Crested Gecko Care
Crested Geckos, formerly known as Rhacodactylus ciliatus, and recently re-classified as Correlophus ciliatus, are native to Southern Grand Terre, New Caledonia and at least one small surrounding island (Isle of Pines). Crested Geckos are semi-arboreal, spending most of their time in small trees and low shrubs. They will, however, seek out hiding places near the ground to sleep during the day, and if you use paper towel as a substrate, they may even use that as a “blanket.”
Because Crested Geckos are relatively versatile and hardy, they can be kept in a number of different types of enclosures. Cresties can be maintained in simple conditions or in elaborate naturalistic vivariums. Hatchlings to four-month-old crested geckos should be housed in small aquariums or plastic keepers. In some cases, young geckos housed in large cages will have trouble finding their food, and will not eat well. To avoid that issue, we recommend that geckos weighing less than 8 grams be housed in cages no larger than a 10-gallon aquarium. You can move up to a larger "forever tank" once the animal is more established and eating regularly.
Regardless of the type of cage you use, height is more desirable than length as crested geckos are generally arboreal creatures and love to climb. There are now many glass and screen cages and terrariums that are designed specifically to house reptiles. These reptile specific terrariums have many advantages over aquariums designed for fish, and should definitely be considered even though the cost is a bit higher. A 12x12x18" enclosure such as the ones put out by Exo Terra or Zoo Med are the minimum recommended size for an adult geckos, but larger is always better. Some people choose to make enclosures out of storage tubs, or even lanterns. You can be as creative as you like, just remember that the health and happiness of the gecko is more important than the aesthetics. Your crested gecko is a long-lived, forever pet, and should be treated with love and respect.
Until as recently as 1994, the Crested Gecko had not been seen in New Caledonia since 1967 and was believed to have become extinct.
Crested Geckos in Captivity
Temperature, Heating, and Lighting
Temperatures for crested geckos should be maintained between 72 and 80 degrees for most of the year. At temperatures of 85 degrees or warmer, crested geckos will become stressed, which could lead to illness or death. Hatchlings and juvenile geckos are particularly heat sensitive. Cresties can tolerate night time temperature drops down into the mid 60's but it is not necessary to provide this much of night time temperature drop.
A two month cooling period is recommended to allow breeding age female crested geckos time to rest. When properly “cooled,” a female will stop producing eggs. This will allow her body to recover from laying. She will gain back weight lost during the breeding season and rebuild her calcium supply. During this period temperatures should be kept at 65 to 70 degrees. Temperature is best measured with a digital thermometer kept inside the tank, but a thermometer in the vicinity of the tank is also fine. At geckopods, we keep multiple digital thermometers in various places, both inside and outside of the tank to get a better idea of the temperature gradients in the room.
A photo (lights on) period of 12 to 14 hours of light is appropriate for most of the year, with ten hours of light being appropriate during the cooling period. Some people maintain a 12/12 schedule year round. With planted tanks, the 12/12 lighting schedule is generally best. Lighting is most easily achieved with the use of fluorescent lights placed directly on the cage top. This will facilitate both the requirements of the geckos and any live plants within the enclosure should you choose to have them. It is unnecessary to use UVB lighting for crested geckos, though some keepers prefer to offer it during daylight hours. There is debate over UVB lighting for crested geckos. some breeders swear by it, some don’t do it. We suggest that if you do not use UVB lighting, then you should dust your gecko’s insect treats with Calcium WITH D3 during treat feedings.
Crested Geckos may cease breeding and laying eggs if they are given less than 12 hours of light. In most situations room temperature is adequate for crested geckos, as long as the temperature stays within 70 to 80 degrees. If you are attempting to breed your Crested Geckos, temps should be kept between 75 and 78 degrees. Here at GeckoPods, in we use a whole room heater with a thermostat to maintain temperatures in the winter, and a window air conditioning unit to maintain them in the summer, and this keeps all of our geckos at a comfortable temperature.
Crested geckos require moderate humidity to thrive. In most cases, this can be accomplished by misting the cage once or twice a day. A good hygrometer or thermometer/hygrometer combo meter is a valuable tool. Ideally the humidity level should not drop below 50%. Crested geckos should get several hours of higher humidity (80-100%) every day to ensure that they shed properly. Misting heavily once or twice a day will achieve the required higher humidity levels. It is very important to allow the cage to dry to normal humidity levels in between misting. If the cage is wet and humid all of the time, problems with shedding and bacterial or fungal infections can arise.
Diet and Feeding
Crested geckos can be fed a number of different ways. In this section I will outline the different methods of feeding them in captivity.
