The Crested Gecko (Correlophus ciliatus)is one the most popular reptiles kept in captivity, they are relatively easy to care for, can have calm temperament and remain relatively small (approx. 20cm)
Once thought to be extinct they were rediscovered in 1994 in New Caledonia, a small group were taken into captivity to study and it is from this group that all captive bred crested geckos originate. Their placid nature, relatively small size and ease of care alongside a variety of different patterns and colours have made them extremely popular with hobbyist, collectors and breeders.
They can live for as long as 20 years in captivity so a commitment to their long-term care is important when deciding to own this reptile.
Crested geckos are best kept in terrarium that is taller than it is wide as they like to climb. A 45x45x60cm glass terrarium is the most popular size as it reaches the recommended minimum size and will withstand the higher humidity requirements of this species
Care should be taken to ensure glass terrariums are not situated in a direct sunlight, cold or draughty areas as these types of enclosures do not have the insulating properties of a wooden vivarium.
At Internet Reptile, we recommend a crested gecko should be sold when it is around 8g, at this size it will be established and strong enough to move straight into its adult size home, this means the gecko can benefit from a good thermogradient and the correct access to UV light.
We’d recommend beginners do not start with smaller geckos as it is often suggested that these are placed in smaller enclosures. There is nothing specific about a smaller setup that is advantageous to a gecko, in the wild they have unlimited space and the benefits of larger enclosures apply to all geckos regardless of age – however, it is potentially harder to monitor feeding and growth at this stage. If this is of concern, we’d recommend purchasing an animal that is a little more established, not only will they cope better moving to a new home, but this will also save you the cost associated with purchasing two enclosures.
Crested geckos prefer to live alone, only ever coming into contact with other geckos for short periods during breeding season. Housing them together can cause stress and even amongst geckos that appear to have previously tolerated one another, fighting can occur at any time and cause serious injury or even death.
If you do choose to keep more than one gecko together you must make sure that there are plenty of hiding places and that you never house 2 or more males together. Care should also be taken to closely monitor for signs of aggression or dominance; a suitable backup enclosure should always be on hand to separate them if needed.
Crested geckos should be provided with a warm area of the enclosure that is approximately 26-28C. An ambient temperature range of 20-24C throughout the rest of the enclosure will help create a suitable thermogradient. Ideally night time temps should not dip below 18C.
The most common way to provide this temperature range is to use a high-powered heat mat stuck on the outside of the glass enclosure, a thermostat will ensure that the temperature of the heat mat is regulated and this can then be monitored with a digital thermometer. This is very simple and effective, but care needs to be taken to ensure that ambient (air) temperature is sufficient as heats mats do very little to warm the air.
More recently the use of an Arcadia Deep Heat Projector, controlled by a thermostat, has grown in popularity. The benefit of this type of heater is that it provides a deep, tissue penetrating heat (Infra-Red B) which will also warm decoration below, this in turn gives off more heat in the enclosure. Providing heat from above can also help avoid accidental burns or over heating which can be risks when using a heat mat as these will raise the surface temperature of the glass.
A UV Index of around 1-2 as well as fully shaded areas will ensure that the gecko gets access to the UVB light that it needs for healthy development. In most enclosures an Arcadia Shade Dweller ProT5 light will provide this UVI when installed on top of the mesh of a typical reptile terrarium. Lots of branches and leaves at different levels will allow your gecko to move into and out of the UV light as required.
For larger enclosures of a similar height a reflected arcadia 6% T8 tube will produce a similar output. Otherwise a 6% T5 or ProT5 kit give even better-quality light, just try and add a little more distance from the top as well as increasing the amount of shade offered.
Keep the light on for approximately 12-14 hours per day and turn off at night time.
Crested Geckos thrive with a slightly higher relative humidity than other reptiles, this should be maintained at around 40-50% with regular boosts to around 70% once or twice a day. Considering a move to bioactive is a wonderful way to keep the correct humidity levels in your vivarium and spraying once or twice daily will also provide additional boosts when needed.
