[crested gecko caresheet]

Crested geckos make great pets! Compared with many other herps, cresteds are quite easy to care for. However, you should only acquire a crested if you are prepared for a 20+ year commitment to providing the best care possible.

:: enclosure

Setup for baby crested geckoJuvenile geckos can be kept in 10 gallon (about 25x30x50 cm) glass tanks (or plastic "Kritter Keepers" (*note* see "shedding" section below). Adult geckos should be housed in larger, taller glass/screen combination enclosures of at least 15-20 gallons (around 16x16x16" or 40x40x40 cm). Larger enclosures will be needed if additional geckos will be housed in the same enclosure.

The enclosure should include plenty of places for your gecko to climb, hide, sleep and play. Basic Crested EnclosureLive, pesticide-free plants such as ficus, pothos and philodendron are great, but you can also use fake/silk plants like those found in craft stores. These are inexpensive and easy to clean - just hose them off. Live plants can be planted in pots with large rocks over the soil. Be sure to include plenty of branches and vines for your gecko to climb on. It is not necessary to use any substrate - unbleached paper towels or bare glass works fine and makes cleanup easy.

It is possible to create a naturalistic vivarium habitat with loose soil planted with live plants ... however, use extreme caution during feeding time. Geckos can ingest the soil substrate as hunt insects, and become impacted ... a condition that often leads to death. So if you choose this option, you might consider using a separate "feeding tank," feeding insects in a cup/container, or feeding them by hand. > click here for another crested enclosure pic

:: inexpensive furnishings

You don't have to spend lots of money to create an nice habitat for your gecko. While these options may not be as aesthetically pleasing, the geckos don't seem to mind ...

Cheap fake plants from craft stores, egg cartons, paper towel and toilet paper tubes, pvc pipe & baby food jar lids for food & water dishes. You can even use a large, plastic Rubbermaid-style storage box with small ventilation holes drilled in it for an enclosure.

:: optional items

A few things that are nice to have, especially if you have several animals & enclosures:

Gram scale/Kitchen scale
many inexpensive models & brands are available online

Infrared Temperature Gun
you can't beat these for precise temperature readings, they cost about $20 and are available online or sometimes at Radio Shack

Feeder Insect Colony
Buying crickets from a local pet store gets spendy, especially if you have several animals. Ordering crickets in bulk online or raising them yourself is cheaper, but many people can't stand the smell, noise & mess. There are several species of roaches that are a great alternative to crickets. These roaches are very easy to raise, don't smell, don't make noise, are easy to contain and if you have a breeding colony, you'll have all different sizes to choose from.

A few of the more popular feeder roach species include:

  • Blatta lateralis
  • Blaberus discoidalis
  • Blaptica dubia
  • Nauphoeta cinerea

:: roomates

Unsexed juveniles and babies can be housed together, but once they start to reach sexual maturity will usually start to fight, so they will need to be separated. Females can usually be housed together, but males should be kept separate. Obviously males and females housed together will breed ... I don't think I need to explain that.

In general it is a bad idea to mix different species in the same enclosure. It very often leads to death of some sort: someone being eaten, fighting/territory issues, stress leading to death, disease/pathogen being introduced leading to death, etc. The only time you should ever attempt to mix species is if you have a very large enclosure and are really, really sure you know what you're doing. It's not that it can't be done or doesn't EVER work ... it's just a big unnecessary risk.

:: lighting & heating

Cresteds thrive at room temperature (68 - 78°F or 20-26°C), and do not need an additional light or heat source. That said, lighting of some kind, even indirect light from a window, is a good idea, and lighting is necessary if you plan to have live plants in the enclosure. Ideally, you should provide an approximately 12 hour photoperiod, meaning the enclosure should be in an area where it is dark-ish for 12 hours and light-ish for 12 hours. You also will want to avoid temperatures above 80 degrees, as this is stressful and dangerous to the health of your gecko. And keep in mind that if you have a glass tank exposed to direct sunlight it can heat up to extreme temperatures very quickly.

