Length: 4–6 inches (10–15 cm)
Life Expectancy: 15 to 20 years
Crested geckos are also known as cresties or eyelash geckos. They are primarily found in Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. These species typically inhabit trees. They are widely known for their frilly crests, which are one of their most distinguishable features.
Crested geckos are low-maintenance and possess a relatively relaxed nature. They are suitable for beginners to advanced reptile hobbyists. Just know that cresties are not fond of being handled and may flee if you attempt to.
This species has a lifespan of 15 to 20 years, and some can live up to the ripe age of thirty. Ensuring that the cresties’ needs are met every day will help prolong their lives. It is necessary to make regular vet visits too.
Where do crested geckos originate?
Crested geckos or cresties are scientifically known as Rhacodactylus ciliatus. They got their now-famous nickname from the fringe that is decorating their eyes and backs. This species originated in Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia.
Crested geckos thrive in living in plants and most especially trees as they are natural tree-dwellers. These species were believed to be extinct in the wild. Fortunately, it was rediscovered in 1994, and today, cresties are one of the most popular geckos that are kept as pets.
What does a crested gecko look like?
Crested geckos have a spiny, frilly skin that starts over their eyes and runs down their necks and backs. The crest’s size varies from gecko to gecko. Another distinctive trait that they have is their eyelashes, thus earning them the moniker eyelash geckos.
Cresties have large, broad heads and solid bodies. Their specialised toe pads allow them to climb up vertical surfaces. The colouring and patterns of this species come in a wide array due to captive breeding. Their colours can range from pale cream, black, olive, buckskin, red, lavender, and yellow.
Crested gecko morphs come in many variations as well, which include:
- Crested gecko morph
- Dalmatian spots
- Flame crested gecko
- Harlequin crested gecko
- Patternless crested gecko
- Pinstripe crested gecko
- Tiger crested gecko
- White spots
Crested geckos can change their colour according to their environment or mood. If they are in a state of high alert, they get ‘fired up.’ This means their colouration will be darker and more vibrant.
On the other hand, if cresties are ‘fired down,’ their skin is paler and lighter. It usually occurs when they are asleep or relaxed.
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How to sex a crested gecko
To easily figure out a crested gecko’s sex, you will need to wait until they mature. Cresties become mature once they are three to four months old. However, they don’t develop their sexual characteristics until they’ve reached six to eight months of age.
Once the crested gecko has reached the stage of maturity, males develop external hemipenal bulges. These are found at the base of the tail with pre-anal pores directly in front of the vent. Meanwhile, females have small external bulges on a flattened area at the base of the tail.
When do crested geckos reach full size?
In general, it takes approximately one to two years for a baby crested gecko to become fully mature. A full-grown crested gecko size measures 4–6 inches (10–15 cm) from snout to tail. Both male and female can weigh around 35 grams.
However, it is observed that certain factors can affect the growth rate of a crested gecko. These include the location where the eggs were hatched, the humidity and temperature of the vivarium, and the crestie’s diet.
That’s why you should take great care in properly setting up the gecko cage and preparing your pet lizard’s diet. Inappropriate food, vivarium size, temperature, and humidity can stunt a crestie’s growth.
What size vivarium for a crested gecko
Proper crested gecko care requires picking the right tank for your pet. Choose one that is made of glass. It can effectively preserve moisture and humidity, which are essential needs for geckos.
Opt for a glass terrarium that has a screened enclosure for ventilation. Avoid a wire enclosure since this can easily injure your pet lizard.
The recommended tank size for baby crested geckos and juveniles are between 7 and 10 gallons. Do not get an enclosure that’s too big as it will give them a hard time hunting for food. For an adult crestie, a 20-gallon tall terrarium will suffice. If you are housing multiple cresties, the enclosure’s size should be at least 29 gallons.
If possible, keep hatchlings and juvenile cresties in separate cages as they tend to be highly territorial. The same goes for adult cresties and young cresties. Males and females that are not fully matured should not be housed together as well. Only house adult male and female cresties of the same size together.
It’s because those that are larger may end up bullying the smaller ones. If you plan to keep multiple cresties in one tank, it should be made up of one male and the rest should be females.
