Three to Get Ready Epilogue: Teratoscincus
As you probably know from a previous article, we discontinued the Three to Get Ready series due to the difficulty of finding enough keepers to write about the increasingly uncommon species and genera we were attempting to profile. At the time of this unfortunate discovery, we were unsucessfully trying to find contributors for an article about Teratoscincus. Recently, we unearthed two people willing to write about their experience with these “frog eyed geckos”. Both experienced gecko keepers, they are at two different points in their care of Teratoscincus, one anticipating his first breeding season and one who has finally succeeded. Enjoy this “epilogue” to the Three to Get Ready series.
I have not worked with Teratoscincus for a long period of time, so I am far from an expert on this group, but I have long admired them, and they have been on my wish list for quite some time. Last year when I had the chance to add some to my collection, I jumped at the opportunity.
I currently keep a young trio of Teratoscincus scincus that I purchased from Jon Boone. One pair has just reached adult size and has recently been put together for breeding, so I have hopes of producing my first Teratoscincus offspring this season. Another young female is growing fast, but is still too young to breed.
Currently, I keep 24 different species in my collection of geckos, but I don’t keep large numbers of any single species. Keeping a diverse group keeps the hobby interesting and challenging for me. I am especially intrigued by geckos that have unique characteristics that set them apart from others. Teratoscincus were very appealing to me both in their unique appearance, as well as the fact that it was a group that I had not yet worked with.
Throughout the quarantine period and over the winter, I kept my T. scincus in very simple tub setups with sand as a substrate. Now that I have put a pair together for breeding, I have placed them in a larger, more naturalistic tank, and I have enjoyed seeing them in this environment. It is said that the unique scalation of this group of geckos is to facilitate moisture absorption in the deep burrows they inhabit in their harsh desert environments. I do try to keep a corner of their enclosure slightly damp, but I do not attempt to recreate artificial burrows in a very deep sand substrate. Daytime temperatures of 86º – 88º with a nighttime drop to the lower 70’s are provided. They feed readily upon crickets, roaches, and mealworms. These geckos have a tendency towards obesity, so it is important to monitor body condition and adjust feeding as necessary to avoid them becoming too heavy.
I have always enjoyed the look of what I call the “blockhead” geckos… geckos such as Geckonia chazalia, Chondrodactylus angulifer, Ptenopus, etc… with stocky heads that perhaps seem a bit oversized for their bodies. Teratoscincus geckos also fit into this category. The large eyes, which give this gecko one of its common names –- “Frog-eyed gecko” in addition to the large head gives them a bit of a caricaturized appearance. Another thing that I find interesting about this group of geckos is their very distinctive scale pattern, with 3 different types of scales covering the body. The head is covered with very small scales that give way to large, fish-like, overlapping scales covering much of the body. The tail is covered with even larger scales that can be rubbed together in a threat display to create a “rattling” sound to startle predators. The scales have a tendency to slough off easily, so handling should be done carefully and kept to a minimum.
As for the challenges of keeping this species, I can’t say that I have found them challenging to keep thus far. My breeding pair is quite shy and tends to retreat quickly to their hides when the lights come on, but my younger female is extremely bold and literally leaps at food items offered in forceps. I have heard that breeding can be a challenge, but as this is my first attempt with the species, I can’t yet confirm or refute this. Perhaps my biggest challenge will be to find space in my gecko room to add more species from this interesting group. I am already on the lookout for some nice Teratoscincus keyserlingii.
My love of frog eyed geckos started 23 years ago when I went into my local reptile shop to buy my first reptile, I had no idea what I wanted to buy so had a good look around and even asked the shop assistant what would be a good choice for my first reptile. Obviously I was told that a leopard gecko is a great first gecko but, me being me, I wanted something different so I asked what was in a vivarium that looked empty. I was told it’s a frog eyed gecko of some sort and he’s very grumpy and no “one was Shaw” what type of frog eyed gecko he was. I took one look at him and instantly fell in love with the guy — he was so unusual and had stunning markings and colour. I brought the guy and instantly set about finding information about the gecko. At that time internet was limited but I was able to identify the gecko species and find enough information on set up and care, but this was limited as well. The species was a T.scincus scincus keyserlingi which is a sub species of the common wonder gecko T.scincus sciences. The set up was similar to that of a leopard gecko but that was as far as the information went. I found a small article in a running gecko magazine but there was nothing in-depth as to how to breed, only information on set-up and general temperament and where they were found. At the time only wild caught keyserlingi were available in the trade as they were easy for wholesale sellers to import but that was about to change. Due to ongoing wars and conflicts where these geckos originate (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan) I’m not sure you would want to go and wild catch the gecko as they are not the friendliest of places and you are more than likely going to run into trouble.
I set about trying to locate a female but after 4 years I gave up and the male keyserlingi was sold. I regretted selling the male and I always said if I ever come across any pairs I would love to have another go at keeping T.scincus scincus keyserlingi and even one day would hopefully manage to breed these great geckos.
