Do Crested Geckos Need Calcium?
Crested Geckos have special dietary needs. Like any animal, they need a certain quantity of macronutrients and micronutrients each day.
One of these micronutrients is calcium. Cresties require this mineral for a variety of reasons. A calcium deficiency can be very hard on your Gecko’s body and might even prove fatal.
It sounds scary, but don’t worry. A calcium deficiency is easily avoidable if you tweak your Gecko’s diet. I’ll teach you how in today’s article. But first, let’s talk about the many functions of calcium, and what can go wrong when your Gecko gets too little.
Why is Calcium Important for Crested Geckos?
Calcium fulfills multiple important functions in a Gecko’s body. This mineral is crucial for growth, healthy bones, proper electrolyte balance, proper micronutrient absorption, and even egg production.
Too little calcium could cause issues such as poor growth, fragile bones, muscle and heart problems, organ damage, nutrient imbalances, and misshapen eggs.
Let’s look at how it all works:
Calcium is the most important mineral for bone formation and growth. Without calcium, the Gecko’s body has no raw materials to build new bone structures. Without extra calcium to spend, the body can’t afford to increase the Gecko’s bone mass and size.
A calcium-deficient diet can thus lead to stunted growth in juvenile Crested Geckos. The first 12 months in a Crestie’s life represent a critical point in development.
Sadly, once this growth spurt is over, the Gecko can’t catch up on the missed developments.
· Healthy Bones
Calcium is not just for building bones. It also helps maintain them! This mineral remains crucial throughout your Crested Gecko’s life, even after your pet stops growing. Without enough calcium in the diet, your Gecko’s bones will slowly get depleted.
Calcium depletion can affect not only the bones but also the rest of the body. As the bones become porous and weak, your Gecko can develop Metabolic Bone Disease.
This disease is incurable and results in a myriad of symptoms, such as:
- Softening of the jaw
- Poor appetite
- Poor posture
- Bowed legs
- Unusual gait
- Muscle weakness
- Hard lumps on the legs and back
- Muscle spasms
- Paralysis of the hindlimbs
BMD is not a direct cause of death. However, its symptoms, especially decreased appetite and lethargy can lead to starvation, which can kill your Crestie.
· Electrolyte Balance
Calcium is a mineral. Minerals act as electrolytes in the body. And what exactly do electrolytes do? They help maintain hydration levels, as well as the proper functioning of the heart, muscles, brain, and other organs.
Any mineral deficiency, including calcium, can lead to an electrolyte imbalance. This means that low calcium intake can lead to dehydration, muscular spasms, heart problems, lethargy, and more. Not fun!
Muscular spasms can result in weakness and tremors. In female Geckos, muscle problems can make egg-laying more difficult or impossible.
If the problem persists, the female Gecko can develop organ prolapse, a life-threatening condition.
The problems don’t stop here! Both male and female Geckos with a calcium deficiency can potentially suffer from liver and kidney damage.
This deficiency also leads to reduced nerve function and blood-clotting problems.
· Micronutrient Absorption
Nutrients usually work together in the body. For example, vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium, fats help with the absorption of vitamin A, and so on.
Well, calcium also helps your Gecko stabilize other nutrients!
Geckos require calcium to maintain the proper phosphorus balance in their bodies. That’s why the calcium to phosphorus ratio is so important for Geckos.
Ideally, your Gecko should consume twice as much calcium as it does phosphorus.
Calcium and phosphorus compete with one another for absorption. Without a proper ratio, your Gecko will get too much phosphorus, and not enough calcium.
This can in turn lead to other nutrient imbalances and some of the aforementioned issues (BMD, electrolyte imbalances, and so on).
· Egg Production
Female Geckos can lay up to 8 clutches of eggs in a year. Whether mated or not, female Geckos will lay eggs throughout their lifetime.
If unmated, these eggs will be infertile. But this makes no difference to your Gecko’s health. All eggs, fertile or not, require a lot of nutrition from your female Gecko’s body.
This includes calcium, which is the major component of the eggshell. Repeated egg-laying will deplete your Gecko’s calcium stores, causing nutritional deficiencies and potential health problems.
If the eggs are fertile, they might come out misshapen.
The shell might also be too soft and prone to breakage. A decalcified eggshell leaves the baby Geckos vulnerable to outside factors like parameter fluctuations, bacteria, mold, and mechanical damage.
How to Provide Calcium for Your Crested Gecko?
There are a few ways to increase your Gecko’s calcium intake.
You can use any combination of them, or all of them, depending on the case:
The easiest way to raise your Gecko’s calcium intake is through supplement powders. If you aren’t using them at the moment, calcium supplement powders are a must!
These supplements come packed with bio-available calcium and vitamin D3.
The nutrients in such supplements are easy to absorb, just like your Crestie needs! Calcium supplements are also very easy to use.
All you have to do is dust your Gecko’s food well and shake it around to coat every morsel in the powder. You can use it to dust live insects and even pieces of fruit.
· Meal Replacement Powder
Meal replacement powders (MRPs) are another way to improve your Crestie’s calcium intake. Because MRPs are created to replace other meals, they’re designed to contain all the nutrients your Gecko needs.
