Do Crested Geckos Play Dead?

If you’re not that familiar with geckos and reptile behavior in general, you might get spooked at some of your gecko’s behaviors. The “play dead” aspect always comes to mind, especially since it’s quite common among reptiles and other animals as well.

In short, crested geckos don’t play dead, although it sometimes seems like that. This can sometimes sound an alarm signal, despite the gecko only displaying normal ectothermic behavior.

As a cold-blooded animal, the crested gecko isn’t particularly active since it’s preserving its energy for when it matters, like hunting and running away from predators.

In general, it’s normal to see your gecko motionless. Sometimes, though, your gecko’s lethargy may be an indicator that something’s wrong with it. But what?

Why is My Crested Gecko Not Moving?

There are several reasons why geckos aren’t moving. Learning to distinguish between them is key to better understanding your gecko’s behavior.

Here are some potential causes to look into:

  • The gecko is dead – This is the first thing you should investigate since it’s the first thing that comes to mind. It won’t always be clear that the gecko is dead, especially since these reptiles are naturally inclined towards a more lethargic behavior. To verify whether it’s still alive, check its breathing and verify its response to physical stimuli. You can even pick it up to grasp its pulse and see if it reacts to the touch. If the gecko shows no sign of life, it may be deceased.
  • The gecko is sick – Geckos tend to display a lethargic behavior when experiencing physical discomfort. In most cases, the reptile will deal with parasites, bacteria, or digestive problems, at which point it will render itself motionless for extended periods. Many geckos will look for a hiding spot or bury themselves in the substrate in an attempt to ‘run away’ from their pain. Diagnose the lizard’s overall health and look for signs of any illness. If nothing comes out, speak to a vet about the potential causes that may elude you.
  • The temperature is not right – Whether the temperature is too high or too low, the gecko will display similar behavior. It will bury itself in the substrate, look for a hiding spot, and attempt to cool off or warm up its body. That being said, geckos tend to grow more lethargic when the temperature is lower since the lizard will attempt to preserve its energy. If the temperature remains inappropriately low for extended periods, the gecko will drop its metabolism and even begin to brumate (a process similar to hibernation.)
  • The gecko is sleeping and resting – It’s normal to see the gecko pretty much motionless during the day since this is a nocturnal animal. It will do most of its physical activities like eating, strolling, drinking water, and playing during nighttime. The daytime period is reserved for resting for the most part, although the gecko will move to drink some water or change position at times.
  • Inappropriate lighting – Geckos require a healthy day/night cycle to remain healthy and regulate their internal processes more effectively. The problem is that some more inexperienced gecko keepers leave their lamps on 24/7, which will confuse the lizard. This will cause it to remain motionless for the most part since it keeps waiting for the nighttime to arrive. The solution is rather simple. Provide your gecko with 12-14 hours of light and 12-10 hours of darkness.
  • The gecko is stressed – Geckos will get stressed for a variety of reasons, including disease, inappropriate food, the ‘new tank syndrome,’ the terrarium being too large, etc. When stressed, geckos will typically become motionless, which is an attempt to shield themselves from whatever’s stressing them. Many geckos will hide in the terrarium and burrow through the substrate in search of relief. If your gecko shows signs of stress, investigate its situation and try to uncover the reasons for its behavior.
  • Improper habitat – This may be an unexpected entry, but geckos are quite pretentious about their habitat’s layout. They will get stressed if the terrarium is too big, for one, which is counterintuitive. Most other pets enjoy having more space at their disposal, but geckos don’t function like that. The larger their habitat is, the more difficult will be for them to find water and food. They will also feel less safe. So, one gecko should have 20 gallons at its disposal at most. The terrarium’s layout should also cater to the gecko’s natural needs, relying on branches, wood, plants, and leaves to mimic the lizard’s natural habitat.

In short, most of your gecko’s problems will stem from stress, and your job is to prevent and address the underlying stress triggers.

This may be easier said than done, at least until you get more acquainted with your gecko’s behavior and learn what makes it tick.

What are the Signs that Your Crested Gecko is Dying?

