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Basic Care











 

 
 

 

 

This page will provide you with the basic needs and requirements of Correlophus ciliatus, 
commonly known as the crested gecko. 
I hope that this website will be able to provide you with the information you seek, 
and serve as a guide as you start out as a new reptile owner! 

 

                         History


Crested geckos (recently reclassified as Correlophus ciliatus from the previous classification of Rhacodactylus ciliatus)), are native to New Caledonia, a small cluster of islands off the coast of Australia. These geckos were thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered in 1994 after a storm hit the islands and many of these nocturnal geckos were displaced and were walking around in the open during the daytime.  Several hundred Crested Geckos were brought back to the States to be studied, and to be bred, and have since become a very popular household pet, even though in the wild, their numbers are drastically decreasing.

 

 

Diet


Crested geckos, unlike many other reptiles, are able to subsist on an insect-free diet if desired, however they would eat insects in the wild, and I believe they lead a much healthier, happier life if insects are offered as part of their diet.   It is recommended to feed a meal replacement formula diet as the main form of nutrients for crested geckos. Traditionally, two of the most commonly used CGDs (Crested Gecko Diets) were Repashy’s Crested Gecko Diet, and Clark’s Crested Gecko Diet. There are also other types of diet that are newer to the market, but have been getting good reviews, such as Big Fat Gecko Smoothie (BFG), which is a complete, all natural diet with no artificial preservatives, and Pangea Fruit Mix Complete (PFMC), a diet produced by Matthew Parks, owner of Pangea reptiles and moderator of the Pangea reptile forums. Here at Sticky Feet Reptiles, we have been using a rotating schedule of BFG, PMFC, with Clarks on occasion, and supplement with Pangea Fruit Mix (only a complete diet when fed with calcium dusted bugs at least once a week), and a homemade smoothie as an occasional treat. These formulas have the proper ratios of calcium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin D3 among other essential nutrients (all except the Pangea Fruit Mix which can only be fed as a complete diet if supplemented with calcium dusted bugs!)



These diets come in a jar, or a foil pouch, and are in a powder form when purchased.  Mixing is quite simple: 1 part CGD, to 2-3 parts water (depending on desired consistency, you may use a bit less or a bit more water), and served in a small container. The BFG diet suggests a mixture ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part diet.  We use various sized bottle caps for our colony, depending on the size of the gecko.  Most of the time, your crested gecko will only eat a pea sized amount of food, (or less!) each night, or every other night. Just remember, if the gecko is pooping, it's eating!  We provide fresh diet every other night for our geckos.

Our feeding schedule looks like this:

Monday: Fresh CGD
Tuesday: Leave CGD in enclosures
Wednesday: Fresh CGD
Thursday: Leave CGD in enclosures
Friday: Fresh CGD
Saturday: Leave CGD in enclosures
Sunday: Appropriate sized calcium dusted crickets or Dubia roaches

Many keepers of Crested geckos will offer a few appropriate sized calcium dusted cricket or Dubia roaches once a week, (sometimes twice a week for younger geckos) or a few times a month. Offering bugs is up to your personal preference, but I do feel that it is healthier for your geckos to offer a varied and complete diet.

A Warning!!  Even though there is literature out there that states it is alright, and even recommended to feed popular baby food brands to crested geckos, we disagree with this.  Baby food is very high in sugars, and does not have the proper amounts of other nutrients that crested geckos require, and it can cause major health issues such as Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). There are recipes for homemade mixtures that call for organic baby foods, and if you choose to go this route on occasion, please make sure the brands you purchase have ONLY organic fruit as the ingredients, and are used in moderation. 


As dangerous as feeding unbalanced diets can be, feeding strictly crickets (as many chain pet stores are doing) can be just as dangerous. This is a photo of a pet store gecko that was fed crickets as her only source of food.  She has sever metabolic bone disease, evidenced by the kinks and slopes in her spine. While her issues are now being successfully treated and managed by her forever home, this abuse will always affect her and cannot be reversed (Photo credit to Eslin Jimeranez) 




Housing:

Crested geckos love to jump, climb and hide, so these needs must be taken into consideration when setting up an enclosure for them.  The height of the enclosure is therefore more important than then length, and the size of the crested gecko determines the size of the enclosure.

