Fantastic, Eyelash, or Satanic Leaftail Gecko
Note from the Author:
I have kept and bred satanic leaftail geckos since 2003. Ever since I got my first one, I have been hooked on the species. Contrary to what people now recommend, I bought satanics as my first leaftail geckos, much less my first “advanced” gecko. In the time I have dealt with the species, I have learned a lot, as I expect you will if you decide to keep this species. While I admire satanics, I often find myself not recommending people purchase satanics or leaftails in general. The reason for this is after a few years of trials and tribulations, but more so daily care and attention. One must realize the species cannot tolerate neglect. This means if you plan vacation, you must have someone competent with their care handy to watch over them. Neglecting to do so can cause unfortunate and unnecessary losses. However, reading what you can about the species, and analyzing your own abilities should help you determine if satanics are the right animal for you. They do not make good pets, nor do they take well to being handled often. These geckos are best appreciated visually, and most people strictly consider them a display animal.
I would like to mention that this caresheet is not intended to be the “absolute” in the care for Uroplatus phantasticus. More so, it is a collection of details on the care of this species with which I have been successful. I also hope that it will provide a more complete guide to their care as most caresheets are brief and lack significant detail. While this caresheet is intended only for consideration with U. phantasticus, I believe that many sections contained herein can be generalized for use with other Uroplatus species. I caution only experienced keepers of these species to attempt such generalizations. All in all, I attribute common sense to be the greatest asset to successfully keep and breed satanic leaftail geckos.
Origin and Background:
Satanic leaftail geckos come from tropical forests, generally along the central to northern east coast of
As of January 2005, all of the members of the genus Uroplatus have been given CITES recognition, with most species common in the hobby listed in appendix II. The guidelines for appendix II listing is described below, in an excerpt taken directly from the CITES website:
“Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. It also includes so-called "look-alike species", i.e. species of which the specimens in trade look like those of species listed for conservation reasons (see Article II, paragraph 2 of the Convention). International trade in specimens of Appendix-II species may be authorized by the granting of an export permit or re-export certificate. No import permit is necessary for these species under CITES (although a permit is needed in some countries that have taken stricter measures than CITES requires). Permits or certificates should only be granted if the relevant authorities are satisfied that certain conditions are met, above all that trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. (See Article IV of the Convention)”
For a description of the reasoning behind placement of the genus Uroplatus on CITES, follow the link below.
You can find CITES quotas for different years following this link:
Uroplatus phantasticus (along with a few other Uroplatus species) is conspicuously missing from the list of 2010 quotas, and many other Uroplatus species quotas have been drastically reduced (check out page 23 of the 2010 quota).
Selecting an Animal:
Satanics come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. There are reds, tans, browns, purples, and just about everything inbetween. Some individuals are fairly plainly colored, while others are very mottled. It seems as though mottled animals are more highly sought after than plain individuals. Why? I am not sure, but I would imagine some people find them more visually appealing.
Most satanic leaftail geckos you find available are fresh wild-caught (WC) imports. Sometimes you will find long-term captive (LTC) and rarely captive bred (CB) or captive hatched (CH) animals. LTC, CB, and CH animals are obviously more desirable than fresh WC animals, however they will most often also come at a higher price. CB geckos carry the benefit of a much lower probability of carrying parasites and a much higher chance of being well-adjusted to life in a terrarium. This is not to say that CB geckos are completely void of all difficulties. LTC animals share with CBs the greater likelihood of being well-adapted/acclimated to their new life in a terrarium. Whenever purchasing an animal, be sure to ask whether it is a fresh import (and if so, when it arrived in the seller’s hands), whether it is long-term captive (and if so, how long it has been in captivity), or whether it is CB (and if so, how old is it, and who bred it).
Fig 1. U. phantasticus in a deli cup with moistened moss fiber.
Once again, the vast majority of satanics on the market are imports. Some people have asked me “well, how do you tell if it really is CB or LTC if they tell you so?” Really, it is difficult for me to answer that question. Anyone can get a fresh import and try to sell it as LTC or CB. LTCs are practically impossible to determine whether or not they are genuinely LTC. Some people consider a month to be long-term captive. Personally, I consider 6 months or more to be long-term. I don’t think a person can substantiate a higher price on an animal just because they kept it alive for a few weeks.
Have a close look at the gecko. Try to see if you notice any tiny red specks, as some fresh imports carry mites. These can be easily treated without the help of a vet. However, if you can get an individual free of external parasites, it is that much healthier, and needs less treatment. Next, take a look at the eyes. Are they sunken into the head? Sometimes the eyes will sink into the sockets when a lidless gecko sleeps, but sometimes it can be a sign of an animal headed downhill.
Has the animal shed or does it look like it is soon going to shed? One indicator of an animal that is very ill is an incomplete shed. At the same time, when a lot of animals are presented together, of course some of them are going to be ready to shed.
Take a look at the overall body size of the animal. Satanics are naturally slim geckos. Is the body nearly flat? If so, this animal is obviously underfed and could be weak. Handle the gecko if you can, but be very gentle and careful, for sometimes they can get jumpy and won’t hesitate to jump from your hand 5 feet from the ground. Gently touch its hind feet and see how it reacts. Does it start walking or otherwise move away? This shows the gecko is at least somewhat alert. What you do not want is a gecko that does not respond, as that could be a sign the gecko is sick.
One of your best indicators of the state of health of a leaftail gecko is simply the state of its tail. Now it is possible a satanic will not have a tail, as when they autotomize, the tail does not regrow. Some other leaftail species however, will regrow an autotomized tail. A satanic missing a tail can be extremely difficult to tell from a spearpoint leaftail (U. ebenaui), so I recommend unless you recognize the species very well, do not choose a tailless satanic, as it could be mistaken for the other species. Furthermore, the missing tail is one of the easiest health indicators to “read” about a gecko. I suggest you do not choose a tailless gecko if it is the first one of this species you have ever bought. The tail should be flat and relatively streamlined in its attachment to the body. In some cases, it will look like a dead leaf that has been chewed by insects. In other cases, it will simply look like a regular leaf, perhaps like the leaf of a ficus tree. It should terminate with a very thin cylindrical tip. If the tail curls under from the sides, the gecko is dehydrated, and possibly near death. However, many fresh imports are dehydrated and can be restored to health with thorough and proper care and attention.
Fig 2. This gecko arrived in poor condition and perished soon after. The tail was thin (which is not always necessarily an indicator of bad health), as was the gecko. It regurgitated a meal as well. The seller was notified and reimbursement was made.
Figs 3-4. These two juvenile females dropped their tails for reasons other than their health, however the tails will never regrow.
If purchasing your gecko online, ask if the seller can email pictures of the individual(s) for sale prior to buying. Some people will demand extra cost for this service, or simply don’t have a digital camera. I would be weary of these people, as this could result in you getting an animal in poor health, which would be easy to see in any photograph.
Where to Purchase:
There are several places to find satanics for sale. My preference is to search for them at reptile and exotic animal expos. Your other option is to search for them in classified sections that are available on many reptile hobbyist websites and forums. On rare occasions, local pet shops will acquire a few specimens. I prefer to buy animals at a reptile expo for the simple fact that you get to choose the exact animal you buy, and it is there in plain sight, so you can easily examine them visually.
