The crested gecko is a fun & exciting reptile pet. Native to New Caledonia, these geckos are relatively small docile lizards. They are semi-arboreal, which means they love to spend time climbing through leafy branches, using their prehensile tails & sticky toes to do so, but are also commonly found on the ground searching for food or digging under leaf litter for shelter. Their ease of care & sweet dispositions make them an ideal choice for beginners, but more experienced enthusiasts will also enjoy their wide variety of colors & patterns, and the ability to create naturalistic habitats for them (see “Housing” below). They really are the ideal reptile pet for just about anyone!
- Lifespan: 20-25 years
- Temperature: 65-80F
- Humidity: 40% – 50% daytime low, 70% – 80% nighttime high
- Size: 8-10 inches (adult size)
- Enclosure: 10-20 gallon minimum per adult, with bigger being better, and height desired over length (for more details see “Housing” below)
What you will need:
- *an acceptable sized enclosure
- *food dish
- *spray bottle for misting/watering
- *acceptable branches & leaf cover
- *acceptable substrate/floor cover
- *a Thermometer & Hygrometer – to measure temperature and humidity; found at most reptile supply stores
- *Crested Gecko Diet
- *Calcium with no D3
- *Calcium with D3 – only if you feed insects to your gecko
- *A Gecko!!!!
Crested geckos can be kept in a variety of different enclosures, and these can be as simple or elaborate as you desire. From a simple plastic bin with a paper towel-lined floor, to a fully planted naturalistic vivarium, the choices are pretty much limitless. Designing a tank can be fun & fulfilling, and is a great opportunity to express your creative side! No matter what design you choose, just keep these few simple rules in mind:
1. 10-20 gallon minimum per adult. Bigger is always better, however it is possible to go too big. I have found that the most comfortable maximum size enclosure for an individual is about 30 gallons. Because crested geckos love to climb, the height of your enclosure is much more important than its length. Hatchling geckos can be kept in a Kritter Keeper or shoebox-style plastic bin until they are large enough to move into their adult home. I generally move my young geckos to adult-sized enclosures once they reach 10-15 grams.
2. Males MUST be housed alone. They can be very territorial towards other geckos & will fight, sometimes to the death, to defend their territory. Males can cohabitate with females, however this should only be done if you intend to breed them, and keep in mind that fighting can still occur. Females generally get along with other females, but to avoid bullying make sure there is not greater than a 5 gram difference in weight between your girls. Even then, some girls just don’t get along. Be sure you have a way to separate your geckos permanently if fighting or bullying persists.
3. Provide plenty of branches for climbing and lots of leaves for cover. The more branches & leaf cover the better. Crested geckos will use every inch of their enclosure if you allow them to. In my opinion “dead air” (large open spaces with no branches or leaves) in your enclosure is just wasted space. Providing lots of branches, vines, & leaves will also help your gecko to exercise! Your gecko will use its prehensile tail to grip onto the various decorations you provide in its tank as it jumps and climbs from branch to branch, and this will keep your gecko’s tail strong. A strong tail is a must for a crested gecko. Geckos who are not provided with this type of exercise can develop a condition known as Floppy Tail Syndrome (FTS), a weakening of the tail muscle which causes it to “flop” over. Geckos with mild cases of FTS can lead long happy lives, however more severe cases can lead to much more serious problems such as spine/hip curvature and/or breakage, and these issues can in turn lead to much much more serious (and even deadly) conditions such as Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD).
4. Keep your enclosure well-ventilated. Because crested geckos like a high in humidity of about 70% – 80%, it is important that you allow ventilation in your tank so that mold & other yuckiness does not begin to grow. I prefer to use glass tanks with a screen top and 1 screen side. This allows air to flow freely through the tank. If using a plastic tub, be sure to drill enough ventilation holes to allow sufficient air flow (don’t make them too big though, or your gecko may escape through them!). All-screen tanks have been used with some success, however I do not prefer these as I live in an area of low humidity & have found it hard to keep humidity high enough in them.
5. Be sure your enclosure has a secure lid and/or locking door. Crested geckos can climb just about any surface (including glass and plastic), so make sure the top of your tank stays securely closed. If your enclosure has a front-opening door, be sure you can lock that securely as well. There’s nothing more frightening to a gecko owner than an “escape”. Believe me, its a lot easier to take these steps to make sure your gecko’s tank is safe & secure than it is to find him once he’s out!
