Last updated 19 March 2003: updated Bibliography and details for H. africanus.

A look at the

Subfamily EUBLEPHARIDAE - Eyelid Geckos


Subfamily EUBLEPHARIDAE - the Eyelid Geckos

This seems a good place to start, firstly because some people have proposed that this subfamily should actually be promoted to being a complete family in itself, and secondly and mainly because it contains the two recently most popular geckos, the Leopard Gecko and the Fat-Tailed Gecko.

"Eyelid geckos", or eublepharids to be more scientific, differ mainly from the other geckos in having eyelids, but also because they lack the adhesive lamellae that so many other geckos possess. Their distribution is worldwide, having members in North and Central America, Asia (including Japan) and Africa. Though the subfamily contains only 18 species, Mattison believes that their distribution points to a formerly larger group.

Species and Care

The care for all the eyelid geckos (except probably the Malaysian Cat Gecko) is roughly the same, subject to variations in humidity according to place of origin. However, even the desert species seem to prefer having their "burrows" (ie the substrate under their hidebox or hollow bark, etc) misted lightly but regularly to provide slightly higher humidity within. A 2' x 1' x 1' tank or vivarium is usually large enough to hold 1-3 adults. Although these geckos do not possess the same climbing abilities as others, you should be aware that they are still quite agile and often also inquisitive, so it is important that the tank is secure. Despite worries about sand impaction in the gut, sand substrate (if playground or reptile-specific sand is used - not silica sand) or similar is usually fine for these animals, though some prefer to use pine mulch or woodchips for the African species. Water should be supplied in a shallow bowl. As leopards in particular are often very active, it seems not only attractive to the eye but also psychologically beneficial for these lizards to have a number of rocks, barks and dried tree segments, etc, which they can climb and explore as well as rubbing their old skins off on. Heat requirements vary slightly but are normally up to 85 at the warm end during the day, with a drop of maybe up to 10 degrees at night. Heatpads are usually adequate, with maybe a red bulb connected to a thermostat if more heat is needed. It has been pointed out that some of the eublepharids come from areas that have cold winters, eg Central Asia or Japan. Check the species-specific care requirements for any lizard that you wish to keep.

While there is a good deal of information now available on the husbandry of the Leopard Gecko, the African Fat-Tailed Gecko and the Banded Geckos (Coleonyx species), there is far less available on the Holodactylus species of Africa, the Goniurosaurus species of Asia or Aeluroscalabotes felinus. Both these latter groups are not beginner's geckos, and those who purchase them should attempt to pass on their observations. The rest of the Eublepharis genus are likewise fairly undocumented in captivity, although it is debatable whether the success and availability of the Leopard Gecko would make these species more or less desirable to keepers.

Aeluroscalabotes felinus, Malaysian Cat Gecko Coleonyx brevis, Texas Banded Gecko Coleonyx elegans, Yucatan Banded Gecko
Coleonyx fasciatus, Black Banded Gecko Coleonyx mitratus, Central American Banded Gecko Coleonyx reticulatus, Reticulated Gecko
Coleonyx switaki, Barefoot Gecko Coleonyx variegatus, Western Banded Gecko  
Eublepharis, Leopard Geckos    
Goniurosaurus araneus, Vietnamese Leopard Gecko Goniurosaurus kuroiwae, Japanese Leopard Gecko Goniurosaurus lichtenfelderi, Chinese Leopard Gecko
Goniurosaurus lui Hemitheconyx caudinctus, African Fat-Tailed Gecko Hemitheconyx taylori, Taylor's Fat-Tailed Gecko
Holodactylus africanus, African Clawed Gecko Holodactylus cornii  


