Crested Gecko Care Info

Crested Gecko Care

Ahhh, the Crested Gecko. One of the most derpy, spaztic and yet a surprisingly fun tropical gecko to own as a pet. If you’re here, you’re probably in the research stages of learning more about these little guys before adding one to your family. Or, you’re looking to brush up on care information for your own. Either way, keep reading for a basic overview of care. Have questions? Contact us and any and all questions will be answered in detail!

Crested Geckos are fairly hardy and relatively easy care-wise. They can live 20+ years if healthy and properly taken care of, and prefer room-temperatures (65-78F). They typically measure-in up to 10″ long with their tail. They require some daily maintenance (misting and monitoring humidity), but the majority of the maintenance is every 2-3 days other than habitat cleaning. When set up right, the habitat and gecko will compliment each other and be a wonderful addition to enjoy in your home. Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty of it all.

First, let’s determine how large your gecko is. This will help determine your habitat size further below. There are different categories listed based on weight (please note these weights are opinion based and others may have a different idea of what a baby/juvenile/adult weight would be, these are the categories and weights I use). I highly suggest purchasing a small scale to weigh your gecko. Here at HSCG we weigh our baby geckos monthly or every other month to keep track of their weights as they grow, and to ensure they are not losing weight. Losing weight rapidly or gradually may be a sign of a health issue. As adults, they are weighed every 3-4 months. We suggest a similar schedule.
Crested Geckos are arboreal, they need a vertical habitat over a long one. Your habitats should be tall, not long.
House your geckos individually, not with others. Cohabitating is not suggested by HSCG.

Baby Crested Geckos: Typically 10 grams and under in weight.
Juvenile Crested Geckos: 11 to 30 grams in weight.
Adult Crested Geckos
: Anything above 30 grams.
Big Chungus”: Over 65g (more common than you think).

Regardless of what size your crested gecko is, there are some basic supplies needed for their habitat.

Multiple artificial plants should be offered throughout your habitat to allow for exploring, usage of the entire habitat, hiding, and overall quality of life. There should be enough that it seems “cluttered” in areas, while still allowing some areas to be thinner. You want to be able to see to the back of your habitat but also not be able to find your gecko easily when they are hiding. The more they are hidden the more comfortable they are. However, clogging the habitat with too many plants can make it harder for them to get around. Balance. Plants also help hold onto humidity and give your gecko multiple opportunities to lick water droplets. Ensure the plants you purchase are pet-safe, water/UVB resistant, and free from any glue strands, glitter, Styrofoam, etc.

Climbing Pieces/Wood/Cork
Multiple pieces of cork, vines, and decorative wood should be offered throughout the habitat. Ideally, you should have one piece of wood that reaches up towards the top of the habitat. If you use a basking bulb, ensure the wood is at least 6-8″ away from the heat source. Cork Rounds/Tubes should be offered throughout the habitat also to allow for multiple places to climb, lay, and hide. Wood also helps hold onto humidity in the habitat. Be sure to fully sanitize any new wood or decorations before placing it in your habitat. You may also want to wash your wood monthly to clear it of any debris that will end up on it. Ensure your decorative wood/cork pieces are as wide as the gecko’s body to ensure easy grip and climbing.

For smaller geckos or those who want simplicity, Paper Towels are a fantastic option for bedding. It is disposable, easy to clean, and very absorbent. It also has the benefit of looking very neat when kept up with. Paper Towels should be changed weekly, regardless of how they look. The downside to paper towels are they tend to mold, and unless cleaned often, may be more difficult to clean up if it gets stuck to the bottom of the habitat. For larger habitats/adult geckos, I highly suggest using ground coconut husk (a common brand is Eco Earth). It’s great at holding humidity, allows you to spot clean as needed, and is fairly easy to clean if you remove the bulk of the substrate with a scoop. This type of substrate also allows your gecko to engage in natural digging behaviors.

UVB is optional but beneficial for this species. A basking bulb is also optional, but should be used if your home dips below 65F. You can also offer a heat mat large enough to cover 1/2 of one side of the habitat (set on a thermostat of course to 80F). This will increase ambient heat in the habitat, and will allow your gecko to chose when they wish to warm up. Any heat source must be on a thermostat to prevent burning. If your home remains between the temperatures of 65 and 78F, you do not need a heat source.

