Crested Geckos (Correlophus ciliatus) are native to the island of New Caledonia. They are an arboreal species and are happiest in an enclosure with places to climb and hide. Because of their docile nature, they make wonderful pets. Crested Geckos are nocturnal and as such, they do not require specialized lighting. They thrive on commercially available fruit based diets such as Pangea Fruit Mix Complete. A well cared for Crested Gecko can live for 15-20 years.
Crested Gecko Care
Here is a care sheet I wrote for Crested Geckos. I tried to keep it simple, to the facts, and philosophy free. This is how I care for my animals. There are plenty of other resources out there if you’d like to do more research.
Young geckos (2 – 15 grams) can be kept in:
- Medium sized Kritter Keepers
- 10 gallon aquariums. (Provide 2 food dishes if you’re housing a hatchling)
- “Shoe Box” bins (for 2-6 grams) only
Adult geckos (16 – 35+ grams) should be kept in either a:
- 20 or larger gallon fish tank
- 18” x 18” x 24” Exo Terra cage
- R-Zilla Fresh Air Acrylic Atrium
- 23”H x 15¾”W x 15”D Arboreal Reptile Cage
- Various tubs and bins
These are carried at Petsmart and Petco and don’t forget about Craigslist, but I like to order my gecko stuff here: http://www.pangeareptile.com/store/reptile-cages.html
There are other, cheaper, more arts and crafts required options, but the ones listed above are easiest.
The Stuff in the Cage
Crested geckos are arboreal, they want a bunch of leaves near the top of the cage so they can hide in them. They should have a few sticks to climb on as well.
They need a food dish and a water dish. For young geckos, use soda caps, milk caps, or contact lens containers. For adult geckos, there tiny ceramic dishes at Petsmart that work great.
Line the bottom of the cage with either paper towels, shelf liners, or 50% organic soil and 50% coco.
For the little geckos, I put in a hide too, like a coconut shell or a paper towel tube.
For all this stuff, the Dollar store (or discount store) is your friend. I get all my fake plants at the dollar store, and you can get bamboo sticks, little dishes, etc, there as well.
*** Do a search for “Crested Gecko Viv” for tank decorating ideas.
Here are a few examples of a well put together cage. Notice all of plants. So many plants! I think a happy gecko has places to hide. These are my cages and they all have a bottom made from 50% organic soil and 50% coco. They’re a bit more maintenance but I find that my house never smells like reptiles if I have all dirt bottom cages. All my plants come from the dollar store.
Here are a few well put together cages that are a bit simpler. They still have a ton of plants and sticks but are lined with paper towel or shelf liner. The bin has a plastic screen glued onto the lid.
Here’s what’s not okay. Look at how few plants and hiding places there are. You’re just asking for dropped tails and a stressed out animal.
There are a lot of theories out there, but here are 2 fool proof ways to make sure your geckos eat right. Crested geckos can have one out of two diets: only CGD or CGD with a few bugs.
- CGD (Crested Gecko Diet) is a powder (made of whey, honey, fruit, vitamins, etc) that is mixed with water with a 1:2 ratio. CGD is a complete diet, meaning that CGD is the only thing your gecko needs to eat, ever. It’s basically a “fruit milkshake”. Change the food every 2 days.
I get mine here: http://www.pangeareptile.com/store/crested-gecko-diet.html. It’s also carried here (if you don’t mind the drive to NH): http://www.zoocreatures.com/. Online is the cheaper option.
- If you want, you can feed your gecko 3-4 crickets or dubia roaches once a week (CGD should still available every day, changed every two days). These bugs should be gutloaded (fed fruits and veggies 24-48 hrs before giving them to the gecko) and dusted in calcium power. People feed bugs to their Cresties to either make them grow faster, or they enjoy watching the gecko hunt. Crested geckos never need to eat bugs in order to be healthy if you’re feeding a complete powdered diet. If you want to feed bugs, then use a separate container as seen below. (Put the top on the container if your gecko isn’t doing a photo-shoot)
If you only feed CGD, you’re looking at probably $20 a year in food costs. These guys are super cheap. I only need 1/2 Tablespoon of CGD to feed all of my geckos every other night. For a single animal, I’d recommend mixing up a weekly batch a food, putting it in the fridge, and using as needed. It stays good in the fridge for a week.
1 Teaspoon CGD + 2 Teaspoon of water = about one week of food for 1 gecko. Mix more or less as needed.
*** For babies, fill up their milk/soda cap food bowls all the way. If you don’t, the CGD will dry up and that’s no good.
*** You won’t notice a baby gecko eating any of it’s food. It’ll take 2 licks and be full. Basically, if the animal is going to the bathroom, it’s eating. Nothing to worry about
Things that are never okay to feed them
- Baby food – will make them very sick and causes Metabolic bone disease (MBD)
- Pellet based food usually from Petsmart/Petco – Not a complete diet like CGD and will led to MBD as well
- Mealworms – will cause impaction
Crested geckos are nocturnal, so they don’t need a special UVB light like many other lizards. In general, Cresties like to live at room temps (70’s are ideal). They can tolerate temps from 65-85 degrees.
It’s weird, but higher temps are more dangerous than lower temps for Cresties. A few degrees below 65 for a few hours won’t kill them, a few hours with temps above 85 probably will. For this reason, I don’t recommended purchasing a crested gecko unless you can lower your room’s temps in the summer.