:: food & water

Crested geckos can be fed a combination of insects and pureed fruit, and "meal replacement powder " diets. Water should be available on a daily basis. Offer food every 1-2 days, alternating between the options below (or feed MRP exclusively).

CricketINSECTS: Crickets are the most commonly available feeder insect, but you should "gut load" crickets before you feed them to your geckos. This basically means you need to feed the crickets before you feed them to your geckos. You can use store-bought gut load feed, or simply give the crickets a variety of vegetable scraps a few hours before you offer them to your animals. You also need to "dust" insects with supplements just before feeding them to your gecko (see "supplements" below). Lobster Roach (Nauphoeta cinerea) nymphThis is because crickets and many common feeder insects are notorious for being low in calcium (their calcium to phosphorus ratio is not ideal), so gut loading with a calcium rich diet and dusting them with supplements is recommended.

Cresteds will also eat appropriately sized roaches and worm feeders such as phoenix worms and wax worms (however, I have noticed my geckos don't care much for "wormy" insects). As a general rule, never feed your gecko an insect that is larger than the distance between its eyes. Also, avoid feeding them "wild-caught" insects since you can never be sure whether the insect has been in contact with pesticides, chemicals and other harmful agents.

Organic pureed fruit (no added sugar)PUREED FRUIT & BABY FOOD: Crested geckos enjoy fruits such as figs, papayas, berries, mangos, bananas and other non-citrus fruits. You can also feed your gecko "baby food," preferably a brand that is organic with no added sugar. However, cresteds certainly can't live on pureed fruit alone - they need additional nutrients and must also be offered insects and/or a MRP (see below). The fruits commonly available in US supermarkets often have a poor balance of calcium to phosporus (as do most feeder insects). Therefore it is a good idea to carefully select fruits with a higher calcium content.

Ideally, your gecko's diet should be balanced with an overall calcium to phosporus ratio (Ca:P) of 2:1. Fruits with good Ca:P ratios include papaya (4.8:1), figs (2.5:1), raspberries (1.8:1), and blackberries (1.5:1). Near 1:1 ratio fruits include pear, apple wth skin, and mango. Fruits with an inverted Ca:P ratio such as grapes (.8:1), apricots (.7:1), strawberries (.7:1), peach (.4:1), plum (.4:1) and banana (.3:1) should be avoided or combined with a fruit with a high Ca:P ratio (such as papaya), or mixed with a small amount of calcium supplement.

Although geckos enjoy fruit as a treat, it is generally not very nutritious and should not be fed as a staple part of a gecko's diet.

Pangea Gecko Diet MRPMEAL REPLACEMENT POWDER (MRP) DIETS: Complete powdered diets are readily available and are recommended as the most foolproof way to ensure your gecko is getting a balanced diet. Simply mix the MRP with water and offer it to your gecko. If you geck was not raised on a powdered diet, they may be a little finicky at first about accepting it, but will get used to it with time. You can try mixing in some baby food or or try dusting crickets with the diet to get your gecko used to the taste.

Popular diet formulations include one produced by Pangea Reptile (available in many flavors) as well as Repashy Superfoods.

WATER: Clean, filtered, de-chlorinated water should be provided on a daily basis. This can be done by filling a shallow dish, or by misting the tank daily with a sprayer bottle (spray adequately, but not so much that it's drippy wet).

:: supplements

If you use a meal replacement powder such as CGD, supplements are not necessary. Calcium and vitamin supplements are usually used when offering meals of live insects or pureed fruit. Practically all common feeder insects have a poor/unbalanced ratio of Calcium to Phosporus (Ca:P) as well as an overall poor nutritional content. To correct this problem, there are many products that attempt to balance and enhance the nutritional content of feeders. Likewise, commonly available fruits (for fruit puree) also often have a poor Ca:P ratio (see Pureed Fruit section above). Therefore you will need to either selectively use fruits with good Ca:P ratios, or supplement the fruit puree with additional calcium.

