Giant Day Gecko Care Sheet (Phelsuma grandis)

The Giant Day Gecko has been on my “bucket list” of reptiles since I was a small boy. So imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity to buy an adult breeding pair of these beauties some months ago! How could I possibly say no?

Since purchasing my giant day geckos I’ve done a ridiculous amount of reading, research and plain-old observation. Now I’m ready to tell you everything I’ve learned, so you too can keep your Giant Day Geckos in the best of health.

If you’re looking for the ultimate Giant Day Gecko care sheet then you just found it 😉

Let’s get started…

Appearance

Day geckos are some of the most visually appealing of all lizards. As the name suggests, giant day geckos are the largest known day gecko of all – a genus known as Phelsuma. Depending on who you listen to day geckos can grow to between 10-12” in overall length, with over half of that being tail.

In terms of coloration giant day geckos tend to be a vibrant green with variable red markings. In the States a number of different “morphs” are being developed, with some specialist breeders selling “high red” individuals.  

phelsuma grandis photo

Wild Habitat

Most day geckos are found on the island of Madagascar and the giant day gecko is no different. They are most commonly encountered in the extreme north of the island, in a wide range of different habitats. While they are found in deep forest, they may also be found living peacefully alongside people, in orchards, gardens and houses.

Indeed, it is this flexibility in lifestyle that has helped them to spread far and wide. These days they are recorded thriving on a range of nearby islands such as Reunion, Mauritius and Nosy Be, not to mention further afield in Hawaii and the Florida Keys. Giant day geckos are therefore born survivors, which can help to make them ideal pets, capable to living in a wide range of different habitats.

Housing / Cages

One of the things that makes giant day geckos such appealing pets is just how active they are.

Anyone who has kept snakes like ball pythons knows that you very rarely see them actually “doing” anything much. They spend most of the day hiding away, really only coming out to poop or to eat the occasional rodent.

Not so with giant day geckos, who are on the go all day every day. Indeed, since getting my geckos – which are housed in my living room for maximum visibility – I now spend more time watching the activity of my day geckos than I do watching TV.

It should be of no surprise therefore that a highly active lizard reaching up to 30cm in length requires a decent sized cage. Like other day geckos, they also climb well, so a tall cage can work very well. Broadly speaking I would suggest a cage of no less than 45cm wide, 45cm deep and 60cm tall either for an individual or a pair.

Having tested out a number of options in recent months the best solution I have found is a glass terrarium like the one below…

Carolina Custom Cages Terrarium, Tall Medium 24Lx18Dx24H; Easy Assembly
  • Our growing family of Carolina Custom Cages Terrariums are very easy to assemble and come in 21 different models. The 24”L models and the 36”L models feature hinged doors. The 48”L and 72”L models feature sliding doors. All terrariums feature key-lock security.
  • The Bio Deep models feature a 12” deep waterproof base. The Bio Deep Hybrid models feature 9” and 12” deep waterproof bases. All other models feature a waterproof base that is: 4” deep on the 18”H models, 6.3” deep on the 24”H models and 7.5” deep on the 36”H models.
  • 24Lx18Dx18H, 24Lx18Dx24H, 24Lx18Dx36H, 36Lx18Dx18H, 36Lx18Dx24H, 36Lx18Dx36H, 36Lx24Dx18H, 36Lx24Wx24H, 48Lx18Dx18H, 48Lx18Dx24H, 48Lx18Wx36H, 48Lx24Dx18H, 48Lx24Dx24H, 60Lx24Wx24H, Giant Deep 72Lx24Dx18H, 72Lx24Dx24H, 72Lx24Dx36H, Bio Deep 24Lx18Wx30H, Bio Deep 36Lx18Wx36H, Bio Deep Hybrid 18Lx18Wx42H, Bio Deep Hybrid 24Lx24Wx48H.

If you live in an area with a tropical climate then an alternative would be to use a net cage of a suitable size.

When choosing a giant day gecko cage the key factors to consider are:

Security – Giant day geckos can move rapidly, scale vertical surfaces and can leap further than you might imagine. A crucial consideration is therefore to ensure there are no gaps through which your gecko can slip.

Also put some thought into routine maintenance like changing the water and adding food – how will you do that with the cage you’re considering? Once again, the Exo Terra cages come in handy here because you can open one door rather than having the whole front of the cage open, allowing you to maintain security effectively.

