I would by no means call myself an expert on these fantastic creatures as this is my first pair, I have had them a year. Having struggled to find information on their captive care and breeding, I have decided to write my experience down. I first saw one of these in my local reptile shop, and was besotted, then bought a breeding pair at the reptile show in Hamm.
The information I was given as to their care was similar to that of some of the other gecko species I already kept, so it was just a case of finding room.
The following information refers to both their natural habitat and details how I have kept, and bred them thus far.
This subspecies of Wonder Gecko likes to burrow, dig tunnels, and make dens.
It is predominantly nocturnal, but does occasionally bask.
They are native to hot desert regions, and in the case of the Tibetan Wonder Gecko, primarily China's Turpan Desert, where temperatures range from a low of -12C (10F) in January to highs of 40C (103F) in July.
The 'rainy' season lasts from June to October, with June being the wettest month with a rainfall of approx 2.9mm.
The winters although short are very cold, and the long summers are extremely hot.
Natural vegetation tends to be restricted to areas around lake Aydingkol, and scarce in other areas due to a lack of water.
Housing, heating, lighting, substrate and decor in captivity.
I keep them in a terraviv, which is 3ft wide, 1ft tall and 18in deep, designed by the owner of Global Geckos (where I first saw a Wonder Gecko).
This is heated at one end by heat mat at 30-31C - the viv has a glass section in the bottom for the mat to sit underneath - with a background temp of 27C, and a night temp of 22-24C.
I currently use a T8 5.0% tube to light the viv for 12hrs a day - but it is worth remembering that their viv is only 1 foot high, and in a viv with more height a stronger uvb output may be required.
The lighting tube does give of some heat as well.
My chosen substrate is Lucky Reptile Desert Bedding, which I find holds its shape when they dig and I spray it weekly, and mix it up so it remains slightly damp underneath.
I will admit, to begin with I would go into the viv every day to tidy up as they dig A LOT - using the excuse that it would give them something to do every night - but then decided it was best to let them do their thing.
This was based on the fact that I found 2 squished eggs buried in the soil (I was convinced I had been the squisher and changed from a spoon to a big fat soft brush for my poop searches, knowing the female could lay another 3 clutches in the season).
I provide multiple hiding places, from actual shop bought hides to stacks of cork bark, across the entire viv, so they can choose where to spend their time.
On occasion I have seen them basking during the day for short periods, but as a rule they tend to come out up to an hour before lights out.
I also have a couple of live spineless cacti - in pots, buried in the substrate at the warm end, which have survived for months - although crickets do have an occasional nibble on them.
Feeding and Handling
As with most reptiles, food should be about the same size as the space between their eyes.
I feed crickets as a staple and the occasional wax worm, particularly during breeding.
The food is gut-loaded, on bug burger and veg, and dusted with calci-dust before being offered.
I feed crickets in the enclosure, and also tong or hand feed them the wax worms.
I have had no issues with leaving un eaten crickets in with the geckos (and I do it with all the species I keep).
I also put a little bowl of bee pollen in the viv - I have seen the crickets eating it, so I know the geckos are getting some benefit from its goodness, although I have not seen them eat it themselves.
As far as handling goes, I found them to be rather nervous creatures to begin with, and it was a slow process to get them to trust me.
I began with simply putting my hand in the viv for a few minutes every day, letting them decide how close they got to me, once they were comfortable with my hand, I began offering them the occasional wax worm in my palm.
Eventually the female decided to walk onto my hand, and a few days later the male followed suit.
Eight months later, both geckos will come out of the viv, walk up my arm and sit on my shoulder or the back of my neck.
The male is more confident, when the female is out as well, but on his own is still a little flighty, and occasionally jumps off and tries to hide under the nearest item of furniture.
I have found that it is necessary to move as slowly as possible to retrieve them when this happens.
It is worth noting that every piece of information I have found suggests the scales on these geckos are very delicate and handling should be restricted, and as such I let them decide whether to walk onto my hand, and avoid picking them up if they have other ideas.
When they feel threaten they wave their tail, and in adults this makes a rattling noise.
They will also bite - as will most animals when trying to protect themselves - but it is pretty painless.
It may be worth noting that the female can become aggressive during mating/laying time, although mine has not, and a spare enclosure may be required for the male if this occurs.
It would seem that clutches of two eggs are laid 3-4 weeks apart, and a few weeks after the "accident" with the first clutch of eggs, I noticed that the substrate had been piled up in a similar manner (in and around their warm hide), so I tentatively went in with the brush, time team theme tune playing in my head, and discovered two perfect eggs.
Slightly unprepared for this to happen so soon, I grabbed an empty cricket tub, and a handful of vermiculite (which I wet and squeezed out, and then mixed in the same amount of dry vermiculite). On top of this, I placed a small glass bowl - a milk top would do the job - half filled with some of the dry desert bedding from the viv, and placed the eggs on the surface of it.