Remove the male once in a while to give the females a break. Never keep two or more male crested geckos together. They are prone to territorial aggression and will likely fight each other.
What should a crested gecko setup be like?
Be sure to create a heat gradient in the vivarium. One side should be warm, whilst the other side must be cold. Moreover, there should be a median temperature in between. Cresties require a daytime temperature gradient of 72 F to 80 F. At night, the heat gradient should drop to 65 F to 75 F.
A good choice for a heat source is a red, low-wattage night-time bulb. Just remember to avoid placing it near the top of the tank. This is to prevent cresties from getting too close and run the risk of getting burned.
You may want to invest in a heating mat also. It will greatly help in maintaining the ground temperature in the vivarium.
Consider making a basking spot inside the tank. It should only take up a very small area and must have a temperature of 80 F. Place an ample amount of plants in the basking area to prevent it from getting too hot.
Make sure that the vivarium isn’t too hot nor too cold. Excessive warmth can lead to overheating, whilst extremely low temperature can negatively impact the cresties’ metabolism. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature closely. Check it multiple times a day especially when the seasons change.
A low-wattage incandescent bulb is a simple but effective light source for the vivarium. There are also speciality bulbs such as a red bulb and a blue spectrum bulb that can be used for night-time viewing. Their lights are less likely disturbing to crested geckos than daylight bulbs.
Since crested geckos are nocturnal, they do not require special UVB lighting. Some experts advise though that low-level UVB lighting of around 5% has a positive impact on overall reptile health. For instance, it helps cresties get an adequate amount of vitamin D3 and promote natural behaviours.
With that said, excessive exposure to UVB light can result in eye damage. For this reason, be sure that there are several hiding spots and leaf covers in the vivarium when setting up a UVB lighting. Moreover, it should only be turned on for four to six hours a day.
The humidity levels for crested geckos range between moderate to high. In the day, it should be around 60%. When the evening comes, the humidity levels need to be adjusted to 80%.
Misting the vivarium with warm, filtered water helps regulate its humidity. Do this at least one to two times a day. Providing crested geckos with a shallow water dish also helps add more humidity.
Ensure that the enclosure is properly misted, especially during night-time. It’s the period where crested geckos are most active.
Be sure to regularly check the tank’s air moisture with a humidity gauge. If you’ve got your hands full with daily tasks, it is best if you buy an automatic mister. This way, the enclosure’s humidity is well-maintained even when you are not around.
Substrates help in maintaining the humidity levels in the tank. Choose one that is easy to clean and safe for crested geckos. The best options are commonly peat, moss, and coconut fiber bedding.
You may also use paper towels and newspapers, although you need to be extra careful. Some of these materials undergo bleaching, which can harm your pet lizard.
Avoid using pebbles, gravel, wood chips, walnut shells, corncob, and wood shavings. These are dangerous for cresties if inhaled or swallowed. It can lead to many health problems such as intestinal blockage, choking, and respiratory diseases.
Decorate the vivarium with a combination of live plants, artificial plants, wood, and barks. Do not use sharp and pointy ornaments as these can cause injuries to cresties. Ficus benjamina, Dracaena spp., and Pothos are ideal choices of live plants for cresties.
For wood, stick to safe options such as oak, dogwood, tulip tree, and maple. Make sure that these are free from chemical treatment. Do not pick thorny woods such as honey locust and hawthorn.
Using cedar, pine, and eucalyptus as ornaments should be avoided as well. They are believed to cause respiratory diseases in reptiles, including geckos.
How often should you clean a crested gecko’s cage?
Spot cleaning to remove faeces should be done daily. Getting rid of uneaten food, changing the drinking water, and cleaning of water bowls should be done every day too. Change the substrate at least one to two times a week to prevent bacterial growth.
Clean and disinfect the entire vivarium, including the ornaments at least once a month. Remember to use a reptile-safe disinfectant. To keep cresties from becoming too stressed during cleaning, do it during the times they are awake, which are at dusk and early morning.
Do crested geckos shed?
Baby crested geckos shed once every other week. Adults on the other hand, shed less. They can go for a month or more without shedding. Provide a shed box or humidity hut to help facilitate shedding.
You can create one by cutting a hole on a box and placing moisture-holding substrate such as sphagnum moss inside.
