The Gecko Spot

Pictus Gecko Care

This caresheet was written by and is copyright of Paul Ritchie, All images are also copyright of Paul Ritchie. The entire care guide is reproduced here with his kind permission.

Pictus Eating



Pictus geckos are a ground dwelling gecko from the coastal & scrub regions of South Madagascar. They are relatively small with adults generally reaching .4- 6 inches, although well cared for adult males can push 8". They seem to be suffering an identity crisis when it comes to common names; Big Headed geckos being the most familiar, if a little derogatory. Other common names include Ocelot gecko, Panther gecko & Painted Ground gecko. Captive specimens can live up to 10 years if provided with the optimum care.

Protected in its natural environment, they have been kept & bred successfully in captivity for a number of years providing the hobbyist with well adjusted individuals ideally suited to the captive environment. However care must be taken with selection, as offspring from over-bred or under-nourished females rarely live beyond a few months.

There are two naturally occurring colour & pattern phases with more being developed through selective captive breeding. Morphs are still a subject of debate - the most commonly seen are either Striped or Banded with a base colour of light or dark brown. Some backgrounds may have a red or gold tint whilst bands & stripes can be pale - almost white. Other unusual forms include 3 stripe & xanthic.



Horizontally oriented vivaria are the preferred housing for these geckos. Housing can be wooden or glass vivaria (18" or 24"L x 12"W x 10"H) or a large (18" x 12" x 7") perspex fauna box. High perches should be avoided as they do not survive falls readily. Several substrates have been experimented with regards Pictus geckos, and everyone has their favourite. I would strongly advise against sand of any type, as there is a danger of impaction.

Our preferred substrate medium is the recently available cocofibre substrate which, as well as being organic & sterile,has marvelous water-retaining qualities. This makes it ideal for retaining a dry top level whilst the lower levels retain moist - allowing for a good relative humidity.. A top layer of moss over a third of the enclosure provides a damp area for help with shedding as well as providing a more natural look

Furnishings should consist of a hide for security (half coconut shells are ideal) & a few corkbark pieces providing landscape levels.. Always provide a small waterbowl & refresh daily.


Lighting, Temperature, and Humidity

Pictus geckos require daytime temperatures in the range 27 - 31 degrees Celsius with a night time drop of 5 degrees and a relative humidity of between 50 - 80%. Background temperature can be achieved by placing a heatmat to cover one-third of the ground area controlled by a suitable thermostat.

Lighting has long been considered non-essential for nocturnal geckos, however I have noticed considerable differences in the health & well-being of Pictus by providing them with a mild UV emitting lamp, say 2%. Although considered nocturnal they are active at both dusk & dawn and are likely to have access to low levels of UV in the wild during this time Lighting should be cycled to mirror natural daylengths with 8 hours in mid-winter rising gradually to 16 hours in high summer. There are a variety of good-quality electronic timers which are ideal for maintaining these schedules

Humidity can be maintained by lightly spraying the vivarium with water daily.During summer months it may be necessary to spray more often. You should never allow the substrate to dry out completely and a bowl with fresh water should be available at all times.



A high-quality varied diet of properly gut-loaded insects is the preferred Pictus diet.

Suitable insects include crickets as a staple - allowing 5 - 7 suitably sized crickets per feed - & locusts,& waxworms for variety.These should be dusted with a high-quality vitamin powder every other feed. Monitor food intake at every feed to ensure each gecko is receiving equal amounts. It is unfair to expect all food to be eaten immediately & we allow a few crickets to remain in with them for snacking as & when they choose.. Place a small piece of veg (carrot, fresh greens etc) in the viv to provide a food source for free range insects. This ensures your geckos are not attacked during sleep & also has the added benefit of providing top-up gutload for the insects.

Calcium is essential for the health of pictus and vital for growth of hatchlings & breeding females. Ground calcium can be placed in a small bowl in the viv for them to help themselves, but we prefer to sprinkle some around their mouths before lightly spraying them. As they lick the water from their faces they will also take in the calcium. Lack of calcium will result in weak limbs, fragile eggs & deformed hatchlings.



As previously mentioned the Pictus gecko can be best observed at dusk & dawn - their preferred time for hunting. Feeding should be scheduled around these times As with most Geckos, males are extremely territorial in the presence of females. but juvenile males can sometimes be kept together if not subject to female contact.

Pictus geckos are equally at home if housed singly or as pairs or trios. If keeping more than one in the same viv, a pecking order will be established - so keep an eye on each individual regards food intake.Should bullying be noticed remove the weaker gecko & house separately, monitoring health & progress. Pictus geckos can be handled, although are quicker & more delicate than Leopard geckos.



Pictus is surprisingly easy - from around 2 - 3 months. Males have very prominent bulges at the base of the tail and are stockier & eventually larger than females. Sexual maturity is reached at 7 - 10 months, but breeding too young can cause problems. I would strongly recommend 12 months as the preferred minimum age for females.- providing she is a good weight (20g+) and healthy

Females should also be removed from the male after 3 - 4 clutches and allowed time for rest & recuperation.Female pictus geckos have the ability to retain sperm & use it to fertilize future eggs - so fertile eggs can still appear well after the last mating. Extra supplementation is vital for egg producing females & calcium intake should be monitored at these times Eggs will be buried within the substrate & care should be taken when removing from the viv. Place in an incubator on a substrate of moist cocofibre or your preferred medium at 28C. Incubation times are between 6 & 8 weeks

Pictus geckos can be extremely prolific & have been exploited for this reason over the years to the detriment of the animals health & longevity.Over-breeding will result in the early death of your female and weak or deformed hatchlings.


Hatchling Care

Hatchlings should be allowed to remain in the incubation pot until the eggsac has been absorbed, then transferred to a small raising box. Hatchlings can be raised in similar conditions to the adults and should be fed 3 - 5 suitably sized crickets per session & watered daily They are very delicate & clumsy at this stage so handling should be kept to a minimum. A lot of people prefer to raise hatchlings on kitchen towel to minimise the risk of impaction, but we prefer a more organic approach. Since we discovered the delights of cocofibre we have never lost a hatchling through impaction

A routine should be established from an early age to allow the young Pictus to become familiar with human contact & ambient conditions within your home. Hides are especially important to allow a safe retreat from light & noises Otherwise these geckos respond eagerly to human contact.Young Pictus can be raised together with their clutchmates until sexes can be established. Males & Females should then be separated to avoid premature breeding. Males should always be separated at sexual maturity.


This caresheet was written by and is copyright of Paul Ritchie, All images are also copyright of Paul Ritchie. The entire care guide is reproduced here with his kind permission.