Since rediscovery as a species and introduction to the hobby in 1994, crested geckos have exploded in popularity. Simple housing and a low-maintenance diet make them a common first reptile. Their charming smiles and amicable nature continue to win the hearts of new and advanced hobbyists alike.
Crested gecko; New Caledonian crested gecko; eyelash crested gecko; “crestie” and “crested” are common shorthand names;
Family & Scientific Name:
Diplodactylidae; Correlophus ciliatus; the former classification as Rhacodactylus ciliatus is still used for this species.
Range & Origin:
Crested geckos can be found in the southernmost region of mainland New Caledonia and the nearby Isle of Pines; this species inhabits lowland rainforest and spends it’s time in understory foliage. Crested geckos are quite rare in the wild.
Weight and length of crested geckos are highly variable. Adults commonly range from 35-50 grams, with some individuals weighing in at a healthy 70 grams. There are many geckos that are overweight and unhealthy at the higher end of the weight range. Obesity is a concern with this species. Total length depends greatly on the presence/absence of the tail, but the snout-to-vent length is four to seven inches.
15-20+ years with proper care; Max live spans are difficult to determine as the species has only been in the hobby for 19 years and the age of original imports are largely unknown.
A 12”x12”x18” enclosure such as an Exo Terra Glass Terrarium is the standard minimum size for a single adult crested gecko. Larger enclosures such as the 18”x18”x24” Exo Terra Glass Terrarium are excellent for single geckos or seasonal pairings. Enclosures for hatchling and juvenile geckos should be smaller so food is more easily discovered. New hatchlings are commonly kept in small to medium Exo Terra Faunariums or Breeder Boxes. Juveniles in the 8-15 gram range are better kept in large or extra large Exo Terra Faunariums or Breeder Boxes. The enclosure should be moderately to heavily planted depending on the number of geckos present. Silk or Plastic Artificial Plants are easy to clean and best for beginners. Many live terrarium plants are compatible with crested geckos and make for beautiful naturalistic cages, especially when coupled with Naturalistic Vivarium Substrates. An appropriately size water dish should also be provided and changed daily. Keep in mind that drowning is a concern with younger geckos. The enclosure should be misted thoroughly once to twice per day. Allowing the cage to dry out for a short period is recommended. If you are looking for an easy solution for housing your crested geckos, check out Josh's Frogs Complete Crested Gecko Kits.
Substrate should be chosen carefully to avoid ingestion and impaction during insect feedings. Coconut Fiber is an ideal naturalistic substrate for subadult and larger geckos. Coconut Fiber is less ideal for smaller geckos, as it is not as easy for them to pass ingested substrate. Paper towel is a common choice for younger geckos and geckos under quarantine. Paper towel is easy to clean and allows for easy monitoring of food consumption. Substrates with large or sharp chunks should be avoided as well as substrates that mold quickly in high humidity. If using live terrarium plants in your crested gecko enclosure, Naturalistic Vivarium Substrates are recommended.
Comfortable room temperatures are generally suitable for crested geckos. 65-85° F; Lower temperatures in the upper 50’s are tolerable for short periods of time but best avoided. Heat is considerably more threatening with temperatures of 90° F and above proving fatal. 75° F is a great ambient temperature. Temperature should be monitored and checked constantly with a digital thermometer. If additional heat is needed, a low watt heat pad, heat cable, or incandescent bulb.
Ambient light in the daytime is sufficient as crested geckos are nocturnal. Providing daytime UVB is not necessary but is no doubt helpful. If you choose to use UVB, Night lighting is not necessary but pitch-blackness will make it difficult for crested geckos to roam the night. A low wattage incandescent nighttime basking bulb can provide a bit of light at night for viewing.
Crested geckos are best kept alone. There are territorial and feeding concerns when crested geckos are housed together. Male crested geckos should never be housed together due to territorial behaviors. Some female crested geckos or juvenile geckos of similar size can be housed together with careful cage design and adequate space if necessary. One should make regular observations of interactions and food consumption. Some females and even juveniles will not tolerate cage mates. Individuals may guard the food dish and prevent others from having access to food. Insect feedings are rarely even when feeding an enclosure with multiple geckos. There is always the potential for fighting and lost tails, neither of which are uncommon.
Crested geckos are insectivorous and frugivorous. This means their diet includes fruit and insects. Insects should be fed more frequently to growing animals. For healthy growth, young crested geckos can be fed crickets 1-3 times per week. Some hobbyists do not feed insects to adult geckos but I find my adults to be more active and healthy when fed bugs once per week. Not all feeder insects are created equal. If the insect is not gut loaded then your geckos will not get much out of it. Crickets, Blaptica dubia roaches, and phoenix worms all make excellent feeder insects for crested geckos. Tomato horned worms and wax worms make great monthly treats, but should be restricted due to fat content. Always supplement regular insect feedings with a calcium and multivitamin powder.
There are many commercial fruit-based diets available. Homemade diets are gaining considerable popularity in recent years as well. If you are new to fruit-eating geckos and unfamiliar with their nutritional requirements, stick to a commercial diet. Repashy meal replacement powder is an excellent first choice. Baby food, even when fed in conjunction with supplemented insects is not an adequate source of nutrition and will lead to sever health conditions. Elevating the food and water dishes on a ledge often improves feeding.
The frequency of cleaning depends on the number of geckos, the size of the enclosure, and whether or not microorganisms are added to help decomposition. Spot cleaning daily when you mist your geckos is advised to prevent exposure to molds. Simply remove the poop when it dries. Paper towel should be removed once per gecko per week. If you have multiple geckos, change it multiple times per week. Coconut fiber should be changed once per month for a single gecko, and once every 2-3 weeks for additional geckos. If you are using microfauna such a springtails or isopods in a vivarium the substrate can be removed less frequently. In general, there is not enough surface area for decomposition for a single gecko in a moderately sized vivarium to go more than three to four months without cleaning. Do not wait until the cage stinks before cleaning it.
Crested geckos can be hand-tamed fairly quickly although care should be taken not to overwhelm the gecko. Start with five minutes of handling every other day. If the gecko is relaxed (no heaving sides, avid avoidance, biting, gaping, vocalizing) then slowly increase handling time. Keep in mind that young geckos are naturally jumpy and need to be handled close to the floor. Always allow new pets at least one week of solitude to adjust to their new environment. If you have other pets, wash your hands before and after handling your new arrivals.
About the Author:
|Lauren Phillips is a graduate student studying Tropical Conservation at Michigan State University. Lauren is currently in charge of tadpole husbandry and gecko-related inventory here at Josh’s Frogs. She owns and operates The Adventure Gecko, a small-scale business focusing on breeding New Caledonian gecko species. Check out her Facebook page.|