Online buying can carry a greater risk than buying at a reptile show. Some sellers can carry a good reputation, others can have bad reputations, and others can have no reputation at all. Obviously, you will likely have a better experience with a reputable seller. To find the reputation of a seller, first you can search an online Board of Inquiry (BOI). A well-known BOI can be found on Faunaclassifieds.com. Here, you can search for the name of an individual or business. Viewing such testaments is free to the public, however reports have become a pay-only service to deter “flaming,” “trolling,” or slander towards certain people or businesses. Beware accounts that are one-sided. I suspect many negative responses about sellers may come from buyers whose animal(s) perished sometime after arrival, and unfair attacks may fall on the sellers whose policies do not allow for the return of their money after it has been sent. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO READ A SELLER'S TERMS OF SERVICE OR OTHER POLICIES REGARDING BUSINESS.
Some sellers are very protective of the animals they sell, and strive to do their best to find suitable homes for their animals. A seller may actually contact you to make sure you can provide a proper home. This is more likely from someone selling personal stock or offspring. Other sellers may not contact you at all.
I recommend that you contact the seller by email as well as by phone. Email is obviously the first line of contact when buying online, and at that point you should request a telephone number. Be sure to include your shipping address in the email. If email is not involved, and your order is placed over the phone, spell out your address letter for letter and number for number, and have them repeat it for you afterward. This is to avoid any miscommunication and prevent shipping troubles due to inaccurate information. Many people, myself included, have had problems arise in shipping due to incorrect addresses or miscommunication about shipping/receiving dates.
The pricing on ALL leaftail geckos has changed dramatically since January 2005. At that point, the entire genus was listed on CITES appendix II, which regulates the import of the animals. Some of the species were/are getting consideration for CITES appendix I, which will further limit the trade of the species. Currently, paperwork is required for the import and export of these animals. However no paperwork is required between sellers and buyers within the
Today, you will rarely find satanics sold at a price less than $100 (USD) each. Recently, the majority of sellers list these geckos for $125 a piece and I now consider that the “average” price. Some sellers demand a higher price for specific individuals, based on sex, color/pattern, and even whether or not they are gravid. I have seen individuals demand upwards of $400 per pair, but I wouldn’t go as far as to pay this much. Some people will mention “sure these prices are high, but
NOTE: AS OF 2011, IMPORT QUOTAS OF SOME SPECIES OF UROPLATUS HAVE BEEN REDUCED TO ZERO.
There are times when even WC leaftails are hard to find for sale, but that simply means that none have been imported recently. Some people hang on to certain quantities of exports for times like these, when they will suddenly be the only person offering them for sale, demanding outrageous sums for the animals. Don’t be fooled. If exports from
The best thing I can recommend you do when price hunting, is to take note of average prices, quantity prices, and the people who seem to sell them most. But you don’t just want to buy from someone who sells a lot of them, you want to buy from someone who pleases a lot of customers, and furthermore provides a life/health guarantee on the animals they sell. Most often it is merely a live arrival guarantee, but people who know they are selling quality animals, especially LTCs and CBs, should provide a 3 day to 1 week life/health guarantee. It is also good to ask a seller for references. Of course, in some occasions you may be given the opportunity to buy from someone’s personal collection. These people don’t always sell to the public; therefore they might not have references to provide you. In cases like this, ask plenty of questions…you can find out whether a person has quality animals by asking them questions about their care procedures and recommendations.
Anywhere from one individual to a trio of these geckos can be kept in a 10 gallon (50cm x 25cm x 30cm) tank. Personally, I prefer going with slightly larger tanks, as these are arboreal animals and will climb around at night on the cage furnishings you provide. The minimum I use for a single animal to a pair of animals is a 15 gallon tall terrarium (50cm x 25cm x 40 cm). I strongly recommend placing your gecko in a naturalistic vivarium. I feel this not only helps the gecko feel a little more at home, but it also helps maintain higher humidity. A screen top, or even screen sides, are essential for proper ventilation. For larger groups, I would recommend doubling the tank size for each pair. Overall, I keep different numbers of satanics in different sized vivaria, ranging from 15 gallon tall (50cm x 25cm x 40cm), to 20 gallon tall (50cm x 25cm x 60cm), to 30 gallon long (90cm x 30cm x 40cm). I do not recommend use of all-screen enclosures with this species, as they will not hold vital humidity.
Fig 5. Extra Large Exo-terra terrarium.
Fig 6. 16 gallon tall terrarium.
Fig 7. 20 gallon tall terrarium.
Fig 8. 30 gallon long terrarium.
Different hobbyists still debate whether or not to use UV lights with any of the leaftail geckos. Some argue that since they live in the cool understory of the forests they live in, little light penetrates and consequently little, if any UV light reaches them in the wild. On the other hand, in many reptiles, UV light is required for proper synthesis of calcium. The counter-argument is that supplementing the diet with vitamin D3 abolishes the need for UV lighting, as vitamin D3 will help with calcium synthesis. So really, you can go either way. Either provide UV light for your gecko and supplement your insect feeders with a powder lacking vitamin D3, or don’t provide UV light and make sure your supplement carries vitamin D3.
The problem with fluorescent UV lights is they are expensive. I recommend using fluorescent lights no matter what, as incandescent lights put off too much heat and can be a threat to your geckos. But fluorescent UV bulbs tend to be $20+ a piece. I use both fluorescent strip lights and compact fluorescent lights. The quality of the UV put off by the fluorescent bulbs also becomes skewed over time. Most people recommend changing the UV lights on the tank every 6 months. If you have a sizeable collection, this can become too overwhelming of a cost. This is one of the decisions that is entirely left unto you. But if you decide to go with the UV bulbs, I recommend 5.0 tropical bulbs, but as far as compact fluorescent bulbs go nowadays, I find it difficult to find anything below 7.0 UV. I have not used any of the 7.0 UV compact fluorescent bulbs on my satanics.
Plants and Cage Furnishings:
Suitable plants are totally up to individual preference; however my animals have taken well to three common staples in the vivarium: Ficus benjamina (Ficus, aka weeping fig), Epipremnum spp. (aka pothos), and Philodendron spp. Ficus can be difficult to maintain and grow in some vivaria; I have found UV light makes a marked difference in keeping ficus alive. There are many species of ficus, and Ficus benjamina is probably the most readily available. Small plants can be bought for as little as $3 at the local home improvement store. Obviously, you don’t want to put any kind of cactus, or any inherently dangerous plant in with your valuable geckos. However, most other plants available at your local Lowe’s, Home Depot, or whatever the store is named in your area, will work just fine.
Fig 11. Philodendron.
Fig 12. Pothos with sleeping U. phantasticus.
Fig 13. Ficus benjamina is often a favorite plant to use in enclosures, as the leaves closely resemble the tails of U. phantasticus.
Some plants may be covered with some pesticides, so it is not a bad idea to wash the leaves of plants you plan to use in your vivarium. After all, these leaves will likely be the dinner plates and drinking glasses of your geckos.
You would like to provide the animals with relatively dense plant coverage, as they will likely prefer to sleep in this during daytime hours. The shelter and camouflage provided by dense plants will help to ensure your animal feels secure in its new home. I would not suggest jamming the vivarium full of plants so it is difficult for even the geckos to get around. Provide branches around spaces between plants to provide routes for the geckos to make it around. They will rarely crawl around on the bottom of the enclosure. The exceptions would be when either a female is searching for a spot to lay eggs, a gecko has come out of the plants to feed, or in sadder cases, the gecko is ill.
