Why is My Crested Gecko Lethargic?
Crested geckos are ectothermic animals which means that they are cold-blooded, so they cannot regulate their body temperature on their own.
This means they tend to alternate between active and energetic periods and more sluggish and semi-lethargic ones.
This brings us to today’s topic, which is geckos displaying unexplained lethargy. As you can tell, there will be some confusion involved because geckos, like all reptiles, are semi-lethargic by nature.
However, you can sometimes distinguish between natural lethargy and an unnatural one, signaling an underlying problem that needs urgent addressing.
Common Causes of Lethargy in Crested Geckos
Before diving into the common causes of lethargy in geckos, consider the distinction between lethargy and pure laziness or resting behavior.
Geckos depend on their environment to provide them with adequate temperature to regulate their internal processes. A gecko will lie motionless for quite a while when eating since most of its energy will be directed toward the digestive process.
The lizard will also rest occasionally, especially during the day. So, these periods of apparent lethargy are natural and welcome.
That being said, geckos becoming actually lethargic isn’t a good sign. In this case, you should investigate their behavior further and check its environmental parameters to make sure everything’s cool.
Here are 7 of the common reasons why geckos get lethargic:
1. Improper Temperature
Geckos require an environmental temperature fluctuating between 72 and 95 °F. I say fluctuating because geckos shouldn’t experience constant temperatures precisely because they cannot self-regulate their body temperature.
So, they need a temperature gradient throughout their habitat, preferably providing them with 3 main areas:
- Hot area – 90 – 100 °F
- Warm area – 80 – 90 °F
- Cool area – 72 – 79 °F
I agree that setting up the delimitation can be quite the logistic nightmare. But, once you get it done, your gecko will thrive since its environment will provide the perfect temperature gradient.
If the gecko appears lethargic, it’s most likely due to improper temperature values. If the terrarium temperature is either too high or too low, the gecko will attempt to migrate to other areas of the terrarium.
Some geckos will even hide in the substrate for shelter. However, in almost all cases, the gecko will appear lethargic and devoid of energy.
Especially if the temperatures are too low, causing their metabolism to drop and reducing their energy levels.
So, if the gecko is lazier than normal, assess its environmental temperature and tweak it accordingly.
2. Poor Gecko Dynamics
This problem is only present in gecko communities. Geckos are not social creatures, but they can live with members of their own species in the long run.
So long as you don’t have more than one gecko male in the habitat, of course. Gecko males are notoriously violent towards each other due to their biological predisposition towards competition and hierarchical violence.
Other than that, you can keep a male and a female, a male and several females, or have a female-only terrarium for the win. The problem is that even when there’s only one male present, things can still derail fast.
The male and the female(s) will mate, after which the female will get back to its business. The male, however, will keep on going.
Gecko males tend to be quite pushy even after mating since their hormones are always raging. So, it’s not uncommon for the gecko male to push the females to their breaking point, stressing them out and causing fights in the environment.
Female geckos can also fight with each other over food if environmental parameters aren’t optimized or when overcrowded.
You can only determine the nature of the problem by assessing your geckos’ dynamics, identifying the violent one(s), and seeking to solve the issue amicably.
- Increasing the tank’s size to prevent territorial-specific violence
- Tweak the reptiles’ diets to make sure everyone eats properly
- Clean the terrarium regularly and provide the geckos with sufficient water
- Add in more plants or other decorative elements to create more hiding areas
- Remove the aggressor(s) if nothing else works
Ignoring this issue will only cause it to increase in magnitude. Repeated gecko-on-gecko violence will cause the lizards to stress out, lowering their immune system and making them prone to diseases, parasites, and bacterial infections.
3. Gecko Stress
Yes, geckos can get stressed out, the same as any animal. A stressed gecko will display specific physiological symptoms like lethargy, refusal to eat, hiding behavior, aggression, and even death in some more extreme cases.
The problem isn’t necessarily identifying the gecko’s state of mind but the underlying triggers.
If your gecko appears stressed, you should assess all metrics that may be responsible for the lizard’s poor state of mind.
Some relevant factors to consider include:
- Inadequate temperature and humidity levels
- Improper food or poor eating patterns
- Digestive problems due to overfeeding (too large or too frequent meals)
- Parasites and bacteria causing physical discomfort
- The new tank syndrome that’s typical newly-purchased geckos
- Improper gecko dynamics in case of a gecko pair or colony, etc.
This list isn’t exhaustive since you also have to account for the unpredictable here. Maybe your gecko is stressed at seeing people too close to its enclosure too often.
Or maybe it’s getting rattled by some loud noise or flashy light(s) in the room.
So, always be prepared for some Sherlock Holming to get to the bottom of it.
4. Improper Feeding or Meals
Geckos demand an omnivorous diet, consisting mainly of fruits and insects. Such a diet will mimic their natural feeding patterns, allowing geckos to get all the nutrients they need.
However, the situation is more colorful than it might appear at a first glance. Geckos only prefer certain types of fruits (like bananas, apricots, figs, papaya, or apples), preferably overripe, so they can eat them with ease.
When it comes to insects, the sky is the limit. If it moves and it’s small enough for the gecko to it eat, nothing else is needed.
The problem is finding the balance between the fruits and insects and learning which nutrients your gecko needs to thrive.
Crested geckos raised in captivity are predisposed to nutritional deficiencies, especially calcium and vitamin D3, due to the lack of UVB lighting. So, you should always provide geckos with vitamin supplements to complement their diets.
When it comes to feeding frequency, stick to one meal every 2-3 days for adult geckos. Hatchlings and juveniles require more frequent feeding, up to once or even twice per day, based on their age.
Adults have lower metabolic rates, so they need time to process their meals.
So, when feeding your gecko, consider the following:
- Soft, overripe fruits that your gecko can consume with ease
- Offer a fresh supply of insects, preferably home-grown
- Always add powdered calcium and vitamin D3 supplementation to your gecko’s diet
- Only feed your adult gecko what it can eat excitedly. Slowing down and appearing to drag the meal signals that the gecko is close to full
Don’t use wild insects since these can contain environmental contaminants or parasites that could kill your gecko. If I’m to suggest something, grow your insects at home, in a professional setup.
It doesn’t eat too much of your time, and it’s not expensive. The benefits, though, are immense in the long run.
Also, try to feed your geckos live insects. This will tickle their hunting behavior and keep their overall mental state up.
5. The Gecko is Sick
This is another one worthy of mentioning, despite the crested gecko being rather hardy when compared to other pets. The problem is that hardy isn’t the same as immune, so expect your lizard to experience health issues at times.
Especially when housed in improper conditions with inadequate temperatures, poor feeding, and dirty tanks.
In these cases, the gecko may develop digestive problems, respiratory infections, skin parasites, external or internal bacterial or fungal infections, etc.
Crested geckos are also at risk of developing MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) due to calcium deficiency.
A sick gecko will display a variety of symptoms, including lethargy, poor appetite, hiding behavior, skin discoloration, skin growths in case of fungal or bacterial infections around the mouth and face, etc.
In this case, you first need to identify the disorder and then approach it according to your vet’s specifications.
The gecko will recover with adequate and early treatment. If not, even the smallest and innocuous health problems can degenerate and kill the reptile soon.
6. The Gecko is Shedding
Adult geckos shed at intervals between 4 to 8 weeks, depending on the reptile’s age. The shedding process is natural and necessary since it allows the lizard to grow and renew its skin.
All animals undergo this process, but only reptiles and insects undergo shedding (replacing their entire skin in one session.)
Most other animals will shed their skin gradually, cell by cell, including humans – a process which can last up to 45 days for adult humans. This duration can double for older humans since their metabolism is lower overall.
If your gecko is getting close to shedding, its behavior will change accordingly. The lizard will look for a safe and hidden area because the shedding process will leave it vulnerable to predators.
Naturally, there are no predators in the terrarium, but geckos don’t know that; they will do what they’ve been biologically programmed to do.
