Longevity: Approx 20-25 years
Temperature In Basking Area: 75-80f (23-26c)
Disposition: Docile - do not usually mind handling
Cleaning: Spot clean daily, full clean every 4-6 weeks (unless living in an established bioactive enclosure)
The Crested Gecko is a stunning little arboreal gecko which originates from New Calendonia, a small island off the East Coast of Australia. It can naturally be found inhabiting the trees and shrubs of the rainforest floor and broad leaved bushes in particular make a favoured hiding and resting place for these unusual lizards. They are crepuscular, meaning that they are usually most active during dusk and dawn, but are often also often active overnight. In the wild they will come down to the forest floor to feed on fallen, overripe fruit such as banana, mango, watermelon and papaya and will also take small insects which are attracted by the fruit. As adults they will occasionally and opportunistically eat other small lizards, including the young of their own species. They are different to other commonly kept gecko species as they do not have moveable eyelids and instead have a protective scale over their eye known as a spectacle. Keepers are often fascinated by their behaviour, as in order to keep their eyes clean they use their long tongues and lick them. They can also easily climb the glass and decor of their enclosure, thanks to millions of tiny hairs on their toes! They are also known as the eyelash gecko, as they have little ridges on the top of their eyes which look like false eyelashes! Selective breeding in captivity has brought about many different 'morphs' of crested gecko and there are some truly beautiful colours and patterns available such as flame, harlequin, pinstripe, tiger, bicolour, brindle, olive etc. They are undoubtedly a firm favourite amongst reptile keepers as their enclosure doesn’t take up too much space and they are easy to care for with the correct set up and advice.
‘Cresties’ reach an adult size of 8 – 10 inches and being arboreal, they need more height within their enclosure than floor space. For a small hatchling it is recommended to house them in a vivarium measuring 30 x 30 x 45cm, then move them into an adult size enclosure measuring a minimum of 45 x 45 x60cm once they are around a year old, or around 6-7 inches long. Glass or wooden vivariums can both be used successfully, providing that the correct temperature gradients are maintained using the appropriate guarded heat sources, thermometers and thermostats. Many keepers prefer to use glass vivariums as with this species preferring cooler temperatures and higher humidity, glass enclosures tend to cater better. However, providing an arboreal wooden enclosure has had all the edges sealed with a non-toxic silicone, they also make ideal housing.
Impaction is a fairly common problem seen within captive reptiles. An impaction is caused when an animal swallows something which becomes stuck in the gut, causing an obstruction. It is recommended in order to significantly decrease the risk of impaction with this species, to avoid particulate substrates altogether whilst the gecko is young. Using reptile carpet, newspaper or paper towels is highly recommended and your gecko will also find it easier whilst young to hunt its occasional insects feeds off the afore mentioned substrates. Reptile carpet is easily cleaned as it can be hand washed using a reptile suitable disinfectant such as F10, or Beapher Reptile Deep Clean which contain no dyes or perfumes. Paper towels or newspaper can be quickly and easily changed and are undoubtedly the most hygienic way in which to keep a reptile. Newspaper and paper towel are also the best choice of substrate should you ever have a convalescing or quarantined reptile, as everything is disposed of and replaced. It is also easy when using these types of substrates to keep an eye out for things such as mites and to collect stool samples, which are recommended to be checked annually for internal parasites. Once your gecko gains some size however and is introduced into its adult vivarium, it is recommended to provide them with a more naturalistic enclosure. Dark, coarse grade bark chips and coir make an ideal substrate for the floor of the vivarium. You can use either one or the other, or use a few inches of coir and top it with bark chips. The latter is undoubtedly the best way in which to help keep the humidity levels up in the vivarium, as these substrates retain moisture and slowly release it throughout the day. Sphagnum moss placed on the floor of the vivarium also makes for a natural, forest theme and benefits your gecko as it holds a lot of moisture.
A hot area of 75-80f (23-26c) should be provided on one side near the top of the vivarium (i.e top right), with cooler temperatures at the cooler side, near the bottom (i.e bottom, left) being maintained at around 65-70f. Night-time temperatures can be allowed to drop to around 65f (18c). Having these hot and cold areas within the vivarium will allow your pet to 'thermoregulate', choosing to move freely in and out of the heat. Allowing the temperatures to drop at night will provide your pet with a clear day and night cycle, encouraging their natural behaviours. Heat bulbs and heat mats can be used to achieve the necessary temperatures however, they must never be placed unguarded, or where your reptile can come into direct contact with them. Guarding of the heat sources is an especially important (and often overlooked) aspect of many vivarium set ups and provides maximum safety for your pet. Unguarded heat sources which are not thermostatically controlled, lead to many vets seeing and treating pet reptiles with burns which could have easily been prevented. Thermostats ensure that heat sources reach and maintain the recommended temperatures within the hot and cold areas, thus allowing your pet to metabolise correctly. Overheating a crested gecko (or any reptile for that matter) is one of the fastest ways to kill it.
With this species of gecko being crepuscular, they are naturally subjected to low levels of UVB at dusk and dawn. A 2.0 compact or strip bulb can be used with a reflector, to ensure that your pet can benefit from the same levels of UVB they would have in the wild. Studies have shown that these lizards will absorb UVB through their skin and they have evolved and adapted to do so for a reason. Like us, a reptiles skin is responsible for producing vitamin D. Upon providing your pet with UVB, you are recreating its natural exposure to sunlight whereby the UV penetrates the skin. Under the influence of the correct temperatures within the vivarium, it allows the pro vitamin D3 which your reptile has produced to change to pre vitamin D3. It is impossible for the body to absorb and use calcium without Vitamin D. It is recommended to provide your pet with a natural way of creating D3 alongside calcium supplementation, to prevent against commonly seen and preventable diseases such and MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) and calcium deficiency.
