Welcome to our care and information article on the Eurydactylodes (yuree-dactyl-loadees). If this is your first time hearing about these guys, congratulations on discovering one of the most unique and interesting geckos around!
The Eurydactylodes genus consists of four species, E. agricolae, E. vieillardi, E. occidentalis and E. symmetricus. The two that are regularly available in the hobby are E. agricolae and E. vieillardi and this article will focus on those two specifically. All species are endemic to New Caledonia and inhabit the maquis scrub and sclerophyll forests. They can be found hanging out in low lying shrubs or similar vegetation. (Herpetofauna of New Caledonia; Aaron M. Bauer, R.A. Sadlier) These arboreal geckos rarely leave the vegetation and tend to remain out in the relative open even during the day rather than seeking out hiding places or shelters. They have strong feet and tails which allow them to cling rather tightly to small vines and branches. They are primarily nocturnal but do move about to some degree during the day.
There are some common names for these geckos like Bauer's Chameleon Gecko for E. agricolae and Vieillardi's Chameleon Gecko for E. vieillardi. The common names have not really stuck and people generally just refer to them by their species name. People have different pronunciations for the species name which can at times be hilarious when trying to communicate with people who say it differently. We pronounce the names like this; agricolae (agri-cole-ee) and vieillardi (vai-lard-ee).
Eurydactylodes vieillardi vs. Eurydactylodes agricolae
Many folks wonder what the difference is between these two species. Which ones are more expensive, which ones get bigger or are prettier, and how on earth do I tell the difference between the two?
To answer some of these burning questions, I'll start with "which species is more expensive?" Sometimes both species can be found at the same price but typically E. vieillardi are just barely more expensive. The other two species, E. occidentalis and E. symmetricus, are relatively easy to find these days, but E. symmetricus remaining exceedingly rare and thus the highest price. The difference in price seems to be born out of pure economics rather than one being more aesthetically desirable than the other. "Which species gets larger?" All species max out around the same length for snout to vent length (SVL), except E. occidentalis is 10 mm smaller in SVL. There is some size variation for adults in general though and an average total length being around 4.5-5.5 inches in total length. Males are smaller than the females and are usually a little more brightly colored. On the question of which one is prettier, it's really a matter of personal opinion so we'll let you make up your own mind on that one.
Telling the difference between the species can be tricky at times. Eurydactylodes vieillardi have more well-defined scales, which allows experienced keepers to be able to tell the difference pretty easily. The most reliable way to tell which species you are dealing with is the yellow band, which for E. agricolae, extends from the mouth to the ear cavity. The band does not reach the ear cavity in E. vieillardi.
Eurydactylodes are fairly easy to care for as they do not have stringent requirements as far as housing, temperature, humidity or feeding. They do require a little more effort to keep properly than other New Caledonian geckos but nothing that is beyond an intermediate keepers ability.
Housing Hatchling to juvenile size specimens can be housed in plastic kritter keeper type enclosures or small glass terrariums. The medium or large Herp Haven kritter keeper is what we use until they are big enough to graduate to a permanent enclosure. As adults, they can easily be housed in a 12x12x18 Exo Terra Terrarium singly, as pairs or as trios. Adult males will probably fight if housed together so make sure you have only one male per enclosure. The most important aspect of their set up is that they have plenty of climbing vines, branches or plants with a diameter small enough for them to fully grip onto. Larger diameter branches will not be utilized nearly as much so pay close attention to what you choose to use for climbing, keeping in mind they will spend nearly 100% of their time here.
Feeding Offer insects as well as fruit-based gecko diets. Hatchlings should be offered either pinhead to 10 day old crickets or flightless fruit flies, both of which should be dusted with a calcium and vitamin D3 powder. They do not seem to like large prey items so keep that in mind when selecting food items. Adults can handle 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch sized crickets or similarly sized feeder roaches. Feed them insects at least 2-3 times per week and Pangea Fruit Mix Gecko Diets 2-3 times per week. Ours seem to prefer the Watermelon variety as well as the With Insects variety.
Light & Heat These guys actually like to bask from time to time so we recommend a small wattage heat lamp at the top of their cage during the day. The light can be completely turned off at night allowing for a natural temperature drop. A 25-40 watt bulb should do the trick depending on ambient room temperature and the size of the tank. The basking spot should be the hottest spot in the cage should reach 82-85 F (27-29 C). Make sure to get yourself a good digital thermometer and measure temps at the basking spot as well as throughout the cage. There absolutely has to be enough space in the cage for them to retreat to an area that is closer to 75 degrees F (23-32 C). If the room they are in begins to get warm you should turn off the basking light. As a guideline, the temperatures should be kept between 70-75 F (21-24 C) not including the basking spot. Are basking spots really necessary? No, many keepers do not use them at all and have great success as long as the ambient temperatures are acceptable. Since basking appears to be a natural behavior for them we think it should be provided at least once they graduate to their permanent enclosure. What About UVB? Again many keepers do not use any UVB lighting and have zero problems. Those that do provide access to UVB lights report that their geckos are more active and have better, more vibrant color. Since these geckos do not hide away during the day it would make sense that they do get some exposure to UVB in the wild and may benefit from it in captivity. The verdict for UVB is that it's optional but recommended. These geckos are a riot to watch at night when they are active. To view them more easily at night you can employ a red or blue reptile night light. There are many options and the most important factor would be to choose one that will not overheat them. If room allows, the Exo Terra Day/Night LED or the Exo Terra Full Moon LED work nicely for this.
Water & Humidity Seeking out standing water to drink from does not come naturally to these guys, so it is important to mist them once or twice a day with enough water to provide droplets on the foliage and sides of the tank for them to lick up. There is no need to drench the tank with water, mist thoroughly while making sure that their enclosure dries completely between mistings. Even though they do not typically drink from dishes we always make sure there is a shallow dish of clean water with them as a backup source. A thirsty gecko will drink wherever it finds water.
Handling You can handle your geckos if you choose to. Once they become used to it they are very mellow and will just cling to your finger or hand without much fussing about. They are not fast moving and rarely bite. Handling should be limited to 15 minutes or so a day so that they do not become stressed. Newly acquired animals should always be left alone for at least two weeks so they can acclimate to their new surroundings. Hatchlings should not be handled except to move them to a clean cage. Once they are 3 months old you can begin handling them starting with just a minute or two at a time and working your way up.
Behavior - Unique defense mechanism When threatened or agitated, E. agricolae and E. vieillardi are capable of secreting a pungent smelling sticky substance from the caudal glands located in their tails. The science is still not out on exactly what this goo is, so nobody can really laugh at you when you call it "the weird, stinky, mystery goo". The secretions do not seem to irritate human skin but there are reports of it causing very intense irritation to the eyes. If you are unfortunate enough to get slimed, it goes without saying, wash up immediately. If you get the goo in your eyes, flush you eyes for 10-15 minutes. If the irritation does not subsided after a day, you may need to seek medical guidance. Geckos that are used to human interaction will not do this as long as care is taken not to startle them too much. Pinching the tail may cause the gecko's to also shoot their goo though. One of the great aspects of this genus is they do not autotomize their tails, meaning they do not drop them voluntarily in response to predators or extreme stress. If the tail is somehow severed partially or completely, it will regenerate.