Why is My Crested Gecko Aggressive?

If you’ve never had a reptile pet before, prepare yourself for a skittish and timid animal that doesn’t like human handling so much. Crested geckos aren’t exactly made for petting, given that they have no social behavior and are more feral in nature than other pets like cats and dogs.

So, they may tolerate you touching and holding them for a bit, but they will eventually begin to squirm and try to get away. At that point, you need to let them go to prevent them from hurting themselves. Geckos are known to detach their tails when trapped or held too tight for too long.

This being said, it’s not normal for geckos to exhibit aggressive behavior. So, let’s look into that!

8 Reasons Crested Gecko is Aggressive

If your gecko showcases aggression before or during holding it, consider the following potential explanations:

– Normal Behavior

While it’s not normal for geckos, in general, to be aggressive, it is normal for some. Geckos are unique and different individuals, so you should expect them to exhibit different behaviors. Some geckos may simply be more aggressive and antisocial than others, in which case you need to adapt to them.

Avoid holding them for too long or too often, and limit contact to when it’s absolutely necessary. It’s important not to force your geckos to change their ways. This can stress the animal needlessly, diminishing its quality of life and even lifespan.

– Shedding Time

Geckos become extremely sensitive and moody during the shedding process. The actual shedding procedure may last between 10 minutes and 24 hours, depending on the reptile’s age and size and whether they are any complications along the way. But the gecko’s behavior will begin to change 1-3 days before the shedding even begins.

The gecko will display duller colors several days before shedding, eat less, and refuse contact with you or any other tankmate. If you think your gecko is getting ready to shed, avoid contact for a few days. You should give your gecko some space even after the shedding is complete. The gecko will be sensitive and irritable for a couple of days following shedding.

Fortunately, this is only temporary; your gecko’s behavior should return to normal shortly. You will learn your gecko’s shedding schedule with time, allowing you to foresee these events and avoid stressing your geckos within that timeframe.

– Breeding Season

If you plan to breed your geckos, you should learn to interact with them during their breeding season. Geckos don’t like company and may become aggressive and irritable during this time. This is generally due to the raging hormones that change the reptile’s behavior for several days.

Just give your geckos some intimacy and space for them to complete their natural duties in peace. Geckos will return to normal once the breeding process is over. Now you have the task of caring for the eggs and the resulting young, which is a topic for another discussion.

– Wrong Handling

This is more common than you might suspect. Many gecko keepers love to play with their geckos, forgetting that there’s a massive difference between a leopard and crested geckos. The former are more tolerant of human touch, while crested geckos not so much. But even leopard geckos showcase aggression and reluctance when held for too long or handled too roughly.

You should always hold your gecko gently, preferably in the open palm, and handle it with care. Holding the gecko too tight, turning it upside down, or moving it around carelessly can stress or scare the reptile, causing it to attempt to flee. Geckos can even display aggression in these instances, biting and kicking their way to freedom.

Gecko bites don’t inflict any serious damage, given that they lack teeth, and only deliver mild pain. But it’s not the bite effects on you that should concern you, but the gecko’s mental state. If your gecko bites you, it means it’s stressed for some reason and needs some alone time.

– Health Problem

A sick gecko will showcase signs of stress and aggression. These are natural responses to the physical pain that your gecko may be experiencing. In this case, you need to identify the cause and diagnose your gecko’s condition. It may be something mild like an indigestion, moderate dehydration, some minor injury, or something more severe like a bacteria, parasitic infection, or even compaction.

You can’t use your gecko’s aggression to determine the nature of the problem. Fortunately, geckos will display an array of symptoms, aside from their rough temperament, depending on their disorder’s nature. If you can’t diagnose your gecko’s condition, speak to a professional to put your mind at ease.

– Territorial Behavior

This may seem like a peculiar one, but it’s rather normal among geckos. Crested geckos are territorial animals, which is common among reptiles as a whole. They dislike sharing space with other geckos, so they may turn aggressive toward their tankmates. The problem is that some geckos can also showcase territorial behavior towards you.

This tends to happen, especially when the gecko is new and hasn’t had time to get accustomed to your presence. You should limit your interactions with your gecko until that happens. Your crestie should come around soon once it begins associating you with food and learns your scent, appearance, and voice.

