Image Credit : The Knobtail
Nephrurus is a genus of 12 species and subspecies which are commonly referred to as knob-tailed geckos due to the “knob” like bulb at the distal end of their tail. Nephrurus are a burrowing, nocturnal, terrestrial desert gecko.
Nephrurus have a ton of personality and are a great addition to any enthusiasts’ collection. Although have a ton of personality and are a great addition to any enthusiasts’ collection. Although each species’ care can vary slightly, this is a care guide that tends to work well for majority of the species in the genus.
- Scientific name : Nephrurus
- Distribution : Australia
- Average Size : 0.1 m (0.3 ft)
- Life Span : 10 years or more
- Difficulty : Beginner
Each gecko should be housed individually to eliminate any competition during feeding, as well as, to reduce any potential stress on the animal. Male and Female pairs should only be put together during breeding. Males should never be housed together as aggression can occur. Reptile rack system, with belly heat, have proven to be the most successful and most cost and space effective method of keeping Nephrurus. For hatchlings and juveniles, I use a tub with dimensions 0.45 L x 0.1 W x 0.1 H meters (1.4 x 0.3 x 0.3 feet). For adults, I use a tub with dimensions 0.5 L X 0.4 W X 0.15 H meters (1.6 x 1.2 x 0.45 feet). I believe the length of the tub is more important than the width as it allows more space for the gecko to choose a comfortable temperature during digestion and thermoregulation.
A cost effective option for hides are plant saucers with openings cut out for the animal to dig into. Hides are important for the geckos as they help retain moisture in the sand underneath the hide as well as provide a feeling of security for the gecko.
One hide on the moist side is sufficient, however, some keepers also place an additional hide on the hot side of the enclosure. Ensure that the hide being used is high enough for the gecko to be able to dig and fit under comfortably.
The preferred substrate used to house knob tailed geckos is sand. Premium, washed, play sand from the local hardware store is a cost effective and safe substrate to use. Sometimes large stones or debris can be found in the sand and should be removed prior to placing a gecko into the tub to avoid any potential ingestion or impaction. Using a sand sifter is an ideal way to remove any large stones or debris quickly and effectively. Sand with additives such as calcium or other minerals should be avoided. A minimum of 0.05 meters (0.15 feet) of sand on the cool or moist side should be provided to allow the geckos to burrow and a minimum of 0.02 meters (0.08 feet) on the hot side.
Lighting – Heating
As the entire genus is believed to be mostly nocturnal, Nephrurus species do not require any lighting. “Belly Heat” is the preferred method of heating in a rack system, or enclosure.
These geckos lay on the sand on the hot end to thermoregulate and digest their food.
Each level of the rack is heated and controlled using a thermostat. The hot end surface temperature reads between 30-32 ºC (88-90 ºF) and the cool “moist side” reads between 24-26 ºC (75-78 ºF).
Although some keepers use a water dish, they are not necessary. The geckos will most likely kick sand into the bowl every night. Be advised that if you chose to use a water dish, ensure that it is shallow enough so that the gecko can climb in and out of it with ease and that the possibility of getting stuck or drowning is eliminated.
A brief spraying directly on the gecko, with a low pressure mist at a safe distance, will allow it to lick any drops off its skin. The walls of the tub can be lightly sprayed to allow the geckos to lick any droplets off of the tub. This can be done every other day while feeding, spraying, and cleaning the tub or enclosure.
The tubs used should have enough ventilation to allow air flow. Spray and churn the sand on the cool end every other day. The sand should not be drenched, but rather moist and “fluffy”. The hide should be pushed down on the moist sand afterwards to allow it to trap the moisture.
It is important that the sand underneath the hide is always moist. The frequency of spraying can be adjusted by monitoring the moisture under the hide. This is an easy and effective way to provide adequate humidity inside the enclosure.
Although a variety of roaches and some worms may be used as a staple diet for Nephrurus, the most commonly used feeders are crickets due to their low cost and abundant availability. Ensure that the appropriate size feeders are used for your geckos. Too small or too many feeders can stress out the animal and too big can cause digestive problems or regurgitation.
A good rule to follow is to have the length of the feeder be approximately as long as the geckos head is wide. It is important to “gut load” your feeders prior to feeding to ensure the geckos are getting the maximum amount of nutrients. Calcium and multivitamin powder should be applied to the feeders during every feeding to supplement the nutrients provided by your feeders.
Feeding is done every other day with cleaning and spraying. The amount of feeders may vary for each species and males tend to eat less than females. I personally provide 3-4 crickets for males and 4-5 crickets for females. Bigger species like Nephrurus amyae can take a few more crickets.
Nephrurus can be a shy and stressed gecko and handling should be kept at a minimum.
Spot clean the enclosure at least every other day, during the feeding and spraying. Nephrurus defecate mostly on the sand and the feces can be picked up and disposed of. Occasionally they will defecate onto the hide which should be taken out and washed prior to placing back into the enclosure.
Nephrurus will shed their skin occasionally as they grow and gravid females will almost always have a “pre-lay” shed when they are days away from depositing eggs. Maintaining proper humidity under the hides,as described above, will assist the geckos to have a complete shed.
If the enclosure is too dry, the gecko might shed in pieces or have retained shed. The smooth skinned species such as levis levis or stellatus will eat their shed while the rough species such as amyae and asper will not.
Dispose of any shed during feeding and cleaning.
Potential Health Problems
Most health problems seen in Nephrurus generally come from improper diet or husbandry. Some of these problems include, but are not, limited to:
Stuck shed: This is usually caused by insufficient humidity, however, if the enclosure is too wet, it could also be caused by too much humidity. The most humid part of the enclosure should be under the hide. If a gecko is experiencing stuck shed, do not peel it off as this could damage their sensitive skin! Allow the gecko to shed it off after you’ve adjusted your parameters.
Regurgitation: A gecko will regurgitate if it has eaten too big of a meal or if it does not have the proper temperatures to digest and thermoregulate. Ensure you are using appropriately sized food and are supplying the proper temperatures.
Metabolic bone disease: This is a risk to all reptiles and in Nephrurus is usually due to improper nutrition. Ensure you always supplement and gut-load your feeder insects to avoid it.
The information contained in this care sheet reflect the opinions and methods of the mentioned breeder, based on their expertise and long-established experience.