Dead leaves are an acceptable addition to the floor of the cage, as females tend to prefer to lay their eggs beneath clumps of dead leaves. However, excessive use of leaf litter is going to give you more ground to cover when looking for eggs, and also hides prey. I suggest you create small piles of leaf litter, so you can check particular locations. I prefer oak leaves, they seem to take an extended time to break down and don’t mold over. There are many types of oak leaves, mostly determined by where you live in the
Fig 14. Fresh Water oak leaves set aside to dry.
Cork-bark is also an acceptable and widely used cage furnishing. It is relatively expensive, with most people selling rounds and flats at the rate of $10 per pound. I like to take cork-bark flats and angle them together in the corners of my vivaria to resemble tree stumps. I have also found that females can tend to lay eggs near the base of these “stumps.” There is a lot of room for your own creativity when using various cage furnishings. When it comes down to it, you want climbing space, resting space, hiding space, social space, and hunting space in your vivarium. Some spots may provide a combination of any of the above spaces.
Fig 15. Cork-bark placed in terrarium to resemble the base of a tree.
Fig 15. Cork-bark placed in terrarium to resemble the base of a tree.
I have always stuck to peat moss that I buy in bulk. Most plants do well in this substrate, and I have never had a problem with impaction, even though I have seen geckos take in bits of substrate while diving for crickets. Other substrates I have heard of used by others include Eco-Earth and Bed-a-Beast. You do not want to use regular potting soil, due to the fact it will likely have little white chunks of perlite. If ingested accidentally, even a small piece of perlite will lead to impaction, and ultimately the death of the gecko. If you go the route I have and decide to buy bulk substrate from a home improvement store, check to make sure there are no fertilizers or pesticides added to the substrate. Once again, this could be detrimental to your geckos, and possibly any eggs they may lay.
You may find a drainage layer appropriate for the bottom layer of your enclosure. I recommend hydroton pellets, which can easily be found for sale online, or perhaps at local plant shops. A base layer in the enclosure of one or two inches of hydroton pellets allows for adequate drainage. It would be wise to lay fiberglass screening over the layer of pellets to separate it from the substrate you will place above. I also recommend placing a plastic tube that will extend from the drainage layer through the substrate so you can siphon excess water as needed. A turkey baster is an easy option for doing so, so choose a pipe that is wide enough to accommodate for whatever you use to remove excess water. It would be wise to cover the pipe so insects and geckos do not risk becoming trapped inside.
Figs 16-18. You may notice small insects crawling within the substrate of your terrarium. Springtails (Order Collembola) are beneficial, non-biting, pinhead-sized insects that break down fecal matter, plant debris, and other organic waste.
The preferred temperature of most hobbyists keeping this species is around 72° F, or approximately 22° C. I personally prefer to provide a drop in temperature at night, which usually reaches approximately 65° F, or 18° C. A slight change in temperature between the seasons can also be used, with warmer temperatures during the summer, and cooler temperatures during the winter (for obvious reasons). The aforementioned temperatures are average temperatures used during the summer. During the winter, I provide an average temperature drop of around 5°. The range of tolerable temperatures in this species ranges from approximately 50-55° F to 80-85° F, although I recommend not pushing these limits. If these animals are sustained in temperatures within or beyond these limits, health problems (dehydration, refusal to eat) can arise, even death. An animal kept at 72° F will generally be healthy and active (unless other factors are in play). Brumation, or “cooling,” of these animals is not required.
Humidity can become problematic. Many people I have heard, read or talked to insist on maintaining constantly high humidity, in the range of 75-100%. However, I do not strictly monitor the humidity in my cages anymore. I have found it is suitable to give one heavy spraying a day, but this must be at night. Remember, these are nocturnal animals, and if you spray during the day, sure the animals might wake up and drink a little, but by the time they are actually active at night, the majority of the water will have evaporated. Spraying will not only provide drinking water, but it will elevate the humidity and provide water for plants. At the same time, you do not want to over-water the enclosure, as it can lead to problems with your plants and mold growth. If you see mold growing in your tank, do your best to remove it. Chances are that the mold originated from fecal material that was not removed or dead crickets.
Humidity can be difficult to maintain in non-naturalistic enclosures (i.e. fake plants, paper substrate, etc.). If you choose to maintain a non-naturalistic setup, I recommend you add a water bowl to the tank and spray often. In such cases, one heavy nightly spraying may not suffice.
There are several options for feeding satanics; perhaps the easiest food to use is live crickets. These are available at just about any pet store. Try not to use the largest crickets though, as it could be difficult for even full-sized satanics to swallow full-sized crickets. I would suggest using 2/3 grown crickets (or “small” to “medium,” as they refer to it in some pet shops) for full-sized adult satanics, and appropriately sized crickets for anything below full size. Other potential feeders include pill bugs (a.k.a. rolly polies), roaches (lobster roaches are preferred by some hobbyists), and females will sometimes feed on small snails (considered a calcium boost for breeders). Just be sure to use appropriately sized feeders for the size of the gecko you are feeding. Snails will not always be thoroughly digested, sometimes the shell will be regurgitated, and in these cases the regurgitated shell will show signs of partial digestion.
Figs 19-20. (Left) Small garden snails. (Right) Partially digested snail shell that had been regurgitated by a gecko.
Figs 19-20. (Left) Small garden snails. (Right) Partially digested snail shell that had been regurgitated by a gecko.
Fig 21. Lobster roaches are a relatively small species of roach that are easy to keep and breed.
Calcium and vitamin supplementation is a must with this species. Females will grow large calcium sacs when their prey is supplemented, and these calcium sacs will deplete when egg-laying begins. Supplementation is especially important when females begin to cycle, as egg-laying will be a significant drain on the female gecko’s resources. There is a wide variety of supplements available in the market today. For animals that are housed with UV lights, vitamin D3 is not needed in the supplement, however if you do not equip your enclosure with UV lights, vitamin D3 is important for calcium absorption. The container with the supplement should state whether or not vitamin D3 is included. Insect gut-loads are a good idea if you buy bulk or maintain your own feeders.
If there is one thing you can really gain from the countless hours spent staring at your geckos at night, it is recognition and appreciation for their behaviors. Probably the most commonly recognized behavior of all leaftails, along with some other geckos, is tail-waving. There is no easy way to determine just what your gecko is trying to say when it waves its tail. As far as I have seen, it seems as though it could be a way of telling another gecko “hey, I’m right here,” or “I don’t want you to get any closer,” or something along those lines. I have seen males perform the behavior while approaching females; however I have also seen males perform this in front of males, females in front of males, and females in front of females. This behavior can also be observed at times right before diving after an insect for food. I find that this is when the tail-waving becomes most elaborate, individuals will perform spectacular lateral undulations, and the tiny worm-like tip of the tail will wriggle erratically and spastically as though it were a tiny worm writhing in pain. Perhaps this is a distraction for the prey item, as some insects will stop in their tracks when they catch on to the movement. However, this doesn’t seem 100% likely, as I am almost positive that vision in satanic leaftail geckos is based on movement. I have often observed geckos hungrily tracking down a cricket, only to hold dead still, perhaps even lose interest, as a cricket stops moving.
