Crested Gecko Morph Guide
The crested gecko world is ever-changing. It seems like new colors, patterns, and color/pattern combinations are popping up with each new season. Because of this, defining the “morph” of your crested gecko can become a bit confusing. And there’s the added challenge of distinguishing a “morph” from a “project” (See our blog “Morphs and Projects, What’s the Diff?!?” for more info on this). Folks are constantly sending me photos of their geckos, asking simply “What would you call this one?” I’ll be honest…I’ve come across a few geckos that even I am stumped on! That’s one of the things that make keeping & raising crested geckos so much fun for me. Even after all these years, I still encounter a Whatcha-ma-call-it!
I won’t be surprised if this guide finds itself quite outdated in just a few years, but here is the most detailed list, complete with picture examples, that I could come up with to define the current morphs of the crested gecko world. Hope everyone finds this helpful & enjoyable!
Patternless – A gecko who is one solid color. The best examples of this morph have no variation in color whatsoever over their entire body. It is possible for patternless geckos to display spotting, however these are usually classified as either “Patternless Dalmatian” or simply “Dalmatian”. Patternless geckos may also display portholes, fringe, or knee caps in a contrasting color. These geckos may be described simply as “Patternless”, or definition may be given to the contrasting color in description – ex: “Patternless Red with White Fringe”. Patternless geckos may also display other color traits, such as blushing or tipped crests, and still be classified as simply “Patternless”. The tail, if present, may be any color. Typically, a patternless gecko will be described as a particular color, such as “Patternless Red” or “Patternless Yellow”. Patternless geckos displaying either brown or gray coloration when fired up are often referred to as “Buckskins”.
Flame – Also called a “stripe” or “fire”, a Flame gecko is one who displays two distinct contrasting colors. The identifying color is that which is displayed on the body & legs. The contrasting color (usually white, cream, yellow, or orange) will be displayed on the head & dorsum. There may be breaks in the color along the head & dorsum, where the base color shows, but this still qualifies as a flame. So, a gecko with a red body/legs and a yellow head/dorsal stripe would be described as a “Red Flame” or a “Red and Yellow Flame”. The Body/Leg color will always be the first listed in description as the identifying color. Had this gecko been described as a “Yellow & Red Flame”, that would mean the body & legs of the gecko are yellow, while the head & dorsum are red (I would like to see a gecko like this, by the way…would be very interesting!!). Some pattern may also appear along the body & legs in the same contrasting color as the dorsum & head, but this pattern would be minimal.
Chevron – This is a Flame gecko with a very distinct chevron or V-like pattern which is displayed along the dorsal stripe. These geckos are sometimes referred to as “Chevron Flame”, “Flame Chevron”, “Chevron Back”, or sometimes no identification is given to the dorsal patterning & the gecko is labeled simply as a “Flame”.
Tigers & Brindles – These morphs tend to get lumped together because there is such a slight difference between their appearances. The group includes Tigers, Brindles, Bold Stripe Tigers, and Extreme or Super Brindles. The definitions of all of these are listed below. In a nutshell, these are geckos who display one base color on the head, body, dorsum, and legs, with a contrasting color (usually darker) appearing vertically along the body and sometimes across the dorsal area. This darker contrasting color will appear either as full or broken stripes. It is possible for Tiger & Brindle geckos to have a head & dorsum color which is different from that of the body & legs. One thing to note, as babies of these morphs develop, there is the possibility that stripes which appear as solid lines may break up as the gecko grows, or alternately, stripes without great definition may become more bold with age. Because of this, here at The Gecko Geek, we label most hatchlings from our Tiger & Brindle groups as “Tiger/Brindle” until they reach a weight/size where we feel we can more accurately describe them.
So now let’s take a stab at identifying all the little differences of the members of the Tiger/Brindle group…
Tiger – A gecko whose pattern appears as vertical stripes, often darker than the base color, which extend from the dorsal area in an unbroken line down the belly. These stripes may or may not extend across the dorsum & down the other side of the belly. The key here is that the pattern is displayed in clear, unbroken stripes.
Bold Stripe Tiger – Similar to the “Tiger” described above, these geckos have pattern that appears as solid vertical stripes. The biggest difference between a Bold Stripe Tiger and a Tiger is the thickness & abundance of striping. Here at The Gecko Geek, to be identified as a Bold Stripe Tiger, we require that the gecko have full, unbroken stripes which extend from one side of the belly, completely across the dorsum, and run down the other side of the belly.
Brindle – These geckos are also very similar to the Tiger morph, except that their “stripes” are broken & don’t necessarily match up with the pattern on the dorsal area. The brindle pattern appears in vertical dots and dashes along the side of the belly. These dots & dashes may somewhat form a stripe similar to that of a Tiger, however unlike the solid line of a tiger, the Brindle’s stripes will be uneven and/or broken in parts.
