Crested Gecko: Pet, Care, Diet, Behavior, Handling, Breeding

The Crested Gecko, scientifically named Correlophus ciliatus, is an intriguing and unique species of gecko native to southern New Caledonia. Its moniker comes from the soft, spiny scales or “crests” running over its eyes and down its body, which are some of its distinctive features.

The species was originally described in 1866 by French zoologist Alphonse Guichenot but was believed to be extinct for many years. Its existence was largely forgotten until 1994 when it was rediscovered during a scientific expedition led by Robert Seipp.

Since then, the Crested Gecko has gained notable attention in herpetological and pet communities for its ease of care, docile temperament, and unique physical characteristics. Despite the widespread belief of their extinction, these geckos have thrived and their population has grown, turning them into one of the most popular gecko species in the pet trade today.

Physical Characteristics

The Crested Gecko is a medium-sized reptile, with adults typically reaching a length of six to ten inches, including a four to six-inch-long tail. As with most geckos, the tail is semi-prehensile, meaning it can be used to assist in climbing and maintaining balance.

Their weight ranges from 30 to 35 grams, making them a relatively lightweight pet. They are known for their large triangular-shaped head, which is a distinct feature compared to other reptile species.

crested gecko

One of the most notable physical characteristics of Crested Geckos is their skin texture. Their scales have a unique bead-like texture, which gives them a distinctive appearance. Furthermore, they boast rows of soft, spiny scales or “crests” that run over their eyes and down their bodies to the base of their tails.

In terms of color, Crested Geckos exhibit a wide range of colors and patterns. They can be brown, cream, red, orange, or even a combination of these colors, often marked with distinctive patterns that add to their appeal.

Comparison to Other Gecko Species

When compared to other gecko species, Crested Geckos have several distinctive features. The most apparent difference is their crests, from which they derive their name. This feature is unique to the species and gives them a characteristic “eyelashed” appearance.

Their large triangular head also sets them apart from other gecko species, most of which have more streamlined or rounded heads. In terms of size, Crested Geckos fall into the medium range among gecko species. They are larger than species such as the Leopard Gecko but smaller than the Giant Day Gecko.

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Lastly, their unique bead-like scale texture also distinguishes them from other geckos, many of which have smoother scales or scales that lay flat against their body. This texture not only provides them with a unique visual appearance but may also serve a role in their natural defense mechanisms.

Behavior and Temperament

Crested Geckos, known scientifically as Correlophus ciliatus, are widely revered for their docile and pleasant temperaments. Unlike some reptiles, they are not particularly aggressive or territorial, making them a popular choice among reptile enthusiasts, especially beginners.

General Behavior: Crested Geckos are nocturnal creatures. This means that they are most active during the night and sleep during the day. In the wild, this nocturnal behavior allows them to evade many predators who are active during the day.

Temperament: Crested Geckos are generally considered to be one of the more easy-going gecko species. They’re usually quite docile and not overly prone to biting or other aggressive behaviors. However, like all animals, individual personalities can vary, and some Crested Geckos might be more skittish or feisty than others.

Behavior in Captivity: In captivity, Crested Geckos can adapt well to a routine and are generally easy to manage. They can become accustomed to their caregiver’s presence and can be handled gently, albeit infrequently to minimize stress.

Influence of Behavior on Care

Crested Geckos’ overall temperament and behavior patterns significantly influence their care. Since they are nocturnal, their enclosure needs to accommodate this, meaning a focus on proper lighting conditions that mimic their natural environment’s day-night cycle.

Additionally, their docile nature makes handling easier, but it’s still crucial to do this sparingly and gently to avoid causing unnecessary stress for the gecko.

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This aspect of their behavior also implies the necessity of an environment that provides ample hiding spaces for the gecko to rest and sleep during the daytime. The enclosure should ideally mimic the natural environment of the Crested Gecko, including vertical climbing spaces, as these geckos are quite adept climbers and enjoy heights.

