The Crested Gecko
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HABITAT AND HISTORY
Crested geckos (Correlophus (Rhacodactylus) ciliatus) are originally from New Caledonia (a group of islands between Fiji and Australia). They are ideal reptile pets for beginners, with simple, easy-to-meet requirements. Because crested geckos are primarily tree dwellers, they make outstanding displays in naturalistic vivariums. Crested geckos were once considered among the rarest lizards in captivity. Today crested geckos are bred in large numbers and have become standard in the pet industry.
SIZE AND APPEARANCE
Both male and female crested geckos reach a moderate size of 4 to 4.5 inches snout-to-vent length (SVL), and 8 inches in total length. Crested geckos are sexually mature when 15 to 18 months of age, and at a weight of approximately 35 grams. Under proper care, plan for your crested gecko to live 15 to 20 years.
A commercial crested gecko diet is usually well accepted and is the easiest way to ensure a well-balanced, nutritious diet. It can be supplemented with crickets and other prey insects (roaches, waxworms, silkworms; mealworms are best avoided due to their hard exoskeleton) for variety and to allow the gecko to exercise his hunting instincts. Any insects fed should be slightly smaller than the space between the gecko's eyes, should be gut loaded prior to feeding and then dusted with a calcium/vitamin D3 supplement.
If you can't get a commercial gecko diet you can feed crested geckos a combination of insect prey items and fruit though it is more difficult to feed a balanced diet this way. The insect portion of the diet can be made up mainly of crickets with the occasional addition of other insects for variety.
Prey should be smaller than the space between the gecko's eyes, be gut loaded prior to feeding, and dusted with a calcium/vitamin D3 supplement two to three times a week and a multivitamin once a week. Feed as much prey at one time as the gecko eagerly eats.
Crested geckos can eat fruit several times a week as well. Try mashed fruit or jarred baby food; they often like bananas, peaches, nectarines, apricots, papaya, mangoes, pears, and passion fruit.
Feed crested geckos in the evening; juveniles should be fed daily but adults do not need to be fed every day (three times a week is recommended by many keepers).
A commercial crested gecko diet is the easiest way to ensure a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
Mouth rot, or stomatitis
Geckos are susceptible to mouth rot, or stomatitis, and crested geckos are no exception. Symptoms include excess mucus and redness around the mouth. If you notice your gecko is wheezing or drooling, these are signs of a possible respiratory infection, another highly common gecko ailment.
If your crested gecko has what looks like a rash, it may be a sign of a parasitic infection; another symptom is difficulty shedding its skin.
All of these conditions are treatable by a reptile veterinarian
Crested Gecko Tails
In nature, crested geckos will usually lose their tails and end up with a tiny pointed tail nub. “Taillessness” is a normal condition for adults crested geckos. In captivity, hobbyists like their crested geckos with tails, but this requires keeping animals individually and pampered to prevent tail loss.
Keep animals individually to prevent tail loss.
Baby crested geckos are best housed in large plastic terrariums or in standard (20-inch) 10-gallon reptile tanks with a screen top. An adult crested gecko should be housed in a 20-gallon tank with screen top. Larger tanks will allow for better displays. In areas with moderate to high relative humidity, crested geckos will fare well in screen cages. These tanks have the advantage of being light and easy to clean. You can keep one male and several female crested geckos together. Male crested geckos may fight, particularly when in the company of females, and should not be kept together.
Reptiles are ectotherms (body temperature varies with environmental temperature), so it is important that you provide the proper temperature range for activity and feeding. A thermometer is essential for accurate temperature measurements.
Crested geckos like temperatures of 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. It can drop to the low 70s at night. In most areas this temperature range will be reached during the warm months of the year without additional heat. In summer, place crested geckos in a cool room if the temperature exceeds 87 degrees. During the winter crested geckos will tolerate night drops into the 60s.
The easiest way to provide heat is a low-wattage incandescent bulb or a ceramic heat emitter in a reflector type fixture placed on the screen top over one side of the tank so that the temperature of basking areas (branches) reaches the desired range. You must always keep one side of the tank unheated so that crested geckos can choose a cooler area to regulate their body temperature. You can also use a subtank reptile heat pad or heat tape under one side of the tank regulated by a thermostat. A low wattage red night-time bulb makes a good heat source, and is ideal for viewing your pet at night when he is most active.
If you have live plants in your vivarium additional a fluorescent bulb running the length of the tank can provide light. Crested geckos tend to rest in foliage or shelters during the day and are active at night. They do not require UVB light if fed a diet that contains Vitamin D3. Turn off lights at night.
Crested geckos spend most of their time above ground so a variety of substrates can be used. The best substrate for crested geckos should be something that retains moisture to aid in maintaining humidity levels such as coconut fiber bedding, moss, or peat, though paper or paper towels can be used as well. Crested geckos are somewhat prone to ingesting substrate while hunting; if this is the case for yours, use moss (either alone or over another substrate like coconut fiber) or paper towels. Paper towels are recommended for juveniles as they are more likely to accidentally swallow other substrates.
Crested geckos feel comfortable resting in foliage and like to climb on wood. Good landscape materials include cork bark sections for vertical and ground level shelters and climbing areas. Dried wood branches angled across the length of a vivarium provide resting and activity areas. Do not over clutter the tank. Leave plenty of open space. Live or artificial plants in combination with wood and bark will provide the security crested geckos need to rest in the open and add a decorative element to the display. Good plant selections include small Ficus benjamina, Dracaena spp. and Pothos.
Water and Humidity
Water should always be available for crested geckos in a shallow water dish. These geckos also require a relative humidity of at least 50 percent and preferably 70 percent. In dry areas the tanks should be lightly misted nightly or a cool air humidifier placed in the room. Inexpensive hygrometers (relative humidity gauges) for use with reptiles are now readily available in the pet trade.
HANDLING AND TEMPERAMENT
Newly purchased crested geckos should not be handled, but first allowed to settle in for three to four weeks to let them adjust to their new environment and to make sure they regularly feed. When you start handling your crested gecko, make handling sessions short, no more than five minutes. Baby crested geckos tend to be flighty and can be injured in the course of handling. For this reason you should wait until they are at least 3 inches SVL before handling. Crested geckos seldom bite and when they do it is of little consequence. A quick nip and let go.