Written for Pangea Reptile by Ceri Godfrey
The Uroplatus genus is split up into four different groups, Uroplatus Henkeli belonging to the “Fimbriatus group” each of the species categorized into these groups share similar characteristics and features.
This species is not particularly easy to care for but in comparison to U. Phantasticus, this will be less sensitive. That being said, care and set up for these animals should be considered with attention to detail.
This species was named after Fredrich Wilhelm Henkel, a German amateur herpetologist and reptile-keeper. Fredrich Wilhelm Henkel published the original description of U.henkeli.
This nocturnal gecko will hide away during the day and actively hunt at night. (I would like to add the potential of this species being crepuscular since I am regularly finding this is when mine and others have found theirs to be most active, adding to this I am only finding graving females to be laying in the early hours of the morning). This species can be stressed very easily and so handling should be kept to a minimum. They are generally a calm gecko but when threatened they can drop their tail, it is always important when handling to never grab the animal or hold onto its tail. Sounds can also be produced by U. henkeli for intraspecific communication, the calls can be distinguished in several different ways; threatening, warning and copulation. Sounds are generally produced to deter potential threats.
Location and Habitat
U. henkeli is found in northern and north-western Madagascar and Nosey Be Island. This species stretches from the Montagne d’Ambre to Ankarafantsika on the mainland. The typical habitat where this species is found is in the Lokobe Forest.
This tropical climate consists of dry and humid seasons with high temperatures throughout the year. The rainy season coincides with breeding season and it is recommended to replicate this in captivity.
These geckos are found in the lower trunk areas of the tropical deciduous dry forests usually at heights from 1-2 meters above the ground. Typically U. henkeli is found closer to small rivers and preferring smaller trees in diameter. It is worth considering this when first setting up your enclosure.
This species is one of the largest of the genus ranging from 9-12 inches and weighing from 115-250 grams. When recording some animal’s details SVL (snout to vent length) and TL (tail length) will be used to produce a more accurate description of the animal. Recordings of U. henkeli’s maximum length using SVL and TL have been; 4.8-7.6 inches SVL and 2.8-4inches TL.
The overall structure of U. henkeli has a dorsally flattened body, the heads are also flattened ending with pointed snout tips. A dermal fringe measuring a few millimeters runs along the whole body.
There are unique color variations on this species and two different forms can be found on Nosey Be and the mainland, they can be distinguished by their color and pattern. But this is not always an accurate way to distinguish between the two locations.
U. henkeli is sexually dimorphic. During the day both sexes are pale beige to whitish. At night males will show a pale or dark brown base color with larger dark brown to black patches all around the body. Whereas females will be seen with a much lighter base color and much finer dark patterning over the body. Sexually mature males and females are also easily distinguished by the males hemipenal bulges and the females lack there of.
Uroplatus Henkeli in this description have a blackened tip on the end of their tongue. An almost identical looking Uroplatus to the untrained eye, the Uroplatus Aff. Henkeli will not possess this pigmentation. They also differ in physical appearance with slightly smaller eyes and a smaller adult size is obtained.
Feeding and Supplementation
*A note from Pangea Reptile: The school of thought in Europe is that of offering zero dietary D3 and always use UVB lighting, even with nocturnal species like Uroplatus. In the USA we tend to offer Calcium with low levels of D3 every other feeding as well as recommend low level UVB light the 5-7% T5 Arcadia lights. Calcium supplements with low levels of D3 include PangeaCal, Miner-All Indoor, and Zoo Med Calcium with D3.
This species is insectivorous meaning the diet solely consists of Insects, worms and other invertebrates. This would include; Flies, Crickets, Locusts, Wax worm moths and the larvae, Dubia Cockroaches and even baby mice are eaten, Smaller sized feeder snails seem to be a favorable food item. Variation is key when keeping any animal in captivity, all live food should be kept in a separate container and gut loaded before each feed. During breeding season feeding and supplementation should be carefully monitored especially in egg-laying females since a large quantity of energy and recourses are going into the production of eggs. It should also be considered that hatchlings and young will require more calcium carbonate due to the unusually rapid growth.
Supplementing U. henkeli should be in combination with the correct heating and lighting which we will look at later on. A decent range of supplements should be used, and a feeding schedule should coincide with this.
I have experimented with using almost every well-known supplement on the market. For this particular species, I would highly recommend having Calcium with No D3, Multivitamin No D3, Bee Pollen and a supplement with D3 in such as Nutrobal to be used CORRECTLY. (I have mentioned these for if you are using UVB lighting which I highly recommend for this species as I feel it is necessary). Remember to look at the analytical content of the products you are purchasing. In this market you generally pay for what you get, It is not worth looking for one cheap supplement. I always keep a large range of supplements to hand.
Calcium with No D3; Arcadia Calcium, Arcadia Calcium with Magnesium- please see to the analytical content and consider using this in conjunction with other supplements if you have a hatchling that is growing at a fast rate or you have an egg-laying female who is using a large number of her recourses. Zoomed Calcium No D3.
