|Common Name:||New Caledonian Giant Gecko, Leach’s giant gecko or Leachies|
|Scientific Name:||Rhacodactylus leachianus|
|Life Span:||20 ++ years in captivity|
|Size:||14 to 17 inches including the tail, 212 to 279 grams in weight|
|Habitat:||Forests near water|
|Country of Origin:||Southern and eastern New Caledonia|
The New Caledonian Giant Gecko is known as one of the most popular species of the genus Rhacodactylus. It is the giant gecko from New Caledonia, a group of islands located northeast of Australia.
This is a huge lizard with coloration and design patterns not as distinctive as other lizards. The color of this gecko range from brown, gray, and black with bands or stripes along the side as well as black spots and blotching. The colors can range from moss green, brown, and gray while blending results in orange, white, or salmon spots.
The New Caledonian Giant Gecko has a very large head, a thick, robust body, and a short tail with two segments, which is a short base and a slender section with a fold of skin in between. This lizard can detach its skin if it feels stressed or threatened. It can also detach its tail if it is suddenly grabbed by the tail. The tail will regenerate and will look slightly larger than the original one.
The New Caledonian Giant Gecko was once rare, but because of the increase in successful breeding in captivity, these lizards have increased in number and have become prevalent in the lizard trade.
The name leachianus is to honor zoologist William Elford Leach. There are three recognized subspecies of this gecko:
- R. i. aubrianus first described by Seipp and Obst in 1994
- R. i. henkeli also described by Seipp and Obst in 1994
- R. i. leachianus – not yet granted with subspecies status
The New Caledonian Giant Gecko has three life stages similar to smaller gecko species:
The hatchlings are surprisingly colorful and may already look similar to their parents. The distinct large eyes, stubby legs, and tails are already present. The colors are already stunning but not as dazzling as their parents.
During the juvenile stage, both male and female New Caledonian Giant Geckos will grow a rate. The male and female will develop a much more colorful appearance than hatchlings. You can house juveniles in small enclosures or tanks.
Adult New Caledonian Giant Gecko females grow larger and heavier than males. Adults have fully-developed designs on the body, large eyes, and large tail.
The New Caledonian Giant Gecko eats a lot of insects in the wild. This is their primary source of nutrients. In captivity, these lizards will eat live food such as crickets, grasshoppers, and mice. You may also feed waxworms, silkworms, and other large insects.
This gecko can eat fruits, tropical fruits, any type of fruit for that matter. You can place live food inside the cage or enclosure so it can move around the area. But if your pet does not eat the cricket after a few hours, remove it. Leave mealworms in a shallow dish inside the enclosure so the gecko can simply reach inside the dish for a snack.
Gut load prey with commercial gut load mix or use baby cereal, dog, or cat food or fish flakes. Gut loading helps you feed your lizard all kinds of food, especially nutrients and supplements. Other pet owners gut load their insects with leafy greens.
This gecko is nocturnal; it will only wake up to eat and to bask in the evenings or when the temperature is cooler. So, feed it in the evenings when it is most active. Never leave prey roaming inside the tank in the morning. Because this will disturb the gecko while it’s asleep.
New Caledonian Giant Geckos require fresh water so it can drink. Place a large dish of clean water inside its tank and change this water daily. Clean the dish regularly to prevent bacterial contamination inside the enclosure.
Leachies don’t need a shallow dish for swimming because this lizard is land-dwelling. This would prefer to remain under the lamp to bask than swim. The dish should be heavy, so the large lizard won’t be able to knock it over and spill water inside its tank.
Development, Reproduction, and Breeding
Mature males and females are bred in trios. In most cases, rotating one male with multiple females have also brought improved success.
Prepare the lizards’ enclosures. The breeding enclosure should be 3 feet long x 1 ½ feet wide x 2 feet tall; cages should be at least 3 feet long x 1 ½ feet wide and 3 feet tall or even taller and larger.
A brief cooling period is needed to stimulate normal breeding. Maintain temps at the lower 70 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the cold or winter season from November to February. Introductions may be done during this time. Some use screens to introduce the male and female, so this will avoid injuring each other. Compatible males and females may bond using the screen, as evidenced by the pair resting close to each other despite the screen. Meanwhile, incompatible pairs may attack each other or may bark aggressively. Feed the geckos before introduction to reduce aggression.