Influence of Arboreal Lifestyle on Crested Gecko’s Behavior

Crested Geckos are an arboreal species, meaning they spend a significant portion of their lives in trees. This arboreal lifestyle greatly influences their behavior, habitat needs, and overall care in captivity.

Climbing and Jumping: Being an arboreal species, Crested Geckos are excellent climbers. They have specialized toe pads that allow them to grip and climb on a variety of surfaces, including the sides and tops of their enclosures. They also exhibit unique jumping behavior as a means of quick transportation between trees or to evade predators in the wild.

Habitat Preferences: Crested Geckos’ preference for heights significantly influences their habitat design. They require vertically oriented enclosures with various climbing surfaces. In captivity, this can be achieved by including branches, vines, and vertical hiding spots.

Crested Gecko

Feeding Behavior: As part of their arboreal lifestyle, Crested Geckos often eat insects and small invertebrates in the wild. They also consume fruit, nectar, and other plant matter. These geckos have a “licking” behavior, and in captivity, they often consume a diet of commercially prepared fruit-based gecko diets and insects.

Nocturnal Behavior: Their arboreal lifestyle also supports their nocturnal behavior. During the day, they find hiding spots in tree crevices or leaves to sleep and evade predators. At night, they become active, seeking food and exploring their environment.

Crested Gecko Lifespan

Lifespan in the Wild

Determining the average lifespan of any creature in the wild is a challenging task, primarily due to the varying factors that can impact their life expectancy such as predators, diseases, availability of food, and environmental conditions.

For Crested Geckos, there isn’t an exact number available for their lifespan in the wild. However, it’s speculated that it could be significantly shorter than in captivity due to these harsh survival conditions.

Crested Gecko Lifespan in Captivity

In captivity, with proper care and diet, Crested Geckos are known to live anywhere from 15 to 20 years, and some have been reported to live even longer. This longevity is attributed to their stable living conditions, consistent availability of nutritious food, absence of predators, and access to veterinary care when needed.

It’s important to note that while Crested Geckos can live a relatively long life, potential owners should be prepared for a long-term commitment. As with any pet, the quality of care provided significantly impacts the gecko’s health and longevity.

Therefore, continuous research and understanding of their needs are key factors in ensuring a healthy and fulfilling life for these creatures.

Diet and Feeding

Crested Geckos, in their native habitat of Southern New Caledonia, have a diverse diet. As omnivores, they consume both plant and animal matter.

Primarily, they feed on a variety of small insects like crickets, small beetles, and other arthropods. It’s important that the insects they consume are small, generally no larger than the space between the gecko’s eyes, to prevent choking or digestion problems.

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In addition to insects, Crested Geckos also eat soft, overripe fruits. This provides them with the necessary vitamins and minerals.

Recommended Diet for Crested Geckos in Captivity

Feeding Crested Geckos in captivity involves mimicking their natural diet as closely as possible for their overall health and longevity. Today, there are commercial diets specifically for Crested Geckos available in the market. These are usually in powdered form, to be mixed with water before feeding. These diets are designed to provide all necessary nutrients for the geckos and are typically based on fruits and insects.

While commercial diets are comprehensive, it’s still beneficial to supplement these with live prey. This not only adds variety to the gecko’s diet but also allows them to engage in their natural hunting behaviors. Insects like crickets or dubia roaches are suitable for this. Dusting these insects with a calcium supplement ensures your gecko gets necessary calcium for bone health.

Apart from the regular diet, occasional fruit treats can be offered. Soft fruits like bananas, peaches, or berries are favored. However, remember these should be treats and not replace their regular diet. As for feeding schedule, young geckos need to be fed daily while adults can be fed every other day. This can be adjusted based on the gecko’s size, age, and activity level.