Yes, your gecko does need a water dish. And yes, they do drink from them! The dish should not be deep enough that they need to learn how to swim in order to drink water. Nothing deeper than 1/2 an inch is suggested. You will also need a place to put your food cups, whether that be a food cup stand or a feed ledge. Food ledges will bring the food cups further up off the ground. Some geckos prefer to eat higher up as it mimics eating fruit in the bushes, but most geckos will be completely content with feeding off the ground.

Egg Laying Box
Have a female gecko, or suspected female gecko? She will need a place to put her eggs! They will lay eggs monthly in the spring through fall months even without being bred. A lay box can be easily constructed using a medium-sized food storage container (without lid). It must be at least twice as wide and just as long as her body including tail. Fill it with a mix of sphagnum moss and eco-earth. If you have the coco fiber substrate and aren’t breeding, just ensure you have at least 2″ of substrate in the habitat to allow for her to completely bury herself to lay her eggs.

Now, what size habitat do you need?
My personal rule of thumb: 1 Gallon of space for every 2 grams in weight.

Baby Crested Geckos: Typically 10 grams and under in weight.
Doing the math: 2 to 5 gallons in size.

For babies… you do not need much. It’s highly suggested to start off smaller with inexpensive housing options in the beginning and then invest in a larger, nicer habitat once they reach adulthood. Every gecko grows at different rates depending on their habitat, diet, and most importantly temperature. Some will reach adulthood in 1-1.5 years, some will take up to 3 years. With this unknown, for your baby you should start with a very inexpensive and simple plastic habitat. This can be one pre-cut with a screen vent in the front for ventilation, an appropriately sides plastic shoebox tub with holes melted for ventilation, or a small critter keeper type habitat where the top is vented and has a small flip-top built in. All of these options are light weight, easy to clean, inexpensive, hold humidity well (the critter keeper may have more ventilation so you may need to mist more often). Paper Towel is recommended until your gecko is above 20g in weight. One small piece of cork and one medium sized plant (or multiple small plants) should be sufficient.

Juvenile Crested Geckos: 11 to 25 grams in weight.
Doing the math: 10 to 15 gallons in size.

Juveniles tend to go through growth spurts where you swear you looked at them last week and they looked tiny, now they seem double the size. For a juvie that is growing, you want to plan for this. Plan to go a little larger than what you think you need. Once a gecko reaches 10-12 grams in size, feel free to upgrade to a larger habitat between 10 and 15 gallons in size or a 12x12x18″ habitat. Having enough space to free-roam is great for their overall health and allows them to get some exercise. You may need to purchase more decorations/wood to fill up the gaps in your new habitat. A plastic habitat is also suggested here, as it’s only temporary. You should re-use your original decorations as you upgrade for a smoother transition into their new space.

Adult Crested Geckos: Anything above 30 grams.
Doing the math: 20 to 40 gallons in size.

Adults once in their habitats are pretty much set and don’t need additional upgrading (unless you’d like to spoil them). Again, you will need to buy additional plants and wood decorations to fill up the empty spots in their new habitat. Traditionally, a 29 gallon fish tank flipped vertically with a conversion kit on it, or an 18x18x24″ habitat is suggested. Please Note: Some geckos do better in a smaller habitat, like a 12x12x18″. You will notice a drop in weight, or they will constantly hide and possibly even “freak out” randomly. This may be due to them feeling that their territory is too large and it may cause them some stress. Or, they just feel the hiding spots are inadequate. Monitor your gecko for the first few months it’s in it’s larger habitat. If your gecko continues to drop weight or the behavior doesn’t improve, you don’t have to feel guilty downgrading them to a smaller habitat. Do what’s best for the gecko, not what someone said on the internet to make you feel bad. A vet visit is also suggested to ensure they are healthy and free of parasites, as stress can increase the risk of a gastrointestinal parasitic infection.

Feeding is fairly simple for these guys!

Every 2 to 3 days, a small amount of a pre-made powdered mix should be offered in a appropriately-sized food dish. During the summer when temperatures are naturally higher, it is suggested to swap out your food every other day. During the colder months if you experience a season change yearly, you can reduce down to every 3rd day. Common and suggested brands are Pangea and Repashy. Both brands are fairly palatable, however we personally have had a better feeding response with Pangea. We currently use Pangea, so any gecko purchased from us will already be eating it.
How much should you feed? For babies, it’s common to use a bottle cap to hold food. Their stomachs are pretty small at this size, and they do not eat much. Juveniles it’s suggested to use a large bottle cap (think a milk jug lid for example), or 0.5ml plastic cups. For adults, it’s suggested to use 1 or 1.5ml cups. None of these food bowls should be filled to the top. You should only fill them 1/3 of the way. This prevents overfeeding and you from wasting your money on food that will never get eaten.

