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

The Harlequin Crested Gecko is a fascinating and visually striking morph of the Crested Gecko species, known scientifically as Correlophus ciliatus. This particular variety stands out for its distinctive color pattern, a trait that has made it a favorite among gecko enthusiasts and pet owners.

The Crested Gecko species, native to New Caledonia, a group of islands in the South Pacific, was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1994. Since then, these geckos have become increasingly popular in the pet trade due to their unique appearance and manageable care requirements.

Within this species, the Harlequin Crested Gecko is one of several morphs. A morph is a variant of an animal species, distinguished by physical traits such as color and pattern, which are genetically inherited.

The term “Harlequin”

The term “Harlequin” in the name Harlequin Crested Gecko refers to the distinctive pattern of contrasting colors found on these geckos. Harlequin Crested Geckos have a base color, often a dark hue such as red or black, and a secondary color, typically a lighter shade, that creates a pattern over the base. This striking contrast of colors tends to appear on the sides and back of the gecko, adding to its distinctive appeal.

Physical Characteristics

Harlequin Crested Gecko

Harlequin Crested Geckos are differentiated from other morphs by their distinctive color pattern. As noted earlier, these geckos typically exhibit two contrasting colors. The primary, or base color, covers most of the gecko’s body, while the secondary color forms the distinctive Harlequin pattern.

The Harlequin pattern is typically seen on the back and sides of the gecko and is characterized by a cream color contrasting sharply with the base color. This pattern can take various forms, including spots, stripes, or a combination of both, and can cover varying proportions of the body.

The specific pattern of each Harlequin Crested Gecko is unique, adding to the appeal of these distinctive reptiles.

Base and Pattern Colors

Harlequin Crested Geckos are known for their vibrant and contrasting colors. The base color is typically a darker shade, such as deep red or black, providing a striking contrast to the lighter Harlequin pattern.

The pattern color in Harlequin Crested Geckos is usually cream, but it can also be lighter colors. It’s also important to note that the intensity and hue of these colors can vary between individual geckos, influenced by factors such as age, diet, temperature, and genetics.

The wide range of colors and patterns seen in Harlequin Crested Geckos, combined with the uniqueness of each individual’s pattern, makes these geckos particularly appealing to reptile enthusiasts and pet owners alike.

Harlequin Crested Gecko lifespan

Harlequin Crested Geckos, like other crested geckos, can live for quite a long time, especially when compared to other reptiles of similar size.

In the wild, their lifespan tends to be shorter due to threats such as predators, harsh weather, and scarcity of food. The exact lifespan in the wild isn’t well documented, but it’s thought to be around 8-10 years on average.

In captivity, these geckos can live significantly longer due to the absence of most of those threats and the provision of a consistent diet and stable environment. A well-cared-for Harlequin Crested Gecko can live up to 15-20 years in captivity, with some even reaching their mid-twenties. This makes them a long-term commitment for any potential owner.

Behavior and Temperament

Harlequin Crested Geckos, like all Crested Geckos, are known for their calm and docile behavior. They are generally non-aggressive and tolerate handling well, which combined with their stunning color patterns, makes them particularly attractive as pets.

These geckos are predominantly nocturnal, which means they are most active during the night. During the day, they tend to hide and rest, emerging in the twilight hours to hunt and explore their environment. Their natural behaviors include climbing, jumping, and hanging from branches, so providing an environment that allows them to display these behaviors is crucial.

Harlequin Crested Geckos are also known for their unique defensive behavior of dropping their tail when threatened. This is a typical trait among many gecko species, including Crested Geckos, and the tail does not regrow, resulting in a unique “frog-butt” appearance.

It’s important to note that while the behavior and temperament of Harlequin Crested Geckos generally align with those of Crested Geckos, individual personalities can vary. Some geckos may be more active or more reserved, and temperament can also be influenced by factors such as age, sex, health status, and prior experiences with handling.

Diet and Feeding

Diet in the Wild

Variety of Food Sources: Harlequin Crested Geckos, like their crested counterparts, are omnivores in the wild. They eat a variety of food sources, including insects, small invertebrates, and fruit.

Seasonal Variation: Their diet can vary based on the season and availability of different food sources. Insects and small invertebrates make up a larger portion of their diet during the warmer months when these creatures are more readily available. During the cooler months, when insects are less abundant, they may eat more fruit and other plant matter.

Diet in Captivity

Commercial Diets: In captivity, Harlequin Crested Geckos can be fed a diet primarily made up of commercially available Crested Gecko diet. These diets are typically a powdered mix that is rehydrated with water and provides a balanced diet of fruits, proteins, and essential nutrients.

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Supplemental Feeding: In addition to the commercial diet, they can also be fed a variety of fruits like mashed bananas, peaches, or apricots, as well as insects like crickets or roaches. Any insects should be dusted with a calcium supplement to ensure they’re getting the proper nutrients.