We classifiy our geckos as hatchlings, juvies, sub-adults, and adults. Their sizes (by weight,) and suggested size enclosures are as follows:

Hatchlings (geckos up to 4 grams): shoe box sized plastic bin (approximately 6-7 quarts), small-medium sized Kritter Keeper (or other similar small animal carrier)

Juveniles (geckos from 4-15 grams): medium-large sized Kritter Keeper, or 24 quart sized bin (approximately 6 gallons) 

Sub adults  (geckos from 15-30 grams): minimum of 10 gallon tank (or equivalent sized plastic tub) up to 66 quart bin

Adults (geckos over 30 grams): 66 quart bins, 18x18x18 glass enclosure, and larger depending on the size/temperament of the gecko

We have a variety of enclosures, ranging from the popular Exo Terra style tanks, to homemade enclosures made out of plastic tubs.  It is quite easy to create your own enclosure, but it’s not for everyone.

Crested geckos have different personalities and some geckos may do well in a slightly smaller enclosure, or a slightly larger enclosure then you see recommended. We have found that hatchlings do best in a slightly smaller enclosure rather than larger for whatever reason, and we wait to upgrade them to "larger digs" until they are around 6 grams or so. Another keeper might start their hatchlings out in a 10 gallon tank and have good luck with that! Every keeper has different ideas of how to keep their animals, but as long as all their needs are being provided for, and they are eating, active, and healthy, there is no one right answer. 

Crested geckos like to hide during the day, and are very active at night, so provide a variety of sturdy plastic or silk plants for hiding and helping to keep up the humidity; bamboo sticks and vines for climbing; ledges and hides for resting, and of course a food dish for feeding.  For smaller/younger geckos, or a gecko new to your collection, it’s generally a good idea to place several feeding stations throughout the tank so the food is easy to find.


We recommend using paper towels as the substrate in your gecko enclosure.  It is easy to monitor and make sure the gecko is eating properly (if there is poop, the gecko is eating!), and there is much less risk of the gecko becoming impacted by ingesting some of its substrate, as is often the case when coco bark fiber (Eco Earth) or similar substrates are used.

Some keepers will house Crested geckos together.  Two females of approximately the same size might get along together; however they must be watched very closely to ensure that there isn't any bullying or fighting going on.  Crested geckos have been known to fight and kill each other, so it is highly recommended that geckos of different sizes NEVER be housed together.  At the very least, a larger gecko might eat the tail, or limbs of the smaller gecko, mistaking them for prey.  NEVER house male Crested geckos together, and the only time a male and female gecko should be housed together is for breeding purposes.  If you don’t plan on breeding (and please do your research before even considering breeding), then don’t house a male and a female together.  Male geckos WILL attempt to mate with a female gecko regardless of size, and if the female is not at breeding weight, there are many health complications that can arise.



We house all our geckos separately, with the exception of breeding pairs during the 
breeding season. With as many geckos as we have, this obviously takes up a lot of space! This is just ONE wall of our gecko room.



Temperature and Humidity:

Humidity levels should peak at 80-90 percent at night, and dry out to 40-50 percent during the daytime. This can be achieved by purchasing a spray bottle, or pressure mister, and misting the walls and decorations in your gecko’s enclosure as many as three times a day depending on your location and local humidity levels. At our facility we mist all the geckos' enclosures in the evening, while hatchlings and juvenile geckos get misted an additional time in the morning, especially in the winter when the air is more dry.

Humidity levels are essential to proper hydration, and to help with proper shedding.  Humidity levels that are too low can cause issues such as stuck shed, which can be extremely dangerous as the old skin can constrict and cut off circulation, as well as issues with hydration, which can quickly lead to death in such a small animal. Humidity levels that are too high can cause skin infections and respiratory issues. We have taken to providing water dishes for all our hatchling and juvies to help prevent any issues with dehydration. If you do provide water dishes, make sure they are small and shallow, to help prevent any potential drowning hazards, and wash the dishes on a regular basis to prevent bacteria growth. 

Proper temperature is also essential in establishing a healthy crested gecko.  Crested geckos should be kept at temperatures from the high 60’s to the mid to high 70’s most of the year.  Since this temperature range is well within the comfort zone for us, it is not typically difficult to maintain the proper temperatures.  However for houses without air conditioning, and without heating, this maintenance becomes more difficult, and an under-the-tank heater or heat light are often required during the winter, while an AC unit is required during the summer. It is very important that you know your household temperature fluctuations before bringing home a reptile! 

