Chahoua Care, Husbandry & Feeding
Chahoua enjoy status as being one of the easiest gecko species to keep in captivity because with just a few key husbandry elements, they thrive. Here is an overview on how to keep chahoua:
The age and size of your chahoua will determine what type of enclosure you should keep it in.
As a general rule, chahoua like enough space to move around, forage for fruit and insects, and to thermoregulate, but they also enjoy security, which means they don't necessarily require expansive enclosures either.
For animals under 10 grams in weight, I recommend keeping them in smaller containers like a medium kritter keeper or 6-quart sized bin if you use a slide-out rack. This smaller size allows younger geckos to find food and water more easily, and gives them a sense of security.
For animals that are 10-25 grams, use something about double the size mentioned above, so possibly a large kritter keeper or 15-quart bin in a slide out rack. At this stage, your chahoua will be eating vigorously and growing quickly, but the same principles from above of easily finding food and feeling secure still apply.
For single animals over 25 grams into adulthood, I recommend a 12”x 12”x 18” Exo-Terra terrarium. I have also used a standard 10 gallon tank with a screen top with good success.
For adult pairs, I recommend an enclosure that is at least 20 gallons, or something like an 18”x 18”x 18” or 18”x 18”x 24” terrarium. There are a variety of new sizes and caging types available on the market, but going with at least 20 gallons will ensure that you have happy and healthy chahoua. I personally use and recommend the PVC enclosures from D.W. Geckos and Terraria.
Caging Decor and Key Elements
Now that you have your enclosure picked out, what should you put in it? There are a few simple things to include that will create an ideal enclosure for your chahoua.
Substrate: If your chahoua is under 10 grams, I recommend using paper towels for substrate. At this age, young geckos are refining their hunting skills and may not be as accurate when chasing insects as they will be in just a few more months. Using paper towel means that your gecko, while learning to catch prey, won’t accidentally bite and swallow a piece of bark or dirt that can cause impaction. Impaction can be deadly. Older geckos can be kept on organic potting soil.
Climbing elements: No matter their age, the best thing you can include in your chahoua enclosure is cork bark -- they love it! Cork bark is easy to clean, does not rapidly break down in humidity, and dries out quickly after misting. You’ll want one or two tall, vertically oriented slabs of cork bark and/or if you can find one, a cork hollow. Adjust these so that your gecko can hide behind or within them and feel secure. In addition, vines or sticks can be used for decor in other parts of your gecko’s habitat - they’ll use these when basking and hunting.
Feeding/Watering stations: Chahoua will drink water out of a water bowl and they do like a variety of fruit smoothie diets. The best way to accommodate both of these is with magnetic ledges like these. Such ledges are easier to accommodate in larger enclosures, so for younger geckos, I use large bottle caps - like Gatorade caps - and keep one filled with water, and use another when feeding fruit diets.
Foliage: Plants, whether real or fake, add another layer of security for your chahoua. For adult enclosures with full spectrum lighting, I use organically grown pothos plants with good success. For other enclosures, I use fake plants and vines. You can place these wherever and however you like, or how your chahoua seems to enjoy.
Humidity, Lighting and Temperature
New Caledonia, from where chahoua originate, is a fairly humid place which means you need to try to replicate a similar environment in your enclosure. The easiest way to do this is through misting. Whether you use a misting system, squirt bottle or larger size sprayer, just add a few drops of dechlorinator to the water and mist down your chahoua’s enclosure thoroughly each evening. You’ll see your gecko lick water from the walls of the enclosure and from his/her own eyes - very cool! I recommend the use of a hygrometer because humidity can be a tricky thing to measure. You want to be sure that your chahoua’s enclosure reaches 70% humidity for a few hours during the day, and does not drop below 30-40% in between misting.
Chahoua can exist happily at what most people would consider to be “room temperature” or about 65-80° Fahrenheit, or 18-26° Centigrade. Prolonged exposure below 60°F/15°C or over 85°F/29°C for can result in stress, and ultimately, death. If you’re unsure about what might be too hot or too cold, use a thermometer or temperature gun to confirm.
