This Care Sheet is intended for the care and husbandry of New Caledonian Crested Geckos (Correlophus ciliatus) and may not be suitable for other species.
Crested Geckos are a semi-arboreal gecko (meaning that it spends most of its life in trees and/or shrubs), whose natural diet consists mainly of small insects and fruit. They may live upwards of 15 years when cared for properly.
It is suggested that young Crested Geckos (from hatchling to 12 weeks of age) be kept in large Kritter Keepers – approximately 2.5 to 5 gallon in size. Paper towel is recommended as a substrate to prevent accidental ingestion of any non-food items; while there should be adequate decoration to allow the geckos to feel secure, keeping it relatively bare will assist in being able to see your hatchling’s feces, an important gauge of whether they are eating or not. (Due to the very small size of hatchlings, you may not ever notice that their food is missing from their dish – as long as they are pooping, however, you can be assured that they are in fact eating).
Juveniles can be housed separately in terrariums of approximately 10 gallon size, with an increased amount of furnishings.
Older juvenile to adult Crested Geckos may be comfortably housed in a 20 gallon enclosure or larger. Due to this species’ arboreal nature, a vertical tank orientation (taller rather than wider) is highly recommended. (I have regularly taken a 20 gallon long enclosure and turned it on its end to provide adequate housing – just make sure that it is securely anchored to prevent tipping.)
A trio of adult Crested Geckos can comfortably share a 29 gallon enclosure.
- Male Crested Geckos should be housed apart from each other (never together), as they will fight violently over territory and females.
There are a variety of tanks which work well – glass, acrylic, naturalistic settings, mesh sided enclosures – which allows for a wide range of creativity in putting together your gecko’s habitat. As long as you keep your gecko’s tree-dwelling nature in mind, it is hard to go wrong; a tank taller than it is wide, with lots of climbing and hide-spots, and you will have one very happy lizard.
Crested Geckos can be kept between 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the year. While temperatures somewhat lower than this can be tolerated, it may cause slower growth due to lower appetite, and makes digestion of food more difficult. Temperatures over 85 degrees Fahrenheit have been shown cause undue stress on the animal, leading to illness and possibly death.
Night time temperature drops into the upper to mid 60’s can be tolerated, but are not required.
UVB Lighting is not required for keeping Crested Geckos as they are a nocturnal species.
Crested Geckos are nocturnal animals, meaning that they will be active during the evening and night time hours – even so, a 12 to 14 hour photoperiod (light during the day) is necessary to ensure that their activity/sleep patterns are not disrupted.
For breeding Crested Geckos, temperatures should be kept between 75 and 78 degrees, with an (approximately) two month cooling period with temperatures between 62 and 68 degrees. This cooling period will allow your breeding geckos to rest between ‘breeding seasons’, and is critical for the health and safety of the geckos.
Humidity is important in the world of a Crested Gecko – an appropriate humidity of 70% – 85% can usually be maintained by misting one to three times daily; depending on the climate in your area, misting may be required more or less often. The humidity cycle at our location is one of highs and lows. It is important to allow a dry out period between mistings – a high humidity of 90%-100% followed by a period of time which allows the tank to dry completely (this is generally about a 40% air humidity level) is appropriate.
Both temperature and humidity gauges are highly recommended to assure that your geckos are being kept in appropriate conditions, and can be picked up at most pet stores, or online.
There are several feeding methods being used for raising Crested Geckos; the following are the two that I recommend and use myself.
- Crested Gecko Diet (only) – This is by far the easiest and most convenient way to feed your Crested Geckos, as Crested Gecko Diet can be purchased at many pet stores, as well as online and will provide for all of the nutritional needs of your gecko. Crested Gecko Diet can be purchased in powder form, and is then mixed with water and placed in a small dish in the Crested Gecko enclosure to be left there over night. Due to the lower protein intake of such a diet, animal growth may be slower than a diet utilizing insects as well.
