Scientific name: Correlophus ciliatus
Average adult size: 8-10”/35-65g
Lifespan: 15-20+ years
Time until adult size is reached: 18-36 months
THE CRESTED GECKO
Crested geckos (Correlophus ciliatus) are one of the
easiest reptiles to care for but they have some specific
needs you should be aware of. Follow this guide and you can
be assured that your gecko will live a long and happy life!
Unlike most reptiles crested geckos thrive at room temperatures between 74-78°F during the day and 70-74°F at night. This is part of what makes them so easy to care for! They are however extremely sensitive to heat. Special consideration must be taken to make sure your crested gecko never gets exposed to temperatures above 82°F.
Exposing your crested gecko to temperatures above 82°F will cause undue stress and a decline in health. Exposing them to temperatures above 85°F can quickly lead to death, especially in hatchlings. DO NOT use heating/basking lamps, heating pads, etc.
Crested geckos are nocturnal and are very sensitive to heat. Because of this enclosure lightning, including UVB is not recommended. If you get some ambient light in the room during daytime hours that will be sufficient.
Still, if you want to light your enclosure there’s a way to do it safely. Do not use a bulb with more than 15 watts. More watts = more heat so the lower the better. When using lights you want to monitor the temperature in the cage closely. Measure several areas including near the top closest to the light and make sure the temperature stays below 80°F in all areas. Be sure to turn off the lights at nighttime.
Crested geckos can be successfully kept in a variety of enclosures. Most breeders use simple plastic tubs while enthusiasts often use glass terrariums furnished to create a naturalistic environment. We use and have had success with both and we’ll guide you through each type of setup.
Regardless of the type of setup you are going for there are a few things they should have in common.
Adult female crested geckos, even if you aren’t breeding them, will require somewhere to lay their eggs. If you are using paper towels for the substrate you should provide a lay box filled with peat moss or coconut fiber. If you are using peat moss or coconut fiber for the substrate you don’t need to provide a lay box.
Crested geckos will spend most of their time resting and hiding. Be sure to provide your gecko with things they can hide in! Artificial foliage and coconut huts work great but your gecko will appreciate anything they can nestle themselves into. The more hiding spots the better!
We use artificial foliage in both simplistic and realistic setups. Crested geckos love to hide in it and the foliage helps with humidity when you mist the cage. Your gecko will also drink the water droplets that form on the leaves. These are great and we highly recommend them. Just be sure to get foliage that’s meant for reptile use.
When they are active crested geckos love to climb. Having an enclosure with decent height and things for them to climb on is a must. We prefer reptile terrariums from Exo Terra and Zoo Med. They also make vines, artificial plants and ledges that your gecko will love to climb on.
The size enclosure you need depends on the size of your gecko. For hatchlings you don’t want a cage that is too large. You want them to be able to find their food and water easily. We use the Exo Terra Nano Terrarium (8”x 8”x 12”) and Sterilite 6 quart (1.5 gallon) plastic storage boxes for our hatchlings.
Once they reach roughly 5g finding their food and water should no longer be an issue and you can put them in a larger cage. Keep a close eye on them the first few days to ensure they are finding their food and water though. We use Sterilite 16 quart (4 gallon) plastic storage boxes for geckos up to 15g. We also use and recommend the Exo Terra or Zoo Med Mini Terrarium (12”x12”x18”). This size terrarium is sufficient for 1 adult crested gecko.
If you have more than one crested gecko or you just want to spoil them we recommend the Exo Terra or Zoo Med Small Terrarium (18”x18”x24”). We use this size along with Sterilite 66 quart (16.5 gallon) plastic storage boxes for adult breeding groups.
CRESTED GECKO TERRARIUM SIZE QUICK GUIDE
Hatchling Crested gecko (2-5g) housing size: 8x8x12" terrarium or 2-5 gallon tank
Juvenile Crested gecko (5-25g) housing size: 12x12x18" terrarium or 5-10 gallon tank
Adult Crested gecko (35-60g) housing size: 12x12x18" or 18x18x24" terrarium or 20+ gallon tank
There are a plethora of reptile substrates out there but many of them are not safe for crested geckos. You want something that isn’t going to hurt your gecko should it accidentally ingest some of it. Perhaps the safest and easiest to maintain substrate is paper towels. Simply line the bottom of the enclosure with some paper towels and replace it when it gets dirty. The downside with paper towels is that it doesn’t help with humidity, it can’t be spot cleaned, it needs to be replaced often and it looks rather bland.
If you want a more naturalistic look, peat moss with some sphagnum moss mixed in is ideal. It will hold a fair deal of moisture, helping with humidity in the cage. It can also be spot cleaned and can last several weeks before it needs to be replaced. Zoo Med’s Eco Earth Coconut Fiber is also a good option. We haven’t had any issues with it but there have been some reports of impaction with this substrate.
How do I clean my crested gecko's terrarium?
It is very important to keep your crested geckos habitat clean to ensure it lives a happy healthy life. Because of this we recommend cleaning its habitat once a month. Scrub the tank and furnishings with a non-toxic reptile habitat cleaner, remove all traces of cleaner smell. Let it dry out and add clean substrate.