Extreme or Super Brindle – These geckos are very similar to standard Brindles, except that there is much more pattern present. Unlike standard Brindle’s, whose pattern is mostly found on the sides of the belly, an Extreme or Super Brindle’s pattern will appear all over the body…mostly on the sides of the belly, but also extending out onto the legs, neck, and face. The very best examples of this morph have so much pattern that the two colors (base color & pattern color) appear at about a 50/50 distribution, so it is difficult at first glance to tell if you are looking at a light gecko with dark pattern or a dark gecko with light pattern!!
Harlequin – Commonly referred to as a “Harley” (plural – Harlies or Harleys), this gecko is very similar to the Flame morph. The main difference here is the abundance of pattern. This gecko will display one color over the majority of the body (what we call the “base” color), with a second contrasting pattern color on the head, dorsum, legs, and sides of the belly. The base color is the identifying color of this gecko. So a gecko described as a “Yellow and Cream Harlequin” will have a yellow base color covering the majority of the body with cream coloration on the head, dorsum, legs, and sides of the belly. With Harlequin geckos, those displaying the sharpest contrast in coloration are considered the best representations of the morph. Harlequin geckos come in many different color combinations, many of which have been given their own classification based on the color combo & are recognized as their own morph. In addition, Harlequin geckos are identified into different categories based on the amount of pattern present & the number of colors present in the pattern. To help identify all of the different Harlequin morph geckos currently in existence, we have decided to break this up into sub-categories. The definitions of these individual sub-categories are listed below.
Blonde – This term is used to describe a Harlequin gecko who displays a very dark base color in combination with a very light pattern color. Ideally, a Blonde Harlequin will have a base color which is black (or nearly black) and a pattern color which is white (or nearly white). The best representations of a Blonde Harlequin will have an abundance of this white coloration on the top of the head & along the dorsal strap, so that the white coloration appears as a full and unbroken line which extends from the tip of the nose and along the back, all the way to the base of the tail.
Halloween – These geckos have two very distinct colors – Black and Orange. Unfired, this gecko may appear as Gray and Orange or Lavender and Orange, but once fired up, a good example of a Halloween will have a base color that is Black (or nearly Black) and a pattern color which is Orange (it doesn’t seem to matter, in terms of definition, if the orange pattern color appears as light, bright neon, or dark orange…but the pattern must be clearly Orange…not yellow, cream, or white).
Creamsicle – Also labeled as “Creamcicle”, these geckos share the color scheme of the popular frozen treat of the same name. The original definition of this morph was an Orange base color with Cream or White pattern, but in recent years we have seen this label placed on geckos with a Yellow base color as well. Here at The Gecko Geek, we prefer to stick with the classic definition. Only geckos who display true Orange and Cream are labeled as “Creamsicles”. Our Harlequins displaying a yellow base color are labeled simply as “Yellow & Cream Harlequins”.
Tri Color – Also labeled as a “Calico”, this is a Harlequin gecko who displays 3 distinct colors – a base color (usually lavender or red) & two pattern colors (usually orange or yellow in combination with white or cream). The abundance of the white or cream coloration in the pattern is what separates a Tri Color from a standard Harlequin. The best examples of this morph display their two pattern colors in fairly equal distribution.
White Wall – This is a Harlequin gecko whose pattern appears as a solid block of color covering the lower half of the belly, and said pattern is strictly white in color. The gecko may display only two colors (Base color & the white coloration of the walls), or it may be similar to a tri color, in that other pattern colors may be present on the body, but the lower half of the belly must be fully covered in white, and there must be a distinct lateral line midway across the belly. If this line is not present, the gecko would be described as simply a Harlequin (or Extreme Harlequin, depending on the abundance of pattern).
Mocha – Also called a “Mocha & Cream”, this is a harlequin gecko who displays a base pattern that is brown when fired up. Many geckos will display brownish tones when unfired, so it is important to note here that the biggest factor in defining a “Mocha” is that the fired color must be brown, typically the darker & richer the brown, the better – like a fine quality chocolate! This brown base color is almost always in combination with a cream-colored pattern.
Extreme Harlequin – An Extreme Harlequin can display any color combination. The abundance of pattern is what separates this gecko from a standard harlequin. While standard harlequins display pattern on the sides of the belly (typically within the lower lateral region) and legs, an Extreme Harlequin will display pattern all over the body, including the upper lateral region of the belly, neck, head, and sometimes even the underside of the belly. An Extreme Harlequin will display pattern color & base color in a somewhat equal distribution. In the best examples of this morph, there will be more pattern color than base color present.
