Crested gecko or eyelash gecko (rhacodactylus ciliatus) is a popular reptilian pet choice, originally from a group of islands near Australia called New Caledonia. These small lizards with spiny-looking crests, bright eyes with distinctive eyelashes, and docile temperaments are natively found in low elevation rainforests. Their habitats are shaded, very humid, and moderately warm. While crested geckos aren't exported for domestic trade, captive-bred specimens are available at PetSmart and other pet stores. This care sheet will help you create the best habitat possible for your crested gecko, as well as what to expect for their diet and how to handle them.
Crested Gecko Habitat Considerations
The most important thing to remember is that crested geckos are semi-arboreal or a tree-dwelling species. You can be creative with their habitat set up, so long as you meet a few basic requirements of a few sturdy perches, a couple of places to hide, adequate vertical surfaces, and ample foliage - without being so full of live plants that the gecko can't jump around. Their specialized toe pads let them climb all over their tank. Make sure they have some rough surfaces that they can rub against to help them shed properly.
Keep in mind the size of your crested gecko as you determine the size of your enclosure. Baby crested geckos will not thrive the best in the large tanks meant for adult crested geckos. The habitat should grow with the gecko, starting with 7-quart containers for young geckos and working up to at least a 20-gallon tank with screen top enclosures for adult geckos. There are many types of the enclosure from glass, screen cages to a terrarium. Purchase the enclosure that is designed specifically to house reptiles.
Crested geckos are sub-tropical reptiles. Although they are cold-blooded and can't regulate their body temperature, they don't require a basking spot of UVB lighting like other species. They can tolerate slightly too cool temperatures better than too hot temperatures. The temperature of their tank should never exceed 90 degrees, and they can handle temperatures down to 68 degrees, although it is not recommended. These geckos thrive in the 74 to 78-degree range. If this is too warm for your home, fix a low-wattage UVB heat lamp to the habitat, and keep a thermostat inside.
Crested geckos require a high humidity level of about 80 to 90% humidity, but they also need a dry-out period in between. Mist the habitat heavily once a day until the humidity in the enclosure reaches the desired level, and then let it dry out over 24 hours. Keep an eye on this until you find the routine best for you. If the habitat is entirely dry after only a couple of hours, you'll need to mist it more heavily. If it's still damp by the next day, you'll either need to mist less or add more ventilation. Note! Crested geckos drink the water droplets, so it is crucial that the misting water be free of chlorine. And if you do use a heat lamp, do not moist for less than two hours before turning the heat lamps off for the day.
Paper towels are a cheap and convenient substrate. Other, more natural options are coconut fiber, cork bark, or topsoil that doesn't have any added pesticides or plant fertilizers. Sand or various sand replacements, such as crushed walnut, are often used for pet reptiles but are not appropriate for crested geckos and shouldn't be used. They can make it impossible to maintain the proper humidity.
You can place a group of female crested geckos together, but you can not do the same with male crested geckos. A group of males may fight, especially adult male crested geckos and if there is a female present. You can also keep one male and several females together. Or you can keep a male and a female together in a tank.
Crested Gecko Diet Considerations
Sticking to a specific crested gecko diet is important! Crested gecko food is typically a combination of powdered fruits and minerals and live insects. You can feed fresh fruit such as mangoes and bananas alongside a balanced powdered food and insects diet.
A powdered, fruit-based diet is a nutritious diet for crested geckos. The powder should be mixed in a ratio of one part powder to two parts water until you reach a consistency similar to ketchup. Crested geckos should be fed a bottle cap full of the powdered mixture about three times a week. You can also dust the powder on live insects.
Geckos need live prey insects in their diet for the specific nutrients they give. You can find a variety of options at any shop that sells pet supplies. Dubia roaches, mealworms, waxworms, crickets, other prey insects, and black soldier fly larvae are a few good choices. Feed a few insects in a dish anywhere from a few times a week to a couple of times a month. It's recommended to both dust and gut load your insects ahead of time.
Feed only food made to feed your reptile, and avoid feeding wild-caught insects as they can pose a serious risk of pesticide exposure.
To boost your reptile vitamins and mineral intake, dust the insects with calcium, vitamin D3, multivitamin, or other powdered supplements. If you do feed vitamin D3 supplement regularly, your gecko may not need a UVB light.
Handling Crested Geckos
A few points of considerations regarding handling your crested gecko:
Crested gecko tails do not grow back. They can drop their tails with little to no warning, sometimes triggered by loud noises or sudden movements. There's no need to be anxious about this, however. Crested geckos can lead long and happy lives completely tailless. Just make extra sure that the habitat is clean while it heals.
Crested geckos are generally docile, but they are reptiles and never truly enjoy being handled. Some species just tolerate it better than others. Be careful not to squeeze a crested gecko in any way - their ribs are particularly fragile. The safest way to handle them is to let them hold you. Let them freely crawl from hand to hand. As tree-dwelling geckos, they are built to handle falls from quite a distance and are excellent jumpers, so don't worry if your gecko takes a dive while handling.