- Crested Gecko Diet (supplemented with dusted insects) – A primarily Crested Gecko Diet feeding program may be supplemented with calcium dusted Dubia roaches once or twice a week (I switch back and forth between pure calcium, and calcium with D3.). Other suitable insects include (but are not limited to) appropriately sized crickets and (for the adults) standard sized mealworms. Both crickets and mealworms have less digestible exoskeletons than Dubia roaches, so they give you a little less bang for your buck.
- Baby food alone is not an acceptable diet for a Crested Gecko and may lead to weight loss, lack of necessary vitamins, and death. Organic, no-sugar-added baby food may be used as an occasional treat.
The animals here receive Pangea Crested Gecko Diet Complete (I use a mixture of one part watermelon flavor and one part banana/apricot) as their staple mix. They also receive Black Panther Zoological Crested Gecko mix on occasion, and insects every third feeding or so. The staple insect used is Dubia roaches, although crickets and/or standard mealworms (for the adults only) are occasionally substituted in.
Nutritional Info (scroll to see entirety):
Insect Moisture (%) Protein (%) Fat (%) Ash (%) Cal:Phos Dubia Roaches 59.8 28.81 7.7 1.7 .33:1 Turkistan Roaches 69.1 19 9.89 .37 .22:1 American Roaches 61.3 20.86 10.99 1.28 .40:1 Domestic Cricket 69.2 20.5 6.8 1.1 .14:1 Banded Cricket 73.3 15.2 5.2 1.06 .13:1 Locust 62.1 22.59 8.03 2.12 .13:1 Silkworms 82.7 9.3 1.1 1.1 .77:1 Mealworms 61.9 18.7 13.4 2.5 .14:1 Waxworms 58.5 14.1 24.9 0.6 .10:1 Butterworms 62.4 14.9 6.77 .49 .07:1
Crested Geckos are extremely tolerant of handling, even from a young age (although we recommend minimal handling of hatchlings/babies, for their own well being), and can make wonderful pets for a wide range of ages.
When bringing a new gecko home, it is important to give it a period of time in which to acclimate to its new surroundings, and it is suggested that it not be handled for the first week or so. After that, you may begin to introduce yourself to your new gecko; handling sessions of five minutes or so once a day for the next week or two should be enough to allow your new gecko to calm down and become used to you. You will then be able to gradually increase the amount of time spent handling your gecko. It is recommended that handling be kept to no more than 20 minutes per day, to reduce the amount of stress on the animal.
It is important to note that these geckos are arboreal, and may have a tendency to jump, as it is in their nature to do so; allowing the gecko to walk from hand to hand will minimize this, and can be a fun and enjoyable activity for both the animal as well as you/your child.
Crested Geckos are able to drop their tails if they are squeezed or pinched (it is never recommended to pick a lizard up by its tail); however, they are generally reluctant to do so as (in this species of gecko) the tail will not grow back once dropped, it will only heal over.
Crested Geckos are easiest to sex after they have reached six months of age; males will usually develop a hemipenal bulge just below the vent at approximately 5 to 9 months of age (though I have had some of them ‘surprise’ me at just about a year). Female Crested Geckos will not develop this bulge.
Subadult Crested Geckos can also be sexed, though it is considerably more difficult, and the results are generally not as certain. To sex a subadult Crested Gecko, I use a lighted jewelers loupe, with a 30x magnification. Using this loupe, you can look for evidence of pore development between their back legs, just above the vent – pores look vaguely like indented dark spots in the center of the scales. While these pores can sometimes be seen on males as early as 5 to 10 grams in weight, they may not develop until later in some cases.
Breeders have had success using a variety of set-ups, and there is no one ‘right way’ to do it, so long as the wellbeing of the geckos is the primary concern. There are some recommended parameters, and below I describe the set up that I use for my breeding colonies.