Rep-Cal Calcium with Vitamin D-3CALCIUM: Providing the proper amount of calcium in your gecko's diet is essential for their health. Unless you have your gecko in an outdoor/natural light setup, you will also need to provide a source of vitamin D3 (vitamin D3 is derived from exposure to the UVB rays in sunlight (or specially designed UV bulbs), and/or from dietary sources). As far as powdered calcium supplements go, Rep-Cal® with D3 is a popular option, as well as Miner-all® made by Sticky Tongue. You can lightly dust insects with the calcium powder about once a week (more often for babies & gravid females). You can also mix a small amount of calcium into pureed fruit, though it is generally harder to tell how much your gecko might be getting. Over-supplementation just as dangerous as under-supplementation. Depending on how often calcium supplements are used, it may be necessary to alternate between calcium formulas with and without vitamin D3). Oversupplementation is more likely if using a product containing vitamin D3 since D3 is necessary for the absorption of calcium. Some breeders choose to provide a shallow dish of calcium WITHOUT vitamin D3 available at all times. If your gecko doesn't get proper amounts of calcium and vitamin D3, they can get Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), which can lead to death (see below).

Rep-Cal HerptiviteVITAMINS: Vitamin supplements are generally designed to be used one of two ways - to be fed to feeder insects ("gut loading") or to be dusted onto insects. Feeder insects can also be "gutloaded" by feeding them an assortment of fresh vegetables (preferably organic). Supplements like Herptivite® can be used about once a week (administer by dusting insects with the powder), or you can use a vitamin-enhanced gut load for the feeder insects (such as T-Rex ILF or Vit-all® by Sticky Tongue). Because crickets will only eat so much of the gut load formula, it is generally safer to use than dusting products since the risk of oversupplementation is much lower.

COMBINATION PRODUCTS: Some products such as T-Rex Insect Cricket Balancer correct the imbalance of Ca:P in feeder insects (by providing additional calcium and D3 in correct proportions) while also enhancing the vitamin/nutritional content of feeders. This product can be used in conjunction with T-Rex ILF (Insect Loading Formula) or other gutload diets.

:: shedding

Crested geckos will shed their skin periodically. Right before they are about to shed, they will have a dull ghostly bluish-tint to them. They eat their old skin as they pull it off, so very often you won't know when they've shed. The most important requirement for proper shedding is adequate humidity & hydration. This is more critical for baby cresteds than adults. For the first few sheds after a baby gecko hatches, and for the next several months they will need careful attention. Young cresteds kept in kritter keepers or mesh cages should be monitored very closely, as these types of enclosures can dry out very quickly (placing plastic wrap or wet paper towels over part of the screen can help keep moisture in). When the enclosure is too dry, pieces of skin will get stuck (often on the toes, tip of the tail, and sometimes even the eyes). If this is not caught soon, the skin can tighten and cause the gecko to lose their tail tip, toes, or worse. If your gecko has stuck shed, you will need to immediately moisten the area with water and carefully (& patiently) remove the skin with tweezers.

:: handling

Never pick up a crested gecko by its tail, and avoid touching its tail in general. When frightened or stressed, they will drop their tail, and unlike many lizards, crested gecko tails will never grow back. It is best not to handle your crested when it is young (they tend to be jumpy and are more apt to drop their tail) or for the first week or so after its moved to a new environment. But older geckos tolerate periodic handling very well. At first, try to keep handling sessions brief so that your gecko doesn't become overly stressed. The easiest way to handle cresteds is to allow them to walk across one hand to the next (always moving your free hand in front so that the gecko will continue onto it and you maintain control). A gecko is about to jump when they bunch their back legs up (looking more like a frog). Over time, your gecko will become used to handling and may even seem to enjoy your company ... a little fruit bribe doesn't hurt either :-)

:: health issues

METABOLIC BONE DISEASE (MBD): Commonly described as "Calcium Deficiency," this condition can actually be caused by a number of imbalances in Calcium, Phosphorus and/or Vitamin D3 levels. In other words, too little or too much of any of these three things will cause problems.

