Are Crested Geckos Friendly? A Complete Guide for Reptile Lovers
Crested geckos are one of the most popular reptile pets in the world. They are small, cute, and easy to care for. But are they friendly? Do they enjoy being handled? How do they interact with other geckos and humans? In this article, we will answer these questions and more, based on scientific research, expert opinions, and personal experiences. We will also give you some tips on how to make your crested gecko happy and healthy.
- Crested geckos are generally docile and tolerant of handling, but they are not very affectionate or social animals. They may tolerate being held, but they do not seek human attention or bond with their owners.
- Crested geckos have different personalities and temperaments. Some may be more curious, active, or shy than others. You should observe your gecko’s behavior and respect its preferences and limits when handling it.
- Crested geckos are arboreal and nocturnal. They like to climb and jump, and they are most active at night. You should provide them with a tall and spacious enclosure, with plenty of hiding places, branches, plants, and vines.
- Crested geckos are omnivorous and eat a variety of foods, including insects, fruits, and commercial diets. You should feed them a balanced and varied diet, and supplement it with calcium and vitamin D3.
- Crested geckos are relatively easy to care for, but they still have some specific requirements and potential health problems. You should maintain a proper temperature, humidity, lighting, and ventilation in their enclosure, and check them regularly for signs of illness or injury.
What are Crested Geckos?
Crested geckos are a species of gecko native to southern New Caledonia, an island country off the coast of Australia. They were first described by French zoologist Alphonse Guichenot in 1866, but they were thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered in 1994 by a team of researchers led by Robert Seipp12. Since then, they have become very popular as pets, and are bred in captivity in many colors and patterns (morphs).
Crested geckos are named after the fringed crest that runs from their eyes to their tails, which resembles eyelashes. They also have sticky toe pads that allow them to cling to vertical surfaces, and a prehensile tail that helps them balance and grasp objects. They can detach their tail if threatened, but unlike other geckos, they cannot regrow it. They also do not have eyelids, and use their tongue to clean their eyes.
Crested geckos are small and lightweight, measuring about 7 to 9 inches in length, including their tail, and weighing about 35 to 45 grams. They have a lifespan of 10 to 20 years in captivity, but some may live longer.
How Friendly are Crested Geckos?
The answer to this question depends on how you define “friendly”. If you expect your crested gecko to be affectionate, cuddly, or playful, you may be disappointed. Crested geckos are not very social animals, and they do not form strong bonds with their owners or other geckos. They may tolerate being held, but they do not seek human attention or enjoy being petted. They are more likely to be curious, alert, or indifferent than friendly.
However, if you define “friendly” as docile, calm, or tolerant, then crested geckos are fairly friendly. They are not aggressive or territorial, and they rarely bite or scratch. They are easy to handle, as long as you are gentle, careful, and respectful. They may even show some signs of trust or recognition, such as licking your hand, resting on your shoulder, or coming out of their hiding place when you approach.
Of course, not all crested geckos are the same. They have different personalities and temperaments, and some may be more friendly than others. Some factors that may influence their friendliness are:
- Genetics: Some morphs or lines may be more docile or skittish than others, depending on their breeding history and selection.
- Age: Younger geckos may be more nervous or energetic than older ones, and may need more time to get used to handling.
- Sex: Male geckos may be more territorial or aggressive than females, especially during the breeding season.
- Health: Sick or injured geckos may be more stressed or defensive than healthy ones, and may need more care and attention.
- Environment: Geckos that are kept in a suitable enclosure, with proper temperature, humidity, lighting, and ventilation, may be more comfortable and relaxed than those that are not.
- Diet: Geckos that are fed a balanced and varied diet, with enough calcium and vitamin D3, may be more healthy and happy than those that are not.
- Handling: Geckos that are handled regularly, gently, and respectfully, may be more tame and friendly than those that are not.
How to Handle Crested Geckos
Handling your crested gecko can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, for both you and your pet. However, you should always keep in mind that crested geckos are delicate and sensitive animals, and they need to be handled with care and caution. Here are some tips on how to handle your crested gecko safely and properly:
- Wash your hands before and after handling your gecko, to avoid transferring any germs or chemicals that may harm your pet or yourself.
