Feeding Day Geckos in Captivity

Diet plays an important part in caring for day geckos

Day geckos of the genus Phelsuma are becoming very popular pets to keep. They are very colorful lizards that are active during the day, and since most of them are small- to medium-sized, they are easy to house in a standard terrarium. As with other reptile pets, providing them with an appropriate diet is of paramount importance in maintaining healthy pets. Geckos that are not fed the appropriate diet will not breed, and might go on to develop serious, life-threatening disease, such as metabolic bone disease.

What do day geckos eat?

Most day geckos are native to Madagascar and surrounding islands in the Indian oceans. In the wild they are omnivorous, they feed on the wide variety of insects which they can catch in the rainforest, and also lick nectar from a variety of flowers and eat overripe fruit.

Feeder insects in captivity

It is impossible to provide this great variety of insects in captivity, crickets usually are the staple feeder insect for most reptiles kept as pets. However there should still be an attempt to vary the diet by occasionally treating the gecko to fruit flies, which the love catching and maggots such as wax worms, the maggots of the wax moth, and phoenix worms, larvae of the black soldier fly. Wax worms are very fatty and should be fed sparingly as a treat, while phoenix worms are an excellent gecko food since they are very high in calcium. The size of the crickets and other feeder insects depends on the size of the gecko, generally the length should not exceed the distance between the gecko’s eyes.

Fruit component of the diet

Day geckos have a real sweet tooth and sweet ripe fruit constitutes an important component of their diet. This can be most conveniently provided as fruit flavored baby food. Ensure that the list of ingredients contains only fruit, carbohydrate filler such as ground rice is not natural for the gecko. Flavors that day geckos will eat readily include peach, mango and passion fruit. Alternately the geckos can be fed mashed ripe fruit such as bananas. Despite the convenience of feeding fruit, a diet restricted to fruit will result in severe malnutrition since it does not provide sufficient protein. Live insects are a mandatory component of the day gecko’s diet.

Gut loading feeder insects

In the wild the geckos derive their nutrients not only from the feeder insects but also from the vegetable content of their stomachs. In captivity it is important to supplement the nutritional value of crickets and other feeder insects by gut loading, feeding them a variety of high quality vegetables and fruit prior to feeding them to day geckos. One of the most common vegetables used to gut load crickets are carrots, but it is good to use a variety of foods such as sweet potatoes, apples and green leaves.

Mineral and vitamin supplementation

The nutritional value of feeder insects is increased by dusting them with a mineral powder immediately prior to placing them in the day gecko enclosure. The most important mineral that must be added is calcium since crickets and other insects are generally low in calcium. The exception to this rule are phoenix worms which are naturally high in calcium. Since it is hard to provide the intensity of UVB light that the geckos are used to in Madagascar, vitamin D3, essential for calcium absorption, should also be added to the gecko food. Apart from dusting the insects, mixing some powder into the fruit puree is a good way to add minerals and vitamins to the diet.

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