Pinstripes – There is some debate as to whether Pinstripes should be considered a “morph” or a “structural trait”. We really have no position on this. We are including “Pinstripes” in this Morph Guide because, since a “Pinstripe” gecko is often described as simply a “Pinstripe” gecko, and not, for example, a “Pinstripe Harlequin”, we felt a proper definition in this section made sense. A pinstripe is a gecko who displays notably elongated scales running from the base of the neck (where the crests end) all the way to the base of the tail. These scales are usually highlighted in either a white or cream color, however there is a classification of Pinstripe gecko who do not display this highlighting. A pinstripe is also classified into different categories depending on what percentage of the dorsal scales are elongated. Pinstripe geckos have a dorsal stripe similar to that of a Flame gecko. The difference between these two are those elongated scales that form a line on either side of the dorsal stripe. Without the elongated scales, this would be classified as a Flame gecko, not a Pinstripe. Pinstripe geckos may also display other pattern on the body, so it is possible to have a “Harlequin Pinstripe,” for example, although usually this would be labeled simply as a “Pinstripe”. To make things a little easier, we are breaking the Pinstripe definition in sub-categories:
Pin-Dashed – This is a gecko who has a very low percentage of elongated pin scales along the dorsum. These scales are highlighted in either a white or cream color, and appear as “dashes” along the back of the gecko. It is possible for other pattern to be present on a Pin-Dashed gecko, and definition may be given to this pattern when the gecko is described. So, a gecko who displays Pin-Dashing in combination with contrasting pattern along the dorsal, belly, and legs, may be labeled as a “Pin-Dashed Harlequin”.
Low % Pinstripe – Also known as a “Partial Pinstripe”, this is a gecko who displays elongated pin scales, highlighted in either white or cream, that constitute less than 50% of the “stripe” area on either side of the dorsum. Again, other pattern may be present on this gecko, and definition may be given to this pattern in its description. A gecko who displays Low % Pinstriping in combination with contrasting pattern along the dorsum, belly, and legs, may also be labeled as a “Low % Pinstripe Harlequin”, although it is more likely that this gecko would simply be called a “Low % or Partial Pinstripe”.
High % Pinstripe – This is a gecko who, again, displays elongated pin scales, highlighted in either white or cream. To be considered a High% Pinstripe, these elongated scales must constitute 50% or greater of the “stripe” area on either side of the dorsum, up to 99% coverage. A High % Pinstripe may also be classified as a “Partial Pinstripe”. As with the Pin-Dashed & Low % Pinstripes detailed above, the High % Pinstripe gecko may display other pattern, and definition may or may not be given to this pattern in its description.
100% Pinstripe – Once again, this is a gecko who displays elongated pin scales, highlighted in either white or cream. To be considered a 100% Pinstripe, the elongated scales must form a full & unbroken line on both sides of the dorsum, extending from the neck all the way to the base of the tail. If even one scale is not elongated/highlighted, this would be considered a high % pinstripe, and the 100% Pinstripe label could not be applied. Again, as we described with the other classifications of Pinstripes above, a 100% pinstripe may also display other pattern, and definition may or may not be given to said pattern in its description.
Phantom Pinstripe – There seem to be multiple classifications of Phantom Pinstripe geckos, so we will break these down further into 3 sub-sub-categories!!! We will call these “Phantom A”, “Phantom B”, and “Phantom C”, just to show a clear separation between all of them in terms of this guide, but it should be noted that the Crested Gecko community as a whole does NOT recognize these as “A”, “B”, and “C”. These all would be described as “Phantom Pinstripes”, with no additional letter assignment. You will never see someone selling their “Phantom A Pinstripe” or showing off a picture of their “Phantom B Pinstripe”…and if you were to label your own Phantom Pinstripe as an “A”, “B”, or “C” classification, folks may look at you sideways over it!!! We are only labeling them this way in order to clearly give each their own detailed definition for this guide.
Phantom A – This is a gecko who displays elongated pin scales highlighted in either white or cream. The difference between this gecko & a standard pinstripe lies in the dorsal stripe that is between these two rows of elongated scales. In a standard Pinstripe, the dorsal area is usually filled in with a color which contrasts the base color of the gecko, much like you see with a Flame gecko. With a Phantom A, this dorsal stripe is not filled in with a contrasting color, but rather is displayed as the same color as the base of the gecko. The best examples of this morph are completely patternless, and display only one solid color EXCEPT for the highlighted pin scales. Phantom A Pinstripes can display 100%, High %, Low% pinstriping, or Pin-Dashing.