Environmental Control – Coming from the more tropical regions of the world Phelsuma grandis requires a suitably warm tank with at least one basking spot. They also appreciate a spray once or twice a week to raise the humidity. Just as importantly, your giant day gecko cage should have suitable ventilation to allow water vapour to escape, preventingthe build-up of stale, stagnant air in which bacteria and fungi can thrive.

These requirements mean that wooden vivariums often won’t cope with such conditions, while net cages in cooler climates can get far too cold. In general, therefore, a glass vivarium works best for helping you to control these conditions.

Electrical Equipment – You’ll be needing some electrical equipment to keep your giant day geckos healthy. At a minimum I would suggest a UV light, an infrared or ceramic bulb and a thermostat. Some people also opt to include a heat pad to provide gentle background warmth. This means that you’ll need to put thought into how you’re going to fit all this kit into the cage.

Visibility – Lastly, of course, you’ll want to make sure that you’re able to fully enjoy your giant day geckos. This means that excellent visibility – such as with glass or plastic cages – is a benefit. You might even want to consider where you’ll place your tank for maximum visibility. Cabinets are available to raise them off the ground, creating an amazing focal point in your home.

Tank Decor

Keeping giant day geckos is a perfect opportunity to create a beautiful display in your home. I have found that whilst my own geckos spend much of their time “sunbathing” under their UV light or basking under their ceramic bulb, they still plenty of time exploring their cage. Investing time and money into creating a “mini rainforest” therefore provides just not visual appeal for you, but also a positive environment for your geckos.

Here some elements to consider…

Substrate

A range of substrates can be used with day geckos, including orchid bark or coconut fibre. Personally, after doing some experimentation I have settled on Exo Terra rainforest substrate. This not only looks fantastic, but also serves as a useful medium for live plants to grow in, should you opt for this.

Josh's Frogs Coco Cradle (10 liters)
  • ECO-FRIENDLY ORGANIC and 100% BIODEGRADABLE unlike some reptile substrates that are contributing to deforestation and then go to the landfill
  • INCREASES HUMIDITY for animals that need moderate to high humidity
  • ABSORBENT composition allows it to soak up messes and odors, leaving a cleaner habitat for your pet

Giant day geckos don’t burrow, so substrate depth is less of an issue than with many other exotic pets. Personally I have included around 5” so there is suitable depth to install live plants in the future, but a shallower depth is perfectly acceptable if you don’t want to use plants.

Hides

Giant day geckos are quite bold animals, and will readily explore their cage during daylight hours. All the same, all herptiles should have somewhere safe and secure to hide away from view. This is especially so if you are hoping that your day geckos will breed in the future, as the female will slink off somewhere private to lay her eggs.

Day geckos are arboreal, meaning they’re normally found above the ground, either resting vertically or horizontally on twigs and branches. I therefore think it makes sense to try and mimic this habit.

In my cage I use two different pieces of equipment. Firstly, I have added a number of large pieces of cork bark. Some of these are curved, while others are “tubes” of bark. These are positioned vertically, towards the back of the cage.

Zoo Med Natural Cork Bark, Round, Medium
  • Safe for all reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids (i.e. tarantulas).
  • Can be easily cut to any desired length or shape
  • All natural green" product"

Additionally in the wild giant day geckos seem to have an affinity for bamboo, with the females laying eggs in vertical pieces. I have therefore sourced some bamboo pieces large enough for my day geckos to retreat into if they so desire. You might be surprised to hear that you can actually order this off Amazon, then use a saw to slice it up into the required lengths.

Climbing Branches & Perches

Your day geckos will climb up your cork bark and bamboo, together with the walls of their cage, but giving them more options is always welcome. Most reptile stores offer a range of different climbing branches that can also serve as perches for your lizards. Go wild and have fun, seeing what is for sale in your local store or on Amazon.

Plants

Coming from the forest areas of Madagascar it only seems natural to include some plants within your gecko cage. Many giant day gecko keepers use live tropical plants in their cages. If you opt to do so then ensure you buy plants from a reptile supplier – not a garden center or supermarket where they may have been treated with toxic chemicals.

Alternatively, of course, you can now buy a range of very attractive fake plants and avoid the risk altogether. So far, this is what I have done in my gecko cage. Here’s an example of what I bought.

Water Bowl

Your gecko will happily drink from the droplets left over after spraying their cage, but I think it is good practice to include a water bowl at all times to permit drinking. Change the water daily and scrub out the bowl at least once a week with boiling water or reptile-safedetergent to prevent a bacterial build-up.