If you have a crested and have a fan/AC malfunction in the summer, just put ice on top of or in their cage. They can also spend a few days in the basement is something goes wrong too. However, these are emergency tactics and should not be an everyday thing.
In the winter, I keep my house at 65 during the day and night. In the evening it is 70 degrees. I run a tiny 15 to 30 watt heat light during the day for the geckos. They can live at 65, but I find they eat better and seem happier with a little heat light (a light that small isn’t even noticeable on the electric bill too). In the evening and night, they don’t have a light at all.
I always give my geckos a water bowl. That being said, many might not use it. Therefore, you need to mist them daily so they can lick water off the leaves and glass in the cage. It’s also important to keep the humidity up in the cage. There are 3 misting options and all work fine:
- Mist once in the morning lightly, and mist once heavy at night (I do this one).
- Mist once (super heavy) at night
- Buy an automatic mister and make it do the job for you. ( I don’t do this because I’m cheap and I like caring for my geckos nightly but here’s a post to read if you’re interested in going this route – http://www.geckosunlimited.com/community/crested-geckos-rhacodactylus-ciliatus/58395-fogger-vs-mister.html. Also be sure you shop around. Prices vary.
You should try to achieve a wet-dry cycle in your cage. When you mist, the humidity should go up to 80-90%, then it should dry out to about 40-50%, then repeat the next day. You might need to add more screens to your cage, if you live in a wet place, or mist more often than I’ve outlined here, if you happen to live in a very hot place.
For manual misting just use a normal spray bottle or a pump top spray bottle; both available at Home Depot/Lowes.
Fun Facts and FAQ!
The First Days of Owning a Gecko
First off, once you get a gecko, don’t handle it for 7 days. This will allow the little guy to calm down in his new environment. Second, it’s okay if the gecko doesn’t eat for the first 1-2 weeks. Reptiles don’t need to eat like mammals do, and a “new home hunger strike” is common.
How old is my gecko?
It doesn’t really matter. Either it’s adult size (35+ grams), or it’s not. To be a bit more specific, some people think it’s a hatchling from (1.5 g to 5 g) and a juvenile/sub-adult from (6 g to 34g roughly).
There is literally no way to guess the age of a gecko based on weight or appearance. All crested geckos, much like people, grow at their own pace which could also be affected by the temperature of their cage, their diet, or their genetics. Some gecko just grow slow, while some grow fast. So I say again, age does not matter. Only the health of the animal matters. If your gecko is eating, going to the bathroom, shedding, and do all his other gecko things fine, then you have a healthy animal.
Can I House Geckos Together?
Really short answer: no, no, no.
Longer answer: These geckos as babies will probably try to fight and bite each others tails and feet.
As juveniles, they’ll mate before the female is ready and she could get really hurt or even die. Also, then you have unwanted babies. As adults a male and female will mate. It’s pretty much 100% chance that they’ll mate. Unwanted babies again! Two adult males will fight.
The exception: sometimes two adult females in a 30+ gallon cage will be okay. However, these geckos need to be adult females (35+ grams), and there’s no guarantee that they won’t fight just because they don’t like each other.
Will my gecko be lonely without a friend? Does my gecko need toys? Doesn’t he need to eat something that’s not CGD so he won’t get bored?
One thing that’s important to remember, reptiles aren’t mammals. They don’t get lonely; they don’t need the extra stimulation that a dog might need. I find that makes them the perfect pet for the busy person, but I also find that is causes new owners undo worry. They are simple creatures to care for, so just follow what I say here and you’ll be okay.
Crested Gecko Change Color as They Age
They can change color and pattern dramatically from the time they hatch, to the time they are adults. Most Crested Geckos hatch out a bright red color. You may be able to see a hint of the pattern they will have when they are adults, but that pattern can either fade, or get dramatically stronger as the hatchling grows, and the red color also usually fades to show colors closer to what they will have as adults.
Fire Up & Fired Down
Cresties basically have two versions of skin color: fired up (bright colored) and fired down (dull colored). They fire up for different reasons: they’re happy, they’re stressed, they want to be fired up at the moment, they’re wet, it’s night time, they have food, they don’t have food, you get the point. They usually fire down when they’re sleeping. Some geckos seem to always stay fired up and some seem to always stay fired down. Either way, your gecko might change colors almost daily, or not. It’s normal.
They Lick Their Eyes and Eat Their Skin.
They don’t have eyelids, so they lick their eyes to clean them. Also, like most lizards, they shed their skin, and then eat the dead skin. Kind of gross, I know, but I have many geckos and I’ve only seen it once, so I wouldn’t worry about it. If you do see it, it’s normal, and it’ll all be over soon.
Crested geckos can lose their tails. They won’t grow back. It’s not a big deal at all; it doesn’t hurt the gecko. In the wild, most of the adult population doesn’t have tails. Here’s a post about it (http://www.pangeareptile.com/forums/showthread.php?t=44921)
If your gecko drops his tail, but paper towels on the bottom of the cage and put a bit of honey on the wound.
See, here’s Lyra proudly displaying her “frog butt”.
I’ve added a picture, to show just how easy it is to sex an adult. The males develop their “package” at 10-20 grams. Both sexes make great pets. Sexing juveniles is more difficult, will require a loupe to see pores, and isn’t a guarantee.