Crested Gecko Care Sheet provided by Reptifiles
Crested Gecko (Correlophus ciliatus)
Crested geckos are an arboreal species of gecko native to New Caledonia, a group of islands between Fiji and Australia. They are most common on the islands Grande Terre and Isle of Pines. Crested geckos are named for the eyelash-like crests above their eyes.
These geckos are primarily frugivorous, eating mostly fruit with occasional bugs. They are also crepuscular, meaning that they are active during the night, but most active at dawn and dusk.
They measure about 8 inches long as adults, and weigh 35-45 grams on average. It takes these geckos about 15-18 months to reach adulthood, with a 15-20 year lifespan.
Crested geckos are capable of changing color! This process is called “firing up,” and it makes the dark parts of their bodies darker and the light parts brighter. Like most geckos, cresteds do not have eyelids. Instead, they keep their eyes clean and moist by licking them!
Also like most geckos, they can walk up smooth vertical surfaces, thanks to millions of tiny “hairs” on their toe pads called setae. This doesn’t mean that they can stick to everything, however. Fortunately where the setae fail, crested geckos also have small claws to get the job done.
- Zen Habitats 2’x2’x2’ Reptile Enclosure with High Humidity Panels
- Dome lamp with ceramic socket
- low-wattage white heat bulb
- 24” T5 HO forest UVB bulb and fixture
- digital thermometer/hygrometer
- substrate (bedding)
- decorations (branches, vines, foliage, etc.)
- spray bottle
- crested gecko diet
- food + water dishes
- magnetic feeding platform
Keep reading to find out which brands and products are best!
Since crested geckos are arboreal, height is better than width or depth. Hatchling (baby) geckos should be housed in a small (roughly 5 gallon capacity or less) enclosure until they weigh at least 12 grams. This helps make sure that they survive the most uncertain phase of their life. You may wish to simply wait to purchase your crestie from the breeder until it is past this point — this is a good way to help ensure that you’re getting a healthy animal.
After that point, you can house your crestie in an “adult”-sized enclosure. The absolute minimum for one adult is 18”x18”x24”, but larger is ALWAYS better, which is why we recommend the 24x24”x24” Zen Habitats Reptile Enclosure with High Humidity Panels.
Money-saving tip: Young crested geckos can be housed in adult-sized enclosures.
Can 2 geckos be kept together?
Cohabited geckos are more likely to lose their tails and get injured in fights for dominance. For this reason and others, it is strongly recommended to house your geckos alone. Reptiles don’t need “friends” like humans do, so you don’t need to worry about your gecko getting lonely.
Terrarium: Lighting, Temps & Humidity
Even though crested geckos are nocturnal, they do benefit from having light during the day to regulate their day/night rhythm. Use a 24” Zoo Med T5 HO ReptiSun 5.0or Arcadia Forest 6%for both light and healthy UVB rays, leaving it on for 12 hours/day. Place the lamp over the mesh, and don’t arrange any branches closer than 6” below the top so the gecko can’t get too close.
Do not use other brands — when it comes to UVB, brand matters!
Crested geckos thrive between 72-78°F, with a basking area between 80-82°F. Very young geckos in small enclosures can be kept at room temperature, since their enclosure is so small, but older geckos need a basking area for best health. Use a low-wattage bulb (start with a 40w halogen) to create the needed warm zone before you bring the gecko home so you can experiment with wattages as needed to get the right temperature. Keep in mind that air temperatures above 85°F can cause fatal heat stroke!
Black, red, or blue “night” bulbs are not necessary and should not be used.
Crested geckos thrive between 50-80% humidity. This can be maintained with daily misting with a spray bottle like the Exo Terra Mister and a moisture-retentive substrate. Make sure to let it dry out to 40- 50% before misting again—constant moisture encourages mold growth, which can make your gecko sick.
Depending on how well your terrarium holds humidity, mist every evening, and then again in the morning if needed. Your gecko will drink the droplets off the terrarium walls and decorations, helping it stay hydrated.