6. Whether you are doing a simple plastic bin with paper towel-lined floors or a fully planted naturalistic vivarium, it is important to do your research & make certain that all of the decorations in your gecko’s enclosure are reptile-safe.
When choosing fake flowers or vines, be sure they are free of harmful dyes, glitter, etc., and that they do not have any sharp exposed wires. Any sharp sections on your fake plants can be easily fixed by covering with a small dab of silicone or hot glue. Be sure to completely dry/cool before introducing this to your gecko. When working with silicone, I prefer to use those labeled as “aquarium sealants”. They are completely water tight & designed to be used with animals. Some sealants (specifically those designed for bathroom applications) also contain anti-molding agents, which have proved to be harmful to many reptiles. These types of sealants should be avoided.
Also be sure that the branches you choose are reptile-safe. I prefer to use grapevine, which is readily available at most reptile supply stores, but other options include Mopani, Driftwood, Bamboo, or Manzanita. Whatever you choose, be sure that the wood is termite-free & has been properly sterilized (through soaking or baking) before introducing them to your gecko. I do not recommend using braches collected from your yard, as these could be exposed to pesticides or other harmful chemicals, and can also be carrying parasites. Avoid any branches that could contain harmful saps, such as those in the Pine family. As mentioned above, I prefer to use grapevine in my enclosures. It stands up well to the humidity, has lots of forks & twists that provide your gecko with a “jungle gym ‘o fun”, and its lightly rough surface is perfect for keeping your gecko’s nails naturally filed, and for helping your gecko to remove its shed.
If you are building a natural planted vivarium, it is important to become familiar with which plants are toxic and which are not.
Some safe plant choices are:
- *Ficus Benjamina
- *ZZ Palm
- *Sanseveria (Snake Plant)
Plants to avoid include, but are not limited to:
- *anything in the Croton family
- *Money Tree
For whichever plant you choose, before introducing it to your gecko’s enclosure be sure it is cleaned & free of any pesticides and/or fertilizers.
For a full list of both safe and harmful plants, or for instructions on how to prepare a plant for your gecko’s enclosure, please “Contact Us“.
7. Choose the correct substrate (floor cover) for your crested gecko. There are many substrate options out there, but just because it may be labeled “reptile-safe” does not mean it is right for your crested gecko. By far the most simple substrate for crested geckos is paper towels. Be sure to use towels that are free of any printing, as the dyes may be harmful to your gecko. Other acceptable substrates for crested geckos include, but are not limited to coco fiber, peat moss, or soil mixes that include fir mulch.
Substrates to avoid include but are not limited to Sani-Chips, aspen, sand, reptile carpet, bark chips, walnut shells, or pellets. These substrates are not suitable for a variety of reasons, among which being the high risk for intestinal impaction if swallowed, and in some cases can also cause other injury such as pulled/torn toenails. These also do not help in retaining humidity in your gecko’s enclosure.
The diet of the crested gecko is by far what makes them the most appealing to new reptile owners. They do not need to eat bugs…ever (however, they do enjoy them)! A powdered commercial diet is readily available for crested geckos. It is nutritionally balanced for your gecko and is very easy to prepare/store. There are a few crested gecko diets available on the market. I use the Pangea brand diet exclusively, and have included instructions for using this diet in this section.
First, you will need a food dish. This can be as simple as a bottle cap, or as fancy as a customized ceramic crock. The choice is really up to you. Most importantly, it should be clean, easy for your gecko to access (not too deep), and not easily tipped over. Try a few different things & see what works best for you. I like to use “pinch” dishes, typically used by chefs for spices. They are small, shallow, and dishwasher safe. This is just my personal preference though, and certainly not the most cost-friendly one! Your feeding dish can be placed on the floor of your geckos enclosure, or can be elevated by the use of magnetic ledges. You may want to try a few options & see which is best for you. Crested geckos are creatures of habit though, so try not to move the food dish around too much. Once they are accustomed to the location of their food dish, they will return to that spot night after night in search of food. Constant moving of the dish could be a bit confusing for you gecko, and may cause a bit of stress.