1. CRESTED GECKO DIET ONLY: The easiest and most convenient method of feeding Crested Geckos is to use the powdered CRESTED GECKO DIET. We prefer Pangea for our geckos. These diets have been formulated to contain all of the essential fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins that cresties need. Crested geckos can be maintained on this diet alone, however, for optimum condition and health we recommend also feeding dusted and gut loaded insects once or twice per week. A note: some geckos, particularly adults, will not take live foods. In this case, there is a Pangea flavor with insects in the food, making this a non-issue. As crested geckos can easily become obese, we recommend not feeding your gecko with fresh food more than 3x per week. We generally feed fresh, and then leave the food in the tank for at least a day, as some geckos prefer “ripe” food better. Water is ALWAYS provided in a bowl, as, contrary to what some may think, geckos will drink out of a water dish when it is offered to them.
2. CRESTED GECKO DIET & INSECTS: Crested Geckos can be fed the Powdered Crested Gecko Foods along with crickets or other insects. Offer Pangea Fruit Mix Complete Diet 2-3 times per week and insects 1-2 times per month. A note: very young geckos may ONLY want to eat insects. This is NOT a safe diet for them, as it does not contain all of the nutrients they need for proper growth. If your baby gecko will not eat the Crested Gecko Diet, stop feeding insects altogether, and try putting a small amount of honey in with the mix. As they begin taking the food, remove the honey. DO NOT feed insects again until they are regularly eating CGD. If you choose this diet and you do NOT have UVB lighting, dust with calcium with D3, if you DO have UVB lighting, dust with calcium WITHOUT D3.
Feeding Insects: We recommend using dubia roaches as insect feeders. We have found them to be not only nutritionally superior to crickets, but also much easier to maintain at home. Before you give your gecko a roach, ensure that it is no larger than the distance from the gecko's nose to its eye. Choking is a possibility with insects that are too large, as geckos do not chew their food. All feeder insects should be dusted with a good calcium and vitamin d3 powder such as Zoo Med Calcium With D3. Insects should also be fed a high quality "gut load" diet for at least 24 hours prior to being offered to your geckos. Gut Loading enhances the nutritional value of the insects substantially. We give our feeders carrots, leftover dried Pangea, and household compost. Refrain from giving your feeders animal proteins, such as dog or cat food, as this can cause kidney problems in your geckos.
Crested geckos typically drink water droplets from the sides of their enclosure and from any plants or cage accessories. Some people insist that they will not drink from a dish, however, we have seen all of our geckos drinking from dishes and each gecko we keep has a water dish available at all times. This is one of the reasons it is important to mist your geckos daily. It is also recommended that a small dish of clean water is present in the enclosure at all times. It is important to change their water often, as cresties love to use their water bowls as a toilet.
Handling Crested Geckos
Crested Geckos are among the most handleable of all lizards. They tolerate moderate to heavy handling even when they are relatively young, however, you should not handle geckos that are less than two weeks old, or geckos that have recently been purchased or moved. There is a recommended one to two week acclimation period for newly acquired geckos which allows them to settle in and get used to their new surroundings. Once they are settled in, you can introduce your gecko to handling a little at a time. Five minutes of handling per day for the first few weeks is sufficient to allow your gecko to become used to you and to become less jumpy. Once they are comfortable with you, you can begin to handle them more. We recommend no more than 15 to 20 minutes of handling per day so as not to stress the gecko too much.
If your gecko is jumpy or flighty you can use whats called the "hand walking" method. To do this you simply hold one hand out directly in front of the gecko and allow him to hop, walk, or jump to the extended hand, then you immediately place your free hand out in front again, and so on. Young geckos and newly acquired geckos typically need to be hand walked for several sessions before you can expect them to calm down. Quarantine measures are also VERY important when receiving a new gecko into your house. For 30 days, (60 to be on the safe side) your gecko SHOULD NOT be exposed to any other animals in your home, PARTICULARLY other geckos, and you should practice diligent hand washing before, and after handling your gecko. This is to ensure that any illness, virus, or parasite your animal may have does not spread, and any illnesses your existing pets have does not spread to your new pet.
Crested Geckos can drop their tails if handled improperly, or frightened. While most cresteds are reluctant to drop their tails, some have a higher startle reflex and can even drop them due to extremely loud noises, like thunder. Careful handling does not usually result in tail loss. Tail loss is a normal defense mechanism and is not a medical emergency. The gecko will recover quickly and does not require any special care. Crested geckos are one of the few geckos that will not regenerate a new tail.
Baby Crested Gecko Care
So you’re wondering how to care for baby crested geckos. Baby crested geckos are cared for the same way as adults with a few exceptions. Babies should be misted twice a day, and should not be over handled. Always allow newly acquired baby crested geckos time to acclimate to their new cage before you begin a handling routine. The acclimation period is usually one to two weeks. Care should be taken to make sure hatchlings are eating and pooping before handling begins, as stress can disrupt their eating patterns.