Phelsuma sp. / Madagascar daygekko- Care

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Specification Description
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Lacertilia
Infraorder: Gekkota
Family: Gekkonidae
Scientific name: Phelsuma
Dutch name: Madagascar Daggekkos
English name: Madagascar Daygecko's
Reproduction: oviparous / egglaying
Cites: B / II

Phelsuma sp.

Phelsuma species are often called Madagascan day geckos, and this name tells a lot about these lizards and what distinguishes them from many other geckos. That is that these gecko’s are diurnal, whilst most Gekkoidae are nocturnal. There are more than 50 species of Phelsuma known of which many are available in captivity. Over the years we have gained a lot of knowledge about these species in captivity and most species are also bred with great success.


Physical Characteristics:  Of course there is within more than 50 species mutual difference in size, colour and other characteristics. However the base structure and characteristics are fairly similar. Almost all Phelsuma’s have a basic green colour, with some exceptions. The intensity of the green may vary, not only by species but also individuals. Their colours are influenced by overall physical condition, light, UVB range and temperature. This makes them less noticeable at night when temperatures are lower as they hide among the leaves and stems when their colour is less intense. Many species have a collection of red, yellow or black spots or stripes on the head, back, flanks and legs. Their belly is almost always white or cream coloured. But again this may vary depending on the species. They have a typical construction of a gecko. Up to 60% of the length consists of the tail. They are small lizards, the smallest species will only measure 7.5cm while the largest (Phelsuma madagascariensis) will get up to 25cm in length. Their toes have lamellae, these lamellae give the geckos the ability to climb on very slippery surfaces. Including on smooth bamboo trunks and also on glass. Their tail has a broad base and ends in a point. The flat-tailed day gecko is distinguished by having a flattened wide tail that has small inlets on the sides, this is most evident in adult animals. Like many geckos this genus uses his tongue to clean the eyes.


Behaviour:  They are diurnal geckos which mainly live against trees and in bamboo forests. During the evening they will hide against a smooth trunk, a hole in a tree or between leaves. There are species that reside on the trunk and relatively close to the bottom and species that live high in the treetops. Each with its own microclimate. There are a number of species which mainly live on the bottom or between rocks which are characterized by a phenotype with more browns and earth tones. These require other conditions than most tropical species. They love a densely vegetated area with lots of light and heat. Most species occur in moist areas. There are some types of African species that come from a drier environment and thus require a lower humidity. Therefore, it is always important to check well what habitat and conditions the species you like to keep comes from. Climate diagrams and field documentation will tell you a lot.

They are territorial lizards that often do not tolerate others outside the mating season. The females can be also very intolerant towards each other. Males will always try to intimidate and chase another male and bite wounds as a result are not uncommon.


Origin:  Most species of the genus Phelsuma occur in Madagascar and surrounding islands. There are also populations of several species in the Seychelles, Comoros and Mascarene. Below is a list of country and the species that it contains (Source: Wiki)


