Crested Gecko Care

Description: Crested Geckos (Correlophus ciliatus), which are also sometimes called Eyelash Geckos, are medium-sized arboreal lizards belonging to the family Diplodactylidae. Their large heads are fringed with soft, spiky projections which form the crests for which they are named. Typically, Crested Geckos are colored grey, brown, orange, red or yellow, and many different patterns and combinations of these colors exist in the hobby thanks to selective breeding efforts.

Crested Geckos also possess flat, webbed feet which possess several adaptations that allow them to navigate their complex, arboreal habitat. For starters, the fact that they are flat and webbed means that they have a lot of surface area which means they make an effective parachute because they cause a lot of drag. This slows their descent if they fall off a high perch. For this reason one needn't be overly concerned if one's Gecko suddenly leaps from their hands whilst being handled (and they often do...). Another reason for the high surface area of their feet is that it enables them to take full advantage of a second adaptation; microscopic hairs on the undersides of their feet (which are more properly referred to as setae). These setae branch off into hundreds of smaller projections called spatulae which are small enough that they are able to exploit a weak material interaction called Van der Waals forcesIn layman's terms; the bottoms of Crested Gecko feet (and also the tips of their tails) are covered in thousands of tiny hairs which make them sticky, and enable them to climb almost any surface including glass! The third adaptation is their claws, which enable them to more effectively climb over rough surfaces like bark.

Crested Geckos typically grow to be between 6" and 10" in length, with 4" to 6" of that being their tails. It is worth noting however, that Crested Geckos can lose their tails via a process called caudal autonomy, which is when an animal voluntarily discards a limb or other appendage. In Crested Geckos this serves as a defense mechanism against predators, allowing them to escape if they are grasped by the tail, and also by distracting the predator by providing it with an easier meal in the form of a detached, wriggling tail. Crested Geckos cannot regrow their tails once lost, however it does not significantly impact their health if that is the case. Indeed, most wild specimens are found to be lacking their tails.

Crested Geckos are nocturnal, meaning that they are most active at night, which is when they will hunt and search for food. During the day they can typically be observed resting in a place that they feel comfortable. For many this will mean hiding in leaves, or behind a branch or piece of bark, however some seem to prefer sitting on glass, where they are completely visible.

One final thing worth noting is that Crested Geckos do not have eyelids, and thus they are constantly licking their eyeballs to remove dust and debris. Many, including myself, find this behavior to be both interesting and endearing.

Native Range: Crested Geckos are native to New Caledonia, an island about 1200 km east of Australia.

Lifespan: 15-20 years or possibly more, but they haven't been kept in captivity to say for certain.

Diet: Crested Geckos are considered omnivores or frugivores interchangeably. This is because the vast majority of their diet in the wild consists of fruit and plant nectars, however they will also consume the occasional insect.

Feeding a Crested Gecko in captivity is relatively easy thanks to products like Repashy Superfoods "Crested Gecko Diet," which is sold at Aquariums West. This product, and others like it, is a prepared, powdered diet that contains all the nutrition a Crested Gecko needs to be happy and healthy. This may be a boon to those who are squeamish about the prospect of handling/feeding live insects, as doing so isn't strictly necessary when using this product. Personally, however, I still prefer to feed Crested Geckos crickets or some other live insect about once a week. This will give your animal a little extra protein as well as afford you with an opportunity to observe their hunting behavior. When feeding live insects, be sure to dust them with a supplement containing both calcium and vitamin D3.

Housing: Crested Geckos should be kept in an enclosure that measures at least 12" L x 12" W x 18" H. This is the bare minimum recommended by most sources, however, and I personally find an enclosure measuring 18" L x 18" W x 24" to be more suitable. The extra space will give your animal a bit more of an opportunity to roam and will afford you with a larger canvas to create an interesting environment for your Gecko to live in and for you to look at.

Whatever enclosure you choose, it should have more vertical space than horizontal, as these are arboreal geckos and they like to climb. You should fill your enclosure with sticks, pieces of cork bark, and vertically oriented fake or live plants so that your Gecko has lots of places to climb and hide in. The more places that your animal has to hide, the more secure it will feel in its habitat and the less stressed it will be, which is very important in keeping them healthy. You should also provide them with a dish for their food that is always located in the same place so that they don't have difficulty finding it. A small water dish may also be provided, however they don't typically drink standing water as they prefer to drink dew off of smooth surfaces which can be provided when you mist their enclosure.

Temperature and Lighting: As they are a nocturnal species from a fairly temperate environment, UVB is not thought to be required and neither are high basking temperatures. As such, there are no special lighting considerations for these animals. We do recommend that they get a small amount of UV light from a compact fluorescent bulb, which will also give them all the heat they need should they decide to bask. Provided that the temperature in your home doesn't fall below 70 degrees F (21 degrees C), no additional heating is necessary. The temperature in their enclosure also shouldn't be allowed to exceed 85 degrees F (29 degrees C) for any prolonged period of time, as doing so will stress your Gecko.

Additional Notes: Crested Geckos are considered to be one of the best "beginner species" as their diet, their lack of complicated heat and lighting requirements, and their small minimum enclosure size make them relatively easy to care for. They are also generally very tolerant of handling, and the sensation of holding one in your hand is truly unique as all those little hairs on their feet feel something like velvety velcro gripping your hand.

Be aware, however, that in adopting one of these animals you are making a commitment to care for a life whose needs are very different than your own. Be sure that you are fully prepared and informed before taking one home. So long as this is understood I'm certain you will find them to be a very rewarding pet!

Useful Products:
-Exo Terra  18"x18"x24" Reptile Habitat
-Exo Terra Plantation Soil
-Cork Bark
-Exo Terra Jungle Plants
-Exo Terra Canopy Combo Dish
-Exo Terra 14 cm Light Dome
-Zoo Med 13 W 5.0 UVB bulb

by Andrew Cumming