The number of geckos you use for breeding can vary – at minimum, you’ll need one healthy male, and one healthy female, both of breeding age and weight. If this is the case, make sure to keep a very close eye on the two of them during the time that they are together, to prevent ‘overbreeding’ from occurring. (No matter how many females are in there, a close eye is necessary just to make sure they are all doing well, and especially if there is only one of them.) My breeding colonies in the past have generally paired one male with three females, and that seems to work well for all involved.
Males can be bred at approximately nine months to one year of age, and females can start breeding as early as a year (assuming that they weigh at least 30-35 grams, if they are not tailless). I personally recommend waiting until they are 38-40 grams, as it makes for a much more successful first year. If your geckos are tailless, subtract approximately 3-5 grams.
Day time temperatures of approximately 75 to 80 F are suitable to induce breeding; a night time drop of approximately five degrees is appropriate. Twice daily misting should continue as normal – once in the morning, and once in the evening. Geckos should be well misted, but not soaked; you want the tank to dry out within a couple of hours.
Special care should be taken to make sure that breeding animals are receiving a highly nutritious diet, with some extra calcium supplementation as necessary. Creating eggs requires a huge amount of calcium, and if they are not receiving it in their diet, it will be highly detrimental to the animal’s health. My breeders receive Repashy Crested Gecko Diet, along with gut loaded crickets that have been dusted with calcium powder (alternating between pure calcium and calcium with D3); crickets may be given more frequently during the breeding and laying period to ensure that the animals are receiving enough calcium.
Calcium stores on Crested Geckos can be located toward the back of the roof of their mouth, and calcium levels can be monitored here. It is a good idea to check the calcium levels of your breeding animals (females especially) once per month. (Photo shown to demonstrate.)
An egg laying container should be placed in the tank, and filled with egg laying medium deep enough that the females can dig down 3-4” to lay their eggs. Recommended substrate is a moistened 50/50 vermiculite/peat moss mix; straight moistened peat moss works as well. I use paper towels as the substrate for my breeding tanks, to help encourage the females to lay their eggs in the lay box.
My lay box is approximately 16” L x 8” W x 6” H, with a lid on top and a 4”x4” hole in the lid to allow access for the females to get in and lay, while still providing a protected, secure feeling. This is by no means a set size, and I have had success using an incredibly wide range of different sized lay boxes; whatever works to keep the females feeling secure. Not all of my girls have liked the same size – some want larger, some want smaller. I keep an eye out for activity in the lay box; it is not uncommon to see a female digging around and possibly ‘tasting’ the substrate in the lay box a few days before she is ready to lay – she is testing the substrate to see if it suits her. Females will (usually) lay a clutch of two eggs at a time, with a new clutch being laid every 25-35 days until ‘cooling’ (temperatures between 65 and 70 F, indicating ‘winter’). Check for eggs every morning (gently!), and remove them to your incubator immediately, to prevent them from drying out.
Eggs should not be turned or rotated from their original position in the lay box; doing so can cause death to the developing fetus.
Incubators should be air tight, and filled at least two inches deep with a slightly moistened incubation substrate; there are several different ways to do it, and I personally use and recommend Superhatch (a type of clay substrate) – it is quick, easy, and works phenomenally well for Crested Gecko eggs. The incubator should be opened once per week, to allow for some air ventilation; you do not need to leave it open for any prolonged period of time, just a few seconds will do the trick. If you notice that your incubation substrate seems to be drying out, you can add some water directly to the substrate – do not mist or wet the eggs directly.
Incubation temperatures can range between 72 and 80 F; I incubate mine somewhere in the middle. Incubation temperature has not been proven to impact the gender of hatchlings in Crested Geckos. Higher incubation temperatures seem to encourage shorter incubation times, but in my own personal experience, I have found that lower incubation temps and longer incubation time produces larger hatchlings, with better crest structure.
Eggs generally hatch within 60-90 days at these temperatures, though I have had some hatch out as early as 50 days, and some as long as180 days; my rule of thumb with eggs is not to throw it out unless it has significantly molded. (Although if the egg is doing anything strange, I may set it up in its own private incubation chamber, to prevent it from possibly ‘contaminating’ the other eggs.)