Feeder insects are an important part of their diet and should be fed occasionally. Naturally they want to hunt, and this gives them a reason to move around and keep their little bodies and brains active. All feeder insects should be dusted with calcium plus vitamin D. You can offer appropriately-sized feeder insects 2 times a week for a boost in protein and to keep them moving. Common feeders are appropriately sized crickets, dubia roaches, calciworms and sometimes superworms/mealworms. Your feeder insects should never be longer than the distance from their eyes to their nose, and should never be wider than the distance between their eyes.

To mix things up, you can also add-in a splash of bee pollen to your powdered diet and/or your calcium dusted insects. This will smell and taste great, which will increase your gecko’s feeding response. Use sparingly; if you add too much the smell may be overpowering and it will have the opposite effect.

Every animal has common health issues you should look out for. Here’s the most frequent issues we see with Crested Geckos:

Most reptiles naturally have a miniscule presence of parasites or worms in their gut. When stressed or sick, these parasites can multiply exponentially as the gecko’s immune system cannot keep up with fighting them. You will notice a sometimes quick (but commonly gradual) drop in weight, an increase or decrease in appetite for a long period of time, and live worms visible in fresh stool. This can be treated with panacur which you can get through any local vet. This will be officially diagnosed with a fecal sample test. To help prevent this, ensure you have an appropriately sized habitat, your habitat is in an area that will not cause the animal any undue stress, don’t handle super often, and purchase your feeder insects from reputable sources (NEVER WILD CAUGHT) to prevent infection from your live feeder insects.

Tail Loss
Crested Geckos can and will drop their tails on a whim. They do not grow them back. The easiest way you can prevent this is to not spook them, do not grab them by their tail, and house individually without any other geckos. If your gecko drops it’s tail, they are designed to heal themselves and close-up around any exposed spine. You do not need to apply any antiseptic or cream to this wound. There may be a small drop of blood, this is normal. If your gecko does not completely drop their tail (meaning it is still connected in some spots), medical intervention may be needed to finish the drop. Placing them in a hospital habitat until it is healed is optional. If you already use paper towel for your substrate, a hospital habitat is unnecessary. You want to prevent any debris from getting attached to the open wound as much as possible to prevent infection.

Metabolic Bone Disease (AKA: “MBD”)
MBD is a lack of calcium in the body. The body needs calcium to function, and it’s only source is through diet. In order to process the calcium, your gecko also needs Vitamin D3 which is sourced from UVB light or also through their diet. If your gecko does not get enough calcium, or does not have enough D3 to process the calcium, the body will metabolize the calcium in your animal’s bones. This makes the bones weak, fragile, and can very easily break. This causes deformities and a long and painful life. Even if MBD is fixed, some cases are so bad euthanasia is suggested due to the high level of pain it causes. To prevent this, ensure to use a high quality calcium dust with D3 added when feeding insects. Offer UVB if you have the means, but as long as you are using the proper calcium dust, you should be fine. If your gecko has had MBD already and it’s deformities are minor and not painful, UVB is highly suggested (dare I say required) to prevent any more deficiencies from happening again. Common signs of MBD are a wavy tail, swollen limbs, soft jaw bone, spine kinks or waves, etc.

Stuck or Retained Shed
Crested Geckos shed their entire bodies in one piece, like a perfectly fitting onesie. In order to do this efficiently every time, they need that variation in humidity throughout the day. If the habitat is kept too dry, the shed skin will tear and will not come off in one piece. This will leave behind long wispy stringy bits on the body. If the habitat is kept too wet, the skin won’t come off and will remain stuck in place. Without removal of both of these types of stuck shed, it can cause a plethora of issues. The most common is loss of blood flow to an extremity, like a tail, toe, or even limb. It will become stuck in place and will not tear without intervention. This eventually cuts off blood flow to that area of the body. It can also cause skin infections and sores, as the skin can’t breathe and if kept too wet makes a perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. Shed can also get stuck on eyes, which can limit sight… as well as in nostrils limiting oxygen and breathing. To prevent this, keep an eye on your humidity. If you notice stuck shed, you can gently remove it using a wet q-tip or very gently removing it with a pair of tweezers. If you cannot get it off yourself, a vet visit is suggested.