Make sure that the vivarium has a high humidity level when the shedding season starts. The low humidity level can lead cresties to get stuck in their shed skin. Without proper removal, it can result in loss of limbs, tail, or toes.
Spritz water in the tank at least two to three times a day. In the morning, the humidity level should be around 50%. Avoid over humidifying the vivarium as it can cause fungal infections and skin rot.
Having rough surfaces such as hides, branches, and cork pieces in the tank helps in making shedding easier for cresties. They will usually rub their bodies on these materials to loosen up and remove dead skin.
Help your crested gecko if he is having difficulties in getting rid of dead skin. Do this by giving him a ‘sauna.’ In a small container, place a small amount of lukewarm water. Place him inside for at least twenty minutes.
Make sure to supervise him to avoid drowning. After that, use a cotton bud and rub it on the dead skin to loosen it. If this does not work, do not forcefully peel it off. Use a shedding aid instead to avoid wounding your pet.
Is a crested gecko a good pet?
Crested geckos are docile and easy to care for. Thus, they make great pets for kids, beginners, and advanced reptile hobbyists. However, these species tend to be very skittish and dislike handling.
If possible, minimise doing so to keep your pet from getting stressed. Handling sessions should be no more than five minutes. Never roughly handle cresties as they might try to run away or bite you. In some cases, they may even drop their tails.
Nutrition and Feeding
What do crested geckos eat?
Provide a commercial crested gecko diet to your pet to ensure that his meals are healthy and balanced. His daily meals should be supplemented with live insects such as crickets, mealworms, and waxworms. Feed these insects and make sure they are gut-loaded with vitamin and mineral first before feeding them to your pet.
Doing this will ensure that your crestie is getting ample amounts of nutrients from these insects. Always offer a wide variation of insects when feeding cresties. This will encourage them to hunt and prevent them from becoming picky eaters too.
Calcium or vitamin D3 powdered supplements should be given to cresties as well. This should be dusted on top of prey insects. Do not forget to provide fresh water to your pet lizard every day to keep him well-hydrated.
What fruits can crested geckos eat?
Crested geckos are omnivores, but their diet in the wild mostly consists of fruits. There are countless fruits that are safe and nutritious for cresties to eat. These include:
- Passion fruit
Crested gecko food should only contain fruits at least once or twice a month. Avoid serving too much as it can lead to obesity. As much as possible, do not feed cresties citrus. It is high in calcium and oxalic acid that aid in the formation of kidney stones.
How often should you feed crested geckos?
Feed crested geckos in the evenings since they are nocturnal animals. Juveniles should be fed every day, whilst adults should only be fed three times a week. Offer baby geckos crickets that are no larger than a half-inch at least two to three times per week.
For adult cresties, serve four to six crickets two to three times per week. Always keep in mind to feed them with insects that are no bigger than the space between their eyes. This is to prevent choking and stomach obstruction. Once a week, feed cresties with insects that are dusted with calcium and vitamin D3 powdered supplement
How long do crested geckos live?
A crested gecko lifespan can reach up to fifteen or twenty years. If properly looked after, they can even live for over thirty years. Giving cresties clean and proper housing, a well-balanced diet, and a peaceful environment will ensure that they’ll live longer.
Making sure that they are of good health, have them regularly checked by the vet. Watch out for signs of health problems such as swelling, lumps, sores, mucous, lethargy, and breathing difficulties. Bring them to the vet immediately for veterinary care.
Cost of Ownership
How much does a crested gecko cost
The price tag for a crested gecko is around £25 to over £80. Buying an entire vivarium set, including the substrate, tank, thermometer, and heat mat will cost you approximately £220.
Food costs for cresties will depend on what you choose. A tub of 250 waxworms costs around £8.21. Meanwhile, buying 60 grams of mealworms will require you to pay around £1.88–£1.99 and approximately £1.88 for five hundred crickets. If you choose to get pet insurance, £4 will be added to your bills monthly.
Crested geckos are arboreal animals, which means they mainly live on trees. They have prehensile tails, which help them balance and move from one tree to another.
Once the tail of the crested gecko falls off, it is unable to regrow its tail unlike the leopard gecko, tokay gecko, and other gecko species.