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How To Look After Your Hainan Cave Gecko


HAINAN CAVE GECKO (CHINESE CAVE GECKO) Goniurosaurus hainanensis


INTRODUCTION

The Hainan Cave Gecko originates from Hainan Island which is located off the southernmost point of China. In the wild it can be found inhabiting burrows in rocky scrubland type areas and as their name suggests, caves. These geckos are strictly nocturnal by nature. They are usually black with yellow bands, however, at night they 'fire up' and the black on their body (on their head and between each yellow band) goes purple with black spots. Another striking feature of this gecko is their stunning deep red eyes. In the wild they are an opportunistic feeder, taking whatever prey they come across. Their breeding season usually occurs from February to September, with periods of brumation (a hibernation like state) occurring between October and January. They are quite shy and easily stressed by nature and although they can be handled, it is advised to keep handling to a bear minimum. They are happiest being observed the majority of the time.


HOUSING

Hainan Cave Geckos usually reach adult lengths of around 5 inches. A vivarium of 60 x 45 x 45cm will suffice for a trio, with plenty of hiding spaces for each gecko so they can get away from each other if they wish. A lone gecko can be kept in a 45 x 30 x 30cm or similar sized viv. Hiding areas ensure the gecko feels comfortable and safe within it's environment and one hide at either end of the viv should be provided if housing a lone gecko. These geckos do not have toe pads to enable them the climb the walls of their enclosure and they are mostly terrestrial. However, if flat pieces of cork bark are placed around their vivarium they will climb and explore them. Glass or wooden vivs can both be used successfully, providing that the correct temperature gradients are maintained using the appropriate, guarded heat sources, thermometers and thermostats.


SUBSTRATE


Impaction is a fairly common problem seen within captive reptiles. Impactions are caused when an animal swallows something which becomes stuck in the gut, causing an obstruction. The most common culprits for causing this often lethal problem within this species, are small orchid bark chips. Therefore, it is recommended in order to significantly decrease the risk of impaction, to avoid the afore mentioned substrate. With hatchlings using reptile carpet, newspaper or paper towels is highly recommended. For adults either a compact coir brick or large orchid bark chips can be used. Fine coir should pass through the gut relatively easily if a small amount is accidentally ingested when your gecko is hunting livefood and doesn't usually cause problems. Reptile carpet is easily cleaned as it can be hand washed using a reptile suitable disinfectant such as F10 which contains no dyes or perfumes. Paper towels or newspaper, can be quickly and easily changed and are undoubtedly the most hygienic way in which to keep a young reptile. It allows the hatchling to easily find its food, you can easily keep track of how often it is producing stool and there is next to no risk of impaction. Newspaper and paper towel are also the best choice of substrate should you ever have a convalescing or quarantined reptile, as everything is disposed of and replaced. It is also easy when using these types of substrates to keep an eye out for things such as mites and to collect stool samples, which are recommended to be checked annually by an exotics vet for internal parasites.


TEMPERATURES

A hot spot of up to 80f (26c) should be provided in one area of the viv for adults, with cooler temperatures down to 70f (21c) elsewhere in the vivairum being maintained during the day. Hatchlings and juveniles should be kept slightly cooler at around 70-75f (21-23c), as smaller animals heat up quickly and overheat more easily. Night time temperatures should be allowed to drop to around 60f (15c). Having these hot and cold areas within the vivarium will allow your pet to 'thermoregulate', choosing to move freely in and out of the heat. Allowing the temperatures to drop at night will provide your pet with a clear day and night cycle, encouraging their natural behaviours. Heat bulbs and heat mats can be used to achieve the necessary temperatures, however they must be guarded and used in conjunction with a suitable thermostat. Thermostats ensure that heat sources reach and maintain the recommended temperatures within the hot and cold areas thus allowing your pet to metabolise correctly. Guarding of the heat sources is a very important (and often overlooked) aspect of a vivarium set up providing safety for your pet. Unguarded heat sources which are not thermostatically controlled, lead to many vets seeing and treating pet reptiles with burns which could have easily been prevented.