Egg Binding (Females Only)
Without a place to lay their eggs, females may sometimes hold onto their eggs in the hopes they will get reabsorbed. This does happen, but occasionally the eggs stay inside the body and can cause an infection. It is also possible for the eggs to burst inside the body, which will also cause an infection. Typical signs of this are noticeable strain when trying to lay, continuous digging but no eggs for over a week, lethargy, not eating or drinking, and swelling in the abdomen area. If you suspect your female is egg-bound, medical intervention is necessary. Your vet may try to inject her with hormones to help her lay, or she will need to undergo surgery to remove the eggs. To prevent this from happening, ensure your female stays hydrated and has a large enough area with substrate to lay (most use eco earth, sphagnum moss, or a mix of both).

What type of maintenance are you looking at, you ask?

Daily Tasks
Misting and monitoring humidity/temperatures. The humidity should remain around 50%, but increase to 90-100% for a few hours per day, gradually dropping back down to 40-50% before misting again. This may be a daily task, a twice daily task, or an every other day task. It all depends on how quickly your habitat looses humidity. As mentioned above, the preferred temperatures are between 65F and 78F. The sweet spot is around 74F.

Every 2-3 days
Feeding, spot cleaning poop, refilling/cleaning water dish. If you have loose coco fiber substrate, you can spot clean every few days to remove any moldy bits, poop, debris, etc. from the habitat and toss it along with a small amount of substrate around that item that was removed. Your gecko’s dish should be rinsed out and replaced with fresh water at the same time you feed. Yes, they DO drink from water dishes as well as off of leaves!

Every Week
If you have a food ledge, you may want to wash this weekly to prevent a buildup of poop and food. It is also suggested to clean the glass of your gecko’s habitat (a wet paper towel will suffice). If using paper towel as a substrate, you will want to replace this weekly.

Every Month
If using eco-earth and you do not have a bioactive habitat, it is suggested to clean out the substrate of your gecko’s habitat entirely every month to a month and a half. Replace sooner if your substrate is continuously saturated (and mist less often), as this can harbor a decent amount of bacteria. You may also want to remove all the decorations of your habitat at this time and wash them as well. If you are using re-usable food cups or water dishes, it is suggested to sanitize these by letting them soak in water that is near boiling. Put your dishes into a heat-safe bowl or container after washing with soap and water, and pour the hot water over them. Let them soak for 10-15 minutes while you clean the rest of your habitat.

Want to learn more? Crested Geckos really are a simple pet to have. Once you get into a routine, it’s easy. Here are some more fun facts and important tidbits of information you may want to know.

Want to hold your gecko?
Just remember, these are room temperature animals. Your skin temperature hovers around 86F, this can be too warm for them after a long period of time. Crested Geckos are not pets that you cuddle, hold close to you for long periods of time, let be exposed to temperatures outside of their comfort range, and it is preferred they are not handled for more than 10-15 minutes at a time to prevent the chance of overheating. Hold in a open area close to the ground or on a bed. They are jumpy and will run when given the chance if they are not accustomed to handling. By giving them some space, they can be easily caught before they jump somewhere and hide in your house.

Should you get a female or a male as a pet?
Honestly, both come with their plusses and minuses. Females always have a risk of reproductive issues, but on the other hand males tend to be a little more bitey and “hormonal.” But these traits aren’t always promised. Both make great pets; just because you get a male does it mean he will be jumpy/bitey, and if you get a female it doesn’t mean you will have issues with eggs down the line. What’s important is purchasing from a reputable breeder that can verify the health of their animals, and handles the babies often enough. Each animal also has their own individual personalities.

So, what about putting two geckos together?
Honestly, it’s genuinely not suggested. In the wild they have designated territories; their habitat is their territory. With an open forest to roam, these geckos spend enough time away from each other that they mainly only interact to maintain territory or to breed. When you put two or more geckos together in such a small area, you are not giving them the chance to pick if they want to be with each other. You are forcing them into a situation where they may or may not get along, and may or may not fight (possibly to the death) over territory rights. Females are less territorial and can sometimes be housed together; but it just increases the risks of fighting/bickering, food/resource guarding, and not being able to tell who may be sick (for example, you find worms in stool in the habitat; now you don’t know who it came from). Males will absolutely fight to the death and should be kept separated at all times.

This care sheet was last updated on 2/26/2023 at 11:30pm EST.