The Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus) looks the most unusual and remarkable of all geckos. This completely harmless creature perfectly takes root in the terrarium and is completely imperceptible against the background of foliage. To disguise himself, he managed to acquire a tail that resembles a plant leaf. The first scientific description of the species was made in 1888 by the British zoologist George Albert Boulenger. In the 90s of the XIX century, the Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko began to be imported into the United States. Savvy sellers called it Satanic, which immediately led to an increase in potential buyers and a price hike. Keeping an outlandish animal as a pet has become prestigious and popular. In the 1920s, the fashion for geckos came to Europe but disappeared during the war.
Now interest in Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko has begun to grow again in many countries around the world. You can admire this unusual reptile in almost any large zoo.
Appearance and Behavior
Incredible-looking, Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko is a master of disguise and resembles a fallen leaf. A twisted body, skin with holes, all this resembles a dry leaf that someone gnawed for a long time and helps it dissolve against the background of fallen leaves. The Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko is found only in Madagascar. The reptile is nocturnal arboreal in primary and secondary rain forests. It is very well adapted for hunting insects at night. It defends itself from predators with a fairly numerous set of cunning tricks. The gecko can change the shape and color of its body, completely merging with the environment. In extreme cases, when this no longer helps, he makes very loud sounds and opens a bright red mouth. The shrill scream confuses the attacker, allowing the reptile to dissolve into the foliage in seconds.
The body length of adults, including the tail, ranges from 66 to 152 mm. The main color background can be light brown, purple, yellow, or orange. Small black specks are scattered all over the body. The eyes are large and well adapted to dark conditions. The limbs are thin and long. Flexible strong fingers are armed with small claws.
The life span of Satanic Leaf-tailed Geckos in natural conditions rarely exceeds 7-8 years. In captivity, they live up to 20-25 years.
Maintenance and Care
Keeping Satanic Leaf-tailed Geckos as pets does not require a large terrarium. For a male with a pair or three females, a 20 by 30 centimeters terrarium is sufficient, with a height of 40-50 centimeters. The terrarium must have thin twigs that the geckos can grasp with their fingers. These geckos cannot drink from drinking bowls, they lick off drops of water.
A moisture-absorbing soil is poured at the bottom of the terrarium, with a layer of 5 centimeters, coconut chips will be the best option. Although Satanic Leaf-tailed Geckos are nocturnal, they rest on tree trunks, where they receive enough UV rays, so lamps will need to be installed in the terrarium.
There must be plants in the dwelling of geckos; Benjamin’s ficus or his relatives would be an excellent option. The temperature in the terrarium should be between 20-24 degrees at night, and not rise above 6 degrees during the day. It is also necessary to simulate wintertime, during this period they create a temperature of 19-20 degrees at night, and 21-23 degrees during the day. At temperatures above 27 degrees, Leaf-tailed Geckos die quickly.
Air humidity should be high – 75-90%, with drier air, molting becomes more difficult, and sometimes animals die. If the molting process is disturbed, the old skin remains on the paws in the form of gloves. The skin dries up, tightens the fingers into fists, geckos cannot climb trees, get stressed and eventually die. Therefore, air humidity is very important, especially at the time of rearing juveniles. To maintain air humidity, plants and soil are sprayed. If a steam generator is used, then it is installed only outside the terrarium, supplying steam inside through the pipeline.
In order for the Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko to molt well, you must make sure that there is always a damp (not dry) chamber in the terrarium, a bowl of water (flat, not deep and wide enough) must always be freely available calcium and regularly with food – vitamin supplements. To prevent your pet from getting hurt during molting, and he will wipe himself on the houses, bowls, floor, make sure that all objects in the terrarium do not have sharp edges on which the gecko can cut. At the same time, you should not make all interior items smooth. Coconut cabins are a simple, ideal shelter.
Not all geckos refuse to eat before molting, so if you see signs of an approaching molt, your pet has brightened, but it is hungry and the feeding day has come, offer him the usual portion of food. In most cases, the Satanic Leaf-tailed Geckos eat their skin completely. Just after molting, the gecko can refuse to eat for 24 hours. But these are individual characteristics.
- Dry, rustling skin that is difficult to remove by the gecko itself – check the wet camera. Provide adequate moisture in the terrarium.
- Unusually dense and normally soft, difficult to remove the skin – an excess of vitamins in the diet. Not only the lack of vitamins, but also their excess, negatively affects the state of health, and the second – much faster. Reduce the number of vitamin supplements you give when feeding. Calcium remains freely available.
- Remains of skin after fights. Gently moisten the bite site and the skin that has not come off with a wet cotton swab or a clean damp finger and rub it gently – the skin will roll and come off. Do not tear it open, it may reopen the wound. Be careful.
It is very important not to overfeed the animals. The larger the gecko, the less often you need to feed it. The feed should be as varied as possible and contain all the necessary minerals and vitamins.
The main menu is usually crickets and cockroaches. It is not only nutritious, but also readily available, and can be found in almost any reptile pet store. But the share of the same crickets and cockroaches should not exceed 70% – no matter how nutritious they are, they alone cannot satisfy all the nutritional needs of a gecko. Therefore, the remaining 30% should be accounted for by:
- lioness larvae;
- flour worm;
- caterpillars of tobacco hawk moth;
- silkworm larvae;
- nude mice.
You can treat a pet with butterflies or caterpillars caught in nature with your own hands only in one case: if you are a certified entomologist and are 100% sure of the safety of your “prey”. In all other cases, there are high risks of feeding the gecko a poisonous moth or insect larva, which is absolutely safe in adult form, but very toxic at the larval stage of the life cycle. In addition, all “wild” insects are an immediate threat of helminth infestation. Yes, there are drugs that rid reptiles of intestinal parasites. But all of these drugs are very harmful to the gecko’s liver.
Based on these key rules, each gecko owner can decide for himself what to feed his pet in a given situation, based on several circumstances:
- The availability of feed. If terrarium keeping is not very popular in your city, it is natural that a wide range of reptile food is unlikely to be on the shelves of pet stores. Or you have to order them in advance. Therefore, it is safer to stock up on frozen food for future use and replenish supplies as they become depleted.
- Self-breeding of food objects. If conditions permit, you can grow insects yourself. But it is important to remember that food insects also need to be fed, and do it correctly – after all, this is how the Leaf-tailed Gecko will receive all the substances it needs. And yet, a hungry insect can be dangerous for a gecko – in search of food it can gorge itself on the feces of a gecko and, eaten with such a “filling”, will harm the lizard’s health. Also, live insects left in the terrarium (and not eaten by the gecko) can bite it and severely damage its skin.
Like most animals, the Satanic Leaf-tailed Geckos need a quiet post-meal environment. This is important for the complete digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients. Therefore, picking a gecko in your arms after it has eaten or stimulating its activity in other ways is a mistake. It can lead to long-term health problems in the reptile. For many novice terrariums, the question is: how to feed the gecko during molting or during laying. At such stages, the gecko itself determines the diet, and if it refuses food at all, this is normal. After he returns to his usual life, the diet will be restored.
During the breeding season, these geckos keep in pairs. The gestation period lasts 30 days. The female lays eggs under pieces of bark, in the soil, and the like. Incubation of eggs takes place at a temperature of 24-25 degrees, and this process takes about 90 days. If the temperature is lower, then the period of development of eggs increases, while part of the clutch perishes. At higher temperatures, incubation times are reduced, but newborn babies are often not viable.
Young geckos begin to feed 2-3 days after molting. When geckos molt, they always eat their skin. They feed young animals with crickets. When growing babies in the terrarium, there must be high humidity, so spraying is carried out daily.