I put the tub back in the viv, whilst I set up a polybox with a heat mat on the bottom and one round the inside, thermostat and thermometer.
I placed a couple of un chilled cool packs in to help maintain a steady temp, and a couple of up turned cricket tubs and let the box warm up to 30C.
The tub with the eggs in was put into the homemade incubator, and I set my alarm for 72 days (as advised to be the minimum incubation period, max of 93 days was suggested in the only article I found).
I opened the polybox every Sunday to allow fresh air exchange, and check the vermiculite had not dried out within the tub.
If it seemed too dry, I removed the glass bowl, gave the tub a quick misting and replaced the bowl, before returning it to the polybox.
Every time I shut the incubator, I would reset the thermometer.
Considering this is a home made incubator, it has held a very stable temperature, with no more than 1C difference.
As with most gecko eggs, I would avoid turning, and if possible very gently mark the top of the egg to aid with this.
I would suggest the substrate in the viv is at least 4 inches deep, as the eggs are very fragile, and this will help provide enough substrate to protect the eggs, and to avoid the adult geckos squashing them.
During the egg laying period, I have provided a small clear glass bowl with calci-dust in, for the female to use should she need to - to encourage her, I put a couple of wax worms in so she can see them moving.
After the first season of breeding, as advised, I brumated the adults.
A sample of poop was sent to a reptile vet to ensure no internal parasites were present before dropping the temps in the viv a degree twice a week, until room temp was achieved (3weeks), and reduced feeding as well. No food was offered for two weeks prior to brumation. If they had had parasites they would have been treated, and not brumated until healthy.
As the viv is in a stack, I removed the geckos and put them into small, ventilated tubs, on/near the floor - initially in the bottom of my wardrobe, and then in a cupboard in the kitchen which was cooler than the wardrobe - to achieve a fairly consistent and low temperature of 15°.
I weighed the geckos when I took them out of the viv, and weighed again weekly for the period of brumation without disturbing them too much.
I did of course change the water regularly.
Should their weight have dropped more than a couple of grams, I would have raised the temps and encourage them to come out of brumation early, resuming their normal light, heat and feeding schedule.
I was advised that brumation should be six weeks, unless there are issues with health, and at the end of week four I put them back in the wardrobe. The final step was to return them to their viv and start to raise the temps without the light on - as this increased the temp to much.
The whole process from initial temp drop to returning to full heating took 12 weeks.
The eggs hatched 5 days earlier than expected, with the hatchlings weighing 3g and 4g, I left them in situ over night, and prepared Cadbury tubs within our existing hatchling rack at 30C.
For the first 4 weeks they were kept on paper towel (paper replaced, fresh water provided and fed daily), with toilet roll tubes cut lengthwise to provide them with 2 hiding places - warm and cooler - and a small water bowl - I am using the ones that are sold for tarantulas as they are small enough for the babies not to climb into, and shallow enough for me to not worry they may drown.
I began feeding them on 2nd instar crickets from 2 days after they hatched, and as with the adults I do not remove any uneaten ones - I have never seen a hatchling wonder gecko chase or eat crickets, I just know that most are gone the following day.
I handle them daily when changing their paper, and weigh them weekly.
After 4 weeks I swapped the paper towel for desert bedding, but left the babies in their individual Cadbury tubs, so they could learn how to dig burrows, but also still find their food and feel secure, and I could continue to monitor them.
Being new to breeding, I felt that this would be less of a shock to them, although I am sure many people do things differently.
At 8 weeks, I moved all three the hatchlings into a viv - the same dimensions and heat/temp cycles as the adult pair I have.
The substrate is desert bedding, and I provided numerous small hides in both the hot and cool end, so they can choose to share or have one each, and put a water bowl in the cool end.
I also provide lots of cork bark for extra cover, as this is the first time they will be exposed to uvb lighting.
Again there are live plants in the enclosure (they occasionally get nibbled by the crickets).
From the point of the first eggs being laid, this has been a new, and exciting experience for me.
I am please to say all three of the eggs I found have been incubated and hatched into beautiful, healthy babies.
However, It will not be until the next breeding season, that I will find out if I have a successful method of brumation, for breeding purposes.
In all honesty, I was so concerned about doing this for the first time, I was over the moon the adults were fit and healthy post brumation - more babies next year will definitely be a bonus though!
I hope this care sheet is of use to you, the reader, and if you have any tips to add or your own experiences to share, I would love to hear them.
N.B. I have now had a second breeding season, and have 6 healthy babies this year. No dramatic changes in method, although I did shorten the time on paper to 2 weeks, and put them straight into a viv at this point, again with multiple hides and bits of slate and wood.
When the youngest was added to the group it was exactly half the weight of the largest, so I spent a few hours late evening making sure there was no bullying.
By Kelly Weston
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