How to Tell if Crested Gecko is Stressed?
Crested geckos are amazing pets but are also quite timid and easily rattled. That’s because they have virtually no social instincts and have evolved to rely on hiding and camouflage to avoid predation.
They also require specific living conditions to thrive, the absence of which can cause them to experience stress and health problems.
Crested Gecko Stress Signs
In this article, we will discuss crested gecko stress, how to identify the main symptoms, and how to figure out the causes and solutions. But let’s start with the beginning.
– Unexplained Aggression
A stressed gecko will always showcase signs of aggression towards you whenever you attempt to grab it. Crested geckos are not too fond of being held and petted, but they typically won’t react aggressively. At most, they will try to wiggle and escape your grip, at which point you know to take them back to their enclosure.
So, it’s not normal for a crested gecko to lunge, hiss, or attempt to bite you. You don’t need to fear your gecko’s bite, given that these reptiles aren’t built for inflicting biting damage. Your concern should be the reason why your gecko appears so aggressive towards you. That’s because the constant stress may affect the reptile’s immune system, leaving it prone to health problems over time.
– Tail Waving
Many animals use tail waving to make their intentions known. In geckos, that’s a sign of stress or aggression. In dogs, for instance, it can be both, depending how they’re waving their tails.
A high and slow tail wave shows interest or even aggression, while a low and rapid one shows submission and happiness. Cats only wave their tails when they’re annoyed and aggressive, and geckos fall into the same category.
If your gecko waves its tail at you whenever you attempt to grab it, give it some space. The reptile is most likely not in the mood for petting. Naturally, other reasons may be at play, so we’ll discuss those shortly too.
– Mouth Gaping and Heavy Breathing
These behaviors generally indicate a level of physical suffering. Your gecko is most definitely experiencing physical distress and pain due to an infection, a digestive problem, or an injury. A gecko that’s hurting may also become aggressive when attempting to hold it for inspection, so you should assess the reptile visually at first.
You might be able to detect the problem right then and there. Another good approach is assessing environmental parameters to ensure everything is within the right values.
– Hiding Behavior
Crested geckos always resort to hiding when stressed, frightened, or experiencing pain. It’s a natural defensive instinct causing the reptile to flee the source of distress. The hiding behavior is similar among geckos and consists of the reptile looking to hide among plants, leaves, and other decorations.
They may even attempt to bury themselves into the substrate. This stress-related behavior is most often explained through improper environmental temperature and humidity. A gecko that digs into the substrate frequently indicates that the reptile is either hot or cold or the environmental humidity is too low or too high.
We’ll discuss these factors in the second half of the article.
Crested geckos are quite vocal at times, depending on their mood and intentions. They tend to be extremely noisy during the mating phase and will vocalize to fetch your attention when hungry. They may also use barking noises and chirp aggressively or, when stressed, trying to tell you to stay away.
You should learn how to differentiate between these different vocalizations so you can decipher your gecko’s intentions.
– Lack of Appetite
A healthy adult gecko will eat 3-4 times per week. Juvenile geckos need to eat one meal daily due to their more accelerated growth rate and higher metabolism. While the reptiles’ appetite may vary slightly, depending on the specimen, you can tell if your gecko has a poor one.
If your gecko isn’t eating as it should and appears to lose weight in the process, something’s not right with it. In most cases, it’s a digestive problem causing gecko discomfort. It may also be a bacterial or parasitic infection at play, at which point you need to look for additional symptoms.
Overall, stress, no matter the cause, will also cause the gecko to lose its appetite temporarily until the situation goes back to normal.
Causes and Solutions for Gecko Stress
Now that we’ve gone through the primary signs of stress let’s look at the causes and solutions to consider.
– New Habitat
Newcoming geckos will always experience some level of stress when placing them into a new habitat. They’re not used to the environment, so they naturally hide until they become more accustomed to their surroundings. This is normal behavior, so you shouldn’t worry about it.
