Gargoyle Gecko Lighting & UVB
Gargoyle geckos are nocturnal, being most active between 1-4 hours after sunset (Snyder, 2007).
Although gargoyle geckos are nocturnal, they still benefit from some kind of light during the day. Aside from improving viewing, providing a source of daylight helps regulate their day/night cycle, and can improve activity, appetite, and overall health. For best results, lights should be on for 12 hours/day.
Gargoyle geckos benefit from a low-intensity basking spot, which is most easily created with an incandescent bulb (more on that in the Temperatures section ↓).
Don’t both with black/blue/red light bulb for night viewing or supplemental heat. Gargoyle geckos’ eyes function perfectly in the dark, and providing light at night can actually mess with their day/night rhythm. Also, nightly drops in temperature are actually healthier than providing heat at night. My opinion? Save yourself a few bucks and don’t bother.
What about UVB?
Many people will tell you that UVB is not necessary for gargoyle geckos in captivity—that they get all the vitamin D3 they need from high quality prepared diets. While it is true that not having access to UVB won’t necessarily kill a gargoyle gecko, there is a growing body of evidence that providing UVB substantially increases health and quality of life for reptiles previously thought not to “need” it. Furthermore, according to Snyder et al., gargoyle geckos are known to occasionally bask during the day.
ReptiFiles recommends UVB lighting for all reptiles, including gargoyle geckos. Since gargs are crepuscular and typically hide behind leaves during the day, they are classified under Ferguson Zone 1, which means you don’t need anything particularly strong. If you have a Solarmeter 6.5 (recommended), the UVI at the basking branch should be between 1.0-2.0. If you don’t have a Solarmeter, here’s a fair baseline for distancing with each bulb type:
- 12″ Arcadia T5 SO ShadeDweller 7% — 8-12″ / 20-30cm
- 24″ Arcadia T5 SO ShadeDweller Max 2.5% — 6-9″ / 15-23cm
These estimations assume that the UVB lamp is placed above the terrarium mesh rather than inside the enclosure, assuming a ~35% mesh block. For more details on adjusting basking distance based on mesh obstruction, see the Facebook group Reptile Lighting > Guides > Guide 1: Using T5-HO lamps above a Mesh Screen.
Note: If you use UVB, make sure that the fixture doesn’t have a piece of glass or plastic to “protect” the bulb. UVB rays are blocked by glass and plastic, rendering that bulb you just spent so much money on completely useless. Naked UVB bulbs are effective UVB bulbs!
Do gargoyle geckos need light at night?
The short answer is no, gargoyle geckos do not need a “nighttime” light source — particularly not blue-tinted bulbs, as blue light is known to disrupt circadian rhythm in vertebrates.
The longer answer is that in Snyder et al.’s 2007 study, gargoyle geckos were observed to be more active during brighter nighttime conditions because it helped increase their hunting success rate. However, no bulb on the current market accurately replicates the warm, extremely dim light of moonlight, and according to reptile lighting expert Dr. Frances Baines, the ambient light in an average human home at night is likely to be plenty for a nocturnal reptile to see by.
Gargoyle Gecko Temperatures & Heating
Gargoyle geckos do best between 77-84°F, or 25-29°C. This happens to be right around room temperature in most homes, so it’s easy to keep your gecko comfortable.
Incorporating a temperature gradient (zones of cool, medium, and warm temps) is ideal. You can expect cooler temps to settle in the lower levels of the terrarium and warmer temps closer to the basking bulb.
- Basking area: 84°F (29°C)
- Shade air temperature: 77-84°F (25-29°C)
- Cool zone: 72-74°F (22-23°C)
- Night air temperature: 68-77°F (20-25°C)
(Numbers from Dr. Frances Baines’ UV Tool)
The air temperature should never get higher than 86°F (30°C) or lower than than 65°F (18°C)! To make sure you don’t accidentally cook (or freeze) your gecko, experiment with terrarium temps before bringing it home.
