Length: 8 to 10 inches (20–25.4 cm)
Life Expectancy: 15 to 20 years
Gargoyle geckos mainly come from New Caledonia. They are tree-dwellers like their cousins, the crested geckos. The horn-like bumps on the gargoyle’s heads are a distinctive characteristic that sets them apart from other gecko species.
As family pets, Gargoyle geckos do not require a lot of maintenance. They also have a relatively calm disposition that makes them great companions. Gargoyles can tolerate handling once they established a strong bond with their owners.
Gargoyle geckos can live between fifteen and twenty years. Others may even reach thirty years old. The best way to help your pet gargoyle live a longer life is to simply provide his basic daily needs.
Where do gargoyle geckos come from?
This species, scientifically known as Rhacodactylus auriculatus, primarily hails from the lower third of Grand Terre, which is located in the main island of New Caledonia. Wild gargoyle geckos are tree-dwelling animals that prefer to inhabit thick, low scrub and vegetation terrain. It is believed that they chose these places as their natural habitats as they cover and protect them from aerial and terrestrial predators.
This species was discovered by French herpetologist, pharmacist, and malacologist named Arthur Bavay in 1869. The gargoyle’s common name came from the cranial bumps on their head. These closely resemble horns or ears. Meanwhile, their species name ‘auriculatus’ means ‘ears’ or ‘eared.’
How big are gargoyle geckos?
Full-grown gargoyle geckos can be 8- to 10-inch long (20–25.4 cm) from snout to vent. They can weigh about 45–65 grams depending on their gender and genes. It takes around 15 to 18 months for gargoyles to reach sexual maturity.
What does a gargoyle gecko look like?
Gargoyle geckos have stocky bodies and triangular-shaped heads. Their distinctive trait is the cranial bumps on their heads. Much like most gecko species, they have regenerative tails and adhesive toe pads, which allow them to climb up on walls.
Gargoyles come in various skin colouration, spots, and patterns. The most common colours they sport include brown, green, red, and yellow. There’s a wide range of morphs for this gecko species as well. Some of these include:
- Super striped
- Mottled reticulated
- Black and white
Gargoyles can change their colours according to their mood or surroundings. When their skin turns darker and more pigmented, it is in a fired-up stage. Meanwhile, the opposite of this trait is called fired down. Their skin will have a paler and lighter shade.
How long do gargoyle geckos live?
The average lifespan of gargoyle geckos is fifteen to twenty years. Some may even live up to twenty-five or thirty years old. To ensure that your pet gecko will enjoy a long life, always meet his daily needs. Provide him with a clean and proper housing, nutritious gecko food, and loving home.
Get him checked by the vet regularly to be updated with his current health condition. Also, always be on the lookout for signs of illnesses such as breathing difficulties, loss of appetite, sores, lethargy, and lumps. Bring him to the vet for treatment as soon as you can.
Gargoyle Gecko Care
What should a gargoyle gecko’s vivarium setup be?
For young gargoyles, it is best to house them in a small enclosure. That’s because this makes it easier for them to hunt for food. The recommended size for a gargoyle gecko vivarium meant for hatchlings should be no less than 5 gallons. Meanwhile, juveniles must have a tank size of 10 gallons. Adult gargoyles should be housed in a 20-gallon enclosure.
Choose a vivarium that is made of glass with screens on the sides. This type of vivarium is well-ventilated and retains humidity well, which is essential in gecko care. Do not opt for an enclosure that is mainly composed of wires. This type of tank can cause injuries to your pet. Moreover, it has too many airways, making the moisture easily dissipate.
The vivarium should be composed mainly of three things: basking spots, hiding places, and activity areas. There should be at least two hiding areas in the tank. Keep in mind that the quantity will increase if you are housing more gargoyles. As for basking spots, there should be one for each gecko. Activity areas mostly comprise the enclosure. These are open spaces where your pet lizard can explore and move around.
Ornaments and Substrate
Gargoyles have smaller toe pads compared to other gecko species. Provide them with rough surfaces such as corks, grapevines, and branches. These are materials that they can comfortably walk and sit on. Avoid getting ornaments with sharp edges to prevent harmful accidents from happening.
