On this page you’ll find all the information you need to create a crested gecko vivarium – cages, flooring, plants, hides, water bowls, lighting, food and cleaning information is supplied in this article.
Crested Gecko Ownership Checklist
When you have a crested gecko as a pet, consider stocking up on the following items:
- A crested gecko cage
- Temporary housing for vet trips and cleaning
- Hides (at least one per gecko)
- Perching spots
- Food bowls
- Water bowl
- Paper towels
- Crested gecko food
- Spray bottles
- Cleaners (chlorhexidine, bleach, vinegar)
- Thermometer (optional)
- Distilled water (optional)
- Hygrometer (optional)
- Insect dust & gutload (if feeding insects)
- Gram scale for weights in .1 gram increments
What Is A Crested Gecko?
The crested gecko, (also known as the New Caledonian crested gecko, Guichenot’s giant gecko or the eyelash gecko) is a species of gecko native to southern New Caledonia in the Coral Sea, off the eastern coast of Australia. The crested gecko was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1994 and since that time has been bred in captivity (as well as in the wild) to become one of the most popular pet reptiles.
Before the early 1990s, no one could have imagined that the crested gecko, once a rare species known from only from a few museum specimens, would become one of the most popular and readily available pets in the world.
The great majority of crested geckos in captivity originated from the Isle of Pines, which is located somewhere between Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Crested geckos are also found on Kutomo, next to the Isle of Pines; in several locations on southern Grande Terre; and on the Isle of Belep, north of Grand Terre. From a relatively small number of crested geckos collected in this area between 1994 and 1996, captive populations of this species have been growing exponentially.
Thousands of crested geckos are now produced in captivity in the United States and all around the world to meet the growing demand for this species. Besides being easy to breed, crested geckos have also turned out to be ideal pets. They are relatively small animals that have all of the features that make reptiles such fascinating creatures, including complex scalation and an unusual appearance that makes them seem like they crawled out of a dinosaur world. Crested geckos are easy to house, have lower temperature requirements than many other reptiles, and for the most part are naturally tame and harmless. When kept in attractive planted crested gecko vivariums, they make outstanding display animals.
People who work all week and like to take weekend vacations enjoy crested geckos because they can safely leave their pets for two or three days without having to hire a pet-sitter. Plus, based on records of animals currently kept in captivity, it appears that the potential longevity of crested geckos is at least 12 years – and possibly a whole lot longer.
What attracts many people to owning a crested gecko, however, is the fact that they are polychromatic – meaning they naturally produce a wide range of colors and patterns. Combined with a short generation time, this has allowed hobbyists to selectively breed bright red, orange and yellow crested gecko morphs that now rank among the most beautiful of all reptiles.
Selecting A Crested Gecko
Begin by selecting crested geckos that appear in the prime of their life and in good health. Handle any specimen you are interested in. A healthy crested gecko shows activity when handled and any animal that displays activity is preferred over one that just tends to calmly sit there when in its cage or handled.
Observe and carefully feel the bones of your crested gecko. In a healthy animal, the body contours are rounded with no clear evidence of the outline of the underlying skeleton. The outline of the ribs, backbone, and hip bones should not be prominent. Lack of a tail or signs of a slight bend in the pelvic bones are indicators of ill health.
Then examine the head. The eyes of a crested gecko should appear clear with no opacities. They should be of equal size and neither incredibly large or small. The jaw should close evenly and we suggest also avoiding animals that have either an overbite or an underbite.
Then examine the toes of your crested gecko and make sure that none of the digits are missing. One or two missing toes, believe it or not, will not hinder the life of your crested gecko. But having an animal with more than two missing toes on a foot can impair the climbing ability of your gecko.
Then look at the your crested gecko’s anal vent. Most crested geckos sold in pets stores, etc are healthy and have a flush clean anal area. Do not buy a crested gecko with smeared feces caked around the vent or with a crusty protruding vent. These are signs of a parasitic infection or a gastrointestinal disease.