A behavior less talked about in satanics is aggression. Some people state that aggression is practically nonexistent with satanics, but I beg to differ. I think most people just don’t keep groups of several satanics together; therefore they will never encounter aggression. At this point, I have observed aggression between males on many occasions. Sometimes this is first-hand, sometimes after-the-fact. In general, male-on-male aggression in satanics involves bite fights. This can be anywhere on the body or tail, but the area where injury is most commonly inflicted is the very top and center of the head. There have been multiple occasions where I have heard a scream from a satanic, and walked up to find one male with another male’s head in its mouth. It is not outwardly apparent to me how this injury comes back to the very top center of the head; perhaps recurrence of the injury is to blame. I have come to find out, more importantly, that particular males are more inclined to be aggressive towards others. These males I call my “alpha” males, and I no longer keep them with other males after I find them getting into several fights with others. I also tend to find that these males are some of my more reliable breeders. Whether these two “behaviors” are linked or not, I am not certain…it could simply be coincidence. I would also like to mention that I have reliable male breeders who are not aggressive.
With this particular species, two behaviors can be observed during mating. First of all, after the courtship ritual has begun, sometimes the male will employ a neck bite. However, the neck bite is not always used by the male, and care should be taken to make sure male-male aggression is not mistaken for the neck bite. This should be simple, as it is easy to differentiate the sexes of adults, especially if you have had yours for a while.
Fig 22. Mating pair of U. phantasticus with neck biting.
Fig 23. Mating pair without a neck bite.
Apart from the neck bite, which should inflict no injury to either gecko, there is one quite peculiar behavior exhibited by copulating females. After your geckos are locked together, often the female will shake her head in short bursts. Once again, I am not sure of the reason behind this behavior. However, if I am to speculate about its purpose, I would say that it ensures a strong, healthy male has a grip on the female, perhaps otherwise she would be able to struggle her way to break free from the male.
This particular topic is somewhat difficult to address, seeing as there are no definite ways to tell the sexes of young satanics from one another. Generally speaking, females have smooth edges on the majority, if not the entirety of their tails. Males, on the other hand, often have notches resembling the chewed edges of a leaf. This is not always the case. There are many males that have smooth edges along their tails, although usually males with this characteristic tend to have a few tiny notches at the very base of the tail. The most obvious trait of male satanics is the very conspicuous hemipenal bulge, which can be seen ventrally on the animal, just posterior to the rear legs. This bulge should appear in young satanics somewhere around the first 5-6 months of age.
While these have long been the characteristics people have used to sex satanics, I have a few others to offer. First of all, I want to say that the white “teardrops” beneath the eyes of satanics are in no way an indicator of sex. Both males and females possess this trait, although it seems sometimes females carry it less often. But that seems to be the case with a lot of the sexing techniques I have come to discover: they just don’t work all of the time. For instance, males often tend to have more accentuated spiked scales than females. Also, females tend to be more solidly colored and less patterned than males. And finally, there is a dorsal pattern above where the hind legs meet the body that tends to differ between males and females. This is very hard to explain, and is a lot easier to show with a multitude of individuals or pictures.
(Image has been removed, but a new image will be back)
Fig 25. There seems to be evidence for sexual dimorphism in the patterns of U. phantasticus, primarily at the base of the tail, between the hind legs.
More and more often these days, I see people want to get satanic leaftail geckos because they want to breed them. If these are your motives, I suggest you try a hearty species, as satanics tend not to be the most reliable breeders, and even then the tiny offspring are very difficult to care for.
First of all, our fall/winter seems to be the best time of year to try breeding. During this time, increase your light cycle to to 13 hours of light a day. Again, I recommend UV lighting, which won’t guarantee you eggs, but is likely to enhance the calcium absorption by the females. Next, make sure the substrate is moist, but not damp. If you are only spraying once a day at this point, maybe think of giving a light spraying sometime during the day. But remember, you do not want to drench the tank. Keep the temperature a little cooler, as recommended in the “temperature” section of this caresheet. Feed often. I do not feed from a cup, and I let the crickets free-range throughout the enclosure. In this case, keep a good eye on the number of crickets still roaming about, and when the number gets low, add more calcium/vitamin dusted crickets.
Gravid females will get noticeably hefty. Sometimes they will only lay infertile eggs (a.k.a. slugs, inferts, or duds), but at least at this point you know your females are cycling. I began keeping satanics in groups a little over a year ago to try to enhance breeding efforts. In the first season it worked somewhat, meaning only a single female gave me a lot of eggs. This season has slowly gotten to a better start, with several females laying fertile eggs. But if you decide to keep your satanics in groups with multiple males, keep a close eye on them. While they seem like docile creatures, males can injure one another. The aggression can occur whether or not anyone is breeding, but it seems most prevalent around times when breeding is taking place or is going to take place. Male aggression is covered in the troubleshooting guide at the end of the caresheet. One of the most important things is to give the females a steady diet during this time to replenish the energy lost in breeding. I cannot offer any single suggestion that will lead to success with breeding this species. More so, it is a complex mixture of details that need to be taken care of in order to increase your likelihood of success. When you do get eggs, you can expect 2 at a time, around every 30 to 45 days. There can be some variation however, as 1 egg may be laid, and you might only get that one. But the norm is for 2 eggs at a time every month.
Fig 25. U. phantasticus breeding.
Fig 26. This female is close to oviposition. While the eggs are not visible through the venter, she is much wider than an average U. phantasticus.
I constantly stress to people one thing: just because you see two of your geckos mating, it does not guarantee you any eggs. Sperm retention is a very valid possibility for several months, but ultimately this is decided by the female’s biological clock. Gravid females preparing to lay fertile eggs will often search for a suitable spot at the bottom of the enclosure to lay their eggs. Sometimes this will be very well concealed. Leaf litter tends to be a preferred laying spot for my geckos. On rare occasions, my females will slightly bury eggs in the substrate, making them difficult to notice. This is why I stress that you keep close notice on the behavior of females, and when one comes up missing, do your best to try to locate her, as she may be laying eggs for you at that very moment.
More recently, I have realized that mating often occurs following eggs being laid. I will note that I have only noticed this after a female lays fertile eggs. I assume that this mating takes place likely to the benefit that this increases the likelihood of that particular male’s sperm fertilizing the following clutch that will be laid, thus ensuring his genes are passed to the next generation.
Fig 27. This clutch was heavily covered in substrate, making them difficult to spot.
Fig 28. Another fertile clutch, often clutches aren't as heavily rolled in substrate as the image above.
Fig 29. An infertile egg "glued" among Spanish moss and plant leaves. While infertile do harden, they differ from fertile eggs in that fertile eggs will not be stuck to the glass or furnishings.
So say you are lucky enough to get fertile eggs from one of your females. These eggs are easily distinguished from infertile eggs in that they will be hard-shelled, spherical, laid on the ground, and often covered in substrate. Infertile eggs are often soft and glued to a stick or leaf. Granted, there are occasions when infertile eggs come out looking exactly like fertile eggs.
Fig 30. Springtails are eating away at this infertile egg attached to a honeysuckle vine. Adults will sometimes consume infertile eggs as well.
First thing I do when I find fertile eggs is I mark them with a fine-tipped Vis-à-vis marker at the very top, I urge that you use a non-toxic marker and make only a tiny mark on the egg. It is important to do your best to try not to roll the eggs out of their vertical position, as it could possibly lead to the death of the embryo. This is the reason for marking the top position, that way you can remove the eggs, put them in the appropriate incubation medium, and not worry that what was the bottom is now the top. And at any time, you can look back to find out if the egg has shifted for whatever reason.
