Whether it’s the nearly perfect camouflage or the random “lichen” patches that seem to grow on their skin, it is obvious at first glance that there are few species in the world that can compare to the striking morphology of the genus Uroplatus. All species of Uroplatus are endemic to Madagascar and do not naturally exist any where else on our planet. Of the 13 species currently described, U. fimbriatus is the second largest of all Uroplatus representing a group that includes U. giganteus, U. henkeli, U. sikorae and U. sikorae ssp. While there is still a great deal to be discovered about the genus Uroplatus, U. fimbriatus remains one of the most impressive and fascinating creatures that hail from the great island.
U. fimbriatus is the most widely dispersed of the Uroplatus species. This, however, does not secure their future in it’s natural habitat. Although all Uroplatus are the most protected (Cites Appendix II) of all gekkonids, Madagascar continues to suffer from rapid deforestation causing more issues than just habitat loss. One growing concern is the loss of convergent forests which provide avenues to neighboring areas. In turn, this provides a means of genetic diversity and distribution. An average of 962 animals have been exported from Madagascar from 2002-2007 with 2008-2009 data not yet available (Cities Trade Database). Acknowledging the current state is what convinced us to focus on this genus and breeding should always be an objective for any serious enthusiast who is considering working with Uroplatus. The time has come for us to begin work towards giving back what we’ve taken, even if only a fraction, and hopefully sustain a species while we figure out how to reform our sustainability efforts.
Range and Habitat
U. fimbriatus covers the largest range of any other Uroplatus species. They are found throughout the eastern rain forests of Madagascar, extending into the northern regions and onto islands such as Nosy Be, Nosy Bohara and Nosy Mangabe. Due to their extended range, extreme color and pattern variations are encountered. Unfortunately it can be difficult to pair geographically disparate specimens (possibly due to genetic or morphological incompatibilities) further fueling the need for comprehensive genetic analysis to determine locale specific variances/compatibilities.
U. fimbriatus inhabit lower altitude rain forests, spending the majority of the day resting on trees and vines between 2-4″ in diameter and 3-9 ft. from the ground. While resting they will usually lie flattened against a tree or vine using their dermal flaps to eliminate shadows or discernible body contours. Although U. fimbriatus tend to tolerate the typical conditions recommended for other Uroplatus species, their extensive range introduces potential environmental preference variances. While it may be beyond the scope of this article, research is still required on whether or not geographic distribution has any effect on captive care and breeding efforts. Based on climate data for different areas of Madagascar, one can assume the similarities between the locations as baselines to work from.
Selecting an Animal
As with most reptiles, this is perhaps one of the most important steps you’ll take when entering the world of keeping Uroplatus. Although they are uncommon, it is customary to note that captive bred specimens should always be considered before wild caught specimens. Unfortunately there aren’t too many folks working with U. fimbriatus and even fewer selling the babies they hatch. More often than not, babies are traded with other breeders to diversify the gene pool amongst the existing breeding groups.
Captive requirements for U. fimbriatus is similar to others in the group. Reaching a total length of 11-13″, an enclosure of suitable size that can maintain proper relative humidity (RH) is required.
Here is a list of common requirements:
- Day time Temps – 76-78f
- Night time Temps – 70-75f
- RH – 70-85% during the evening, allowing the enclosure to dry out during the day. In locations where the RH in the room is very low, multiple mistings maybe required throughout the day.
- Hatchling > 4-6 months. Hatchlings fair better in smaller enclosures where food is much easier to find. A 5.5 – 10 gallon aquarium, with a secure lid, paper towel as a liner and a few live plants (small pothos do well for us), will suffice for the first few months. Once they begin eating (usually after day two), they tend to grow very rapidly.
- At 4-6 months they will require a larger enclosure. Our “teenage” enclosures are 18x18x24″ Exo-Terra Glass cages, fully furnished with live plants and a few inches of substrate. We try to design the habitat as natural as possible, again, providing many vertical branches of a suitable size, live plants and natural nesting areas.
We maintain trio’s (1.2) in “vivarium style” 2x2x4′ screen cages. Each enclosure has 4-6″ layer of substrate made up of layers of Hydroton, potting soil and a topping of coco coir. This acts very much like a litter pan while maintaining RH to optimal levels. We place multiple vertical branches, roughly 3-4″ in diameter, reaching from top to bottom. We prefer locally trimmed Oak branches. The smoother the edge, the longer the branch will take to rot, so try to make each cut clean and smooth. We prefer the screen cages for the larger Uroplatus species, since we don’t normally have RH issue in Florida, and they provide a tremendous amount of usable surface area for the geckos themselves. Feeder insects crawl on the sides and top, which isn’t possible with glass enclosures.
