Giant Day Geckos: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide
Giant day geckos (Phelsuma grandis) are a beautiful and popular species of reptile that make great pets for those who have the space and resources to properly care for them.
These geckos are native to the island of Madagascar and are known for their bright green and yellow coloring and large size (adults can grow up to around 10-12 inches in length). Due to their size, they are also commonly known as the Madagascar giant day gecko.
Giant day geckos are active and generally easy to care for, but they have specific requirements that need to be met to thrive.
In this guide, we'll go over everything you need to know about caring for a giant day gecko, including its housing, diet, and general care.
Giant Day Gecko Species Summary
Before jumping into the care guide let's first get a closer look at the species itself to understand its behavior and needs.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Reptilia
- Order: Squamata
- Family: Gekkonidae
- Genus: Phelsuma
- Species: Phelsuma grandis
Giant day geckos are a species of reptile native to tropical and subtropical forests in the islands of northern Madagascar.
In terms of appearance, giant day geckos have slender, agile bodies with large eyes and sticky toes that are adapted for climbing.
They are known for their bright green or bluish-green coloring, with a red stripe extending from the nostril to the eye and red dots or bars on the back. These red markings can vary in intensity and may be completely absent in some individuals.
Some individuals may also have small blue spots, and adult geckos may have large calcium sacs on their necks. Young giant day geckos often have more red markings than adults, but these markings may fade as the gecko gets older.
The underside of these reptiles is usually a creamy white or eggy yellow, but when stressed, their coloration may darken and their red markings may become more orange in hue.
Some rare morph comes with high red with blue background colors as well.
Here are some popular giant gecko morphs.
- Cherry Head
- Super Blue
- Blue Blood
- Super Crimson
- Super Red
- Blotched Crimson
- Blue Blood x Crimson
Giant day geckos are a medium-sized species of reptile, with adults growing up to around 12 inches (30.5 cm) in length with females being smaller than males on average.
In terms of lifespan, on average giant day geckos can live for 6 to 8 years in captivity. However, they have good potential to live longer up to 15 years if the gecko is in good health and is cared for properly. On record, the longest-living giant day gecko in history was 20 years old.
Giant day geckos are arboreal, meaning they spend most of their time in trees or other high places. As such, they require a spacious enclosure that allows them to climb and explore.
A good rule of thumb is to provide at least a 30-gallon enclosure for a single giant day gecko, with a 40-gallon enclosure being recommended. To provide enough climbing space, it's recommended to provide a vertically oriented enclosure. A 24-inch high, 18-inch wide, and 18-inch long enclosure is perfect for it.
It's important to note that giant day geckos need plenty of ventilation, so be sure to choose an enclosure with plenty of mesh or screen for airflow. You can use a glass or acrylic vivarium, or a custom-built enclosure made of wood and mesh.
Whichever type of enclosure you choose, line the bottom with a substrate that allows for proper drainages, such as cypress mulch or coconut coir, or medium-sized pebbles. On top of that, you can add a layer of any reptile-safe bark or organic soil to provide a good base if you are planning to keep live plants.
Since they are from a tropical climate, giant day geckos prefer a humid environment of 50-80%. To achieve this you can spray the tank with water twice every day, use peat moss to naturally retain some humidity, and/or use a fog diffuser inside the vivarium.
To accommodate their climbing need, you can add a variety of live/artificial plants. Vines are a great option in terms of the live plant which provides good climbing space while providing a good source of humidity. You can also add vertical cork bark or bamboo sticks.
If you are using artificial plants, make sure that they are secured in the vivarium, and have no sharp edges.
Temparature and lighting
In terms of lighting and heating, giant day geckos require both UVB and basking lights.
Giant day geckos are diurnal. So, UVB lighting is necessary for the gecko to properly metabolize calcium, which is important for healthy growth and development. A full-spectrum UVB bulb should be placed on one side of the enclosure and left on for 12-14 hours per day.
It's also a good idea to provide a basking light on the other side of the enclosure, which can help the gecko thermoregulate and stay comfortable. The basking light should be a ceramic heat emitter or a basking bulb, and the temperature should be kept at around 85-90°F.