Branches of pine, cedar, and eucalyptus are not safe vivarium decors. These contain substances that cause respiratory problems. Thorny wood and chemical-treated wood are a no-no as well. Go for safe wood for reptiles such as oak, maple, and tulip tree instead.
Substrates are necessary for a vivarium as they help trap in moisture. The most common and safe choices are peat moss, paper towel, artificial turf, and newspaper. Steer clear from gravel, cat litter, sawdust, corncob bedding, and hardwood chips. These are very harmful to gargoyles. When swallowed, it can result in choking and stomach blockage. These may also trigger respiratory problems if their dust is frequently inhaled over time.
The vivarium should have a temperature gradient. This means one side should be warm, whilst the other is cool. The appropriate tank temperature should be between 77 and 84°F during the day. In the evenings, lower the temperature to about 68–77°F. The primary source of heat can be basking lights and ceramic heating lights.
Gargoyle geckos require a basking spot with a temperature of 75°F. You can make one by placing a heat mat outside one of the side panels of the tank if the heat mat can produce light, no need to turn it off at night.
During colder seasons, the heat mat lacks warmth and cannot properly provide the right basking temperature. So you need to use a low-wattage basking bulb in this case. Place it on the warmer end of the enclosure in the mornings.
Closely monitor the enclosure’s temperature every day. You can do this by using a simple dial thermometer or a digital probe thermometer on each side. However, if possible, choose digital probe thermometers as these provide a more accurate reading.
A low-wattage incandescent bulb is a good choice for lighting. It should be on for at least twelve to fourteen hours of daylight during the summer season. When the winter season begins, the lighting should be reduced to only ten hours.
You may want to consider getting a low-level UVB lighting for your gargoyle gecko. This aids his body to synthesise vitamin D3 and encourages natural behaviours. Make sure that the UVB light is turned on for only four to six hours a day. It should not go over the recommended time as it puts your pet at risk of overexposure to UVB, which may result in eye damage.
The ideal range of humidity level of the tank is between 60% and 70%. Make sure to regulate the air’s moisture using a hygrometer as it plays a significant role in your pet lizard’s health. Lack of humidity can negatively affect his shedding, whilst excessive moisture causes the fast proliferation of bacteria.
If a part of the enclosure has low humidity, place potted live plants or water bowls in the area to improve the moisture level. Spraying water and using a humidifier helps too. If the tank is too damp, incorporate the humidity cycle. This means allowing the vivarium to dry out for a few hours during the day. Routine cleaning and UVB light exposure prevent bacteria from thriving in the tank as well.
How often should you clean the gargoyle gecko’s tank?
Removing faeces, shed skin, and leftover gecko food should be done daily. The same goes for washing water dishes and water bowls. Changing the old substrate to a newer one must be carried out at least one to two times a week.
Wipe down the interior of the tank with a reptile-safe disinfectant once a week. Clean the entire vivarium weekly. Make sure to start cleaning in the early morning or dusk to avoid disturbing your pet’s nocturnal behaviour.
Do gargoyle geckos shed?
Hatchlings and juvenile gargoyles are frequent shedders compared to their adult counterparts. Make sure that the vivarium has appropriate humidity levels during the gargoyle gecko shedding season.
It should have a stable relative humidity of around 50%–70% to prevent retained sheds. This is a condition wherein the dead skin dries up and may cut off the circulation on the affected area. As a result, they may lose a tail, toe, or feet.
Mist the enclosure at least once or twice a day to help retain the humidity level. Providing gargoyles with water bowls also adds more moisture inside the tank. However, make sure that the humidity does not go beyond the recommended percentage. Too much can cause health problems such as skin rot.
Regularly monitor the humidity level with a hygrometer. You may want to invest in an automatic mister for geckos too. This will do the work for you, especially if you’ve got your hands full and unable to spritz water in the tank yourself.
To help make shedding easier for a gargoyle, it is recommended that you provide a humid hide. It is typically made from a box or cup that is filled with moist sphagnum moss or paper towel. If a gargoyle’s shed skin has dried on his body, place him inside a shallow water dish that has a small amount of water. Let him soak for about twenty minutes. Then, gently rub the shed skin with a damp cotton bud or cotton ball.