The crested geckos rainforest environment is naturally humid therefore, this species appreciates daily spraying of their enclosure. You can use a small spray bottle containing tap water, filtered water or bottled spring water. If using tap water there are water conditioners available which neutralise chlorine and add calcium. Sphagnum moss placed on the floor of the enclosure and regularly sprayed will retain moisture and help with humidity. This will aid your gecko in not only shedding but also staying adequately hydrated, as geckos have very thin skin which easily absorbs moisture. A fairly common problem seen in captive geckos is shed stuck on their body. This happens when the enclosure is either not humid enough or the temperatures are incorrect. If shed stays stuck on parts of the body for long periods of time and is left it can cause infections. A healthy gecko with adequate temperatures and humidity should very rarely, if ever, need assistance shedding its skin.
Even though a wild crested geckos diet consists of overripe fruit and insects, captive crested geckos can easily become malnutrioned and have deficiencies if fed just fruit and shop bought insects which haven’t been ‘gutloaded’ or supplemented. 80% of your crested geckos diet should be a quality crested gecko diet. These are usually fruit flavoured, contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals and are purchased in powder form. This is then mixed with cold water and is quickly and easily ready to be placed into a small dish and offered to your gecko. Live food should be offered in small amounts (2-3 insects) only twice a week and should always be gut loaded before being fed to your reptile. In the wild the insects a lizard eats will in turn have been off eating its own food, resulting in both fresh and partially digested food in the insect gut. Your reptile will benefit from these extra nutrients. Fish food, crushed dog/cat biscuits and fresh fruit and vegetables can all be offered to your crickets, cockroaches, mealworms and morio worms. Locusts prefer plenty of fresh leafy greens (washed dandelion leaves, flowers and bramble are natural and organic if obtained from you garden, not road sides) and waxworms will only eat a honey-based feed. Recipes for waxworm feed can be found online and this can be made in bulk, frozen and thawed. Worms are only to be offered as a treat as they are naturally more fattening than other insects available.
A bowl of fresh, clean drinking water should always be provided and refreshed daily. Ensure your dish is not too deep as your lizard could drown. Filtered water and spring water can be offered. When you spray your geckos enclosure they will also lick the water droplets from their face and the decoration in their enclosure. Ensuring your enclosure reaches the recommended levels of humidity every day, also aids in keeping your pet hydrated.
Regular cleaning or your pets enclosure is of course a very important aspect which will ensure your pets health. Daily ‘spot cleaning’ of the enclosure will be necessary to remove any faeces etc. Cresties often like to mess on and decorate their glass for you! Full cleaning of the enclosure where the substrate is removed, and the decoration is thoroughly cleaned, should also happen on a regular basis. When cleaning the décor or glass, use a reptile suitable disinfectant such as F10 which contains no dyes or perfumes. Ensure fresh clean water is always available to your pet. Food bowls and water dishes should be disinfected and wiped daily. Once your gecko is adult, it can be kept in a bio active enclosure which will need live plants, springtails, worms and woodlice to keep it clean and create a naturalistic bio active microclimate. This of course takes more planning and preparation than its artificial counterpart and you will require plant lights to aid the growth of your plants, but they make spectacular feature in any room and benefit the wellbeing of your pet. Speak to a member of staff if interested in setting up a bioactive enclosure.
As previously mentioned, a calcium supplement will need to be used to coat live food before it is offered to your reptile. If not using UVB (not recommended) one should be a straight calcium carbonate powder (with no extra added vitamins), the other should be a multivitamin with D3. D3is essential in preventing against metabolic bone disease (MBD). You can feed a reptile as much calcium as it'll take, but unless it has D3 either made naturally under the influence of its UVB light, or artificially in the form of supplementation, your reptile will be able to absorb its calcium. It is advisable to put a pot of calcium powder in a shallow dish in the vivarium to allow your gecko to take a lick as and when it feels the need. You may only very occasionally see your gecko take the powder, if at all, but it is important that your gecko, especially growing hatchlings and adult females, always have access to calcium. If you use a good quality UVB light at the recommened percentage and ensure that this is replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, you should only need to use a straight calcium supplement. It is much better for your reptile to be able to metabolise D3 naturally under the influence of a UVB light, than to be given artificial D3.
This species does not mind regular handling. Being crepuscular, they are best handled in the evenings when their vivarium lights switch off and they would naturally be awake. Being arboreal crested geckos have evolved to be able to jump short distances, therefore it is best to always handle your gecko close to the floor to prevent potential injuries. Geckos can drop their tails if they feel threatened (known as caudal autonomy, an evolutionary defence mechanism), therefore gentle handling is recommended, avoiding the tail. If dropped, their tail will not regenerate, and the gecko will subsequently be tailless for the rest of its life.
An annual vet check is recommended so that a qualified, reptile specialist vet can give your pet a thorough examination. Your reptile can pick up internal parasites from their live food, therefore it is advisable to take along a fresh stool sample with you to your annual vet consultation so this can be lab checked for internal parasites. As previously mentioned, at least a weekly health check should be done at home to ensure that none of the following are observed:
Prolonged failure to feed Unresponsiveness/lethargy Dull, sunken eyes, or discharge of the eyes Discharge or bubbles from the nostrils Redness, swelling, scabs or discharge from in or around the mouth Gasping, popping or wheezing when breathing Redness, swelling, lumps or open wounds anywhere on the body Dirt or discharge around the vent Kinking or drooping of the tail Weak muscle tone or inability to climb and stay sat arboreally within the enclosure If any of the above are noticed, either contact us here at Riverview Reptiles or contact a reptile specialist veterinarian for further advise. We encourage all pet keepers to practise the responsible pet ownership obligations as per the Animal Welfare Act 2006 If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch!