The genus Sphaerodactylus belongs to the sub-family Sphaerodactylinae (ball finger geckos).
With about 100 different species, this puts Sphaerodactylus in the lead for having the most species of geckos within a genus. Furthermore the genus contains as many subspecies as species. The main distribution of this genus comprises the large and small Antillen islands, as well as the Central American mainland. The largest biodiversity can be found on Hispaniola where about 35 species live, followed next by Cuba. Approximately 25 species can be located in Cuba. The northern most distribution boundary is in Florida with 3 species. A few species occur down to the Brazilian east coast, which is the southernmost distribution zone of the actual ball finger geckos. All representatives of the genus Sphaerodacylus are very small insectivorious lizards. The largest species such as Sphaerodactylus dimorphicus and Sphaerodactylus torrei reach a total length of 8 centimeters. The smallest, Sphaerodactylus ariasae and Sphaerodactylus parthonopion, reach a mere 3.8 centimeters in length and are therefore considered to be the smallest known lizards in the world. The round pupils allow these geckos to see best during the day and evening hours. Many types also show sexual dimorphism where the males and females can sometimes look like different species.
The geckos of the genus Sphaerodactylus live in conditions ranging from dry to half damp and partlially damp areas.
Sphaerodactylus can be kept in pairs in small tanks (20x20x20cm) (8”x8”x8”). The walls are decorated with a stone-imitation out of tile adhesive, covered with sand. The soil is a mixture of 2/3 cocos-soil and 1/3 sand. On the bottom and at the walls there are pieces of cork-bark as hiding places. The tanks are decorated with different natural plants, like small Bromeliads (Neoregelia spp., Tillandsia spp.), Peperomia spp., Pilea spp., Begonia spp. and Episcia spp. In every tank there is a bowl with water and one with crushed eggs-shells. The tanks are lightened by one T5 bulb (Narva, BioVital) and one 10 Watt halogen-spot (just 2x for 30 minutes/day). In summer the bulb is switched on for 12 hours/day and in winter for 8 hour/day. The lightning produces enough heat to reach a maximum temperature of 30°C in summer in the tank. Direct sunlight should never shine in such a small tank - the geckos will already be cooked after some minutes! In the night the temperatures fall down to 22-24°C (71.5 – 75.2 F). In winter the temperatures are 2-4°C (3.5 – 5 F) lower, so that the geckos stop breeding and the females are able to regenerate. The tanks are misted every second day. The humidity is 50-70%.
Sphaerodactylus need very small food and that´s the biggest problem. Even the smallest crickets in the store could be too big for them. The food shouldn´t be broader than the mouth of the gecko! You should supply them with a wide variety of invertebrates, like crickets, firebrats, woodlice, greenflies, Drosophila and springtails. The easiest way to have enough small food is to breed it on your own. The food should be dusted in turns with Reptivite and Calcium-powder. The juveniles of some species have a total length of only 2 cm (less than 1”) and they should be raised under the same conditions as the adults. Especially these need the smallest food you can obtain!
Top left- Sphaerodactylus elegans juvenile
Top right- Sphaerodactylus macrolepis ssp blue eyes male
Bottom- Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus granti female
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All photos by the author