A guide to keeping the Crested Gecko (Correlophus ciliates) in captivity, including housing, heating, lighting, diet, handling, breeding and more!
Meet the Crested Gecko
Crested geckos (previously known as Rhacodactylus ciliates and recently reclassified as Correlophus ciliates) are a medium sized semi-arboreal gecko native to New Caledonia. Crested geckos were once considered to be wild-extinct, but it was discovered in 1994 that they still live in the wild, and they’ve been protected since then. In captivity they breed very easily as they have no threats from predators or habitat destruction. All of the crested geckos you see in the pet trade will be captive bred over many generations. Here at Reptile Cymru we breed most of the crested geckos we sell ourselves, hatching them out steadily throughout spring and summer, giving us a year round supply.
Crested Geckos a great starter species – easy to care for, attractive to look at, easily bred in captivity, handleable and interesting to watch – making them an ideal pet lizard for all experience levels. Crested geckos are one of the smaller species of the Rhacodactylus family, and grow up to 8 or 9 inches in length and weigh around 40-70 grams as an adult. Special hairs on the feet allow them to climb almost any surface, including glass! You might notice that when they don’t want to hold onto something tightly, they curl their toes up at the end.
|Common Name||Crested Gecko|
|Scientific Name||Correlophus ciliates|
|Size||7 – 9 inches including tail, 40 – 60g|
|Lifespan||10 – 15 years +|
|Maturity||1 – 2 years|
|Breeding||During spring/summer, 2 eggs every 30-45 days|
|Diet||Livefood, Fruit & Commercial powdered diets|
Crested Gecko Housing
The ideal enclosure for Crested Geckos would be one that is tall and can withstand humid conditions but is still well ventilated. If using a wooden vivarium you need to make sure that it is fully sealed with aquarium sealant to ensure it can take the moisture without warping the wood, and you may wish to line the substrate of the tank, especially if creating a bioactive setup, something that Crested Geckos thrive in. The solution to many of the problems that come with a wooden vivarium is to use a purpose built arboreal reptile terrarium such as Exo Terra enclosures. These are purpose built with reptile needs in mind, with good ventilation and easily affixed hoods offering light and heat.
A 45 x 45 x 60cm Exo Terra would be ideal for an adult crested gecko, although juveniles can be housed in smaller, and whilst we recommend keeping crested gecko singley, if you do decide to keep a male with multiple females you will need a larger enclosure.
If looking for a larger display, or to keep a group of Crested Geckos then an arboreal wooden vivarium such as our 24″ x 18″ x 36″ would be a good choice!
We have put together a complete setup including lighting, heating, decor and a 45 x 45 x 60cm Exo Terra. This setup is perfect for an adult, but a hatchling can go straight into it as well, avoiding the cost of having to upgrade in the future.
Crested Geckos feel secure in the thick rainforest canopy, safe from predators. To provide security and that feeling of safety, ensure there is plenty of foliage. Crested Geckos like to climb, so an assortment of different size branches and vines will keep them happy. If you can see your crested gecko sleeping, they probably need more cover!
Crested Geckos will also thrive in a bioactive enclosure and you can read about that below.
You will want a substrate that holds the humidity well and will not become moldy if damp. As we recommend bioactive setups were possible, a bioactive soil substrate is ideal. Orchid bark is also another option as is coconut fibre (also known as coir). For an easily cleaned, but still attractive option, there is always cage carpet but you will want to keep an eye on humidity levels as an enclosure with cage carpet will be drier than one with orchid bark or soil. Paper towel or newspaper can be used with animals where you are worried about them ingesting the substrate, with very young geckos or in quarantine tanks.
Crested Geckos are solitary in the wild and do not have any social needs. Males are territorial and should never be kept together due to risk of fighting and injury. Juvenile males and females can breed too early, resulting in health problems. If you are going to keep a group together, keep multiple adult females in good breeding condition to a single male, but be prepared to separate them after egg laying or if any fighting or illness occurs.
It is always best practice with reptiles to be flexible on their living conditions when keeping more than one and be prepared to need to separate if fighting, breeding or there are health problems. It’s always worth remembering that in the wild very few species of reptiles actually bond to their mate and they have very large territories. That being said, we generally experience very few problems with crested gecko cohabitation as long as the above considerations are followed.