(At this time we do not have a picture of a Phantom A Pinstripe. We will add this in later once we are able to capture some good examples on film.)
Phantom B – This is a gecko, typically one who is patternless, who displays elongated pin scales along the dorsal stripe which are not highlighted in white or cream. These elongated scales are notably elongated, forming an easy-to-recognize stripe, and they are displayed in the same color as the “base” color of the gecko. Phantom B Pinstripes can display 100%, High %, or Low % pinstriping, but no recognition is really given to those displaying only Pin-Dashing.
Phantom C – This is a gecko who displays elongated pin scales along the dorsal stripe that are darker than the base color of the gecko. We actually haven’t seen too many Phantom Pinstripes with this type of display, but those that we have come across are most often seen as dark orange stripes on a light orange or yellow base color. It is possible for Phantom C geckos to display other pattern, such as harlequin markings, and the elongated scales can be displayed as 100%, High %, or Low%. No recognition is really given to those displaying only Pin-Dashing.
Reverse Pinstripe – These are geckos who display a dark line running alongside of the elongated dorsum scales, on the outermost edge of the dorsal stripe. This is typically only seen on geckos with a fairly light base color, as the line would not be visible on darker based geckos.
Speckled Dalmatian – The term “speckled” refers to a gecko who has very few spots. They will most commonly appear as black spots, however any color of spotting is acceptable for this classification.
Dalmatian – This refers to a gecko who has a fair amount of spotting covering the entire body. These spots can be displayed in any color, although most commonly they will be black. There is some debate as to exactly how many spots a gecko must have in order to be classified as a “Dalmatian”, but the community seems to generally agree that at least 50 spots must be present for the classification.
Super Dalmatian – This refers to a gecko with a significant amount of spotting covering the entire body. Again, there is some debate as to the exact number of spots required to meet this classification. The quantity also seems to depend on the spot size. For a gecko with very large spots, it seems like more than 50 spots would qualify as a Super Dalmatian. If the gecko’s spots are quite small, 100+ would qualify it as a Super Dalmatian. There are many different schools of thought on this topic, and the qualifications for labeling as a Super Dalmatian will vary from one breeder to the next. Here at The Gecko Geek, we choose to use common sense…if you have to ask if its a Super Dalmatian, you can be pretty sure that it isn’t! Super Dalmatians are “Super”…you know one when you see one!
Peppered/Freckled – This refers to a gecko with very tiny spots. This definition is only applied to describe the size of the spotting, not the quantity of spots present. A Peppered or Freckled gecko may have just a few spots, or it may be covered head to tail in them. These spots may also be present in any color.
Ink Spot – Also called Ink Blot or Ink Blotch, this term is used to describe a gecko who has very large spots. These spots will often be a bit mishapen, and somewhat resemble an ink stain, hence the name. Again, this definition is only applied to describe the size of the spotting, not the number of spots present. An Ink Spot gecko may have just a few spots, or it may be covered head to tail in them. These spots may be present in any color.
Oil Spot – These are spots which are very light in tone, often displaying in a slightly gray or greenish hue. Tricky, tricky….these are not actually gray or green spots (and they never could be truly green because crested geckos do not carry that pigment!)! They are black spots which are not fully developed. Often, when these are seen on very young geckos, the Oil Spot will darken with each shed until it is completely black. Sometimes they just don’t darken up though & the spots remain quite light….kind of resembling an oil stain, hence the name “Oil Spot”.
Red Spot – No tricks here…this refers to a gecko who has red spotting. There are different classifications to the red spotting though. If the gecko displays mostly black spotting with just a bit of red, this gecko would be called a “Dalmatian with red spots”. If the gecko displays a greater number of red than black spots, the wording changes ever so slightly. Geckos who display spotting, where the majority are red are called “Red Spot Dalmatians”. Its a subtle difference in phrasing, but a huge difference in the appearance of the gecko!
White Spot – While there are a few people out there trying to work on true white spot projects, the great majority of geckos described as having white spots really actually don’t!! What these geckos have are elongated body scales, commonly refered to as “Portholes”. These elongated scales are often without pigment, which is why they appear as white rather than matching the body color of the gecko. Sometimes these elongated portholes are only ever so slighly elongated, which gives the illusion of white spotting on the gecko’s body.
Cluster Spotting – This refers to a gecko who displays a grouping of spots. It may have individual spots on other parts of the body as well. There is no set standard as to how many spots must be grouped together in order to qualify as a “Cluster”, but there must clearly be more than one spot…and the more spotting in the grouping, the higher the quality of the cluster spot. Several different clusters of spotting may be present on a single gecko, and these spots may be displayed in any color combination…so for example, the spots may be all black, or they may be all red, or they may be both black & red.