I have an unfortunate tendency to develop an interest in species at the worst possible times,
usually when they’re not available at all. Such was the case with the genus Geckolepis. I had seen them available before, but never paid much attention to them. After seeing how cheap imports are (they’re almost entirely available as wild caught specimens), I decided they’d be worth a try and started researching them heavily. I had heard that they were extremely flighty, would shed their scales in your hand if you ever picked them up, and were strictly nocturnal. While there is an element of truth to these claims, none of them are particularly applicable- in fact these geckos are so much fun to keep.
My geckos were sold to me as Geckolepis maculata, but I refer to them simply as Geckolepis since researchers consider that species to be a complex in need of further study. Due to their ability to shed and regrow their scales when grasped by a predator (hence one of the common names: fish scaled geckos), variations in scalation are not necessarily indicative of different species. Geckolepis are nocturnal, arboreal geckos native to Madagascar and I’ve heard some refer to them as the nocturnal equivalent of Phelsuma due to similarities in habits and diet. Like Phelsuma, they are frugivorous as well as insectivorous, although mine definitely prefer fruit mixtures to live prey items.
I initially found it difficult to sex these geckos, though with practice I can now quickly tell my pair apart and I’m fairly confident that a younger individual I own is also a female at this point. Dimorphism is likely more conspicuous in the breeding season, but males will have subtle hemipenal bulges laterally below the vent. So far my probable trio is getting along pretty well in a 14 inch cubed container. I do make sure there are multiple hiding places so they can escape from one another should the need arise.
As I mentioned before, my Geckolepis will eat insects, but they greatly prefer fruit mixtures to the point that any insects are often ignored if I supply them with something sweet. They are very inquisitive and will walk up to my hands to taste them and see if I’m bringing them anything to eat when I disturb their enclosure.
I recently found a clutch of eggs in my Geckolepis enclosure and I can see another clutch through the female’s abdomen now. Since these are typically imported in our winter months, the geckos are collected in their natural summer, likely toward the end of the breeding season. For this reason I initially provided a heat pad on the back of the enclosure for them to utilize. I am currently keeping the geckos at ambient room temperature, which is approximately 72 degrees. They made frequent use of a heat pad when it was offered to them.
While I can’t speak about the smaller Geckolepis species from direct experience, I’ve had enough time with my larger form to grow quite attached to them. Considering their very sporadic availability as imports and their numerous interesting quirks, amiable personalities, and ease of care, I’m surprised there hasn't been more effort to breed them in captivity. If anyone is considering them, I’d urge you to give them a try. I think you’ll be happy you did and I hope to see more interest in the captive breeding of these little characters in the future rather than the continued reliance on wild collected specimens.
all photos by the Author
All photos by the author