The Mossy Prehensile Tail Gecko, commonly known as the chahoua, is native to New Caledonia. There are two locales, the Mainland and the Pine Isle. The Pine Isle is more colorful, while the Mainland is larger and slightly duller. The Chahoua is the second largest Rhacodactylus gecko, smaller than only Rhacodactylus leachianus. They are most infamous for their propensity to roll into a ball when they are threatened. This large, gentle gecko species makes a good pet for those with some previous reptile experience. While very hardy they are slightly less durable than their cousins the Crested Gecko and Gargoyle Gecko. They are also harder to breed than some of the other Rhacodactylus geckos. All in all, however, they are an interesting species which, while relatively easy in their care, is still a challenge for even experienced keepers.
DO NOT FEED WILD INSECTS OR INSECTS FOUND AROUND THE HOUSE – THEY MAY CARRY DISEASES THAT COULD BE DEADLY TO YOUR PET OR HAVE PESTICIDE RESIDUES
Average Size: Variable, up to 10 inches.
Life Span: Well over 15 years if properly cared for.
Diet: Perhaps the best part of keeping chahoua is that they do not need to be fed live prey. They are an omnivorous species, which in the wild eats both insects and rotting fruits and flowers. In captivity they can be fed an excellent powdered diet produced by Allen Repashy. This diet comes in multiple flavors as part of a two part mix and can be ordered from Julie Bergman at The Gecko Ranch. It is mixed with water to make a nutritionally complete food that chahoua just love! Alternatively, a fruit and meat baby food, vitamin/ mineral supplement/ honey/ spirulina/ bee pollen mix can be used in conjunction with insects such as mealworms, waxworms and gutloaded, mineral powder dusted crickets. The complete powder is easier to use and less likely to cause nutritional deficiencies than home made diets. Chahoua do seem to have more of a preference for insects as a part of their diet than some of the other Rhacodactylus geckos, and will benefit from regular feedings of live prey.
Feeding: If feeding Allen's diet solely most keepers feed either daily or every other day, leaving the dish in there for a second night. Since the chahoua is nocturnal, feeding at night time just before lights out is recommended. If feeding live prey with the diet, insects and diet should be fed on alternating nights. Crickets should not be larger than the width of the head of the smallest gecko in the tank. All crickets should be properly gutloaded and dusted with mineral powder (no phosphorous)/ vitamin supplement before feeding. Some chahouas may also eat mouse pinks, but these should not be fed more than once weekly.
Housing: Chahouas can be housed in either screen or glass/ plexi enclosures. In drier areas it is recommended that glass/ plexi cages be used to provide adequate humidity. In areas with higher humidity screen cages are excellent for providing adequate ventilation. Cages should be permitted to dry out entirely during the day following a heavy night time misting. Housing should be chosen to permit this to occur, otherwise problems with molding of the housing from too high of humidity can occur, or the animals can have retained shed due to low humidity
Size: Since the Chahoua is arboreal (lives in the trees) it strongly prefers a cage that is taller than it is long. Multiple females can be safely housed together, but multiple males should never be housed together as they will fight fiercely. Care should be taken any time multiple females, or a male and females, are housed together that no one animal is being bullied or prevented from feeding. A single adult can be housed in a 29 gallon tank stood up on its long axis. One male and several females can be housed in an enclosure measuring 24 inches long X 24 inches deep X 36 inches tall. It is recommended to start young chahoua in small enclosures and increase their size as they grow as they tend to do best in an environment they feel secure in.
Substrate: Paper towels or cage liners are by far the easiest substrate to use, though not very aesthetically pleasing. If males and females are housed together with the intent of breeding they will make finding the eggs much simpler, however. For a more pleasing set up cocofiber can be used as a substrate and planted nicely. Caution must be used if feeding insects on cocofiber however, as the geckos may ingest it when feeding. Reptile barks can also provide a nice substrate, though they carry the same risk of ingestion. NEVER use pine/ cedar chips intended for small mammals as they can make your gecko very, very ill.
Habitat: Chahouas love their vertical space. Bamboo poles, branches and vertically placed cork flats will make your geckos very happy. They are also especially fond of plants, such as Mother- in Law Plants, Pothos (which is extremely hardy) and anything else hardy enough to support their weight, both live and fake. The more hiding places that you give your gecko the less stressed it will be, and consequently healthier. Cork curls also make excellent hides and can be siliconed in place on the sides of the enclosure. In a more sterile enclosure egg crates can be used to provide many hiding places at relatively low cost and thrown away when soiled.
Grooming and Hygiene: Chahouas require very little actual grooming. Most important is to maintain adequate humidity to prevent retained sheds. In the case of a retained shed the gecko can be carefully soaked in warm water, or placed in a small plastic container (with holes punched) with damp paper towels for 30 minutes twice daily until the shed is removed. Always wash your hands before and after touching your gecko or habitat contents to help prevent Salmonella and other infectious diseases
Temperature: Chahouas prefer to be kept at room temperature (from 65 - 80 degrees F). They experience stress at temperatures over 85 or under 65 degrees. It is advisable to provide a 75 watt light bulb for your gecko to bask under should it choose should your house be very cold.
