Do Crested Geckos Shed? All You Need to Know
If you’ve never had a gecko, or a reptile for that matter, before, prepare yourself for a unique pet-keeping experience.
Exotic pets will always come with unique characteristics and behaviors that you may not be accustomed to. This stays true for the crested gecko as well, thanks to its reptile-specific physiology that may seem awkward at first.
One of such unusual physiological attributes is the reptile’s ability to shed its skin. Believe it or not, there’s actually quite the confusion regarding the matter on various forums.
That’s because some people believe geckos don’t actually shed since they’ve never seen them do it.
To clear the air from the get-go, crested geckos do shed their skin. The problem is that they mostly do it at night since the shedding process can take time.
This will leave them vulnerable to predators, so they tend only to perform the process under the cover of darkness.
Then they will eat the old skin once the shedding is complete, leaving no trace on the ‘crime scene.’ So, there you go, mystery solved.
Why Do Crested Geckos Shed Their Skin?
It all has to do with the natural renewal process common to all living beings. All creatures, humans included, ‘shed’ their skin, except they do it differently.
For instance, it takes approximately 2 to 4 weeks for humans to shed their entire outer layer of skin.
This happens gradually, as you may suspect, in the form of tiny skin flakes flying away from our bodies and falling onto nearby surfaces.
These flakes form some of the dust in your room that you have no idea where it comes from. You’re welcome for this piece of information you probably didn’t want nor need.
Geckos, and reptiles in general, function differently. They shed their entire skin in one go which comes both with advantages and disadvantages.
On the one hand, the entire thing happens all at once, allowing the reptile to renew its body in one go. The skin shedding process is crucial for the gecko’s growth and health in the long run.
On the downside, the process will take time, during which the reptile is vulnerable to predation. Complications may also arise during the shedding, sometimes causing the gecko to even lose a limb in the process. This is a rare occurrence, however, but it’s worth mentioning anyway.
Then there’s a fact that geckos require specific environmental conditions to ensure the success of the shedding process.
Adequate humidity and temperature are the most important parameters in this sense.
How Often Do Crested Geckos Shed Their Skin?
The rate at which your gecko will shed its skin depends on the reptile’s age.
Younger geckos shed more often because they have a higher metabolism, so they grow faster.
Here are some points regarding gecko shedding to take with you:
- Hatchlings – Gecko hatchlings shed approximately every week since they are in full growth. They will also eat daily, preferably nutritious and protein-filled meals to support their higher metabolic rates. This means that hatchlings require a plus of care and maintenance. You need to supervise their environmental temperature and humidity more closely since any drastic fluctuations in these parameters will hurt them. And make sure that they have plenty of water and food available until their reach their juvenile years.
- Juvenile – Juvenile geckos will shed their skin approximately once every couple of weeks. Their growth rate is slowing down a bit, and they will shed rarer with time. It’s important to provide geckos with adequate environmental parameters during this time to prevent any complications during the shedding. The shedding process will remain a sensitive one for the duration of the gecko’s life. It will not get easier with time.
- Adults – Adult geckos will only shed once every 2 weeks; a period which will dilute even more with time. Older geckos will only shed once per month since their metabolism isn’t as demanding anymore.
All these timeframes will differ slightly from case to case. What doesn’t change is the fact that geckos do shed.
It doesn’t matter if you won’t see them do it; it will happen. Sometimes they eat their old skin, other times they won’t, in which case you will be able to see the proof hanging from a branch or something.
What Does Shedding Skin Looks Like for a Crested Gecko?
The gecko’s behavior during the shedding process can appear curios and unexpected to many people.
If you’ve never witnessed a gecko shedding its skin, here’s how that goes.
Once the reptile is ready to shed, it will often begin to rub against various hard surfaces around its habitat.
Preferably rugged like branches and wood, allowing the lizard to separate the old skin from the newer one.
This rubbing behavior won’t remove the old skin, but it will make the process easier.
The actual shedding begins with the gecko using its tongue to remove parts of the skin near the snout and face. The old skin should peel off fairly easily, provided the optimal environmental conditions, and the gecko is in good health.
The lizard will then use its tongue to remove the skin from its entire body and eat it. It does so to get valuable nutrients and cover its tracks in case there’s any predator nearby catching the lizard’s scent after sniffing its skin leftovers.
