When I first got my gargoyle gecko, I found myself admiring his rapid growth and beautiful color development (he’s red garg) on a daily basis. But one day I came to a shocking realization– I had never seen him shed! Like any cautious reptile owner, I immediately went through all of my gecko books and vet websites to find an answer to my question: How often do gargoyle geckos shed?
Gargoyle geckos shed at different frequencies depending on their age, with rapidly growing hatchlings shedding as often as every two weeks. As a gargoyle gecko ages, it begins to shed less frequently, typically once every three weeks. As an adult, gargoyle geckos tend to shed every four to eight weeks.
Below, we’ll go over the how, what, when, and why of gargoyle gecko shedding as well as give some tips on how to help your gecko have a clean shed.
Why Do Gargoyle Geckos Shed?
All animals’ skin grows continually throughout their lives, with old pieces sloughing off as they are replaced with new growth. This allows their skin to be frequently refreshed of any wear and tear, and remain fitting and flexible.
Unlike mammals, reptiles engage in ecdysis, more commonly known as shedding. While humans and other mammals drop old skin cells continuously and individually, reptiles lose their old skin in large pieces or even whole. Many popular pet lizards, such as bearded dragons, tend to shed their skin in large chunks over time.
Geckos are pretty unique in the reptile world in that they shed their skins whole like a snake, and incomplete sheds are typically a sign that something is wrong. By shedding all at once, your gecko is able to efficiently replace skin that they have outgrown or that has become worn over time.
How Often Do Gargoyle Geckos Shed?
How often a gargoyle gecko sheds is ultimately up to the individual’s age and internal biological clock, but there are some pretty good rules of thumb to go by. Young gargoyle geckos grow at an incredibly fast, meaning they frequently outgrow their own skin and must shed regularly. Like most lizards, hatchlings and juveniles tend to shed every two weeks due to their abrupt growth.
With age, geckos begin to grow at a slower rate, reaching maturity at 12 to 18 months. At this point, shedding frequency may gradually be reduced to every four to eight weeks, though this number is not always regular.
Why Isn’t My Gargoyle Gecko Shedding?
Although there are many reasons a gecko may not completely shed, it’s common for gargoyle owners not to realize that their geckos are shedding in the first place! In fact, not seeing any pieces of your gecko shed attached to them or in their enclosure is actually a sign of a healthy shed.
They Are Eating Their Skin
Unlike snakes, geckos don’t shed and run. Instead, most geckos eat their shed skin! As weird or even gross as this may sound, it’s actually a very helpful adaptation. Geckos use a lot of nutrients to shed their skin, and leaving all those excellent embedded minerals behind would be a waste. Secondly, a shed skin would be a great way for a gargoyle gecko’s natural predators to learn that they were there.
Geckos typically eat their skin immediately after shedding as well, so if you aren’t there to catch the shed, it is likely you won’t see them eating it either.
They Shed At Night And Out of Sight
Along with eating their skin, there’s another major reason it’s easy to miss your gecko’s shed– these crepuscular critters prefer to do all their activities in low light. Due to this, many of us may be gone or even asleep when our gecko decides to shed.
And while some of us may be night owls, gargoyle geckos are naturally timid and may wait to shed until big, scary humans are out of sight.
They Aren’t Growing Enough
As we explained, it’s very likely that you’ll miss some, if not all, of a healthy gecko’s sheds. But in the rare event where you have evidence that your young gargoyle gecko isn’t shedding often enough, there is a major possibility that they have stunted growth.
Simply put, if a gargoyle gecko isn’t growing, they aren’t outgrowing their skin and therefore, aren’t shedding very much. Factors such as being bullied by cagemates, inadequate nutrition, parasites, hormonal disorders, and a variety of other health issues can lead to stunting.
If you suspect stunted growth, it’s best to regularly weigh your gecko to ensure they are properly growing and contact a vet if necessary.
How to Know When Your Gecko is Shedding
Your gargoyle gecko will likely begin to act strange before it sheds, and it’s common for owners to fear that their geckos are sick. In the days leading up to a shed, gargoyle geckos typically eat less or stop eating altogether, and often become more on-edge. They are more likely to hide and seek out humidity in this vulnerable state.
Just before a shed, your gecko may have color changes or noticeably become more dull, and their eyes may become cloudy. Often, they will have a change in the texture of their skin. To initiate a shed, your gecko will start rubbing itself against various surfaces.
How to Help Your Gargoyle Gecko Shed
Now that you know what a gecko looks like when they’re about to shed, it’s important to take steps to make sure a gecko’s shed is clean. This mostly involves temporary husbandry changes, with a few other options to make extra-sure everything goes well.
Up the Humidity
Compared to their close cousin the crested gecko, gargoyle geckos require substantially less humidity. Most of the time, it’s important to maintain 50 to 70% humidity and allow numbers to drop between mistings to avoid mold and fungus. But when your gecko is about to shed, these numbers should be increased to 60 to 80%.
Humidity can most easily be increased with regular misting, and even placing a humidifier in the room can help somewhat in especially dry climates. But if you’re still having issues with maintaining high humidity, giving your gecko a humid hide can do wonders.
Make A Humid Hide
Although frequent misting is often enough to ensure a smooth shed, many gargoyle gecko owners like to make humid hides to keep their geckos feeling moist and secure. Humid hides consist of a covered area with a moisture-retaining substrate to maintain a high humidity level that a gecko can freely enter and leave.
A traditional hide can be used for those who are concerned with maintaining a naturalistic appearing environment, but homemade shedding boxes work just as well. For a DIY shed box, you can simply cut a hole in an appropriately sized plastic container, being sure that your gecko has plenty of room to get in and out without getting stuck and that any sharp edges are rounded.
While many owners have successfully used moistened paper towels, but this is likely to form mold. Reptile-grade coconut coir is often considered a safe alternative, as it is unlikely to cause impactions and is resistant to mold. This is typically sold as a compact brick or loose substrate.
Many veterinarians also recommend sphagnum moss in preparation for a shed.
Give Them Peace and Quiet
Although they can be tame as adults and are often shy to bite, gargoyle geckos can be a timid species, especially at a young age. The shedding process requires a lot of wriggling around in the open and general vulnerability, so it’s impossible for your gecko to shed their skin if they are frozen in fear!
During shedding time, keep the room your gecko is in dark and quiet to simulate the nighttime hours they are naturally active in. Offer your gecko plenty of hiding places while they are about to shed and try to leave them alone as much as possible.
Deal With A Stuck Shed
Although these steps significantly decrease the likelihood of a stuck shed, it’s important to know how to deal with them if they occur. Stuck sheds are as common as they are potentially deadly, especially when poor husbandry is involved. Typically, stuck sheds refer to areas of retained patches of skin, often on the toes, eyes, or tail rather than entire bodies.
Improper humidity is the major cause of dysecdysis, or retained sheds. This common issue can become a serious issue if not properly addressed, leading to skin problems, blindness, infections, and even lost limbs due to improper circulation. Other potential causes include poor nutrition, dehydration, hormonal issues, parasites, and even previous injury.
Often, a stuck shed can be helped with a nice soak and future husbandry changes, but successive or complicated retained sheds may involve veterinary intervention.
It’s only normal to wonder how much a gargoyle gecko is supposed to shed, especially if you’ve realized you haven’t seen your new pet shed before. Gargoyle gecko shedding frequency depends primarily on age and growth rate, and not being there to witness a shed may actually be a good thing.
Healthy gargoyle geckos shed their skin in its entirety, and often eat this shed almost immediately. It’s important to have correct husbandry to ensure a proper shed and give your gecko plenty of space, and more importantly, humidity.