You need to also make sure that the enclosure temperature should not go below 70°F in winter. If it does, use an under-tank heating system to maintain an optimal temperature within the enclosure.
Giant day geckos are omnivorous, meaning they require both plant and animal matter in their diet. In the wild, they feed on insects, nectar, and fruit, and in captivity, they can be fed a variety of insects (such as crickets, roaches, and mealworms) and prepared foods like Pangea Fruit Mix Complete Gecko Diet.
It's important to gut-load insects before feeding them to your gecko, which means feeding them a nutritious diet so that they pass on those nutrients to your gecko when they're eaten.
In addition to insects, giant day geckos should also be offered a variety of fruits and vegetables, such as sliced apples, berries, mango, papaya, and leafy greens like collard greens and kale. Be sure to chop the produce into small pieces and offer it in a shallow dish.
It's also a good idea to dust the insects with a calcium supplement at least twice a week to ensure that your gecko is getting enough of this vital nutrient.
Giant day geckos get most of their hydration from the moisture in their food, but it's still important to provide a clean, shallow water dish for them to drink from. Be sure to refill the dish as needed and clean it out regularly to prevent bacteria from building up.
Unlike many other lizards, including most other types of day geckos, giant day geckos are active during the day. They are generally pretty fragile, and handling them too much is not a good idea since their skin is quite delicate.
Handling can stress them out, and as a defensive mechanism, they may even drop their tail. While their tails will regenerate, it's best to avoid forcing the animal into a situation where it feels threatened and might feel the need to bite, which is their last resort. A bite from a giant day gecko can be painful and may even break the skin.
Giant day geckos are best enjoyed within their enclosures. However, with time and proper socialization, they may become more accustomed to their owners and may even take food from their hands.
Even though some individuals may even tolerate brief periods of handling, it's important to remember that these reptiles do not like being handled and should never be grabbed, as their skin could slough off.
Cleaning and maintenance
Giant day geckos are generally low-maintenance pets, but their enclosure will need to be cleaned regularly to prevent the buildup of waste and bacteria.
It's a good idea to spot-clean the enclosure daily, removing any visible waste or uneaten food. The substrate should be completely replaced every few weeks, and the enclosure should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected every few months. Be sure to use a reptile-safe disinfectant and allow the enclosure to dry completely before adding new substrate and returning your gecko.
Behavior & Temperament
Giant day geckos are generally not the most social of reptiles, and they are known for being somewhat anxious and skittish. While they are generally content to be left alone, they can also tolerate the presence of other giant day geckos, as long as they are provided with a spacious enclosure.
However, it's important to note that males of this species are quite territorial and should never be kept together in the same enclosure, as they are prone to fighting and can cause serious injury to one another.
If you want to keep a pair or small group of giant day geckos, it's best to provide them with a large enclosure and to only keep one male in the habitat.
Like all reptiles, giant day geckos are prone to certain health concerns that can arise if their specific habitat and dietary needs are not met. Some of the most common health concerns in giant day geckos include:
- Dehydration: Giant day geckos require access to clean, fresh water at all times, and it's important to monitor their water intake to ensure that they are getting enough fluids. Signs of dehydration include lethargy, loss of appetite, sunken eyes, and dry, flaky skin.
- Nutritional imbalances: Giant day geckos require a balanced diet that includes a variety of insects (such as crickets and worms) and fruit. A lack of proper nutrition can lead to a range of health issues, including organ damage and decreased immunity.
- Respiratory infections: Giant day geckos are prone to respiratory infections, which can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor ventilation, overcrowding, and exposure to cold temperatures. Symptoms of respiratory infections include coughing, sneezing, and discharge from the nose and mouth.
- Parasites: Giant day geckos can be affected by a variety of parasites, including worms and mites. These parasites can lead to a range of health issues, including weight loss, anemia, and decreased immunity.
- Skin disorders: Giant day geckos can also be prone to skin disorders, such as fungal infections and abscesses. These disorders can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor hygiene, overcrowding, and inappropriate lighting and heating. Symptoms of skin disorders include swelling, redness, and discharge.
- Metabolic bone disease: Giant day geckos are also at risk of developing metabolic bone disease, a condition that results from a deficiency of calcium or vitamin D in their diet. Symptoms of metabolic bone disease include weak bones, deformities, and difficulty moving.