UVB

Even though this species of gecko is nocturnal, they are still naturally subjected to low levels of uvb. The only animals on the planet that are not subjected to uvb are ones that live in deep caves and never emerge from that cave, or ones which live at the bottom of the sea. A 2.0 compact or strip bulb can be used with a reflector, to ensure that your pet can benefit from the same levels of uvb they would have in the wild. Like us, a reptiles skin is responsible for producing vitamin D. Upon providing your pet with uvb, you are recreating its natural exposure to uvb whereby the UV penetrates the skin. Under the influence of the correct temperatures within the vivarium, it allows the pro vitamin D3 which your reptile has produced to change to pre vitamin D3. It is impossible for the body to absorb and use calcium without Vitamin D3. It is recommended to provideyour pet with a natural way of creating D3 alongside supplementation, to prevent against commonly seen and preventable diseases such and MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) and calcium deficiency.


HUMIDITY

This species of gecko requires quite high humidity, ideally maintained between 60-80%. This can be achieved by using a moisture retaining substrate such as coir bricks, or large orchid bark chips, then the vivarium can be misted every evening to boost the humidity. When a Cave Gecko is hiding during the day in the wild under a rock or in a burrow, it is in a humid microclimate. This microclimate can effectively be recreated in a vivarium by simply cutting a big enough hole in the front of an appropriately sized margarine container. Sphagnum moss placed inside any such lidded container will hold it's moisture much more efficiently than if just placed under an open bottomed hide. It will aid your gecko in not only shedding, but also staying adequately hydrated as geckos have very thin skin which easily absorbs moisture. Another very common problem seen in captive geckos is stuck shed. This commonly happens around their digits and can cause the loss of their digits completely. When a humid hide is either not provided at all, or the moss is not sprayed regularly enough to keep it damp and alive, high levels of humidity within the hide are not maintained. The stuck skin around the digits acts like a torniquet and restricts the blood flow to the digit and eventually the digit falls off. If shed is stuck around other parts of the body for long periods of time and left it can cause infections. If stuck around the eyes, it can cause the gecko to lose their vision or even lose the eye conpletely. A healthy gecko with an adequate humidity should never need assistance shedding its skin.


FEEDING

Hatchling geckos will require daily feeds of appropriately sized insects, juveniles 4-6 times a week and adults can be fed 3-4 times a week. The general rule is to offer the gecko livefoods no bigger than the gap between his/her eyes. Livefood should always be dusted with a good quality straight calcium supplement one day, and then a calcium/multivitamin plus D3 the next day, The reason for alternating the supplements is to prevent against hypervitaminosis which can be caused by ingesting excessive amounts of synthetic vitamins. Livefoods should always be gutloaded before being fed to your reptile. In the wild the insects a lizard eats will in turn have been off eating its own food, resulting in both fresh and partially digested food in the insect gut. Your reptile will benefit from these extra nutrients. Fish food, crushed dog/cat biscuits and fresh fruit and vegetables can all be offered to your crickets and mealworms. Locusts prefer plenty of fresh leafy greens (I offer mine bramble alongside other leafy greens) and waxworms will only eat a honey based feed. Recipes for waxworm feed can be found online and this can be made in bulk, frozen and thawed.


HYDRATION

A bowl of fresh, clean drinking water should be provided at all times and refreshed daily. Ensure your dish is not too deep as your lizard could drown. Filtered water and spring water can be offered


SUPPLEMENTS

As previously mentioned two supplements will need to be used to coat the live-food before it is offered to your reptile. One should be a straight calcium carbonate powder with no extra added vitamins, the other should be a multivitamin with D3. The latter is essential in preventing against metabolic bone disease (MBD). You can feed a reptile as much calcium as it'll take, but unless it has D3 either made naturally under the influence of its uvb light, or artificially in the form of supplementation, your reptile will be unable to absorb it's calcium. It is advisable to put a pot of calcium powder in a shallow dish in the vivarium to allow your gecko to take a lick as and when it feels the need. You may only very occasionally see your gecko take the powder, if at all, but it is important that your gecko, especially growing hatchlings and adult females, have access to calcium at all times

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