Mating may happen once the screen is removed, and you may even see the pair fight during mating. So if you see any aggression, separate the two right away.
Once you have observed mating, ready the nest box. Usually, a nest with eggs should be expected after 30 days of mating. A clutch has two eggs, while some may only have one.
Fertile eggs will hatch around 50 to 150 days; depending on the temperature, the clutch was incubated. Eggs that are hatched in an area where there are warmer temperatures will produce more males and will also hatch quicker.
Because of its poor number of eggs in a clutch, the New Caledonian Giant Gecko has remained very expensive. You may see a pair of leachies produce and won’t have eggs the next breeding season. Some pairs may produce this year and for some reason, fight next year. If you notice any of these behaviors, separate your geckos.
Hatchlings and juvenile leachies should be kept inside individual shoeboxes that are 12 x 7 x 5 inches size. Use coconut hide or flat cork bark to cover the boxes. These should be strong enough to hold the lizard inside and will still allow you to feed the geckos. Line the bottom of the shoe boxes with paper towels.
By the time the baby geckos are larger and heavier, you can use mulch instead of paper towels. Keep the baby geckos inside a humid, safe, and secure tank or enclosure all the time.
Common Health Problems
Here are the common problems that New Caledonian Giant Geckos have.
Healthy lizards that live in a good environment will shed regularly. Usually, good complete shedding may happen without the handler knowing it. But if you see difficulties like skin shedding in flakes, skin clinging on the tail or around the eyes, and restlessness, then your lizard has incomplete shedding.
Any stuck skin must be removed right away because this can cling on the limb and cause constriction and damage. The best way to deal with incomplete shedding is to soften the lizard’s skin by soaking it in warm water.
But for any severe incomplete shedding problems, consult a vet at once. A vet can remove shedding and will treat any wounds or cuts.
Geckos and most lizards may come with a low level of parasites, which usually don’t affect they’re healthy. But if it becomes stressed or suffers from any immune system, the parasites can multiply and can affect health. These parasites may also multiply inside the tank, which may also affect other lizards and even humans.
Avoid the spread of parasites and infections by placing a new lizard under quarantine. Always check for signs of parasitic infections such as smelly or runny poop, a large abdomen, anorexia, and a lack of energy. If you see any of these symptoms, take your pet to the vet. Thoroughly clean and disinfect your gecko’s enclosure to avoid reinfection. Include the accessories and supplies inside the pet tank.
Geckos like the New Caledonian Giant Gecko may become territorial and thus may have confrontations with other geckos. Fights can end to cuts, abrasions, and wounds that may become infected if this is not treated properly right away.
Any kind of wound must be treated as soon as possible. Small cuts and wounds should be washed with clean water and disinfected, and for deeper and worse cuts, take your gecko to the vet for intensive treatment.
Geckos can become stressed due to many reasons like a new living environment, a new companion, overcrowding, poor cage maintenance, and breeding. Signs that a gecko is stressed include poor appetites, depressed immune systems, and may have shedding problems. The best way to treat geckos is to give it time to adjust to his new environment and to avoid handling for a while.
Metabolic Bone Disease
MBD is the lack of calcium in bones, and symptoms come in different forms. Usually, there are deformities in the lizard’s skeletal system, and this can occur over time. Some lizards may show symptoms like bowed legs, a rubbery jaw, and kinks in the spine, which can be seen when you hold the lizard.
Females are prone to MBD, especially females that hatch their eggs. These require more calcium and after which exposure to sunlight or lamplight. MBD is reversible by enhancing vitamin D3 and calcium intake. You must also invest in a good UVB lamp for daily vitamin D3 exposure.
To prevent illness and different health conditions in Leachies, you must keep the tank temperature and humidity at the ideal levels. This is the most important tip because New Caledonian Giant Geckos often experience illnesses because of poor humidity and temperature. Place a bowl of water to remain inside the tank because this will serve as your pet’s s water dish and will also improve humidity inside the tank.