You can monitor humidity with a basic hygrometer but generally as long as temperatures are correct, you keep the enclosure free of draughts and spray as advised most households should be able to provide the levels needed for a crested gecko.
A higher humidity hide (wet box) should also be available to the gecko at all times; most commonly the easiest way to achieve this is to maintain it with damp sphagnum moss. This will help the gecko shed its skin fully and prevent loss of toes or the tip of the tail when dry shed remains.
Decorating a vivarium is much more than simply making your enclosure look visually appealing, whilst there are endless products that will do just that and this can be very rewarding, decoration is also very functional and will help you provide an environment that helps make your crested gecko feel safe and secure
Add lots of hiding places and situate them in different areas of the vivarium, then add lots of plants and branches. You should always aim to give complete coverage of the sides of the vivarium using cork, leaves or any other climbing area; this will help ensure the gecko feels secure and it also prevents ‘floppy tail syndrome’ which is common when geckos sit on exposed flat glass panels.
We would advise going ‘bio-active’ where possible. Using live plants in the terrarium will really help your gecko feel at home and help to create a naturalistic and beautiful setup.
TOP TIP: Hang a coconut from the roof of the vivarium for a great hiding spot, add moss to create a wet hide.
Crested geckos eat both fruit and insect-based diets. There are a number of excellent specially formulated professional diets for crested geckos which come highly recommended and can be fed in a bowl on a ledge near to where the geckos are active at night-time.
Whilst these foods contain vitamins, minerals and nutrients they should not be fed in isolation, geckos that are also offered a variety of different, gut loaded livefood insects will grow and develop more quickly and also be able to exercise their natural hunting instincts.
Our geckos are fed a mix of
*REMEMBER* Always feed insects of an appropriate size, as a guide the width of the livefood insect should never exceed the width between the gecko’s eyes.
As well as ensuring all livefood insects have been gutloaded we lightly dust all our food with a vitamin/mineral supplement to ensure geckos have access to the nutrition they need. Our regime is adapted from the insectivore routine provided by Arcadia Reptile
- Feed 1: Arcadia EarthPro-A
- Feed 2 and 3: Arcadia Calcium with Magnesium
- Feed 4: Arcadia EarthPro-A
- Feed 5 and 6: Arcadia Calcium with Magnesium
- Feed 7: Full spectrum vitamin with D3
As we use good quality UV lighting with our geckos, the synthetic vitamin D3 supplements more commonly used with crested geckos in the past, now play a minimal role in our routine. A single dusting every eight feeds with Vetark Nutrobal or ZooMed Reptivite with D3 provide a backup source of vitamin D3 for peace of mind. Should you have lower output, or even no UV lighting, you should adjust the regime accordingly.
Fresh drinking water should be available at all times in a shallow bowl and changed daily, when spraying try to ensure plastic or real leaves are also covered in water drops as the geckos will drink from plants too.
Cleaning and Hygiene
Spot clean the enclosure daily removing any waste matter to help keep the enclosure clean at all times. Complete a full vivarium clean every 4-6 weeks replacing all substrate, clean and disinfect the enclosure and decoration where it is safe to do so.
A well-established bio active enclosure containing clean-up crew will maintain itself. Whilst waste matter falling to the floor will become part of the eco system you can still clean leaves, décor and glass sides on a regular basis.
Just like cats, dogs or other pets; reptiles can carry bacteria (including salmonella), worms or parasites. To prevent the spread of infection between yourself and the animal or even between different animals in your care, you should always wash your hands thoroughly before and after cleaning or handling.
It is also prudent to carry out a faecal check annually or at any time should there be a cause for concern, e.g. you notice runny stools. See https://www.palsvetlab.co.uk for further details.
Our care guides are designed to offer a basic overview and instant reference point to many of the most common questions related to care and setups. There is often more than one method to achieve the same results and they should be read in conjunction with other research, professional advice and subsequent developments in knowledge and research.
As a pet owner you are legally responsible to ensure that any animal under your care is properly cared for, your obligations are to provide:
- Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
- Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
- Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind
- Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering
If in doubt always be sure to seek immediate professional and/or veterinary advice.