This includes calcium and vitamin D3.
However, not all brands are created equal. Some contain too little calcium or no vitamin D3. Always check the nutrition labels before buying a product.
I should also mention that a calcium-rich MRP might not be enough for all Geckos.
Female Geckos have higher calcium needs than males. That’s because females need extra calcium for the eggs they lay. Most MRP manufacturers don’t consider this.
Thus, if you have female Geckos, you might have to still use a supplement besides the MRP.
· UVB Exposure
OK, so UVB light has nothing to do with calcium… at least not directly! However, ultraviolet light exposure does help your pet metabolize calcium more efficiently.
Direct exposure of the skin to UVB light helps your Gecko generate vitamin D3. And vitamin D3 is necessary for the absorption of calcium. You see where this is going.
If your Gecko’s diet contains no vitamin D3, all the calcium in the world won’t make a difference. But as little as 4 hours of UVB light per day will greatly improve your Crestie’s nutrient balance.
Make sure to check your Gecko’s calcium supplement and MRP labels. If the labels don’t list any vitamin D in the ingredients, it’s time for a shiny upgrade in your enclosure.
How Much Calcium Should Crested Gecko Have?
Your Crested Gecko will eat roughly three meals per week. You should include a source of calcium in each of these meals. If you feed your Gecko insects, dust them with a calcium supplement powder.
To dose the supplement properly, follow the instructions on the label. You don’t want to add too much or too little.
If you’re feeding your Gecko a meal replacement, always read the label first. If the food already contains calcium and vitamin D3, you don’t need to add any supplements.
But you’ll have to feed your Gecko an appropriate portion to ensure adequate calcium intake. Again, you’ll want to follow the dosage instructions on the label.
Female Geckos and juveniles have special calcium needs. Juveniles are still growing, while females are producing calcium-rich eggs. Thus, they need more calcium than the average adult Gecko male.
You’ll have to include a pure calcium supplement once a week. That’s beside a twice-weekly supplement containing both calcium and vitamin D.
Do Crested Geckos Need Calcium Every Day?
No, Cresties don’t need calcium every day. But they do need calcium at every meal. These reptiles have slow metabolisms, so they don’t daily.
A Crested Gecko adult will typically eat three times a week. You should include calcium in each of these three meals.
A baby Gecko is still growing, so it eats more often— roughly four to five times a week. They need a calcium supplement three times a week, plus a multivitamin supplement once per week.
Gravid female Geckos should also consume calcium three times a week, but they need a slightly larger dose than the males.
What are the Signs of Calcium Deficiency in Crested Geckos?
Calcium deficiency can affect multiple parts of the body, including the bones, the heart, the kidneys, the reproductive system, and so on. Thus, calcium deficiency can manifest in many different ways.
Here are some of the most common signs of calcium deficiency in Crested Geckos:
- Poor appetite and weight loss
- Poor posture, crooked back
- Bowed legs and other limb deformities
- Swollen limbs
- Softening of the jaw
- Thinning or crooked tail
- Muscle weakness and twitching
- Inability to lift belly off the ground
- Unusual gait and tremors
- Hard lumps on the legs and spine
- Paralysis of the hindlimbs
- Females laying misshapen or soft-shelled eggs
- Small or depleted calcium sacs
These symptoms spread across multiple diseases. Some of them are life-threatening and irreversible.
These include symptoms of MBD, such as bowed legs, softening of the jaw, crooked tail, hard lumps on legs, fractures, and paralysis.
Other symptoms are less serious and often reversible. The first and least threatening symptom of calcium deficiency is depleted calcium sacs.
If you notice this in your Geckos, it’s time to include more calcium in the diet before the problem worsens!
What Are Crested Gecko Calcium Sacs?
Calcium sacs are light-colored, bubble-like bumps in a Gecko’s mouth. They are located on the roof of the mouth, pretty close to the back of the tongue. They serve as a storage space for calcium.
Your Gecko will tap into these reserves when the body needs additional calcium such as during the breeding season or when your pet has a calcium deficiency.
The bigger the calcium sacs, the more calcium your Gecko has stored. The reverse is also true. Small calcium sacs indicate low calcium intake.
Rapidly-shrinking calcium sacs might signal the beginning of a calcium deficiency. It’s important to check the calcium sacs regularly, especially while your female Geckos are laying eggs.
Calcium is a crucial nutrient. It’s necessary for multiple functions in the body, including growth, maintaining bone mass, egg production, and maintaining proper organ and muscle function.
You need to provide adequate calcium if you want your Crested Gecko to consume a balanced and health-promoting diet.
Failure to provide your Gecko with a nutritious, balanced diet will lead to deficiencies. The first signs of a calcium deficiency include small or depleted calcium sacs, females laying soft or misshapen eggs, lethargy, and poor appetite.
If you notice these symptoms, contact your vet immediately. In the meantime, you should tweak your Gecko’s diet to include more calcium.
You can include calcium in your Gecko’s diet in two ways. First, you can use a calcium supplement to dust your pet’s insects and fruit.
Secondly, you can purchase a balanced meal replacement powder. Check the label to ensure that the MRP contains an adequate quantity of calcium and vitamin D3.