Crested Geckos (Rhacodactylus ciliatus) are native to Southern Grand Terre, New Caledonia and at least one small surrounding island (Isle of Pines). Crested Geckos are semi-arboreal, spending most of their time in small trees and low shrubs. They will however, seek out hiding places near the ground to sleep during the day. Crested Geckos feed on both insects and fruits and in most cases can be kept at room temperature.
The crested geckos ease of care, unusual appearance, and unlimited breeding potential, has contributed to their exploding popularity. There is no doubt that Crested Geckos are indeed one of the best pet lizards available today.
Crested geckos can be housed in many different ways. The following can be used as a guideline but is not set in stone.
Crested Geckos can be maintained in simple conditions or in elaborate naturalistic vivaria. Hatchlings to four month old cresteds can be housed in 10 gallon aquariums or similar plasic keepers. Four month old to adult crested geckos should be housed in a 20 gallon tall aquarium or larger. Three adult cresteds can be comfortably housed in a 29 gallon aquarium. Hatchlings, newly acquired animals, and sick animals should be housed in simple cages. These simple cages should contain plenty of climbing structures, some artificial foliage for cover, newspaper or paper towel substrate, and a small water dish. The cage should be kept particularly clean during quarantine. All newly acquired animals should be kept seperate from any other reptiles in your collection for at least 30 days (preferably 60 days). All crested geckos should be lightly misted with water once every evening as they will do best with moderate humidity.
Naturalistic vivariums can be quite a visual spectacle and can add a new dimension to the keeping of captive reptiles. Crested Geckos are an ideal candidate for a naturalistic cage setup once they have passed the hatchling stage. I recommend a peat moss type substrate or something similar. This substrate should be used dry if your cresteds are breeding so that they do not lay their eggs in it. Provide a separate container (5" X 5") of moist peat and vermiculite (50-50 mix) in the cage for egg laying geckos. Hide the egg laying container by using a slab of cork bark to conceal it. Live plants can be used in the enclosure but care must be taken to prevent eggs from being laid in the pots. The best solution to this is to place a one to two inch layer of very course stones over the soil, these stones should be large enough that they cannot be ingested! Plants that can be used include any species of ficus, pothos, or philodendron, to name just a few. Cork bark and bamboo sections provide excellent climbing surfaces. Use your imagination and be creative, that is the key to enjoying a naturalistic vivarium!
Temperature, heating, and lighting
Temperatures for crested geckos should be maintained between 72 and 82 degrees for most of the year. At temperatures of 85 degrees or warmer, crested geckos will become stressed, which could lead to illness or death. A two month cooling period is recommended to allow breeding crested geckos to rest. During this period temperatures should be kept at 65 to 70 degrees.
A photo period of 12 to 14 hours of light is appropriate for most of the year, with ten hours of light being appropriate during the cooling period. Lighting is most easily achieved with the use of fluorescent tubes placed directly on the cage top. This will facilitate both the requirements of the geckos and the live plants within the enclosure should you choose to have them. It is unecesarry to use UVB lighting for crested geckos. For large collections consider lighting the entire room with natural or artificial light. Crested Geckos may cease breeding and laying eggs if they are given less than 12 hours of light.
In most situations room temperature is adequate for crested geckos, as long as the temperature stays within 70 to 82 degrees. If you are attempting to breed you Crested Geckos, temps should be kept between 75 and 80 for optimum production. If temps cannot be kept in this range, a nocturnal red or blue heat light can be suspended above the cage for 24 hour heat. This type of light also allows for nocturnal viewing. Crested Geckos are not disturbed by this wavelength of light so it will not interrupt their photoperiod. Ceramic infrared heaters have also been used successfully, however these do not provide any visible light, making it difficult to view the geckos when they are most active.
Diet and Feeding
Crested geckos feed on a variety of insects and fruits. Crickets, wax worms, small roaches, and other similar insects can be offered. Hatchling crested geckos should be offered 10-14 day old (1/8 inch) crickets at least every other day. Juvenile and adult crested geckos should be offered appropriate size insects two or three times weekly. Offer insects that are no larger than the distance between the geckos eyes, however adults can eat items that are slightly larger than this.
Fruit baby food should be offered twice weekly for hatchlings and juvenile geckos and two to three times weekly for adults. The preferred flavors are apricot, peach, pear, apple, and banana, however other types will be consumed. This mixture can be spiked with a sprinkle of both spirulina and bee pollen once a week. Spirulina and bee pollen are nutrient dense super-foods that will enhance the nutritional value of the baby food.
A great alternative to baby food that we have found works nicely is Clarks Diet. It already contains many vitamins and minerals as well as spirulina, bee pollen, and a source of protein. We feed this mix two to three times weekly and have been able to cut our insect feeding back to once or twice a week.
Another food that is available is Crested Gecko Diet by T-rex. Some geckos are a little fussy about this diet but will eventually eat it if offered nothing else. This food is intended as a complete diet and contains all the necessary nutrition so you can theoretically eliminate insect feeding altogether. We recommend you still give a once a week insect feeding with this diet
You will need to supplement the diet of your crested gecko with a calcium and vitamin D3 powder. Hatchlings and juveniles should have their crickets lightly dusted with this powder twice weekly. Sprinkle a small amount into their baby food once a week as well. Breeding adults should have their crickets lightly dusted every other feeding and their baby food sprinkled every other feeding. Make sure the calcium supplement you use does not contain any phosphorus. You can check the calcium storage of your adult geckos by getting them to opent their mouth and observing the calcium sacs located on the roof of the mouth..
Vitamin supplementation is recommended for hatchling to adult crested geckos. Use a multi-vitamin made for reptiles and dust the insects with it once weekly.
Feeding your insects a high quality diet prior to offering them to your geckos is one of the best ways to prevent any nutritional deficiencies. This practice is known as gut-loading. Offer insects dark leafy lettuces, carrots, fruits, trout chow, monkey biscuits, grains, and other foods. Crickets will eat almost anything so offer a variety of foods and your geckos will benefit greatly.