Do Crested Geckos Smell Bad?

If you’ve ever had a fish tank or a reptile vivarium or known someone who did, you’ve probably grown accustomed to the sometimes weird and foul odor associated with those habitats.

Fish tanks, especially, can produce some quite unpleasant smells when the water gets dirty. A similar problem relates to crested gecko tanks.

Crested geckos are not known to be smelly animals. In fact, they are often praised for being clean and odor-free pets. However, like all animals, they can sometimes emit a faint smell. This is usually nothing to worry about and can be easily remedied with a quick cleaning.

Some gecko environments will release quite a powerful odor, but what is the cause?

Do Crested Geckos Have Odor?

No, crested geckos do not smell. The smell you’re getting comes from the gecko’s environment, not the animal itself. This is an important point because many gecko keepers look for solutions to a problem that doesn’t actually exist.

They will investigate and disturb the lizard, take it to the vet, and disrupt its peaceful lifestyle for nothing.

In reality, it’s the gecko’s habitat that’s responsible for the unpleasant odor. Learning the reason(s) behind the foul odor is imperative to treat and prevent more severe problems along the way.

It is also the key to keeping your gecko’s hygiene in check since unclean terrariums will eventually affect your lizard’s wellbeing.

What Causes Bad Smell in Crested Gecko Tank?

The first task of the day – identify the source of the smell. This is easier said than done, especially if you actually have a somewhat decent maintenance routine. However, even then, the gecko’s habitat can sometimes become slightly foul.

Some of the most common causes include:

  • Accumulated gecko droppings – Geckos urinate and defecate in one go. Their urine is actually solid, often mingled with the poo. However, geckos will often experience digestive issues and diarrhea due to some digestive problems or parasitic infections. In this case, the lizard’s poo isn’t visible as it usually gets sucked into the substrate. With time, the accumulated uric acid will change the substrate’s chemistry and release a distinct, foul smell.
  • Uneaten food – This is another common issue since many gecko owners will feed their pets more than they can handle. This will lead to some food getting lost in the habitat, among plants, leaves, and other decorative elements. Dead insects are especially a cause for concern since they represent organic matter which will eventually decay. And we all know what decaying organic matter smells like.
  • Bacterial accumulation – The formation of bad bacteria and mold are common in moist and warm environments, similar to those geckos prefer. ‘Bad bacteria’ is a term describing indigenous microorganisms that feed on decaying matter, the type of which we’ve already mentioned. Not cleaning the tank regularly will cause these bacteria to thrive and fill the air with a very unpleasant odor.
  • Stale water – Stale water stinks; it’s as simple as that. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen overnight. So, you would need to not change your gecko’s water bowl for days or weeks, which seems unimaginable. But it’s not like it has never happened.

As you can see, most of these problems are the direct result of poor tank maintenance and inadequate gecko care.

Suffice to say, the solutions are fairly obvious. Just in case they’re not, we’ll discuss them more in-depth shortly.

How to Eliminate the Bad Smell?

To eliminate the bad smell, you must first identify the cause.

I would suggest several relevant strategies in this sense:

  • Eliminate visible organic matter – Clean the gecko’s habitat of any food residues and poop you can find. This is the first line of offense since it’s the easiest to apply. Ideally, you should clean your gecko’s habitat daily, especially since the job should take more than a couple of minutes.
  • Disinfect the habitat – You can use reptile-specific sterilizing solutions that are safe for your gecko. These chemicals are designed to eliminate germs, parasites, and bacterial organisms lurking in your gecko’s habitat. You can also resort to some DIY disinfection tactics by boiling various elements present in your gecko’s habitat. This goes for anything that can withstand boiling or baking, like fiber and wood. You can also use a steam cleaner for similar effects.
  • Perform general cleaning – This refers to eliminating any signs of mold or fungi that may have grown on the terrarium’s walls, plants, or any other decorative elements. These organisms thrive in humid and warm environments, which is why preventive cleaning is key to preventing their spread.
  • Clean or replace the substrate – This is important because, in many cases, the previous 3 strategies I’ve mentioned will get you nowhere. The smell will still linger. In that case, the problem may be the substrate itself. Depending on the material, the substrate will retain moisture and absorb various liquids, including ones they’re not supposed to. Check your substrate’s expiration date, which will differ based on the type of substrate you’re using. Some may need replacement weekly, monthly, or every 5-6 months, as is the case with plain soil.
  • Check your gecko – In some cases, the smell will actually come from your gecko. More precisely, it’s due to feces and dead organic matter getting stuck on the lizard’s skin, tail, or between its toes. It’s unpleasant, but nothing that a lukewarm sauna-like bath can’t fix. If the deposits are already soft and can be removed easily, use a piece of cloth to clean them gently. If not, place the gecko in a separate container on top of a towel doused in lukewarm water. You can then mist the gecko’s habitat to speed up the process. Just don’t do this too often since geckos kind of hate the process.

