View Full Version : Pachydactylus care sheet - Pachydactylus capensis and Pachydactylus fasciatus

06-07-2015, 10:08 PM

Above: Pachydactylus fasciatus baby, about 2 months old.

Family: Geckonidae (true geckos, without eyelids). Both species discovered at the end of the 19th Century.

Both these species of the Pachydactylus genus can be kept and bred under the same conditions. P. fasciatus is endemic to Northern Namibia, while P. capensis is widespread in the Republic of South Africa. They are middle- to large-sized Pachydactylus (SVL of fasciatus around 50mm, total length 105-115 mm/5 1/2", capensis up to 62 mm SVL/TL 125mm/6").

Pachydactylus capensis is a very variable species, probably implying at least 4-5 different species. See Die Dickfingergeckos des südlichen Afrikas – Teil XIV: Der Kap-Dickfingergecko Pachydactylus capensis (Smith, 1846)
Mirko Barts, Jon Boone & Frank Müller in Sauria (2013) 33-44 for more details on localities/possible new species of the capensis clade.

There is less variation in P. fasciatus, individuals with a more or less dark background and more or less contrasted are the norm.


Above: Pachydactylus capensis, large form (yellow background and much bigger than the usual other speckled, darker forms). Click on photo to enlarge.


Above: Pachydactylus capensis "small, dark form" pair. Click on photo to enlarge.


Above: typical Pachydactylus fasciatus adult.

Tails of both species do regenerate and are usually slightly longer than the snout-vent length. Tail-waving with the original tails is part of the communication patterns between these geckos. The tails are also used to store fat, though at a lesser extent than in leopard geckos or African Fat-tails.

Both species are nocturnal, being active from the early evening on, and rupicolous (rock-dwelling, living on boulders, cliffs, hiding in narrow crevices and rock cracks during the day). They can also be seen basking during early morning hours. The fingers are thick, the body stout, the head slightly pointed, with relatively large eyes. For more precise morphometric and scalation data, see Pachydactylus knowledgebase - Startseite (http://www.pachydactylus.com)

06-07-2015, 11:25 PM
-If you want geckos which can be handled, both these species are not for you. They are quite fast and small, and you are likely to injure them or to cause them to drop their tails if you happen to handle them. Handling them will cause unnecessary stress and the geckos of these species will readily bite (though due to their small size, it's absolutely not painful) and launch a "defense poo", usually a loose and smelly one, on anyone attempting to seize them.

-These species are relatively rare in the hobby, both in the US and in Europe; that means a breeding plan must be carefully prepared. They are not suitable with complete beginners with geckos and are rather for intermediate keepers who already have some experience with desert/rock-dwelling species or advanced keepers.

-Their territory in the wild is very small - females often use communautarian egg-laying sites. Males of both species are fairly territorial. For this reason, I strongly advise to house both species in pairs only; if housed in trios, the second female will never breed (Jon Boone, pers. comm., and pers. observation as well). Their natural habitat/territory can be as small as a 8-10" boulder with cracks. They are swift climbers and can climb glass. Be sure to prepare an escape-proof enclosure as they will generally retreat under cover when one opens their enclosure but can also easily find a way out while doors are opened!

-I house my Pachydactylus capensis and fasciatus pairs in 12"x12"x18" (30x30x45 cm) ExoTerras. Smaller tanks can be used, such as a cubic enclosure of 1' (30x30x30cm). As for youngs, they should be reared individually either in Braplast boxes or in small glass terrariums, at least 6"/15 cm tall. Housing juveniles together will cause some losses.

-The substrate doesn't matter much as they hardly venture on ground. I have been using fine desert sand for years without any issue. They are not particularly prone to impaction and, unlike leopard geckos, don't swallow sand purposedly. A layer of 4-5cm/2" is adequate. The substrate must be kept dry. A small moist hide will be very helpful so as to help the geckos shedding properly and as egg-laying sites.