During the evening and night hours, we provide subdued red colored LED lights that allow geckos just enough visible light to hunt effectively. We prefer the red LED’s for mere fact that it was the dimmest and least intrusive of all other colors. We’ve noticed a correlation of the moon cycles to changes in behavior and are currently experimenting with different night lighting cycles. Initially we are providing two nights of complete darkness every month (new moon) and two night of brighter than normal lighting (full moon). We have observed a few species of Uroplatus mating during the “new moon” cycle and want to continue observations under such conditions to determine if night light cycles has any real or significant effects on breeding efforts.
We feed all of our U. fimbriatus well gut-loaded crickets and large roaches every day, while skipping a day every week or so. They especially seem to enjoy any roach with wings, male Dubia, Discoids etc. They fare better when food items are sized appropriately, ie. medium sized crickets won’t sustain a large female for very long. Some keepers have had luck feeding different types of worms, however they generally ignore any sort of worm type feeder.
Supplementation consists of Calcium w/D3 nightly with Herptivite once per week.
Being nocturnal, all Uroplatus geckos are active at night. Feeders should be introduced in the evening after the lights are off. This will excite the animals with new movement in the cage. If you mist your enclosures, we recommend you introduce feeders post misting to ensure any supplements used to cover the feeders aren’t washed away.
It has been noted that Uroplatus benefit from the introduction of snails into their diet, especially for gravid females who can take advantage of the extra calcium provided by the shells them selves. Often the shells will be discarded nearly intact, but with portions of it dissolved during digestion.
Humidity and Hydration
As with all Uroplatus, U. fimbriatus require a level of relative humidity (RH) be maintained to remain healthy and reproductively active. RH levels should be kept at 75-100% overnight allowing the enclosure to dry up a bit during the day. We maintain these levels by providing a natural enclosure with live plants and substrate. Each enclosure is misted for 5-10 minutes each evening after lights out, with additional misting’s on especially dry spells.
All Uroplatus lap water up from wet branches, leaves and even the enclosure wall. This is another reason why we like screen cages for our adults as the screen collects droplets of water, again increasing usable surface area. However, It is recommended to provide a shallow (.5-1″) bowl of fresh drinking water in the enclosure at all times.
Environmental cycles are key to successful breeding. While many animals will thrive without any environmental variances, most require a “wintering” in order to achieve mating behavior. This can be accomplished by lowering the day/night average temperatures by 5 degrees Fahrenheit, decreasing daylight hours and lowering RH for one to two months before gradually raising everything back to normal levels over the course of a 3-4 weeks. We provide a light cycle of 14/10 during the summer and 10/14 during the “wintering” period.
Copulation can take place any time after the lights are off and can last from a few minutes up to a many hours (pers. observation). One couple began their encounter in the early morning hours and remained locked for over four hours after the morning lights were activated.
Two eggs (occasionally three) are deposited in the substrate, often buried or covered with loose foliage. Dead leaves on top of any substrate is recommended to provide the animal with suitable options for a nesting site. They will not lay if they can’t find a suitable site and they even have been known to reabsorb their eggs because of it. If you’re using a laying bin, it is recommended to check and clean the bin nightly to prevent any feces from fouling the substrate.
Eggs are incubated in 100% RH at a range of 72-78F. The will hatch anywhere from 70-120 days and emerge around 1-3 grams in weight. We’ve had great success in raising babies in mini vivarium setups. Each baby setup is no bigger than a 5.5 gal aquarium, with a layer of coco coir for substrate. Each enclosure is furnished with one or two live plants and a few branches to hunt and perch from. Small food items (3/6-1/4″) are introduced 1-2 days after birth and continue as needed every day. Nightly misting provides water for hydration, though it’s still not a bad idea to provide a shallow dish with fresh water that is replaced daily.
Babies really begin to grow once they get the knack of eating a good meal each night and soon they require a large enclosure. We usually move juveniles that are 2-4 months old into a larger enclosure, roughly the size of a 10 gal aquarium. Again, the enclosure is complete with substrate, live plants and many branches. As they continue to grow they will have to be moved into appropriately sized enclosures. I’ve heard a few different stories as to when they become sexually mature and the general consensus seems to be between their first and second year. There have reports of WC specimens in captivity taking up to 2 years before they began to mate.
Congratulations if you’ve made it this far!
U. fimbriatus is one of the most gorgeous and impressive geckos around. Their sheer size and morphological variations make for an impressive display in anyone’s collection. We hope you found this care sheet helpful and informative and we welcome feedback from anyone wiling to share their experiences with us. If for any reason you feel something in the care sheet is inaccurate, please let us know! We’re not here to figure it out for ourselves, rather, we’re here to help us all figure this out together. 🙂