Many people claim that it’s perfectly fine to keep a gargoyle gecko at room temperature without a heat source, but it’s important to remember that gargoyle geckos are ectotherms, which means that they can’t produce their own body heat and rely on natural heat sources (ie: sunlight) in their environment to help them regulate their metabolism and digest food. In my experience, the most common cause of lethargy, poor appetite, and illness in New Caledonian geckos is lack of access to a heat source.
That being said, a basking spot should only be implemented if it will not raise overall terrarium temperatures to dangerous levels. This means that providing a basking area may not be safe in enclosures that are too small to accommodate an appropriate thermal gradient.
How to Heat Your Gargoyle Gecko’s Enclosure
The best heat source for a gargoyle gecko is a heat lamp. White or clear low-wattage incandescent/halogen bulbs work very nicely.
If you are using a small terrarium hood like the Zoo Med Naturalistic Terrarium Hood to house your lights, I recommend the Exo Terra Daytime Heat Lamp. The exact wattage you need will depend on enclosure size, design, room temperature, and other factors, but start with the 25w and go up or down from there depending on your needs.
If you are using a small 5.5″ dome lamp like Zoo Med’s for your heat bulb, then I recommend starting with the 25w Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Lamp. Dome lamps are also compatible with dimmers, which can be a very handy feature for controlling the basking temperature in your gecko’s enclosure.
Keep tabs on your surface temperature gradient with a quality digital temp gun like the Etekcity Lasergrip 774. Just point the laser where you want it, and boom, instant temperature readings. Avoid ribbon/stick thermometers or gauge-type thermometers — they’re cheap, but they also don’t work. At all.
You can check air temperatures with a quality digital probe thermometer, like the Zoo Med Digital Thermometer and Hydrometer, with the temperature probe placed in the basking area.
Lighting & Heating for Hatchling Gargoyle Geckos
Hatchling gargoyle geckos (under 13g) are often housed in small “grow-out” enclosures to keep track of their health during this vulnerable phase of life. If you have or are planning to get a hatchling gargoyle gecko, there are some special accommodations you will need to make in terms of UVB lighting and heating.
If you put a UVB lamp on top of a hatchling’s tiny grow-out cage, you will likely expose it to dangerously high levels of UV. To keep your hatchling safe while still providing the benefits of UVB light, use a forest-strength compact coil bulb in a 5.5″ dome fixture hung from a reptile lamp stand. Turn off the light at night.
Specific products ReptiFiles recommends for hatchling lighting:
- Zoo Med Reptisun 5.0 Compact Fluorescent bulb, 13w
- Zilla Silver Reflector Dome, 5.5″
- Zoo Med Reptile Lamp Stand, small
There is not enough room on top of a hatchling terrarium to accommodate a heat bulb. To make sure that your gecko still gets a supplementary heat source, stick a small heat pad to one side of the enclosure, and connect that heat pad to a proportional thermostat. Place the thermostat probe between the heat pad and the glass/plastic of the enclosure to make sure that the temperatures your gecko is exposed to don’t go higher than 85°F/29°C. Turn off the heat pad at night.
Specific products we recommend for hatchling heating:
Gargoyle Gecko Humidity Requirements
Gargoyle geckos prefer slightly lower humidity levels than crested geckos — roughly 50-70% on average. This can be well maintained with daily misting and a moisture-retentive substrate. Make sure to let it dry to 50% before misting again, as constant moisture encourages mold and mildew growth, subsequently making your gecko sick.
Misting is also a reliable method of making sure your garg stays hydrated, as they rarely drink out of water dishes. (You should still provide a shallow gecko cup of fresh water anyway.) Depending on how well your terrarium holds humidity, I recommend misting heavily (up to 80-100%) in the evening and then again (lightly) in the morning. Your gecko will then drink the droplets off the terrarium walls and accessories.
- PRO TIP: If you want to save yourself some hand cramps, get a pressure sprayer like the Exo Terra Mister. I love mine!
Keep track of the humidity levels with a quality hygrometer. Again, I recommend the Zoo Med Combometer mentioned above, since it’s a 2-in-1 package with reliable readings.