Crested Geckos - Rhacodactylus ciliatus - Correlophus ciliatus

Crested Geckos are a medium sized, nocturnal gecko from New Caledonia. They have quickly become as popular as Bearded Dragons and Leopard Geckos when it comes to a beginners pet, but offer enough color variation to entice more experienced breeders. When looking at all the factors of captive reptile husbandry, the Crested Gecko has to be one of the easiest. This has been facilitated by long term researchers and keepers creating powdered diets which are a nutritionally complete meal, available at local pet stores. This species is also popular with new comers and experienced keepers because of the fact they require little to no electricity to house. This is quite different then most reptiles, who require either UV or a heat lamp, and in some cases both. The Crested Gecko requires neither. They do best at average house temps anywhere between 20-26C/68-78F. Mine dip a little lower awhile in the winter, and a little higher in the summer. But temps reaching past 80F are not advised. Once you start getting into the mid and high 80's, a Crested Gecko can overheat and die. 

Housing: Because they require no light or heat, housing options are almost endless for Crested Geckos. You can choose a fully planted aquarium, or a rubbermaid tub with plastic plants and bamboo perches. The most important thing to remember is that each adult really should be given 15-20 gallons of space. Some say 10 is fine but I think this is ridiculous when you consider some individuals get larger then 70 grams. Crested Geckos are considered in most sources to be arboreal but they will spend plenty of time on the ground, in some cases even hiding on the ground during the day. Many people think you can always house these geckos together. That is just not the case. Often you will see fighting, or some kind of bullying by one individual on another. Even between females. Males should never be housed together. In the circumstances that it works really well, it's a large cage with all females or a pair or trio. It's got tons of hiding spots and is either heavily planted or has tons of fake plants. Even in that scenario you have to watch close for signs of trouble. Always be prepared to have the same number of cages as you do geckos. 


Above is a planted 60 gallon. I used pothos ivy, a coco fiber background and some wood. With this type of set up you will not have to clean as often as the live plants help in this respect. You can turn the substrate when it gets dirty and simply wipe the walls down. You will also have a lot less misting to do, as live plants and the moist substrate keep the humidity higher. Growing simple easily available houseplants typically takes up no more then regular CFL bulbs found at any Walmart or hardware store. I will not go more in depth on setting up a planted tank, as that is a general topic that covers housing for many species and I will cover it in another article.

The above photos show tub set ups for my Crested Geckos. You can purchase any brand tub. Since many brands make them I won't bother with the specific sizes of these but my adult tubs are around 20 gallons each, my juvenile tubs around 8 gallons and my baby tubs around 2 gallons. Roughly. Holes can be drilled, or you can use a small cheap solder iron to melt them. You will need to experiment with the amount of holes you'll need. Too few and you will get mold, or it will be too wet. If the tub stays wet in any way for 24 hours after a misting, that is too wet. If the enclosure is bone dry only a few hours after a misting, that is too dry. You want to be able to mist once or twice a day maximum. You don't want them sitting in wet 24 hours a day, nor do you want to skip misting them for days at a time as that is their source of water.You can use plastic plants for decor. I use bamboo perches as shown in the tubs above, as well as foam perches shown in the tubs below.


The foam is foam for insulating pipes. I am using the foam now over bamboo, although bamboo is just fine. I choose foam though because I have many tubs. Bamboo can after time get very dirty even after cleanings, and can be costly to replace when you have many geckos. The foam is easy to clean, won't mold, is very cheap and easy to replace. As you can see in all the photos, I use plastic planters turned on their sides for hides. These work pretty good. I have also used wooden bird houses in the past. If sealed, these are really neat if you only have one or two geckos. Eventually they too get very dirty. I attached the planters with cable ties. Same way I attach the perches. I use paper towel as a substrate. It is cheap and easy to clean. Babies are housed in similar conditions just on a mini scale. The photos below are the shoe boxes I use for newborns as well as the slightly taller tubs I use for them once they are a month or so old. 


Feeding: Unlike leopard geckos, Crested Geckos eat a diet heavily based on fruits and nectars, as well as insects. As I mentioned earlier, a pre made diet is available for them. It's a powder. You add water to it and it mixes to a milkshake like consistency. I use water bottle caps as food dishes for my geckos. Babies and Juvi's are fed daily, adults every other day or every two days. Below is a photo of the "Repashy Crested Gecko Diet" I use. It will also link you to their website. The diet is available online, or in almost every pet store. It comes either in a container or a silver envelope type bag.


There are other diets, this is the one I use. Crested Geckos also enjoy insects, especially young geckos. I feed my adults crickets pretty randomly. Sometimes once per week, other times I go months without getting crickets and they are fed exclusively on the diet. All crickets are dusted with a vitamin calcium supplement and gut loaded before feeding to the geckos. Keep in mind that many many people have raised these geckos for generations on nothing but the powdered diet, no insects at all. So you can do that if you want to avoid crickets. Another bonus to this species as many people cannot bring crickets home. However if you are able to do so, I highly suggest offering them insects in additional to the staple of the powdered diet. Crested Geckos will also enjoy fresh fruits put into the blender. I use a variety of fruits this way for sporadic treats for my guys. Bananas, mango, papaya, strawberries, peaches and really any fruit are good options.