Temperatures less than 60 degrees, and above 80 can be dangerous for these geckos, so it is essential to have a thermometer/hydrometer to track the temperatures and humidity levels.

Our gecko room ranges from 73-78 in the summer, to 66-72 in the winter. 

Bringing a new gecko home:

Before you actually bring your new gecko friend home, you should set up their enclosure so that you can begin to monitor the temperature and humidity levels before, during, and after misting. This will ensure that you are aware of any issues with humidity and temperature before you subject your new pet to a potentially dangerous environment.  It also allows you to remedy any issues you may come across.

We typically recommend if you’re new to keeping reptiles, that you start with a juvenile to adult sized Crested gecko, rather than a hatchling.  One reason for this is that hatchlings are more delicate than larger, more established geckos, and for a first time reptile owner, it’s generally easier to handle a larger, typically more calm, older gecko.

Being taken out of an environment they are used to (and potentially being shipped to you overnight), and being carted around in a box or carrier until you place them in their new enclosure, is very stressful to say the least. It can take a week or two before your new pet decides it is comfortable enough to eat, and during this time, your crested gecko should not be bothered, other than to mist and provide fresh CGD.  After you notice droppings in the cage, and at least two weeks has passed, you should be able to start gradually handling your gecko for brief periods of time.

 It is also best to move slowly, and stay calm when handling your new pet. Allow the gecko to walk onto your hand, rather than grab it, and slowly move your hands in front of one another as your gecko walks across them.  If your gecko is extremely skittish, and jumps away from you when you try to handle it, it will take more time and patience on your part to tame it.  Crested geckos typically are not a mean gecko, and usually will not bite, but any animal when cornered will react with a flight or fight instinct.  If your gecko runs away, don’t chase it, but instead go back the next day to try again.

 

Determining Sex

If you obtain your crested gecko as an adult, it will be quite obvious if it is a male, or a female. 







(Left) Wolfsbane, one of our breeder males, showcasing his hemipenal bulge
(Below) Oliander, a breeder female.  Notice the lack of hemipenal bulge at the base of the tail.




The adult male will have a very prominent bulge near his vent (the oriface out of which they poop, and via which mating takes place).  This bulge is actually the gecko's hemipenes (reproductive parts in the male gecko), and are typically visually becoming present by the time the gecko is around 12 grams or larger.  Crested geckos can also be sexed by using a loupe (magnifying lens used by jewelers and photographers) to locate the presence of pores that will develop on the underside of a male gecko, and not on females, typically well before the hemipenal bulge becomes noticeable. Geckos can be sexed beginning around 3 grams if you've had practice, but sex is difficult to guarantee at that size even if you are seeing pores, as sometimes crested geckos develop "psuedo pores" which are not true pores indicating sex. 

If you do loupe your geckos, males will have a more oblong, or "fish-like" shaped scale, often with a black dot in the middle of the several scales with a waxy looking appearance, which tend to run in a row, or double row across the belly above the vent. Female geckos tend to have more rounded scales, and lack a dark spot in the center (pores), or a waxy appearance.
You can also take a macro photo of the underside of your gecko (typically easiest if you have the gecko on a piece of glass or clear plastic that you can photograph through) and look at it close up on your computer. Both of these methods takes practice, but with experience, become easier.
 

 

Breeding

The first and most important thing you should do before you decide you're going to breed your geckos, is research, research, RESEARCH! It is not something you want to jump into without knowing what to expect, and being as prepared as possible for the various outcomes. You should be able to financially care for any and all offspring you produce, and be able to house them all if you're unable to find homes for them. Reptiles, while becoming more and more popular, are not as easy to find homes for as fluffy puppies or big eyed bunnies, and tend to live longer, and require specialized care many people are not willing to provide. 

In addition to being able to afford to house and care for these animals, you should also be willing to provide veterinary care if necessary. Any pet can have an accident, but when you add breeding stress and the issues that go along with it, you compound that possibility.  It is always a good idea to know where your closest herp vet is, and have a backup plan in case they aren't in the office when you need them!

