Why Is My Crested Gecko So Small?

The problem with crested geckos is that they grow at different rates and achieve different sizes. This will make some gecko owners freak out if their gecko doesn’t comply with their expectations. In some cases, their concerns are legit, as we are about to see.

If you’ve never had a gecko before, you may be confused by the reptile’s physiology and behavior. For instance, geckos only eat once every 2-3 days, depending on their diet, age, appetite, and other factors.

In this case, it’s easy to blame their slow physical development on their eating patterns, but that’s not the case.

Geckos will do just fine on such a meal plan since it caters to their natural requirements. So, what is normal for a gecko regarding growth rate and size and what can affect these parameters?

That’s what we’ll discuss today.

How Big do Crested Geckos Grow?

Crested geckos typically grow between 5 and 8 inches as adults. A variety of factors will influence the gecko’s growth rate and maximum size, and these tend to carry more weight in captivity.

Feral geckos tend to grow slightly larger in the wild due to greater access to a more varied diet, among other things.

So, should you be concerned if your gecko doesn’t fall in line with the ideal growth parameters? Well, it depends on why they’re not growing and learning the reasons for that will make for some heavy detective work along the way.

Fortunately, I’m here to guide your magnifying glass in the right direction.

6 Reasons Crested Geckos Stay Very Small

As we’ve already discussed, some variations in terms of size are normal among geckos. But what do you do when your gecko remains unusually small without any apparent cause?

The answer to this question is important because it steers you towards a solution that may not be obvious at first.

All in all, here are the 6 most relevant reasons why crested geckos remain smaller than they should be:

1. Poor Diet

This is naturally the first area to look into. Geckos are omnivorous reptiles, so they require both fruits and insects to thrive and remain healthy over the years.

They won’t eat much, though. Hatchlings and juvenile geckos will eat every day, but the adults don’t need as high a feeding frequency. Since their metabolism is lower, they will do fine with one meal every 2-3 days.

The idea is to provide them as many insects and food as they can consume in one meal and remove the rest.

But things aren’t as easy as they seem. Crested geckos will experience nutritional deficiencies, especially calcium, depending on their diets and environmental conditions.

Geckos that lack access to sunlight or UVB, for instance, lack the vitamin D3 that aids in calcium synthesis, no matter how optimized their diet is.

For this reason, I recommend supplementing your gecko’s diet with calcium and D3 supplements. Doing so will provide them with the optimal nutrients, complementing their meal plan.

If your gecko starts to pick off weight following the supplementation, congratulations, you’ve solved the problem.

2. Genetics

Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about this one. Geckos come with different genetics, a concept that stays true for all creatures, humans included.

The reptile’s gene pool holds unique characteristics, influencing the gecko’s personality, physiology, and behavior. These variations may not be obvious to you, the observer, who thinks that all geckos look and are the same, but they do exist.

One such variation is in growth rate and maximum size. Not all geckos are designed to reach the same sizes, as some will remain smaller than others.

What can you do about it? Pretty much nothing if you’ve already purchased the gecko.

But here’s the trick. You can avoid the entire situation altogether. It all comes down to getting your gecko from a reliable breeder who can vouch for the lizard’s genetic prowess.

There are several characteristics that will make or break the gecko’s genetic profile. We’ll consider the 3 most important:

  • The gecko’s parents – Much of the gecko’s genetic baggage will pass onto its offspring. The hatchlings won’t be genetical copies of their parents but will take a lot of their genetic code. So, always inquire the breeder about the gecko’s parents to have a clearer picture of what you’re buying.
  • The gecko’s care conditions – You won’t be getting your gecko as a hatchling. Most people get them when they’re several months old at a minimum. If the gecko was kept in suboptimal conditions, its growth rate might be hindered. The reptile will develop health problems in many cases, some of which can affect its growth rate permanently. You will end up with a smaller-than-normal gecko with no way of fixing the situation. This mostly happens with store-bought geckos since these places aren’t exactly popular for their impressive care and maintenance ethics.
  • The gecko’s health state – Some geckos struggle with various diseases that will hinder their growth. These can be genetic in nature or simply acquired due to poor environmental conditions or inadequate diets. Some geckos are also genetically faulty, causing them to struggle with weaker immune systems with potentially fatal consequences in the long run.

Ultimately, it all comes down to getting your gecko from a reputable and trustworthy source. I realize it’s not that easy to inquire the seller about the gecko’s background and overall state, so you’ll always have a risk to deal with.

But, at least, you should do your best to prevent whatever problems may arise along the way.

3. Illness or Parasites

Geckos are quite hardy animals, but they’re not immune to disease and parasites.

Some geckos will exhibit symptoms of disease, bacterial infections, or parasites due to improper habitats, suboptimal environmental parameters, poor diets, and even genetic predispositions.

Some of the most common gecko health problems include:

  • Metabolic bone disease – This is just a fancy name for severe calcium deficiency. We’ve already discussed calcium deficiency in geckos, so you now know the basics, but you probably didn’t realize the problem’s severity. Geckos experiencing metabolic bone disease will develop bone skeletal problems and facial deformities in the spine. So, always verify your gecko before purchasing it to prevent this condition. And most importantly, supplement your gecko’s diet adequately.
  • Parasites – This is another reason for concern regarding newly-acquired geckos. They are more likely to develop parasites or experience bacterial infections if kept in poor conditions. And we’ve already mentioned how this problem relates to general gecko marketplaces. Parasitic and bacterial infections also relate closely to high stress, which tends to happen when moving the gecko to another environment. To prevent that, keep your gecko in a 60-day quarantine period before adding the reptile to an already established colony. This should minimize the stress and give the gecko the necessary time to accommodate its surroundings. If you suspect that your gecko might have parasites, consider a fecal test at a qualified veterinarian.
  • Bacterial infections – These tend to affect geckos with weak immune systems due to stress, other diseases, and improper environmental conditions. Dysecdysis is also a problem worth mentioning, which describes the gecko’s skin getting stuck during the shedding process. This can lead to infections and usually happens due to extremely high humidity (above 80%) during shedding for longer periods of time.