Misting/Water: Crested Geckos will drink out of a dish but I found this to be unreliable because not all geckos will do this and those that do don't seem to do it consistently. To ensure proper hydration and good sheds you need to mist your gecko at least once a day. Mist the entire enclosure, including the gecko itself, heavily in the evening time before lights out. 

Sexing: Sexing can be done two ways. The first way is easy if you are looking at adults. Males have a very visible bulge at the base of the tail. Females do not. However this bulge does not make an appearance until the male is of a good size. The second option is looking for a row of pores on the underside of the gecko, above the vent. A row of pores means a male. Females will not have these enlarged pores. This can take some practice and experience. Even then a "female" can be a "male" if the pores don't appear until later in a geckos life. I've heard some people claim to be able to see pores on the males that do develop them early in geckos as small as 2 grams. I find around 6 grams using a jewelers loupe to be pretty good. I never say for sure until they are 15 grams though. The photos below show some pores. The top two photos are a female. The bottom two a male.



Breeding: Crested Geckos are very easy to breed. You start with two adult animals. You want healthy adults, with nice crests and nice coloration. These geckos come in many colors and pattern morphs. I will not get into that topic very deeply because first and foremost a geckos structure and health should be considered. The male should weigh at least 40 grams. The female should also weigh at least 40 grams. Many people will breed one year old females or geckos that are only 35 grams. I do not feel this is a good practice. This is a species that is thought to live up to 20 years. You have plenty of time to breed it. Also some of the females can attain very large sizes of 50 + grams and in my opinion should be allowed to at least get near their adult weight before breeding. Some females will never pass 45 grams, although I've never had one remain under 50 grams after 3 years of age. If I did have a healthy female at 40 grams, I would ensure she is over two years old before breeding, as I do with most females. After you have your pair, you can put them together. I put my males in with the female for a week or so if things are going well. I will do this three or four times over the season. The "season" is the 8 months during which each month the female will lay a clutch of two eggs. The other four months of the year should be a rest period. Most females will stop laying on their own as winter comes with it's shorter day light hours and cooler temps, even slightly indoors as well. 

Eggs & Rearing newborns: Once you have your first clutch of eggs, you will need to set up your egg box. Crested Gecko eggs do NOT require supplemental heating to hatch. Temperature does effect hatch times. Breeders routinely report healthy bigger babies from cooler longer incubation times. Warmer temps will give you a shorter incubation time but in some cases result in smaller weaker babies. So you will have to place your egg box somewhere safe, with a decently stable temperature. But some fluctuations won't harm the eggs at all so unlike some other species, it is pretty simplistic. Typically at regular house temps I get eggs hatching anywhere from 80-110 days.The photo below shows my egg box. Just a plastic tub shoe box with vermiculite in it. You mix dry vermiculite with enough water so that when you squeeze a handful, only a drop or two of water comes out. You want it a few inches deep in your shoe box/egg box. The more substrate (vermiculite in this case) you have, the slower it will take to dry out. Your egg box does not need any air holes. Air is exchanged enough by opening it once a week or so. If you set it up as I have shown below, you really shouldn't even have to add additional water later. 

After you have your new clutch of eggs set up in their egg box for a couple days, you can use a LED flashlight to "candle" the eggs to reveal if they are fertile or infertile. A female may lay infertile eggs her first time, or once or twice per season. It's totally normal. Learning a fertile egg from a dud is very simple and gets easier and easier. You simply press the flashlight up to the eggs when the eggs are a couple days old, giving them a chance to develop a little. A fertile egg will have the beginnings of a network of red veins and you can usually see a larger red mass inside the egg as well which is the embryo. A fertile egg glows very pink/red because of this, even if the little veins are hard to see at first. As the egg gets older, more and more red will show up. Infertile eggs, or duds, glow yellow. They have no veins in them or embryo or blood to give the red glow, so when the light is pressed you will see 100% yellow. As the eggs get older and closer to their hatch date, you can candle them once in awhile and see how the color and veins develop and you will notice the older they get the less light passes through as the baby inside grows. Near hatch time, the egg will not glow at all when candled as the baby is taking up all the room. The following photos are good egg, bad egg, and good egg near hatch time:


When the babies hatch, they will sometimes play dead. So do not think the baby died right away. Sometimes they do this for quite awhile. I simply move them as is into their new home. Photo of a baby playing dead right after hatching:


Their new home should be set up much like the adults and you can refer to my photos above in the caging area to see my baby tubs. I spray it down VERY heavily because the new babies will be shedding soon, if they are not already. They do not need to eat right away. I typically offer food on the second or third night. I don't offer crickets until the babies are a few weeks old. Other then that, you can care for them just like the adults, possibly keeping a bit of a closer eye on humidity as they are a bit more sensitive to dehydration then a large adult gecko. When your babies are old enough that you are thinking of finding them new homes, they need to be at least two months old and feeding very well before sale.