Just because you have a male and a female of any type of animal it doesn't mean they should be bred. Consider the health of the animals you are thinking about breeding first and foremost. Are they genetically sound, or generally unhealthy? Do they have a kinked spine, twisted hips, an underbite or defective eye? Good breeders will consider the consequences of their actions BEFORE they put two animals together, and have a goal in mind that includes the overall health and wellness of their animals and the genetic diversity and strength of the species as a whole.

If you do decide to breed crested geckos, I recommend making sure the female is at least 45 grams, and 1 1/2 years old, and the male at least 35 grams and 1 1/2 years old before doing so. Ideally you should have a male and female of similar size, but a male that is slightly smaller shouldn't have any issues unless you have a female that is a bully. Breeding weight is a hotly debated topic, but we have found that females over 45 grams tend to lose very little weight during the breeding season, and recover very well after laying each clutch of eggs, whereas we have had issues with females that were bred smaller than 45 grams, and had issues putting weight back on in between clutches. This size is our personal preference, and you will most likely hear different weights from different breeders, but this is what we feel is safe, and best for the health of our geckos.

We typically place the male in the female's enclosure and monitor them closely for the first hour or so they are introduced. Sometimes copulation will take place within minutes of placing the male in the tank, and other times it takes several days before the geckos warm up to each other and a successful pairing is completed. Generally the male will approach the female, grasp her by the crests, and mount her, then insert his hemipenes into her vent. They will stay like this for several minutes while copulation takes place. Afterwards, the male will lick himself until the swelling goes down and his hemipenes will retract. Occasionally there will be issues with this process, and if it has been several hours and your male's hemipenes are still visible, remove him from the tank, place him in a clean, quite hospital tub, and try to keep his parts from drying out. You can try to give him a sugar water "bath" to encourage the swelling to go down. Hopefully the situation will resolve itself, but occasionally this type of prolapse will require veterinary care.

If copulation is successful, the female will be gravid, and typically in about 30-35 days will begin to look for a place to lay her eggs. You will need to provide an appropriate location for her to dig, especially if you have your animals on paper towels as a substrate. We use a deeper style plastic tupperware container, filled almost to the top with coco bark fiber mixed with sphagnum moss. The laybox should be moist, but not soaking wet. The female often will dig for several days before she lays her eggs, but when she does lay, she will usually cover over the holes and pat down the surface so it looks like there is nothing there! 

Once the female has laid her eggs, you will want to remove them from the lay box and place them in an "incubation box." This can be another tupperware container, a bead box (used to sort jewelery beads) or deli cups filled with moist incubation medium. There are many types of products out there for incubation, but we prefer to use the Superhatch brand. It is a ceramic medium that holds water well, and will change colors as it dries out so you know if you need to add water to the container or not. You can choose to punch small holes in your incubation box if you are so inclined, or simply pop the lid off once a week or so to allow for an exchange of air.

A healthy female gecko can lay a clutch of two eggs every 30 days or so. Fertile eggs should be smooth and white, although if an egg appears rough, or yellow, don't assume it isn't fertile. When we remove eggs from the lay boxes, we gently write on the side facing up so we know what direction the eggs were laid, (typically we write the ID code of the female that laid the eggs, along with the lay date). You can "candle" your eggs to see if they are fertile by placing a bright light (like an LED flashlight, or the light from a loupe) behind the egg. If you see a red "cheerio" chances are the egg is fertile. We try to handle our eggs as little as possible to prevent accidents, and to allow the eggs to develop in peace!

We incubate our crested gecko eggs between 70-72 degrees. There is a belief that lower temperatures produce stronger, healthier, more robust hatchlings with better structure. I have found that most of our hatchlings we have produced at these temperatures have very good structure, and are almost always close to 2 grams when they hatch, and since my reptile room gets warmer than I would like to incubate at, I use an incubator that keeps a constant temp and humidity level, and prevents rapid changes to the eggs' environment.

Incubation time vary at different temperatures, but our eggs usually hatch out around 90+ days. Crested geckos are fully able to survive from hatching, and after they hatch, we quickly clean the substrate off of them, place them in their hatchling bins, giving it a quick mist from the pressure sprayer to hydrate them, and we leave them alone! While crested geckos are extremely hardy creatures, we tend to leave the hatchlings alone (granted, we are feeding/misting/cleaning on a regular schedule) for the first month so they are able to settle in, and avoid major stress and handling. 


MORE COMING SOON! 


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