  • Eastern Afrika; In Afrika some species are only found in the south/eastern regions. Kenia (Phelsuma dubia), Mozambique (alleen Ilha de Moçambique (Phelsuma dubia)), Tanzania (Phelsuma parkeri, Phelsuma dubia) en in Zanzibar (Phelsuma dubia)
  • Madagaskar is a big Island East of Southern Afrika:  Phelsuma abbotti, Phelsuma antanosy, Phelsuma barbouri, Phelsuma berghofi, Phelsuma borai, Phelsuma breviceps, Phelsuma dorsivittata, Phelsuma dubia, Phelsuma flavigularis, Phelsuma gouldi, Phelsuma grandis, Phelsuma guttata, Phelsuma hielscheri, Phelsuma hoeschi, Phelsuma kely, Phelsuma klemmeri, Phelsuma kochi, Phelsuma laticauda, Phelsuma lineata, Phelsuma madagascariensis, Phelsuma malamakibo, Phelsuma masohoala, Phelsuma modesta, Phelsuma mutabilis, Phelsuma parva, Phelsuma pronki, Phelsuma pusilla, Phelsuma quadriocellata, Phelsuma ravenala, Phelsuma roesleri, Phelsuma seippi, Phelsuma serraticauda, Phelsuma standingi, Phelsuma vanheygeni.
  • Islands along Madagascar:  Fandrarazana (Phelsuma guttata), Nosy Komba (Phelsuma madagascariensis), Ste. Marie (Phelsuma guttata, Phelsuma pusilla), Mamoko (Phelsuma guttata), Nosy Be (Phelsuma abbotti, Phelsuma dubia, Phelsuma laticauda, Phelsuma madagascariensis, Phelsuma quadriocellata, Phelsuma seippi), Nosy Tanikely (Phelsuma abbotti), Nosy Sakatia (Phelsuma abbotti, Phelsuma madagascariensis).
  • The Comoren are islands located between the north of Madagascar and east Africa:  Anjouan (Phelsuma dubia, Phelsuma v-nigra), Grande Comore (Phelsuma v-nigra, Phelsuma comorensis, Phelsuma dubia), Mayotte (Phelsuma dubia, Phelsuma laticauda, Phelsuma nigristriata, Phelsuma pasteuri, Phelsuma robertmertensi, Phelsuma v-nigra), Mohéli (Phelsuma dubia, Phelsuma v-nigra), Nosy Mamoko (Phelsuma abbotti), Nosy Mitsio (Phelsuma abbotti, Phelsuma laticauda, Phelsuma madagascariensis, Phelsuma dubia)
  • De Seychellen located north of  Madagaskar:  Aldabra (Phelsuma abbotti), Assumption (Phelsuma abbotti), Astove (Phelsuma astriata), Curieuse (Phelsuma astriata, Phelsuma sundbergi), Denis (Phelsuma astriata), D'Arros (Phelsuma astriata), Frégate (Phelsuma astriata), Desroches (Phelsuma sundbergi), La Digue (Phelsuma astriata), Long Island (Phelsuma sundbergi), Mahé (Phelsuma astriata), Praslin (Phelsuma astriata, Phelsuma sundbergi), St. Joseph (Phelsuma astriata), Thérèse (Phelsuma astriata), eilandengroep de Amiranten (Phelsuma abbotti)
  • De Mascarenen are islands located north-east of the island Madagascar:  Mauritius; (Phelsuma cepediana); (Agalega (Phelsuma borbonica), Bois Blanc (Phelsuma borbonica), Coin de Mire (Phelsuma ornata), Gunner's Quoin (Phelsuma ornata), Mauritius (eiland) (Phelsuma rosagularis, Phelsuma inexpectata), Pailles (Phelsuma guimbeaui), La Poresse (Phelsuma guimbeaui), Les Mares (Phelsuma guimbeaui), Reunion (Phelsuma borbonica, Phelsuma inexpectata), Rodrigues (Phelsuma cepediana, Phelsuma edwardnewtoni, Phelsuma gigas), Round Island (Phelsuma guentheri)
  • In India there is found only one species located on the islands between India and Thailand:  Andamanen en Nicobaren (Phelsuma andamanense).


Basic housing:  House Phelsuma’s only per couple or separately. Most species are very territorial and housing several animals of the same sex together can lead to stress, oppression and fighting. Also combined with similar-looking lizards as Anoles is absolutely not recommended (not to mention that it can also come from an entirely different continent). This also applies to young day geckos.

For an individual or couple of species to 10cm a minimum stay of 45x45x60cm is required. Species that get about 15cm require a terrarium of 60x45x60 and 60x45x90, the larger species such as P. standingi and P. madagascariensis require a minimum sized enclosure of 60x45x90cm per couple. Remember these are minimum sizes, if you can offer more space this will be surely appreciated by the active lizards. The sizes that we mention here are standard sizes of Exo-Terra and Zoomed glass terrariums. A major advantage of these terrariums is their full mesh top. This enables you to easily offer the animals a sunny spot and UVB without risk that animals can touch the bulbs. These terrarium come standard with a smooth backwall. This looks nice and are very appreciated to climb on by Phelsuma’s.

The substrate plays an important role in the uptake of waste and maintenance of the high humidity. Even though most Phelsuma almost never on the ground, it is still an important part in a good day gecko setup. Use a minimum of 7 cm or thicker layer of coco peat as a substrate. This hold moisture well and hardly moulds because of the higher acidity. This ground cover makes it easy to maintain a higher humidity as it is an ideal substrate for many living plants. By adding small animals as springtails, tropical woodlice and harmless millipedes to the soil they will keep the substrate moving and will process a lot of waste like mould and faeces. This bioactive substrate is very maintenance free and the use is becoming more popular. Mix bark, bark, moss and leaves through the soil cover for a more natural look.

Phelsuma’s like to sit on a flat and smooth surface. This corresponds with the smooth leaves, trees and bamboo stems where they naturally live and feel save. For many predators it is difficult to reach these slippery spots. If there is not enough smooth furniture than the geckos will go looking for an alternative, which in the terrarium often means that the animals spend most of their time on the glass. Not only is this a limited surface area, this also means that the animals are continuous vertically. In addition these animals defecate wherever they are so then mainly on your windows. This is easy to clean but not nice if you want to monitor your animals and unnecessary.

Therefor you must provide them with a lot of smooth bamboo and tree trunks of different diameters. Place them horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Besides that bamboo have a good climbing surface the hollow trunks can serve as a shelter. Offer a horizontal branch under the sun spot and UVB light so that the animals can easily bask. Preferably, a hollow stem so that they may be able to heat up out of sight. Add a lot of plants, these can be both artificial and live. Artificial planting is maintenance-free and easy to clean. Live plants have the advantage that they help to keep the humidity higher and offer many extra smooth surfaces and shelters. Choose plants with large leaves such as the Sanseveria and as the large-leaved creepers like Scindapsus or Epipremnum sp.

