How to care for Crested Geckos
Crested geckos (Correlophus ciliatus) were rumored to be extinct in the 1990’s after several expeditions to New Caledonia failed to uncover a single crested gecko. Up until a tropical storm hit the island in 1994 when a crested gecko was sighted once again on the Isle of Pines. The simplicity in care, easy going temperament, and ease of breeding this species led to an increase in popularity. Causing crested geckos to become a popular reptile choice for beginner keepers to seasoned hobbyists.
Crested geckos have defined lateral ciliated crests that extend from the eyelash along side the head and neck, the traits led to their common name coined by Phillipe de Vosjoli and Frank Fast.
Behavior and Temperament
Crested geckos are a nocturnal species that are active throughout the nighttime hours. They can live up to 15-20 years under the right conditions in captivity. They are relatively docile and tolerate being handled. However, they can be skittish at times and leap out of your hands unexpectedly and you will need to practice care when handling your new gecko. Crested geckos can drop their tails if they feel threatened, startled, or grabbed with force. Unlike other New Caledonian geckos, this species will not regenerate their tails.
Crested geckos are an arboreal species and prefer vertical space for climbing. Choosing the size of your enclosure will depend on the life stage of your gecko. Raising crested geckos in inappropriate sized enclosures can possibly cause ill effects; stunted growth, inability to find food sources, stress, etc.
Hatchling Crested Geckos
A baby crested gecko is small, measuring between 1 to 3 inches in length and weighing only a few grams. Hatchling crested geckos are not recommended for novice keepers as their first pet as they are more delicate and can fail to thrive in improper conditions.
Hatchlings can be comfortably housed in a 9L Sterlite bin or an 8 x 8 x 8” Exo Terra or Zoo Med Terrarium. Many keepers will opt to keep their crested gecko hatchlings in a bin style enclosure until they mature to a size where they can be upgraded to a glass front opening style terrarium. Once your gecko reaches 10-15 grams they can then be moved into their juvenile enclosure.
Juvenile Crested Geckos
A juvenile crested gecko measures between 3 to 5 inches in length, weighs between 10-15 grams and will typically hit this life stage in 4 to 6 months. A juvenile crested gecko should be housed alone in a 12x12x18” Exo Terra or Zoo Med terrarium. Once your gecko reaches the 25+ gram mark they can then be moved into their final adult enclosure.
Adult Crested Geckos
An adult crested gecko will reach a moderate size between 6 to 8 inches in length including their tail and will weigh on average 45-65 grams depending on their genetic lineage. They reach sexual maturity at 15-18 months of age depending on growth rates. An adult gecko will need adequate room to jump from structures within the tank and explore. An 18x18x24” Exo Terra or Zoo Med terrarium is a minimum requirement for an adult crested gecko.
Substrate and Foliage
When selecting a substrate for your Crested Gecko you will want to consider ease of cleaning for the keeper, animal safety, and the substrates ability to hold humidity.
A commonly used substrate for baby and juvenile crested geckos is paper towel. Paper towel allows for the keeper to easily monitor the health of their gecko through fecal movements, it is easy to replace, retains humidity well, and prevents the accidental ingestion of substrate when feeding live insects that could lead to impaction or choking.
Bio-active terrariums are an excellent choice for adult enclosures as they can be self cleaning with the introduction of Isopods and Spring tails. Live plants such as Golden Pothos, Snake plants, and Weeping Figs (Ficus) are easy plants to maintain and provide excellent coverage for your Crested Gecko to feel safe and secure.
Security is particularly important for your gecko’s well-being. Foliage and other terrarium décor items can help you achieve this by mimicking their natural environment. NewCal natural cork rounds and flats can be placed throughout the terrarium to provide secure hiding spots and climbing surfaces. Various woods that can withstand humid environments like Aquaglobe grapevine can also be used.
Alternatively, plastic terrarium plants are a preferred choice by many keepers who can’t keep plants alive and prefer easy to clean decorations. Zoo Med or Exo Terra hanging plants will provide additional security when creating an aesthetically pleasing display tank in your house.
It is important to make sure all terrarium decorations are secured to prevent possible injury or death to your gecko from falling or crushing hazards. Always thoroughly wash all new décor items before adding them to your terrarium with a simple dish soap and water mixture.
Crested geckos are ectotherms, meaning they do not possess the ability to generate body heat to keep themselves warm. The optimal temperature for a crested gecko is 76-81f. This temperature range encourages their metabolism and activity levels. Providing a thermal gradient will ensure proper growth and overall health.
Most households can sustain an average ambient temperature of 74f throughout the daytime hours and a simple plant light such as a SunBlaster T5 HO or a low wattage halogen household bulb can provide a “basking” spot near the top of their enclosure. Evening temperatures can drop into the low 60’s as long as they are able to warm up during the day.
It is extremely important to use a thermostat with any heat source along with a Zoo Med digital combo thermometer to accurately measure the warmest area in your crested gecko’s enclosure. Do not allow your enclosures to exceed temperatures of 85f or below 60f for prolonged periods of time can be fatal to this temperature sensitive species!