It's important to monitor your giant day gecko's health and to seek the advice of a veterinarian or reptile care expert if you notice any changes in their behavior or appearance. By providing your giant day gecko with a clean, spacious enclosure, a balanced diet, and appropriate lighting and heating, you can help them stay healthy and happy.
Giant day geckos make beautiful and engaging pets, but they do require a bit of work to keep them healthy and happy. By providing a spacious enclosure with plenty of ventilation, a balanced diet, and appropriate lighting and heating, you can give your giant day gecko the best possible care. With a little patience and dedication, you'll have a fascinating and rewarding pet that will bring joy to your life for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do giant day geckos cost?
The cost of a giant day gecko can vary depending on several factors, such as the age, morph, and size of the gecko, the location, and the seller. In general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $250 for a common giant day gecko (young hatchlings being cheaper and adults being costly) in the USA.
If you are looking for a rare, high-quality morph, the cost will be considerably higher. For example, an adult (9-15 months old) Blue Blood morph can cost up to $650.
Below are some estimated prices based on morph quality and age.
|Morph||Baby (1-3 months old)||Young Adult (4-8 months old)||Adult (9-15 months old)|
|Crimson x Blue Blood||$200-$250||$280-$300||$300-$350|
Do giant day gecko bite?
Giant day geckos are generally docile and do not typically bite humans unless they feel threatened. They may try to escape if they feel threatened, but they are not known to be aggressive toward humans.
However, if cornered, they can bite as a last resort. Their bite is painful and can sometimes tear human skin.
Can giant day geckos live together?
Giant day geckos can coexist peacefully if given enough space and proper care. In fact, it's possible to keep a male giant day gecko with one or more females in the same enclosure, as long as the enclosure is large enough to accommodate their needs.
However, avoid housing two male giant day geckos together, as they are prone to being territorial and may fight with each other, potentially causing serious injury.
Can giant day geckos live with frogs?
While it may be possible to house giant day geckos and frogs together, there are some important considerations to keep in mind. For example, it's important to choose a frog specie that is non-toxic and that has a compatible habitat with your giant day gecko.
For example, if you have an arboreal giant day gecko, you may want to avoid housing it with an arboreal frog, as it may compete for space and resources. Instead, you may want to consider housing your giant day gecko with a terrestrial frog, as this can help to create a separate environment for each species.
It's also worth noting that giant day geckos are diurnal, while frogs are naturally nocturnal, so it's important to make sure that each species has access to the appropriate lighting and temperature conditions to suit their needs.
Can giant day geckos swim?
Giant day geckos (Phelsuma grandis) are not particularly skilled swimmers and are generally not adapted to aquatic environments. These lizards are arboreal, which means that they are adapted to living in trees and other elevated environments, and they are generally not found near water.
As a result, giant day geckos do not have the physical adaptations (such as webbed feet or a flattened tail) that are typically found in aquatic reptiles. While it is possible that a giant day gecko might be able to swim if it accidentally falls into water, it is not a natural behavior for these lizards and they may struggle to stay afloat.
It is not recommended to intentionally expose giant day geckos to water, as they are more likely to become stressed or injured in an aquatic environment.
Are giant day geckos poisonous?
Giant day geckos are not poisonous and do not produce venom. These lizards are non-toxic and do not pose any known health risks to humans or other animals when handled or kept as pets.
However, it is important to remember that all reptiles have the potential to carry Salmonella bacteria on their skin and in their feces, so it is always a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly after handling any reptile, including giant day geckos, to reduce the risk of bacterial infection.
Are giant day geckos nocturnal?
No, giant day geckos are not nocturnal. These lizards are active during the day, or diurnal, and are generally inactive at night.
Do giant day geckos hibernate?
No, giant day geckos do not typically undergo a period of hibernation.
Since they are native to tropical forests, giant day geckos are active year-round and do not experience a reduction in activity or metabolism during the colder months. As a result, giant day geckos do not have the physiological adaptations that are necessary for surviving a long period of inactivity and reduced food availability that is typical of hibernation.
Do giant day geckos grow their tails back?