-Heating should be done from above, with simple bulbs. No UVB needed. I have never used them with these species and they do very fine without it. Good sources of UVB (8% or 10%, NO COMPACT BULB FRM HAGEN/ExoTerra, choose Arcadia or Zoomed neon bulbs instead for reasons stated on other threads of this forum) cannot harm anyway. I always leave a small dish of calcium carbonate just in case as well as some food for the crickets, in case the latter stay for more than a few hours inside the terrarium.

-I use plain incandescent bulbs, usually a 40 Watts one, plus a heat mat of 8 to 16 watts placed vertically outside the terrarium, right against the rear wall. The heat mat is connected to a thermostat. Though they are hardy species, I recommend not to overheat them, anything above 35°C/95°F inside the whole enclosure will be dangerous for them. Night temps should be in the upper 60s to lower 70s (19-22°C), day temps of 80°F (26°C) in the cooler end and 90-95°F (32-35°C) under the basking spot are suitable for both species.

-Heating and lighting duration: this is very important to trigger breeding and the changes have to be done progressively, such as + 15 or - 15 minutes every week. In winter, for 2 months, only 8 hours of heating and lighting are required, I don't stop feeding them but slow down the feedings and prey quantity, as for summer, heating and lighting should be 14 hours/day.

-Water and drinking: light sprayings in the evenings twice a week are sufficient, it drops to once a week in winter. I always leave a small, shallow water dish with clean water inside their enclosures.

-Enclosure furnishing/setup: their basic needs are rocks to climb on. The problem is that rocks will considerably increase the enclosure weight - and fragility. They may also collapse on geckos if they are not properly secured. I use natural stone tiles sold in DYI shops for decoration and glued with silicon sealer for aquariums on the enclosure background and side walls, they look like a naturalistic setup and one can thus create great visual effects. Tiles or pieces of cinderblocks are used as hides. Natural slate is an excellent material as well. If possible choose rocks and tiles with cracks so that the geckos can just fit their bodies inside some crack to feel secure. If necessary, smoothe the edges of the rocks to avoid injuries on the geckos. They don't use branches much, or even not at all. Some artificial plant hanging from one part of the enclosure top can be used to provide a shady area. I use dry bonsai wood and grapewine wood for mere decoration purposes. They will prefer natural rock to anything else - ready-made shelters in epoxy resin or other materials such as clay. A good ventilation of the enclosure is also essential, though with ExoTerra mesh tops, I cover half of them with a wooden plank to keep the heat inside the tank.

No potted plant is necessary, and unless you are skilled with desertic, non-thorny plants, they will not adapt well to such an enclosure. If you can easily get some limestone pieces, it can be interesting to use pure vinegar on them then rinse off thoroughly to create holes and cracks. Some small diameter hollow bark tubes oriented vertically can be used as well for the cool end, the geckos will conceal inside them.

-Feeding: my own specimens of both species are not too keen on dubia or red runner roaches. The best staple diet is crickets, provided they are properly gutloaded. Baby locusts (Locusta migratoria) work great too. No waxmoths, no mealworms, no superworms, none of these are adapted as feeders for geckos. I dust the prey insects on every feeding with Miner-All Indoors from Sticky Tongue Farms (with D3, adequate amount of it in the contents) and twice a month I add some multivitamins - either Virbac's Vita Reptiles or Nekton Rep. These species need to be fed a lot and often, they have a huge appetite and are great hunters, they also need frequent feeding to thrive and breed. Thus, feeding them 3 times a week for adults and every other day for juveniles will work. Adults will be given subadult/medium-sized crickets, from 8 to 12 per animal. Don't feed too large crickets which could attack or bother the geckos, and never use the black crickets known as Gryllus bimaculatus (very aggressive, can seriously wound the geckos).