Lighting:  Daggekkos have a high UVB requirement. Therefore, it is wise to use a good UVB light. Choose a HID spotlight with a lot of UVB. Or a UVB CFL followed by a reflector placed next to a heat spot. Providing UVA light stimulates the activity. The hotspot itself may measure 30 to 35C. The average daytime temperature 28C in the hot part to 25C in the cool part. Night temperatures should not drop below 20 degrees celsius. So it can be necessary also to use additional heating in the evening and at night with a night light or heatstrip against one of the sides. The average humidity for most types of Phelsuma’s is 70% -80%. Illuminate in the summer 13 hours per day. In the cool period 10hrs. Obviously, this can vary per species and natural habitat. So again research the natural conditions of the day gecko species that you plan to accommodate. There are species that require a strong nocturnal cooling, experiencing a dry spell or just require a very high humidity.

Phelsuma’s drink little tot non out of dishes with stagnate water. As many tree-dwelling species are not used to drinking from a pool of still water from the ground. Therefore, spray daily to once every two days covering the plants and furniture. Geckos will drink the remaining drops of water. Optionally, you can place a bowl hanging between the branches in a higher position of the terrarium. Replace this water daily. The offer of moving water, for example a waterfall or drip system also encourages drinking.


Handling:  Phelsuma can become very accustomed to their caregiver. They are very curious and get accustomed easily to eating out of hand or forceps. But this is absolutely not a lizard to handle. You should avoid fixation as much as possible. Phelsuma skin is incredibly soft and damages easily which can leave scars. They drop their tails quickly when in distress. If you have to move the animals is best to move while it is in a hiding place like a hollow bamboo stem. Or by trapping the animal with for example an empty cricket box.


Diet:  The diet of these animals is very diverse. Naturally this not only consists of all kinds of small insects, but also nectar from various flowers and soft fruit. They need to get a lot of vitamins. It is therefore important you provide these animals with a varied diet. Feed 2 to 3 times per week insects. There are a variety of insects that are eaten greedily. Of course, the well-known crickets but sometimes little grasshoppers and waxworms and moths, woodlice and bean leaf beetles or dustcrickets and fruitflies for young animals. Flies (with curled wings) seem to be the big favourite when it comes to insects. Supplement the feeder insects with calcium powder without vit. D3

Also feed soft fruit two times per week. Banana seems to be the favourite but vary as much as possible with, apple, mango, melon and pear. There are also available several diets specifically for day geckos, these are full of vitamins and minerals. You can also sometimes give babyfoods made of pureed fruits such as pear, mango and banana. Note that no additional substances were added to this. This species has a high calcium requirement, especially in the breeding season when the females lay many eggs. So use a good quality supplement.


Reproduction:  With Phelsuma’s one can determine the sex by an average age of 6 months. They reach sexual maturity by 18 months. The gender difference is fairly easy to see, males have on the inner side of the rear legs next to the cloaca clearly established raised scales which are named the femoral pores. Which can be visible in sexually mature animals, but these can already be seen clearly at 6 months. Males also show two clear bulges at the base of the tail behind the cloaca. This is where the hemipenis are located.

Depending on the origin, the breeding period can be seasonal or almost throughout the whole year. A couple often stays close together and mates regularly. The female lays 25 days after mating an average of 1 to 2 eggs. These are often hidden between leaf axils or hidden in bamboo and other crevices in trees. Most species adhere their eggs tightly in a crack or between the leaves. Further parental care is not known in day geckos. With some species it is possible to let the hatchlings stay with parents in the terrarium., as with Phelsumas standingi. However, it remains a potential risk the adults will see their young as a variation on their diet. The eggs hatch after an average of 50 to 70 days at a temperature of from 25C to 28C and an humidity of 70% to 90%

In the terrarium many species breed throughout the year. By decreasing the daylight hours in the winter months you can insert a rest. A female can lay several times a year 1 to 2 eggs, hidden between plants or in a bamboo stem. It is possible to incubate the eggs in the terrarium. Often the incubation lasts slightly longer than in an incubator but the hatchlings are often stronger and bigger. Unfortunately there of a high probability that the parent will eat their young ones they hatch. So place a small ventilating container around the eggs or take the eggs out of the enclosure. For example with the stem they are in, into a terrarium with the same conditions as those of the parents and a higher average humidity of 90%.

Young animals can be fed the same as the parents only smaller items. In addition a larger part of the diet consists of animal protein. Large fruit flies and dust crickets are very suitable for young Phelsuma. Feed daily and as much as they hatchlings want. Raising the hatchlings does not brings problems with it. Please note that young Phelsuma can be very territorial, so it is best to raise these separately.

It is not unusual that the male will bite the female in her neck or sides during copulation. This normally causes minor damage and injuries to the female. In a general sense there is little harm done and a vital healthy female will heal swiftly. But if the female is constantly harassed it is best to separate her from the male. So she can recuperate and rest. 

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