Crested Geckos thrive in bioactive setups. You can add our bioactive starter kit along with non-toxic live plants to your enclosure to kickstart this process.
A bioactive setup is the most natural setup you can create for a reptile and is suitable for a wide range of species. In a bioactive setup you will use an organic soil based substrate and live plants in the vivarium – ficus, pothos, bromeliads and dozens more plant species are appropriate – many of which we sell in store! Live plants create a beautiful, natural display and increases both air quality and humidity. The enclosure is then populated with small insects which recycle some of the waste produced by the inhabitants (although you still need to regularly spot clean). This is what we call bioactive and we will be happy to walk you through bioactive setups in depth in store.
Crested Gecko Heating Options
As Crested Geckos are arboreal, the temperature difference is actually between the top and bottom of the tank, rather than side to side. This is usually achieved by heating the tank from above and then having good foliage layers to allow shade. As heat rises the unheated bottom of the tank will always be relatively cool. Crested Geckos prefer low temperatures and the gradient for them is much slighter than in other species. It’s important to make sure they don’t overheat.
The temperature requirements for a Crested Gecko are as follows:
|Daytime Gradient||72 – 80F||22 – 26.5C|
|Night Gradient||65 – 75F||18 – 24C|
Daytime heating options can be provided with a low wattage heat bulb, whilst night time options can be provided either with a ceramic heater bulb or with a heat mat. Any heating devices should be controlled by a thermostat for safety.
Crested Gecko Lighting Options
Crested Geckos are nocturnal and were previously thought not to have UVB requirements, but it’s now been shown that even nocturnal reptiles (which often exhibit crepuscular behaviour in the wild) can benefit from UVB rays. You can read more about this in our extensive UVB lighting guide. Creating a photorealistic light period and offering a low percentage UVB bulb will foster a more active gecko that exhibits natural behaviour. It can also enhance appetite and even colouration!
If you are using bulbs or ceramic heaters inside the enclosure, ensure that the heat bulb is well guarded as a crested gecko landing on an unguarded heat source will easily be burned. Having an external hood makes lighting safe in Exo Terra terrariums.
Crested Gecko Humidity
Humidity should be at least 70-80% and daily or twice daily spraying should be done to ensure the levels are kept high. If you are using a bioactive setup your humidity is likely to remain naturally higher than if you are using cage carpet or paper towel as a substrate. So you’ll need to judge how often you need to spray by monitoring the enclosure with a humidity reader.
Having a larger water bowl can also increase humidity, as can having elevated water bowls nearer to the heat. Having running water will also increase humidity. Be aware that all water sources should be cleaned and changed regularly.
Crested Gecko Diet
Crested Geckos are omnivores and in the wild eat a variety of nectar, fruit and insects. In captivity they will take a wide range of livefoods, crickets, mealworms, locusts, waxworms, all of which should be calcium dusted. They will take small pieces of fruit, such as peach, nectarine, mango, apricot, banana, passionfruit, pear and other soft fruits. These can be pureed, mushed or chopped up very finely.
We feed all our Crested Geckos Repashy’s Crested Gecko Diet which is a specially formulated paste to provide a full nutritional diet. Whilst Crested Geckos can be fed solely on this paste, we also feed ours livefood several times a week whilst still growing. Livefood should be gut fed before feeding and supplemented with a good quality calcium and D3 powder.
Handling your Crested Gecko
Crested Geckos will tolerate handling from a young age but will jump to a surface if they focus on it so we would always recommend sitting down somewhere secure when handling. The tail can be dropped and will not grow back. In the wild the majority of adult crested geckos lose their tails either due to predators; or during breeding. In captivity many lose their tails if housed with other crested geckos or simply during handling and the tail stump will heal. A tailless crested gecko requires no different care to one with their tail. You should never, ever pick up a crested gecko by the tail or try to restrain them by it.
Overall Crested Geckos are a fantastic starter lizard that can be kept without any prior reptile keeping experience. If you’re thinking of getting a Crested Gecko and would like to tell others, or if this care guide has been useful to you, please share it!