Dehydrated Crested Gecko – Signs & Treatment

Environmental humidity is among the most critical metrics to consider for your crested gecko’s habitat. If the humidity is subpar, the gecko will experience health problems, dehydration often being the most severe and only the beginning. The gecko then risks developing respiratory infections, dramatically increasing the risk of sudden death.

dehydrated crested gecko

The interesting thing is that dehydration has many potential triggers, not just the low humidity. Higher-than-normal temperatures can also contribute to the problem, as are the excess of dry food and insufficient drinking water. You should learn how to identify the early signs of dehydration so you can treat your reptile properly.

So, let’s get into that!

Signs of Crested Gecko Dehydration

Crested geckos display a variety of foretelling signs, many of which become visible early on before the condition sets in properly. This should allow you to detect them and treat the gecko accordingly before the situation aggravates any further. The primary signs of gecko dehydration include:

– Sunken Eyes

The gecko’s eyes typically protrude a bit which will change fast in case of dehydration. The sunken eyes syndrome is quite telling in this sense. The gecko will showcase withdrawn eyeballs that appear flat instead of round. The sunken eyes are generally the result of the gecko itself sucking them in to protect them from dryness.

Just keep in mind that geckos also showcase sunken eyes without being dehydrated. They do so when eating and hunting to protect their eyes and when sleeping. So, make sure your gecko isn’t doing any of these things when assessing its condition.

– Dry Skin

This is also among the first signs of dehydration to look for. Normally, your gecko’s skin should be soft, smooth, and even moist at times, depending on environmental humidity. Geckos tend to collect water from the vegetation around them. If the plants are misty and wet, you can see the effects on your gecko’s skin.

If the gecko is dehydrated, the skin will look and feel dry and rough. It also retains its form if you pinch it gently because of the low water content instead of bouncing back as normal. This is the result of the skin losing its elasticity.

– Sticky Tongue

Touch your gecko’s tongue to check its surface. The tongue should be slippery and wet, not sticky. If it’s sticky, your gecko is thirsty and dehydrated, so you must replenish its water source quickly.

– Lethargy

Geckos become stressed when lacking water or food or when environmental parameters are suboptimal. They will exhibit specific behaviors in these circumstances, lethargy being the most visible one. The reptile’s lethargic response is both due to its stress and the physiological response to dehydration.

The gecko will refrain from moving as much to conserve energy and water until the situation is resolved. Always assess your gecko’s condition if it appears lethargic and non-responsive, especially since this symptom can indicate an array of different problems.

– Curly Tail and Toes

crested gecko curly toes

A curly tail and toes signify advanced dehydration because of the reptile’s skin and muscles no longer functioning properly. A dehydrated brain will misfire electric signals into the muscles, often causing cramps and improper functioning. The reptile’s tail may curl backward, and so are the toes, causing the gecko difficulties climbing and sticking to the walls.

Please, note that geckos keep their toes curled up naturally when walking on horizontal surfaces. This is to prevent the toe pads from sticking onto the walking surface, making movement more difficult.

A curly tail may also signify calcium deficiency and even Metabolic Bone Disease. So, your gecko may require a more in-depth clinical assessment to eliminate those possibilities off the list.

– Toes Not Sticking

The gecko’s toes may no longer provide adequate gripping power. This can have catastrophic results as the gecko may fall and injure itself. If your gecko appears unable to climb on its favorite branches or even the tank walls, check its health state more closely.

Also, check the environment itself. Geckos can have difficulties climbing if the habitat is too humid as well or if the terrarium walls are too dirty and mucky.

– Loss of Appetite

Your gecko will stop eating if it becomes too dehydrated. This is a natural physiological response because it delays the impact of dehydration. It doesn’t feel right to eat when dehydrated, which makes sense. Eating increases the body’s need for water which can only contribute to the problem.

If your gecko doesn’t want to eat, don’t force-feed it. Instead, check whether it’s dehydrated and replenish its water source. The reptile’s appetite will return to normal as soon as the dehydration is addressed properly.

– Protruding Hips and Ribs

This is a confusing one, but it makes sense. Your gecko appears thinner and malnourished when severely dehydrated. This isn’t because the gecko is losing weight but because the skin loses water and thins out excessively. This can make the ribs and hip bones stick out, creating the illusion that the gecko has lost weight.

Naturally, the reason for your gecko’s appearance can, in fact, be a sudden weight loss, so always diagnose the reptile properly. It’s not normal for geckos to lose weight at an accelerated pace. If that happens, the reason is most likely MBD or a type of intestinal parasite like a flatworm, depriving the reptile from its necessary nutrients.

Treating Dehydrated Crested Gecko

Now that you’ve determined that your gecko is dehydrated, it’s time to address the problem immediately. Your approach depends on your gecko’s condition. So, you have three potential situations to worry about:

– Mild Dehydration

This is only ‘surface’ dehydration, pretty much the level beyond ‘the gecko is thirsty.’ The most compelling signs of mild dehydration include sunken eyes, lethargy, sticky tongue, and even increased alertness as the gecko is looking for water. In this case, you only need to spray your gecko’s habitat and soak the gecko in a lukewarm bath to restore water reserves fast.

The spraying is necessary, though, because geckos drink water from surrounding vegetation. Even so, they should have a water bowl available anyway in case they need a swift bath occasionally. The water bowl will also gradually release water into the atmosphere, preserving the enclosure’s humidity levels.

– Moderate Dehydration

At this point, you should contact your vet for assistance. The level of dehydration your gecko is experiencing is beyond what you can manage at home. The expert will recommend long soaks and even administer fluids in a controlled environment for a quick and safe recovery.

At this point, the gecko may no longer eat, will showcase a dry skin, and appear lethargic and depressed.

– Severe Dehydration

Normally, your gecko should never reach this stage, but it can happen. Especially if you lack experience in gecko keeping or simply forget to check humidity levels for a while. The best course of action is contacting the vet and have the pet professional administer fluids intravenously. The expert will also keep the gecko under supervision for a while until the reptile shows signs of recovery.

After that, you should provide your gecko with adequate humidity and sufficient water to ensure gradual recovery and prevent dehydration moving forward.

Keeping Crested Gecko Hydrated

This is easier than you’d think, as spraying the gecko’s habitat regularly is generally enough to prevent dehydration. Also, have a bowl with fresh water in the gecko’s habitat and rely on a good hygrometer to assess environmental humidity and address imbalances in time.

Moving forward, make sure you include fruits in your gecko’s diet. Geckos get much of their water and electrolytes from moist fruits like pears, watermelons, apples, strawberries, and others.

How Long Can Crested Gecko Go Without Water?

Crested geckos can only survive about a week without water and approximately two-three weeks without food. However, make sure you understand and interpret this timeframe properly. The one-week timeframe is the maximum, so you can’t allow your gecko to get there just because it’s within the acceptable limit.

Your crested gecko will display significant health problems before reaching the one-week mark. In many cases, while the gecko will survive the week without water, it may sustain irreversible physiological damage because of it. You shouldn’t keep your gecko even a day without sufficient water.


Crested geckos are hardy animals, but they require specific conditions to thrive. Environmental humidity and sufficient water sources are key to keeping your gecko well-hydrated and in top shape. Make sure you understand how dehydration looks in geckos, and take note of the primary treatment and prevention methods available.

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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