How to Care for Crested Gecko?
Crested geckos rank among the most adaptable pet reptiles you can get. These lizards don’t need much in terms of care, but there are a few basic parameters to consider to keep them healthy.
In this article, we will discuss crested geckos and their basic requirements to help you better understand your little reptile friend.
If you’ve never owned a pet gecko, this article is for you.
Crested Gecko Enclosure Setup
The important thing to remember is that crested geckos need minimal maintenance over time, but only if you start on the right foot. In other words, you need to set up and adjust the reptile’s habitat and environmental parameters to what’s considered ideal, and you take it from there. Let’s look into the top areas that you need to work on:
– Tank Size and Shape
The ideal terrarium size for an adult crested gecko is at least 20 gallons, but the reptile won’t mind if you only have a 30-gallon available. I say always go for a larger tank since geckos can use the extra space occasionally for some mild exploration. Geckos don’t like small spaces, as these can make the reptile feel trapped and claustrophobic.
When it comes to the tank’s shape, go for tall setups with a lot of vertical space. Crested geckos are arboreal reptiles that love to climb and rest at higher vantage points. This provides the gecko with safety from predation and a higher and wider vantage point for hunting purposes.
The substrate is of critical importance for geckos, although it might not seem like it. After all, these are arboreal animals, so they don’t go near the substrate too often, right?
Right, but the keywords here are ‘too often.’ In other words, geckos will go near the substrate to eat, cool off when temperatures are too high, lay eggs, and even for exploration purposes, however rare they might be.
So, the substrate needs to meet several criteria, the most important ones being humidity retention and grain size. Then you have the gecko’s age and size to consider. For instance, juvenile geckos are more prone to compaction due to ingesting substrate particles that aren’t meant to be ingested.
With this in mind, consider the following recommended substrates based on their usefulness and your gecko’s age.
- Juvenile geckos (smaller than 0.5 ounces and younger than 8 months) – Go for plain paper towels. I agree that these aren’t ideal aesthetically speaking, but you’re interested primarily in safety. Paper towels retain moisture and are cheap and easy to clean and remove. They also eliminate the risk of compaction that I mentioned earlier. Compare these benefits with the sole downside of poor aesthetics, and the conclusion is fairly obvious.
- Mature geckos (above 0.5 ounces and older than 8-9 months) – Now, you can switch to a real substrate since mature geckos are far less prone to compaction than juveniles. I recommend opting for a mix of soil and coconut fiber, although many gecko keepers go for pure compressed coconut fiber instead. This type of substrate absorbs moisture, inhibits bad odors, and keeps the gecko’s habitat clean for longer. It’s also easy to remove and replace, so it’s a win-win.
Geckos are cold-blooded animals, so the environmental temperature is very important to them. Not only should the temperature vary between day and night, but it should also deliver a gradient throughout the enclosure. That’s because geckos alternate between cold and hot areas to regulate their body temperature depending on their needs.
You can obtain the desired temperature via a light bulb that will heat the surrounding area. You can also use heat pads, given that crested geckos aren’t too fond of substrate digging, unlike other species like leopard geckos. But I wouldn’t recommend this because heat pads go against the idea of temperature gradient.
A light bulb is better, so long as it allows you to preserve a healthy 72-80 F gradient so that your gecko can choose its comfort spot based on its needs. Nighttime temperature should remain stable between 65 and 75 °F, which you can get with the help of a low-wattage red bulb.
Always have a thermometer present to monitor the environmental temperature and make adjustments as needed along the way.
When it comes to choosing the right decorations for your crested gecko, consider the reptile’s behavior and biological functioning. Your gecko’s decorations shouldn’t fulfill a purely aesthetical role; they should also have some utility in the ecosystem. To find the perfect decorations for your gecko, consider the following 3 requirements:
- Should provide the gecko with a hiding
- Should allow geckos to climb and rest up high
- Should allow for water accumulation for humidity purposes and so your geckos can drink whenever they please
It’s not necessary for all of your gecko’s decorations to meet these requirements, but each piece should meet at least 1 of them. Some of the best decorative elements that meet 1 or more of these requirements include bamboo wood, birdhouse boxes for hiding, PVC pipes for a similar purpose, live plants for moisture gathering, branches and vines for climbing, rocks also for climbing, etc.
Remember not to suffocate your gecko’s habitat with too many elements, as these reptiles also require open breathing space. You can also throw some leaves and moss into the mix for a plus of humidity retention and a more natural-looking habitat.
Crested Gecko Feeding and Diet
Crested geckos have a very varied diet in the wild which is pretty difficult to replicate in captivity. So, I recommend relying on commercial gecko food to keep your reptile happy and healthy. Naturally, commercial gecko food is only one aspect of your gecko’s meal plan.
Geckos should also eat plenty of live insects and worms, depending on their needs and preferences. I recommend gut-filling the insects with a vitamin complex before feeding them to your gecko. Rely on crickets, roaches, waxworms, silkworms, and any other insects that your gecko prefers naturally.
Live insects are both nutritious and fun to hunt, keeping your gecko physically and mentally engaged. An adult gecko won’t need more than 2-3 live food meals per week; always feed your gecko as many live insects as it can consume and remove the leftovers.
Fruits are also necessary in any healthy gecko’s diet. Go for bananas, mango, passion fruit, papaya, peaches, and any other fruit your gecko might prefer. Again, 2-3 fruit meals weekly should suffice for an adult gecko. Juvenile geckos eat daily due to their increased metabolism and faster growth rate.
Crested Geckos Health Problems
Unfortunately, geckos are prone to some health issues, most of which are caused by improper temperature or environmental humidity. Some of the common health issues include mouth rot, respiratory infections, and skin problems such as dermatitis or parasitic infections.
Bacterial and fungal infections are also linked to a dirty enclosure.
One of the geckos’ most widespread health problems stems from faulty shedding due to improper humidity levels. If the humidity is too low, the outer skin will dry out, making it impossible for the gecko to shed it. If humidity is too high, your gecko’s old skin may get stuck underneath the new one, leading to localized infections and gangrene.
It’s common for crested geckos to die due to shedding-related problems.
Cleaning Crested Gecko Tank
When it comes to cleaning your gecko’s tank, you have 2 necessary maintenance jobs: daily and regularly. By ‘regularly,’ I mean ‘whenever the habitat gets too dirty.’ In that case, you need to perform generalized cleaning, which can occur every 3-6 weeks on average.
The daily cleaning should mainly consist of removing gecko feces, food leftovers, and dead plants and leaves that may attract fungal deposits. This shouldn’t take too long, probably 5-10 minutes at most.
When it comes to the more thorough cleaning sessions, consider the following tips:
- Relocate the gecko into a temporary setup until the cleaning process completes
- Remove all of the loose decorations
- Remove the substrate and either clean or replace it, depending on its state (most likely the latter)
- Clean the entire enclosure with water to remove larger debris and much
- Use a reptile-friendly cleaning spray for in-depth cleaning and sterilization, let it sit for about 10 minutes, then rinse with water and dry everything with a towel
- Clean and sterilize all of the cleaning equipment (brushes, sponges, cotton swabs, buckets, small tubes, etc.)
This thorough cleaning session should take place approximately once per month or depending on the situation. Geckos aren’t particularly dirty animals but require thorough cleaning to prevent infections and respiratory problems over time.
Geckos are awesome pets with unique personalities and easy-going requirements. They will undoubtedly win you over with their cuteness, chirps, and lax behavior, and might even allow you to pet them occasionally.
Learn as much as you can about geckos, provide them with a personalized setup, a clean enclosure, and a diverse diet, and they will remain by your side for years to come.