Crested Gecko Lighting Needs – Facts & Figures
Multiple things go into a crested gecko setup. Besides the enclosure itself, you have the substrate and décor. But what about functional equipment? Lights play an equally important role in keeping your gecko happy and comfortable. Providing the right light brings both mental and physical health benefits.
The reverse is also true. Providing the wrong type of light, or no light at all can cause stress and long-term health problems. So, it’s worth learning more about this topic before setting up the enclosure.
In this article, I’ll teach you everything you need to know about cresties and enclosure lights— their benefits, the main types of light, and how much light exposure is right for your pet.
Do Crested Geckos Need Artificial Light?
Yes, Crested Geckos do best when exposed to artificial light. Depending on the type of lightbulb you use, artificial light can have multiple benefits for your pet’s health. Here’s why artificial light is so important:
– It supports your pet’s day and night cycle
Crested geckos are nocturnal animals. They’re most active at night or when the lights are out. Now, this doesn’t mean they don’t need any light. On the contrary, cresties require daily light exposure to regulate their circadian rhythm, just like humans.
The circadian rhythm (also known as the sleep-wake pattern) is very important for energy levels and overall health. Geckos rely on external cues such as light and darkness to figure out when it’s time to rest or be active. The gecko’s internal clock is thrown out of whack without these stimuli.
You must replicate your gecko’s natural day and night cycle in captivity. This ensures your pet gets adequate rest and activity. Failure to do so can lead to lethargy, increased stress, lowered appetite, lower immunity, and various diseases.
– It helps your pet maintain optimal body temperature
Certain lightbulbs provide an additional heat source in the enclosure. Heat is very important for geckos and other reptiles. Remember, reptiles are cold-blooded creatures. This means they can’t regulate their body temperature
on their own.
A gecko’s body temperature will drop drastically without a reliable heat source. In extreme scenarios, this can shut down the gecko’s metabolism almost completely. Prolonged periods of low-body temperature can also cause death.
A crestie’s optimal enclosure temperature is 72-75°F. This is the range where your pet has the best appetite, energy levels, and immunity. Your gecko will tolerate temperatures as low as 60°F, but only temporarily.
The enclosure should have a heat gradient with a warmer spot where your pet can sit to raise its body temperature when it gets cold. When cresties are constantly exposed to temperatures below 72°F, their metabolism slows down. This leads to poor appetite, lethargy, slower digestion, and constipation.
– It promotes healthy bones and optimal growth
Lightbulbs that provide ultraviolet light help your pet gets adequate nutrition and maintain healthy bones. How does this happen? You may have heard about the sunshine vitamin, also known as vitamin D3. Well, cresties need this nutrient too!
Reptiles get vitamin D3 when exposed to ultraviolet light. Their skin contains sterols, which spontaneously produce vitamin D3 when ultraviolet radiation penetrates the skin. I guess you can call this animal photosynthesis.
But light is not the only source of vitamin D3. Thanks to commercial gecko foods and supplements, cresties can now meet all their vitamin needs from foods.
Vitamin D3 plays a crucial role in calcium metabolism, bone growth, and bone density maintenance. Without enough vitamin D, the body can’t store calcium properly. And without sufficient calcium, the bones can’t maintain their structure.
Vitamin D3 deficiency leads to brittle bones and osteoporosis in humans. In geckos, this deficiency causes MBD (metabolic bone disease). Symptoms of MBD include weakness, tremors, lethargy, wasting, crooked tail, bent spine, swollen limbs, and a soft jaw.
If you don’t include a full-spectrum or UV light in the enclosure, you must pay close attention to your gecko’s diet and supplementation!
Best Light Source for Crested Gecko
There are different types of lights you can use in a vivarium. The best choice depends on your setup and your gecko’s diet. At the bare minimum, you’ll want a fluorescent lightbulb that emits visible light. If you don’t use a heating pad, you’ll also need a heating lightbulb to keep the enclosure warm. These will cover your gecko’s heat and light exposure needs.
If your gecko’s diet doesn’t include any vitamin D3, you must also provide UV light with 5% UVB output. This promotes natural vitamin D synthesis in the absence of a D3-rich diet. For this, you’ll want a gecko lighting combo. This provides visible light, heat, and UVB light, covering all the bases.
