Stenodactylus sthenodactylus


by Erik


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Reprinted from “Chit Chat ” the Newsletter of the Global Gecko Association #8 ©2001

Common Name:

Numerous names, including Sand-eye, Whip-tail, Elegant and Israeli Sand Gecko.

Scientific Name:

Stenodactylus sthenodactylus (Lichtenstein, 1823).

The name is one of the more famous spelling mistakes in gecko literature – the extra “h” in “sthenodactylus” is due to a typographical error in the original description by Lichtenstein!


There is a range in coloration from dark brown to very light gray, with light brown being the most common. The back is covered with fine markings consisting of small, darker, overlapping hollow circles. There may also be larger brown, mustard or gray blotches on top of this pattern. The underside is white. Offspring may look like either parent or may be somewhere between the two. Scalation is very fine and non-overlapping. The digits are slender and lack toe-pads. The large eyes are quite striking with the iris forming an hour glass shape (thus the common name of Sand-eye Gecko). These are small animals that reach a total length of only 90 to 100 mm.


Extensive across northern Africa, Israel, Jordan and southwest Asia.

Natural History:

This is a ground dwelling gecko that across its extensive range occupies a variety of habitats. In general it lives on hardened ground in semiarid and arid regions but it also occupies stone and rock deserts and sandy coastal plains.

It is primarily a nocturnal species that spends most of the day under stones, fallen branches or in burrows. However, in the wild it can be active during the day and in captivity it is very frequently out and about in daylight. Over parts of its range it remains active almost the whole year round.

Housing in Captivity:

Captive care is fairly simple. A pair or trio can be kept in a standard 5 or 10 gallon aquarium, or any other suitable enclosure. Use a one to two inch deep layer of sand as a substrate and add a few pieces of cork bark or cardboard as shelters. An undertank heating pad placed under one end will provide a suitable temperature gradient. Lightly misting once every evening will provide enough humidity and drinking water.

The substrate can be easily cleaned with a sieve to remove fecal matter. A plastic kitchen strainer works well for this purpose – but do not keep it with or near your other cooking utensils!! Sifting once per week should keep the terrarium clean. Once every year the sand will have to be replaced or washed and thoroughly dried to remove any build-up of waste particles too small to be caught in the strainer. These animals like to dig, so it is best to avoid using decorations such as rocks that could fall on a gecko when it tries to burrow.

Food and Feeding:

S. sthenodactylus will eat appropriately sized crickets, waxworms and mealworms. Juveniles will also eat flightless fruitflies. Juveniles and breeding adults should be fed four to six feeder insects dusted with “Rep-Cal” or “Miner-all I” every second day. During the non-breeding season twice-weekly feedings and calcium supplementation every second feeding is adequate. A multivitamin such as “Herptivite” can be dusted on insects once per week all year-round.


As almost all specimens you will see for sale will be imported from the wild they should, as with all wild caught geckos, be treated for parasites as a matter of course. Calcium supplementation is important. However, this is an extremely hardy gecko.


Males can be easily distinguished from the females by the presence of pronounced hemipenal bulges.

A three or four week cool down in December will stimulate breeding from January/February and through early summer. Females and juveniles should be provided with calcium powder in a small dish. Unlike many other gecko species several males can be housed together however, one male will be dominant and will prevent the others from breeding. A ratio of one male to two to four females works best. Mating can seem quite violent. The male may suddenly ambush the female and pounce on her, gripping the neck or a foreleg. Females often emit a loud squeak as a release call when they are not amenable to mating.

Males may chirp, especially during the breeding season. The vocalization sounds something like a louder-than-normal cricket call. Whether or not this is territorial behavior or meant to attract a mate is unclear.

Eggs are buried in the sand in a warm spot and are thin-shelled and fragile. They can be easily broken whilst attempting to excavate them if care is not taken. Out of several methods of incubation attempted so far, the best results have been achieved by placing the eggs on a small jar lid filled with sand and placing it inside a deli-cup on top of a layer of slightly damp vermiculite. Incubation at 28-30°C (83-86°F) works well. An undiscovered egg found in a terrarium was laid in heated, bone-dry sand. After being placed on slightly damp vermiculite, it hatched about one week later! This suggests that incubation on dry sand may also work.

GGA Rating:

1-Ideal Choice for the Beginner

Recommended Reading:

Arnold, E.N. 1980. A Review of the Lizard Genus Stenodactylus (Reptilia:Gekkonidae). In Fauna of Saudi Arabia, Vol. 2. pp 368-404.

Henkel, F-W. and W. Schmidt. 1995. Geckoes: Biology, Husbandry and Reproduction. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida, U.S.A. 237 pp.

Schleich, H.H., Kastle, W. and K. Kabisch. 1996. Amphibians and Reptiles of North Africa. Koeltz Scientific Books, Koenigstein, Germany. 630 pp.


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