Crested Geckos were thought to be extinct before being rediscovered in 1994 and now they’re some of the most popular pet geckos in the world. This is thanks to how easy they are to maintain, making them excellent for children and new reptile owners.
Those geckos are also called eyelash geckos because of their distinctive spikes right above their eyes that resemble a pair of eyelashes. They’re scientifically known as Rhacodactylus ciliatus and they’re from New Caledonia, which is an island country right off the coast of Australia.
You can find these beautiful geckos in various colors and morphs. This includes brown, grey, orange, red, yellow of different shades. In the wild, you can observe three color morphs that are pattern-less, white-fringed, and tiger. And some breeders manage to achieve the extreme harlequin pattern that cannot be seen in the wild.
Size (inches/cm): 7 to 9 inches/17 to 22 cm, including their tails
Life Expectancy (years): 10-20 years, even more
What does a Crested Gecko look like?
Crested Geckos have a very distinctive feature that sets them apart from any other gecko, which is the hair-like projections placed above the eyes. They make the gecko look like it has eyelashes. It’s also interesting to mention that these creatures have two rows of spines that run from the side of their head to the base of their tail.
These geckos have wedge-shaped heads and no eyelids. This means they use their tongue to keep their eyes wet and remove any debris. They also have toes that help them climb and claws that help them get on surfaces that their toes can’t cling to.
Their tails have a tip that’s covered in small hairs that are called setae. More than that, each seta is divided into hundreds of smaller hairs that are around 200 nanometers in diameter and they’re called spatulae. This helps the gecko to climb on most solid surfaces.
Crested geckos are also known for their semi-prehensile tail that is a great help when they climb. They can drop their tail via caudal autotomy when they feel threatened and run to safety. The tail keeps moving for up to 5 minutes, giving the gecko enough time to run away.
Unlike leopard geckos, these geckos don’t use their tails to store fat reserves, which means they can live without them. And sadly, once they lose their tail, they won’t be able to grow it back. It’s not harmful, and in fact, most crested geckos in the wild don’t have a tail.
Crested Geckos – Temperament and Habits
Crested geckos have special toe pads that help them climb on almost any surface and their tails make them even more agile. They are also surprisingly good at jumping so you need to be very careful when you’re putting them in their enclosure.
These amazing creatures are quite docile, especially if left alone in their enclosure. If you want to handle them, you’ll need to be very careful as they get scared very easily and they might lose their tails. They prefer being left alone, which is highly recommended as they might try to jump from you and injure themselves.
If a crested gecko feels threatened, it will not think twice before biting you. Its bite is quite startling but it doesn’t hurt and it’s way too weak to cause bleeding. However, when it comes to a child’s fragile hand, the gecko can do a bit of damage until it escapes.
Are Crested Geckos nocturnal or diurnal?
Crested geckos are crepuscular creatures that will become fully nocturnal in captivity. This means that in the wilderness they are active during the dawn and dusk, and in captivity, they become active only during the night.
They spend most of their days hidden in three burrows and similar hiding places they can feel safe and away from predators. In captivity, they will remain hidden in the provided hiding areas until a few minutes after dark.
At night they come out looking for prey and starting to get to know their surroundings. You’ll need to provide enough space, climbing objects, and hiding areas that the gecko will keep busy all the time. And whatever you do, don’t turn on the lights while the gecko is out.
Startling a gecko and scaring it while it’s out can even cause it to lose its tail. They are very easy to frighten and will cause lots of anxiety for hours.
Are Crested Geckos aggressive?
Crested geckos are very calm and lovely to observe if you leave them alone. They are known for their docile behavior and they are great pets. However, this can immediately change if you want to pick it up. They hate being handled and you might end up being bitten within a few seconds from picking it up.
These geckos prefer being left alone and will become very anxious when they’re handled. This will cause them to attempt to jump in any direction they can, which can easily end with a very bad injury.
Baby crested geckos are even more flighty, which is why you should wait until they grow up to 3in SVL before attempting to handle them again.
You’ll need lots of patience and lots of practice to make a crested gecko accept handling, and even then, it shouldn’t be done for more than 5 minutes.
Where do Crested Geckos live?
Crested Geckos can be found in various places but they are endemic to South Province, New Caledonia. They are a few known populations. One is found on the Isle of Pines and surroundings islets, and the other two are found on the main island of Grande Terre. Another population is found around the Blue River, which is a known protected park. And the last one is further north just around Mount Dzumac.
These creatures are known climbers and they live in tropical forests and similar areas. They can be found in areas with high humidity and lots of heat. Sadly, they are also not doing exceptionally well. Their greatest enemies are little fire ants, wildfires, rodent predation, habitat degradation.
How many Crested Geckos can be housed together?
You can house together up to three crested geckos. But whatever you do, be very careful not to house two males together. Males are very territorial and will immediately start a fight with each other. If you are not there to break them apart, they are likely going to fight until one of them is dead.
The best way to house crested geckos together is to either separate them into pairs or groups of one male and two females. They can also live happily with just one gecko per enclosure.
If you plan to introduce a new crested gecko to the enclosure, it’s very important to supervise the interaction closely for at least two weeks. This is because they might fight one another regardless of their sex. And since the enclosure doesn’t give them the opportunity to run away, they are forced to fight.
The female-only needs to mate with the male once before starting to lay eggs. She is capable of retaining the sperm for a very long time. Females lay two eggs every four to six weeks for upwards of about ten months. And if the female does not mate, she still lays unfertilized eggs.
If the eggs are fertilized, they will start hatching anywhere between 60 to 150 days after they were laid. Generally, females lay eggs every four weeks so the fat and calcium reserves can refill and the female can remain healthy.
Crested Geckos also have two small sacs for calcium on the roof of their mouths. Their purpose is to help the female if she doesn’t have enough calcium while laying eggs. It’s also currently unknown whether heat is important in determining the sex of the gecko.
Hatchlings will not eat until they shed and eat their own skin for the first time. Until this happens, they rely on the remains of their yolk sack for nutrition.
After the female is done playing with those eggs, she goes through a cooling cycle, which is triggered by slight temperature and light changes that happened during the winter season. This gives the females the time to regain their body mass and all the nutrients they last during the egg-laying.
You should be extremely careful about this step if you plan on owning a female crested gecko. If you don’t implement the same conditions for cooling in captivity, the female will keep laying eggs all the time. This will quickly result in calcium depletion, bad health, and even death.
What do Crested Geckos eat?
Unlike many geckos, the crested ones are considered omnivores. This means that they eat both fruits and insects and you should continue this diet in captivity to ensure a healthy life. If preparing the food all by yourself seems too complicated, there are lots of commercial crested gecko diets that are excellent for your pet. They are also the best way to ensure your gecko gets everything it needs.
On top of that, you will need to supplement this food with various prey insects. This includes crickets, roaches, waxworms, silkworms. But you should keep in mind that you should never feed your crested geckos’ mealworms. This is because they have a very hard and indigestible exoskeleton.
If you can’t find a commercial gecko diet or your out, you can use a combination of prey insects and fruits. It’s not the most balanced option but it will do the trick for a few meals. You should always use crickets for this combination.
Since they also eat fruits from time to time, you can try mashed fruit or baby food. You can opt for bananas, mangos, pears, passion fruit, papaya, apricots, nectarines, and peaches.
How much do they eat?
It’s highly recommended to allow the gecko to exercise its hunting instincts. You can do this by simply feeding it as much as prey insects as the gecko wants to eat. It’s very important to keep in mind that the insects should always be slightly smaller than the space between the gecko’s eyes.
To provide all the nutrition your pet needs, it’s recommended to gut-load the insects your pet eats. You also have the option of simply feeding the insects nutritious foods 24 hours before being fed to the lizard.
To ensure that your pet has all the vitamins and minerals, you can opt to dust the insects in a calcium-vitamin D3 powder. This should only be done if you don’t use UVB light. It’s also recommended to dust the pray with a multi-vitamin powder supplement for a meal each week.
How often do you feed a Crested Gecko?
Crested Geckos should always be fed in the evening because they are nocturnal creatures. Juveniles should be fed daily, while adults should only be fed up to three times a week. You should always consult with your exotic vet when it’s time to make the changes and how fast.
If you won’t be home on the exact day your gecko needs to eat, it’s best to feed it the day you leave instead of filling its cage with food. You won’t be able to find all the remains when you come back, and the hidden insect pieces will rotten away. If your gecko eats those bad leftovers, it can cause various health issues.
How do Crested Geckos drink?
Crested Geckos live in areas with high humidity levels and this is why they prefer drinking water droplets from leaves. It’s a must to keep the cage humid at all times, otherwise, your gecko might dehydrate itself.
However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a water dish inside the enclosure. You should find a stable and hidden place where the gecko can go regardless if it’s day or night. Some geckos love drinking from water dishes and few even enjoy a good bath.
The water dish should be very low so the gecko can easily get in and out if it wants to.