Lastly, even though Crested Geckos get much of their hydration from their diet, they still require fresh water. A shallow dish of fresh water and daily misting of the enclosure will help keep them hydrated. Remember, all reptiles have individual feeding preferences, and it may take some time and adjustments to ensure your Crested Gecko is eating well.

Crested Gecko Care

Crested Geckos are relatively easy to care for, making them an excellent choice for beginner reptile enthusiasts. Here’s a guide to setting up the ideal habitat conditions:

Crested Gecko Enclosure Size

The size of the enclosure depends on the age and size of the Crested Gecko. For a juvenile gecko, a smaller 10-gallon tank can suffice. However, adult Crested Gecko tanks require larger enclosures, typically around 20-gallon capacity, to provide ample space for movement and exploration. Always choose a tank that’s taller rather than wider, as Crested Geckos are arboreal and enjoy climbing.

B. Heating and Lighting

Unlike many other reptiles, they do not require specific UVB lighting or excessively high temperatures. The ideal temperature for their enclosure is between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, with a slight drop at night. An under-tank heater or low-wattage basking light can help maintain this temperature range.

As for lighting, normal room light is sufficient for Crested Geckos. If you wish to add UVB lighting, ensure it’s low intensity. Always remember to provide a day-night cycle, mimicking their natural environment.

C. Decor and Climbing Spaces

Given their love for climbing, it’s essential to include vertical decor such as branches, vines, and plants (both real and artificial) in their enclosure. Provide plenty of hiding spots like hollow logs or foliage clusters to make them feel secure.

D. Substrate

The substrate, or bedding, should be one that maintains humidity while being safe for the gecko. Coconut fiber, sphagnum moss, or paper towels are often used. Avoid sand or small particulate substrates, as these can cause impaction if ingested.

The enclosure setup should aim to mimic the Crested Gecko’s natural habitat as closely as possible. This means maintaining a relative humidity of about 60-80%, which can be achieved by misting the enclosure once or twice a day, depending on the ambient room conditions.

Remember, your Crested Gecko’s home should be a safe, clean, and enriching environment that allows it to exhibit its natural behaviors. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the enclosure are necessary to keep your gecko healthy.

Maintaining Hygiene in the Enclosure

Crested Gecko

Maintaining cleanliness in the enclosure is paramount to the health and well-being of your Crested Gecko. Here are some best practices:

Spot Cleaning: This should be done daily. Spot cleaning involves removing any visible waste or uneaten food from the enclosure. This prevents the build-up of bacteria and keeps the environment clean for your gecko.

Deep Cleaning: Once a month, you should carry out a deep cleaning of the enclosure. This process involves removing and replacing the substrate, disinfecting the enclosure and decor with a reptile-safe cleaner, and rinsing well.

Water Dish Cleaning: If you provide a water dish (some owners do not, as Crested Geckos often prefer drinking water droplets from leaves or the sides of the enclosure), ensure it’s cleaned daily to prevent bacteria growth.

Regularly Replace Substrate: Depending on the type of substrate used, it should be completely replaced every few weeks to a month to prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria.

Handle with Clean Hands: Always wash your hands before and after handling your gecko to prevent the spread of germs.

Water Provision and Humidity Maintenance

They get most of their water from droplets on leaves and the sides of the enclosure, simulating how they’d drink in their natural rainforest habitat. To provide this:

Misting: Mist the enclosure with dechlorinated water once or twice a day, depending on the humidity level. Misting in the evening helps simulate the gecko’s natural environment, as they are nocturnal animals. This is also a good way to maintain the required humidity level of 60-80%.

Water Dish: While not always necessary, some owners choose to provide a shallow water dish. Make sure the dish is shallow enough to prevent the risk of your gecko drowning and is cleaned regularly.

Remember, maintaining the right humidity level is crucial for the gecko’s shedding process. Too low humidity can lead to incomplete shedding, which can cause health issues. Use a hygrometer to monitor the enclosure’s humidity level regularly. If it drops below the required level, mist the enclosure more often or consider using a reptile fogger or humidifier.