Crested Geckos require moderate to high levels of humidity, with an average of 60% ambient humidity throughout the day and night. Most keepers can achieve this by misting their gecko’s enclosure in the morning and at night when their geckos are active. They should have a short period where their substrate is able to dry out before introducing more humidity into their environment. If a Crested Gecko is kept on a sopping wet surface for extended periods of time, they will develop sores that can lead to sepsis and death. Making it extremely important to not only own a digital thermometer but a combo hygrometer to measure ambient humidity.
Having your terrarium or enclosure set-up and running before you acquire your new Crested Gecko will allow you to become familiar with your misting schedule affects humidity levels and the average temperatures within the enclosure throughout the day and during the night. Adjusting as needed to maintain the proper care requirements. This will ensure a stress-free transition for both the keeper and animal upon receiving your new gecko.
Crested geckos are omnivores and feed on spoiled fruits and insects in the wild. Repashy Superfoods has a long-standing name in the hobby and continues to work on developing Zoo grade complete diets and supplements for many different reptiles. Repashy complete powdered crested gecko diet has played a key role in making Crested geckos one of the most popular pets and has removed the need to feed live insects.
At Northern Gecko, our entire collection is fed Repashy Superfoods exclusively and has been over the last 10 years! With the recent addition of Repashy seasonal blends we can provide a diverse array of fruit flavors to mimic the various fruits that would be available on the island of New Caledonia throughout the different seasons.
The diet is mixed with two parts water and offered in a shallow 0.5oz or 1.5oz deli cup three times a week or as often as these geckos will eat at a feeding. The diet should be changed every other day and extra prepared diet can refrigerated in a bottle to extend the freshness of up to 2 weeks. A feeding schedule often looks like this: Repashy CGD on Monday and Wednesday, and crickets (or diet) every Friday.
In addition to a powdered crested gecko diet, it is important to offer your crested gecko live crickets. Crested geckos are excellent hunters! Make sure the crickets are no larger than the width of your Gecko’s head and are dusted with Repashy Calcium Plus. Do not worry if your Gecko is a shy feeder.
During the winter months you might notice your crested gecko is eating less; this is normal and expected during the cooler months of the year. Adult crested geckos will naturally go into a “cooling” period when the ambient temperatures drop, and their light cycles are reduced. Baby and juvenile crested geckos will also begin to eat less often if their ambient temperatures are on the cooler side, increasing daytime ambient temperatures and keeping an 8-hour light cycle will encourage them to eat again.
(Note: There are various brands of complete crested gecko diets on the market today including: Repashy Superfoods, Zoo Med, Pangea, etc. and these can be used interchangeably to provide a varied diet).
All reptiles including Crested geckos should always have access to fresh water. You will observe your gecko licking water droplets off the enclosure walls and plant leaves when you mist their enclosure in the morning and at night. They also benefit from having a shallow water dish and can be conveniently provided in a 1.5oz deli cup placed within the MagNaturals gecko ledge.
Vitamins and Supplements
Prior to feeding your gecko, offer the crickets a well-balanced diet of fruits and vegetables. Allow them 24 hours or more to ensure that they are nutrient packed. This is referred to as “gut loading”. If you are reluctant to offer diced up food to your feeder insects, I recommend the Repashy Superload. It is an insect feed boosted with protein, vitamins and minerals only to be offered 24 hours prior to feeding your Geckos the live prey.
Now that the crickets are nutrient packed, this last step will have the most important impact on your Gecko’s longevity. Place the feeder insects in a large cup and dust them with a Calcium D3 Supplement. Calcium, D3, and vitamin A are the most important supplements for your gecko. They are combined in most reptile powders. In nature, the sun naturally provides vitamin D3. Captive reptiles must have this supplement to remain healthy without natural sunlight or ultraviolet lighting. The major cause of most health problems in reptiles are often consequences of not using proper calcium and supplements!
Handling Your New Gecko
When you take your new pet home please allow it 2 weeks or more to adjust to its new surroundings before you handle it. A stressed or panicked Crested is very flighty. It will look for the closest hiding spot or wall to quickly scramble away.
After a few weeks you can begin to gently handle your Gecko. Be respectful and do not force your Gecko out of its enclosure if it is avoiding contact. Never pull, roughly handle, or pick up your Crested Gecko by the tail. Gently scoop your Crested up in the palm of your hand. Always place one hand in front of the other and be prepared for a jump. They enjoy climbing high surfaces so use your hands as an elevating staircase.
Soon you will become familiar with your Gecko’s body language and you will be able to anticipate their next move. Crested Geckos are very docile and gentle creatures. In no time, your gecko will warm up to you!
Thank you for reading this article, if you have any additional questions on how to care or prepare for your new pet you can email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Summary: Crested Gecko Care Checklist
- Front opening enclosure (12x12x18,” 18x18x24” or larger.)
- Exo Terra Pressure Spray Bottle.
- MagNaturals Gecko ledge or other styles of feeding ledges.
- Repashy Crested Gecko Diet
- Pineapple Express, Mango Superblend, Classic, Original MRP, etc.
- Re-usable feeding cups.
- Paper towel or a bio-active soil/coco fiber.
- Live or artificial plants.
- Vines, branches, cork, or wood decorations.
- SunBlaster T5 HO for live plant growth or a low wattage household bulb.
- Zoo Med Deep Dome Light fixture for household bulb.
- Zoo Med Digital thermometer/hygrometer.
- Zoo Med Day/Night Plug in timer.