- Choose a suitable time and place to handle your gecko, preferably when it is awake and active, and in a quiet and secure area, away from any potential threats or distractions.
- Approach your gecko slowly and calmly, and let it see and smell your hand before you touch it. Do not grab or squeeze your gecko, as this may scare or hurt it. Instead, gently scoop it up from below, supporting its body and tail with your palm and fingers.
- Hold your gecko close to your body or a soft surface, and do not let it fall or jump. If your gecko tries to escape, do not chase or restrain it. Instead, let it go or guide it back to your hand with your other hand.
- Do not handle your gecko for too long or too often, as this may stress or exhaust it. Limit your handling sessions to 10 to 15 minutes, once or twice a week, and observe your gecko’s behavior and mood. If your gecko shows signs of discomfort or distress, such as hissing, biting, tail wagging, or hiding, stop handling it and return it to its enclosure.
- Do not handle your gecko if it is shedding, molting, gravid, sick, or injured, as this may cause complications or infections. Wait until your gecko has recovered or completed its process before handling it again.
How to Make Your Crested Gecko Happy and Healthy
Besides handling your crested gecko, there are other ways to make your pet happy and healthy. Here are some of the most important aspects of crested gecko care that you should pay attention to:
Your crested gecko’s enclosure is its home, and it should be comfortable, spacious, and stimulating. Here are some guidelines on how to set up and maintain your crested gecko’s enclosure:
- Size: A 20-gallon terrarium is sufficient for one adult gecko, but a larger tank is better. Two or three geckos can be housed in a 29-gallon terrarium, but only one male per tank, as males may fight. Crested geckos are arboreal, so a tall tank is preferred over a long one.
- Substrate: The substrate is the material that covers the bottom of the tank. It should be safe, absorbent, and easy to clean. Some good options are paper towels, reptile carpet, coconut fiber, or orchid bark. Avoid substrates that may be toxic, sharp, or ingested, such as sand, gravel, or wood shavings.
- Decorations: The decorations are the items that provide your gecko with hiding places, climbing opportunities, and visual appeal. You should provide a mix of branches, driftwood, cork bark, bamboo, and vines, at different heights and orientations. You should also add a variety of silk or sturdy live plants, such as pothos, philodendron, dracaena, and ficus, as your gecko will hide in the plants for cover. Avoid decorations that may be harmful, unstable, or difficult to clean, such as plastic, metal, or glass.
- Cleaning: You should clean your gecko’s enclosure regularly, to prevent the buildup of waste, bacteria, and mold. Every day, you should remove any uneaten food and spot clean any feces or urates. Every week, you should change the substrate and wipe down the walls and decorations. Every month, you should disinfect the entire tank and its contents, using reptile-safe products, such as vinegar, bleach, or F10.
Crested geckos are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. They prefer a moderate temperature range, similar to their natural habitat. Here are some guidelines on how to control and monitor the temperature in your gecko’s enclosure:
- Range: The ideal temperature range for crested geckos is 72 to 80°F (22 to 27°C) during the day, and 65 to 75°F (18 to 24°C) at night. Temperatures above 85°F (29°C) or below 60°F (16°C) can be harmful or fatal for your gecko.
- Source: You can use a low-wattage heat lamp, a ceramic heat emitter, or a heat mat to provide a gentle heat source for your gecko. You should place the heat source on one side of the tank, creating a temperature gradient, and leave the other side cooler. You should also turn off the heat source at night, to mimic the natural day-night cycle.
- Measurement: You should use a digital thermometer or a temperature gun to measure the temperature in your gecko’s enclosure, at different spots and times. You should also use a thermostat to regulate the temperature and prevent overheating or underheating.
Crested geckos are hygrophilic, meaning they need high levels of humidity to stay hydrated and healthy. They absorb water through their skin and drink water droplets from their eyes and plants. They also need humidity to shed their skin properly. Here are some guidelines on how to maintain and monitor the humidity in your gecko’s enclosure:
- Range: The ideal humidity range for crested geckos is 60 to 80%, with a daily cycle of higher humidity at night and lower humidity during the day. Humidity above 90% or below 50% can cause respiratory infections, dehydration, or shedding problems for your gecko.