After you’ve done all that, you should decide which sex of gecko you want. Because breeders usually try and keep crested geckos living in vivariums with a ratio of 1 male to every 5 females, most crested geckos offered to the general public are the extra males that the breeders don’t want. As a pet though, a male crested gecko is usually a good choice, as it comes without some of the problems that can occasionally occur after a female becomes sexually mature.
While you can keep a crested gecko alone and isolated in its own terrarium, crested geckos are generally social animals. When places in large enclosures, most crested geckos prefer to spend time in close proximity to each other. However, crested geckos are best segregated by size – particularly when they’re juveniles. Large crested geckos may compete with smaller ones and, when hungry, large crested geckos may grab and even eat the smaller geckos around them.
What Type Of Cage Is Best For A Crested Gecko?
Crested Geckos do well in either a simple, hygienic cage, or an elaborate, naturalistic setup. If your purpose is to display your crested gecko, you may want to take a naturalistic approach. In the wild, crested geckos live in rainforests. They can be found both on the ground or high in the trees, so it’s important to give them similar conditions when kept in captivity.
Crested gecko hatchlings up to four month old can be housed in 10 gallon aquariums or similar plastic keepers. In some cases, young geckos housed in large cages will not eat. To avoid this problem, keep your baby crested geckos in cages no larger than a 10 gallon aquarium. Adult crested geckos, however, should be housed in a 20 gallon tall aquarium or larger. Whereas, wwo or three adult crested geckos can be comfortably housed in a 30 gallon aquarium. Screen cages have also been used with great success in some instances. However, screen cages are much more rare and require additional upkeep, as an an effort must be made to keep the humidity up inside the enclosure.
Keep in mind that regardless of what type of cage you use, that height is more desirable than length or width – particularly with adult geckos. This is why vertical vivariums are most popular with crested geckos – because animals of this type like to climb on branches and bask in the light high above the ground. Lucky for your, there are now many glass and screen terrariums that are designed specifically to house reptiles like crested geckos. The Exo Terra 12x12x18 terrarium is an ideal setup for a single adult gecko or pair. These reptile-specific vivariums have many advantages over aquariums designed for fish, and should be considered even though the cost is a bit higher.
Crested Gecko Flooring Materials
The flooring of your crested gecko vivarium is one component of habitat setup that is variable and debated by many crested gecko owners. From paper towels to peat and commercial grade reptile carpet, choosing the right substrate for your crested gecko’s environment should be well thought-out.
Many crested gecko keepers choose to outfit their crested gecko habitat simply. Paper towels make a great substrate because they are easy to clean and and even easier to replace, making enclosure maintenance a total breeze. This type of substrate also benefits the gecko because there is much less chance they will inadvertently consume it while eating.
Paper towels are certainly the preferred substrate for young geckos, as it allows them to find their food easily and they don’t run the risk of consuming it and causing impaction. Young geckos should be started out in a small habitat and using paper towels as their flooring can be beneficial in these environments.
That being said, there are a number of natural substrates that can be used as crested gecko flooring. Some prefer using peat moss because it holds moisture and helps keep humidity levels up. To avoid mold and mildew from growing, however, it’s a good idea to place gravel under the soil for drainage. A layer of moss will also help prevent the crested gecko from consuming the peat while it is feeding.
Coco fiber is another great substrate that is widely used in crested gecko vivariums. It expands with water and when packed down well – provides a great surface for your crested gecko to live and play on. Placing large pebbles on top of the coco fiber is a good idea if you are worried about your gecko accidentally eating some of the substrate. Plus, this helps to make your vivarium look nice!
When looking for flooring materials to use inside your crested gecko vivarium, never use pine or cedar bark, as these materials can make your geckos extremely ill. Make sure when using peat or potting soil that it is free from pesticides and other additives such as vermiculite.
Crested Gecko Vivarium Furnishings
Crested geckos can do fine in a minimalist plastic Kritter Keeper or in a complex, naturally-designed terrarium. Whatever your fancy, you should provide hiding spots and climbing spots for your geckos. That being said, you don’t want to cram your vivarium completely full of stuff. Instead, you should provide enough space for your gecko to jump and climb around in. Strive to provide 50% or so of branch or plant cover, with open spaces for jumping.
You can buy cage furnishings online or make your own. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on supplies. Many of the decorations you get for your crested gecko are either low cost or can be acquired for free from the environment around you. Crested geckos love toilet paper tubes and paper towel rolls! These are simple, cheap and disposable hides. Throw them out when they become soiled, as geckos tend to poop on them over time. Pet stores also have a great selection of hides and decorations available – just be aware of the crested gecko’s propensity for wedging themselves inside of things, such as hollow statues and other cage furniture.
Perching spots or basking spots are important in any crested gecko vivarium and can be created with bamboo branches, twisty driftwood, mopani or fake vines. Geckos will also climb over and cling to paper towel tubes, so they serve as both hide and perch in some instances.
Plants are very important cage accessories if you own a crested gecko. Choose plants with wide leaves that crested geckos can hide under or cling to. Fake plants from craft stores and dollar stores are fine, but be careful that they do not have any wires poking out or any decorations or glittery bits that can come off. Pet stores also tend to carry nice, realistic plastic plants that are great for use inside a crested gecko vivarium. These are easiest to clean and last the longest.
Real plants can also be used. If you use a natural substrate, then live plants can be planted into the soil. If you choose to use a paper towel flooring, however, you can still place small potted plants within the vivarium and swap them out if they get droopy or trampled. Pothos is the best plant of choice for a crested gecko terrarium, as it grows well in pretty much any setup. Snakeplant is another good choice, as it is a tall-growing plant that is strong enough to take the weight of an adult crested gecko.
Finally, you need to get a water bowl for your crested gecko vivarium. This is especially important if you leave your home for more than twenty-four hours. While regular tap water can be used in some instances, buying distilled water is good for avoiding water spots or hard water buildup on the glass of your vivarium (and it’s probably healthier for the overall health of your crested gecko as well).
Lighting & Heating For A Crested Gecko Vivarium
Although they come from a tropical environment, crested geckos prefer cooler temperatures. During the day, temperatures in the upper 70s and low 80s (Fahrenheit) is ideal. Crested Geckos will become stressed if exposed to temperatures above 85 or below anything in the mid 60s. Hatchlings and juveniles are more fragile than adults when it comes to temperature extremes. In most cases, room temperature is fine for keeping a crested gecko, although a low wattage blue bulb, or an undertank heating pad made for reptiles can be used to provide a little extra warmth.
A period of 12 to 14 hours of light should be made available to your crested gecko during most of the year, with ten hours of light being appropriate during the cooling period. Lighting a crested gecko vivarium is most easily achieved with the use of fluorescent lights placed directly on the cage top – but not so close to the cage that the geckos inside can touch it accidentally. Lighting your vivarium this way will facilitate both the requirements of the geckos and any live plants within the enclosure should you choose to have them.
It is unnecessary to use UVB lighting for crested geckos. For large collections of geckos, consider lighting the entire room with natural or artificial light. Crested geckos do fine without any UV or full-spectrum lighting. However, it can’t hurt, and there are some health benefits to using these types of lights within your gecko vivarium. Crested geckos will usually hide when the lights are on, but even when hiding they may expose some of their body to the light in order to absorb some of the UV rays emitted by the bulb.
Crested geckos also require moderate humidity. In most cases this can be accomplished by misting the cage once or twice a day. A good hygrometer or thermometer/hygrometer combo meter is a valuable tool. Ideally the humidity level should not drop below 50%. Crested geckos should get several hours of higher humidity (80-100%) every day to ensure that they shed properly. Misting heavily once or twice a day will achieve the required humidity levels. It is also very important to allow the cage to dry to normal humidity levels in between mistings. If the cage becomes wet and humid, and it remains wet and humid for a long period of time, problems with shedding and bacterial infections can arise. This is why it is so important that you constantly monitor the humidity with your crested gecko vivarium.
Cleaning Your Crested Gecko Terrarium
Paper towels are the best inexpensive crested gecko supplies, as they can be used as the flooring inside your vivarium and the tubes can be used as a hide when you’ve used up all the towels!
When you are cleaning your crested gecko vivarium, use a separate Kritter Keeper or terrarium to house your geckos when you clean their permanent enclosure. This temporary terrarium can also be used for travel and vet visits.
If you are using paper towels as the flooring of your crested gecko terrarium, you should spot clean and replace paper towel substrate on a weekly basis. For natural substrates, you can spot clean weekly and simply turn the soil. If there is mold growth from the terrarium flooring or a bad smell emanating from your vivarium, you should replace the flooring immediately. If you have a bioactive terrarium, you do not need to clean anything other than the glass, as insects and microbes in the soil break down the wastes.
Use Chlorhexidine as a pet-safe cleaner and disinfectant. Simply spray the inside of your vivarium and wipe down completely. If necessary, rinse the sides of the vivarium as well, but keep in mind that Chlorhexidine is safe to use (in small quantities) without rinsing.
Vinegar and water (50:50) or just vinegar can be used to clean the glass of your crested gecko vivarium, but don’t use Windex or other glass cleaners on the inside of your enclosure, as the chemicals in these cleaners can cause illness and injury to your pet crested gecko. Instead, we recommend you wet a paper towel with vinegar and use a spray bottle to saturate the glass with the water/vinegar mixture. However, be careful not to use too much, as this vinegar cleaning agent can cause damage to live plants inside your vivarium.
Interesting Facts About Crested Geckos
- It is unknown how many crested geckos are alive and in the wild. As a result, the current endangered species status of the animal is unknown.
- As far as most reptiles are concerned, crested geckos are relatively easy to care for, which is part of the main reason they have become such a common household pet.
- Depending on what you want your crested gecko to look like, you can obtain a plain-looking juvenile gecko for less than $50. Adults slightly more, with males being cheaper. Crested geckos that have been bred in bright red, orange and yellow colors usually demand a higher price as well.
- Crested geckos make excellent pets because they are perfect in size – not too big and not too small. They are hardy, and although they can be shy, they usually tolerate handling very well. Plus, crested geckos are affordable and widely available.
- Crested geckos should be kept at room temperature, and not go below 60 or over 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Crested geckos kept in captivity eat a diet of dusted bugs and homemade fruit treats.
- The crested gecko lifespan is still debated, but the suggested minimum is 12 years, with a high of 30. There are crested geckos collected in 1994 that are still living and breeding at 20 years or older. Most crested geckos available today are under 10 years old.
- While a baby can get by in a Kritter Keeper, adult crested geckos need a minimum of 10 gallons of space. You need to provide places for your crested gecko to hide inside its vivarium and things for your gecko to climb up on.
- You can set up a crested gecko enclosure for as little as $20 if you are a little crafty and want to get out your exacto knife and glue gun. If you want to observe your gecko in a more natural setting, it will cost around $100 depending on the size of the glass tank. Most branches cost between $5 and $30. Plants around $10-$20 depending on where you buy them. A misting system will cost an additional $50-100. So $300 should be more than enough for a top of the line glass tank.
- Once you have bought your crested gecko and the invested in your crested gecko vivarium and supplies, the cost of having a crested gecko as a pet is very minimal. Commercial food is cheaper in the long run and costs only about $25 per year.
- Although crested geckos are hardy little reptiles, they are not entirely bulletproof. Crested geckos are prone to nutritional problems due to poor diet. Captivity also causes stress, which weakens the immune system and allows diseases and parasites to proliferate.
- While you and your gecko may have different opinions on what it means to play together, you can expect your crested gecko to be active at night (they’re nocturnal!) and sleeping during the day. It may take some time for your gecko to get used to you, so minimize handling during your first few weeks with the animal.
- Crested geckos do not need friends and can be housed alone without any problems. That being said, you should only pair male and female crested geckos together if you are prepared to eventually have babies. The average crested gecko female gives birth to 10-16 babies during each breeding season.