As a general recommendation, keep the environmental lights low, as much as possible, without affecting the temperature, and provide your gecko with hiding areas. You can convince your gecko to come out of hiding by feeding it live insects for a while. These will move around the gecko’s habitat, peaking its interest and luring it out for hunting.
The gecko will eventually understand that there’s no danger and will come around.
– Improper Temperature and Humidity
These issues may seem benign at first but can turn deadly instantly. A crested gecko’s well-being depends on the temperature gradient, values, and overall humidity. If the temperature is too low, the gecko’s metabolism will drop, causing it to experience digestive problems, stress, and even hypothermia and death.
If it’s too high, the reptile risks respiratory and bacterial infections, which can also turn deadly. The situation isn’t much different with humidity since geckos demand around 60-80% humidity to stay healthy and comfy. Higher-than-normal humidity levels can cause your gecko to experience severe distress and respiratory infections with a deadly potential.
Low-humidity environments have similar effects, which is why your gecko is always digging into the substrate, trying to look for more humid areas.
You should always have a humidity checker in place and spray the reptile’s enclosure 2-3 times per day, or however, often is necessary. A humidity-retaining substrate, like coconut moss mixed with soil, may also be great here, as well as placing a water bowl in the gecko’s habitat.
The reptile will bathe in the bowl occasionally, but it’s real usefulness comes from the water evaporating into the environment and increasing humidity levels.
Humidity is particularly important during shedding when improper humidity values can cause life-threatening problems.
– Dirty Habitat
Crested geckos aren’t particularly dirty animals, but they produce poop nonetheless. The accumulated waste, paired with the high temperature and humidity, makes for a great breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. Bacterial infections risk causing complications along the way and even turn deadly.
You should always clean your gecko’s habitat properly by removing waste daily and performing weekly and monthly cleaning jobs. The monthly cleaning session should include replacing the substrate altogether and using a reptile-friendly spray to sterilize the gecko’s habitat to remove bacteria, parasites, fungi, mold, etc.
– Improper Habitat Layout
You should know that not all geckos are alike. Leopard geckos, for instance, are bottom dwellers with innate digging tendencies. But crested geckos are arboreal reptiles that spend their time climbing at resting at various high vantage points. This evolutionary behavior provides the gecko with multiple advantages, including security and better prey detection.
This means you absolutely need to provide your gecko with a personalized layout to mimic its natural conditions. If your gecko has nothing to climb on, it will stress out and even fall sick. Craft a gecko-friendly ecosystem for your pet reptile to enjoy, and you will increase your gecko’s comfort, quality of life, and even lifespan over the years.
– Poor Diet
Crested geckos require a diverse diet consisting of commercial premade gecko food, live insects and worms, and fruits. This is probably the most demanding aspect when it comes to caring for a crested gecko, but it’s manageable with a bit of commitment and know-how.
I recommend feeding your gecko standard gecko food, as this is nutritionally optimized for crested geckos specifically, as a basic meal plan. Then you throw in some succulent and rich insect meals at least 2 times per week for a plus of nutritional value and hunting activity. Fruits like bananas, mangos, passion fruit, or peaches are also welcome.
An improper diet, lacking the right nutritional cocktail, can cause your gecko to become stressed and even experience nutritional deficiencies. To circumvent this issue:
- Always provide your gecko with an as varied diet as possible
- Have a feeder tank set up with various insects to provide your gecko with a steady and fresh live food source
- Gut-fill your insects with vitamin cocktails before feeding them to your gecko
- Find the right commercial gecko food for your reptile for optimal nutrient intake
- Also, consider what your gecko likes to eat, not only what it needs to eat
Crested geckos are easy-going reptiles that require some personalized care to remain healthy and happy over the years. Remember, a well-cared-for crested gecko can live up to 20 years or more in captivity. When it comes to general well-being, your gecko’s mental state matters just as much as its physical health.