If it wasn’t clear by now, all these solutions boil down to one simple conclusion – regular and thorough maintenance is key.

Will the Bad Smell Go Away on its Own?

Whether the smell will go away on its own or not depends on its causes. In some cases, it will go away sooner, in others will take longer.

Sometimes, the smell will only worsen with time, causing the gecko to experience health problems soon. Not to mention, having a foul odor emanating from your gecko’s enclosure isn’t exactly a pleasant experience.

So, don’t wait for the smell out, especially since its causes may not be quite benign.

Will the Bad Smell Affect My Crested Gecko?

Yes, the smell will most likely affect the gecko, but that’s not the real danger. The real danger relates to what’s causing the smell in the first place.

To better understand the dynamics present here, always keep in mind that the bad smell is the result of bacterial activity. There’s no way around this.

Whether the smell is caused by stale water, decaying food leftovers, mold, or gecko droppings, bad bacteria are the smell-causing agents in all cases.

These organisms will soon cause your gecko to experience health issues like respiratory infections, skin infections, and eye, mouth, and digestive problems.

Then there’s the issue of stress. The foul odors will disturb your gecko’s peace and relaxed demeanor and cause it to stress out. Stressed geckos will soon develop health problems due to a weaker immune system.

This opens the door too often to severe bacterial and parasitic infections, some with deadly outcomes.

How to Prevent Crested Gecko Tank to Stink?

Prevention is always preferable to treatment, and this stays true in this case as well.

If you want to keep your gecko’s tank from smelling, consider the following:

  • Daily poop removal – Geckos won’t’ always poop daily, but when they do, it needs to go. Stale poop will seep into the substrate and eliminate ammonia and other chemicals that will promote bad bacteria and foul odors. Check your gecko’s habitat daily and eliminate any droppings you may notice laying around. If none are visible, consider checking under leaves and plants without disturbing your gecko in the process.
  • Daily and regular tank cleaning – I would say that the gecko’s habitat requires regular cleaning, preferably every other day, depending on each case. Clean any mold deposits, eliminate any fungi visible and keep the gecko’s water clean and fresh. This should be enough to prevent any unpleasant odors in the long run.
  • Prevent overfeeding and eliminate leftovers – Geckos thrive on live insects and overripe fruits, but these foods will begin to decay fast in a humid and warm setting. You should always feed your geckos as much as they can consume in one meal and remove any leftovers on site. This will prevent the accumulation of food residues with a high environmental print.
  • Clean your gecko regularly – All geckos will accumulate dirt, poop, and dead plant matter between their toes or tails. These will harden with time, rot, and contribute to the nasty odor emanating from your gecko’s habitat. You can prevent this by cleaning or bathing your gecko regularly, although I would advise the former. Geckos don’t like being disturbed or handled too much, so the cleaning process should be effective and brief. Hold the gecko gently into your hand and use a wet piece of cloth to remove any residues between the lizard’s toes or around its skin and tail. Don’t squeeze the gecko’s tail since this could trigger the lizard to lose it.

In essence, performing regular maintenance will prevent most of the problems responsible for any unpleasant odors.


Geckos aren’t too difficult to keep and maintain. They only require peace, optimal environmental parameters, and a nutritious diet plan, and they will thrive.

Fortunately, casual cleaning is also sufficient to prevent unwanted smells and keep your gecko’s habitat fresh and healthy.

avatar William
William is a respected pet enthusiast with expertise in reptiles and birds. With extensive experience caring for these animals, he shares his knowledge through engaging and informative articles in various publications. He is an active member of pet-related organizations, volunteering regularly at shelters and promoting animal welfare and conservation. read more...

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