Pro tip: Keep track of temperatures and humidity levels with a quality measuring device like the Zoo Med Digital Thermometer and Humidity Gauge, with the temperature probe near the basking spot and the humidity probe in the lower regions of the enclosure. Don’t use ribbon or gauge-type thermometers. They may be cheaper, but they’re not very accurate at all and can endanger your gecko’s health!
Substrate (Bedding) Options
- Paper towels
- Lugarti Natural Reptile Bedding
- Zoo Med Reptisoil
- Naturalistic DIY mix:60% organic topsoil + 40% peat moss
All listed substrates except for the paper towel hold humidity very well and smell nice. However, they have loose particles which can pose a health risk to geckos smaller than 13g if ingested. If you have a young gecko or wish to skip the risk altogether, go with the paper towels.
All substrates should be spot cleaned daily and replaced when soiled.
Decorating the Terrarium
Since crested geckos are a tropical species, their terrariums are a lot of fun to design! But there are 3 things that they absolutely must have in an enclosure: hiding places, things to climb on, and a place to eat. With those requirements in mind, here are some ideas of things you can use:
- live plants (ex: ficus benjamina, dracaena, pothos)
- artificial plants/flowers
- cork tubes
- birdhouse hide boxes
- bamboo, free from paint or dyes
Set up your gecko’s enclosure in a way that provides lots of things to climb on and hide under/inside and uses most of the vertical space. But be careful to leave some free space so the gecko can jump around.
Feeding Your Crested Gecko
Powdered Gecko Diet
Generally speaking, prepared diets are not the best way to feed a reptile. The ingredients are typically full of fillers and they don’t provide a balanced diet.
BUT in the case of crested geckos, I make an exception. Thanks to the exhaustive efforts of some really smart people, there are nutritionally-complete prepared diets on the market ready for your gecko to chow down. Pangea, Repashy, Zoo Med, and BP Zoological are all trusted brands.
Mix the powdered diet with water to a ketchup/smoothie consistency and offer in a condiment cup. Most geckos prefer eating up and off of the ground, so invest in a magnetic feeding ledge. For best results, use at least 3 different flavors/brands of gecko food in a rotation to provide variety.
To reduce waste, we recommend washing and re-using your plastic condiment cups instead of throwing them away. If you prefer a throwaway option, Pangea sells biodegradable paper feeding cups.
Although the balanced nature of commercial gecko diets means that live insect feedings are not critical to the gecko’s health, they are beneficial to providing variety and incentivizing the gecko to exercise by hunting. It’s good mental stimulation, too. Even if you are using a gecko diet that contains protein, you should still offer a few bugs 2-4x/month.
Good feeder insects:
- dubia roaches
- small hornworms
- black soldier fly larvae
Avoid mealworms, superworms, or anything larger than the space between the gecko’s eyes.
Powdered gecko diets already contain all the calcium and vitamins that your gecko needs to be healthy, but whenever you offer insect prey, you will need to dust them with calcium first. Simply stick the bugs in a plastic bag with a small amount of calcium powder, shake ‘em up, and feed.
If you are using a UVB bulb, don’t use a calcium powder with vitamin D3. If you are not using UVB, use a calcium powder that contains vitamin D3. Arcadia, Miner-All, and Repashy are all good brands.
Once you get your gecko, the first thing you’ll want to do is pet and cuddle it. But moving to a home can stress a gecko out, so you need to wait at least 2 weeks before the cuddles can begin.
When you start handling your gecko, do it over a soft surface like a bed or couch. Start your handling sessions at just 5 minutes long, every other day. It’s not a lot, but it gives your gecko time to realize that you’re not going to eat it. Once your gecko is calm during handling, you can gradually extend handling the length of each outing. Even when perfectly tamed, don’t handle for more than 20 minutes/day.
If your gecko is flighty, try something called treadmilling. While the gecko is perched on one of your hands, place your other hand in a cup shape 4-6 inches in front of it. When the gecko leaps, switch hands. Eventually s/he will calm down.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to wash your hands before and after each handling session. And if a child is handling the gecko, be sure to supervise closely.
Care information courtesy of ReptiFiles. Visit ReptiFiles.com to view the full version of this care guide.