So, you've purchased or been given your first crested gecko. Well, there are a few things you need to know to get started. In the pages that follow, I hope to provide the basic information you need to maintain a healthy pet crested gecko. Additional, more in-depth information can be found later in this chapter.
- If You Have Not Made The Purchase Yet....
Crested geckos have a few requirements you should know about before purchasing them as a pet.
Your new pet will require a tight fitting top to their enclosure. They will crawl on the glass and they will jump. While they are one of the easiest handled reptiles, the time should be limited to a few minutes per day and should exclude small children. They do also require misting each day. While including a dish of water is a good idea, these geckos lap water from leaves in nature. When you are ready to purchase your first crested gecko, look for healthy animal. A perky disposition (not constantly sleeping) is something you should look for. If you are purchasing on-line, ask specific questions. Your experience, and the animal's will be more enjoyable if you start with a healthy gecko. Finally, you should be prepared to care for your gecko before purchasing the animal. The best way to do that is to continue reading.
- Did you know this about crested geckos?
- Crested geckos (Rhacodactylus ciliatus) are endemic (can only be found) to the islands of New Caledonia which is a rainforest environment.
- They're nocturnal, sleeping during the day in the branches or hollowed out trunks of trees or in the leaf litter on the forest floor, coming out at night to eat.
- Crested geckos are arboreal. They crawl through tree branches, jumping from limb to limb. As mentioned earlier, they will climb the glass of an aquarium.
- Cresteds can grow up to 9 inches (full length) and can live up to about 20 years!
- Their common name refers to the soft, pointed spikes running from over their eye all the way down the length of their bodies.
- Cresteds may drop their tails. If roughly handled by the tail, it may come off. Their tail will not grow back as is common with other gecko species. This is a defensive behavior, where a bird or even larger lizard get a tail for a meal and the crested gets to live another day.
- The tail is prehensile, acting like the tail of a monkey.
- Male cresteds are very intolerant of other males. 2 males should never be housed together.
- Until the mid 90's, it was thought that crested geckos were extinct.
While crested geckos dine on a variety of foods in nature, we have fewer options in captivity. Our objective is to provide the healthiest diet we can. Crested geckos are both insectivores and frugivores, meaning they will eat insects and enjoy the nectars of fruits. We are fortunately that Allen Repahsy created the Crested Gecko Diet years ago as the only complete crested gecko food available. This is important because complete means it has everything in it the crested gecko needs- vitamins, minerals, protean, etc. As it is complete, one does not need to feed insects unless you would like to give the gecko a treat. We have been using this diet for years and have had great success with healthy crested geckos.
- Enclosures, What Do I Keep Them In?
Now that you have your first gecko, what do you do with it. Your gecko needs a home. There are several options available to you. One of the easiest, and least expensive methods of housing crested geckos involves using an empty glass aquarium. A 10 gallon tank is fine for younger animals but is a bit too small for one adult. Another option for juvinile and sub adult crested geckos is using a Kritter Keeper.
A 20 high works well as your crested gecko will enjoy the extra area the high tank will provide. Two to three cresteds (1 male and 2 females) should be kept in minimally a 29 gallon tank. If you are using a glass enclosure, select a permanent place away from the sun as they can heat up very quickly. A screen top is required as cresteds can crawl up the glass sides.
Another excellent option for adults is a full screen enclosure. This allows better air flow. Finally, one inexpensive option is to use a plastic sweater boxes with holes drilled in the top. These are used primarily by those breeding large numbers of crested geckos.
- Heating and Lighting
Lighting is usually required to view your new pet. However, crested geckos do not require the same high UVB lighting as many other lizards do such as bearded dragons and chameleons. This is because they are nocturnal. A standard florescent is sufficient to light the enclosure and allow for viewing. A timer to control turning the light on and off is very useful. A "red" light can be used if you wish to enjoy your reptile's night time activity.
Heating the crested's enclosure is easy as they prefer normal room temperatures. If the enclosure will be between 70-80 degrees F during the day and will not drop below the mid 60s at night, no additional heating is required. If heat is required though, one way to warm the enclosure is to use an incandescent light bulb. Attach it to the enclosure so there is no possibility of it coming into contact with the animal and will not overheat the screen material. Also, make sure the animals have an area in the enclosure to move to that is cooler.
- Bottoms Up!
As important as other elements of your gecko's enclosure is the substrate they will spend all their time on. There are many options such as slate or tile, Repti-carpet, cocofibers, organic dirt, paper towels, and a bare bottom setup.
A decision you must make is how much maintenance you anticipate putting into the gecko enclosure. If using tile, slate, bare bottom tank, or carpets they will need to be removed/washed occasionally. Cocofibers will need to be discarded once feces build up. Finally, not mentioned in the above list are products such as orchid bark and sand that, when ingested, will cause severe impaction problem with your gecko. Because of this, these materials are not recommended at all.
- Other Furnishing
Your crested gecko needs a place to hide in the daytime. This is usually called a humid hide but may be referred to as a lay box. Most often used are plastic sandwich boxes or margarine containers. By cutting a hole in the top or side and filling with a medium that can be moisten, a hiding place can be made. The box can be filled with vermiculite, peat moss, paper towels, or coco fibers. See this link for instructions on making a humid hide. Once filled and moistened, the box should be checked each week for moisture.
A small dish should be provided for water. Crested geckos will use this for drinking. The water must be fresh, so replacement should be done every other day or so. The water in the dish should be accessible to the gecko and the dish not so large and deep that they could drown. Although a water dish is provided, crested geckos enjoy misting at least once a day as they drink off of leaves. Do not mist so much though that the water does not evaporate within a half day's time.
Rocks, Driftwood/Cork bark, Plants, Branches and Limbs
Again, in the wild, crested geckos climb through trees and jump from branch to branch. There should not be so many branches added that the geckos have a difficult time crawling and jumping between them.
Although some type of floral cover is appreciated by crested geckos, live plants are not required in your gecko enclosure. Artificial plants work as well. However, live plants will maintain moisture levels and may serve as a place for the female crested to lay their eggs (see breeding sheet). Cork bark works well as both a decoration and a place for the crested gecko to hide during daytime hours.
Although not desired by your crested gecko, you may wish to use rocks or driftwood as decorations in your enclosure. Make sure any rocks or driftwood added to your crested's enclosure is both washed thoroughly and does not contain any sharp edges. Another consideration is that when adding the new furnishings, they are in place and cannot topple onto your new pet.