants in a bio-active setting that is a plus for many people with an active lifestyle, is the lower daily maintenance for humidity and attractive appearance.  Humidity is maintained easily by the habitat itself and no messy bunches of droppings congealing on the fake vines. 

For a naturalistic setting, stalks of bamboo can be placed in the tank along with branches and live plants such as snake plants, bromeliads, sansevieria, pothos are all easy and if you are breeding them, female geckos will lay their eggs within the leaves. Orchids, begonias, and ficus also do well in terrariums.  Since these 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 moisture levels. 

Lighting - Their Color Depends on It

The brilliant colors of this species are driven by exposure to sunlight. Captive bred geckos, even those with proper UV lighting for 14 hours per day, still tend to be a bit duller than wild caught specimens. 

In order to achieve and/or maintain the beautiful coloration these geckos naturally develop in the wild, the use of high-quality lights is an absolute must. Without proper heat AND light, Gold Dust Day Geckos will eventually turn drab and dark, even if you purchased the most brilliantly colored specimen in the store. With this in mind, there are a few different ways to light and heat the cage, depending on your budget and preference.

Fluorescent Strip Lighting

One very popular method is with fluorescent strip lighting, such as a ZooMed Reptisun bulb, used in combination with a basking light. In smaller cage setups, this is a good combo, but be sure to choose low wattage basking bulbs in order to ensure you do not overheat the cage. 

Mercury Vapor Bulbs

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 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 prevent overheating.  During initial setup, or when switching old lamps out with new ones, that will be more powerful than the old ones for at least 30 days, use a laser digital thermometer to take several measurements throughout the habitat.  Do this 3 times a day for the first week and make adjustments as needed.  When correctly and safely positioned,  the large amounts of UVB emitted from these bulbs, will encourage your geckos to develop their best possible captivity colors.  

Hardcore gecko keepers housing their animals in the largest possible cages recommend advanced (and expensive) lighting systems. Use of lights designed for growing plants indoors, such as Sodium Halide or Metal Halide bulbs, can develop the absolute best color in your geckos. However, these lights are very large, very hot, and typically very expensive, so research should be done prior to attempting to use these on your animals at home, and daily monitoring of temperatures is strongly advised. 

Temperature and Humidity

Daytime temperatures should be between 80 and 89 degrees on the high end and under the basking light.  The cool side should be between 70 and 80 degrees on the low end. Nighttime temperatures can drop to 68 degrees.  Temperatures above 90 degrees and below 68 will be different than the northern Madagascar and island climate regime that they evolved in.  To keep them happy, a daily regime of temperatures that range from an ambient level of 80 degrees F overall, up to 89 on the hot side and then overnight cooling to approximately 69 degrees, will best replicate their native environmental conditions. For keepers who are not at home during the day, a timer may be needed to control the temperatures.  

Reptile Foggers

For this species, humidity and hydration are intertwined. Therefore, humidity will need to be carefully managed.  The use of live plants and a proper substrate will help maintain humidity levels along with regular misting of the tank.  These geckos seldom drink from a stationary water source like a bowl, so regular misting or a drip drinker, like the Zoo Med Little Dripper, might help to reduce daily misting.

If daily misting is impractical, use of a terrarium fogger is also highly recommended. While being aesthetically pleasing, these foggers will also increase humidity in a natural way, by providing a fine fog that will make condensation on leaves for your geckos to drink. Used in a naturalistic or bio-active vivarium, it can be so effective at maintaining humidity that the need for daily misting is eliminated, and a drip drinker may not be necessary either. 

 The relative humidity should usually be 65-75%. Preferably, it should spike to 80-90% in the morning and evening, and dry out to 50-70% during the day. If the humidity is too high or too low for an extended amount of time, shedding issues and an upper respiratory infections (URI) can occur.

Gold Dust Day Gecko Diet

In the wild, these species lap nectar, sweet sap and juices from over-ripe fruit and pollen from flowers are regularly sought out. But being omnivorous, protein sources are required as well. Day geckos consume invertebrates most commonly, but can select larger prey, including other geckos.  

Their captive diets should consist of around 70% live insects and 20-30% complete gecko diet (CGD). Powdered diets marketed for crested geckos such as Repashy, Pangea, and Zoo Med work well. 

Preferred Insects

A variety of these feeder insects should be offered for maximum nutrition and as behavioral enrichment for this very active species. Bee pollen, honey, juiced tropical fruit, and mashed fruit can be given as occasional treats, but should make up no more than 10% of their diet.

Hatchlings eat pinhead crickets, fruit flies and fruit purée. Their nutritional needs are critical, so great attention should be given to gut-loading feeder insects, providing fruit purée, and supplementing foods with vitamins and minerals. Feed hatchlings daily for the first three months. 

Dusting Feeder Insects

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. Calcium should be offered 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.

Gut Load Feeder Insects

Instead of dusting food items, many keepers gut load their prey items. “Gut loading” means placing the feeder insects on an enriched diet for at least 24 hours prior to being offered to your gecko. This enhances the nutritional value of the insects substantially. A purchased supplement such as those offered by reptile hobby stores is easily available and affordable.  The convenience of a dry gut load diet, purchased from a pet supply house, is undeniable.  However, many experienced breeders and keepers have found these products inadequate, so for the really persnickety keeper (and you know you should be) the following formula for gut loading your feeder crickets or roaches is suggested.