Hemitheconyx caudicinctus (African) Fat-Tail(ed) Gecko West Africa 8-10" Second in popularity after the Leopard. Care very similar but requires slightly more humidity. More captive-bred specimens are now becoming available. See also Fat-Tailed Geckos. B I
H. taylori Taylor's Fat-Tail(ed) Gecko East Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia). 8-10" This gecko is rarely seen and little is known of its requirements. Click here for the EMBL database entry and links to pictures. B I
Holodactylus africanus African Clawed Gecko (aka Dwarf Fat-Tailed Gecko, Somali-Masai Clawed Gecko) East Africa (SE Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, NE Tanzania) Up to 4" This is a slow-moving, terrestrial gecko. Originally described in Somalia in 1893, it was only found in Tanzania in 1971. It occurs in a wide variety of habitats within the low-lying semi-desert deciduous bushland found in Kenya, on the Ethiopian border and in Tanzania, and in Somalia near the mouth of the Juba River, by the Red Sea, on the Djibouti border and possibly in SE Ethiopia. It seems that this species feeds heavily on termites, which only abound at certain periods tied with rainfall: hence at other times it is inactive, which may account for the prior infrequency of sightings and also the wide difference in tail measurements recorded, if the tail is used as fat storage. Apart from termites it is also known to prey on various beetles. Specimens collected have been found in sandy washes in the wild. These lizards like to burrow, so substrate should be appropriate for this or else a humidified shelter added. See deVosjoli for more details. Click here for the EMBL database entry and links to pictures. Scalation: entire body covered in uniformly sized granules, no enlarged tubercules. Lacks toe pads. Coloration: dorsally a rich chestnut- to reddish-brown, with 4-5 light brown transverse wavy bands on the back and 2-3 on the tail. One on the nape of the neck divides, each "prong" running through and below the eye on either side before meeting up at and covering the snout. There may also be a very pale, almost white vertebral stripe. Ventral surfaces are white. B I
H. cornii African Clawed Gecko East Africa (NE Somalia) Up to 4" No data so far available. Click here for the EMBL database entry and links to pictures. B I
Coleonyx brevis
Coleonyx brevis (Texas Banded Gecko)

What appears to be a juvenile C. brevis

Texas Banded Gecko

Darker specimen of C. brevis

S. Texas (and New Mexico?), adj. area of Mexico 4" Males are usually larger than females. In ecology and behaviour this lizard is similar to, and should be kept in conditions similar to, C. variegatus. Rogner recommends varying temperatures of 25-35 deg C from March to October, dropping to 20-25 deg C at night, with a "fasting period" in December and temperatures of 8-12 deg C for the winter, followed by a gradual raising of the temperature and spraying several times a week (presumably in the Jan-Feb period). Bartlett and Bartlett recommend similar temperatures for the summer (23-31 deg C), but do not mention a winter cooling period. It may be that photoperiod is equally as important as temperature. Both Rogner and the Bartletts recommend using sand or a similar substrate to a depth of about 4cm: the Bartletts also suggest a layer of dry leaves, while Rogner recommends keeping one corner of the tank always moist. Females lay two eggs per clutch. C. brevis and C. variegatus are very similar in appearance, but males can be told apart if examined: the "chevron" of preanal pores in C. variegatus is undivided, whereas in C. brevis it is broken up by other scales. B I
C. elegans