Best Practices for Handling and Bonding

Crested Geckos, given their relatively docile nature, can be handled more frequently than some other reptile species. However, there are still guidelines to follow to ensure the safety and well-being of the gecko.

Give them time to adjust: If you’ve just brought your gecko home, give them some time to get used to their new environment before attempting to handle them. A week or two is usually sufficient.

Approach gently: Always approach slowly and gently to avoid frightening them. Handling should be done softly, with the gecko being allowed to walk from hand to hand. Never grab or hold the gecko tightly.

Short handling sessions: Start with short handling sessions of around 5-10 minutes, gradually increasing the time as your gecko becomes more comfortable. Never handle your gecko for extended periods, as this can cause stress.

Height considerations: Crested Geckos are good climbers but not necessarily great fallers. Always handle your gecko close to the ground to prevent injury if they fall.

Hand hygiene: Wash your hands before and after handling to prevent the spread of germs.

Crested Gecko’s Temperament Towards Handling

Crested Geckos are among the most placid and friendly of the gecko species, making them good candidates for regular handling, provided it’s done correctly. While each individual gecko’s tolerance to handling can vary, as a species, they are known to be quite amenable to gentle handling.

These geckos are known to be curious and explorative rather than aggressive. They may jump or try to climb during handling, which is normal behavior. However, excessive stress or inappropriate handling can lead to the gecko dropping its tail, a process known as autotomy. While the gecko can live perfectly fine without its tail, it’s important to take care not to stress your gecko to avoid this.

Remember, even though they can tolerate handling, it’s essential to give them time to rest and behave naturally in their enclosure. Consistent over-handling can lead to stress and related health issues.

Crested Gecko as Pet

Crested Geckos are quite popular as pets due to their friendly temperament and comparatively easy care requirements. They are commonly available at pet stores and from breeders, and their cost can vary widely depending on several factors such as age, color morph, size, and the reputation of the breeder.

Crested Gecko Cost

Crested Gecko cost generally ranges from $50 to $300, with particularly rare morphs or lineage commanding even higher prices. It’s important to remember that the initial cost of the gecko itself is only a part of the overall expense. Other necessary costs include the enclosure, lighting, heating, substrate, food, and potential veterinary care.

When purchasing a Crested Gecko, always consider its overall health and well-being. Check for clear eyes, a plump tail (which indicates good nutrition), and active behavior. It’s generally recommended to purchase from a reputable breeder, as they’re more likely to provide healthy geckos and offer support in terms of care advice.

Factors to Consider Before Adopting a Crested Gecko

Choosing to adopt a Crested Gecko as a pet comes with its own set of considerations. Here are some of the most important factors to contemplate:

Benefits: Crested Geckos make great pets for a variety of reasons. They are known for their gentle and docile nature, making them suitable for beginners. They also have a unique appearance and are quite interactive, providing an interesting display for their owners. Their nocturnal behavior can also make them suitable for those who are busy during the day.

Challenges: While they are generally easy to care for, they do have some specific needs. They require a special diet and controlled habitat conditions, including temperature and humidity, that need to be constantly monitored and adjusted.

Care Requirements: They need a well-structured terrarium with adequate vertical space for climbing. They require a diet primarily of commercial crested gecko food, supplemented with live insects and occasional fruits. Regular cleaning of the enclosure and monitoring the gecko’s health is also crucial.

Potential Health Issues: Like any pet, they can face health issues. They may be susceptible to conditions like a metabolic bone disease if they do not get enough calcium in their diet. Overfeeding or feeding inappropriate food can lead to obesity. They may also suffer from diseases due to inappropriate humidity or temperature, including respiratory infections and problems with shedding.