Lighting: As a nocturnal species your Chahouas will likely not come out when the lights are on, nor do they have any lighting requirements. If you are going to plant your tank a full spectrum bulb is recommended
Water: Provide a constant supply of clean, fresh, filtered, chlorine-free water in a shallow bowl that cannot be tipped over. Using a plant mister, mist your Chahouas heavily twice daily. They will eagerly lap the water off of the surfaces in their enclosure, and the misting will provide much needed humidity.
Habitat Maintenance: Change water in the bowl daily; remove feces daily. Thoroughly clean the tank at least once a week.
- Misting bottle
- Water dish
- Food dish
- Meal Replacement Powder
- Live or fake plants
- Cork bark/ bamboo/ branches
- Tank/ screen enclosure with secure lid/ door
- Light, if desired
- Paper towels or Cocofiber for substrate
Normal Behavior and Interaction: Chahouas are a nocturnal species that will spend all day sleeping. Once they get up in the evening they are amusing to watch wandering around their cage. At night it is not uncommon to hear growls, squeaks, barks and yips as they talk to each other in the same cage, and to geckos in other cages. Chahouas are known for being very easy to handle, though some may roll up into a ball if they feel threatened. They tend to be less aggressive than leachianus, and will sit calmly for gentle handling.
Two warnings should be heeded , however. First, Rhacodactylus geckos are known for their ability to take a leap! Animals that are not accustomed to handling should be kept close to the ground until they have lost their desire for flight. Second , if your Chahoua drops its tail it will never look the same again, though it will grow back. Rough handling and overly stressing your gecko should be avoided if you want your pet to retain its caudal appendage. Handling of new animals should be avoided for the first two to three weeks to allow them to settle in, as should handling of very young geckos.
Signs of a Healthy Pet:
|Active and alert
Clear nose and vent
Common Health Issues and Red Flags:
- Weight loss or decreased appetite
- Mucus in mouth or nose
- Bumps, sores, or abrasions on skin
- Labored breathing
- Paralysis of limbs or tail
- Abnormal feces
- Inability to climb
- Kinked tail
- Floppy jaw
Mites: Although mostly uncommon in a private collection, mites are a possible complication. They will most likely be noticed first around the eyes or the corners of the mouth as little round, black/brown or red creepy creatures. They can be treated by many commercial products available at a local pet shop or by a veterinary strength solution available from your veterinarian. Be sure to follow the directions on the product. Treatment of mites usually takes close to a month of continuous care as eggs can hatch daily and must be 'taken care of' ASAP. These little bugs have an extraordinary reproductive rate. If you have more than the 1 infested reptile, take extra precautions not to transfer the mites from one to another.
Impaction: If you are keeping your chahoua on a natural substrate and feeding insects/ lizards/ pinkies it will likely ingest some of the substrate at each feeding. In small quantities this will not be overly harmful, but in large quantities your gecko may become impacted with substrate in its intestine, a condition that is almost invariably fatal. Prompt treatment by an exotics vet may save your pets life.
Calcium Deficiency: Without adequate calcium in your chahoua's diet, aside from a slow growth rate, you will more than likely encounter Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). The first symptom usually noticed is uncontrolled twitching of the geckos toes or legs, a floppy jaw, or a kinked tail. This can be a fatal disease if not treated promptly. If this problem occurs, we suggest raising the amount of calcium in the gecko's diet immediately. If there is no change in a few days, consider veterinary care as an option. This is most common in breeding females. Feeding Allen Repashy's Complete Diets will prevent the occurance of MBD and can also help to treat it.
Internal Parasites: A common disease causing internal parasite in chahoua's is Entameoba invadens, which needs to be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian. If left untreated too long it can be fatal. Other internal parasites are also possible in chahouas, and can be diagnosed by your veterinarian via a stool sample. Signs of E. invadens infection include weight loss, lethargy and generally poor condition.
Egg Binding: Egg binding is relatively common in female Rhacodactylus geckos with the chahoua being no exception. All female geckos are at risk, though those on poor diets or bred too young are at a higher risk level than those that are of proper breeding size and on a good nutritional plane. Signs of egg binding include failing to drop both eggs in a clutch, failing to lay a clutch at the expected time, anorexia and lethargy. Egg binding is normally an emergency by the time it is recognized, and typically needs to be corrected surgically. If you suspect egg binding take your chahoua to a good exotics veterinarian with an interest in reptiles as soon as possible.
If you suspect any of these conditions, please contact your exotic animal veterinarian. The typical small animal practitioner may not have sufficient knowledge in this area. Even this guide is general in nature and should not be used to diagnose your pet.