- Source: You can use a spray bottle, a misting system, or a humidifier to provide moisture for your gecko. You should mist your gecko’s enclosure once or twice a day, depending on the ambient humidity and the substrate. You should also provide a shallow water dish for your gecko to drink from, and change the water daily.
- Measurement: You should use a digital hygrometer or a humidity gauge to measure the humidity in your gecko’s enclosure, at different spots and times. You should also use a timer or a hygrostat to control the misting frequency and duration.
Crested geckos are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. They have a natural circadian rhythm that follows the sun’s movement, and they need a regular day-night cycle to regulate their behavior and metabolism. Here are some guidelines on how to provide and adjust the lighting in your gecko’s enclosure:
- Duration: You should provide your gecko with 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness, to mimic the natural photoperiod. You can use a natural or artificial light source, such as a window, a fluorescent bulb, or an LED strip. You should also adjust the light duration according to the season, with longer days in summer and shorter days in winter.
- Intensity: You should provide your gecko with low to moderate light intensity, to match their natural habitat. You should avoid direct sunlight, bright lights, or UV lights, as these can damage your gecko’s eyes or skin. You should also provide some shade and cover for your gecko to hide from the light.
- Color: You should provide your gecko with a natural or white light color, to enhance their coloration and mood. You should avoid red, blue, or purple lights, as these can disrupt your gecko’s circadian rhythm or stress them out.
How to Feed Crested Geckos
Crested geckos are omnivorous, meaning they eat both animal and plant matter. In the wild, they feed on insects, fruits, nectar, and pollen. In captivity, they can eat a variety of foods, including commercial diets, insects, and fruits. Here are some guidelines on how to feed your crested gecko properly and safely:
- Frequency: You should feed your gecko every other day, or three to four times a week, depending on its age, size, and activity level. You should also offer fresh water daily, and change it regularly.
- Quantity: You should feed your gecko as much as it can eat in 15 to 20 minutes, or until it stops showing interest. You should also remove any uneaten food after 24 hours, to prevent spoilage or mold. You can use a food dish, a ledge, or a cup to offer food to your gecko, and place it near its hiding or sleeping spot.
- Quality: You should feed your gecko a balanced and varied diet, to meet its nutritional needs and preferences. You should also supplement its diet with calcium and vitamin D3, to prevent metabolic bone disease or other health issues. Here are some examples of foods that you can feed your gecko, and their benefits and drawbacks:
|Complete and convenient, specially formulated for crested geckos, available in powder or paste form, in different flavors and brands
|May be expensive, boring, or rejected by some geckos, may contain artificial ingredients or preservatives
|High in protein, fat, and calcium, stimulate natural hunting behavior, provide enrichment and variety, such as crickets, dubia roaches, mealworms, or waxworms
|May be hard to find, store, or breed, may carry parasites or diseases, may need to be gut-loaded and dusted with supplements, may cause impaction or choking if too large or too many
|High in sugar, water, and fiber, provide sweetness and moisture, enhance color and flavor, such as banana, mango, papaya, or berries
|May be low in protein, calcium, and vitamin D3, may cause diarrhea or obesity if too much or too often, may need to be mashed or pureed, may spoil or attract pests
How to Spot and Treat Common Crested Gecko Problems
Crested geckos are relatively hardy and healthy animals, but they can still suffer from some common problems, such as:
- Shedding problems: Crested geckos shed their skin periodically, usually every few weeks, depending on their growth rate and environmental conditions. Shedding problems occur when the old skin does not come off completely or easily, causing irritation, infection, or loss of circulation. This can affect the eyes, mouth, toes, or tail of the gecko. To prevent or treat shedding problems, you should:
- Maintain a high humidity level in the enclosure, especially during the shedding period.
- Provide a moist hide or a humid box for your gecko to retreat and shed in.
- Mist your gecko lightly with warm water, or soak it gently in a shallow container of water, to help loosen the old skin.
- Peel off the old skin carefully with your fingers or tweezers, if it is loose and ready to come off. Do not pull or force the skin off, as this may hurt or injure your gecko.
- Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly to the affected area, if it is inflamed or infected.
- Metabolic bone disease: Metabolic bone disease (MBD) is a condition that affects the bones and muscles of the gecko, caused by a lack of calcium, vitamin D3, or phosphorus, or an imbalance of these minerals. MBD can cause soft or brittle bones, deformities, fractures, weakness, paralysis, or death. To prevent or treat MBD, you should:
- Feed your gecko a balanced and varied diet, with enough calcium and vitamin D3, or use a commercial diet that contains these supplements.
