Facts About Crested Geckos: Everything You Need to Know
Crested geckos are one of the most popular and fascinating reptiles in the pet trade. They are easy to care for, come in a variety of colors and patterns, and have some unique features that make them stand out from other geckos. But how much do you really know about these amazing creatures? In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about crested geckos, from their history and discovery to their physical characteristics and appearance, behavior and personality, diet and nutrition, health and lifespan, and care and maintenance. You will also find some frequently asked questions and answers about crested geckos at the end of the article.
- Crested geckos are arboreal lizards that are native to the islands of New Caledonia in the South Pacific.
- They were first described and named in the 19th century, but were thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered in the 1990s.
- They have distinctive features such as crests, eyelashes, and toe pads that help them adapt to their environment.
- They can change their color and pattern depending on their mood, temperature, and lighting.
- They communicate and make noises by chirping, barking, growling, and squeaking.
- They are omnivorous and eat mostly fruit with occasional insects.
- They can live up to 20 years or more in captivity with proper care.
- They are friendly and docile, but can drop their tails if they feel threatened or stressed.
- They do not have eyelids, so they lick their eyes to keep them clean and moist.
History and Discovery of Crested Geckos
Crested geckos are native to the islands of New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific. They live in the tropical rainforests and dry forests of the main island, Grande Terre, and some of the smaller islands, such as the Isle of Pines and the Loyalty Islands. They are arboreal, meaning they spend most of their time in the trees, where they find shelter, food, and mates.
Crested geckos were first described and named by a French zoologist, Alphone Guichenot, in 1866. He called them Correlophus ciliatus, which means “fringed crest” in Latin, referring to the spiny frills that run along their backs and heads. However, he did not provide much information about their natural history or behavior, and only a few specimens were collected and studied.
For over a century, crested geckos were thought to be extinct in the wild, as they were not seen or reported by any explorers, scientists, or locals. They were only known from museum specimens and old drawings. This changed in 1994, when two American herpetologists, Robert Seipp and Fred Kraus, rediscovered them on the Isle of Pines. They were amazed to find that crested geckos were not only alive, but also abundant and diverse. They collected and bred some of them and brought them back to the United States, where they sparked a huge interest and demand among reptile enthusiasts.
Since then, crested geckos have become one of the most popular and widely available reptiles in the pet trade. They are also the subject of many scientific studies and conservation efforts, as they are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their main threats are habitat loss, invasive predators, and over-collection for the pet trade.
Physical Characteristics and Appearance of Crested Geckos
Crested geckos are large and robust geckos, measuring about 8 inches long from snout to tail, and weighing 35-45 grams as adults. They have triangular shaped heads with large eyes and ears on the side of their heads. They have spiny frills that run down their backs, on their eyelids, and the sides of their heads. These crests give them their common name and are used for camouflage, communication, and thermoregulation.
Crested geckos have no eyelids, so they cannot blink or close their eyes. Instead, they have a transparent membrane that covers and protects their eyes. They also have a long tongue that they use to lick their eyes to keep them clean and moist. Their eyes are very sensitive to light, so they are mostly active during dusk and dawn, when the light is dim.
Crested geckos have five toes on each foot, with adhesive pads on the tips. These pads, called lamellae, are made of tiny hairs that help them stick to almost any surface, such as leaves, branches, glass, and walls. They also have a prehensile tail that they use to balance, grip, and hang from the trees. Their tail can detach if they feel threatened or stressed, as a defense mechanism to distract predators. However, unlike some other geckos, they cannot regrow their tail, so it stays a stump for the rest of their life.
Crested geckos come in a variety of colors and patterns, ranging from yellow and orange to blue, brown, and grey. They can also have spots, stripes, blotches, or flames on their body. They can change their color and pattern depending on their mood, temperature, and lighting. This is called firing up and firing down. When they fire up, they become darker and more vibrant, and when they fire down, they become lighter and more dull.
