Leaf-Tailed Gecko Care

Leaf-Tailed Gecko (Uroplatus spp.)

Skill level: IntermediateAdvanced+

Madagascar, home of the leaf-tailed gecko


Leaf-tailed geckos are a crepuscular arboreal genus of geckos native to Madagascar, a large island located off the southeast coast of Africa. They are best known for their masterful camouflage, blending in flawlessly with their native surroundings.

This genus is comprised of 17 recognized species, categorized into 4 groups. (Those marked with an asterisk are most common in the pet trade.)

  • Fimbriatus (large bark mimics)
    • fimbriatus*
    • giganteus
    • henkeli*
    • aff. henkeli
    • sameiti
    • sikorae*
    • aff. sikorae
  • Alluaudi (small bark mimics)
    • alluaudi
    • guentheri*
    • malahelo
    • pietschmanni
  • Ebenaui (leaf mimics)
    • ebenaui
    • fiera
    • finiavana
    • fotsivava
    • kelirambo
    • malama
    • phantasticus*
  • Lineatus (bamboo mimics)
    • lineatus*

Uroplatus vary in length from 4”-13” (10-33 cm) long, depending on the species, although males tend to be larger than females in most cases. They typically live 5-15 years in captivity, depending on husbandry and origin; wild-caught individuals consistently have shorter lifespans than their captive-bred counterparts.

These geckos are crepuscular insectivores, which means that their diet is almost entirely composed of insects. “Crepuscular” means that they are most active at dawn and dusk, although they are more active at night than during the day.

Leaf-tailed geckos are the most protected of all gekkonids, protected under CITES Appendix II, which means that although they are not formally categorized as “endangered,” they may become so without trade restrictions. Among other species, they are primarily threatened by widespread deforestation on the island.

For this reason, some argue that it is the responsibility of hobbyists to breed Uroplatus to assist conservation efforts. That is a good point, and a project I might undertake someday. But breeding is never a project to be attempted idly, regardless of conservation status, and so this guide will not address the breeding of these species.

Additional Facts:

Like most geckos, leaf-tailed geckos do not have eyelids. Instead, they use their tongues to keep their eyes clean and moistened.

Also like most geckos, leaf-tailed geckos are adept at walking up vertical surfaces, thanks to millions of microscopic “hairs” on their toe pads called setae. Where setae fail, Uroplatus also have small claws to help them get around, permitting them to even cling to branches upside down to get the perfect angle on a prospective bug dinner.

Uroplatus have some of the most perfect camouflage of all reptile species. Whether adapted to mimic lichen, moss, bark, bamboo, or leaves, Uroplatus possess a variety of genius adaptations which make them invisible to the untrained eye.

uroplatus species covered in this leaf-tailed gecko care guide

Left: U. sikorae by Mariah Healey, Middle: U. fimbriatus by James Muenchen, Right: U. phantasticus by Phantastic Geckos

Leaf-Tailed Gecko Care — Table of Contents:

  1. Shopping for Leaf-Tailed Gecko Supplies
  2. Species Within the Genus Uroplatus
  3. Terrarium Size Requirements
  4. Substrate Options
  5. Temperatures & UVB
  6. Humidity Requirements
  7. How to Decorate a Leaf-Tailed Gecko Terrarium
  8. What to Feed Your Leaf-Tailed Gecko
  9. Handling Tips & Body Language Info
  10. Common Diseases & Other Health Questions
  11. Additional Resources

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