Crested Geckos as pets
Crested geckos are relatively easy lizards to look after, and make great pets for older children and adults. Smaller geckos can be very delicate, so younger children must be supervised when handling them. In fact, rough handling can sometimes cause a gecko to shed its tail which it would do naturally in the wild if attacked by a predator. If this happens, the tail will not grow back. Fortunately this is rare, and once your gecko has become accustomed to you they can enjoy being handled.
Crested geckos can live up to 14 years. They do not get too big, with a maximum size of 17cm to 20cm.They are ideal for people who do not want to feed live food as they can be kept on powdered foods mixed with water or suitable pureed fruit. These lizards are nocturnal, which means that they are active during the night, or when the vivarium lights are switched off. They can sometimes be quite noisy moving through foliage late at night. Males can also sometimes make a quacking or squeaking noise, especially if they are courting a female, so may not be suitable for a bedroom. They are very variable in their colour forms and crest development. Some common colour forms or ‘morphs’ include buckskin, pinstripe, dalmatian and flame.
Do I like company?
Crested geckos do not have the same needs for company as most mammals, so are happily kept on their own. It is usually not possible to sex crested geckos when they are very small. Older juvenile males can be sexed by looking for a row of pores along the underside of the gecko, just above the vent and along the thighs. Some geckos can take longer to develop these pores than others, although sexing from 8-12 months is usually easy.When they mature, adult males will fight and will need to be separated. Females will usually live happily together in a very spacious vivarium.
Where do I like to live?
Crested geckos originate from the forests on the island of New Caledonia, situated between Australia and Fiji. Like most reptiles, they are normally housed in an enclosed cage with glass doors known as a vivarium. Crested geckos have specific requirements, therefore it is essential that the environment within the vivarium is controlled precisely and monitored continuously. They also need plenty of places to hide whilst the vivarium or room lighting is on.
As they are tree-dwelling (arboreal) lizards, they need a tall vivarium, 45-65cm high as a minimum, along with plenty of suitable décor such as leafy plants which they can climb onto. As they spend most of their time off the floor, this area is less important but should be at least 30 x 30cm. Being nocturnal it is generally accepted that they do not have the same lighting requirements as many reptiles which are active during the day (diurnal). However, it can be beneficial for them to have to have 12-14 hours of either artificial or natural light each day.
Heat is not usually an important part of keeping a crested gecko and many keepers do not use additional heating as they are happiest between 20-26◦C. A heat mat could be used to maintain a stable temperature, and this should always be linked to the correct thermostat. Temperatures over 28◦C can be harmful to crested geckos, so you may need to relocate the vivarium to a cooler part of your house.
Humidity is very important for crested geckos and the vivarium should be maintained at 60% - 80% RH (Relative Humidity). This can be achieved by spraying the vivarium liberally with water in the evening. These geckos prefer to lick droplets from leaves rather than drinking from a bowl.
Lighting from above is desirable but not essential. An ideal set up will have lights creating a distinct day and night regime. At night a blue or red night light can allow you to watch your geckos as they investigate their environment and look for food. Blue or red LED lights are ideal as they do not add any additional heat to the vivariums and are low cost to run.
You can make the vivarium look very attractive and can have a place in any room. A substrate of coco fibre or orchid bark is ideal on the base with branches, stones, rocks and other décor to provide an interesting habitat. As they are arboreal they love to climb, so require branches, vines and artificial plants. You will need to provide areas of shelter where the lizards can hide and feel secure, cork bark is ideal for this. Artificial ornaments and plants are preferred by many as they are easy to clean.
What do I eat?
Crested geckos are easy to feed as there are commercially produced dry food which only needs to be mixed with water or suitable pureed fruit. This should be their main source of food, as it is complete and no further supplements are needed. As a guide feed the powder diet every day, when the main lights in the vivarium or room are switched off.
Live foods such as crickets, small locusts and waxworms can also be given 2-3 times each week. Try and avoid feeding the same sorts of insects and try and vary their diet. Geckos will also eat wax moths if the waxworms pupate and hatch. Any insect given to your gecko will be eaten whole, so as a general rule avoid any insects that are bigger than the distance between your lizard’s eyes. Insect food should also be in good condition and fed well. There are several foods available for insects that ensure they are nutritious and ‘gut loaded’. It is essential to regularly, dust the insects with good quality vitamin and calcium supplements. Crested geckos have calcium sacs in the top of their mouths, which should appear white when they open their mouths. Please ensure that any uneaten insects are removed from the vivarium the next day.
Any insect given to your gecko will be eaten whole, so as a general rule avoid any insects that are bigger than the distance between your lizard’s eyes.
You can use fruit purees (such as mango or pear) with added vitamin and mineral supplements, but before you do this please research this thoroughly.
How to Handle me?
Once your crested gecko gets to know you, they do not mind being handled. They do not usually bite and cannot scratch. If they are frightened, they will try and struggle out of your hands but are at more risk from you dropping them or hurting them.
Gentle handling of juveniles is essential, but baby geckos are very delicate so children must always be supervised. Hold your gecko around their shoulders gently but firmly. When they are lifted up, support the weight of their body with your other hand. They will usually try jumping from hand to hand or onto your body! They are very good jumpers so handling always needs to be done very carefully.
Rough handling can sometimes cause the gecko to shed its tail, just like it would in the wild if attacked by a predator. This is rare and unlike many other lizards, the tail will not grow back.
Keeping me clean
If they are looked after properly, crested geckos do not have an odour. Food and water dishes should ideally be washed daily. Their powder diet can quickly dry out or spoil, so regularly change their food every 24 – 36 hours, and always remove any uneaten insects.
Their faeces are similar to bird droppings and should be removed when they are seen. If their home and décor is spot cleaned regularly, they do not need to be cleaned out as often as small animals. Although, it is a good idea to empty and disinfect their home thoroughly once a month, using a reptile-safe disinfectant.
Keeping me fit and healthy
As long as they are given the correct food, environment, care and attention, crested geckos are normally problem-free.
A healthy crested gecko will be bright eyed, alert and be active searching for food during the night.Personal hygiene is important when handling reptiles, as it is with all other types of pets. Owners should wash their hands after contact with their gecko and pet food dishes need to be washed separately.
Did you know insurance against unexpected veterinary costs is available for crested geckos in just the same way as it is for cats and dogs!
It is natural for all lizards to shed their skin which comes off in small pieces rather than all in one like a snake.
All vets have a basic understanding of reptiles but those with a specialist interest are worth seeking out. If your pet shows any signs of being unwell contact your vet as soon as possible.
Health & Hygiene
Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after feeding or handling your crested gecko. Also wash after contact with any of their equipment. Always supervise children to ensure they do not put the crested gecko, (or objects that the crested gecko has been in contact with) near their mouths. Ensure children wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after handling the pet. Do not kiss your crested gecko.
Shopping list for your Crested Gecko
- Daylight and/or night-time bulbs
- Powdered food
- Live Insect Food
- Vitamin supplement
- Calcium supplement
- Gut loading insect food
- Water dish
- Shallow food dish for powder diet
- Reptile-safe disinfectant
- Coco fibre or Orchid bark substrate
- Cork bark
- Artificial plants
- Spray bottle
- Book on caring for crested geckos