Do Crested Geckos Hibernate?
To start the article in full force, no, crested geckos do not hibernate. Instead, they undergo a process physiologically similar but not identical, called brumation.
This is the equivalent of the bear’s torpor state because you see, bears don’t actually hibernate.
Hibernation is a specific physiological response to the environment involving months-long periods of complete unconsciousness.
During this time, the animal’s breathing, heart rate, and body processes slow down to a crawl, keeping the creature in a comatose-like state. Many animals resort to hibernation to skip through periods of cold weather, drought, lack of food, etc.
Bears don’t hibernate since they are not unconscious during winter. They will remain semi-active, taking long naps and even getting out of their shelter to look for water or food.
This semi-hibernation state is called torpor and is basically identical to brumation.
What is Brumation?
Brumation is a state of slumber, during which the animal is less active but not out. Many reptiles, mammals, and insects brumate, including crested and leopard geckos.
This brumation process is necessary to shelter the animal from adverse weather conditions, especially since geckos are ectothermic animals.
In other words, they cannot self-regulate their internal temperatures the way mammals can. So, they rely on their environment to do that for them.
The problem is that, at times, the environment gets too cold for the reptiles to regulate their temperature anymore. When that happens, the reptile will enter a brumation state effectively to avoid dying.
When do Crested Geckos Brumate?
Crested geckos will enter brumation whenever the environmental temperatures drop below the optimal values. Crested geckos thrive at temperatures between 72 to 80 F, preferably with a healthy day/night cycle variation.
After all, geckos are nocturnal animals, so they need the temperature to fluctuate to regulate their internal temperatures more easily.
If the temperature drops below those values, the chance that your gecko will brumate increases.
An important point to mention here is that there’s a difference between brumation and a period of low activity. Geckos’ physiology changes slightly depending on the environmental temperature.
If the temperatures are too low, the gecko’s metabolism will drop, causing the gecko to exhibit reduced physical activity, lower appetite, and an overall state of lethargy.
This isn’t the same as brumation, but it’s quite similar to it since it gives you a glimpse into the brumation process without your gecko actually experiencing one.
The problem with geckos raised in captivity is that they’re less likely to brumate.
After all, they live in a stable environment with fewer temperature fluctuations than they’re used to in the wild. This brings us to the question – should geckos brumate, or is that optional? We’ll look into this question shortly.
How Long do Crested Geckos Brumate?
The duration of the brumation period depends on the environment. Geckos can brumate for 2 weeks or 4 months precisely because they are always ready to resume their normal lives. That’s because the gecko’s internal clock doesn’t lie.
The moment that the weather conditions have improved and the air is warming up, the gecko’s metabolism will reactivate in full force, causing the gecko to end its brumation.
The lizard will also interrupt its brumation occasionally, depending on environmental temperature. The reptile will use the several sunny days available during the cold season to reactivate and look for food and water.
As soon as the temperatures drop again, the gecko will resume its brumation.
Is Brumation Good for Crested Geckos?
There are some gecko-related studies that have looked into the brumation process and its effects on gecko’s physiology, but the findings aren’t rock solid.
It appears that brumation helps geckos with the breeding process and keeps the reptile more comfortable in the long run.
These benefits are usually linked to the brumation process mimicking the reptile’s natural lifestyle in the wild.
Do Crested Geckos Need to Brumate?
They don’t necessarily need to brumate, but you can use the reptile’s predisposition towards brumation to your advantage.
Many gecko breeders help their reptiles brumate to pause their breeding. This is to avoid dealing with gravid geckos and the subsequent babies and allow females to regrow their strengths after being constantly poked at by the males.
However, if you only have one gecko, you probably don’t need to induce brumation. The reptile will do just fine without.
That’s because brumation is an optional natural process as the lizards only use it as a reactionary method when environmental conditions are suboptimal.
So long as your terrarium’s temperature is stable, your gecko won’t brumate and won’t display the need to.
How do You Care for Crested Gecko During Brumation?
If, for whatever reason, you’ve established that brumation is necessary for your gecko, consider the following:
- Adult and healthy geckos-only – Sick geckos and juveniles under the age of 1 shouldn’t undergo brumation. They might not make it through the process. Only allow your gecko to brumate if it’s 2 years of age or older and in pristine health condition.
- Prepare the gecko for brumation – Weigh your gecko and feed it plenty before going into brumation. Corroborate your gecko’s size and weight with its age to verify that its body indicators are normal. Geckos won’t consume a lot of calories during brumation (not at all usually) since their metabolism will slow to a halt in most cases. Even so, the gecko needs to be in top shape before experiencing brumation. Otherwise, its body won’t be able to sustain itself through the process.
- Ask a professional – Always discuss the brumation process with someone proficient at it to detail its implementation, risks, and DIY strategies. This will eliminate or at least minimize some notorious risks that may cause the entire process to derail. You should also discuss with your gecko-specialized vet the process to provide the gecko with all the support it needs during brumation.
- Keep temperatures stable – If the temperatures fluctuate too much, the lizard may end the brumation state. Find the golden value and monitor the temperatures regularly to preserve the system’s stability and keep the brumation period going.
- Water is necessary – When full brumation sets in, the gecko will stop eating completely. However, it still needs water to hydrate its body. So, always have a bowl of water nearby for when the lizard gets thirsty. Make sure to place the bowl in its proximity since brumating geckos don’t move too much during the process.
- Managing light and temperature – The ideal brumating conditions should mimic those that the gecko is likely to experience in the wild. When it comes to temperature, aim for 68 F during the day and 64-63 F during nighttime. Most importantly, drop the temperature gradually over the course of several days to help the gecko experience a smoother transition and allow its metabolism time to adjust. Regarding lighting, you should lower the gecko’s daytime period to 10 hours instead of the summer-specific 14 hours.
- Mist the habitat – Geckos require similar humidity levels during the brumation period, but this isn’t the main reason why you should mist their habitat. In reality, the reason for that is providing the geckos with ready-to-drink water, which will accumulate on plant leaves and other terrarium decorations. Geckos will consume bowl water only when there’s no other water source. Other than that, they prefer drinking water droplets from surrounding plants, especially since those are readily available in their proximity. So, they won’t need to move and search for water, especially in their sluggish brumation state.
- Craft a gecko-oriented safe space – Geckos are vulnerable during brumation since they are unable to protect themselves from predators that could take advantage of their vulnerable state. To help them feel at ease, decorate their environment with some plants, wood, coconut hides, and other elements that would shield the reptile. This will provide the gecko with ease of mind, allowing it to enter the brumating state easier.
Other than that, you should also monitor your gecko during the brumation period and always weigh the lizard regularly. If you notice any concerning weight loss, stop the brumation process by increasing the temperature gradually.
You should then speak to your vet to understand what’s causing the reptile’s body to react that way.
Do Crested Geckos Eat During Brumation?
No, crested geckos don’t eat during brumation, but it depends, really. If the brumation hasn’t set in full force, the reptile might have a snack or 2 occasionally.
If the gecko is in a full brumating state, it won’t eat anymore since it will no longer experience hunger. It will, however, experience thirst.
So, as I’ve already mentioned, always have water ready for whenever your gecko needs to drink.
Crested geckos will brumate in the wild when forced by the ever-changing environmental conditions. The duration of the brumation correlates to the shifts in the environmental temperatures.
If you want your gecko to brumate, follow this guide and, most importantly, consult with a gecko specialist beforehand.