-Brumation: As stated above, I give both species a 2 months winter rest without stopping to feed them. I don't need to lower the temperatures as my reptile rooms are just naturally cooler in winter. There is a difference of at least 5°C/8°F between the day temps in the middle of winter and in summer.

-Breeding: usually in Spring, but it can happen at any time of the year except during the coldest months. If the geckos start breeding as you are lowering the heating/lighting duration and temps, one should delay brumation until they stop laying. I have up to 8-9 clutches a year with an average of 22-25 days in between. The eggs are calcified, hardly bigger than a green pea (6-7 mm) and very fragile, thin-shelled, so they must be removed with great care. They are always buried in the substrate without any visible sign (no sand mound). I have not enough data to talk about TSD in these species but I think from my experience cooler temps produce more females. I place eggs on dry perlite in plastic caps, these caps lay inside plastic cricket boxes with a lid, half-filled with a mix of perlite and coconut mould, only slightly moist. Too humid incubating conditions will spoil and ruin the eggs. It should be below 70% humidity in any case. Incubating at 23-25°C at night and 28-28,5°C during the day is safe. Juveniles hatch after an average of 58-63 days in both species, though I have had fasciatus hatched after only 47 days and capensis hatching after 71 days. Fasciatus juveniles, as most Pachydactylus babies, are very different from the adults and very colorful, while capensis babies look like miniatures of the adults. They are transferred in individual enclosures as explained above, with the same temperatures, more frequent mistings (3 times a week), and a small flat rock or two, and can be fed 48 hours after hatching with pinhead crickets. Paper towels are safe with babies, I generally don't use sand with them.

CITES: both species not included. The biggest problem is that legal imports from their countries of origin almost never happen.

European prices: 150 to 300 for an adult pair, in euros; about the same price in USD on the other side of the Ocean.

On the one hand, they pose far less problems than more widespread species - no impaction issues while using sand, shedding issues very rare, usually no problem to get them to eat a lot, all of them are supposed to be captive-bred. Still, it is possible (and you will normally not know it) to end up with smuggled animals which have internal parasites in 100% of cases. Don't try to bring some back from Namibia or South African, both countries have very strict policies about smugglers! On the other hand, as they are rare in the hobby, it will not be easy to find breeders, though there are some in the US and in Europe too. One has to be careful to mix the bloodlines, as the number of captive individuals able to breed is rather low outside South Africa. But both species are really beautiful animals which will breed readily if properly kept and fed. They belong to the huge group of gecko species which are underrated, poorly known, this is the reason why I decided to share my experience with them, hoping to have more people eager to work with them.

As for capensis, make sure you breed the same forms together, as they may be different species as stated at the beginning.

The most common mistakes are to keep them too dry and too warm, or too humid. When you spray them and their enclosures, always do it lightly and with lukewarm water. If they happen to escape, they will usually sit on a wall under cover in the narrowest possible space, in 90% of cases inside the same room, they will never attempt to go outside if windows are opened, and can be found back in most cases in a 3 meters/10 feet radius around their enclosure.

As for breeding age, they grow surprisingly fast but are only ready to breed at about 2 years old - under this age, females are at risk of egg-binding or other severe complications, and it is not safe to introduce them to a male before that age. Never keep babies with the adults, they would be eaten.

Many Pachydactylus species can be kept exactly like fasciatus and capensis. I keep my P. visseri, P. geitje and P. tigrinus Mozambique form in the same way. There are particular cases in the genus such as P. rugosus, P. haackei, P. bicolor, P. maraisi, with which I have experience, and captive care is a bit different for the latter.

Pachydactylus species are generally hardy species, with awesome colors on babies and really nice patterns and colors on adults, really interesting as display geckos, not that complicated to care for with a bit of experience, and would deserve a bigger number of gecko enthusiasts working on them.

© Hervé SAINT DIZIER (THORR GECKOS), June 2015, all rights reserved. Unauthorized pasting or use without the agreement of the author prohibited by international copyright laws.