Crested Gecko Care Guide

Re-discovered after storms on fascinating New Caledonia, these charming geckos make a great introductory species to keeping tropical arboreal reptiles. This care guide contains all you need to keep a healthy crested gecko.


Crested geckos have become one of the most commonly kept geckos; perhaps the most commonly kept arboreal gecko. They are easy to set up, develop calm temperaments and have now been bred into multiple appealing colour morphs. Crested geckos also do not get very large, averaging at around 20cm total length. These geckos spend the majority of their time in trees or other tall plants, being most active at dawn and dusk. As with other arboreal geckos, they feature specialised pads on their feet that allow them to scale vertical surfaces, as well as a semi-prehensile tail, which can drop off to distract predators. Crested geckos come from New Caledonia, a tropical group of islands to the east of Australia, in the southwest Pacific Ocean. They were thought to be extinct in the wild until they were rediscovered after a severe storm in 1994. A captive study group was brought in from New Caledonia after this, and it is from this group that all captive crested geckos originate today.


Being arboreal, the main dimension to consider for crested geckos is height. They also require moderate humidity, so ventilation is important. For your crested gecko at its adult size, the minimum enclosure size should be 45cmx45cmx60cm. Any larger enclosure sizes will always be encouraged as reptiles will use the space you give them. ExoTerra glass terrariums work well by having sufficient ventilation and front-opening doors.  When you place your terrarium ensure it is out of the way of direct sunlight or cold draughts because glass enclosures are easily influenced by extreme external temperature changes.

When you are purchasing your crested gecko, ideally they won’t be any smaller than about 8 grams. The reason for this is that very small hatchling crested geckos may need a smaller enclosure at the start of their lives for closer monitoring that they are growing well. Geckos of 8g or more can go straight into their lifetime enclosure and will likely be given a reliably clean bill of health at this point – it’s arguably more responsible to sell them once this is assured. Good sellers should be able to tell you details about the gecko like what it is being fed and how often. You won’t be able to tell the sex of your crested gecko reliably until they are at least about 6 months old. Males will develop a bulge at the base of their tail after the vent, and tiny pores above it may also be visible. Females lack these characteristics.


Crested geckos come from a tropical habitat and have access to canopy sunlight in the wild, so some warmth is important for them. The hot area of the enclosure should be between 26°C -28°C. A good way to simulate this warmth of the daytime sun for crested geckos is by using a low wattage basking lamp for reptiles, such as the ZooMed 25w Repti Basking Spot Lamp. Other low wattage halogen or incandescent bulbs can also be used – always check the suitability in terms of heat emitted. A thermostat for these heat sources is also important, as temperatures above 29°C is considered too hot for crested geckos. Dimming thermostats work very well with basking lamps. A thermometer should also be used to observe the ambient temperatures accurately in the enclosure.

The ambient temperatures should decrease from about 24°C down to 21°C at the cooler end of the enclosure. At night, cooling is beneficial for crested geckos and an average of about 18°C is considered normal. If your enclosure gets significantly colder than this overnight, a lightless heat source such as a heat mat (with an on/off thermostat) stuck to the side of the enclosure or a small, low wattage ceramic heat emitter connected to a pulse thermostat can be used.


Crested geckos would have some exposure to ultraviolet rays in their natural environment. Research into captive reptile husbandry has proven that all reptiles will benefit from UVB lighting appropriate to their natural exposure. Benefits of UVB are numerous, but the main ones are: sufficient synthesis of vitamin D3 in the skin of your reptile, preventing metabolic bone disease; immune system function; full spectrum of vision under UVA light; natural activity rhythms/detection of day and night.

Crested geckos do not need intense UV Index exposure, so a 5% or Ferguson Zone 1 tube or lamp fitting should create a suitable gradient. A ReptiSun 5.0 makes a suitable example, placed at the back of the enclosure ceiling to create a light gradient downwards. Refer to manufacturer recommendations on the correct type of lighting fixture for your chosen enclosure and its dimensions. Crested geckos should have 12-14 hours of light a day. Lighting can be plugged into a timer switch to manage this automatically.


It is important to choose a substrate that will hold enough humidity for crested geckos. The ambient humidity should be at least 50%, to 70% throughout the day, with regular boosts beyond this by misting the enclosure. A brand of substrate specific for tropical reptiles is best to avoid any indigestible particles or added chemicals. ZooMed ReptiSoil and ProRep Crestie Life make good choices. The substrate should be 2 – 4 inches deep for proper absorption and retention of moisture. Sphagnum moss can also be added to create extra humid spots which will aid with shedding. A hygrometer should be used to monitor the humidity levels.