Heating & Temperature

Located off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar is a warm country. Therefore unless you’re lucky enough to live in a tropical area yourself your lizards will benefit from some artificial heating.

I suggest aiming initially for a hotspot of around 26’C. Try to position the heater over a perch, to make basking easy for your giant day geckos. In the first weeks of ownership pay attention to their behaviour, so you can modify the temperature at the basking spot as required.

For example if your lizards rarely move away from the hotspot then it is an indication to turn up the temperature a little. On the other hand if you find your pet constantly trying to avoid this area then they may find the hotspot too warm. Adjust as necessary until your day geckos seem happy.

When it comes to choosing the right kit I would suggest that you combine a ceramic bulb with a suitable bulb holder/reflector and a thermostat. Read my full reptile thermostat guide here.

Simple Deluxe 150W 2-Pack Ceramic Heat Emitter Reptile Heat Lamp Bulb No Light Emitting Brooder Coop Heater for Amphibian Pet & Incubating Chicken
  • Long lifespan: the ceramic heat emitter for use in standard E26 lamp base and easy to install, rated for up to 10, 000 hours
  • No light emitted: bulb does not emit any visually detectable light that can disturb the sleep cycle of your pets
  • Specification: Voltage: AC 110-120V; Power: 150W; Material: ceramic, metal, NiCrAl; To avoid scald, please wait at least 1 hour to cool down after turning off the bulb

Please note that ceramic bulbs can get very hot so it is important that your geckos can’t come into direct contact with it when it is on. Read about the safe use of ceramic bulbs here.

Vipe Heater Guard, Reptile Heating Lamp Shade Light Heat Lamp Mesh Cover
  • Mesh lampshade made from high-grade stainless steel, strong enough to guarantee years of usage
  • Reptilesand amphibians are more likely to approach to heat source, the metallampshade can protect your turtles, lizards and other crawling pets fromhigh temperature lamp surface
  • With coil spring design, easy for installation, just clip and go

UV Lighting

As the name suggests, day geckos are diurnal. In nature they are therefore exposed to ultraviolet light, which is in turn used by the body to absorb calcium from the diet, leading to a strong and healthy skeleton. An absence of UV light can not only affect the behaviour of your day geckos but can lead to a health condition known as Metabolic Bone Disease.

Using an Exo Terra hood it is easy to add UV lighting to your day gecko cage. This is the bulb I’m using at the moment. I suggest keeping the light on for around 12-14 hours a day. Also, if you’re new to keeping reptiles then be aware that the UV output of bulbs drops over time. Even if the light looks absolutely fine experts recommend changing your UV light every six months or so for maximum output.

Feeding / Diet

Giant day geckos will eat a huge range of different food types. I suggest offering as broad a range of food as you can, which not only adds to the interest of keeping these fantastic lizards but also ensures they receive a wide range of nutrients. Here are the foods I’m using…

Prepared Commercial Diets

There are a number of powdered foods designed specifically for geckos like day geckos and crested geckos. Just mix one part powder with two parts water and stir. Some people claim that giant day geckos can live exclusively on these commercial diets for their entire lives, but I like to vary their diet regularly.

All the same, they are a quick and easy solution for those evenings where you’re tired or have run out of livefood. Keep it in your fridge and a single pot will last for months; what could possibly be easier?

Zoo Med Crested Gecko Food - Tropical Fruit Flavor 4 oz (113 g) - Pack of 2
  • Powdered food for crested geckos of all life stages
  • Proven great for female geckos for breeding, egg development, and producing healthy offspring
  • Complete, balanced nutrition for day geckos, gargoyle geckos, and other omnivorous New Caledonian gecko species

Jelly Pots

In the wild, day geckos have been observed drinking sweet nectar from tropical flowers. They certainly seem to be a reptile with a sweet tooth! Many reptile shops sell jelly pots, which you’ll see your day geckos licking on occasion.

Feeder Insects

The largest part of my day gecko’s diet is made up of live insects. I order my feeder insects online and I’m always trying them on something new. While almost anything of a suitable size (i.e. small enough to fit in your gecko’s mouth) should work here are the items that seem particularly welcome with my pair:

Curly Wing Flies

As the name suggests, these are house flies that have a genetic abnormality which gives them curly wings. So what? Well, the deformed wings mean that they can’t fly properly, so they’re a lot easier to handle than traditional flies. Just scatter a handful into the cage and watch your athletic geckos leap from twig to twig to hunt them down.