Some lightbulbs do it all at once. But most reptile owners generally use separate lights for different purposes. Many gecko owners use a combination of night lights for reliable 24/7 heating and a fluorescent lightbulb for daily light exposure. Below are the best lights for cresties and their benefits:
- Fluorescent lightbulbs: easy to install, huge wattage variety, provides visible light, can be used throughout the day.
- Night lightbulbs: reliable heat source for day and night use; provides very little visible light and doesn’t disturb your gecko’s night cycle.
- Incandescent heat lamps: provide both visible light and heat for daily use.
- UV lightbulbs: provide UVB and UVA light; promote healthy bones.
Some lights, you should absolutely avoid! Harsh or high-heat lights will stress your pet and can overheat the enclosure. Stay away from:
- Halogen bulbs (can overheat, potentially causing heat stroke for cresties)
- Basking lamps (can overheat, provide too much light for cresties)
- Black lights (too much UVA light, can cause stress, skin, and eye damage)
Crested Gecko Lighting Schedule
Your crestie needs light to stay healthy. But the dose is also important. Too much of something can be as bad as too little, so don’t go overboard! For visible light, the recommended exposure is 10-12 hours a day.
This closely mimics the crestie’s natural day and night cycle. Visible light includes light from all sources, not just fluorescent bulbs used in the enclosure! The light in your room counts, too, so keep this in mind.
If you don’t include vitamin D supplements in your pet’s diet, your crestie will also need UVB exposure. Here, the intensity and time are equally important. You want to use a bulb with a 3-5% UVB output. The ideal UVB exposure is 4-6 hours. Beyond this point, excessive UVB exposure can cause hypercalcemia, metabolic issues, and skin and eye problems.
Do Crested Geckos Need UVB Light?
No, cresties and reptiles generally don’t need UVB light. What they need is vitamin D3. Now, you may provide this with the help of a UVB lightbulb or through the diet alone. Nowadays, most commercial gecko mixes contain added vitamin D3. There are also powder supplements you can buy to dust feeder insects.
Remember to check the product labels to ensure the foods you buy contain vitamin D3. The UVB light is unnecessary as long as your pet receives a nutritionally-complete diet. In fact, supplemental D3, combined with UVB light, might do more harm than good. Ironically, some of the symptoms of vitamin D3 toxicity are similar to MBD and include:
- Muscle weakness
- Lower appetite
- Bone problems
- Excessive urination
- Kidney damage
On the other hand, even if you have a UVB light in the enclosure, you might still want to supplement vitamin D3. UVB bulbs lose their efficacy over time, leading to a lower UVB output.
They need replacing every six months. Monitoring the supplemental D3 and UVB light exposure can become a hassle. Unsurprisingly, most gecko owners forego UVB altogether because of these issues.
Is Direct Sunlight Good for Crested Gecko?
Crested geckos rely on sunlight for their circadian rhythm, warmth, and vitamin D photosynthesis in the wild. So, sunlight must be equally good for pet cresties, right? Unfortunately, not so much! Direct sunlight exposure is dangerous to geckos in captivity.
There are two reasons why direct sunlight should not replace artificial lights. First, sunlight can overheat the enclosure, pushing the temperature above the safe upper limit of 80-85°F. Prolonged exposure to such temperatures will stress your gecko and may even lead to heat stroke and sudden death!
Secondly, the beneficial UVB rays from the sun can’t penetrate glass. Although direct sunlight provides plenty of visible light, your gecko won’t get any of the good stuff in the vivarium. So, direct sunlight is not only useless but also hazardous for your gecko’s health!
Lights are quintessential when keeping reptiles. They bring numerous physical and even mental health benefits to your crested gecko. Lights provide visual cues that help your crestie regulate its sleep-wake cycle. Depending on which type of lightbulb you choose, lights may also provide heat and UVB radiation, keeping your cold-blooded friend warm, cozy, and healthy.
Visible light and heat are non-negotiable to geckos. So, at the bare minimum, you should invest in a lighting combo pack that includes a fluorescent bulb and a night bulb. You should keep the night heat bulb on 24/7 to ensure proper enclosure temperature. As for the visible lights, cresties do best with 10-12 hours of daily visible light exposure.