Decoration is especially important for arboreal species who will rarely ever spend time on ground level. Various vines and branches should be implemented to allow access to different levels of the enclosure, particularly basking areas closer to the light and heat sources. They also create shaded areas so your gecko can regulate its exposure and hide away to feel secure. Artificial plants will also add to this, as well as creating areas for catching water when you mist the enclosure. Alongside this you should provide a small, shallow water dish. Feeding ledges that can attach to glass are very suitable for crested geckos.


Crested geckos are omnivores by nature, feeding on both live insects and fruits. Some individuals may prefer one over the other, but the best approach is to offer both types of diet from the beginning, in the appropriate amounts, for a full nutrient profile. Specialised powdered foods have been developed for arboreal geckos which are very successful. Two of the most popular include Repashy and Pangea foods which come in a range of flavours, some including insect protein. Insects most suitable for crested geckos include black and brown crickets, dubia roaches and locusts. Insects that will climb upwards such as locusts are especially good for encouraging your gecko to actively hunt them. ‘Grub’ type insects such as waxworms or mealworms should be given only occasionally due to their high fat content. Mashed banana and mango or berries also serve as good treats for crested geckos but should only be given very occasionally.

The feeding schedule can stay largely the same from juvenile age into adult. What is generally recommended is specialist food 3 to 4 times per week, and live food offered 1 or 2 times. Live food should be fed suitable insect foods to enhance their nutritional content. As for the powdered foods, simply follow the instructions of the brand you purchase. Small biodegradable cups are available that make good containers for gecko food, and can be placed in an arboreal shelf. As your gecko grows, observe its overall body condition regularly to assess whether food intake needs to be changed. Obesity can happen easily in reptiles, and is most often indicated by visible excess fat along the sides of the body. For reference, healthy adults usually weigh between 40g – 60g.

A vitamin supplement such as Reptile Systems Vit-A-Min or ZooMed Reptivite should also be applied to live insects before feeding. These supplements contain calcium alongside vitamin and mineral blends. Calcium intake is important for healthy bone development. You can supply pure calcium in a small dish for your gecko to use whenever it feels necessary. Supplements are often available with or without added D3. When using UVB lighting your crested gecko should be producing its own D3, so use a D3 vitamin very sparingly (no more than once a week) in this case to avoid D3 toxicity.


To maintain the humidity, generously mist the enclosure once in the morning and once in the evening to boost the reading to around 80% or more. Your crested gecko may also use these mistings to drink water droplets off of surfaces. Tap water is safe to use. Spot clean any droppings each day. Arboreal geckos are quite notorious for leaving droppings on the glass. Specialist cleaners such as ZooMed’s Terrarium Glass Cleaner can tackle this, and water stains. Remove any uneaten live / powdered food until the next feeding time. A full clean out should be done every 4+ weeks or as you see fit – remember to use a cleaner safe for reptiles, like VetArk Ark Klens or F10.


Why is my gecko always hiding? Crested geckos can be quite secretive, especially during the day. On top of this, for the first week or so your gecko will be settling into their new home and needs some time to feel secure. You’re most likely to see your gecko exploring their enclosure a while after the lights turn off, especially if you have provided them food to eat that evening.

Help! My gecko’s tail fell off! It is more common than you think. Something as simple as walking past the glass or opening the doors too fast has caused geckos to do this, but they’re designed to do it naturally – so they should recover and be just fine. It won’t grow back, but crested geckos manage perfectly well without their tails. Give your crestie some space from handling for a short while, and observe their healing for any signs of infections. It’s recommended when getting a reptile to locate your nearest exotic vet for any health problems that may arise.

How do I handle my gecko? Once your gecko has settled after a week or two, slowly introduce handling starting with 5 minutes every other day. Young cresties can be a bit flighty and may jump, so doing it low to the ground or a soft bed is a good place to start. Gently lift them from beneath their feet/stomach without grabbing the tail and let them walk over your hands. As they become more used to you, you can handle them for longer sessions, but try to keep it to less than 20 minutes a day so as not to overstress them.

Where is my gecko’s shed skin? Unlike snakes, geckos eat their shed skin so it is unlikely you will see much of it left behind. High enough humidity allows for proper shedding, and retained shed isn’t usually a problem in this species. Pulling it off for them should be avoided, as cresties have soft and fragile skin.


Crested Gecko Care Guide

AT A GLANCE: Correlophus ciliatus

Origin: New Caledonia
Experience Level: Beginner
Longevity: 15+ years
Diet: Omnivorous
Temperament: Tolerates handling

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