Crested Gecko Care

There are thousands of species of reptiles, but only a few are normally seen. Even fewer make cute and fun pets, but crested geckos are a great beginner-level choice for a pet reptile. 

With proper care, crested geckos can live up to 20 years. Before adopting your own gecko, make sure you’re ready for the long haul!

Environment

Your crested gecko’s habitat is an important part of their health. The amount of room they have, light, temperature, humidity, substrate, and other items in their tank all influence their habitat. 

Choose the right tank.  The size of your gecko’s tank (also known as a vivarium) is dependent on the gecko’s age. A juvenile crested gecko does just fine in a 10-gallon tank, but adults need a 20-gallon tank. A tank with a screen cover provides proper ventilation throughout the vivarium.

When given the choice of the tank’s dimensions, a taller tank will make your gecko happy. Crested geckos are natural tree-dwellers and love to climb. Providing them with vertical space and decor to climb on will provide an engaging environment. 

Provide enough light. Natural light is sufficient for your crested gecko. If the tank is located in a space where it won’t receive adequate natural light, an additional daytime light will be necessary. Geckos are nocturnal creatures, so they need to know when it’s nighttime to maintain their natural cycles. 

If your household doesn't have access to much natural light, extra light sources can be used. A lamp with a low-watt bulb or a ceramic heat bulb works well.

Maintain the proper temperatures. Crested geckos don’t need the higher temperatures that other pet reptiles do. On average, your gecko prefers a temperature range of 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit, with a warmer part of the tank around 78-82 degrees for basking, and a cooler section around 71-77 degrees. They can tolerate natural temperature drops at night as low as 68 degrees, but you might need to use a heat source such as an under-tank heat mat to make sure the temperature doesn't drop too low. 

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Make sure the tank stays humid. While room temperature is an adequate amount of heat for your gecko’s habitat, they prefer a more humid, tropical environment than probably exists in your home. This humidity can be maintained manually by misting the vivarium twice a day, or by installing a tank humidifier. 

Choose the right substrate. The vivarium’s substrate (the material covering the tank’s floor) should be something that holds in some humidity, but doesn't stay wet enough to grow bacteria. Popular choices for substrate are:

  • Mixed soil covered with moss or leaves
  • Reptile carpet
  • Coir (coco fiber)
  • Paper towels

Certain loose substrates can be accidentally swallowed. This can lead to impaction in your gecko's digestive tract if swallowed in large amounts. 

Pick out fun decorations. Crested geckos love to climb. Sticks, tall plants, vines, and branches offer plenty of opportunity for climbing and jumping. Fruit trees and grapevines are safe sources of wood for geckos. They also love to hide during the day, so props like half coconut shells or cork bark tubes will provide them with plenty of enrichment. 

Cleaning

A dirty tank is a health risk to you and your gecko. To properly clean the tank, make sure to use a combination of daily spot cleaning and monthly deep cleaning. To spot clean, simply clean out any noticeable waste from the tank when you see it. To deep clean, wipe down all surfaces in the tank (including decor) with a reptile-safe disinfectant — which can be purchased at most pet shops — and rinse well with water.

Reptiles, even your pet crested gecko, can carry Salmonella germs. Wash your hands before and after handling your gecko to help prevent the transmission of these germs. Regularly cleaning the tank will also help prevent the spreading of bacteria.

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Food and Water

Your gecko should have access to fresh water in a dish at all times. 

In the wild, geckos typically eat insects. In captivity, they can rely on a meal replacement powder (MRP) that contains all the nutrients they need. You may also feed your gecko insects with a dusting of supplement powders such as calcium and vitamin D3. Allowing them to hunt live insects in their vivarium can also serve as enrichment for them — perfect for a treat. 

Geckos also love mashed fruits like blueberries, pears, papaya, strawberries, and mango. Just make sure you aren't feeding them fruits that prevent calcium intake like citrus or banana. If you have a question about what's ok for your gecko to eat, call your vet.

As nocturnal creatures, crested geckos are most active at night. This is the best time to feed your gecko, as they will wake up at night to search for food.

Socializing

Multiple crested geckos can be kept in the same tank, provided it's large enough for them all to have their own space, but they are generally not social creatures. Multiple male geckos in a tank will likely lead to aggression. A solitary gecko will live a happy long life.

Crested geckos can be handled. You can gently handle geckos once they have settled into their vivarium. Startling your gecko with rough handling can cause it to act aggressively toward you or to drop its tail. To prevent scaring your gecko, let it climb into your hand on its own instead of grabbing it.

Geckos drop their tails when they feel like they’re in danger. Unlike other geckos, a crested gecko cannot regrow a dropped tail. However, your gecko won’t experience lasting harm from dropping its tail. 

Keeping your gecko out of its vivarium for too long can cause its body temperature to drop. Return your gecko to its tank after about 10 minutes of handling.

Shedding

Like other reptiles, crested geckos regularly shed their skin. The frequency of their sheds depends on their size and age — younger, growing geckos will shed more frequently than older ones. Your gecko may eat their shed skin to regain the energy lost during their shed. This is normal.

A bad shed can cause your gecko to lose toes when the leftover skin clings to the toes and cuts off circulation. To prevent this, ensure your gecko has a good diet, hydration, and humidity. 

If you notice stuck-on skin after a shed, you can place your gecko in shallow, lukewarm water and rub the skin off using a cotton swab. Do not pull off the skin without placing your gecko in water first, and make sure to be gentle so you don't damage the new skin underneath. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Vanessa Farner, DVM on July 07, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Animal Care Hospital: “Caring for a Crested Gecko.”

Animal Diversity Web: “Rhacodactylus ciliatus Crested Gecko, Eyelash Gecko.”

Children’s Museum Indianapolis: “So You Think You Want a Pet Gecko?”

Discover Animals: “Crested Gecko.”

New York State: "Salmonella Infection from Frogs, Turtles and Lizards."

RSPCA: “Crested Gecko CARE SHEET.”

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