You can monitor the humidity level in your cage with a simple device called a hygrometer. These are readily available on Amazon. Just search for “reptile hygrometer” and you’ll get several options to choose from. We recommend getting one that reads temperature as well.
The humidity in your crested gecko cage should hover around 50-55%. Once or twice a day increase the humidity in the cage to 80-100% by misting with a spray bottle. We recommend misting the cage at night when your crested gecko is active. This will allow them to drink the water droplets that form on the leaves and will help with shedding. When misting you want the floor of the cage to get damp but not soaked. It’s also important to let the cage dry out to normal humidity levels between misting. A continually soaked cage will develop mold and bacteria.
CRESTED GECKO DIET
In the wild crested geckos eat insects, fruit, nectar and pollen. Luckily there’s a simpler way to ensure your gecko gets all the nutrition it needs.
Both Repashy and Pangea make powdered crested gecko diets that contain all the essential nutrition your gecko needs. Simply mix the powder with 2-3 parts water and stir. Serve in a dish that your gecko can easily access but not tip over. We recommend that you feed your crested gecko 3 times a week.
Supplementing your gecko’s diet with insects is not needed but can be beneficial if done right. Insects are very high in phosphorous and crested geckos require a 2:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus. To remedy this you can simply dust your insects with a calcium supplement that contains vitamin D3 (crested geckos need the vitamin D3 to be able to metabolize the calcium). Dusting your insects will ensure your gecko doesn’t develop a calcium deficiency. You should also gut-load your insects to further increase their nutrition value.
It’s important to know which insects are suitable to feed a crested gecko. The most common and recommended insects are crickets and dubia roaches. You’ll want to make sure the insects you are feeding are no bigger than the space between your geckos' eyes. You can feed other insects but we recommend doing plenty of research beforehand to make sure they’re suitable for crested geckos.
Your crested gecko should have access to a clean water bowl at all times. You’ll want to use a bowl that is easily accessible. Shallow and wide is better than narrow and tall. Misting the cage at night when your gecko is active will allow them to drink the water droplets as they collect around the cage. Hatchlings may not drink out of a water bowl so it’s important to mist them regularly. Still, you’ll want to keep a water bowl in their cage. They’ll learn eventually ;)
HANDLING YOUR CRESTED GECKO
Crested geckos are one of the easiest reptiles to handle. Most crested geckos will gladly sit on your hand and maybe crawl up your arm to get a better view. Some can be a bit jumpy at first but will normally calm down after a few handling sessions. You’ll want to handle them over a soft surface in case they do decide to take an unexpected leap. For more active geckos you can use the hand walking method. Simply place your free hand in front of the other and let your gecko jump or walk to it. Then repeat until your gecko is tired or realizes he’s getting nowhere. Do not pick up or hold your gecko by their tail and be careful not to pinch or pull it when handling as they can drop their tails.
Crested geckos that have recently been hatched, purchased or moved should not be handled. Give them a few weeks to acclimate to their new surroundings. You can then start by handling them for a few minutes at a time. As they get accustomed to you and their new surroundings you can increase handling time. We suggest no more than 15 minutes per day so you don’t over stress your gecko.
HOUSING MULTIPLE CRESTED GECKOS
You should never house multiple male crested geckos in the same cage. They are very territorial and will fight each other. You can house males with females but only do this if you intend to breed them. Females generally get along with other females but bullying can occur, especially if there is a size difference. If you do decide to house multiple geckos in the same cage be sure to watch them closely the first couple weeks for any signs of bullying. If bullying does occur permanently separate the offending gecko.
What if my crested gecko is not eating?
If your gecko is not eating, one of the first things you should do is to make sure you are properly caring for it. This checklist will hopefully help you determine why your crested gecko is not eating:
Has your crested gecko gone through proper quarantine protocols? If you recently acquired your crested gecko, it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to quarantine them for 30 to 45 days before placing them in the same enclosure as your other geckos. To quarantine your new gecko, place it in a critter keeper by itself with paper towels as substrate. This makes it easy to see if they are eating and defecating which is a a good sign of a healthy gecko.
Are you feeding it a proper diet? We recommend Repashy or Pangea with either gut loaded crickets or dubia roaches (when feeding insects make sure the insects aren't longer than the space between the geckos eyes.)
Have you recently changed its diet? If you recently acquired your gecko, did you find out what it had been feeding on. This in itself could be the reason your gecko is not eating. Make sure you check with the store, person or breeder to find out what they were feeding your gecko.
Are you providing proper heat and humidity levels? Crested geckos generally don't need any additional heat source as long as the room you are keeping them in ranges between 70 and 78 degrees. If temperatures drop below 70 degrees, these geckos will tend to eat less.
Is your gecko being bullied/stressed by cage mates? In this case, it is important to separate the gecko and put it into its own enclosure. Once it feels safe it should start eating again.
Are you providing the correct amount of space and hiding places for your crested gecko? Sometimes a larger terrarium can make it hard for a baby crested gecko to find its food. Because of this, we recommend housing geckos under 5 grams in 2 to 5 gallon terrariums. It is also important to provide a sufficient amount of hiding place for your gecko to hide to make it feel safe. To see a list of recommended terrarium sizes for different sized crested geckos CLICK HERE.