How to Clean Crested Gecko Tank?
Geckos rank as hardy animals, but they require specific environmental conditions to stay healthy and happy. That’s because ‘hardy’ isn’t the same as ‘can thrive in virtually all conditions and doesn’t need any maintenance.’
If you’ve never owned a reptile pet before, now is the time to do your research to understand the notion of maintenance.
Coincidence or not, that’s exactly what we will be discussing today. In short, we’ll look into in-depth enclosure cleaning to showcase the tools and steps to follow when cleaning your gecko’s habitat.
Without further ado, let’s get it going!
Tools for Cleaning Crested Gecko Tank
Before starting the actual cleaning process, you must first acquire the right tools for the job.
That’s because the cleaning job itself is more complex than you might expect. Not complicated, but complex.
Some of the tools you need include:
- A spare tank/enclosure – This will serve as a temporary home for your gecko since you can’t clean the reptile’s habitat without relocating the animal first. Get a 20-gallon temporary terrarium or fish tank to keep your gecko until the cleaning process is over. You don’t need to overdecorate it; just add the minimum elements to keep your gecko comfy for an hour or 2.
- Sponges, toothbrushes, brushes, and cotton swabs – These are necessary for in-depth cleaning to remove mineralized dirt, bacteria or fungal growth, or any other residual waste that may accumulate under the substrate and on the enclosure’s walls.
- Another bucket or spare tank – I would say go for a bucket to minimize your expenditure. The bucket is necessary to wash, clean, and sterilize live plants and decorations.
- A reptile disinfectant – This is necessary to neutralize bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other potentially harmful microorganisms and pathogens in your gecko’s terrarium. You will be amazed at how many such organisms thrive in warm and humid environments.
- Protection gear – This is for you. Consider getting a pair of rubber gloves, some goggles, and a mask for protection. This is to prevent contamination with the potential bacteria and other pathogens, some of which can get airborne.
Deep Cleaning a Crested Gecko Enclosure
Once you got all the necessary tools, it’s time to start the cleaning process.
– Rehome Your Gecko
You should always remove the gecko first before doing anything else. This is to minimize stress, as geckos won’t appreciate you rummaging through their habitat with them still there.
Grab your gecko gently and place it in its temporary terrarium.
You don’t need any decorations, hiding places, or any other elements to increase your gecko’s comfort while there. The gecko will only spend a short amount of time in its temporary home anyway.
You should only care about moisture, for which purpose you can use a damp paper towel as substrate.
– Disassemble the Tank
Remove all decorations, the substrate, the live plants, the wood, and branches, literally everything.
This allows you to access the dirtier areas underneath all of these elements. If this is a monthly cleaning job, you can dispose of the substrate altogether and replace it completely.
This is the safer option, considering that the substrate often houses a variety of bacteria, mold structures, and fungi.
The same can be said about the bark, wood, or other decorations that may be beyond salvage.
– Wash the Decorations
Place the decorations in the spare bucket and wash them thoroughly. Use the toothbrush to get into all the tiny crevices and areas that need a more thorough cleaning.
Only clean the decorations in the contained bucket and avoid placing them in your bathtub or sink, for instance.
These elements may be imbued with a variety of dangerous pathogens, including salmonella.
And you don’t want that hitchhiker spreading through your home. Use latex or rubber gloves during the cleaning procedure for the same reason.
I also recommend cleaning the decorations with both water and a reptile-friendly detergent for the best results.
– Wash and Clean the Tank
This is pretty straightforward, as you only need to use water and some reptile disinfectant for the job. Eliminate all the visible dirt and use the sponge to remove the sticky residues from the tank’s joints.
Once everything is clean, spray the disinfectant, let it act for about 10 minutes, rinse with water, then wipe everything dry with some paper towels.
You can further allow the tank to dry out naturally to ensure no moisture is left.
– Add New Substrate
Make sure you have the new substrate ready based on your preferences. Sphagnum moss, coconut fiber, soil, mulch, a bioactive substrate mixes for reptiles, or any combination, can work fine.
The goal is to provide your crested gecko with a soft, moisture-retaining substrate with both aesthetic and useful benefits.
Geckos don’t use the substrate too much, except when looking to cool, when eating, because they eat on the substrate, and when burying their eggs.
Other than that, they spend most of their time above ground to rest and scan their habitat.
– Redecorate the Tank
Now that your decorations and plants are clean and sterilized, you can add them back to recreate your gecko’s home the way it was.
You should keep 2 things in mind in this sense:
- Recompose the same layout – You should always replicate the reptile’s habitat as faithfully as possible. Geckos need stability above all else and changing their habitat’s layout often can stress them out. They need a recognizable setting with stable landmarks, so you might want to take pictures of the terrarium’s layout before dismantling it. You most likely won’t be able to put it back together the way it was to a hair, but close enough is good enough. Your gecko won’t spot the differences to a microscopic level anyway.