Fig 31. A small dot on the top of the egg helps keep it from being rotated without notice.
Next, you need an incubation chamber. Some people prefer professional incubation equipment (i.e. the Hovabator), while I use improvised materials, substrate and all. First of all, I pick out a plastic Gladware box, or even the plastic case used for some salads these days. These are easy to open and retrieve hatchlings or manipulate eggs. All I do to the case is punch or slice holes in the lid, for some ventilation. Yes, respiration does occur across that egg shell.
Next, I get some perlite (easily available at local home improvement stores) and moisten it. Other examples of suitable substrates for incubation include vermiculite, clay pellets, or even peat moss. Generally, people use a 1:1 to 2:1 substrate:water weight ratio. Since this can be difficult to monitor over the long term, try to learn the look and feel of the proper conditions. For perlite, this is slightly moist to the touch. I place the eggs directly on top of the perlite, however some Uroplatus breeders prefer to let the eggs rest on foam, believing that when water comes in direct contact with the eggs it can be detrimental. I haven’t experienced that for myself, but to each his own.
Fig 32. Perlite is an optional incubation medium that can be found at gardening stores. Vermiculite is another medium that can often be found at gardening stores. Do not keep incubation media such as these with adults, and remove hatchlings as soon as they are noticed and remove any stuck-on incubation medium.
I keep the eggs in the same temperatures as the adults, which means it is fine to simply put the egg container wherever the room doesn’t get too warm/hot. I would recommend temperatures between 65 and 70 for the eggs, for the developing embryos/hatchlings have high metabolism and are very sensitive to heat. I have found that the cooler the temperature, the better the luck is.
Check the substrate at least every 2-3 days to make sure it does not get too dry, which will result in desiccation of your eggs. If it no longer feels slightly moist to the touch, give it a little spray. A day later, check it again and make sure it feels alright. I do not bury the eggs in the substrate, for whatever reason.
Fig 33. Larger incubation chambers provide a more stable environment. Here, 13 eggs incubate in a plastic salad tub with holes in the lid.
Hopefully your hatchlings will emerge in approximately 90-120 days. I habitually check the incubation chamber several times a night once it gets around day 80 or so. You do not want a hatchling to be stuck in the chamber for several days, as it could easily ingest some of the substrate, and would therefore not live very long. Most hatchlings will come out within minutes to a day or two of one another.
Figs 34-35. A makeshift egg candling tool was made out of a small flashlight, electrical tape, and a small section of plastic tube. When making something to candle your eggs, it helps to concentrate the light into a small beam. The light should produce little to no heat.
Figs 36-37. Candled eggs on the aforementioned apparatus. A recently laid/undeveloped egg may show a hint of an embryo (left), while an older egg absorbs more light from the developing embryo (right). The embryo within the egg does not always show as a well-defined shape, but more as a shaded area. The darker, well-defined spots on the eggs are the marked points for the top of the egg, not the embryos.
Well, believe it or not, you’ve only now gotten to the hard part. When your gecko hatches out, remove it from the container and give it a light spray to remove the perlite (or whatever medium you use) from its body. Be sure to get its little armpits too, little pieces tend to get stuck in there sometimes. For stubborn pieces, keep needle-nosed tweezers handy, and carefully pluck them off.
Your gecko will develop a slightly silvery looking film over its body. This is its first layer of skin to shed. Some people consider this to be the test to find out whether or not the gecko is going to make it. I consider it the time where the hatchling can prove itself to me or make me do a little extra work. After the first night, you will find your hatchling with beautifully colored skin or only about half-way through its shed (maybe even less). In the case that there was an incomplete shed, get your needle-nose tweezers back out. The skin at this point will be dry, and if the gecko hasn’t budged from it at all, you’re going to have to help it break out. Look for a loose point in the skin, which will usually be around one of the legs, if there isn’t already a crack in the skin somewhere. Slowly, gently, and carefully begin to tear off the skin in sections. The most difficulty will be with the legs and toes. It might help to put the gecko in a deli cup with some moistened paper towel or moss fiber for a few minutes to loosen up the skin. Slowly peel back the pieces of skin until everything is gone. Sometimes pieces can be left on parts such as the tail, and the young gecko will eventually remove the skin itself or at least grow enough to split it and make it easier for you to remove. I strongly advise against leaving any skin remaining on the legs, toes, toe pads, or head. This will be difficult for the gecko to remove itself, and can impair its movement and/or perception.
Fig 38. Hatchlings are approximately 1.5 inches (4 cm) in total length.
Once you have gotten the hatchling out of its first change of clothes, it is going to need an enclosure. Some people just put hatchlings in slightly larger deli cups, but I prefer to put them in small critter keepers. I keep the cage furniture minimal; I want to be able to keep a good eye on the hatchling at all times. I give it some moist peat moss for substrate and some thing twigs to climb around on. You can add more if you like, but I have found this method works well. After it has settled in, give it a little spray.
Fig 39. A small kritter keeper with a simple setup for young hatchlings, much simpler than the setups for juvenile and adult geckos. This setup makes prey easily visible and accessible for the geckos that are just learning to hunt insects.
Next thing of concern is going to be getting your hatchling fed. You will be first to notice that this is a tiny gecko, and your local pet store might not sell crickets small enough to feed it. Not only that, but crickets can be startling to the hatchling geckos sometimes. So what to do? Well, I found that flightless fruit flies can work well, and cultures are one of the easiest things to build and maintain. Fruit fly cultures can be bought at some pet stores, such as Petsmart, or online. I have used both Drosophila melanogaster as well as D. hydei with success. D. melanogaster proved troublesome because of the ability fly, but were easier to culture (a single peeled banana in a 2 liter lasted me 6+ months). D. hydei were a little more difficult to culture, however they could not fly and didn’t get out every time I opened their container, and took longer to escape from the critter keepers in which I kept my hatchlings. I dealt with the D. melanogaster by stunning them with cold, which made them pass out, and they were therefore easier to transfer about without hundreds of them escaping. Just put them in the fridge or freezer for a short while (be careful, not too long, you’ll kill them all!), and they will be stunned. Then you can put them in a plastic bag and shake some calcium/vitamin dust onto them. Within about a minute, they will start waking up again, so make it snappy. D. hydei are a little meatier and easier to deal with overall, so I would recommend those. They were likely much easier for the hatchlings to hunt as well. Tiny crickets (not quite as small as pinheads though, just a tad bigger), work just as well…but we all know what a pain it is to maintain crickets. Your hatchling should start growing somewhat fast at first. You might not notice initially, but if you have a second clutch hatch out a month later, you will definitely notice the difference.
Fig 40. Even small crickets can be large for hatchlings. Pinhead crickets and fruit flies are highly recommended for their tiny size.
And one last thing, I would recommend keeping hatchlings at the cooler end of the temperature range, 65-70° F. Lighting on hatchlings is up to your preference, I simply let them get some of the light from the surrounding adult cages and have no light source for them directly.
OK, you’ll be glad to know that for the most part, the hatchlings were the most difficult part to deal with. Once your gecko is 2-3 months old, I think it’s big enough and strong enough to take the next step. At this point, you can move it to a bigger, more fully furnished critter keeper, or even move it to a 10 gallon tank. I tend to keep clutchmates together from the beginning, as that tends to make them a little more social.
