Crested Geckos

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Natural History

The crested gecko is known by a handful of other common names including the New Caledonian eyelash gecko, or sometimes simply as eyelash geckos. These arboreal geckos are found in small numbers in New Caledonia and a few surrounding islands, but nowhere else on Earth. As recently as 15 years ago, these geckos were assumed extinct, however, in 1993 a population was discovered, and a small breeding group was brought back to the United States. These geckos proved so easy to keep and such prolific breeders, that today this species is captive bred by the tens of thousands annually.

In the wild, these geckos inhabit dense, tropical forests, and spend their days sleeping in the leaves of the trees in which they live. At night however, crested geckos come to life and explore their surroundings by leaping from tree to tree, foraging for food and looking for mates.

As a result of their recent surge in popularity, many breeders are now working to produce high color cresteds, as well as those with specific patterns and markings. Dozens of variations have been established by breeders all over the world, although bright oranges and reds remain the most popular.

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Crested Geckos in Captivity

Size and Longevity

Crested geckos are moderately sized animals, often reaching a total length of 8 to 10 inches, about half of which is tail.

Despite the fact that these geckos are fairly new to the hobby of reptile keeping, they have proven extremely hardy, and life spans exceeding 15 years may be expected. However, gender, breeding, and care will ultimately affect this figure.

** Housing**

In general, crested geckos are easy to keep, and housing them is no exception. Both glass terrariums and screen cages have worked well for many gecko keepers. If your interest is in displaying these geckos, that can be done well with a sturdy vision cage or with a beautiful, furniture quality penn plax cage. Those keepers housing many geckos often prefer cages that are lightweight and easy to clean, which makes explorariums and reptariums excellent options for housing large number of geckos. Any metal wire or plastic mesh screen cages can also be placed outside in good weather to allow your geckos to experience natural sunlight! These geckos are reasonably active (especially in the evening) and should be given room to move about. A single adult pair will be happy in a 20-gallon tall terrarium, although additional space will be utilized and should be provided if you have the means to do so.

Babies can be raised communally, but as sexual maturity approaches, close attention will have to be paid to the animals behavior. Males may fight if housed together, although this is much more likely to occur if a mature female is present as well. Multiple females and a single male, multiple females, or simply a pair are the best options if you wish to maintain multiple geckos in one enclosure.

Example of a Crested Gecko cage

**Heating and Lighting **

One of the greatest things about crested geckos is their preference for cooler temperatures. They thrive at temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees. They can even tolerate night time temps in the 50's. This means that for the majority of keepers, no supplemental heating is required during much of the year. If you are concerned about your geckos being too cold, or if they seem lethargic and uninterested in food, consider the use of an undertank heat pad,or low wattage nocturnal red bulb on one side of the cage.

With this species cooler temperatures are safer than too hot, so monitor your enclosures closely with a high quality thermometer until you figure out what heating measures (if any) you will require.

As a nocturnal species, full spectrum UV lighting is not absolutely necessary. However, anecdotal stories show that use of low-output UVB or exposure to natural sunlight is extremely beneficial for these geckos. One of the easiest ways to avoid metabolic bone disease (or MBD) is to use a simple 5.0 UVB fluorescent tube or even a compact fluorescent UVB bulb. In addition to supplemental UVB lighting, in much of the US during the summer temperatures are suitable to place these geckos outside to receive natural sunlight. They do not need direct light, and should be kept in the shade when outside, but the benefits of even occasional natural sunlight exposure can be immense!

Substrate and Furnishings

The substrate used with crested geckos should be one that not only promotes humidity but is easy to spot clean as well. Orchid (fir) bark, cypress mulch, coco bedding, or a combination are all excellent choices. Patches of sphagnum moss not only adds interest and beauty to the enclosure, but will further aid in humidity management.

Crested geckos are masters of their arboreal domain, and will very much appreciate a variety of climbing structures within their tank. Driftwood, cork bark flats, cork bark tubes, and both live and artificial plants may all be used. When choosing plants, opt for ones with broad, flat leaves, as these surfaces seem to be a favorite resting spot for this species.

Crested geckos truly love leaping from branch to branch within their enclosure, as well as hanging from slabs of cork bark. Use of copious amounts of cork flats and cork rounds combined with one or two ficus trees is one highly recommended method of housing them. In addition to the more conventional decor, there are now a wide range of magnetically attached products that seem designed exclusively for crested geckos. This includes magnetic ledges, magnetically attached vine bridges, vine clusters, naturalistic cave hideaways, and feed and water ledges with disposable cups for feeding!

Water and Humidity

A large, shallow water bowl should be provided, and should be kept full and clean at all times. Crested geckos will tolerate a wide range of humidity levels, but prefer moderate to high humidity. Lightly misting the cage furnishings, bedding, and cage walls once or twice a day will provide necessary moisture as well as droplets that your geckos may drink. Use of a hand spray bottle or pressure sprayer is one method of misting, which can be used to supplement reptile foggers or automatic misting systems.

Time your misting schedule so that the enclosure never becomes soggy, and has time to nearly dry out between sprayings.

Nutrition

Crested geckos will enjoy a staple diet of typical lizard fare; appropriately sized crickets, mealworms, and waxworms. All live prey should be no longer than the geckos head is wide, and mealworms should be saved for geckos 5 inches and larger (smaller geckos may have trouble digesting the shells).

In addition to the above food items, crested geckos will also eat non-animal foods. Baby food, over ripened fruit, and a variety of commercially available gecko diets should be offered. One of the most well known and reputable blends is Repashy, and it is designed to be the only food item you ever need to feed your geckos. However, variety is the spice of life, and in addition to the Repashy diet they can be offered numerous canned foods, such as canned mango, papaya, or red banana. Once your gecko is used to eating canned products, you can even offer canned insects such as caterpillars or snails.

All foods should be regularly dusted with a quality calcium supplement (ideally one containing vitamin D3). This is especially important for quick growing juveniles and egg-producing females. A multi-vitamin should also be added to the diet as per the manufacturers directions. When feeding the Repashy Diet, no additional supplement is needed to the mix. However, those interested in brightening the color of their geckos can add SuperPig to their diet as well.

Handling

Crested geckos are a splendid exception to the rule of arboreal geckos being hands-off animals. Although they can be quick to jump, they are not aggressive, and with regular, gentle handling, they will definitely warm up to human interaction.

Keep in mind that young or very scared geckos are capable of dropping their tails as a defense mechanism. Although no permanent harm will come to your gecko, the tail will not grow back. Simply take care not to startle your gecko or grab it by the tail at any time and you should not have any issues.

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