Crested Gecko Care Sheet
Crested Gecko: Rhacodactylus ciliatus The Crested Gecko is native to New Caledonia . It is perhaps the best pet reptile to be “discovered” in the past century. Previously thought to be extinct, numerous Crested Geckos were found happily living on several islands off of New Caledonia as well as on the mainland in the 1980's. Since their rediscovery, their capture and import has been ended. Not only comical and beautiful, these little guys are extremely hardy and easy to care for! They also acclimate well to regular gentle handling and some even appear to enjoy being taken out of their cages and held.
Average Size: 7 to 9 inches (half of this being its tail)
Life Span: Over 15 years if properly cared for.
Diet: Perhaps the best part of keeping Crested Geckos is that they do not need to be fed live insects. Although I highly recommend a varied diet. They are an omnivorous species, which in the wild eats both insects and rotting fruits and flowers. In captivity they can be fed an excellentpowdered diet by Repashy Superfoods (sold on this site) mixed with banana and other ingredients, I call it Gecko Slop. See recipe below**
Feeding: If feeding the baby food or powdered diet mixes solely, most keepers feed either daily or every other day, leaving the dish in there for a second night. I prefer to alternate feedings with gut loaded crickets lightly dusted with a mineral powder. Crickets should be no larger than the width of the geckos’ head or they can choke and die. Feeding crickets at least once or twice a week keeps the geckos active and allows them to use their natural hunting instincts. Plus its fun to watch!!
DO NOT FEED WILD INSECTS OR INSECTS FOUND AROUND THE HOUSE – THEY MAY CARRY DISEASES THAT COULD BE DEADLY TO YOUR PET OR BE COVERED IN PESTICIDES
Housing: Crested Geckos can be housed in either screen or glass/ plexi enclosures. In drier areas it is recommended that glass/ plexi cages be used to provide adequate humidity. In areas with higher humidity screen cages are excellent for providing adequate ventilation. Cages should be permitted to dry out entirely during the day following a heavy night time misting. Housing should be chosen to permit this to occur, otherwise problems with molding of the housing from too high of humidity can occur, or the animals can have retained shed due to low humidity. For more on different types of housing for different ages and sizes see pictures below.
Size: Since the Crested Gecko is arboreal (lives in the trees) it strongly prefers a cage that is taller than it is long.
Young geckos can be kept in small (1-2 gallon) cages or Kritter keepers, until they are about 10 grams. Housing that is too large (i.e. 30 gallon tank for a hatchling) should be avoided when keeping very young geckos as they may have trouble finding their food. A single adult gecko can be housed in a 20 gallon long aquarium set up on its long end, or in a screen cage measuring 1 foot long X 1 foot deep X 2 feet high.
Multiple males should not be housed together as they will fight to the death.
Females can be housed together, though some may have personality differences and quarrel. If this occurs they should be permanently separated- females that take a dislike to each other rarely get over it. Overall the females seem to enjoy each others company, often being found curled up under leaves together. If males and females are housed together mating and egg laying is almost guaranteed. Juveniles should be kept in like sized groups as larger ones can and will bully smaller ones, preventing their access to food.
Substrate: Paper towels or cage liners are by far the easiest substrate to use, though not very aesthetically pleasing. If males and females are housed together with the intent of breeding they will make finding the eggs much simpler, however. Reptile barks can also provide a nice substrate, though they carry the same risk of ingestion.
NEVER use pine/ cedar chips intended for small mammals as they can make your gecko very, very ill.
Habitat: Crested Geckos love their vertical space. Bamboo poles and vertically placed cork flats will make your geckos very happy. They are also especially fond of plants, such as Pothos (which is extremely hardy), both live and fake. The more hiding places that you give your gecko the less stressed it will be, and consequently healthier. If you are going for a sterile, easy to clean set up egg crates make excellent, though not pretty, hiding places and maximize surface areas for your geckos. For breeding purposes I use a very simplified set up but you can make an amazing vivaria to house your gecko. However I do not recommend mixing different species of geckos in the same enclosures. You risk your gecko being eaten, injured, or contaminated with parasites and diseases specific to other species.
Grooming and Hygiene: Cresteds require very little actual grooming. Most important is to maintain adequate humidity to prevent retained sheds. In the case of a retained shed the gecko can be carefully soaked in shallow warm water, or placed in a small plastic container (with holes punched) with damp paper towels for 30 minutes twice daily until the shed is removed. Always wash your hands before and after touching your gecko or habitat contents to help prevent transmission of Salmonella and other infectious diseases.