In 2005, I had 2 hatchlings suddenly turn up with missing tails shortly after being placed with others. Before you introduce non-clutchmates together, I would recommend keeping them in critter keepers that are side-by-side so they can get acquainted. Chances are, once you get a small group of similarly-sized juveniles together, they’ll be more "social". Most of the rest of the care for juveniles is similar to the care of adults, just use appropriately sized prey items for differently sized geckos, and be certain to supplement their diets regularly to ensure proper growth and health.
As far as full-sized adults go, well-fed individuals weigh approximately 6 to 7 grams. Freshly emerging hatchling will weigh approximately 0.5 grams. Full-sized, well-fed gravid adult females weigh approximately 8 to 9 grams. According to a friend who has “giant” female satanics (a larger than average variety), his females can weigh approximately 13-15 grams. I have not heard from anyone of any “giant” males, or their weights. However, I would expect it to be comparable to females. In general, males weigh slightly less than females, but this may not always be true since a big meal can add a large amount of weight to one of these geckos, proportionally.
If this is not your first or only satanic leaftail gecko, much less the only reptile in your “reptile room,” you should consider quarantine. The benefits of quarantine are many, including increased surveillance and understanding of your animal(s), protection of others from disease and death, etc.
Some people conduct quarantine using different methods, but successful quarantine should take place away from other animals for an extended period of time. This period of time ultimately lies in your decision, and can last as little as a few days, although it is highly recommended to quarantine new animals anywhere from a month to six months. Zoos and museums have strict quarantine requirements, and if you have any such facility nearby, feel free in asking one of the living collections employees how they conduct their quarantine. They could have some very valuable advice to extend to you.
Quarantine enclosures should be set up prior to the arrival of your new gecko(s). In the case of quarantine, you may want to make cage furnishing simpler than described in the cage furnishings for healthy, acclimated adults. Some people even choose to have the simplest quarantine setup, consisting of fake plastic plants and no substrate other than a moistened paper towel. This indeed makes it very easy to find feces to pass on to the vet. During quarantine is when many people will check for signs of parasites. Quarantining an animal will make it easier to collect fecal samples to take to the vet to check for internal parasites. You can also check for odd behaviors that can be clues to illness. And remember the fecal sample needs to remain moist or wet for the vet to properly point out any gut parasites. You can wrap up a fresh dropping in a wet paper towel, and place it in a sealed plastic baggy in the fridge overnight if it is too late to bring it to the vet.
Quarantining several animals together is not recommended due to the fact that a single diseased individual will still have the opportunity to infect others and it becomes difficult to associate any given individual with any particular fecal sample.. Quarantining in a separate room from other healthy animals is suggested due to the fact that disease can easily be passed over short distances, people have described losing entire collections from outbreaks of disease. Tiny flies and other insects that can move freely about the cages through their mesh screens can be vectors for parasites and disease. A greater length of time for quarantine is suggested as some disease can take long periods of time to manifest, seemingly healthy individuals can be the demise to an entire collection. But length of the quarantine ultimately lies in your hands, at the words of the vet’s recommendations, and at the determination of your unrelenting observation. However, most people recommend a minimum 1-2 months of quarantine for new acquisitions. Always clean a quarantine enclosure thoroughly after moving its resident out to another enclosure.
Keep in mind that cleanliness is of the utmost importance in a quarantined enclosure. Dead food items should be removed immediately. Ideally, food should not be left to roam the cage, seeing as feeders such as crickets, flies and roaches could obtain parasites from an infected animal's feces. Feces should be removed as soon as their first seen, especially in the case that you're quarantining animals together.
This is a term you will often hear used by different Uroplatus hobbyists. In a general sense, this means to get your geckos settled into their new surroundings and life in captivity, and applies mostly to freshly imported animals. Some geckos will adjust more easily to life in a tank than others. However, your husbandry practices will be the deciding factor as to whether or not your gecko acclimates in its new home. Within this caresheet, hopefully you will find many details to make the acclimation process run smoothly, after which you should have an active, well fed, and generally “happy” gecko.
Hydrating a dehydrated gecko:
As previously mentioned, one of the most widespread problems with freshly imported leaftail geckos is dehydration. In the approximate 24 hours your gecko spent in transit, it likely lost some fluids, and hydration is the first step I recommend when you obtain any new leaftail gecko. The easiest way to recognize this problem is the folded/curled tail. This is when the dermal flaps (the flattened fleshy flanges of the tail) curl under, towards the center of the tail. Sometimes, a dehydrated and malnourished gecko will also show what seems like rubbing abrasions over the vertebrae, which manifest in small dark spots running along the spine. It is also possible that this condition is related to the rough ride the gecko may have had somewhere between
First of all, you can try the flavorless Pedialyte method. Simply go to your grocery store, and pick up a bottle of flavorless Pedialyte, which shouldn’t cost you much more than $5. You will also need a dropper, so if you don’t have one already (a clean one, at that), buy one. That shouldn’t cost much either. If you already have flavorless Pedialyte in the fridge, I would recommend that you draw some up into the dropper and warm it up to room temperature by letting it sit out for a few minutes or by simply rolling the dropper between your fingers. Now, use the dropper to place a drop of Pedialyte onto the tip of the snout of your gecko. Sometimes the gecko will shake its head and refuse to take this. This either means it has gotten used to this method, or it is still too cold. But in most cases, the gecko will lick up the drops, one at a time. As I mentioned earlier, this can take a while. Satanics are tiny geckos compared to most others, so it shouldn’t take too much Pedialyte at one sitting to get the job started. But sometimes, after the first droplet is placed on the gecko’s snout, it will begin to lick repeatedly, and this can speed up the process a bit. Just don’t go too fast; your gecko can choke if you try to administer too much Pedialyte too quickly. I prefer Pedialyte over the following “shower” method because it provides more than plain water, such as electrolytes, which are very beneficial when combating dehydration; however both methods can be used in combination.
A second method is the “shower” method. This, too, can take some time and requires your constant attention, but if you feel comfortable with it you can even use it on healthy geckos to give them a chance to drink their fill. It can literally be done in the shower, or in some other Rubbermaid container or something similar so you don’t get water all over the floor. The basic method is to provide a steady spray of water to your gecko(s), in a way to simulate rain. Hopefully, this will initiate the licking/drinking reflex in your gecko. If you do this in the shower, make sure there is not a heavy or hard stream of water, and make sure there aren’t constant fluctuations in the heat of the water. This is a sensitive method. So place a plant in the shower or tub, anything that is safe for the animal(s) to crawl on. This should be a fairly broad-leaved plant so the small geckos can take refuge under a leaf if it gets to be too much for them. I use a hanging basket full of philodendron vines. You can provide the water spray either through the showerhead or a spray bottle. I prefer a spray bottle because the water stream is lighter and I don’t have to worry about temperature fluctuations. But if you use the shower, let the water run for several minutes to make sure the water temperature has stabilized. You want to reach a lukewarm (tepid) temperature at the level that the water will be hitting the gecko. If anything, I would err on the cooler side for the water, as too warm of a temperature can quickly and easily stress your gecko. If your shower provides a heavy stream of water, you can try elevating a relatively fine-mesh screen above where your gecko will be settled, and this could possibly break up the stream of water and reduce the force on your gecko. I would recommend keeping the spray on your gecko as long as it will drink. Of course, it may scurry away for cover within seconds of first being showered, but have some persistence and the gecko should start drinking from the leaves. You can even let the leaves just get nice and wet, turn off the water stream or spray, and let your gecko lap up water in peace. I would imagine that would be a little more calming than constantly being “rained” upon.
