Crested Gecko Not Sticking – Causes & Solutions

Unlike other gecko species, crested geckos are arboreal reptiles, which means they spend their lives climbing on everything in their natural habitat. Their terrarium should mimic their original environment to cater to the gecko’s natural behavior.

So, it’s normal to see your gecko climbing everywhere, including the tank’s walls. Their sticky toes can adhere to any surface, more or less. But what happens if your gecko appears unable to stick and climb? This is not normal, although the causes may not always be a matter of life or death.

Let’s look into it!

5 Reasons Crested Gecko Is Not Sticking

Crested geckos are extremely proficient at sticking to any surface, so it’s not normal to see them struggling to adhere to hard surfaces; including the terrarium’s walls. Here are 5 potential explanations to consider:

– Shedding Issue

Geckos shed approximately 1-2 times per month within their first 3-4 years of life. The shedding frequency will drop after that, with adult geckos only shedding once every 4-6 weeks. The shedding itself consists of the gecko removing its outer skin layer to reveal the new one growing underneath. During this time, the gecko won’t eat, move much, or climb anywhere.

The inability to climb is due to how shedding functions. Normally, crested geckos’ toe pads contain microscopic hairs called setae. These consist of numerous other, even smaller, hairs that create friction against hard surfaces, producing electromagnetic energy. This energy creates traction, allowing the gecko to stick to solid surfaces easily.

The problem is that, close to shedding, the reptile’s old skin layer will detach slightly, becoming useless and covering the gecko’s toe pad setae. This means that the reptile can no longer use its toe pads properly; at least not until the shedding is over.

Don’t worry, this is normal for geckos, and the situation should return to normal once the old skin is gone.

– Dirty Foot

You could say this is comical if it weren’t an indication of a more serious environmental issue. Your gecko’s toes shouldn’t be dirty, as this prevents them from exercising their grips properly. If they are, you may need to clean your gecko and its environment.

It’s normal for the gecko’s habitat to accumulate dirt and scum due to the high humidity and temperature. Whether it’s feces, food leftovers, or pieces of substrate, all this matter can stick to your gecko’s foot and disrupt the reptile’s ability to climb and retain its grips.

This can lead to accidents which can create an array of different problems. Always keep your gecko’s habitat clean by removing feces as soon as your gecko produces them. Also, you should have a thorough cleaning schedule to ensure your gecko’s environment is clean and healthy at all times. This will prevent bacterial and fungal growth, among other things.

– Dirty Surface

If the gecko’s toes are clean, maybe the surfaces that the gecko is attempting to climb on are not. Check the terrarium’s walls, decorations, and branches that the gecko is attempting to cling on. If these have muck or accumulated dirt on their surface, the gecko won’t be able to latch onto them.

This means it may be time to practice some environmental cleaning to sterilize and cleanse the gecko’s habitat.

– Physical Injury

It’s not often that geckos experience physical injuries, but it can happen at times. These are often the result of the gecko falling when attempting to jump or not watching their steps. After all, they spend most of their lives elevated, and the risk of accidental falls is always present.

If your gecko is experiencing injuries, it may not be able to climb or retain its sticking capabilities. This isn’t due to something changing in the gecko’s sticking abilities but because of the physical discomfort associated with the effort. In other words, the gecko won’t even try to climb due to the pain associated with their injury.

It’s normal for geckos to go near the substrate at times, especially when looking to regulate their temperature, feed, or even rest. But it’s also normal for them to climb back up shortly, especially at night time when the hunting season begins. If your gecko seems reluctant to climb, check it for any visible injuries, including on the toe pads themselves.

Maybe your gecko stepped onto something sharp and experienced a cut that causes discomfort when walking or climbing. If that’s the case, you want to treat your pet’s injury fast. Gecko’s wounds can infect quite rapidly in a warm and humid environment.

– Curled Toes

The curled toe syndrome has many causes, none good. First, you should make sure that the curled toes aren’t the result of the gecko’s normal walk. Geckos use to curl their toes upwards to prevent them from sticking when walking on horizontal surfaces. This is normal behavior.

With that out of the way, if your gecko has curled toes and seems incapable of climbing or sticking to vertical surfaces, consider the following:

  • Calcium deficiency – You should always check this issue first before anything else. That’s because calcium deficiency is a precursor of Metabolic Bone Disease, which is deadly and incurable. Fortunately, your gecko shouldn’t experience calcium deficiency if you’re feeding it a varied diet and supplementing its meals with calcium and D3. But, sometimes, the reptile has genetically low bone density, making it more prone to calcium deficiency. Your vet should have a look at the reptile before doing anything else.
  • Incomplete shedding – Fortunately, this isn’t as serious of a problem, provided you detect it in time. Incomplete shedding refers to patches of old skin remaining stuck onto the reptile’s body, primarily around the toes, feet, tail, and face area, especially the eyes. These patches of skin can cut the blood supply to the region, causing the gecko to experience curled toes and even gangrene and septicemia.
  • Improper humidity – This is also a life-or-death situation, as improper humidity can cause dehydration and skin and respiratory infections, to name a few problems. If the humidity is too low, your gecko’s skin will dry out, reducing the gecko’s adherence to hard surfaces.

Always check your gecko’s health status if it appears unable or unwilling to climb, despite not doing so for a while.


Crested geckos are born climbers, so they should be very active in this sense. They will climb pretty much everywhere and can adhere to all surfaces, including shiny and slippery ones like the tank’s walls. Even baby crested geckos can climb with the same proficiency.

This means that it’s not normal for geckos not to be able to do it. Check your gecko’s condition, poke around to figure out the cause, and speak to your vet if you can’t get to the bottom of it on your own.

avatar William
William is a respected pet enthusiast with expertise in reptiles and birds. With extensive experience caring for these animals, he shares his knowledge through engaging and informative articles in various publications. He is an active member of pet-related organizations, volunteering regularly at shelters and promoting animal welfare and conservation. read more...

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