Yucatan Banded Gecko
Coleonyx elegans (Yucatan Banded Gecko)
  6" Sometimes available. Captive care as for C. mitratus, but deVosjoli warns that there is a high mortality rate at all stages for these geckos as they apparently do not tolerate dietary vitamin D3 well. There are two subspecies, C. e. elegans (Elegant Banded Gecko) and C. e. nemoralis (Colima Banded Gecko). B I
C. fasciatus Black Banded Gecko Mexico ?" ?.
C. mitratus
Coleonyx mitratus (Barefoot Gecko)
Central American Banded Gecko C. America (Guatemala to Costa Rica) 6" Occasionally imported and bred. Quite hardy once established, but does not like handling. Optimum temperature range is 74-82 deg. with a moistened area (sand or green moss) and misting once in the evening (see deVosjoli). C. mitratus can be distinguished externally (usually) from the very similar C. elegans by the markings on its tail, which are broken: those of C. elegans form entire tail rings. The nuchal bridle (the band running from eye to eye around the back of the neck) of C. elegans is also narrower than that of C. mitratus.(Bartlett and Bartlett). B I
C. reticulatus Reticulated Gecko   7" Rare: only discovered in 1956. In colour and skin texture similar to the Leopard Gecko. Sometimes also known as the Big Bend Gecko, because of its range in the US. These geckos do not fare well in captivity and it seems more research is needed to ascertain their requirements. B I
C. switaki
Unusual banded variant of C. switaki (possibly a juvenile?)
Barefoot Gecko Extreme SW California and Mexican Baja California 6½" Rare: only discovered in the seventies. It is protected in the US and rarely imported from Mexico. Captives nevertheless are quite hardy and fare reasonably well. B I
C. s. gypsicolus 4-5"
C. s. switaki Isla San Marcos, Gulf of California, Mexico
C. variegatus

C. v. bogerti, one of the subspecies of Coleonyx brevis (Western Banded Gecko)

Western Banded Gecko SW USA Quite common in the wild, with 6-8 subspecies known. In appearance somewhat like juvenile leopard geckos. Rogner recommends temperatures of 28-32 deg C with a basking spot of 35 deg C for most of the year, with a decrease in both photoperiod and temperature (to 18-22 deg C by day and 15 deg C at night) from September onwards through winter. Substrate is similar to that used for C. brevis, with one corner made of earth or similar and kept moist to be used as an egg-laying site. Click here for an excellent full-size photograph. A. R. Royo also has a nice summary and picture, while San Diego Natural History Museum has a good page on C. variegatus. B I
C. v. abbotti San Diego Banded Gecko USA (SW California), Baja  
C. v. bogerti Tucson Banded Gecko USA (SE Arizona, SW New Mexico) Pre-anal pores: 8+.
C. v. peninsularis San Lucan Banded Gecko   This subspecies is not recognised in the EMBL database entry but is found on the L M Klauber page of the San Diego Natural History Museum.
C. v. slevini Santa Inez Island Banded Gecko Isla Santa Inez (Gulf of California, Mexico) See comment in EMBL database entry.
C. v. sonoriensis Sonoran Banded Gecko    
C. v. utahensis Utah Banded Gecko USA (S Nevada, NW Arizona, SW Utah)  
C. v. variegatus Desert Banded Gecko USA (S Nevada, W Arizona, SE California) Pre-anal pores: 7-.
Goniurosaurus araneus


Vietnamese Leopard Gecko Vietnam ?" Yellow gecko with four wide brown bands across the back and dark reddish-brown eyes. Distinguished from other Goniurosaurus species by elongated dorsal scales. Can also be distinguished from G. lui by greater number of femoral pores (23-29 as opposed to 18-22). G. araneus's natural habitat is primarily rocky, being found in fairly dry and shady areas and often near caves and in mountainous terrain (Ardern & Blake). See EMBL database entry for details and Bibliography for excellent article by Ardern & Blake. B I
G. kuroiwae

Goniurosaurus species

Japanese Leopard Gecko Ryuku islands, Japan 6" Still rare, even in US collections: formerly part of the Eublepharinae but now elevated to genus level. Temperature should be upper 70s, and these lizards will tolerate night drops into the 60s. Higher humidity is needed than for leopard geckos. DeVosjoli also recommends a substrate of orchard bark with an area of green moss and cork bark shelters. Goniurosaurus apparently also like to climb, although they lack foot pads. Two larger species of this genus have recently become available from China and Vietnam whose care is apparently similar. None of the Goniurosaurus species like handling. The Japanese site Geckos of Japan lists the species and subspecies, with photos for each. B I
G. k. kuroiwae Okinawajima, Sesokojima, and Kourijima 14-19cm
G. k. orientalis Kumejima
G. k. splendens Tokunoshima
G. k. toyamai Tonakijima, Tokashikijima, Akajima, and Iejima
G. k. yamashinae Iheyajima
G. lichtenfelderi