First, we should mention that geckos can actually die due to stress. It’s not that stress will kill them directly, but it will affect the lizard’s behavior in the long run. As a result, the gecko will eat less, and its immune system will drop, leaving it vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies, bacterial infections, and parasites.

So, always treat your gecko’s stress with the importance it deserves.

Coming back to the main question, geckos will exhibit several signs when near death:

  • Loss of appetite – This is the first indicator that something’s not right. Adult geckos eat once every couple of days, generally speaking. It’s not normal for them to refuse food, especially after fasting for 48-72 hours.
  • Spending too much time in the cold side of the tank – It’s unclear why geckos resort to this behavior when getting close to dying, but there you have it. Your terrarium will have a natural temperature gradient, as it fits a gecko, allowing the lizard to change its position depending on its needs. If the gecko spends too much time in the cold area, something’s wrong.
  • Spending too much time in the warm side of the tank – This isn’t necessarily a sign that the gecko is dying, but more one that the lizard’s trying to fight off parasites. Geckos display this behavior in the wild as well. In short, internal parasites cannot survive past certain temperatures. If the gecko’s body warms well enough, it might start dying. The gecko knows this instinctively and will attempt to increase its body temperature. So, consider checking your gecko for parasites if it spends too much time in the hot zone.
  • Signs of MBD – Metabolic Bone Disease is common in some geckos. This disorder is the result of severe calcium deficiency, and it’s usually deadly, especially in more advanced cases. If your gecko showcases spine lumps, swollen limbs, or trembling, consider taking it to the vet. If the disease is too advanced, euthanasia may be your only option to spare the lizard of unnecessary suffering.
  • Accelerated breathing – This is usually a sign of respiratory infection, especially when paired with unexplained weight loss, lethargy, and lack of appetite. If your gecko appears to breathe fast or heavy, consider taking it to a vet. Early treatment could save your gecko’s life.

Other signs of a gecko dying include:

  • Sunken eyes, indicating internal infections or dehydration
  • Severe diarrhea or constipation, which indicates internal parasites or infections
  • Signs of severe dehydration (licking the eye membranes more often, dry skin, tail waving, sunken eyes), etc.

The idea is to treat each case according to its profile. Most importantly, always monitor your gecko’s behavior.

Doing so will often allow you to detect any potential problems in time and bring your gecko on the right track fast.

How to Tell if My Crested Gecko is Dead?

If you suspect your gecko may be dead, check its breathing and reaction to touches and being held. If the gecko is alive, it will display slow breathing (if it’s resting) and will react to the touch. Don’t get fooled by the gecko laying motionless with its eyes open. Geckos sleep like that, so just because it’s in that state doesn’t mean it’s dead.

You can also observe the gecko’s reaction to light. Its pupils will naturally dilate and react to a light source since this is an instinctive, biological reaction that the gecko cannot control.

However, don’t shine the light directly into the lizard’s eyes since this can stress it out. Unless it’s dead, in which case nothing will stress it out anymore.

Do Crested Geckos Die Easily?

This is a tricky question since the answer requires some added baggage. In short, no, geckos don’t die easily if ‘easily’ is disjointed from any circumstantial factor. To explain this even better, geckos will do well when properly cared for.

They need a nutritious diet, preferably with calcium and vitamin D3 supplementation, adequate temperature and humidity, and a clean and stress-free habitat.

In this context, geckos will thrive.

If, however, they lack adequate temperature and humidity, they starve or experience high and constant stress, they are at higher risk of dying.

So, you see, the answer depends on your case’s specifics. The good news is that geckos aren’t too pretentious about their habitat and care level.

Just provide their habitat with a lush and natural look, ensure an optimal temperature gradient, and feed them properly and they won’t ask for much else.

Conclusion

Geckos will never play dead. If they remain motionless for extended periods of time, assess their health and check their diet, humidity, temperature, and any other relevant metric.

The more thorough your efforts, the better the chances of saving your gecko’s life.

Crested Geckos   Reptiles   Updated: July 7, 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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