In the wild, crested geckos will feed on decaying fruits as part of their diet, and because of this I find that my geckos tend to like their food to be a bit “aged”. I offer fresh food every other day, leaving each dish of food inside the enclosure for a total of 48 hours. I have found that my geckos tend to feed more on the second day. Any uneaten food is removed from the enclosure after 48 hours to prevent the growth of mold. If you see any signs of spoil (ex. mold growth) or if your gecko has defecated in its food dish, remove the food immediately and replace it with a fresh dish.
Pangea crested gecko diet (CGD) can be fed to adults and babies alike. The only difference is the amount that you offer your gecko. The amount of CGD that each gecko will consume varies based on a number of factors (age/size of gecko, temperature, humidity, time of year, etc.). In general, an adult male gecko will consume about 1 tablespoon of prepared diet per feeding. It may take a little trial & error before you get the amount right for your gecko. If there is a considerable amount of food left over at the end of the 2-day feeding cycle, feed less next time. If the bowl is bone dry, offer more. I offer a minimum of 1/4 teaspoon of CGD per feeding to my crested gecko babies. They rarely consume that much, but I find that anything less than that dries out too quickly.
Pangea CGD powder should be mixed with water before serving to your gecko. The recommended ratio is 1 part powder : 2 parts water by volume. Mix thoroughly so there are no lumps & serve…its that simple! The consistency should be similar to that of applesauce. It may be a bit watery at first, but it will thicken after several minutes. The dry mix can be stored in the refrigerator for several months, however once mixed with water its “shelf life” is much shorter at about 1 week.
While it is not necessary to feed insects to your crested gecko, it is an option, and certainly something that your gecko will enjoy. The best insect options are either crickets or feeder roaches (such as Dubia), or when available, phoenix worms (also known as calci-worms). Wax worms can also be offered, but these are quite fatty and should be offered sparingly only as an occasional treat. A few wax worms to a crested gecko is like a big ol’ cheesecake to you or me. Sure, its fun to gobble down every now & again, but its not something you’d want to make a habit of!
The number of insects to offer will vary from gecko to gecko, but in general crested geckos will enjoy consuming 5-10 appropriately sized crickets OR 3-5 appropriately sized roaches once per week. Only feed your gecko as many insects as it can consume in one feeding. Remove any uneaten insects the following day. Uneaten insects have been known to bite sleeping crested geckos, causing terrible skin irritation to your pet, and also tend to feed on items in your gecko’s enclosure, like CGD and even…dare I say…your gecko’s poop! Yuck!
It is important to supplement your insects with calcium powder with vitamin D3 to make them nutritionally balanced for your gecko. We do what is called the “shake & bake” method. Simply put the insects in a plastic bag, sprinkle in some calcium with vitamin D3, close the bag, & lightly shake until the insects are coated.
It is also a good idea to feed the insects a nutritious diet for a few days before offering them to your gecko. This is a process known as “gutloading”. I gutload my insects with Repashy Bug Burger.
DO NOT feed your gecko any insects that you’ve found outside in your yard! Wild-caught insects may have come into contact with harmful pesticides, and they may also be carrying harmful parasites. Purchase your feeder insects from a respected reptile supply store. Its the smart & responsible thing to do!
DO NOT feed your gecko mealworms, superworms, spiders, fireflies, or any hard-bodied insect. These have been known to cause intestinal impaction, and some are even toxic.
DO NOT feed your crested gecko on an insect-only diet. This is not nutritionally balanced for them and can lead to serious health issues down the line. CGD should be the staple diet, with insects being offered once weekly if desired.
DO NOT feed your crested gecko baby food. This is not a suitable substitute for CGD and will definitely lead to serious health conditions. CGD is a completely balanced diet, and in the long-run its much cheaper than baby food. There is no excuse for not feeding your crested gecko CGD, and I (and anyone associated with thegeckogeek.com) will not sell any gecko to a person who knowingly feeds their geckos an incorrect diet.
It is not necessary to offer your gecko a water dish. Crested geckos will rarely, if ever, drink from standing water. Instead, offer your gecko its drinking water in the form of misting. Your gecko will drink the droplets off of the tanks walls & decorations. Be sure to use a clean spray bottle which has not been previously used with any chemicals, and if using tap water, be sure to treat it first to remove chlorine and other chemicals that may have been added by your city’s water treatment plant. Misting should be done once daily (though some areas will require more often), and my preference is to mist at night when the geckos are most active. You should mist enough that it looks similar to a light rain, with droplets all over. The ground should be wet, but not soaked. For more information on misting, see “Temperature & Humidity”.