I know geckos don’t have any predators in a terrarium, but their biology doesn’t know that.
How Can You Tell When Your Crested Gecko is About to Shed Its Skin?
You should be able to easily tell when your crested gecko is getting ready to shed. The first sign comes in the form of color and texture changes.
The gecko’s skin will appear drier and duller in coloring as if it’s aging fast. You don’t need to be alarmed as these symptoms are usual in a shedding gecko.
Plus, your lizard may showcase a reduced appetite or even refrain from eating for several days prior to shedding.
This is a more sensitive point since geckos may refuse food for a variety of reasons.
Make sure you eliminate other factors like illness, digestive problems, or improper food when assessing this behavior.
As usual, provide the gecko with sufficient water and high humidity (preferably in the mid-70s) to make sure that the shedding process goes as planned.
Is It Normal for Crested Geckos to Eat Their Shed Skin?
It is not only normal for geckos to eat their shed skin but recommended as well. That’s because geckos are usually fast in preparation for the shedding process.
So, they need to replenish their nutrients fast, and the skin is packed with them. As I’ve mentioned earlier, they also do this to protect themselves from predation.
So, expect your gecko to eat its skin with each shedding.
Do Crested Geckos Need Help Shedding?
Yes, crested geckos need help shedding. However, knowing what type of help they need is crucial in the big picture.
Normally, geckos don’t need any outside help to shed in the wild, provided the conditions are optimal. If they aren’t, the gecko may experience problems during the process, which can end up killing the lizard.
Obviously, you can’t afford that risk, given that the crested gecko can live up to 20 years in captivity.
So, to provide it with adequate help, you must first learn the risks and problems that may occur during shedding.
The most noticeable problem is the incomplete shedding. This phenomenon is known as dysecdysis, and it manifests via patches of dead skin remaining attached to the reptile after the shedding is complete.
They are most noticeable around the gecko’s toes and tail but can be visible in other areas as well.
At this point, you will need to intervene and remove the patches manually. That’s because the dead skin restricts your lizard’s blood flow in that area which can lead to circulatory issues or even gangrene.
There are several reasons for your gecko experiencing dysecdysis, including low humidity and health problems.
To remove your gecko’s skin easily, consider increasing the environmental humidity to 80%. This will cause the skin to loosen up, allowing you to remove it easier.
Ideally, you should allow the gecko the time to moisten up its skin for about 20 minutes. The problem is that not all geckos have the patience to undergo a 20-minute sauna.
In that case, I recommend using a shedding aid kit which is designed to help you precisely with that. Whatever you do, avoid pulling the skin off.
The process should be smooth and easy, and if the skin doesn’t come off easily, don’t use force, or you could hurt the gecko.
Since we’re at this topic, let’s discuss humidity a bit. Everybody knows that low humidity will affect geckos, especially during the shedding process.
But not everybody knows that the same goes for high humidity as well. So, more is not always better in this case.
Geckos can withstand, and require, a humidity level between 80 and 90% when shedding, but only for short periods, in bursts.
If you maintain that humidity level for too long, the gecko’s old skin will actually stick to the new one underneath. This will often lead to skin rot and fungal infections with deadly potential.
So, always be careful how you adjust your reptile’s humidity parameters.
Can You Hold a Gecko While It Is Shedding?
You can, of course, you do, but you shouldn’t. Crested geckos will display a different behavior when the shedding comes.
You should see your lizard becoming shier and more lethargic, eating less, and hide around its habitat more often. This is a sign that the gecko doesn’t want to be disturbed.
Not to mention, geckos never like to be held. The fact that the lizard goes into the shedding state will exacerbate those feelings.
Also, handling the gecko during this sensitive period can actually interfere with the shedding process. Avoid doing that to prevent any complications along the way.
The skin shedding process is part of the gecko’s natural growth mechanism.
The entire process can last around 30 minutes, but this generally depends on a variety of factors like humidity, temperature, and the lizard’s overall health state.
- Don’t bother and don’t hold the reptile during shedding
- Ensure adequate humidity (75-80%, especially during nighttime)
- Only increase the humidity to 80% for short periods to prevent any health complications
- Monitor your gecko during shedding to make sure everything goes as planned
In case of any complications, we’ve discussed the potential fixes to consider.