  • 24 pbw whole wheat flour (not self-rising) 
  • 8 pbw calcium carbonate with vitamin D3  
  • 4 pbw brewer's yeast (Not baker's yeast).
  • 3 pbw soy powder
  • 1 pbw paprika (this is to provide beta carotene)

The ‘pbw’ stands for parts by weight, whatever that weight may be.  Think of this formula as a table of ratios. For instance, if you begin with 24 tablespoons of whole wheat, you would add 8 tablespoons of calcium carbonate and so forth. So for every unit of whole wheat flour, you would add 1/3 as much of the same unit of calcium powder and so forth. Place your feeder insects onto this feed for 24 hours at least and then release the needed amount into your gecko’s habitat. 

Improper feeding and supplementation can be the basis for a number of physical ailments. One of the most common problems for these and other captive reptiles is metabolic bone disease or ‘MBD’. Although this can occur from multiple causes, vitamin D3 deficiency is the most common culprit, preventing reptiles absorbing calcium from their food. This can cause muscle weakness and softening of the bones. The gecko will show signs of nutritional deficiency quite quickly, as a wave or dipping of the spine, followed by changes to the shape of the jaw. This can be prevented by providing your pet with a UVB light source as mentioned above, and/or making sure that calcium supplements provided contain sufficient vitamin D3.  Also, choose a calcium supplement low in phosphorus, with a minimum Ca:P ratio of 2:1. 

As mentioned above, water is a very important nutrient for your gecko.  Tap water contains harmful chemicals, such as chlorine and chloramine, so water straight from a tap should be avoided. However, if that is all you have access to, leave a container of it on a countertop or other well-ventilated space without a lid.  Allow 24 hours for the chlorine to dissipate sufficiently for your pet’s safety.  If for some reason that is impractical, some reptile hobby companies make solutions to add to tap water that neutralizes harmful chemicals immediately.  One such product is "Reptisafe" drops made by ZooMed.  Well water, spring water, or rainwater are also excellent options. Whether using a hand sprayer, dripper, or automatic mister, properly aged water free of chemicals is needed. 

Cleaning & Sanitation

Even a bioactive set-up is going to need yearly maintenance.  Plants may need to be trimmed, detritivores (the little invertebrate trash eaters) may need to be replenished and certain portions of the substrate may need to be replaced.  Don’t forget to wipe down the interior of the glass.  If you have friendly, well socialized geckos, remove them gently to a safe spot and spray glass with 10% bleach, following guidance below.  If it is not possible to safely remove your pet or pets, then diluted cleaning vinegar on a rag will have to do.  Do not use a spray.

Conventional set-ups will need monthly cleaning.  Scoop out any substrate and discard. Remove all furniture, water and food bowls, and any live plants. Either soak the furniture and bowls in a solution of 10% bleach for 30 minutes or (my favorite) throw it all in an NSF approved dishwasher and hit the pot scrubber cycle.  The National Sanitation Foundation offers a list of dishwashers that they can certify as capable of providing the sterilization needed.  

While the furniture is washing, do the house itself.  Spray the sides and bottom (paying special attention to corners), with a bleach solution recommended for hospital use. Do not use scented bleach of any kind.  Let the habitat sit for 30 minutes, wipe it down, and let it air out for another hour.  Replace the substrate and furnishings and allow the habitat to come back up to correct temperature and humidity. Wipe down the leaves of any plants thoroughly, including the underside, and place back inside the habitat. 

Common Health Problems

Impaction

Day geckos can occasionally suffer from impaction, usually as a result of ingesting substrate such as small gravel and sand. Prevention is the best remedy in this case, and as mentioned above, these substrates should be avoided entirely.  If the gecko does ingest an object that lodges, this situation may be remedied by a simple lubricant such as mineral oil, while more severe ones will need surgical intervention for their correction.

Dysecdysis

Another common abnormality among day geckos is dysecdysis or improper shedding. This condition is almost always associated with an environment too low in humidity. Regular misting and/or soaking prior to and during shedding will help correct the problem. Unshed skin left around legs or toes can act as a tourniquet and possibly lead to tissue necrosis. 

Respiratory Infections

Low temperatures combined with overly high humidity is a recipe for upper respiratory infections.  Although Gold Dusts are generally hardier than leopard geckos, this is one ailment that they do have in common with them.  Symptoms include:

  • lethargy
  • open-mouth breathing
  • clogged nostrils
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • bubbly saliva
  •  

    If these symptoms are present, a trip to the vet is recommended, as an antibiotic, and probiotic follow up care will probably be needed.  Correcting the environmental problem that caused the infection is critical, as the continuing stress on the animal will almost certainly cause a reoccurrence. 

    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. If purchasing your animal from a local breeder, then this may not be necessary, but if you have a wild caught specimen, or aren’t sure, definitely get a fecal done.

    Careful management of the gecko’s nutrition and environment should guarantee enjoyment of a scintillating pet for many years. 

    Happy Herping!

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