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How to Care for Your Crested Gecko

How to Care for Your Crested Gecko

Crested geckos (Correlophus ciliatus) are small, 6-8” long arboreal lizards native to the tropical forests of New Caledonia, particularly the islands of Grande Terre and the Isle of Pines. 

In the wild they are generally tan to light brown in color, with a large triangular head, large feet, sticky toe pads, a prehensile tail, and a fringe that runs from their eyes down their back, giving them the appearance of having eyelashes. They do not have eyelids. In captivity, crested geckos have been bred to be available in a wide variety of patterns.

Crested geckos are one of the most popular pet lizards in the US, due to their small size, hardiness, ease of breeding, ease of care, and tolerance for human interaction. This also makes them good pet reptiles for first-timers. With good care, they can live 15-20 years.

How much space do crested geckos need?

Crested geckos are not very active compared to other arboreal lizards, but they still need an enclosure that is large enough to allow them to thermoregulate and exercise other natural behaviors. A single crested gecko should be housed in absolutely no smaller than an 18” x 18” x 24” terrarium, although larger is always better, and will be happily used!

Cohabitation (keeping multiple crested geckos in one enclosure) is not recommended, and may result in fighting if attempted. This is especially the case for males that are housed together.

Do crested geckos need UVB?

They can survive without it, but it’s still recommended. UVB gives them all of the vitamin D that their bodies need, stimulates better appetite and activity, and generally allows them to be healthier than they would be without.

Crested geckos do best with low-strength UVB as part of their enclosure. The best UVB bulbs for crested geckos housed in an 18” x 18” x 24” terrarium are:

The UVB bulb should be housed in a reflective fixture and placed close to the heat lamp, about 6” above the basking branch. UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so you can’t give your gecko UVB by placing its terrarium in front of an open window. Also make sure that the fixture your UVB bulb is in does not have a clear plastic bulb cover.

Crested geckos should receive 11 hours of light during winter and 13.5 hours of light during summer. This simulates natural seasonal changes in day length and encourages healthier hormonal rhythms.

What basking temperatures do crested geckos need?

Despite popular myth, crested geckos do benefit from having a basking area. After all, they’re still ectotherms, which means that they need a temperature gradient in their enclosure to help them regulate their metabolism and stay healthy.

Crested geckos should have a low basking temperature between 82-85°F, as measured by a digital probe thermometer with the probe placed on the basking surface. The cool zone in the lower regions of the enclosure should stay between 70-75°F. Heat lamps should be turned off at night. Nighttime temperatures can drop as low as 65°F.

Provide heat for your gecko by imitating the sun with a low-wattage heat lamp placed on one side of the enclosure. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective.

What humidity levels do crested geckos need?

Crested geckos need a high humidity environment with an average humidity of 60-80%, as measured by a digital probe hygrometer with the probe in the middle of the terrarium. 

Misting your gecko’s enclosure with a sprayer first thing in the morning and again at night will help create the right humidity levels. It also provides an important source of drinking water!

What substrate is good for crested geckos?

Although crested geckos are an arboreal species and don’t spend much time on the ground, placing a layer of substrate on the floor of the enclosure helps maintain humidity. As an added perk, it also tends to make the enclosure more attractive.

Ideally, this substrate should resemble what crested geckos naturally live on in the wild — in this case, tropical soil. It should have small particles and hold moisture well. We recommend the following substrates for crested geckos:

Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity.

Substrate should be at least 2” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.

What décor can you use in a crested gecko terrarium?

It’s terribly boring for a gecko to be stuck in an enclosure with nothing in it except substrate and food/water bowls. It doesn’t matter how big the enclosure is if you don’t put things in it for your pet to use and interact with. Crested geckos appreciate a fairly densely planted enclosure with either live or artificial plants, which can make their terrarium a great piece of home decor!

At bare minimum, you will need a branch for your gecko to climb on and some live or artificial foliage for it to hide in. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:

What do crested geckos eat?

Crested geckos are omnivorous, which means that they need to eat a balanced diet of plant and animal matter in order to get the nutrition that their bodies need. In the wild, they primarily eat insects and fruit. In captivity, it’s best to feed them high-quality, specially-formulated crested gecko diet (CGD) supplemented by live insect feeders.

How often crested geckos need to eat depends on age:

  • Hatchlings and Juveniles (0-12 months) — CGD daily, insects 1-2x/week
  • Adults (>12 months) — CGD every 2-3 days, insects 1x/week

Best crested gecko diets: Pangea, Repashy, Leapin’ Leachie, Zoo Med, Lugarti, Black Panther Zoological, Gecko Pro

Feeder insects for crested geckos: dubia roaches, discoid roaches, red runner roaches, crickets, hornworms

Remember, the key to great nutrition is variety!

Supplements

Although crested gecko diet doubles as a vitamin supplement, you will need calcium powder to dust on feeder insects. We recommend Repashy Supercal NoD.

Water

Although your gecko will get most of its drinking water from daily mistings, it’s a good idea to also provide a wall-mounted water dish. Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.

Do crested geckos like to be handled?

Few reptiles actually “like” to be held, but crested geckos generally tolerate handling well. Be gentle, and whenever possible, pick up the gecko from below instead of grabbing it from above — this approach is less scary and stressful for them. They may be a bit jumpy at first, so let them hop from one hand to the other until they have calmed down.

 

*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please do further research with high-quality sources to obtain additional information on caring for this species. Here are some other great sources to read:

  • The ReptiFiles Crested Gecko Care Guide
  • Moon Valley Reptiles
  • Crested Geckos in Captivity by Robbie Hamper
  • Crested Geckos by Philippe de Vosjoli
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