Captive Care and Breeding of the Madagascar Ocelot Gecko (Paroedura pictus )
The geckos of the genus Paroedura are restricted to the island of Madagascar off the southeastern coast of Africa. These geckos vary a great deal in habits and habitat from species to species. Several species, such as P. masobe, P. stumpfii, and P. gracilis are very much arboreal in habits, others such as P. pictus and P. bastardi ssp. are more terrestrial. The largest known species of Paroedura, P. masobe, can reach lengths of nearly ten inches, while the smallest member, P. androyensis, tops out at about 2 ½ to 3 inches. The species that I am going to be focusing on is the Madagascar Ocelot(aka Big-headed, Mad. Ground, Panther, or Malagasy Fat-tail)Gecko, Paroedura pictus.
Description: P. pictus can reach lengths of up 8 inches in rare cases, but they more commonly attain only 5-6 inches. They are true Gekkonids and have no eyelids. They also have under developed clinging lamellae on their toes that allow the juveniles and babies to cling to smooth surfaces, but are not strong enough to hold an adult. They are terrestrial and prefer to stay hidden throughout daylight hours. Color can vary from reddish brown to yellow, or dark brown with speckling of black and white. There are many color and pattern variations that are now appearing in captive populations of this gecko other than the normal wild patterns. I will go into some of the more common variations later.
Housing: As this species does not normally attain large sizes, they can be housed in relatively small enclosures. I have raised and bred them in various sized shoe and sweater boxes in heated rack systems and in more natural vivariums. For an adult pair of average Ocelot Geckos, I use 12 quart Rubbermaid sweater boxes or 15 quart Sterilite sweater boxes. Babies and juveniles are housed in small Sterilite or Rubbermaid boxes. Heat tape is used to attain a warm area of approximately 85 degrees Farenheit on one side of the enclosure. I use paper towels for substrate for ease of cleaning, but a sand substrate is adequate as well. Babies should not be housed on sand however, as they can get impacted if they ingest too much of it. Hide boxes should be placed in all P. pictus enclosures. A small water dish should be included. Juveniles are lightly misted with water a couple of times per week to aid in shedding. Adults are given a moist area consisting of a small container filled halfway with slightly moistened vermiculite. This aids in shedding and also females will lay eggs in this chamber.
Diet: All Ocelot Geckos should be fed a diet of crickets with an occasional offering of wax worms(particularly breeding females). All food items should be liberally dusted with a high quality vitamin and mineral powder(I have found Herptivite and Rep-Cal D3 work very well). Babies should be fed appropriately sized crickets every night, while adults can be fed three or four times per week. Only put in as many crickets as the gecko(s) can eat in one evening.
Breeding: Breeding Madagascar Ocelot Geckos is fairly straightforward. All it takes is one male and one or more females. The biggest challenge is getting these very prolific geckos to STOP laying eggs once they have started. They are very well known for laying themselves to death. However, if properly supplemented and fed, the females can survive this ordeal. You just have to stay on top of the health of your female P. pictus. The females will lay a clutch of two eggs every two or three weeks in prime breeding season(which is pretty much anytime of the year for this species).
If you have included the humid hide area, then chances are high that the eggs will be laid in it. However, I have had several females that laid the eggs just about anywhere when the perfect lay box is present. If you notice that your female has laid her eggs, you may have to look all over the cage in some cases.
The eggs are hard-shelled, but very thin shelled, so care must be taken when moving the eggs to an incubator. They should be set up on dry sand or vermiculite at 82-85 degrees Farenheit. Include a small dish of water on one side of the incubation container to increase the humidity. There should be a few small holes in the side of the container as well. The eggs can hatch anywhere from 30-45 days on average(but I had one egg go for an unheard of 130 days before hatching).
Color/Pattern Phases: As with many geckos(Leopard Geckos for example), as more and more generations are bred in captivity, many different color and pattern mutations have appeared in P. pictus.
As far as pattern goes, there are two very common pattern variations available. These are striped and banded(very much like African Fat-tails). Striped animals will have a white line running down the center of their back, while the banded forms will obviously be banded. There are now further variations on these themes now due to selective breeding. The most beautiful of these to me is the Three-striped variant. There are also now marbled, "jungle", and wide-striped varieties on the market.
Color in Ocelot Geckos is incredibly variable. The most common colors are shades of brown. However, there are now several attractive color morphs available. These include: Anerythristic, Hypomelanisitc, Red Hypo, Red, Orange, and High-yellow. These different colors can be combined with any of the previously mentioned pattern variants.
I hope that anyone reading this will give the Madagascar Ocelot Gecko a try. They are very easy to care for and breed, making them an excellent starting point for the neophyte gecko hobbyist. Also, the large amount of color and pattern variations available now make them even that much more exciting!