On the other hand, if the retained skin isn’t coming off because it is too wet, clean and dry the cage. Allow your pet lizard to dry out for at least one to two hours. After that, you can try removing the shed skin again using a moist cotton bud or cotton ball. Consider buying a shedding aid too as this comes in handy in getting rid of retained skin.
Are gargoyle geckos friendly?
Gargoyle geckos are low-maintenance pets with a laid-back nature. That’s why they are quite suitable for beginners and experienced reptile owners. They are not averse to handling, especially once their humans have gained their trust.
Be gentle when handling a gargoyle gecko. Do not restrain him with your hand as he will likely want to escape. In the process, he may even bite you or may result in tail loss due to stress. So, allow him to climb up and scurry on your hand freely. Keep in mind to supervise children when they are interacting with gargoyles. It is important to teach them proper gecko handling to keep the children and your pet safe from accidents.
Can gargoyle geckos be housed together?
Young and adult gargoyles should be housed separately. If not, you are putting them at risk of eating each other. Hatchlings and juveniles must be housed individually to avoid fighting. They can be kept together in the vivarium once they have reached full maturity.
With that said, it is greatly discouraged to house two males together. They are quite territorial and may resort to killing each other. A group of gargoyle geckos should be composed of no more than one male, and the rest must be females. However, this doesn’t ensure that fights won’t ensue as females can be territorial and aggressive as well.
It is best if you house gargoyles separately or only keep them in pairs. If you choose the former, make sure that the male and female are of the same size. Otherwise, the one with a larger body may bully their smaller pair. Always look out for bite marks, loss of tail, and weight loss. These are indicators of aggression. If these appear often, you may want to consider housing a gargoyle pair separately.
Also, it is not advisable to house different gecko species together, especially if they are males. As the males are naturally territorial, it is possible that a fight will ensue between the geckos. Also, if one gecko species is smaller than the other, he can be potentially eaten by the bigger one.
Nutrition and Feeding
What do gargoyle geckos eat?
As omnivores, gargoyles in the wild eat not only insects but fruits and occasionally pinky mice too. However, most of their diet is composed of fruits. For this reason, a fruit mix that is high in calcium is a good staple food for pet gargoyles to maintain a balanced diet.
They can eat live insects such as crickets, mealworms, and waxworms, but it is not mandatory. These insects should be fed and gut-loaded with vitamins and minerals twenty-four hours before your pet’s mealtime. This will ensure that your pet gecko will get the necessary nutrients from these insects. Be sure to dust the insects with calcium and vitamin D3 supplements before serving too.
How often should you feed gargoyles?
Adult gargoyles require at least three times a week of feeding. Younger geckos need to eat daily. Insects dusted with calcium and vitamin D3 supplements should be served twice a week only. These are meant as occasional treats since they are fattening. Make sure that the size of the insects does not go beyond the space between the gargoyles’ eyes.
Frozen and thawed pinky mouse serves as a treat too. Give it to your pet lizard once or twice a month only to prevent him from getting obese. Always refill and provide fresh water every day to keep him from becoming dehydrated.
Cost of Ownership
How much do gargoyle geckos cost?
The price of a gargoyle gecko may range from £50 to £200. Getting a complete vivarium setup has a total cost of around £220. This already includes the heat mat, tank, substrate, and thermometer.
For his food, a 228-gram fruit mix for geckos costs around £9.75. You will need to pay about £1.88–£1.99 for 60 grams of mealworms, £8.21 for a tub of 250 waxworms, and £1.88 for five hundred crickets. Meanwhile, buying ten-pack of frozen pinky mice that weigh 1–2 grams will cost you approximately £3.22. Acquiring pet insurance will require you to pay around £4.
Why are gargoyle geckos so expensive?
Gargoyle geckos are not actively bred compared to other popular gecko pets. Their limited availability makes them costly. The type of morph can also affect the pricing of the species. Common gargoyle morphs tend to be less expensive than rarer ones.
- The species’ nickname ‘gargoyle,’ is inspired by the knobs found on top of their heads and their large teeth. These features are reminiscent of stone gargoyles.
- Juvenile gargoyle geckos have long, sharp teeth. They can easily puncture and wound human skin if they bite. Thus, be careful when handling younger gargoyles.