Until then, only handle your gecko when is time for the monthly cleaning routine. You can remove the gecko from the enclosure using a net or even your hands, so long as you keep the contact to a minimum. Always use a pair of latex or rubber gloves during the procedure to prevent contamination with bacteria and parasites.

– Environmental Changes

Crested geckos require stable environmental parameters, and by ‘stable,’ I mean reasonably stable. That’s because both temperature and humidity should fluctuate depending on the gecko’s location, preferred dwelling areas, and time of day. The temperature is the trickiest to get right, given that geckos need a temperature gradient in their enclosure and significant variations between day and night.

The same goes for humidity, for the most part. Crested geckos require a humidity level of 60-80%, with the higher end being more appropriate for short durations. Exposing your gecko to humidity levels above 80% or below 60% for too long will impact the reptile’s behavior and overall health.

Improper temperature and humidity parameters will cause the gecko to become restless, irritable, and even aggressive. These can also cause life-threatening problems like respiratory infections, pneumonia, and bacterial infections.

– Hot Females

The notion of ‘hot females’ is more prevalent among leopard geckos, but it can also apply to crested geckos. The term is used to describe more feral and untamed gecko females that showcase extreme aggression and refuse any contact. They are particularly aggressive when eating or breeding but can also be irritable and grumpy around the clock.

There’s not much you can do if you have a hot female except maybe sell it or exchange it for another gecko. Let it become someone else’s problem, I guess. There’s also no way to prevent getting a hot female from your future generation of geckos. There are some theories that hot females are the result of incubating eggs at higher-than-normal temperatures, but this is unverified. Fortunately, these aggressive females are rarer among crested geckos than they are among leopard gecko ranks.

Signs of Aggression in Crested Geckos

But how do you know whether your gecko is actually aggressive or is just playing? To figure that out, you need to assess your gecko’s behavior properly. The typical signs of gecko aggression include:

  • Hissing and running towards you with their mouth open
  • Laying on their stomach and raising their tail vertically in the air (they also do this to intimidate other geckos)
  • Raising the head and keeping the mouth wide open, ready to bite
  • Actual biting when you try to grab it
  • Backing up and attempting to flee or hide when you go into their enclosure

If your gecko displays some or all of these signs regularly, you might have an issue on your hands. It’s time to moderate the reptile’s behavior to see whether you can correct it or not.

Dealing with Aggressive Crested Geckos

If your gecko appears aggressive beyond fixing, let’s try to fix it, shall we? Here’s what you can do:

  • Assess its environmental conditions – Make sure that the temperature gradient is within charts and that humidity remains at optimal values throughout the day. You can increase humidity by spraying the reptile’s habitat or using a humidifier (among other things), and you can decrease it by boosting ventilation. Your gecko should respond to these changes soon.
  • Give it space – This is especially necessary if you’ve just got your gecko and the animal is still not familiarized with you. If that’s the case, give your gecko some space and only interact with it during feeding and cleaning. Don’t worry, your gecko won’t feel lonely; in fact, they will appreciate the calm and peace and use them to get accustomed to their new habitat and your presence.
  • Check your gecko’s health status – Your gecko may be aggressive because it doesn’t feel well. Aggression, irritability, and hiding behavior are often signs of parasitic or bacterial infections. Assess your gecko’s condition and make sure there’s nothing serious at play.
  • Gain its trust – Maybe your gecko needs more time to become accustomed to your presence. Or maybe something happened that shattered the reptile’s trust in you. It may not even be your fault. A loud noise, a sudden movement, or a flashing light may have scared the gecko while you were holding it, changing its behavior as a result. So, you need to tread lightly for a while so your gecko can regain its composure and trust you once more. Give it space, only touch it gently and briefly when feeding it, and let time work.

Conclusion

Geckos aren’t aggressive by nature but are timid and prefer to avoid human contact. Many people mistake this shyness with aggression.

If your gecko does get aggressive, today’s article has just shed light on some of the reasons and handling methods.

Crested Geckos   Reptiles   Updated: January 9, 2023
avatar I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets.

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