Feeding Schedule: Typically, these geckos are fed every other day, but the feeding schedule can vary based on the gecko’s age, size, and overall health.

Harlequin Crested Gecko Care

Harlequin Crested Gecko

As a morph of the Crested Gecko, Harlequin Crested Geckos share the same care requirements. They thrive in a specific range of temperatures, require a balanced diet, and need a carefully crafted habitat that mimics their natural arboreal environment.

Harlequin Crested Gecko Enclosure Size

For an individual Harlequin Crested Gecko, a 20-gallon tank is usually adequate, but larger is always better. Juvenile geckos may be kept in smaller, 10-gallon tanks until they grow larger. Remember, these geckos are climbers, so vertical space is just as important, if not more so, than horizontal space.

Heating and Lighting

Harlequin Crested Geckos do well in temperatures between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit (21-27 degrees Celsius). Heating devices may be necessary to maintain this temperature range, especially in cooler climates. Nighttime temperatures can drop a bit lower, but should not fall below 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius).

These geckos don’t require additional UVB lighting if they are fed a balanced diet that includes a commercial Crested Gecko diet fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. However, providing a low level of UVB lighting can be beneficial and help regulate their day-night cycle.

Decor and Climbing Spaces

Harlequin Crested Geckos love to climb, so tall plants, branches, and vines are essential for their enclosure. These will provide opportunities for exercise and mimic their natural habitat. Including hiding spots like small caves or hollows will also help your gecko feel secure.

Substrate

A variety of substrates can be used in a Harlequin Crested Gecko enclosure, including reptile carpet, coconut husk fiber, and moss. It’s important to choose a substrate that helps maintain humidity without becoming too wet or promoting bacterial growth. Avoid small, loose particles that could be ingested by your gecko and cause impaction.

Feeding

Feeding them a variety of insects (like crickets or dubia roaches) dusted with calcium powder a couple of times a week can help ensure they’re getting enough protein and calcium. Just like other Crested Geckos, Harlequins also need lots of climbing space. Their enclosure should be vertically oriented and filled with plants and branches that they can climb and hide in.

Specific habitat enhancements

There aren’t necessarily specific habitat enhancements for Harlequin Crested Geckos due to their unique coloration. However, the beauty of their distinctive colors and patterns can be emphasized through the use of certain types of decor in their enclosure.

Since Harlequin Crested Geckos can have base colors that are dark red or nearly black, contrasting with cream or lighter patterns, you might consider using lighter substrates or backgrounds to make your gecko’s colors pop.

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However, always prioritize the comfort and safety of your gecko over aesthetics. Any additions to the enclosure should be safe for the gecko to interact with and should not disrupt their necessary environmental conditions.

Handling and Interaction

Gentle Approach: Harlequin Crested Geckos are generally docile creatures, but handling should always be done gently and calmly to avoid causing stress or harm. When picking up your gecko, approach from the side rather than from above (which can appear predatory) and scoop them up rather than grab them.

Support Their Body: Support their body with your hand, letting them crawl from hand to hand. Avoid grabbing or restraining them by their tail, as crested geckos can drop their tails as a defense mechanism.

Regular, But Limited Interaction: Regular handling can help your gecko become accustomed to human interaction and can reduce stress during handling. However, avoid over-handling as this can lead to stress. Sessions should be short, particularly when you first start handling your gecko, and can gradually increase as your pet becomes more comfortable.

Considerations for Interaction

Signs of Stress: Watch for signs of stress or discomfort, like changes in color, rapid breathing, or attempts to escape, and give your gecko a break if they’re showing these signs. It’s important to move at a pace that’s comfortable for your gecko.

Health Check: Handling also provides a good opportunity to check your gecko’s health. Look for any changes in skin, eyes, or behavior that might indicate a health issue.

Remember, patience is key. It might take time for your Harlequin Crested Gecko to become comfortable with handling, but with consistent, gentle interaction, they can learn to tolerate and even enjoy this time with their owner.

Harlequin Crested Gecko as Pet

Harlequin Crested Geckos are coveted pets in the reptile world, especially due to their stunning and unique coloration. This demand, coupled with their distinctive beauty, means they often come at a higher price point compared to other crested gecko morphs.

Cost Range

The cost of a Harlequin Crested Gecko can vary widely based on several factors, such as the intensity of its colors, the clarity, and uniqueness of its pattern, its size, and its age. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $80 to $500 for a Harlequin Crested Gecko.

Availability

Given their popularity, Harlequin Crested Geckos are widely available from pet stores and specialized reptile breeders. It’s recommended to source from a reputable breeder to ensure the gecko has been properly cared for and is in good health.

Other Costs to Consider

Remember, the initial purchase price of your Harlequin Crested Gecko is just the beginning. Be prepared for ongoing costs such as food, a suitable terrarium, heating and lighting equipment, terrarium decor, and potential veterinary bills.