A final method is very similar to the “shower” method, and requires use of an ultrasonic humidifier device. These small units can easily be purchased online; I found one on eBay for $20 that came with a repair kit. Of course, there are humidifying devices that are much more extensive than this, and possibly much more expensive. If your aim is to rehydrate a dehydrated gecko with one of these, I suggest that you set up a different enclosure for this purpose. If constantly used for long durations, it is possible that this would lead to over-saturation of the substrate, which could in turn lead to mold problems. But simply furnishing a spare 10 gallon aquarium with a few potted plants and a screen top would be enough to serve as a type of “fog chamber” for rehydrating your gecko. Place the ultrasonic humidifier in a water bowl set on top of the screen cover, and let it fog away. This can go on for hours, although I suggest you start slow and check up often.
As with any dehydration case, relieving the problem will take quite some time and repeated attempts. You can even try any combination of the above. Just do not force anything, as dehydration is a stress on your gecko, pushing anything too hard is only going to add to the stress level.
Mites are a problem I have run into several times with fresh imports, and I take care of them with a mite spray called “Reptile Relief” that is relatively non-invasive and safe to use on these geckos. This mite spray is available at most pet stores in the reptile section; you should be able to ask anyone working in the reptile department. Simply apply the spray to one end of a cotton swab and dab it on the mite. This should even work for stubborn mites in toe pads, although it might take several applications and several days. Just be sure to keep it away from the eyes, nostrils, and mouth of your geckos as a safety measure, and always be mindful of the directions for use printed on the bottle. If there are mites in borderline areas, you can try using needle nose tweezers, although mites usually have a good grip and are difficult to remove. Rather than spraying the mite spray directly onto the animal, I use a Q-tip soaked in the solution and dab it on any necessary area. I have also heard of vegetable oil being used in a similar manner, as it will cover and smother the mites, which can later be gently rubbed off. I highly suggest that you NOT use the product Provent-a-mite on your cages or geckos. It can be hazardous to the health of such small geckos, and will quickly get into your feeder insects and kill them all off, and threaten to make its way into your gecko.
Figs 41-42. The mite on the tail of this gecko was hardly visible at first glance.
Fig 43. This mite's location behind the eye makes it difficult for removal. Mites can move into the creases around the eye or even inside the ear, making drugs from a veterinarian a safer method of removal.
Fig 44. Reptile Relief is an option for removal of stubborn mites in easy-to-reach places. Rather than directly spray the gecko, try spraying a cotton swab and then dabbing the mite(s). It may take several applications, but Reptile Relief works well on stubborn mites in the toe pads/lamellae.
Internal parasites can be treated using such products and Flagyl (Metronidazole) for bacteria and protozoans and Panacur (Fenbendazole) for some worms. I have never used either. In fact, I don’t treat any of my leaftail geckos unless they are obviously ailing from something. I have many WC leaftails that have lived in my possession for over a year without being treated for any internal parasites. Coccidia is a common gut parasite, and likely affects most imported animals. However, the animals often show no ill effects, at least until some other stressor causes the coccidia to flourish. If you are concerned that your gecko may have ANY internal parasite, it is important that you have a qualified herp vet help you and your gecko. Administering these medications yourself can actually kill your gecko if you are not careful. Some medications require precise amounts which are otherwise lethal. Dosages may be nearly impossible to properly measure for such small animals. This is why I stress taking your gecko to a vet in such an occasion, they have the tools necessary to properly dose animals.
As discussed in the humidity section, mold is a common problem encountered while keeping a cool, yet humid tank. Too much humidity will make it easier for mold to grow. However, there are a few methods of combating mold growth. First of all, try UV lighting. Although UV lights are not required by Uroplatus species, UV light does help inhibit the growth of mold.
Second of all, ventilation is important. Mold tends to grow in areas of the tank where air is stagnant. Some people place plastic sheets (i.e. Saran wrap) over the top of the cage to maintain humidity; however this will drastically increase your chances of a mold outbreak. Leave the screen completely exposed, and simply spray the tank when you feel the need. Also, allowing the substrate to dry periodically will decrease the chances of mold growth and the spread of mold already present.
Another method of battling mold growth is use of cleaner insects. Insects such as springtails (Collembola spp.) can be commonly found in some tanks, and are easily overlooked. These tiny insects max out at the size of a pinhead. They survive in the substrate and in wood. They will break down fecal matter, dead crickets, and perhaps even mold itself. Many species of springtails exist, and it is possible that several species coexist in your collection, or even in a single enclosure.
In the case you decide to keep multiple males in the same enclosure, it is up to you to check up on whether or not the geckos are getting along peacefully. As I have mentioned, I have certain males I have dubbed the “alpha” males, which tend to pick fights, or be overall more territorial around other males. I separate these males at the first hint of aggression. Signs of aggression could be bite marks on other males ranging from small marks to actual rips in the flesh to actually seeing the aggression. If you see males rapidly licking and following one another, it is likely they are looking to push other males out of their territory and/or find a mate. It is up to you to determine whether or not your males are fit to be housed together, and for that reason, you should have a spare vivarium set up for any males that need to be removed from each other. However, from my experience there has never been any threat to females. Male-male aggression can sometimes be followed by courtship and copulation.
Fig 45. While most consider U. phantasticus to be peaceful, males kept in groups can get territorial and will begin to bite one another. If evidence of male aggression arises, measures should be taken to keep feuding males separate.
Fig 46. A healed bite scar on the top of the head.
Fig 47. Evidence of aggression among males may be seen by bite marks on the tail.
Chances are the longer you keep these geckos, and the more you keep together, some minor injuries will occur. These include minor cuts and abrasions. In any case, if you question your ability to treat the injury, or the severity of the injury, set up an appointment with a local qualified herp vet as soon as possible. I had one occasion where a male’s knee got pushed up into the medium-sized mesh screen top of a cage, and I had to clip off the wiring to free him. This left some minor cuts to his leg from his struggle prior to me discovering the problem. As I mentioned before, I have also had males act aggressively towards one another, sometimes biting small pieces of flesh off one another’s heads. In both of these cases, I treated these minor wounds with regular Neosporin, and they healed back quickly. DO NOT use any Neosporin with pain killers included. I have also heard of others using Bactine or similar products, although I have not used them myself.
The only problem I have run into using Neosporin is that it can and will bring about difficulty shedding from whatever area it is applied. In a case like this, see assisted shed below.
I consider an autotomized tail to be a minor injury, not needing any sort of medical attention. While the tail will not regrow, the open wound will not bleed profusely and poses no immediate threat to your gecko. However, sometimes overly stressed satanics will drop their tails, and if/when your gecko does lose a tail, I recommend looking into possible factors that would lead to that. For any injury, it is important to clean the wound and maintain that cleanliness to prevent infection. As opposed to some other lizard species that are able to autotomize their tail, all species of Uroplatus have only one breakage plane. This means one thing: when it comes to dropping your tail, it's all or nothing. If you find that your satanic leaftail gecko has only lost some portion of its tail, it's either the natural look of primarily male tails, or there was some mechanical damage. Either another gecko bit a chunk of the tail off, (unlikely) or you pinched it while reaching through some branches, or pinched it between doors/lids/moving parts of the enclosure. Sometimes tails are lost for what may seem like no reason at all, although sometimes it happens due to serious underlying health issues. In most cases, if an otherwise healthy animal drops its tail, it is not life-threatening.