- Dust your gecko’s food with a calcium and vitamin D3 powder, or offer a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement in a dish or a cup, every other feeding or once a week.
- Provide a low-wattage UVB light for your gecko, or expose it to natural sunlight for 15 to 30 minutes a day, to help it synthesize vitamin D3.
- Consult a reptile veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment, if your gecko shows signs of MBD, such as swollen or twisted limbs, kinked tail, curved spine, or difficulty moving.
- Respiratory infections: Respiratory infections (RI) are infections that affect the lungs and airways of the gecko, caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses, or by poor environmental conditions, such as low temperature, high humidity, or poor ventilation. RI can cause wheezing, sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, mouth breathing, or lethargy. To prevent or treat RI, you should:
- Maintain a proper temperature and humidity level in the enclosure, and avoid sudden or extreme changes.
- Provide adequate ventilation and air circulation in the enclosure, and avoid overcrowding or stress.
- Clean the enclosure and its contents regularly, and disinfect them with reptile-safe products.
- Isolate the infected gecko from other geckos, and quarantine any new or sick geckos before introducing them to the enclosure.
- Consult a reptile veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment, if your gecko shows signs of RI, such as difficulty breathing, mucus or blood in the mouth or nose, or loss of appetite.
- How to Breed Crested Geckos
- Breeding crested geckos can be a fun and rewarding hobby, but it also requires a lot of responsibility and preparation. You should only breed crested geckos if you have enough space, time, and resources to care for the parents and the offspring, and if you have a plan to sell or rehome the babies.
- To breed crested geckos, you will need a male and a female gecko that are healthy, mature, and compatible. You should also have a separate breeding tank, a nesting box, and an incubator for the eggs. You should also monitor the temperature, humidity, and photoperiod of the breeding tank, and provide extra calcium and food for the female gecko.
- The breeding season for crested geckos is usually from spring to fall, but it may vary depending on the climate and the individual geckos. You can introduce the male and the female gecko in the breeding tank, and observe their behavior. If they are interested, they will court and mate, which may involve vocalizing, licking, biting, and tail wagging. If they are not interested, or if they are aggressive, you should separate them and try again later.
- After mating, the female gecko will lay one or two eggs every four to six weeks, for a total of four to eight clutches per season. You should provide a nesting box filled with moist substrate, such as vermiculite, perlite, or sphagnum moss, for the female gecko to lay her eggs in. You should check the nesting box regularly, and remove the eggs carefully as soon as you find them.
- You should incubate the eggs in a separate container, with the same substrate and moisture level as the nesting box. You should also mark the top of the eggs with a pencil, and avoid rotating or shaking them. You should keep the incubator at a constant temperature of 72 to 80°F (22 to 27°C), and monitor the humidity and the development of the eggs. The eggs will hatch in 60 to 120 days, depending on the temperature and the genetics of the geckos. The sex of the geckos will also depend on the temperature, with higher temperatures producing more females, and lower temperatures producing more males.
- You should house the hatchlings in separate containers, with paper towel as substrate, and provide them with food, water, and calcium. You should also handle them gently and minimally, until they are settled and eating well. You should wait until they are at least two months old and 10 grams in weight, before selling or rehoming them.
- How to Train Crested Geckos
- Training crested geckos may sound like a strange or impossible idea, but it is actually possible and beneficial, for both you and your pet. Training crested geckos can help you bond with them, improve their behavior, and enrich their lives. You can train crested geckos to do simple tricks, such as coming when called, jumping on command, or targeting an object.
- To train crested geckos, you will need a reward, a cue, and a marker. The reward is something that your gecko likes and wants, such as food, praise, or attention. The cue is something that you use to tell your gecko what to do, such as a word, a sound, or a gesture. The marker is something that you use to tell your gecko when it has done the right thing, such as a clicker, a whistle, or a word.
- The basic principle of training crested geckos is to use positive reinforcement, which means rewarding your gecko for doing the desired behavior, and ignoring or redirecting it for doing the undesired behavior. You should also use shaping, which means breaking down the behavior into small steps, and rewarding your gecko for each step, until it reaches the final goal.
- For example, if you want to train your gecko to come when called, you can follow these steps:
- Choose a cue, such as your gecko’s name, and a reward, such as a cricket.
- Start by calling your gecko’s name, and rewarding it with a cricket, whenever it looks at you or moves towards you. Use the marker to signal the reward, and repeat this several times, until your gecko associates the cue with the reward.
- Gradually increase the distance and difficulty, by calling your gecko’s name, and rewarding it with a cricket, whenever it comes closer to you or jumps on your hand. Use the marker to signal the reward, and repeat this several times, until your gecko learns to come when called.
- Fade out the reward and the marker, by calling your gecko’s name, and rewarding it with a cricket, only occasionally or randomly, and using the marker less frequently. This will make your gecko more motivated and consistent, and prevent it from becoming dependent on the reward or the marker.
- How to Travel with Crested Geckos
- Traveling with crested geckos can be a challenging and stressful experience, for both you and your pet. You should only travel with crested geckos if it is necessary, and if you have prepared well in advance. You should also consider the mode, duration, and destination of your travel, and the possible risks and regulations involved.
- To travel with crested geckos, you will need a travel container, a heat pack, a thermometer, a spray bottle, a paper towel, and some food and water. You should also have a health certificate, a permit, or a microchip for your gecko, depending on the requirements of your destination. You should also check the weather and the temperature of your travel route, and avoid extreme or fluctuating conditions.
- The travel container should be small, secure, and ventilated, such as a plastic tub, a deli cup, or a critter keeper. You should line the bottom of the container with a paper towel, and add some hiding places, such as a toilet paper roll, a plastic plant, or a piece of cloth. You should also poke some holes in the lid or the sides of the container, for air circulation.
- The heat pack should be wrapped in a towel or a sock, and placed under or next to the container, to provide a gentle heat source for your gecko. You should monitor the temperature of the container with a thermometer, and keep it between 72 and 80°F (22 and 27°C). You should also mist the container lightly with a spray bottle, to maintain a high humidity level.
- The food and water should be offered in small dishes or cups, or on a piece of paper towel, to prevent spillage or drowning. You should feed your gecko a commercial diet, such as a powder or a paste, or some fruits, such as banana, mango, or berries. You should also provide some water droplets for your gecko to drink from, and change the water daily.
- The mode of travel should be chosen carefully, depending on the distance and the duration of your trip. You can travel with your gecko by car, by plane, or by train, but each option has its pros and cons. Here are some tips for each mode of travel:
- By car: Traveling by car can be the easiest and safest option, as you have more control and flexibility over your gecko’s comfort and security. You can place the container in a seat belt, in a cooler, or in a cardboard box, and keep it away from direct sunlight, air vents, or windows. You can also check on your gecko regularly, and adjust the temperature and the humidity as needed. You should also make frequent stops, and offer your gecko some food and water.
- By plane: Traveling by plane can be the fastest and most convenient option, but it can also be the most risky and stressful one, as you have less control and visibility over your gecko’s condition and location. You can either carry your gecko in your hand luggage, or check it in as cargo, depending on the airline’s policy and availability. You should also check the airline’s regulations and fees, and book your flight in advance. You should also label the container clearly, with your name, address, phone number, and the words “Live Animal” and “Fragile”. You should also pack the container securely, with enough heat, moisture, and padding, and avoid opening or shaking it during the flight.
- By train: Traveling by train can be a comfortable and scenic option, but it can also be a long and unpredictable one, as you may encounter delays, transfers, or changes. You can either carry your gecko in your hand luggage, or check it in as baggage, depending on the train’s policy and availability. You should also check the train’s regulations and fees, and book your ticket in advance. You should also label the container clearly, with your name, address, phone number, and the words “Live Animal” and “Fragile”. You should also pack the container securely, with enough heat, moisture, and padding, and avoid opening or shaking it during the trip.
- How to Coexist with Crested Geckos
- Coexisting with crested geckos can be a rewarding and enriching experience, for both you and your pet. You can coexist with crested geckos by understanding their behavior, respecting their needs, and providing them with a suitable environment. You can also coexist with crested geckos by interacting with them, learning from them, and appreciating them. Here are some ways to coexist