Yes, like many other lizards, giant day geckos are capable of regenerating their tails if they are lost or damaged. This process, called autotomy, is a defensive mechanism that allows the lizard to escape from predators by sacrificing its tail in order to distract the predator and allow the lizard to flee.
When a giant day gecko loses its tail, the wound will quickly heal and a new tail will begin to grow in its place. The regenerated tail, or "regenerate," will typically be shorter and thicker than the original tail and may have a different color or pattern.
Do giant day geckos need UVB?
Yes, giant day geckos require exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) light in order to properly metabolize calcium and maintain good health. UVB light is an important part of the natural solar spectrum and is necessary for the synthesis of vitamin D3 in the skin of reptiles.
Vitamin D3 is essential for the proper absorption and metabolism of calcium, which is necessary for strong bones and healthy nerve and muscle function. Without sufficient UVB exposure, giant day geckos may develop a condition called metabolic bone disease, which is characterized by weak bones and deformities due to a deficiency of calcium and vitamin D3.
It is important to provide giant day geckos with access to a UVB light source, such as a UVB-emitting fluorescent bulb or a mercury vapor bulb, in order to meet their UVB requirements. The bulb should be placed within the enclosure in such a way that the geckos have the opportunity to bask in the light and receive adequate UVB exposure.
Do giant day geckos need a heat lamp?
Yes, giant day geckos require a heat source in order to maintain their body temperature and metabolism at appropriate levels. These lizards are native to the tropical forests of Madagascar, where temperatures are relatively consistent year-round.
In captivity, it is important to provide giant day geckos with a heat source in order to replicate the warm, tropical conditions that they are adapted to. A heat lamp, such as a ceramic heater or a basking bulb, can be used to provide a source of heat in the enclosure.
The heat lamp should be placed in such a way that the geckos have the opportunity to bask in the heat and regulate their body temperature. It is important to monitor the temperature in the enclosure using a thermometer and to adjust the heat lamp as needed to ensure that the temperature remains within the appropriate range for giant day geckos (75-85°F).
It is also important to provide a cooler area of the enclosure for the geckos to retreat to in order to thermoregulate.
How fast do giant day geckos grow?
Giant day geckos grow relatively quickly when compared to other reptile species. These lizards are considered fully grown when they reach a size of about 9-11 inches (23-28 cm), with females generally being smaller than males.
Giant day geckos typically reach this size within their first year of life if they are provided with adequate nutrition and care. However, the rate of growth can vary depending on factors such as diet, genetics, and environmental conditions.
Can giant day geckos eat fruit?
Yes, giant day geckos can eat fruit as part of a well-balanced diet.
Giant day geckos can be offered a variety of fruit as a source of nutrients and moisture. Some good options for fruit include apples, bananas, berries, mangoes, papayas, and melons.
It is important to remember that fruit should only be offered as a supplement to the gecko's primary diet of insects and should not be the sole source of nutrition. It is also important to chop the fruit into small pieces and remove any seeds or pits, as these can be harmful if ingested.
Can giant day geckos eat honey?
Yes, giant day geckos can eat honey but it should be given as occasional teats only.
Why won't my giant day gecko eat?
There are several reasons why a giant day gecko may not be eating. Some common causes include:
- Stress: Giant day geckos may refuse to eat if they are feeling stressed or threatened. It is important to provide a calm and secure environment for the gecko and to handle it gently and infrequently.
- Illness: Giant day geckos may refuse to eat if they are sick or experiencing a health problem. It is important to consult a veterinarian if you suspect that your gecko is not feeling well.
- Poor diet: Giant day geckos may refuse to eat if they are not being offered a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of insects and fruits. It is important to provide a varied diet and to offer a source of calcium and other essential nutrients.
- Improper feeding techniques: Giant day geckos may refuse to eat if they are being offered food in an unfamiliar or unappealing way. It is important to present food in a way that is attractive and easy for the gecko to access.
- Environmental conditions: Giant day geckos may refuse to eat if the temperature or lighting in their enclosure is not optimal. It is important to maintain appropriate temperature and lighting conditions in the enclosure to support a healthy appetite and metabolism.
If you are concerned about your giant day gecko not eating, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian or a reptile care specialist for further guidance.