Does your chahoua need supplemental lighting? No. Would it enjoy heat and/or UVB? Most certainly. Younger animals can be harder in this regard because their enclosures are smaller, but putting them on a higher rack - or in a rack with heat tape - can provide a nice boost of warmth. For older and larger animals, I use both full-spectrum UVB lighting and heat. The heat source should be positioned to one side of the enclosure so that chahoua can thermoregulate. A warm spot of ~83°F/28°C with the ability to move to a cooler area of 72°F/22°C - or anything in between - is ideal.
Chahoua Diets and Nutrition
When it comes to diet, chahoua are a lot like many other New Caledonian geckos in the sense that they are frugivorous and insectivorous, but there is one key differentiator: Chahoua need and consume considerably more insect prey than their cousins. This is an overview of how I feed my chahoua collection, and which products I recommend for doing so.
There is no shortage of fruit diets available on the market today, and the line of diets that I recommend is from Pangea Reptile. Pangea has many diets available spanning several fruit flavors, formulas and protein bases, but the one I have had the most luck with for chahoua is the Fig and Insects formula. With that said, individual geckos do tend to have individual tastes, so I recommend trying many of the different flavors and even trying other diets, such as Repashy. I feed a fruit diet 2-3x per week, by mixing it up, pouring into 1oz solo cups, placing the cup into the feeding ledge and often leave the diet in the enclosure for ~48 hours. Some geckos will eat fruit diet when it is fresh while others prefer it to ferment a bit, then eat more on the second night. Either way, after 48 hours, I remove the diet as you can smell it beginning to sour.
My philosophy is to offer a mix of smoothie diets and live insects on an ongoing bases. Variety is key, and for that reason, I always recommend offering different things to determine what works best for your individual gecko. I also make my own proprietary fruit diet that I add to the rotation. Here is the recipe:
The Chahoua Chamber Diet
1 3.5oz package of Plum Organics brand organic mango fruit baby food
2 1/2 tablespoons distilled water
2 teaspoons of flavorless whey protein isolate
3/4 teaspoon Miner-All Indoor calcium supplement
1 pinch organic rose hips
1 small pinch Hawaiian green spirulina algae
Mix all ingredients in a blender and serve immediately.
As mentioned above, insects are a significant part of a chahoua’s diet and they should not be considered optional or “just every now and then” like many other New Caledonian species. Geckos under the age of 1 to 1.5 years will vigorously eat insects as they are undergoing the most rapid pace of maturation and change. Adult geckos will eat insects as well, but not with as much gusto, unless it is females during the breeding and egg laying season. Still, I generally offer insects to adult and subadult chahoua two to three times per week, alternating in between offerings of fruit diet.
I recommend banded crickets vs. discoid or dubia roaches. While I know that roaches are easier to keep, over many years and hundreds of chahoua kept and bred in my collection, I’ve noticed that they tend to stop eating roaches around 25 grams of weight or so. Chahoua have a strong prey drive so they will often pounce at and bite a roach, but are more apt to spit it out. On the flip side, chahoua love crickets and will eat 10-15 of them in a single feeding depending on age and size.
Other feeder insects like wax worms and horn worms can be offered as treats, but crickets should be considered the staple insect option for chahoua.
Chahoua, moreso many other gecko species, are highly dependent on a steady supplementation of calcium. Adequate calcium is most important in breeding females, but is also very important as young geckos are growing into adulthood. Calcium deficiency can kill females and result in underbites, kinked tails and death in younger and juvenile geckos as well. The easiest way to provide the right amount of calcium is to offer a high quality fruit smoothie diet as noted above, and to dust all of your feeder insects with a calcium supplement prior to feeding. I personally use and recommend Miner-All Indoor Calcium with D3.
If you see your gecko beginning to develop a wavy tail, that is the first sign of calcium deficiency. Mix some extra calcium into his or her fruit diet, and offer some extra calcium-dusted insects. That tends to solve the problem.