Four years ago I started my search again for this elusive gecko in the UK, spending many hours, days and even weeks in front of the computer. Eventually I managed to accumulate 5 females and 3 males. Unfortunately one female was killed by another male and the same male attacked another female so he was sold on as a pet only but I still had enough to hopefully start breeding the frog eyed geckos. And at last this year, after four years of trying, I have managed to successfully breed the frog eyed gecko. Now I have a tried and tested way of breeding and trust me they are not the easiest gecko to breed. A lot of effort has to be put into conditioning the geckos or else you will have limited success. I will explain step by step breeding and set-up requirements.
I use glass terrariums with a minimum length of 3 feet. You will need to be able to put a lot of deep sandy clay based substrate in. I put a base layer of Lucky Reptile Desert Bedding in to a depth of 6 inches, then I place another layer of loose sand on top to a depth of 2 inches. The geckos will naturally burrow and make their own caves under the substrate but it’s also important to provide caves and hides for them. A basking bulb is placed inside the terrarium along with a ceramic bulb for night-time heat. Both heat sources need to be controlled by a dimmer or a thermostat. At one end of the terrarium I just fill with 6 inches of loose sand and have a low wattage heat matt under the sand. This serves as a hot cave with dry sand where the females will usually lay their eggs; the heat mat is only turned on in the summertime. The deeper the sand the better as the eggs will fall away from the female when laid so there is less chance of the eggs being squashed as this was quite a common problem at the beginning. The eggs are hard shelled but very fragile.
I keep the daytime temperatures at 90 degrees with the basking spot reaching 100 degrees. They will hide away in the daytime and find where they are most comfortable. At night I drop the ambient temperature to 76 degrees.
It’s not the best looking set up but I tried to keep it basic as I had tried with more complicated set ups that looked amazing but had no success. I do plan to set up a large 5-foot glass terrarium with very deep substrate and keep a trio and leave them to their own devices as eggs are known to hatch in situ with the parents.
Conditioning, Brumation and Breeding
This is an absolute must if you want to successfully breed, as you will have a limited amount of success if it is not done.
At the start of December I start decreasing daytime and night time temperatures. By the end of December I achieve a daytime temperature of a maximum of 64 degrees and a night time temperature of 58 degrees. I will keep the temperatures stable until the end of January at which time I will start to increase the temperatures again for the next 3 weeks to achieve the summer levels. these temperatures have worked well for me but I think you could possibly vary them slightly. Also the months when you brumate could be changed.
I start to lightly spray with water when temperaures are climbing, but always allow the substrate to dry out before re spraying I think a rainy season may also be a trigger for them to breed as food is easier to find in the wild when it’s been raining.
Food items include crickets, locusts, mealworms, silkworms and waxworms. All food is dusted with Repashy Multivitamin Calcium Plus and food is always gut loaded. Water and calcium is always available.
My pairs start breeding in the middle of January and carry on throughout the year, I don’t know at this time whether the female stores the sperm like most geckos so once I have a pair that get on, I keep them together and don’t try and introduce another female. I’ve found it to be trial and error to find compatible pairs and trios, and have found pairs to be more prolific breeders than trios. I have a female at present who has laid 7 eggs, 3 of which have hatched already and two more are still incubating.
Frog eyed gecko eggs are not the easiest to incubate as too much humidity will destroy your eggs but you do need some.
I place my eggs in a cricket container and place a thimble sized bottle top filled with water in the container which will need to be refilled each week so not to dry out. Also the cricket container needs to be vented. You could try not using any humidity in the container as this could work as well.
There is no proof that the sex of the hatchling is determined by the incubation temperature but I’m keeping a record of temperatures and hopefully I can determine this over the next few years. All my eggs so far have been incubated at 81.9 degrees with no night-time drop. Hatch time has ranged from 90 days to 110 days.
Gary Hamann of Ridge and Valley Reptiles has been interested in reptiles all of his life, and has been breeding various species for more than 20 years. For the past 13 years, geckos have been his primary focus. To keep the hobby fresh and challenging, he enjoys adding and learning about a few new species each year. His diverse collection normally contains between 20 – 30 different species.
Stephen Wright: I am a 43 year old reptile hobbyist. I have bred and kept many reptiles over the last 23 years and have loved every minute of it. I now have a small family so only keep hard-to-breed and unusual geckos, one being the t.scincus scincus keyserlingi. Rather than have a large collection, I find it more rewarding concentrating on one speices and I tend to log absolutely everything including feeding habits.
I will spend hours researching the area they come from and look at weather reports so i can implement these conditions in their captive breeding environments. It sounds quite sad but it works.
I do have plans for later in the year for another hard-to-breed gecko but that is still in the planning stage, When I say “hard”, I mean something that is hard to breed in the UK or is hard to find.
Lead Photo Credit: Paul:Ritchie
Aliza is a home care speech therapist living in the Boston area. She has been breeding leopard geckos since 2005 and has also been successful in breeding Coleonyx, African Fat Tail and Gargoyle geckos. Other interests which she pursues in her copious free time include work in ceramics, practicing tai chi and surfing the internet.