Time and Commitment

Harlequin Crested Geckos, like other reptiles, require a significant time commitment from their owners. They need regular feeding and their enclosures require cleaning. Plus, these geckos live for a relatively long time, often up to 15-20 years in captivity, so they are not a short-term commitment.

Benefits

Harlequin Crested Geckos offers several advantages as pets that make them a popular choice among reptile enthusiasts.

Unique Appearance: The most distinctive trait of Harlequin Crested Geckos is their striking color and pattern combination. This makes them visually stunning pet that stands out from other gecko morphs.

Docile Nature: Like most Crested Geckos, Harlequins tend to have a calm and docile nature. They typically tolerate handling well, which can be a rewarding experience for owners.

Low Maintenance: Although they require a well-maintained environment, Harlequin Crested Geckos are considered to be relatively low-maintenance pets compared to other reptiles. They have simple dietary requirements and don’t require extremely specific or fluctuating temperature and humidity conditions.

Long Lifespan: With proper care, Harlequin Crested Geckos can live for 15 to 20 years in captivity, providing long-term companionship for their owners.

Challenges

Despite their many benefits, there are also challenges to consider when keeping a Harlequin Crested Gecko as a pet.

Cost: As mentioned earlier, Harlequin Crested Geckos can be more expensive to purchase than other gecko morphs. The ongoing costs for food, habitat maintenance, and potential vet care should also be factored into the overall cost of ownership.

Time Commitment: Although they are low-maintenance, these geckos still require regular care, including feeding, habitat cleaning, and health checks. Their long lifespan also means they are a long-term commitment.

Handling Care: While they are generally tolerant of handling, over-handling can stress them, leading to potential health issues and changes in behavior. Their skin is delicate, and their tails can drop if they feel threatened, so handling should always be gentle and kept to a reasonable minimum.

Breeding Challenges: If you’re considering breeding Harlequin Crested Geckos, be aware that this can be a complex process that requires additional time, resources, and knowledge.

Breeding

Understanding Genetics: The Harlequin pattern is a genetic trait in crested geckos. Therefore, breeding a pair of Harlequin Crested Geckos increases the chances of offspring inheriting the pattern. However, the intricacies of crested gecko genetics can be complex, and there is always an element of unpredictability in the patterns of the offspring.

Selecting a Pair: Breeding Harlequin Crested Geckos begins with selecting a healthy pair. The male and female should both be in good health and of appropriate size and age for breeding. It’s also worth noting that while two Harlequin geckos are likely to produce Harlequin offspring, Harlequin can also be produced by pairing a Harlequin gecko with a non-Harlequin, although the chances are lower.

Breeding Conditions: Crested Geckos, including the Harlequin morph, typically breed in the spring. The female will lay her eggs around 30 days after successful mating. Provide a suitable laying box filled with a moist substrate for the female.

Incubating the Eggs: Once the eggs are laid, they should be carefully removed to an incubator where the temperature and humidity can be controlled.

Caring for Offspring: Once the eggs hatch, the young geckos require appropriate care to ensure their health and survival. This includes suitable housing, proper temperature and humidity, and an appropriate diet.

FAQs

How rare is the Harlequin pattern in Crested Geckos?

Harlequin is not necessarily a rare morph, but its popularity makes it sought-after among enthusiasts. The extent and brightness of the Harlequin pattern can vary significantly, with some individuals displaying very vibrant and extensive patterns, which can be more uncommon and desirable.

How do I know if my Crested Gecko is a Harlequin?

Harlequin Crested Geckos are identified by their unique pattern. They have a base color that is typically darker (like red or black) and a contrasting pattern color (usually cream or orange). If you’re unsure, a reptile vet or experienced breeder should be able to help identify the morph of your gecko.

Can Harlequin Crested Geckos change color?

Like all Crested Geckos, Harlequin Crested Geckos can change their color intensity, a phenomenon known as ‘firing up’ and ‘firing down’, based on their mood, temperature, or time of day. However, they do not change their base color or pattern.

Are Harlequin Crested Geckos Good for Beginners?

Crested Geckos, including the Harlequin morph, are often recommended for beginners due to their docile nature and relatively simple care requirements. However, new owners should still thoroughly research their care and commit to providing a suitable environment for these geckos.

Conclusion

Harlequin Crested Geckos, a morph of the Crested Gecko, are captivating reptiles with their striking contrast of colors. Their relatively easy care requirements, combined with their unique appearance, make them a popular choice for both novice and experienced reptile enthusiasts.

As with any pet, potential owners should thoroughly research and understand the specific needs of these geckos before deciding to adopt one. Ultimately, successful Harlequin Crested Gecko care relies on providing an appropriate habitat, balanced diet, and gentle handling while continually monitoring their health and well-being.

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