Sometimes a gecko will have problems completing a shed on its own. Sometimes, this is a sign of worse things to come. It is up to you to analyze the situation and determine whether it was just a shed that didn’t go correctly, or if it is a health or husbandry problem. However, usually some tweezers and a little quality time with the gecko can take care of the problem.
In the case of a patchy shed (i.e. the shedding skin is coming off in small flaky bits), place the gecko in a deli cup or something similar with some wet paper towel, moistened moss fiber, or something similar. Patchy sheds are usually linked to health or humidity problems, and in this case you will want to start spraying your gecko more often (but not necessarily more in quantity, remember you should not over-saturate the substrate).
Fig 48. A proper shed should start from the head and lead to the tail in a single piece. Before the shed begins, the gecko will become pale and wrinkly.
Sometimes, even though a gecko might look to be in good health, after having it for some time you notice it is losing weight and does not seem to be eating. It is possible you will want to attempt to assist your gecko in feeding. This is a delicate procedure, as you know by now even full-sized adult satanics are tiny and fragile, with limbs that are literally like twigs. You also want to be sure not to stress out your gecko during the assist feed; you don’t even want to hold it too firmly, as you could easily asphyxiate such a small animal. But let’s say it gets down to it, your gecko is flat and you can see the little bit of fat and muscle tissue is wearing away.
You should gently place your index finger and thumb on opposite sides of the neck, just anterior to the front legs and posterior to the head. Your grip need not be tight, just enough to stabilize the animal. Sometimes, restraining the gecko in this way is enough for it to gape in defense. It would be wise to have a small cricket ready beforehand; clipping off its jumping legs can make things run a little more smoothly. Perhaps squishing the head (of the cricket, not the gecko!) will do some good too, seeing as crickets tend to have strong jaws, and we do not want to harm the gecko.
Pick up the cricket while the gecko’s mouth is wide open (how you pick it up is up to you, fingers can be a lot more dexterous than tweezers, but either will work). See if you can get the gecko to eat the cricket on its own once it is in the gecko’s mouth. If so, you can repeat this procedure with a few small crickets daily. However, after a couple days usually the gecko becomes aware of your procedure, and can become more stubborn. In this case, you need to put a little more effort into getting the gecko to open its mouth.
One method that will possibly work for you, is while you have the gecko between your two fingers, gently tap repeatedly on the snout. Sometimes this will be enough to get the gecko to open wide. If tapping the tip of the snout doesn’t work, try tapping both sides out the mouth with your fingers, near the edges of the mouth. If none of this works for you, you may need to try using something thin to gently wedge into the gecko’s mouth. Some people might use a guitar pick if one is handy, but I would say that works better for larger species. You can try maybe wedging in a note card or something similar. How you improvise is up to you, just remember to be smart.
A final method of getting the gecko to open its mouth is to use your index and forefinger to lightly pinch some of the skin beneath the lower jaw, and pull down. I only suggest this as a final resort as your big fingers will be rather clumsy trying to work around the delicate parts of this tiny gecko. Be very cautious not to pinch or pull too hard, yo do not want to tear the skin.
So let’s say that the problem isn’t getting the gecko to open its mouth, rather getting the gecko to swallow the food, because it is not going down willingly. If you are unsure, you could probably get a vet to assist you with this. But your tweezers are going to be necessary once more. You can try a food object that is easier to get down, such as mealworms, phoenix worms, silkworms, or basically anything more streamlined than a cricket. You don’t want to jam something down that will become lodged in the throat. Once you get the mouth open, take a look inside and make sure you can identify the esophagus (not the trachea). This is where the food needs to go down. You can freshly kill whatever bug you plan on feeding, it will likely make it much easier to work with. Once you get the bug in the esophagus, you can let the gecko close its mouth. It can help to massage the food down the esophagus. Of course, there is always the possibility the gecko will regurgitate the food. If things become too difficult, a herp vet should be able to properly assess the situation.
In my time keeping U. phantasticus, I experienced several problems which I was never able to fully understand. I would like to mention that I am not a veterinarian, so my guesses as to the causes of the problems are pure conjecture.
The first case was a prolapse in a young CB gecko that had just matured sexually. It was my first CB satanic, and in hindsight I believe perhaps it was due to some nutritional imbalance. Next, I had several CB geckos randomly begin to have spasm attacks that included apparent paralysis of the hind limbs and biting, and after a day or two would result in death. Once again, I believe this may have been due to some sort of nutritional imbalance. In the last case, I had two CB geckos simultaneously develop swollen eyes, and one died shortly thereafter. For the other, I decided to lance the one swollen eye, and the condition subsided. I believe this condition may have resulted from some sort of bacterial infection. After talking with a fellow Uroplatus keeper who happened to be a medical student, he suggested that the problem could have been caused by blockage in the drainage of the eye. However, the cause of the blockage remained unknown.
Fig 49-50. This male gecko unexpectedly began having spasms which subsided for a few weeks. Take note of the paralysis in the posterior of the gecko, and the sudden hemipenal prolapse in the picture on the right.
It's never a bad thing to have a qualified veterinarian to take your animals to in a time of need. You may be able to find a reputable herp veterinarian by doing a simple Google search. for reptile vets.
Your average herp or exotic animal vet is going to cost you a pretty penny. Some people are luckier than others for the fact they have cheaper rates from their vets than you do. But, just because there is a good herp vet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are experienced with any leaftail gecko. Remember, most people have exotic reptiles such as leopard geckos, bearded dragons, iguanas, ball pythons, etc. It’s more likely that your herp vet is used to animals like this, and not used to leaftail geckos, or any less commonly kept exotic pets. Ask your vet if he/she has worked on any leaftail geckos before. If not, it wouldn’t be too surprising. But sometimes the vet can only provide you with the possibility of getting answers after performing a series of expensive tests.
If the problem is merely getting a fecal done to test for internal parasites, it can cost as little as $20, or it could cost $40 or more. But your vet should be your best bet of getting the problem accurately diagnosed, as well as get you the proper medication and treatment methods. If you are going to leave your gecko with the vet for some tests to be done, be absolutely sure to get an estimate beforehand, and talk with the vet about your financial limits.
I had problems arise once with a gecko, and I was quoted approximately $250 to treat the problem, however when I got the animal back the bill had skyrocketed to $500, after no one had notified me. Not only that, but the gecko still died the day I got it back. I was able to retrieve approximately $200 of the $500 back since I had never authorized the fact that I could afford a bill like that. The lesson here is talk with your herp vet, and balance the cost of whatever procedures he/she recommends to your financial situation, and how likely you feel your gecko will be able to get better. Honestly, sometimes the vet cannot tell when euthanasia is the best option, but sadly sometimes it is. Ask the vet about the risks involved with what he recommends. It is ultimately up to you whether or not to have your gecko treated, but don’t let yourself get stuck with an outrageous bill.
Uroplatus phantasticus caresheet is copyright © 2014 by Mike Martin.