Dune geckos (Stenodactylus sthenodactylus), also known as dwarf sand geckos and short-fingered geckos, are found in sandy regions of North Africa and the Middle East. This small species is well-adapted to living in harsh sand dune environments; their hardiness, small size, and docile nature make them excellent pets!
Dune geckos have a white bellies while their backs display beige and brown colors. Wild-type geckos exhibit a variety of patterns, including irregular stripes and blotches. This wide variety of irregular patterns, along with their subtly translucent skin, makes these geckos very unique.
Due to their small size, one to five dune gecko adults can be housed comfortably in a 10 gallon tank (up to three or four in a 12x12x12 enclosure), with larger sized enclosures housing more animals. Male and females of this species can be housed together with no issues, provided enough space and food are provided.
Dune geckos are largely terrestrial and love digging. Sand, such as Repti-Sand, is the ideal substrate for this species. As long as the animals are kept healthy and temperatures are correct, impaction is not a risk. The sand should be spot cleaned (i.e. feces and urates removed) once a week.
This species is nocturnal and will hide under cage items during the day. Many items, from cork and driftwood to plant saucers, can be utilized as hides for this species, who will dig under them. Make sure that any cage items that are placed on the sand are light; these geckos will dig under everything. If heavier items are used, like slate, then they must be supported by the bottom of the enclosure instead of just the sand to avoid collapse over a digging animal.
Dune geckos can be kept at ambient temperatures of 75-85F. A hot spot of around 95F during the day should also be provided and can be accomplished with a heat pad or heat light. No special lighting is required for this species. Adapted to a dry environment, dune geckos should not be subjected to ambient humidity higher than 40-50%. Both temperature and humidity can be monitored with a thermometer/hygrometer.
A shallow water dish can be provided but is not necessary with consistent misting. This species should be heavily misted once or twice a week, with the goal of providing droplets of water on the walls of the enclosure from which the geckos will drink. The enclosure should have enough ventilation such that it dries out within a few hours of misting.
Dune geckos will grow to be only 2-3 inches long.
Dune geckos are insectivores and thrive on a diet of bugs. A staple of crickets works best, with other small feeder insects (dubia roaches, waxworms, small mealworms) being offered as occasional treats. A good rule of thumb for size is to only offer insects whose length does not exceed the space in between the gecko’s eyes. Generally, hatchling dune geckos should be fed insects measuring around ⅛-inch, with subadults and adults being moved up to ¼-inch insects. Feeder insects should be dusted with a vitamin/mineral supplement. Offering insects in an escape-proof feeding bowl will minimize the number of bugs that escape and hide among the enclosure.
Dune geckos can be sexed fairly easily: males will have visible bulges at the base of their tail.
Dune gecko males and females can be housed together. A brumation period in the winter is recommended to incite breeding. Females will lay two eggs in the substrate every 2-3 weeks, which can be carefully removed and incubated. Eggs will hatch within 60-80 days.
Links of Interest:
AmphibianCare Care Sheet - a care sheet on Stenodactylus species
Supreme Gecko Care Sheet - Supreme Gecko care sheet on Stenodactylus sthenodactylus