Always keep the tank clean. A dirty tank can lead to the growth of bacteria and can affect the health of your gecko. Clean the tank with a good disinfectant product and not products that can leave residue and toxins. These may affect the health of your gecko as well.
Feed your gecko the best food and always feed it organic insects and produce. Never capture insects and worms in the wild to feed your lizards. Live insects are a way to feed your gecko supplements and nutrients.
Remember to quarantine new lizards. These new geckos may bring pests, mites, and illness to your pet enclosure. Do this before you place the new lizard inside the main tank. Allow a week or two quarantine period to rule out any kind of disease or pest.
To better understand your pet New Caledonian Giant Gecko, understand the following behaviors
Geckos shed regularly because this is the skin’s way to adjust because of a lizard’s growing body. Smaller, juvenile New Caledonian Giant Geckos will shed more frequently compared to adult or mature ones. When your gecko is shedding, increase the humidity inside the tank with a bowl of water or a spray bottle. Monitor for signs of incomplete shedding like skin shedding in flakes, restlessness, and poor appetite.
The New Caledonian Giant Gecko is a popular pet is because of its docile traits. Many gecko or lizard owners prefer this species to a leopard gecko due to its even temperament and good nature.
Will mate with more females
This gecko will mate with more females if necessary, while females will mate with more males, possibly because of a need to multiply. This is why breeders place a single male with two, three or more females inside a breeding tank.
Do not climb walls
New Caledonian Giant Geckos don’t have sticky feet or adhesive lamellae that allow some lizards to stick to their enclosures. This is why you can keep this gecko on a tank with lower walls than a tall tank with tight covers.
Will grow its tailback
One of the adaptations of the New Caledonian Giant Gecko is its ability to shed off its tail when it feels attacked, stressed, or threatened. The lost tail will be replaced with a rounded tail. This is another method of adaptation to fool its predators.
This is a gecko that will sleep and rest in the day but will be active in the evening. So keep your tank humid and quiet too for good gecko health.
Shedding happens completely from tail to head in healthy lizards and lizards kept in the ideal environment. Some geckos may suffer from incomplete shedding, and this is when parts of the tail, hands, feet, and eyes shed in flakes. If the old skin falls off in flakes, this could be a sign of metabolic problems.
To help with incomplete shedding, improve humidity levels inside the tank using a water mister and a pan of water. If you can hold your pet well, warm water soaks for at least a few minutes can help loosen dead skin.
Take note that shedding happens regularly in juveniles and can happen less frequently once the lizard has become adults. Shedding is also stressful in some geckos, so at this time, leave your pet alone and just monitor for signs of incomplete shedding.
The right enclosure for a lizard this big is an outdoor/indoor screened cage. There might not be a glass enclosure available anywhere that can fit this lizard. So if you want to use a glass terrarium, you might have to order this from a terrarium maker.
When building an enclosure, be sure that there is still room for the gecko’s dishes, food, and water. Place rocks, branches, and areas where the gecko can sit and bask. This gecko can climb, so you must cover the top with a screen cover to prevent escape. It also prevents pets or predators from entering the tank.
Place a lock on the cover of the tank. The enclosure must be placed in a quiet environment like a spare room, basement, or attic so it can sleep and recuperate during the day. This is a nocturnal animal and will be active at night time.
Lighting, Humidity, and Temperature
Install an efficient lighting system for your gecko. Take note that a large gecko-like this needs a stronger and more efficient type of lighting to provide the best results. It is also recommended that you expose your Leachies to a minimum of 12 hours of light, similar to daylight.
A good incandescent light is a good source of heat and lighting. This light will let you see and admire your gecko better. Place your tank on top of an under-cage heating pad to improve interior heating at 75 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning and around 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Spray water inside the tank to enhance humidity. Use a humidifier if you want to correct accurate humidity levels. Do not forget to place a bowl of water to maintain humidity inside the tank as well.
Tank Bedding and Accessories
New Caledonian Giant Geckos are nocturnal; therefore, there must be areas inside the tank where it can sleep safely and quietly in the morning. Remember your pet’s safety when decorating your tank. The accessories inside should be safe, must have no jagged or sharp edges that can hurt your gecko.