Behavior and Personality of Crested Geckos
Crested geckos are crepuscular, meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk, when the light is dim and the temperature is moderate. They sleep during the day and night, hiding in the foliage or under the bark of the trees. They are arboreal, meaning they spend most of their time in the trees, where they find shelter, food, and mates. They rarely descend to the ground, unless they need to escape from predators or find a new territory.
Crested geckos communicate and make noises by chirping, barking, growling, and squeaking. They use these sounds to express their emotions, such as happiness, excitement, fear, anger, or aggression. They also use body language, such as head bobbing, tail wagging, and crest raising, to convey their intentions, such as dominance, submission, or courtship. They can recognize and remember their owners and other geckos, and form bonds with them.
Crested geckos are friendly and docile, and rarely bite or scratch. They can be easily handled and tamed, as long as they are treated gently and respectfully. They enjoy being petted and stroked, especially on their head and back. They can also be trained to do simple tricks, such as jumping, climbing, or eating from the hand. They are curious and intelligent, and like to explore and play with different toys and objects.
Crested geckos are social and can live in groups, as long as they have enough space and resources. They can coexist peacefully with other crested geckos, or even other species of geckos, such as gargoyle geckos or leopard geckos. However, they can also become territorial and aggressive, especially during the breeding season, or when they are stressed or overcrowded. They may fight and injure each other, or even cannibalize each other. Therefore, it is important to monitor their behavior and provide them with enough hiding places and enrichment.
Diet and Nutrition of Crested Geckos
Crested geckos are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. In the wild, they feed on fruits, nectar, pollen, insects, and small vertebrates, such as frogs and lizards. They have a strong preference for sweet and juicy foods, such as ripe bananas, mangoes, and figs. They also hunt and catch their prey using their tongue, teeth, and jaws.
In captivity, crested geckos can be fed a variety of foods, as long as they are balanced and nutritious. The best and easiest option is to use a commercial crested gecko diet, which is a powdered formula that contains all the essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins that they need. This formula can be mixed with water and offered in a shallow dish or a squeeze bottle. There are many brands and flavors of crested gecko diet available, such as Repashy, Pangea, and Zoo Med.
Crested geckos can also be fed fresh or frozen fruits, such as bananas, papayas, peaches, and berries. These fruits should be mashed or pureed and mixed with some water or crested gecko diet. They should not be given citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, or grapefruits, as they are too acidic and can cause digestive problems. They should also not be given fruits with seeds, such as apples, pears, or grapes, as they can pose a choking hazard.
Crested geckos can also be fed live or dead insects, such as crickets, roaches, mealworms, waxworms, and silkworms. These insects should be gut-loaded, meaning they should be fed a nutritious diet before being offered to the geckos. They should also be dusted with calcium and vitamin D3 supplements, to prevent metabolic bone disease. Insects should be offered once or twice a week, as a treat or a supplement, not as a staple food.
Crested geckos should be fed every other day, or every day if they are young, pregnant, or recovering from illness. They should be fed in the evening, when they are most active and hungry. They should be given enough food to last them until the next feeding, but not so much that they waste or spoil it. They should also have access to fresh and clean water at all times, in a shallow dish or a drip system.
|Commercial Crested Gecko Diet
|Repashy, Pangea, Zoo Med
|Every other day
|Fresh or Frozen Fruits
|Bananas, papayas, peaches, berries
|Once or twice a week
|Live or Dead Insects
|Crickets, roaches, mealworms, waxworms, silkworms
|Once or twice a week
Health and Lifespan of Crested Geckos
Crested geckos are generally healthy and hardy reptiles, that can live up to 20 years or more in captivity, with proper care. However, they can also suffer from some common health issues and diseases, that can affect their quality and length of life. Some of these health problems are:
- Metabolic bone disease: This is a condition that affects the bones and the skeletal system of the geckos, due to a lack of calcium, vitamin D3, or phosphorus. It can cause symptoms such as soft and brittle bones, deformities, fractures, paralysis, and death. It can be prevented by providing adequate UVB lighting, calcium and vitamin D3 supplements, and a balanced diet.
- Impaction: This is a condition that affects the digestive system of the geckos, due to a blockage or obstruction in the intestines. It can be caused by ingesting indigestible or foreign objects, such as substrate, hair, or seeds. It can cause symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, constipation, bloating, and death. It can be prevented by using a safe and digestible substrate, such as paper towels, coco fiber, or sphagnum moss, and by avoiding foods with seeds or hard shells.
- Infections: These are conditions that affect the immune system of the geckos, due to bacteria, fungi, parasites, or viruses. They can affect various parts of the body, such as the skin, mouth, eyes, ears, lungs, and blood. They can cause symptoms such as inflammation, discharge, ulcers, lesions, abscesses, coughing, sneezing, lethargy, and death. They can be prevented by maintaining good hygiene, sanitation, and quarantine, and by treating them with antibiotics, antifungals, or antiparasitics, as prescribed by a vet.
- Tail loss: This is a condition that affects the tail of the geckos, due to stress, injury, or predation. It is a natural defense mechanism that allows them to escape from danger, by detaching their tail and leaving it behind. The tail will wiggle and distract the predator, while the gecko will run away and hide. The tail will not grow back, but the gecko will heal and survive without it. It can be prevented by handling the gecko gently and carefully, and by providing enough hiding places and enrichment.
|Metabolic bone disease
|Lack of calcium, vitamin D3, or phosphorus
|Soft and brittle bones, deformities, fractures, paralysis, death
|UVB lighting, calcium and vitamin D3 supplements, balanced diet
|Calcium and vitamin D3 supplements, vet consultation
|Ingestion of indigestible or foreign objects
|Loss of appetite, weight loss, constipation, bloating, death
|Safe and digestible substrate, no foods with seeds or hard shells
|Warm baths, gentle massage, vet consultation
|Bacteria, fungi, parasites, or viruses
|Inflammation, discharge, ulcers, lesions, abscesses, coughing, sneezing, lethargy, death
|Good hygiene, sanitation, and quarantine
|Antibiotics, antifungals, or antiparasitics, vet consultation
|Stress, injury, or predation
|Detached tail, bleeding, scarring
|Gentle and careful handling, enough hiding places and enrichment
|None, the gecko will heal and survive without the tail
Care and Maintenance of Crested Geckos
Crested geckos are easy to care for and maintain, as long as they are provided with the essential items and equipment that they need to thrive. These include:
- Enclosure: This is the container or cage that houses the gecko and its accessories. It should be large enough to allow the gecko to move and climb freely, but not too large that it makes it hard to find food and water. A 20-gallon tall tank or a 18x18x24 inch terrarium is suitable for one or two adult geckos. The enclosure should have a secure lid or door, to prevent the gecko from escaping or being attacked by other pets or children. The enclosure should also have good ventilation, to prevent mold and bacteria growth.
- Substrate: This is the material that covers the bottom of the enclosure. It should be safe and digestible, such as paper towels, coco fiber, or sphagnum moss. It should not be dusty, sharp, or toxic, such as sand, gravel, or pine. The substrate should be changed or cleaned regularly, to remove waste and prevent odor and infection.
- Hides: These are the items that provide the gecko with shelter and privacy. They should be dark, cozy, and snug, such as cork bark, coconut shells, or plastic boxes. They should be placed in different areas of the enclosure, such as the top, middle, and bottom, to give the gecko options and variety. They should also be misted daily, to provide the gecko with humidity and hydration.
- Plants: These are the items that provide the gecko with decoration and enrichment. They should be live or artificial, such as pothos, philodendron, or silk plants. They should be sturdy and safe, and not have any sharp edges or toxic chemicals. They should be placed in different areas of the enclosure, such as the sides, corners, and back, to give the gecko cover and climbing opportunities.
- Temperature: This is the measure of how hot or cold the enclosure is. It should be moderate and stable, between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, with a slight drop at night. It should not be too hot or too cold, as it can cause stress, illness, or death. It can be maintained by using a thermometer, a heat mat, a heat lamp, or a room heater. It can also be regulated by adjusting the room temperature, the enclosure location, or the amount of lighting.
- Humidity: This is the measure of how moist or dry the enclosure is. It should be high and consistent, between 50 and 80 percent, with a spike at night. It should not be too low or too high, as it can cause dehydration, shedding problems, or respiratory infections. It can be maintained by using a hygrometer, a misting bottle, a humidifier, or a fogger. It can also be regulated by adjusting the ventilation, the substrate, or the amount of water.
- Lighting: This is the source of light and illumination for the enclosure. It should be natural and artificial, to mimic the day and night cycle of the gecko’s natural habitat. It should provide 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness, with a gradual transition between them. It should not be too bright or too dim, as it can affect the gecko’s vision, color, and activity. It can be provided by using a timer, a window, a fluorescent bulb, or a LED light. It can also be adjusted by using curtains, shades, or dimmers.
- Accessories: These are the items that provide the gecko with fun and stimulation. They should be varied and interesting, such as branches, vines, rocks, logs, or hammocks. They should be safe and secure, and not have any sharp edges or loose parts. They should be placed in different areas of the enclosure, such as the top, middle, and bottom, to give the gecko options and challenges. They should also be changed or rotated regularly, to prevent boredom and stress.
|Housing and containment
|20-gallon tall tank or 18x18x24 inch terrarium
|Flooring and bedding
|Paper towels, coco fiber, or sphagnum moss
|Shelter and privacy
|Cork bark, coconut shells, or plastic boxes
|Decoration and enrichment
|Pothos, philodendron, or silk plants
|Heat and comfort
|72-82 degrees Fahrenheit, heat mat, heat lamp, or room heater
|Moisture and hydration
|50-80 percent, misting bottle, humidifier, or fogger
|Light and illumination
|12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness, timer, window, fluorescent bulb, or LED light
|Fun and stimulation
|Branches, vines, rocks, logs, or hammocks
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about crested geckos:
- Are crested geckos friendly?
Yes, crested geckos are friendly and docile, and rarely bite or scratch. They can be easily handled and tamed, as long as they are treated gently and respectfully. They enjoy being petted and stroked, especially on their head and back. They can also be trained to do simple tricks, such as jumping, climbing, or eating from the hand.
- Do crested gecko bites hurt?
No, crested gecko bites do not hurt, as they have small and blunt teeth that are not meant to pierce or tear flesh. They may bite as a warning, a defense, or a mistake, but they will usually let go quickly and without causing any damage. However, some people may be allergic or sensitive to their saliva, so it is advisable to wash the bite area with soap and water, and apply some antiseptic cream if needed.
- Can crested geckos regrow their tail?
No, crested geckos cannot regrow their tail, unlike some other geckos. Their tail can detach if they feel threatened or stressed, as a defense mechanism to distract predators. However, the tail will not grow back, and will remain a stump for the rest of their life. This does not affect their health or survival, but it may affect their appearance and balance.
- Do crested geckos like to swim?
No, crested geckos do not like to swim, as they are not aquatic or semi-aquatic animals. They may occasionally soak or dip in water, to hydrate, cool down, or shed their skin, but they will not stay in water for long, as they may drown or get infections. They should have access to fresh and clean water at all times, in a shallow dish or a drip system, but not in a deep or large bowl or tub.
- Can crested geckos change color?
Yes, crested geckos can change color and pattern depending on their mood, temperature, and lighting. This is called firing up and firing down. When they fire up, they become darker and more vibrant, and when they fire down, they become lighter and more dull. However, they cannot change their color and pattern drastically, such as from yellow to blue, or from spots to stripes. They can only change within their natural range of colors and patterns.