Turner's Thick-toed gecko care sheet


Moderator/The French Viking Moderathorr
After publishing in the GGA newsletter "Chit-Chat",this is my own article on this species :

GGA Cares for…

Pachydactylus turneri

Common Name:

Turner’s thick–toed gecko

Scientific name:

Pachydactylus turneri GRAY 1864, it belongs to the gekkoniae Family.


Morphologically close to the Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauretanica), these are typical geckonids, with large golden brown–coloured eyes and a vertical pupil betraying its nocturnal habits, the hind and fore legs are brown to pale gray with darker markings. The fingers are thick and wearing subdigital lamellae, the head is quite large too, the legs are short and stout, the tail is thick, containing fat stores. Tubercules are scattered on the skin of the back and upper legs. The belly is dirty white with fine scales. Snout-vent length ranges from 70 to 100 mm, the total length goes up to 200 mm but it is in most cases in the 130-160 mm range. They tend to become obese when overfed in captivity. The jaws are powerful and may inflict slightly painful bites. This species is able to climb cliffs and even glass panes, and is quite agile and fast.

P. turneri is close to P. bibroni, it was previously considered as the same species. The differences are quite subtle between both species, they differ in their distribution range and in scale variations: mental scales are large in P. turneri, small in P. bibroni. It seems that only males P. bibroni have white spots on their backs, contrary to females which do not show such spots, and both sexes in P. turneri do not have these white spots. P. turneri is commonly seen in the pet trade, while true Bibron geckos are fairly uncommon if not rare. Nevertheless, I owned several males with white spots, although it is unlikely they were Bibron geckos. My theory is that the pet trade sells Turner geckos as Bibrons, but the latter are certainly misnamed.

The species P. turneri is divided into 3 subspecies: P. t. turneri, P. t. pulitzerae, and P. t. laevigatus, all differing in distribution range and in scalation details. This care sheet will deal with the three subspecies without distinction, as captive care is very similar.


This gecko is found in the South of the African continent, from RSA to Namibia, Swaziland, Angola, Lesotho and the South of Tanzania.

Natural History:

This is a nocturnal species, tree- and cliff–dwelling, often found during the day under loose bark or in rock crevices. It inhabits semi–dry savannahs, the outline of deserts, dry arboreal bushes. They thrive in a variety of climates and are hardy geckos, being less dependent upon ambient humidity than their cousins Bibron geckos. At twilight, they go out of their hides to forage for insect and other invert prey items. They can be found in small colonies up to 20 individuals, even though 2 males will never tolerate each other. The male /female ratio in the wild seems well-balanced.

Housing in Captivity:

For an adult pair or a trio, a vivarium higher than it is wide is necessary, 40x40x70 being an adequate size. It can be an aquarium with a screen mesh lid, or a vivarium with sliding front glass doors. The inside back pane needs to look something like a wall for the geckos to climb on, I made my own design with a large piece of polystyrene cutted to resemble a cliff surface, painted with a solvent-free paint, and covered with non–toxic varnish. Crevices and asperities can be made with a cutter. The substrate is fine, non-dusty playsand on about 2-3 inches, with a corner covered by slightly wet sphagnum moss.

A wet hide made out of a plastic box with a hole and half-filled with wet vermiculite is used permanently, the animals love to shed and lay clutches in such a place. Empty coconut shells and cork bark tiles serve as shelters, and some small diameter branches (1 inch or so) are arranged vertically. A few stones sealed with silicon glue are used for decoration and to enable the geckos to rub against their surface while shedding. A fresh water bowl is available at all times and the water changed daily. Live plants may include pothos, fat desertic thornless plants, or plastic plants indifferently.

A heating wire or a heating mat, placed underneath the tank or isolated by a thin wood plank, will cover two thirds of the vivarium bottom so as to provide a thermal gradient of 24°C / 75°F at the cool end to 29°C/ 84°F at the hot spot, with a small 25W Night Glo® bulb used to have a basking spot with temperatures up to 35°C/95°F. A subsequent night drop of the temperature is required, night temps will be in the 18-24°C /70’s °F according to the season, for 10 hours in summer and 14 hours in winter. I use UVA/UVB lighting with a 8.0 % neon bulb, I think this cannot harm, even though it is a nocturnal species, they are sometimes found basking under daylight. The day/night hour shift is the same that the one for heating.

