Basic Care: Crested Gecko
Crested Geckos can be a great beginner level pet reptile owing to their captive care needs. They are different from many other lizards in their ability to use their adhesive setae (hairs) on their feet to adhere to smooth vertical and horizontal surfaces. This ability developed due to their arboreal habitat and the need to not fall out of trees. They only grow to a maximum length of 8-9 inches and are relatively long lived with many living into their mid teens and even up to 20 years old. They used to be very rare but are now bred in captivity and more available at reptile expos and pet stores.
An adult crested gecko needs a cage at least 24-30 inches long, 13 inches wide, and 13 inches tall (about the size of a 20 gallon aquarium). The enclosure should be at least 1 foot in height and the more height the better due to their arboreal nature. Screen tops are also beneficial to increase ventilation. “Sweater boxes” (ventilated plastic storage boxes with drilled holes in the top) are often used by breeders to keep up to one male and three females together. Males should never be housed together as they will fight and cause injury to each other.
Crested geckos spend most of their time above the ground and on cage furnishings, so intestinal impaction from substrate is less likely as high of a risk as in other species. For ease of cleaning, cage carpet, paper towels, or newspaper can be used. For a more natural look and to keep the humidity higher in the cage, coconut fiber or peat moss can be used and/or combined with 50 % soil. Use caution if adding coconut shavings to geckos less than 1 year old for risk of them eating this substrate.
Crested geckos are arboreal and enjoy foliage and wood branches to climb on. Provide at least one hide on both the warm and the cool side of your gecko's enclosure. More hides will be necessary if you have multiple geckos living together.
A "humid hide" should be provided to help with shedding. This can be sometimes as simple as a lidded storage container just big enough for your reptile to climb into with a small door cut into the side. For a more natural look you can use Zoo Med's Repti Shelter or Exo Terra's Gecko or Snake Caves. What is important is that the hide is relatively enclosed so it will maintain humidity. Fill the hide box with moist sphagnum moss and place it on the warmer end of the cage, but not directly under a heat lamp. Check the box regularly to assure the moss is still moist and change the moss if it becomes soiled.
Heating should be provided with an appropriately sized under tank heater. Cage temperature should be 78-82 on the warm side and no lower than 65 on the cool side. Monitor temperatures using a digital thermometer with a probe or an infrared laser thermometer. We also recommend using a reptile thermostat to allow for better, more accurate and safer control of cage temperatures. A heat lamp can be added if the heat pad isn't keeping the cage warm enough. Heat rocks should be avoided as they pose a very real risk of causing severe burns to your animal.
Crested geckos need a relatively high humidity of 50-70% with the higher humidity being more ideal. Misting the enclosure daily to twice daily is recommended to help increase humidity (warm, filtered water, specifically at night when they are active). Humidity can also be achieved with a humid hide as described above. It is recommended to use a dual digital hygrometer and thermometer to monitor both temperature and humidity at the same time.
While crested geckos have been raised for generations without UVB lighting, recent studies do show that they are able to utilize it to synthesize vitamin D3. Since naturally synthesized vitamin D3 is always safer than synthetic, it is advised to provide 10-12 hours of UVB lighting with a 5.0 fluorescant bulb daily. For more information on UVB lighting, click here.
Crested geckos are omnivores. Multiple companies (Repashy, Zoo Med, etc.) have created a complete Crested Gecko commercial diet that includes all vitamins and nutrients that geckos need. The diet is easy to make as it is mixed with two parts water and offered in shallow dishes 3 times weekly. Their diet can then be supplemented once weekly with live feeder insects. The insect's length should not exceed the width of your gecko's head. Freeze dried insects are not recommended. It is extremely important to provide your gecko with both a calcium and multivitamin supplement if only feeding live insects. For more information on supplements, click here. Fruits can also be offered occasionally.
Fresh water should always be available. Disinfect the bowl with a solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 cup of water at least once a week and rinse thoroughly with fresh water before refilling it for your crested gecko. Crested geckos will also get water from droplets on leaves in the humid environment. In Arizona, crested geckos benefit from twice weekly soaks in shallow water. This is especially important when they are shedding as the skin on the tips of the toes may not come off on its own if the humidity is too low.
Newly purchased crested geckos may be skittish and may not like being handled at first. With time and patience, many will learn to like being held. Start by handling your gecko in its cage for short sessions of no more than five minutes to keep it low to the ground in case it jumps. Adults should assist young children as baby geckos have fragile skeletons. Wait until they are at least 3 inches snout to vent before handling.
An annual check-up is recommended to monitor your crested gecko’s health. Regular fecal parasite examinations are essential to detect parasites that can impact your crested gecko’s health. Other medical issues may be detected by your veterinarian thus, visiting your veterinarian is viral should your crested gecko become sick. The most common health problems in crested geckos are issues with their eyes, skin, and skeleton if not cared for properly.