Three to Get Ready: Strophurus
Strophurus are a 16-species genus of gecko found in Australia, also known commonly as “tail squirters” or “spiny tailed” geckos. They are a small gecko, usually about 3-5 inches long, whose character traits and relative ease of care, as you’ll see below, make it surprising that they are not kept by more hobbyists. As usual, the three contributors who are getting you ready responded to the following questions:
1. What species are you keeping?
2. What got you interested in this species and where did you get your first one(s)?
3. How are they set up? Describe your enclosure
4. What do you find most interesting about them?
5. What do you find to be the biggest challenge?
I currently keep S. taenicauda, S. williamsi, and S. strophurus.
After many years of breeding Rhacodactylus species, I came across a photo of a Strophurus taenicauda and knew I had to have one. Or two. This was a goal much more easily imagined than fulfilled. S. taenicauda simply aren’t readily available to those of us in the Midwestern United States. I was eventually able to find a Strophurus williamsi male, and, several months later, a female. I set them up in an Exoterra enclosure with sand substrate, plenty of rocks and branches for climbing, and heat (around 90 F) and UV at the top. As they come from rather dry scrubby areas, I’ve chosen not to use any live plants. They are fed dusted crickets and small dubia roaches, both of which are eagerly accepted. I mist the branches and walls after dark each night, and that seems to satisfy their drinking requirements. They have a small water dish, but I have never seen them use it. Room temperatures are 72 during the day, with a 10 degree drop at night. They are also provided with a small humid hide to aid in shedding.
Eventually, the female williamsi was noticeably gravid. I gave her a nice humid lay box, with moss, peat, and lots of privacy. She loved it so much that she spent the entire night digging under it to lay her eggs on the floor of the enclosure. Oh well. The eggs went into an incubator, at 80F, with around 60% humidity. They died at roughly the 50 day point. This was repeated with the next two eggs. The adults were thriving, only to lose their eggs to human interference. When the third clutch was laid, I put them in the lay box (inside the enclosure) with the lid on very loosely, and simply let the heat and humidity cycle as it normally did. Fifty-three days later, I had two beautiful, tiny williamsi babies!
Since then, I’ve acquired a pair of S. strophurus, which I keep identically to the williamsi. They are very similar in their behavior, except they won’t eat the roaches. I can’t really blame them. Like the williamsi, they bask up near the heat during the day, and take very little notice of my hands entering the enclosure for maintenance and feeding.
In early 2011, a baby taenicauda came up for sale in the Netherlands. I think it was mine within 30 seconds of the ad being placed. Later that year, its parents were also put on the market. I didn’t bother to wait a full 30 seconds for those. The taenicauda behave a bit differently from the others, as well as each other. They each have their own personality. One of the males sits directly under the heat lamp all day, usually under the rim of the lid, while the other (in a separate enclosure) camps out under a piece of bark at the bottom, heading up once or twice a day for a heat fix. The female hovers on her perch at midlevel. While the female will sit patiently in my hand, the males are far less tolerant. They will throw themselves to the ground and open their little gaping mouths as wide as possible. I always scream and run away, just to make them feel good.
If you’re thinking about adding a Strophurus to your collection, do some research and go for it! They are beautiful little geckos, and fairly easy to care for. Hopefully, they will become more plentiful in the US as people discover these tiny gems!
I’m currently keeping Strophurus intermedius (Eastern Form), Strophurus krisalys, Strophurus spinigerus spinigerus, Strophurus taenicauda taenicauda, and Strophurus williamsi. I’m also getting a pair of Strophurus wellingtonae and a male Strophurus intermedius (Southern Form) in December; I can’t wait. I’m hoping to acquire a couple more species of Strophurus next year! It’s definitely my favorite genus of geckos.
Several years ago I was looking through a bunch of threads on the Geckos Unlimited forums, and I stumbled upon some posts that had photos of Strophurus williamsi and Strophurus taenicauda. Their eyes are what caught my attention. The taenicauda’s eyes were insanely red! Those eyes with that golden tail are unbeatable. The eyes and tail spines on the williamsi were amazing as well. I immediately became fascinated with them and I knew I had to have some. I did some research on the forums, and I could see that their care is pretty easy and straightforward. I ended up getting my first pair of Strophurus williamsi from Kevin Cantrell at the Gekkoni Day Expo in San Diego in 2009. That’s when the addiction started.
I keep my adults individually in 12x12x18” Exo Terra terrariums. For substrate I use play sand. There are some people who would advise against using play sand, but I’ve been using it for years and my geckos have never had any problems with impaction. I’ve also used the Blue Iguana Reptilite sand, which I love because it doesn’t seem as dusty as some of the other calcium sands. I put several thin branches in their terrariums, and make sure there is at least one laid out under the basking spot. I have silk leaves entwined in a few of the branches because it gives them some more spots to drink from. I haven’t used live plants yet, but I’m planning on giving it a try next year. I also give them a small Zoo Med Repti Shelter for them to hide and lay eggs in. I put an equal mixture of Eco Earth and sand in the hide and I moisten it when the females are gravid. I mist their enclosures with purified water every other night. I also use purified water instead of tap water because it helps prevent mineral deposits on the glass. I have an 8” dome lamp on top of the enclosure with a 35W household incandescent bulb for heat. The bulb provides for a basking spot of about 90°F and the ambient temp in the enclosure is in the mid 70’s. Strophurus don’t require any UVB light, being nocturnal, so I haven’t tried using it. I feed the adults 3 week old crickets every few days, and mealworms and waxworms on occasion. I dust the crickets with Miner-All Indoor calcium powder every other feeding, and I have a bottle cap filled with calcium powder without D3 in with them.
I keep the juveniles in small Kritter Keepers with paper towel for substrate, a couple of thin branches, and silk leaves. I have a bottle cap filled with calcium powder without D3 in with them too. I feed them crickets about every night and when they’re smaller I also offer them fruit flies. I mist them with water every other night as well. I have heat cable running underneath the Kritter Keepers with the temp set at 90°F.
The most interesting thing about Strophurus is their personalities! They are very curious geckos. That’s the first thing I noticed when I started keeping them. Many times when I walk by their enclosures, I see their little heads turn and look at me. At night, they all come to the front of the tanks waiting to be fed. It’s so amusing. Most of the time these geckos are not shy at all and will readily catch their prey from tongs. During the day, my Strophurus are often basking out in the open. My favorite time to watch them is when I feed them waxworms. They snatch the worm off the tongs and thrash it around like crazy, it’s so funny! They are definitely the most entertaining geckos I have.
For me the biggest challenge has been hatching the eggs. They need to be incubated much drier than many other species. This season was my first season breeding the spinigerus, and I got a good amount of eggs but unfortunately only a few of those eggs hatched. I’m still happy with the bit of success I’ve had with them, but I’m hoping that I have more luck with them next season. Other than that, Strophurus are very easy to keep and a joy to work with.
After years of keeping Australian frilled lizzards and dwarf monitors, I had a three-year break from the hobby. When I started keeping reptiles again , I was living in a house that had less space than my old place. So I had to choose animals that were smaller, and needed less room. My eye fell on the beautifull geckos of the Strophurus group. While I was collecting as much information as possible about them I came in contact with a German man that really helped me very much. He taught me all the important things you need to know to keep them succesfully. Also the first animals I got, were purchased from that friend. I started with Strophurus taenicauda, and Strophurus ciliaris. Later on I purchased some more ciliaris, but also Strophurus krisalys, Strophurus spinigerus, and Strophurus intermedius eastern. Those are the species I am working with today!
The Strophurus interest me because of their nice look, and their interesting behavior. They are really detailed geckos with their spines and bright colored eyes. Some Strophurus, for example S.Ciliaris are all different. Each specimen has different patterns and colors. For me it’s very important that they are small sized, because of the enclosure sizes, and my limited space. Strophurus are fun to watch, because they are active hunters! They grab their food like a small pitbull! They are nocturnal geckos, but even when they are sleeping… they lie just down where the sun is! They don’t hide all the time like most other nocturnal geckos.
The setups for all Strophurus are kind of similar here. I use Exo Terra cages 45cm x45cm x60cm (18″x18″x24″) for my ciliaris, taenicauda, and krisalys, and smaller sized boxes for the spinigerus and intermedius. All enclosures have river-sand for substrate. Because they are very good climbers, the cages also include many thin branches and cork bark to climb on. Because they are real sun-lovers, its very important to give them some high branches. I also use a nice cork background suitable for climbing. For lightning I use ZooMed 5.0 UVB tubes over the smaller cages, and Lucky reptile bright sun desert 50 watt over the bigger cages. They really enjoy it and this provides them with some natural vitamin D3. Most of my animals are kept singly –I only give them the opportunity to mate shortly after the female has laid a clutch! I think this is just better for the females, because they are not hunted down all the time by a horny male! In nature the female can run, but in a cage this is different!
The most interesting thing about them for me is the variety of colors when breeding them. (I am talking here about my favourite species ciliaris). I prefer not to linebreed them on purpuse, but try to keep them the way they are in nature. We have limited bloodlines in captivity, so I just do my best to make it the best I can.
Matt Crum is a 23 year old graphic designer from Southern California. He has been keeping reptiles most of his life, and grew up catching alligator lizards, fence lizards, and other native reptiles. He often vacationed in Florida with his family when he was younger, and rather than going on rides at Disney World, he spent most of his time catching all kinds of reptiles. As he grew older his passion for reptiles grew as well, and he eventually started breeding them. First he bred leopard geckos which later led him to breed many other species. He has now focused his collection mainly on Strophurus and gargoyle geckos. His website is http://spinytailz.com
Roger Roks is a keeper of primarily Australian geckos living in the Netherlands.
Noelle Richter lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and graduated in 1986 from Washington University with a degree in Mathematics. She has been working with reptiles and parrots since childhood. Married with three almost-adult boys, and a very tolerant husband, Noelle shares her home with dogs, birds, geckos, chameleons, Egyptian tortoises, and a very sweet 13 year old tarantula named Fluffy.
Aliza is a home care speech therapist living in the Boston area. She has been breeding leopard geckos since 2005 and has recently been successful in breeding Coleonyx geckos as well. Other interests which she pursues in her copious free time include work in ceramics, practicing aikido and surfing the internet.