The good news is that all of these health complications can be prevented easily by providing the gecko with optimal living conditions.

Keep the reptile in optimized habitats, keep the humidity and temperature within the ideal parameters, and offer a nutritious diet paired with adequate supplementation.

So long as your gecko is genetically fit, it will remain healthy for years to come.

4. Environment

This is another critical point since it covers a variety of environmental parameters.

Temperature, lighting, humidity, and the terrarium’s overall layout; all these will influence your gecko’s state of mind and physical health.

In this sense:

  • If humidity is too low, the gecko will experience respiratory infections and skin problems
  • If humidity is too high, the risk of bacterial infections increases
  • If the temperature is too low, geckos will experience hypothermia and digestive problems as their metabolism will drop
  • If it’s too high, they will become stressed and experience a weak immune system
  • If the terrarium doesn’t have climbing or hiding areas, the gecko will have no safe space to rest, which, again, leads to high levels of stress

All these problems will impact your gecko differently. They will affect your gecko’s state of mind, impact its appetite, and hinder the reptile’s healthy development.

Unfortunately, every gecko owner starts on the right foot and switches on the wrong one as time goes by.

In other words, it’s easy to provide the gecko with the ideal parameters but more difficult to maintain them over the years.

After all, crested geckos can live up to 2 decades with proper care. So, long-term quality care is essential for their growth rate, general size, and overall health and state of mind.

5. Enclosure Too Big

This may sound counterintuitive since it works the other way around with most other creatures. Fish, for instance, grow larger the larger their habitat is.

Crested geckos, however, are backwards. However, it all makes sense from a gecko’s perspective, and you can understand everything better by assessing the reptile’s behavior in the wild.

Geckos don’t need too much space since they prefer remaining in the same spot, so long as there’s enough food and water around.

If there isn’t, and they need to move around to look for resources, they will struggle. The same thing happens in captivity.

Geckos do better in a smaller environment because it allows them to remain close to their food and water sources. If the terrarium is too big, the gecko will struggle to find its place and will experience stress.

Stress leads to loss of appetite, a weaker immune system, and hindered growth as a result. So, always consider a smaller terrarium for your gecko, preferably around 20 gallons per specimen.

You can have a pair of geckos in a 30-gallon setting which is enough to accommodate the reptiles and provide sufficient room for other elements as well.

These include the water bowl, a heating system, necessary decorations like wood, substrate, branches, etc.

6. Stress

Stress is always at the bottom of everything else. All of your gecko’s problems will stem from high-stress levels, which result from specific triggering factors.

Geckos can get stressed for a variety of reasons, including disease and parasites, improper environmental conditions, poor diets, excessive lizard-human interactions, etc.

When that happens, lethargy is generally the first sign of stress, along with the reptile’s predilection toward burying itself in the substrate.

These are natural gecko behaviors as well, so it may be difficult to separate the typical from the atypical, but it can be done.

If your gecko doesn’t eat properly, hides in the substrate too often remains motionless or is in hiding for unusually long periods, stress may be the culprit.

When that happens, your first move should be to investigate the problem. Pinpoint the issue, fix it, and see if the gecko’s behavior improves.

In most cases, temperature, poor meal plans, or humidity are the issue, so you might want to look into those first.

How to Make Your Crested Gecko Grow Bigger?

The good news is that whatever’s hindering your gecko’s growth can be reversed in most cases.

Provided, of course, the situation isn’t beyond repair or that the gecko isn’t too old already.

In every other case, you should be able to bring your gecko on the right track fairly easily by tweaking the following aspects:

  • Optimize environmental parameters – This is the first and most relevant point to consider. Environmental parameters will affect the gecko drastically and directly. Tweak the temperature and humidity to optimal values and provide the gecko with a healthy and stable light cycle. The temperature should rest between 72 to 78 F, humidity should remain around 70%, and lighting should vary in intensity between day and night. After all, crested geckos are nocturnal animals.
  • Optimize their diets – Geckos thrive on overripe fruits and insects, but they also need supplements to complement their diet. The goal is to prevent nutritional deficiencies that could hinder your geckos’ growth rate.
  • Keep their stress low – First, you should never add 2 gecko males to the same habitat. Males will always fight each other, no matter how large their habitat is. If they spot each other, it’s game over. So, always have 1 male and several females, in case you’re looking to build a sustainable colony. Other than that, keep environmental parameters stable, keep the geckos well-fed, and don’t interact with them too much, not to stress them out.

These strategies should consistently boost your geckos’ growth rate and allow them to reach their full potential.

It will also prolong their lifespan, which should provide you with a boost of motivation to do right by them.

How to Make Your Crested Gecko Grow Faster?

If you want to make your crested gecko grow faster, you need to ensure that it has a proper diet and is getting enough exercise. A healthy diet for a crested gecko includes plenty of live food, such as insects, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. You should also make sure that your crested gecko has a warm and humid environment. Finally, ensure that your crested gecko has plenty of space to roam and climb, as this will help it to stay active and build muscle.

Conclusion

Geckos aren’t too demanding in terms of care and environmental conditions. They can thrive at room temperature and can withstand some rather impressive variations in temperature and humidity for short periods.

They can even go without food for days or weeks when necessary.

That being said, you need to consider today’s recommendations to help your gecko achieve its full potential.

Follow the guide, adapt it to your unique circumstances, and watch your gecko flourish!

Crested Geckos   Reptiles   Updated: June 20, 2022
avatar I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets.
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