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tanala
02-07-2008, 04:00 PM
Care and breeding of the Large-scaled Thick-toed gecko, Pachydactylus scutatus
by Sebastian Wolf

Introduction
P. scutatus is endemic to northern Namibia and southern Angola. They live in dry, rocky desert-like areas mostly on the ground (under and between rocks). Males are able to produce relatively loud (in comparison to their small size) noises, that can be also heard in captivity during the evening and night.
Maximum total length is about 11-12 cm. Sexes are difficult to distinguish. There's no dichromatism, and males show no distinct hemipenal bulges.
Juveniles have a bright yellow-golden dorsal colour with a yellow-brown head and a thin white stripe on the neck; limbs are greyish. Adults are totaly different coloured with a bright brown body colour and dark brown spots. Especially the tail is very rough-scaled, a feature they share with some other species in this genus. Colour changing starts when they are 2-3 months old, at a certain body size.

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Care
Care is absolutely easy. As it is a nocturnal species, no special light is required, a simple spot or even the light coming from the window or other terrariums suffices. This species doesn't require lots of space, i keep mine succesfully in plastic boxes with a ventilated lid that have the dimensions of 30X20X25 cm (LengthXdepthXheigth). However, in such small enclosures only one adult animal should be kept. If you want to keep a small group or a pair (don't house two males togther as they will likely fight), a larger cage is recommended. Cage equipment can be rather simple; i use two hiding spots made from clay and a piece of wood on a thin sand layer. A substrate depth of 3 cm is enough for females to bury their eggs. Sand should not be sharp-edged as the geckos spend most of their day time resting directly on it. I provide a small water bowl and mist them SLIGHTLY once a week with water supplemented with a fluid vitamin solution.
They can even tolerate pretty high day temperatures up to 40, but i made good experiences with temperatures between 25 and 35C, provided by a weak heat cable under one part of the cage. As for other geckos, temperatures under the shelters should differ of each other so the animals can choose the suitable range. At night, it can drop according to the room temperature.

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Feeding
This species takes almost anything that fits into their mouth. Preferred food are wax moths and crickets, but they also take small beetles, spiders, roaches, firebrats and so on. Supplementation of the feeder insects depends on the gender: females need more calcium than males. If your supplementation is too heavy, males will develop big white bumps on side of the head. You have to check some time to find the proper amount.

Hibernation
In winter, the heat cable is turned off and light duration is slightly reduced (from 14 hours to 8 hours). At my room, tempertures drop down to 20 by day and 15-18 by night. I dont know if breeding is also succesful without such a colder, darker period.
Temeratures and light duration increases in spring, after 2-3 months of hibernation.

Breeding
If animals are kept separate through the year, they will probably mate soon after they have been put together. After 3 weeks, females can lay their first eggs, they can drop lots of clutches in one season, so take care of the females, they need good supplemetation and enough food. This is one of the species that have sperm retention, so one mating suffices for the whole season. My females burried their eggs always under the warm hiding spots (over 30C). They are hard shelled, but shell is very thin, so be careful when removing them. I used a standard incubator and temperatures between 25-30C. Eggs are put on dry sand; the sand is occasionally moistened with some drops (but don't moist the eggs). Under these conditions i had a hatching rate over 90%. Incubation time can vary a lot, depending on temperatures. At the moment, i cannot tell if they have temperature-dependent sex determination or genotypic sex determination. If someone has data, i would be glad to hear about.

Hatchling care
Rearing is also very easy. You can keep small groups of 3 juveniles of the same size or each juvenile separate. Hatchlings are small (3,5 to 4 cm TL), so cages should be rather small. They are fast as hell, always have one eye on them when opening the cage. The colour depends on the temperature. higher temperatures, the yellow is much more brighter. I feed them every two or three days, mostly crickets, roaches (Blatta lateralis) and firebrats, dusted with a calcium and a calcium-vitamin powder every or every other feeding.

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Conclusion
This species deserves more attention from serious hobbyists. They are extremely easy to care for, and also easy to breed, they show brilliant colours as juveniles and nice pattern and scalation as adults and require only small cages. Therefore, this species is an interesting alternative to some of the more common gecko species in the hobby. The biggest disadvantage IMO is their shy, flight behavior.

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