Symptoms of MBD include soft/deformed bones or jaw, kinky/wavy tail, swollen limbs, weight loss, lethargy/weakness (such as constantly laying flat on the ground, not climbing), and in severe cases "calcium crash" can occur with spasms & tremors (this is sometimes seen in young and/or calcium-deficient females after laying eggs). Partial-paralysis, and fractured bones can also occur. Pretty much any one or more of these symptoms should be addressed immediately as it usually a sign of a very serious condition.

If you suspect your gecko has MBD, you will need to act quickly. A herp veterinarian will be able to determine the proper dosage and form of calcium. Severe cases will likely require an injection of liquid calcium, such as calcium lactate or calcium gluconate. Oral administration of calcium glubionate is also possible (note - calcium glubionate is often available at pharmacies under the brand name NeoCalglucon, though you should still consult with a vet for dosage recommendations). If you cannot access a herp vet, you can mix Rep-Cal with D3 (or something similar) with water to form a cloudy, slightly thickened liquid. Use an eyedropper or syringe (without needle) to put a few drops of the solution on the tip of the gecko's nose. Most geckos will lick the droplets off. Recovery from MBD can be a slow process. When administering calcium, you will need to be careful not to overdo the vitamin D3, but calcium without D3 can be available at all times. Low level UVB light bulbs can also be used to provide D3. Try to feed CGD or another MRP diet during recovery, and avoid baby foods.

Calcium is stored in sacs found at the back of the gecko's mouth (on the roof of their mouth, near where their eyes are), so it is possible to check and see whether your gecko is getting an adequate amount. This is easier to do on some geckos than others, and you should always avoid stressing your gecko unnecessarily. To check the calcium sacs, hold your gecko and gently tap the sides of its mouth. Generally the gecko becomes annoyed and (hopefully) opens its mouth or tries to bite you (don't worry, it doesn't really hurt). This should give you a glimpse of the calcium sacs. If they are small, "deflated looking" or hard to see, your gecko might not be getting enough calcium. In general, this procedure is unnecessary, provided the gecko is getting adequate nutrition (see above).

FLOPPY TAIL SYNDROME (FTS): This refers to a condition when the tail flops to the side or over the gecko's back when it hangs upside-down in its enclosure. Over time, the weight of the tail can twist and deform the pelvis. To help prevent this condition, you should provide plenty of climbing branches and ensure that your gecko is getting plenty of calcium (insufficient calcium could be a contributing factor). Since most wild geckos don't have tails ... or vertical walls, it is likely the pelvis is just not designed to support the weight of the tail when subjected to constant vertical hanging. Some geckos just love to hang upside-down on the sides of their enclosure ... all the time. Providing a larger enclosure, with lots of climbing accessories can help "encourage" them to try other lounging alternatives. Attaching egg crate, vines, or other items to the sides of the tank using suction cups (for glass tanks) or string (wire enclosures) will also help avoid FTS. There is also the possibility that FTS could be caused by genetic factors since not all geckos that constantly hang upside-down develop the condition. Therefore, while FTS does not affect a gecko's ability to breed, it should definitely be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not a gecko should be bred.

:: other concerns

ESCAPE: Escape should never been an issue if housed in a proper enclosure (in the 15+ years that I have been keeping Cresteds, I have never had a single escape). But if your gecko does somehow escape from its enclosure your best bet is to try searching at night. Try putting ut out dishes of your gecko's favorite, most enticing treat - whether that be a certain fruit, baby food, Clarks or even a clear jar full of crickets. Flip on the lights and check the dish/jar several times a night, and with any luck you'll find your missing gecko.

PETS & OTHER DANGERS: Cats, dogs and other pets should be kept away from your geckos. Ants and other harmful insects can also be a danger in some regions of the world, so be sure to place the enclosure in a safe place and take appropriate precautions.

:: breeding

Crested Gecko eggsCompared to many herps, crested geckos are fairly easy to breed. Suitable pairs or trios (1 male : 2 females) should be introduced only after they reach a decent size - females should be well over 30 grams (can weigh slightly less if tailless). In general it's best if the size difference between the geckos is not too great. Females that are too young & small are much more apt to get egg-bound and have other health issues, and bullying can be an issue between geckos of significantly differing sizes.