Helmeted geckos (Geckonia chazaliae) can be found along the north west African coast from Rio de Oro in Mauritania, northwards all the way to Morocco. They are not normally found more than three miles inland. Although such proximity to the ocean increases humidity, the habitat of the gecko is desert with little vegetation where they can hide during the day.
What do they look like?
This gecko is sometimes mistaken for a rather short and stout species of Agama1. Like Agamas, the helmeted gecko stores its own fat reserves along the side of its body, rather than in its tail as most other geckos do. Its head is separate from the body and at the rear of the head there are enlarged tubercular scales which resemble a helmet, giving this gecko its name. These geckos have tough skin and can be handled but this can also stress them.
The Helmeted Gecko has no eyelids, and relies on it's tongue to clean the brille/surface of the eyes. The pupils are vertical, like many other nocturnal species of gecko. During the day, the helmeted gecko’s colour blends in remarkably well with the sand. At night, the light sandy colour changes to chocolate brown, with dark and light speckles along its spine.
The tail of this species has not got much fat storage capability, and so it looks very thin in comparison to other types of geckos.
Housing is a very important consideration when thinking about getting a lizard. Helmeted geckos are best housed in an aquarium, but other geckos with adhesive toe pads, or larger lizards without 'sticky' feet, fare better in sliding glass chipboard cupboards.
One male can be housed together with up to four females. The size of the enclosure of a harem of helmeted geckos should be at least 80x45x45cm.
The décor can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. Use sand with a few small pebbles and pieces of cork bark for them to hide under, and one or two patches of sphagnum moss to keep it permanently damp and to raise the humidity slightly. These geckos are part nocturnal and so they like to hide in the day. A simple hide can be made of plastic guttering or hard cardboard tube2.
Lighting and Heating
Although helmeted geckos are nocturnal, they seem to have a high demand for ultra violet (UV), especially babies and sub adults3. A full spectrum lighting tube should be placed in the vivarium, and should be switched on for at least twelve hours per day.
The daytime temperature should be around 27-28° C, and a hot spot of about 35° C should be provided. Part of the vivarium must be kept cool to allow them to thermoregulate4. At night the temperature should be allowed to fall to 20° C.
Babies should be fed on micro brown crickets5, and all adult geckos should be fed medium to large brown crickets. To improve the rapid growth of babies, all food should be dusted with calcium every feed and multi-vitamin should be used once or twice a week. A shallow water dish should be placed in the vivarium for drinking.
Helmeted geckos are not prone to bad health but still can get worms or mites. If your animal is bleeding from a wound or internally (bloody vomit, or blood in the faeces), is paralysed, has abnormal swellings on any part of its body, have a possible broken bone, or has ingested a potentially toxic substance, get your pet to a vet right away. This may sound obvious but many people don't react quickly enough, with fatal results. Worms or mites can be treated with powder or drops, which are available from good vets.