- Ensure proper stability – This relates to the substrate’s stability. The old substrate was most likely soaked and compact, while the new one is dry and puffier. This may cause stability issues if you don’t secure the decorations and plants until the substrate compacts to its normal state.
– Place Your Gecko Back
Once everything is in place, you can now relocate the gecko to its home. Do it gently to avoid stress, especially since the gecko has spent its last hour or so in an unfamiliar environment, so it’s probably already half-stressed.
The gecko should return to its normal routine immediately, so long as the enclosure looks the same as it did before the cleaning. From an aesthetic perspective, of course.
Make sure you adjust the temperature and humidity levels to their normal values before adding the gecko back.
This will further decrease the reptile’s stress and prevent temperature or humidity-related stress or shock.
How Often to Clean Crested Gecko Tank?
The overall maintenance schedule for your gecko should be divided into 2 primary sessions:
This refers to eliminating dead bugs, fruit leftovers, and any other food residues that may decay in the humid environment and attract bacteria and fungi.
You should also eliminate gecko poop, clean the water bowl and fill it back up, and use a wet sponge to clean the tank’s walls.
You should clean the enclosure’s walls even if nothing is visible. The bacteria are still there, even if you don’t see them.
The good thing is that the daily maintenance session shouldn’t last more than 5 minutes and, most importantly, that it’s not always mandatory. Adult geckos only eat once every 2 days on average, so they won’t produce any food leftovers in the meantime.
They also don’t poop that much, and even if they do, you can easily remove the waste before it seeps into the substrate.
In some instances, you may skip 1-2 cleaning days without facing any real consequences. It’s all about adapting your cleaning routine to your gecko’s lifestyle.
We’ve already detailed this point previously. The in-depth cleaning method should usually take place once a month, but this may vary.
Some gecko keepers suggest in-depth cleaning twice per month, while others go for a 6-week timeframe. I would say neither option is quite correct nor absolute.
I would say that the 1-month cleaning schedule is better in most cases, and you can go from there.
If you notice that your gecko produces a lot more mess than expected, increase the frequency. If not, decrease it as needed.
Importance of Regular Disinfection of Crested Gecko Tank
As you may suspect, the cleaning process alone cannot provide your gecko with a safe and healthy habitat. You also need to disinfect your reptile’s terrarium regularly to prevent bacteria and fungi formation.
Bacteria thrive in warm and humid environments, and they are responsible for a variety of health problems. These include respiratory and skin infections, especially during the shedding process.
Geckos are especially sensitive and vulnerable during shedding when they remove their old skin for the newer one.
Even if the shedding process completes without incidents, the lizard will remain vulnerable until the new skin hardens a bit. Until then, even the smallest skin lesions and abrasions can turn deadly due to a random bacterial infection.
You can use multiple reptile-safe disinfectants to sterilize your gecko’s ecosystem and eliminate such risks. A monthly disinfection session during the deep cleaning process should do.
Avoid These Cleaning Agents for Crested Geckos
Numerous cleaning agents and chemicals are toxic and potentially deadly for your geckos.
- Regular cleaning products – By ‘regular,’ I mean ‘not meant for reptile use.’ Common household cleaning products are generally toxic for geckos and can quickly lead to chemical contamination and death. Stay away from chemicals like bleach or products containing phenols, among other ingredients. I recommend speaking to a professional about what you can and can’t use when cleaning your gecko’s enclosure. Better yet, only use reptile-friendly cleaning agents just to be sure.
- Vinegar – Believe it or not, vinegar is actually safe as a cleaning agent for geckos, but with a twist. The vinegar vapors are extremely toxic, so you should never disinfect your gecko’s enclosure with the gecko still in. If you do want to use vinegar, do so after removing the gecko from the ecosystem and allow the solution to evaporate before adding the reptile back.
As I’ve already stated, it’s always safer to go for specialized cleaning products meant specifically for reptiles than shooting in the dark and hoping it lands on target.
Tips for Cleaning Crested Gecko Tank
For a TL:DR version, here is a summary of recommended dos and don’t’s:
- Daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning sessions may be necessary, depending on your case
- Always use protection (mask, gloves, goggles) to protect yourself from bacteria, fungi, and the various cleaning agents you’ll be using
- Stay away from improvised cleaning chemicals or solutions that are not reptile-friendly
- Always remove the gecko from the enclosure when performing a deep cleaning
- Change your gloves after cleaning and disinfecting the decorations before handling them to prevent germ transfer
- Always monitor your gecko’s habitat in case you need to go for an unscheduled cleaning session
Geckos require a thorough cleaning routine to remain healthy over the years. Ignoring this aspect will put geckos at risk for bacterial and respiratory infections, many of which will turn deadly fast.
Fortunately, daily cleaning sessions should be enough to keep your gecko’s ecosystem stable and healthy.
They won’t take much of your time and are generally sufficient to prevent bacterial, fungal, or mold spread.
Monthly deep cleaning sessions are necessary to remove long-term mold and bacterial accumulation, which are bound to happen in a warm and humid environment over time.