Once every other day in the morning, the tank is lightly sprayed with water, but not all over, only on the part where sphagnum moss is. These geckos do not need a tropical hygrometry at all. They are fairly resistant to very dry atmospheres, and too much humidity would cause them health problems such as respiratory infections.

Food and Feeding:

Pachydactylus species are insectivorous and do not accept any fruit. Large P. turneri can be fed an occasional pinkie mice, especially for the females after the clutch, it greatly helps them to recover. My P. turneri are fed with a variety of adequate size insects, medium–sized crickets, silkworms, sometimes waxmoth larvae, mealworms without their chitinous cover, and they relish on small locusts. Wild grasshopers caught in the countryside are also greatly appreciated. All food items are coated with a well-balanced supplement, I use Miner-All I®. Adults are fed every other day while juveniles are fed every day. Be careful not to overfeed these geckos, it would shorten their lifespan, breeding capacities, and it could cause lethal liver diseases. All food insects are properly gut-loaded prior to feeding.


Removing parasites must be the owner’s main worry just after buying. Most of P. turneri are wild-caught and systematically parasite carriers, they can be heavily infected with gut worms or protozoans. Before any treatment, a fecal sample should be carried to the closest veterinary lab to determine which parasites are carried by your gecko. A Flagyl® treatment is used against all ciliate and flagellate protozoans, while worm infestations are treated with Vitaminthe® worming paste given 3 times with a 3 weeks delay between each dose, twice the amount given for kittens or puppies as reptile metabolism is very slow. Vitaminthe® contains both oxibendazole and niclosamide as active principles. Mites can also infest these geckos and they should be treated with Carbyl®. A quarantine is necessary for all specimens, and I would advise even with captive-bred ones to check for internal and external parasites.


Females should not be put with males before 12 months of age. Mating occurs through April to June and courtship can cause wounds, as the males turn quite aggressive. Both of my females lay eggs regularly, about a month after the first mating, from the first days of May until August.

My animals are forced to a resting period during 2 months in winter, temperatures are decreased by about 5°C/ 8°F, lighting is only 10 hours per day but they continue being fed though at a slower frequency.

Eggs are hard-shelled and almost round, about 8-10 mm in diameter, and usually laid by pairs. Amphigonia retardata enables females to lay eggs without being fertilized again between the clutches. They are really easy to breed. Eggs hatch after 54 to 75 days, depending if you apply a night drop of the temperatures or not (I do, I think this gives off hardier hatchlings). They are incubated on moist vermiculite or perlite, almost entirely buried in the substrate with a permanent 80-90 % hygrometry, day temperatures of 80 to 87°F (26-30°C) with a night drop of a few °C/°F.

Hatchlings are tiny, about 30-35 mm snout-vent length, and they are kept separately, as this species can be cannibalistic. They are kept in miniature terrariums of 20x20x30 cm mimicking those of the adults as for settings and temperatures. They are offered adequate size prey every day, and their tanks are sprayed a little more than those of the adults.

GGA Rating -1, for beginners

I would like to thank Sophie Cathelain for her breeding female and Karine Delaby for proofreading my English translation .

Legal status:

No CITES required.

Recommended reading:

H. SEUFER, Keeping and Breeding Geckos, TFH Ed., traduit de l’allemand en 1991, réédition de 1995
F.W. HENKEL, W. SCHMIDT, Geckoes, Krieger Publ., Malabar, Florida, USA, 1995.
GGA publication: field Observation of the Thick-Toed Gecko Pachydactylus scherzi by Bruce C. Gates, GEKKO, Vol.4 issue 1.

Hervé Saint Dizier, 2006


Article also available both in French and English on my herp forum:




Moderator/The French Viking Moderathorr
Males have white spots on their backs whereas females don't have such white marks. Here is a pic of the spiny structures only found in males: