Crested Gecko

By Snaketracks / October 4, 2019
Crested Gecko

Crested Gecko Care Sheet

Also known as the eyelash gecko, the crested gecko was thought extinct until 1994 when they were rediscovered. Ever since they have grown in popularity especially as pets.

This is because they are easy to care for, and fun to watch and interact with. Since these pets can live up to 20 years with good care, it is important to be committed before getting one. With a variety of commercial crested gecko diet available, you needn’t worry about feeding them live insects.

Quick Reference Section

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Diplodactylidae / Gekkonidae
  • Scientific Name: Correlophus (Rhacodactylus) ciliatus
  • Average Adult Size: 8 inches (203 mm)
  • Lifespan: 10 – 20 years
  • Clutch Size: 2 eggs
  • Egg Incubation Period: 90 – 190 days
  • Food: Commercial crested gecko diet or Live insects
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Average Temperature: 78°H/75°L
  • Humidity: 50 – 70%
  • UVB Lighting: Optional
  • Average Price Range: $30 to $150
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable on IUCN Redlist

Facts and Information

The crested gecko is endemic to New Caledonia (located in the southwest Pacific Ocean) specifically the South Province. Wild populations are limited to just the main island of Grande Terre and the Isle of Pine. It is believed that a wild population exists on Kôtomo Island, also in New Caledonia, but this is unconfirmed. Their range elevation is 492.13 to 3280.84 feet (150 to 1000 m).

The binomial name of the species is Rhacodactylus ciliatus, although they are also referred to as Correlophus ciliatus. Evidentially, they belong to the genus Rhacodactylus/Correlophus and the family Gekkonidae or Diplodactylidae. The family Gekkonidae contains several other geckos such as the Leopard Gecko.

With an average length of 8 inches and a length range of 6 to 10 inches, this is one of the largest gecko species in the world. They also have a long tail which can grow up to 4 – 6 inches. Crested geckos have hair-like extensions/projections over their eyes.

The hair-like extensions look like eyelashes, which is why the crested geckos are also popularly referred to as eyelash geckos. The eyelashes is the main distinguishing feature of this gecko. Additionally, they have a large triangular head, large ear openings, and big eyes. They come in different morphs and colorations.

The three main morphs seen among wild crested geckos include patternless (a solid body color ranging from grey, red, brown, green to yellow with faint or no patterns), tiger (a light body color with darker stripes and a patterned underside), and white-fringed (yellowish-white color on entire body or parts of their calcareous crest).

Crested Gecko Habitat

Most wild crested geckos can be found in the rainforests of Grand Terre, New Caledonia the typical temperature range is 72 to 75 F (22.2 to 23.9 °C). In their natural habitat, rainfall levels can be as high as 4000 mm a year. They spend all their time in trees, where they rest during the day and forage during the night. As you can see, they need a room-level temperature, regular misting, and a tall enclosure with much vegetation.

Enclosure

When choosing an enclosure for this gecko, ensure it is one that allows the geckos to climb vertically. Housing them in an aquarium isn’t best even if it is tall vertical aquarium.

First, ventilation in an aquarium would be poor, misting the enclosure would be difficult, so would every other husbandry practices. Get a terrarium designed for tropical reptiles. These have front-opening glass panels so you can easily open up the enclosure to feed the gecko, mist the enclosure, and check on the vegetation in there.

For juveniles, I recommend a 12x12x18 inches tall terrarium such as the Exo Terra Crested Gecko Kit, Small. This enclosure has a capacity of 10 gallons. 

For adults, I recommend a tall terrarium with measurements of 18x18x24 inches such as the Exo Terra AllGlass Terrarium which has a capacity of 20 gallons. It also has dual front opening doors and a full metal screen for the top ventilation.  It even comes with tropical rainforest decorations such as jungle vines and jungle ropes.

Get a lot of plants in the terrarium either live or fake. Each (live or fake) has its advantages and disadvantages. While live plants help maintain good humidity levels, they also require the right potting mix, fertilization, and adequate lighting to grow well. Fake plants, on the other hand, are maintenance-free.

Just ensure you get plants that can thrive in a  humid environment. Some plants to consider include figs, pothos, and bromeliads. Jungle vines and ropes also add to the aesthetics of the enclosure. Additionally, they provide climbing opportunities. Driftwood and bark are also good decorations to have in the terrarium.

Substrate

When thinking of substrate, you got to think of the live plants in the terrarium as well as the geckos. For the plants, use potting mix (I recommend equal portions of coco coir and sterile soil).

For the reptiles, the substrate has to be one that maintains humidity well such as peat moss, coco fiber, and cypress mulch. The substrate should be deep and plentiful enough to cover the floor of the reptile house properly. Damp paper towels or old newspapers also work well.

They are easy to find, and would likely cost you nothing. Paper isn’t preferred by most reptile keepers since it isn’t aesthetically pleasing. However, when you newly acquire a gecko, whether an adult or a baby, use damp newspapers or paper towels for at least two weeks.

Since the crested gecko hardly goes to the floor of the terrarium, as far as the bedding holds moisture well, it would work. Avoid substrates made of cedar as it’s toxic to reptiles.

Temperature

Try to keep the temperature at around 75 F. Temperature levels shouldn’t go above 78 F. On the opposite end, the temperate during the day shouldn’t fall below 62 F.

As you can see the temperature levels needn’t be high. If you live in a place where temperatures are consistently above 82 F, then you need to place the enclosure in a cooler room. When the temperatures are high, the crestie can get stressed. This is bad for its health.

Since the gecko is arboreal, a heat mat wouldn’t be of any good. For vertical enclosures, you can use a heat lamp to warm up the enclosure when temperatures are low.

During the night, the lamp can be turned off to save energy. A ceramic heat emitter such as Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter is a good choice. Another excellent choice is a mercury vapor lamp. Position the lamp above the enclosure, if one is necessary.

Get a thermostat (such as the WILLHI Temperature Controller) for the heat emitter so it doesn’t produce too much heat. Place the lamp over the screen top to one side of the terrarium.

This will create a temperature gradient. The gecko can move towards the heat source or away from the heat in order to regulate its body temperature.

Humidity

The crestie requires high humidity levels to thrive. Ensure the humidity level in the enclosure doesn’t fall below 50 percent. Achieve this by misting the enclosure regularly. Mist the enclosure twice a day if necessary.

Alternatively, you can place a cool mist humidifier next to the enclosure. The presence of live plants also helps regulate humidity levels. Crested geckos lick water droplets off the leaves of the plants and off the glass panels of the terrarium.

Lighting

As far as they are fed a diet supplemented with vitamin D3, they wouldn’t need UV light. However, if you have live plants in the aquarium, you need to provide UV light for the plants. Many of the plants can grow with indirect sunlight light. You can place the terrarium in a sunlit room.

Just don’t place the terrarium in the path of direct sunlight as this can quickly heat up the glass terrarium. The terrarium can be placed adjacent to the window but never right in front of a window. Also, you can have a fluorescent light that runs the length of the tank. The lights should go off during the night.

Feeding the Crested gecko

Crested geckos don’t need live insects to survive. They gladly accept replacement gecko diets. The exclusion of live insects from their diet is one of the reasons why they are such popular lizards. I recommend the Repashy Crested Gecko Meal Replacement Diet.

Geckos enjoy it and it provides them with all the nutrients (both macronutrients & micronutrients) they need to be healthy and active. Another popular brand of gecko diet is the Pangea Fruit Mix Complete Crested Gecko Food. It comes in different flavors such as the banana, apricot, papaya, and watermelon.

The powdered diet needs to mixed with two parts water and served in a shallow dish thrice a week. It may take a while for them to eat enough, so the food needs to remain in the enclosure for a day and half before you remove it.

Other foods the cresties enjoy include pieces of fruits and live insects such as roaches and crickets. Fruits can be fed as a treat once every two weeks. Live insects can be their main food or a supplementary diet.

The crickets need to be dusted with a vitamin supplement such as the Zoo Med Reptile Calcium with Vitamin D3. The length of the crickets needs to be equal to the width of the gecko’s head.

Provide the crestie with water at all times. A shallow sturdy dish of water should be placed at the bottom of the enclosure. It needs to be full throughout the day. Change the water and clean the dish daily.

The crested gecko would likely excrete into the water but that’s normal. Wash the dish with water and a brush. Don’t use soap, the residue can be harmful to the reptile.

Crested gecko’s Temperament

As generally docile reptiles, the crested gecko is easy to handle. It also makes a great display pet. Wait for the gecko to be at least 3 inches from snout to vent before you handle them.

Small crested geckos are flighty and injure easily. Even with adults, don’t handle for more than five minutes. If you have just acquired an adult crested gecko, wait for a month before you attempt to handle it. It needs to get settled in first.

Crested geckos can be quite skittish and as such may drop their tails when handled roughly. Unlike other geckos, their tails can’t grow back. Also, losing their tail isn’t harmful to their health as with leopard geckos. In fact, in the wild, almost all adult cresties lose their tail.

Crested gecko’s Lifespan

Because they were just recently rediscovered, little is known about their lifespan especially in the wild. However, because of their popularity as pets, we can safely assume their lifespan in captivity. While they can live to be over 20 years in captivity, most grow to between 10 and 20 years.

Common Health Concerns

As with any pet, poor health is a concern. With proper husbandry, you should be able to keep poor health and illnesses to a minimal. Regardless, they can suffer from a variety of illnesses. The most common ones are highlighted below.

Metabolic bone disease (MBD)

This is as a result of calcium deficiency. This disease leads to weak bones as the body metabolizes them for calcium. Some symptoms include weak jaws, swollen limbs, humped back, kinks, the bowing of the spine and tremors. Providing a proper diet is essential.

Feed them crested gecko meal replacement powder diets. The advantage of this diet is that it contains all the nutrients the gecko needs. If you feed them live insects, ensure the insects are gut-loaded and dusted with vitamin D3 and calcium supplement.

Sand impactions and prolapse

When the lizard ingests loose substrate such as soil, it can lead to blockages in their intestines. This is especially common among babies and juveniles who eat substrates as they explore and acclimatize to their enclosure.

That is why it is important to use paper towels or newspapers for babies, juveniles and newly acquired crested geckos. Signs of sand impaction include refusal to eat and constipation.

Loss of tail

This is common among geckos, and the crested gecko is no exception. However, unlike other geckos, the crested gecko cannot grow back a dropped tail.

Crested geckos drop their tail when they feel threatened. A dropped tail will twitch and move about, catching the attention of a predator so the crested gecko can flee to safety.

If you threaten the gecko or handle it roughly, the tail can drop. If you house several geckos together they may fight and drop their tails. A dropped tail shouldn’t be an issue, and it won’t affect the lizard negatively.

Pricing and Availability

These popular pets are readily and easily bred. As such, they aren’t pricey. On average, they should cost about $40. Of course, rarer morphs cost more. Some rare morphs cost as much as $400. Popular morphs include Pinstripe, Tiger, Yellow, Flame, Dalmatian, Dark, Brindle, Red, Cream, and Harlequin.

Some online sites to acquire this delightful reptile include Tiki’s Geckos, Underground Reptiles, Pangea ReptilesJosh’s Frogs, and Morph Markets (which specializes in morphs).

Conservation/Threats

As a species that was recently rediscovered, very little is known about geckos in the wild and the impact of human activities on wild populations. However, in the wild, their population is falling. This is believed to be caused by bad farming practices (such as slash and burn farming), introduction of non-native species and mining. They are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Conclusion

Are Crested geckos excellent pets? Yes, they are. They may just be the best pets for beginners. While you need to mist the enclosure daily, feeding them is easy. You don’t need to deal with noisy crickets or other live insects.

They also come in several colors. Some are bright solid red while some are chocolate color. There are also striped and pinstripe crested geckos. The color ranges are many. Lastly, the arboreal crested gecko is fun to watch. If you have any comments, we would love to hear them. Thanks.

More Cool Stuff