Chinese/Vietnamese Leopard Gecko China (Guangxi and Hainan), Vietnam (Iles Norway) 6" Like G. kuroiwae, formerly part of the Eublepharinae but now elevated to genus level. From the picture in Adler and Zhao the first impression is of a juvenile leopard gecko in coloration: the basic overall colour is purple, crossbanded by five thick yellow stripes edged on either side by black bands of equal width. This pattern continues along the tail, except that the yellow is replaced by white in the central bands. Darker patches cover the non-banded areas. The top of the head is brown, likewise marked with several darker patches. The body shape is extremely similar to that of the Leopard Gecko, and deVosjoli describes the Goniurosaurus species as "large", indicating they may indeed resemble the Leopard in this respect as well. However, it needs to be reiterated that these geckos are much less tolerant of handling than E. macularius. Temperature should be upper 70s, and these lizards will tolerate night drops into the 60s. Higher humidity is needed than for leopard geckos. DeVosjoli also recommends a substrate of orchard bark with an area of green moss and cork bark shelters. B I
G. l. lichtenfelderi


G. l. hainensis


G. lui


Chinese Leopard Gecko China (Guangxi and Hainan Island) 6" A lilac-coloured gecko with three bands across the dorsum of varying colour and eyes of either ruby red or orange. May be distinguished from other Goniurosaurus species by row of greatly enlarged suborbital tubercles (Arden & Blake). It can also be differentiated from G. kuroiwae and G. lichtenfelderi by its deep axillary pockets and greater adult SVL, and from G. araneus by its narrower body bands and fewer preanal pores (18-22 as opposed to 23-29 in G. araneus)(Ardern & Blake). G. lui's natural habitat is rocky areas in tropical forest (ibid). See EMBL database entry for further details. Robert Hill has a good article on captive husbandry of this interesting gecko. See also Bibliography for the excellent article by Ardern & Blake. B I
Aeluroscalabotes felinus Malaysian Cat Gecko SE Asia 7" Very rare and unusual gecko that is arboreal, unlike the rest of the eublepharids which are strictly terrestrial. The few imported have proved delicate, prone to dehydration and heavily parasitised, but recently there has been some success, including breeding, with this species. DeVosjoli recommends a well-ventilated and fairly humid plastic storage container with a substrate of potting soil and an area of green moss. As they are easily stressed, Cat Geckos are best kept singly. In some ways their behaviour, temperament and to a certain degree structure (opposable digits for clinging to vegetation) are reminiscent of chameleons. B I


Lizards of the World, Chris Mattison

Keeping and Breeding Lizards, Chris Mattison

The Leopard Gecko Manual, P. deVosjoli et al, Herpetocultural Library 1998. Covers Fat-Tails and the other eublepharid geckos. The older version is also good but only covers the Leopards and Fat-Tails.

Leopard Geckos: Identification, Care and Breeding, R. Hunziker, TFH 1994. Not as detailed as the above but still quite good and again covers most of the other eublepharids.

Geckos: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, Bartlett and Bartlett, Barrons 1995.

Geckos: Keeping and Breeding Them in Captivity, Walls and Walls, TFH 1999.

Herpetology of China, Er-mi Zhao and Kraig Adler, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 1993.

Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa by Stephen Spawls, Kim Howell, Robert Drewes and James Ashe. Detailed and invaluable review of all reptile species in the region. Has details on Holodactylus africanus.

"Natural History, care and breeding of the two new Goniurosaurus species: Goniurosaurus lui and Goniurosaurus araneus", Lee Andern and Peter Blake, Reptilian 6:7.


Rusty Hinge Reptiles-Genus Coleonyx, Banded Geckos in the United States, article by Petra Spiess.


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