Temperature: Crested Geckos prefer to be kept at room temperature (from 65- 80 degrees F). They experience stress at temperatures over 85 or under 65 degrees.
Lighting: As a nocturnal species your Crested Gecko will likely not come out when bright lights are on. They do need some ambient light in the room at night or they will be disoriented in total darkness. I DO NOT recommend basking lights, moon glow, or red nocturnal lights. These lights even in low wattages get way too hot and tend to heat the enclosure to unnatural temperatures. This is important especially for the cooling seasons. You need to allow your geckos to experience natural fluxes in temp with the seasons. As long as you do not let your home dip below 65 or above 85 you are in the safe zone. The best nighttime lighting I have found for display purposes is mini red Christmas lights just bunched up and set on top of the cage. It is really pretty and will not heat up the cage.
Water: Provide a constant supply of clean, fresh, filtered, chlorine-free water in a shallow bowl that cannot be tipped over. Using a clean (new) spray bottle, mist your Crested Gecko twice daily. They will eagerly lap the water off of the surfaces in their enclosure, and the misting will provide much needed humidity. Don’t over mist or you will get a mold problem.
Habitat Maintenance: Change water in the bowl daily, remove feces daily.
Thoroughly clean the tank at least once a week. Use a 10% bleach solution once a month to clean and disinfect the enclosure.
Normal Behavior and Interaction: Crested Geckos are a nocturnal species that will spend all day sleeping. Once they get up in the evening they are amusing to watch wandering around their cage. They seem to enjoy each others company greatly and often sleeps together during the day. At night it is not uncommon to hear growls, squeaks, barks and yips as they talk to each other in the same cage, and to geckos in other cages. Cresteds are normally amenable to handling with a little bit of patience and work. Very young animals (under three months) should be handled very little, if at all. Older juveniles and adults can be handled for as much as they tolerate, which will vary from individual to individual; some never really settle down, while others are happy to sit on a shoulder or desk for hours at a time. Two warnings should be heeded. First, Crested Geckos love to jump! Animals that are not accustomed to handling should be kept close to the ground until they have lost their desire for flight.
Second, if your Crested Gecko drops its tail it will never grow back (unlike many other species). These stumpy Cresteds suffer no long term negative effects, but never regain their beautiful, prehensile tails. Rough handling and overly stressing your gecko should be avoided if you want your pet to retain its caudal appendage.
Signs of a Healthy Pet: Active and alert, Healthy skin, Clear eyes, Eats regularly, Clear nose and vent .
Common Health Issues and Red Flags:
Mites: Although mostly uncommon in a private collection, mites are a possible complication. They will most likely be noticed first around the eyes or the corners of the mouth as little round, black/brown creepy creatures. They can be treated by many commercial products available at a local pet shop or by a veterinary strength solution available from your veterinarian. Be sure to follow the directions on the product. Treatment of mites usually takes close to a month of continuous care as eggs can hatch daily and must be taken care of' ASAP. These little bugs have an extraordinary reproductive rate. If you have more than one infested reptile, take extra precautions not to transfer the mites from one to another. Impaction: If you are keeping your Crested Gecko on a natural substrate and feeding insects it will likely ingest some of the substrate at each feeding. In small quantities this will not be overly harmful, but in large quantities your gecko may become impacted with substrate in its intestine, a condition that is almost invariably fatal. Prompt treatment by an exotics vet may save your pets life. Calcium Deficiency - Without adequate calcium in your Cresteds diet, aside from a slow growth rate, you will more than likely encounter Metabolic Bone Disease. The first symptom usually noticed is uncontrolled twitching of the geckos toes or legs, a floppy jaw, or a kinked tail. This can be a fatal disease if not treated promptly. If this problem occurs, I suggest raising the amount of calcium in the gecko's diet immediately. Take your gecko to a good exotics vet who can prescribe a calcium supplement. This is most common in breeding females.
Internal Parasites: A common internal parasite in Crested Gecko's is Entameoba Invadens , which needs to be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian. If left untreated too long it can be fatal. Other internal parasites are also possible in Crested Geckos, and can be diagnosed by your veterinarian via a stool sample. If you notice any of these signs, please contact your exotic animal veterinarian.