Spearpoint Leaf-Tailed Gecko
Spearpoint leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus ebenaui species complex)
The smallest leaf-tailed gecko, adults grow to just under 4 inches (10 cm) in total length.
Camouflaged to mimic dead or dry leaves, they vary in color from dark chocolate brown to lighter tan. Some individuals may also be red, burgundy or orange in color. Most are also covered in a reticulated pattern to some degree, and all have small fleshy projections that jut out from their body. They have a small reduced tail in the shape of a spearpoint, giving them their common name. Males can easily be distinguished from females by their hemipenal bulge.
Distribution, Habitat and Behavior
True Uroplatus ebenaui are known only from northwest Madagascar. Other yet undescribed species similar in appearance are known from the eastern rainforests, and they are also likely in the trade and sold as U. ebenaui. These geckos inhabit rain forest and are arboreal, living mainly above ground. They are active only at night and when disturbed may drop from their perch and down into leaf litter where, due to their cryptic coloration, they are well disguised.
Available mainly from gecko hobbyists and private breeders, wild-caught spearpoint leaf tailed geckos are also still sometimes found for sale from pet dealers or at specialty stores. It is advisable to purchase only captive-bred geckos and to find them from a trustworthy source since they can be somewhat fragile and sensitive animals to keep.
Spearpoint leaf-tailed geckos are not very active during the day but at night they will use all of the space that is provided to them. A 15 gallon high aquarium that measures 20 inches long by 10 inches wide by 18 inches high (51 cm by 25 cm by 46 cm) is large enough for one male-female pair. Avoid keeping males together unless in especially large enclosures. It is important that the sides of the enclosure are made of a material that will help maintain a high humidity level, so screen cages should be avoided unless the ambient humidity in the room they are kept is already high. If the cage is made of glass or other transparent material it can be beneficial to cover all but one side with an aquarium background or black poster board.
The main components of the setup should include a substrate, cover, and perches. Paper towels work well as a substrate, particularly in quarantine and isolation when acclimating geckos to captivity because they make it easy to collect fecal samples. They are cheap, easy to clean, and easy to replace. It is important to replace them on a regular basis to prevent unwanted bacteria and mold from growing.
Another substrate that can work well is a safe soil such as coconut husk fiber. Foam rubber also is suitable as a substrate, and can be used both in temporary and permanent setups. Substrates such as gravel, moss, and small pieces of bark should be avoided. It can be beneficial to place a layer of leaf compost or dried leaves over the substrate. Oak and magnolia leafs both tolerate high humidity levels and are good choices. Take care to prevent the substrate from becoming too wet. If the substrate is squeezed in your hand and more than a few drops of water come out then it is too wet.
Hide spots, perches, and other cage décor can consist of live or fake plants, branches, driftwood, dried leaves, and pieces of cork bark. It is important to provide perches that are thin enough for the geckos to hold on to. There should be at least a few small branches or perches that are about the width of the gecko’s limbs. I’ve found that bird perches made of manzanita wood work very well. Cork bark slabs make great hiding spots when positioned at a vertical angle against the side of the cage. Established, healthy spearpoint leaf-tailed geckos can be kept successfully in more naturalistic heavily planted terrariums.
A shallow water dish can be provided but is not necessary as long as the cage is misted with water on a regular basis. Leaf-tailed geckos generally prefer to lap water droplets off of plant leaves, glass, and other smooth surfaces as opposed to drinking from a bowl of standing water.
Temperature and Humidity
Spearpoint leaf-tailed geckos need to be kept cool. A range in temperature from 68°F to 75°F (20°C to 24°C) during the day with a drop to between 60°F and 70°F (16°C and 21°C) at night generally works well. They will not tolerate warm temperatures and often die when exposed to those above 80°F (27°C) for extended periods of time. The best way to keep the cage cool is to keep it in an air conditioned room or cool basement. Supplemental heating is rarely required, however if it is needed I would suggest using a low wattage infra-red light bulb as opposed to a heat pad or heat tape.
Maintaining high humidity is as important as maintaining cool temperatures. The humidity level in the forest vegetation and scrub layer in Madagascar is constantly high and this should be duplicated in captivity. The humidity level in the cage should usually range from 80% to 100%. This can be accomplished by spraying the cage with water once or twice a day and restricting ventilation. Take care, however, to avoid stagnant or wet conditions.
The majority of the diet should consist of crickets. In addition to crickets, they can be offered wax worms and small silk worms in a shallow dish as well as small roaches. Moths and other flying insects can also be offered. Some have suggested that fruit baby food will be accepted by leaf-tailed geckos but I have never observed geckos showing any interest in it. Offer adults between three and six food items per gecko three or four times a week and feed at night. If there are live feeders in the cage the next morning, the geckos are being offered too much food at once. Feeder insects should be coated with high quality vitamin and mineral supplements at most feedings. Juvenile geckos should have their food supplemented at every feeding.