Breeding Neon Day Geckos: Mummy Ate The Eggs
My Neon Day Geckos
I have kept a pair of neon day geckos (Phelsuma klemmeri) for the past couple of years. I obtained the pair (called K’ehleyr and Worf because they talked Klingon to each other) from my online dealer as juveniles. It is always tricky to sex day geckos before they are fully grown because males and females look exactly the same. I was hoping they were a pair when I first put them together, especially since males are territorial and can fight to the death if housed together. As they grew, I was relieved that they did seem to be a pair, although I realized that Worf, who I thought was the male, was in fact the girl, and K’ehleyr was the boy.
There was no sign of them thinking of starting a family, until one day in March 2011, I noticed two miniature replicas of the parents sunning themselves under the spot light. Day geckos usually lay two eggs at a time, some people remove these from the enclosure and keep them in special incubators. Unlike humans the sex of the gecko is not determined genetically, but depends on temperature during incubation. Herpetologists can incubate their reptile eggs to get males or females depending on the temperature they set. Having said that, I’ve never seen any information about what the temperature is for Phelsuma klemmeri. Plus, I don’t own an incubator, and I never see the eggs that Worf lays, since she hides them inside the bamboo tubes in her enclosure.
One Happy Klemmeri Family
Because of the above, I’ve always left the eggs to incubate in situ. With most day geckos you have to separate the babies as soon as they hatch, because the parents might regard the offspring as a tasty snack. This might not be so much a tendency to cannibalism, but rather the fact that they regard anything small that moves as a meal. However, klemmeri tend to be somewhat more relaxed and laid back than other Phelsuma species, and I’ve been leaving the juveniles in their parents’ terrarium without any bad effects.
Making Money Selling Baby Geckos
Last year I managed to raise and sell 6 little neon day geckos. Selling them on might seem rather heartless, but there is a limit to how many reptiles I can reasonably keep, I wouldn’t want the terrarium to get overcrowded, that would probably cause even the laid back species to fight. Also, since exporting them out of Madagascar has been banned for a number of years, quite rightly since catching wild reptiles for the pet trade can have a devastating effect on the environment, selling on captive bred lizards is the only way other herpetologists can experience the fun of keeping them. Not to mention that the money I make selling the juveniles helps offset the initial cost of buying them, their enclosure and keeping them in crickets.
Day Gecko Breeding Slows Down
I am saddened to say that this year my breeding project appears is not going so well. The year started really well, with two new hatchlings appearing on New Year’s Day, but there has been no sign of any more babies, or eggs until a few days ago. I was very excited to find a pair of eggs stuck together on the bottom of the tank, although I was worried that they seemed to be on the floor. Phelsuma species can be divided into egg gluers or non gluers. Some glue their pair of eggs to the bamboo, or terrarium glass or leaves, whereas others, like the neon day geckos, glue the eggs to each other but not to anything else. I thought it was possible that they eggs might have fallen from their bamboo tube, but they looked unharmed. I put them on a petri dish and returned placed them in an elevated position in the tank. That turned out to be a mistake.å
The eggs disappear!
A few hours later I had a look to see how the eggs were doing. The hatching time for day gecko eggs is about 50 days, depending on temperature, so I wasn’t expecting any action, I was just so proud of finding them. Imagine my shock when I saw that one egg was missing! I did hope that meant it had hatched, but I couldn’t see the baby anywhere, but there are many places in the terrarium where it could have hidden, if it wanted some privacy.
The next morning, the remaining egg was broken! It seemed to be lacking a bit of its shell. Now I became very suspicious and watched the terrarium from some distance. Sure enough, when she thought the cost was clear, Worf, the Mummy, appeared next to the egg. She ran away when I approached, but a bit more of the shell was missing. This continued for the rest of the day, until there was no shell, only a dead gecko embryo lying where the eggs were placed. It looked quite advanced too, with a big head and eyes, although I don’t really know what the stages of lizard embryology are.
Does the egg eating suggest a calcium deficiency?
Worf’s behaviour was rather strange, I’d never heard of Phelsuma eating eggs. Some other reptiles do, but they are after the embryos, whereas she seemed to be after the shell. She isn’t really adapted to eating eggs, she either pounces on moving insects, or licks fruit pulp. I suspect that she kept licking the egg until it broke. Also I think that she probably saw it as an extra source of calcium.
Reptile’s diet in captivity has to be supplemented with calcium, since crickets are low in the mineral. I had been dusting feeder insects with a mineral and vitamin powder regularly, all guides to keeping lizards explain how important that is. However, it seems that wasn’t enough for Worf. Breeding females might need more calcium because they use it up to make the shells of their eggs. An alternate possibility could be that she was lacking in vitamin D3, which is necessary for calcium absorption. I have just changed the neon tubes on top of their tanks to beautiful Exoterra canopies with fresh compact tubes. Reptiles (like humans) require UVB light to produce the vitamin in their skins, and fluorescent tubes loose a log of their brightness after about 6 months.