At this point, the gecko will refuse food and display a lethargic behavior with minimal movement. It’s vital to avoid touching or disturbing the reptile during the shedding session.
Don’t worry, this is a natural process, so your gecko should regain its normal behavior once the shedding is complete. Expect the process to last up to 3 days, depending on how well it goes.
In case of complications, you might want to assist the gecko shed its skin successfully. But this is a topic for another gecko article.
7. Egg Binding
This is a female-specific problem if it wasn’t obvious enough. The egg binding phenomenon is called dystocia, and it’s exactly what you imagine.
In short, the female cannot pass the eggs, causing it to experience lethargic behavior and showcase signs of stress.
The causes can be multiple, including calcium and vitamin D3 deficiency, an unsuitable nesting area, or gecko stress, causing the female to delay the egg-laying process.
Correcting these problems will sometimes help the female resume the egg-laying. However, that’s rather rare because egg binding is a condition, not the result of a controlled behavior.
So, you will most likely need to report the issue to your vet and figure out a solution together.
The treatment will most likely involve some form of hormonal therapy or even surgery to remove the eggs mechanically.
Don’t take this list as exhaustive since geckos can grow lethargic for a variety of reasons. Some of these are owner-specific and rather unique, so only you’ll encounter them.
The main ideas here are:
- Learn the difference between unnatural lethargy and normal laziness due to the ‘I need to conserve my energy’ gecko-specific mindset
- Investigate the causes responsible for the gecko’s lethargic behavior
- Address them appropriately, which often includes bringing an expert’s opinion into the mix
How Does a Lethargic Crested Gecko Looks Like?
This is a hot topic, especially for a new and inexperienced gecko owner who has difficulties differentiating between normal and abnormal behavior.
So, how can you differentiate between a lethargic gecko and one that’s just savoring its time of peacefulness and relaxation?
Relaxed geckos will appear, well, relaxed. You can tell by their muscle tone, body positioning, and breathing that they’re relaxed and cool.
The gecko will sometimes move around to get some water or change its position in the tank to regulate its temperature. Don’t expect too much activity, though, especially during the daytime. Geckoes are nocturnal animals, so they will pretty much rest and relax throughout the day.
A lethargic gecko will appear tensed, often with breathing difficulties and refusing to move even when it should. It’s abnormal for geckos to stay too long in one area and not change position at all.
Especially if the area they’re in is rather hot. In this case, they should be migrating toward colder areas to regulate their body temperature.
If your gecko doesn’t drink or eat, doesn’t move much, and looks tense or absent, it may be lethargic. If that’s the case, go over the list I’ve just provided to identify the cause(s) and figure out a reliable and fast solution.
How Can You Help a Lethargic Gecko?
The answer depends on the reasons why your gecko is lethargic. The most common reasons I’ve seen and heard of include inadequate temperature and humidity, stress due to overactivity in the terrarium’s room, and new tank syndrome.
Improper tank conditions also rank high on the list due to the accumulated waste and food residues fouling the habitat.
Whatever the cause may be, you better figure it out fast since lethargic geckos are stressed geckos. And gecko stress is a real killer in the long run.
Can Crested Geckos Become Depressed?
No, crested geckos can’t become depressed. They’re not mentally evolved enough to fear this problem. Then again, they don’t need to.
The stress they’re experiencing due to all of the factors we’ve mentioned is enough to bring their morale down dramatically. For all intents and purposes, gecko stress functions nearly identically to depression and can have a severe impact on your gecko’s state of mind and overall health.
So, always assess your gecko’s environment, habitat, and physical status in case of signs of stress and lethargy.
While they are hardy and adaptable, geckos will sometimes have difficulties dealing with certain problems.
They can’t inform you verbally or in writing of their issue, so you need to read their body language to grasp their state of mind.
Fortunately, geckos aren’t too sensitive, so long as you provide them with optimal environmental conditions and adequate long-term care.
Even more, fortunately, you reading this article has provided you with some useful insight into why geckos get lethargic in most cases.