It is also a good idea to offer your gecko a dish of pure calcium with NO D3. This is especially helpful for breeding females. Geckos will lick from the dish to supplement themselves when they need additional calcium in their diet. It is very important that you offer calcium with NO D3 for this. Vitamin D3 is fat soluble, and your gecko can actually overdose on this if offered too much. Calcium with vitamin D3 should be used for dusting feeder insects.
Temperature & Humidity:
Crested geckos do well in temperatures between 65 – 80F, though it is not desirable to stay at either end of the extreme for extended periods of time. Ideally, you want to keep your crested gecko somewhere in the 70’sF. In most cases, no special heating devices are required, however if you find it difficult to keep temperatures above 65F, a low wattage red heat bulb may be used. Because crested geckos are nocturnal, they cannot view the red spectrum, and therefore a red bulb will not disrupt their photoperiod. If your temperatures consistently stay above 80F, you will need find a way to cool your crested gecko, usually through the use of an air conditioner. If this is not an option for you, you may want to rethink whether a crested gecko is the right pet for you. It is a good idea to keep a thermometer inside of your gecko’s enclosure so you can monitor temperatures easily.
The humidity level for a crested gecko should be about 40% – 50% for a daytime low and 70% – 80% for a nighttime high. This can be easily achieved through daily misting. Crested geckos will also drink from the water droplets produced when misting, so its best to do this at night when your gecko will be most active. You should mist enough that it appears as though there was a light rainfall, with water droplets all throughout the tank. The floor should become damp, but not soaked. If you are misting correctly, droplets should be visible in the tank for up to about 2 hours after misting, and the tank will completely dry out before it is time to mist again the next evening. It may take a little trial & error to get it right. If the tank is still fairly wet after 2 hours, mist less next time. If the tank dries out completely before 2 hours have passed, mist more next time. It is a good idea to keep a hygrometer inside of your gecko’s enclosure so you can easily monitor the humidity range. If the humidity consistently drops below 40% during the day, you may need to increase your misting to twice daily.
It is not necessary to provide any kind of special lighting (such as UVB) for your crested gecko, however if your gecko is placed in an area that stays very dark, it may be wise to offer some form of non-heat emitting lighting to provide a proper photoperiod. Crested geckos do well with a photoperiod of 10-12 hours of light per day, and this can usually be achieved by placing your gecko’s enclosure in an area that receives indirect sunlight. Do not place your gecko’s enclosure in direct sunlight, as this may raise the temperatures in your gecko’s enclosure to harmful levels.
Handling Your Pet Gecko:
Crested geckos can tolerate a good deal of handling, even when they are quite young, however it is not recommended to handle crested geckos that are under 2 weeks of age or those who have been recently moved to a new location. Allow a few weeks for your gecko to settle in to its new surroundings before you begin a handling routine. Once settled, you can begin handling your gecko for 5-10 minutes per day so it can start getting used to your touch and smell. Your gecko may be jumpy at first, but should become more calm over time. Once you are more comfortable with each other, you can increase the amount of time you spend handling your gecko.
For especially jumpy geckos I recommend handling using the “hand walking” method. To do this, hold one hand in front of your gecko & allow it to jump on. Move your free hand in front of your gecko and allow it to jump on again. Repeat this process, placing one hand in front of the other & allowing the gecko to jump from hand to hand.
Be especially careful not to pick up your gecko by its tail, or to pinch its tail in any way. While most crested geckos are reluctant to drop their tails, it can happen. This usually occurs when a gecko is badly spooked, or when the tail is pinched or pulled. Unlike some other lizards, crested geckos do not have the ability to regenerate their tails. Once its gone, its gone forever! Don’t worry though. It is not painful, & it heals almost instantly. Crested geckos do not need their tails in order to lead long, happy, healthy lives. The dropping of a tail is a natural defense mechanism for them. In fact, most crested geckos found in the wild are tailless.
If you have any additional questions about Crested Gecko care, please “Contact Us“.