Caring for a Crested Gecko
These geckos need a clean environment to remain healthy. They don’t really like to be handled, which means they spend all their time inside the enclosure. This means you will have to keep the cage in the best condition possible.
You will have to spot clean every single day and change the substrate once a week or every month, depending on the type of substrate you used. And if you use a bio-active enclosure, you will have to spot clean and monitor the enclosure very closely. The bedding should be changed a few times a year.
When it’s time for deep-cleaning, you should take out the gecko and place it in a secured location. Get out every single decoration and clean the enclosure very well. You should always use a reptile-friendly disinfectant to get rid of all the possible bacteria.
With the same reptile-friendly disinfectant wash very well all the decorations. Let them dry very well, then put everything back together. Make sure everything is rinsed very well, so the gecko won’t suffer any side effects.
Type of enclosure/cage needed
If you plan on having only one crested gecko, it’s OK to have a 20-gallon enclosure. However, it’s highly recommended to have a much larger tank. This is because these geckos are active and arboreal, which means they need as much as vertical space you can offer.
However, if you plan to have two or three geckos, you should have a 35-gallon tank. Anything less might not be very comfortable for your geckos. Regardless of the type of tank you chose, ventilation is very important.
Substrate required in a Gecko’s tank
The best substrate for crested geckos is coconut fiber bedding, moss, or peat. If you are on a budget, you can also use paper towels without any ink and without being bleached. You can also use a newspaper but neither of these two last options looks good.
Geckos are known to ingest various types of substrate while they are hunting, which is a very bad thing for their health. You can use sphagnum moss that can be used on its own or on top of another substrate. But if you have juveniles, it’s recommended to use paper towels as small crested geckos are more likely to swallow the substrate by accident.
During the daytime, it’s recommended to use a temperature gradient that maintains the heat between 72F and 80F (22C and 26,5C). But when it comes to night time, the temperature should drop between 65F to 75F (18C to 24C).
Crested Geckos can get very stressed if the enclosure gets too hot. You should never use a heat source on the top of the enclosure, as these geckos will climb and get too close and risk getting burned. The best way to ensure your gecko is comfortable is by using a temperature gauge.
Crested Geckos need a humidity level that stays between 60% during the day and 80% during the night. A hygrometer will easily help you monitor the humidity levels and maintain an ideal environment for your pet.
The humidity can be easily added with the help of regular misting that needs to be done with warm filtered water. You might have to mist the cage a few times a day. It’s very important to keep the cage well-misted at night like this when the geckos are most active.
If you can’t do the misting process by yourself, you should consider investing in an automatic mister. It works silently and it can maintain the perfect environment for your crested gecko.
How much light does it need?
As mentioned before, crested geckos become nocturnal in captivity. This might make you think that they don’t need any special UVB lighting, but experts agree that a low level of UVB lighting is necessary. But you should never exceed 5%.
You should also keep in mind that any type of light you use, naturally increases the temperature in the enclosure, so keep an eye on that.
It’s recommended to offer your gecko a hideaway from any light so it can use its safe space whenever it wants.
Keeping Crested Geckos as Pets
Crested Geckos are becoming more and more popular, and this all because of how easy they are to maintain. They are not pretentious eaters and they are quite interesting to observe.
However, if you are looking for a lizard that wants to be handled for hours, you should consider another gecko. This is because the crested geckos prefer to be left alone and is not a fan handling.
Health of Crested Geckos
Crested Geckos are quite healthy and they live an exceptionally long life. But this doesn’t mean that they are immune to common captivity health issues. So here are a few things you should keep in mind when it comes to your gecko’s health.
If the gecko deals with excess mucus and redness around the mouth, they might have stomatitis or mouth rot. Inadequate humidity levels can cause respiratory infections that can be detected if the gecko is drooling or wheezing.
Another problem with bad humidity levels is the high risk of developing skin issues. This includes a rush, symptomatic over parasitic infection, uneven or difficult shedding is also a red flag.
Are Crested Geckos good pets?
Crested Geckos make excellent pets for people that love observing their reptiles in the enclosure without handling them. They are very docile and even if they bite, it’s too weak to cause bleeding. This makes them a great choice for both children or first-time reptile owners.
When it comes to taking care of them, they are not pretentious and they have the same basic needs as any other gecko. This also makes them great for people that are always busy and don’t have that much free time on their hands.
How much do Crested Geckos cost?
The average price of a crested gecko is anywhere between $50 and $100. However, it all depends on the breeder, the gender, the availability in your region, the age, and of course the morph. If you are looking for one of the most unique crested geckos, you should easily expect to pay up to $5000.