Large geckos can stay and bask on top of rocks, branches, large pots, cardboard boxes, and other DIY supplies. For the bedding or substrate, use paper so you can clean the tank easily. Use newspaper, packing paper, or paper towels. Use small pebbles but not fine sand because, despite its size, the gecko can ingest this, and this can lodge in its stomach or intestine. Never use substrate materials that have a smell which can affect your lizard’s health.
A clean and hygienic cage will promote the health of your gecko. You can use basic cleaners or commercial-based cleaners. You can use bleach, dishwashing soap, and water, a mixture that will clean your tank and make it smell good.
And no matter what kind of cleaning product you use, make sure to rinse everything before you place your gecko inside. A natural product is a baking soda to clean the tank and remove odors.
To properly use chemical cleaners, follow the instructions on the product label carefully. Never use two products at the same time and rinse well using running water. Use paper towels to effectively dry the tank before placing your pet in.
Availability – Where to Get One?
You can get a New Caledonian Giant Gecko from a reptile trade shop online, but it can take time before you take one home. This large gecko is usually ordered from a trader or a local supplier. The price for a regular New Caledonian Giant Gecko is around $600; those with more intricate designs and elaborate colors may cost more around $2000. The price may vary depending on the gender, the design, and if the lizard is purebred. Also, ready to breed geckos are more expensive compared to juvenile geckos.
How to Care for a New Caledonian Giant Gecko
Your New Caledonian Giant Gecko is in good hands when you remember the following tips:
- Always take your pet to the vet for any problems. Don’t forget regular checkups, too, to make sure that your pet grows healthy and strong.
- Feed your gecko the right kind of food. Use this opportunity to add supplements and nutrients by gut loading mice and insects with supplements.
- Always keep good humidity levels inside the tank to prevent illnesses, shedding problems, and to keep your lizard healthy and happy all year round.
- A New Caledonian Giant Gecko’s tank should be placed in a quiet area during the mornings since this large lizard is nocturnal.
- Despite its size, this gecko is shy, and to get it out of its shell, you must handle it more frequently, especially during its early years.
- Handle your lizard carefully to reduce stress. Any kind of stress may affect your gecko’s health.
- Do not overcrowd a tank. This is a large lizard, so allow only one lizard per tank. Use a smaller tank for breeding and also for laying eggs.
- Never recycle or reuse the substrate. Change this frequently to avoid the growth of mold, bacteria, and parasites. Change the water inside the bowl and leave this be to maintain humidity inside the tank.
- Biting is common in the care of this gecko. Avoid this by handling your gecko regularly. Always wear gloves to hold your gecko.
Where do New Caledonian Giant Geckos live?
New Caledonian Giant Geckos are exclusively found in the islands of New Caledonia in the south Pacific. These geckos live in the high sections of the forest all over the island. These eat insects and fruits to survive.
How big do leachies get?
New Caledonian Giant Geckos can become 14 to 17 inches long from head to tail. It can also weigh up to 300 grams. The hatchlings of giant geckos are already 3 ½ to 4 inches long.
What do leachies eat?
New Caledonian Giant Geckos feed on fruit and will also eat live prey. You must feed crickets that are slightly larger and coat these with calcium or any mineral supplement with vitamin D3 for good health.
Do leachies swim?
According to experts, yes, they can swim but are no able to stay submerged in water for a long time. But if you want, you can place a makeshift water pond or a similar accessory inside your geckos’ enclosure.
Do New Caledonian Giant Geckos bite?
Most of the time, leachies are docile and will accept petting but only with people that they know and trust. Biting happens in case of unauthorized access to its territory. Some breeders say that biting can be too much for novice users, and they should decide carefully if this is the best lizard pet to purchase.
How often do New Caledonian Giant Geckos slay eggs?
These geckos will lay eggs around two eggs at a time. An average of 10 clutches in a year is mostly the average.
Is it okay to handle or touch the New Caledonian Giant Gecko even if you are not the handler?
Most of the time, it is not a good idea to touch a gecko, especially for a stranger. Gain the trust of the lizard carefully, and you’ll surely find it warming up to you.