Waxworms

Juicy, delicious and packed with nutrients, waxworms aren’t maggots but actually moth caterpillars. The thing I love about waxworms is just how easy they are to feed to my geckos. I grab a shallow food bowl, sprinkle in some mineral powder (see below) then add some waxworms. Give it a gentle shake to cover the waxworms in the powder and pop the whole pot into the gecko cage.

Locusts

To be clear, I’m not talking about adult locusts here, which would be far too large for even fully-grown giant day geckos. But I like to feed half-sized locusts regularly. One of the real benefits of locusts is that they climb and jump. This way, your gecko’s dinner can come to them, rather than your lizard having to come down to ground level as with waxworms.

Fruit

In line with their sweet tooth, giant day geckos will happily accept ripe fruit. Some examples of suitable fodder includes bananas, papaya and mango. Slice or mash the fruit for easy eating, and be sure to remove any uneaten food later in the day to prevent spoiling.

Mineral Supplements

A varied diet will help to minimize the chances of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, but to stay safe I also recommend that you provide mineral supplements to your geckos. This is especially so for those of us (like me) who are expecting our day geckos to breed. After all, your giant day gecko will use a whole load of calcium to create those egg shells, not to mention the demands of producing baby geckos.

The best option here in my opinion is a dusting powder. If you’re feeding fruit then just sprinkle a little of the powder over the top. When it comes to feeder insects place them into a plastic sandwich bag, add the mineral powder and gently shake it to coat the insects in the powder. They can then be fed immediately to your lizards.

Cage Mates

Many commonly-kept species of reptile are kept alone. Giant day geckos, however, may be kept in pairs if you so desire. Having bought an adult breeding pair myself I have kept them together ever since, and haven’t had any issues so far. In fact, it is quite fun to observe the slightly smaller female wearing the trousers in that relationship!

Note that some keepers have found splitting up a pair, and then reintroducing them some time later, can result in fighting. Therefore if you want to keep more than one giant day gecko together either buy them at the same time, or be very careful about monitoring your lizards for some days after an introduction.

To minimize disagreements I try to provide multiple perches for my pair, so there are fewer disagreements over who has the “best” basking spot.

Behaviour

Since getting my pair of day geckos I’ve been fascinated by the range of behavior I’ve observed. Perhaps the fact that I have a breeding pair has also added to this, as the two lizards communicate with one another.

I’ve seen mating dances. I’ve watched them mating. I’ve smiled at how the smaller female is obviously “in charge” and won’t take any messing around from the male. I see them head bobbing, walking in a jerky way and sticking their tongues out regularly.

All this behavior adds further interest to these fantastic little lizards. Trust me – you’ll never tire of watching them going about their day.

Routine Care

The hardest (and most expensive) part of keeping giant day geckos is getting their vivarium set up right to begin with. However once this is done very little is needed in terms of ongoing, routine care. Here’s what I do:

Daily

While some people feed their geckos every other day, I personally feed mine almost daily (with the odd day off once in a while) and they seem tremendously healthy on this regime. Their water is changed daily.

Weekly

If there is a downside to giant Madagascan day geckos it’s that they like to poop on the glass. Within a matter of weeks their vivarium looks dreadful. Therefore, as part of my ongoing routine I gently clean the glass doors of their vivarium each week. Just spray some water on and wipe it clean with some kitchen towel. Repeat as necessary to get them sparkling.

At the same time I like to give my geckos a heavy spray of water to raise the humidity, to scrub their water bowl clean, and to spot clean the floor of their cage for any faeces or dead insects.

This whole process takes only a matter of minutes each weekend, and keeps my giant day gecko cage hygienic and looking its best. They most certainly aren’t a “high maintenance” pet.

Handling

Giant day geckos are quick and athletic, especially when startled. If handled wrong day geckos will also drop their tail. While your lizard will survive, and their tail will grow back, it never looks quite the same and must be stressful for your pet.

While some people do opt to handle their giant day geckos I have decided not to do so in order to prevent escape or danger to my lizard. Only you can decide what you think is best in your own situation.

Giant day gecko care sheet from a lifelong reptile keeper. Covers every element from choosing a cage or vivarium, to heating, lighting and feeding giant day geckos - Phelsuma grandis.

Photo by berniedup

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Richard Adams

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