Time and Financial Commitment: Properly caring for a Crested Gecko requires both time and money. This includes the initial setup of their habitat, ongoing costs for food and supplies, and time spent on feeding, cleaning, and generally caring for the gecko. It’s important to consider if you can make this commitment before deciding to adopt.

Remember, it’s important to learn as much as you can about Crested Geckos before deciding to adopt one. This will help ensure you can provide a healthy and happy life for your new pet.

Breeding

They are known for their relative ease of breeding in captivity. However, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of the process and to be prepared for any possible challenges that might arise. Here’s a brief guide to help you get started:

Preparation for Breeding

Before you begin breeding, make sure that both the male and the female are in good health and are of suitable age. The female should be at least 1.5 years old and weigh over 35 grams to ensure that she can handle the stress of laying eggs without any adverse effects on her health. Males, on the other hand, can usually start breeding slightly younger, from around 1 year old.

Breeding Process

The breeding process itself is relatively straightforward. Once you’ve introduced the male to the female, nature will typically take its course. After successful mating, the female will lay a clutch of two eggs approximately every 4-6 weeks throughout the breeding season, which usually lasts from spring to fall.

Incubation and Hatchlings

Crested Gecko eggs can be incubated at room temperature, preferably around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. The eggs need to be monitored for correct humidity, and they usually hatch after 60-90 days.

Once hatched, the baby geckos (hatchlings) can be cared for in much the same way as adults but with a smaller and simpler setup. They should be fed a diet similar to adults, appropriately sized to their smaller stature.

Challenges

One of the main challenges in breeding is managing the female’s health. Breeding can be taxing on a female’s body, and calcium deficiencies are a common issue due to the demands of egg production.

Therefore, it’s crucial to supplement her diet with extra calcium during the breeding season. Another challenge is ensuring the eggs remain at the correct humidity level during incubation to prevent them from drying out or becoming overly saturated.

FAQs

Can Crested Geckos live together?

While it’s generally not recommended to house adult males together due to territorial aggression, female Crested Geckos can live together peacefully, and a male can live with one or more females. However, it’s always important to monitor their behavior to ensure that they are getting along and not showing signs of stress or aggression.

Do Crested Geckos need to be handled regularly?

While Crested Geckos can tolerate handling, it’s not a requirement for their well-being. Some geckos may even prefer not to be handled frequently. It’s essential to respect your gecko’s individual personality and stress signals. Always handle your gecko gently and carefully to avoid causing them any undue stress.

Can Crested Geckos change color?

Yes, Crested Geckos can change their color, but not in the same way as a chameleon. They can change the intensity of their coloration, usually becoming brighter at night and duller during the day, in a process known as “firing up” and “firing down.” The ability to change color is influenced by factors like temperature, humidity, and mood.

How do I know if my Crested Gecko is stressed?

Signs of stress in a Crested Gecko can include excessive hiding, loss of appetite, aggressive behavior, difficulty shedding, or frequent changes in color. If you notice these signs, it’s important to identify and eliminate the cause of the stress. If the symptoms persist, it may be necessary to consult with a vet.

What should I do if my Crested Gecko drops its tail?

If it’s tail, it’s important to keep the area clean and monitor it for any signs of infection. Unlike many other species of geckos, Crested Geckos do not regenerate their tails. A dropped tail is not a cause for concern unless there are signs of infection or other health problems.

Conclusion

The Crested Gecko (Correlophus ciliatus) is a fascinating creature known for its unique physical features and relatively easy care in captivity. This arboreal reptile, with its sunny disposition and docile behavior, makes an excellent pet for both beginners and experienced reptile enthusiasts.

Although the Crested Gecko requires specific care in terms of diet, habitat setup, and handling, these requirements are well within the capabilities of most people willing to invest time and effort in their care. As with any pet, prospective owners should consider all factors before making a commitment.

Adopting a Crested Gecko can be a rewarding experience, offering a glimpse into the intriguing world of reptiles and providing a companion that, with proper care, can be part of one’s life for many years.

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