The Antilles dwarf gecko (Gonatodes antillensis) is, as their name suggests, from the Antillean islands in the Caribbean sea. The Antilles is well-known for its larger and tropical islands like Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. The Antilles dwarf gecko, however, is found on the smaller islands of Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire.
Juvenile Antilles dwarf geckos are shades of brown and beige, often with some dark brown bands (sometimes bordered on one side with a white, beige, or even yellow line) and mottling. Adults are sexually dimorphic.
At already three to four months old, males will begin to change their colors and patterns until they exhibit a remarkably bright yellow and patternless head. The rest of the male’s body is gray–their tail a darker shade–and contains little to no patterning.
Females more resemble hatchings, and what they lack in bright colors, they make up for in some intense patterning: down their tail, their beige background is contrasted by bold brown bands, leading up to brown aberrant banding and mottling down their back, and finally some rounded banding adorning their heads. The ample patterning breaks up their body shape, and its very easy to miss seeing the females on a piece of cork bark!
A pair of Antilles dwarf gecko adults can be housed in an 8x8x12 enclosure or 12x12x12 enclosure. These geckos should only be housed alone or in single pairs. Males are territorial, and even females may fight with each other.
While this species does not have toe pads and cannot climb smooth surfaces, hatchlings and juveniles are very small, so any accessible escape routes should be identified and secured!
Hailing from a semi-arid region, the Antilles dwarf gecko should be kept on a substrate that dries out quicker than a tropical substrate. Sand by itself or sand-soil mixtures (mixed with peat moss or coco fiber) work well for this species. Some of our other substrates, such as DigIt, Coco Select, and other coco-fiber based substrates, can be used if they are kept on the dry side or only slightly moist. A bioactive substrate can be made using BioBedding with springtails and isopods, offering your geckos additional food sources and reducing the need to spot clean.
Unlike most others in their genus, this Gonatodes gecko is active from dusk to sunrise. During the day, they hide out in dry vegetation, leaf litter, and rock crevices. Antilles dwarf geckos should be provided with plenty of hiding places. A layer of leaf litter on top of the substrate is recommended. Additional hiding spots should be provided by using cork bark and similar items.
At night, these dwarf geckos emerge to search for food in the leaf litter, vegetation, and anywhere else they can access. They have no toe pads, rendering them unable to climb smooth surfaces, but their claws allow them to scale rough surfaces with ease. They will make use of climbing materials in their enclosure, such as rocks, driftwood, cork bark, manzanita branches, and other rough surfaces. While this species has not been observed digging, they’re small and at risk of being crushed, so we strongly recommend ensuring that any heavy enclosure items be securely placed and supported by the bottom of the enclosure instead of on top of the substrate. Small succulents and other arid plants are a welcome addition to these enclosures!
Temperature and Humidity
During the day, Antilles dwarf geckos enjoy warmer temperatures and should be kept at temperatures ranging from 75 to 85 F. A basking spot is not necessary if warmer stable temperatures are maintained, but a basking spot of around 90 F can be provided using a heat pad or bulb. Temperatures should not fall below 70 F at night. UV light is not required for this species.
Antilles dwarf geckos should be kept at a humidity between 50-60%. This species should be lightly misted nightly or every other night to maintain slightly elevated humidity and to provide water droplets on the enclosure walls, leaf litter, and other cage items from which the geckos can drink. The enclosure should have enough ventilation so that it dries out after a few hours. A shallow water dish can be provided but is not necessary with consistent misting. It is likely that this species has access to humid microclimates in their semi-arid environment, so we recommend providing plants in the enclosure.
The Antilles dwarf gecko is one of the smallest in its genus, reaching no more than about 2.6-2.7 inches from head to tail. Hatchlings are a little more than an inch long! It is estimated that these geckos live about 10-20 years in captivity.
The Antilles dwarf geckos are insectivores. While their small size limits what bugs they can be offered in captivity, we supply all of the insects your dwarf gecko will need. A staple diet of pinhead to ⅛-inch crickets works best for juveniles. Melanogaster fruit flies, springtails, and small dwarf white isopods can also be offered to juveniles.
Adults should be fed a staple of ¼-inch crickets, but can also be offered extra small black soldier fly larvae, dwarf white isopods, hydei and melanogaster fruit flies, and bean beetles. Feeder insects should be gutloaded and dusted with a vitamin/mineral supplement. A food dish is not necessary but will help contain insects.
The Antilles dwarf gecko begins displaying visible sexual differentiation at around 3-4 months of age. Males will begin losing their pattern and developing a yellow head and gray body, while females will maintain their colors and patterning along their entire body.
A light brumation period in the winter or Increasing the length of day in the summer is recommended to incite breeding. Females will lay a single egg every three weeks in a secure area, including small egg-laying tubes. Eggs should be carefully removed and incubated. Eggs will hatch after 75-100 days.