Multivitamin No D3; Zoo Med reptivite No D3.
Supplements with D3; Nutrobal- this is a veterinary grade supplement and should be used correctly you can cause D3 overdose if using this incorrectly. Miner-all indoor this is a phosphorus-free human grade calcium product with D3 in and again should be used with that in mind, this is balanced with over 50 mineral and trace minerals found in skin bones and muscles of wild Amphibians and Reptiles.
Lighting and Heating and Humidity
Although this species is nocturnal UVB should always be provided since this is a main part of the animals' natural D3 cycle. This also provides a clear night and day cycle.
Recommended: Arcadia T5 6%- D3 Forest, T5 7% Shade Dweller or T8 6% D3 Forest. Although I have recommended these, you need to consider which is best for your enclosure, is the bulb going on top of a mesh enclosure? How much of the UV rays will be filtered out? What height is the bulb going to sit at? Will there be ample coverage in the enclosure for the animal to photo regulate correctly? Their ideal basking zone is 1-2 UVI so it is important to consider all these factors. If you own a Solarmeter it might be worth your while to take multiple readings from different locations when setting up your enclosure. (UVB LIGHTING SHOULD ALWAYS BE REPLACED AS INSTRUCTED BY THE MANUFACTURER)
U. henkeli are able to tolerate higher temperatures in comparison to other Uroplatus in the Genus, this does not mean to ignore the rises in temperatures if it does occur. Action should be taken if great fluctuation in temperatures causes the animals' stress levels to rise to an unhealthy amount.
I prefer to use a white incandescent basking light in conjunction with a dimming thermostat when heating my enclosures. This creates more of a naturalistic heating source and coincides with a night and day cycle. This should be monitored with a thermostat and thermometers. All heating should be switched off at night. There is a natural night time temperature drop which is important to the animals' organ function and growth.
Humidity can be harder to retain in certain cases. Enclosure type and airflow can have a major effect on the humidity retained. It is recommended to have a high amount of airflow with the high humidity, this will cause the humidity to fluctuate at some points but your aim is for the air of the enclosure to not become stagnant. The Humidity will be at its highest point during night time. If you choose to fog your enclosure please be sure to do so when heating sources are switched off, (Fogging enclosures during the day with heating applied is directly linked to respiratory infections in reptiles). Uroplatus will not drink from a water bowl or very rarely. They will drink the water droplets that form on leaves or other areas of the enclosure during the rises of humidity. You can replicate this very simply by misting the enclosure daily, Once in the morning and once in the evening this should also be when the heating is switched off. It is important to monitor the humidity levels with a hygrometer.
Lighting- 12 hours day and night cycle should be implemented. Some keepers create a seasonal light cycle with lighting being on for 14 hours during March through to October and 12 hours on from November through to February.
Heating- daytime temps 24-26 degrees Celsius, nighttime temps low 20s. The 30s can be tolerated but it is not recommended for this temperature to extend over long periods of time.
Humidity- daytime humidity 70-80%, night time humidity 100%.
Most keepers house U. henkeli in either a glass or mesh enclosure. (wood would not be favorable considering the lack of airflow) Although glass and mesh do not retain heat as well as a wooden enclosure the temperature required for this species that should not pose a problem. A minimum size enclosure for a pair of Uroplates henkeli should be 32 x 32 x 60 inches 80 x 80 x 150cm (LxWxH). When looking at enclosures not all brands are able to produce glass terrariums in the required depth. A glass enclosure is also considered slightly harder to care for this species if you do not have much experience with caring for Uroplates it is worth considering a mesh enclosure. At least one side should be covered with a background preferably two if it is a mesh enclosure, using either a natural cork panel or coco fiber backing pressed and securely fitted to the back to avoid the animal slipping behind and causing injury.
Live planted enclosures work extremely well with this species creating multiple hiding spots, retention of humidity and the larger leaves are easier for water droplets to hold onto in the enclosure. When placing branches give multiple options although this species prefers slightly thinner trunks to reside on make sure you give a variety of thicknesses and angles to which you position them at. Some branches should be placed vertically giving the animal somewhere to sleep during the day, others could be put at different angles in order to create a basking spot if needed.
A mixture of coco fiber, sand, orchid bark, leaf litter, ground sepia and moss should be used as substrate at least 1-2 inches in depth.
(If you have your Uroplatus henkeli from a hatchling it might be worth considering starting the animal off in a slightly smaller enclosure to monitor the growth and intake of food.)
You should be spot cleaning every day, and a full cleanout should be carried out every 4-6 weeks. Since this animal can be stressed easily it is worth creating a bioactive enclosure with springtails and isopods in to do the majority of the cleaning, This way a full cleanout can be carried out less often if the enclosure is self-sustaining.
Cleaning products I recommend; F10 disinfectant. This is a veterinarian grade disinfectant that can be bought in many different forms, and also in a concentrate.
-Written by Ceri Godfrey