Crested Geckos (Correlophus Ciliatus)

Native to New Caledonia, Crested Geckos (Correlophus Ciliatus) are very popular in the reptile trade and are most commonly found as the reptile keepers first pet reptile. Crested geckos are known for their easy going nature (for the most part) and their toleration of handling and lets not forget, their easy care! In my opinion, after caring for over 8 species of advanced care reptiles over the years, crested geckos are by far the easiest to care for. Crested geckos reach an adult size of 6″-7″ from snout to tail weighing the average of 50 grams for a female and 35-40 grams for a male. Crested Geckos are endangered in the wild and were thought to be extinct (originally discovered in 1866), only to be re-discovered in 1994. Because of their relatively ‘recent discovery’ it is not entirely known how long crested geckos live for. The oldest gecko born in captivity is 20 years old today (2015). You can expect an average lifespan of 15-20 years though, so get ready!

Enclosure:

Crested Geckos are a tropical species that live in the treetops and are native to New Caledonia. Crested geckos are an arboreal species and require tall enclosures as opposed to long enclosures. Their enclosures should be designed to mimic their natural habitat. An adult crested gecko can comfortably be housed in a 18”Wx18”Dx18”T exo terra or better yet a 18”x18”x24” tall exo terra. For smaller cresteds you can get away with a 16”Wx16”Dx18”T exo terra will suffice. An 18″Lx18″Wx24″T exo terra is suitable for two adult crested geckos. You may also use fish aquarium tanks that are tipped onto their size to house your crested gecko. A tank with a ventilated top reduces mold growth. Generally a 10 gallon tank can house one juvenile crested gecko. A 20 gallon can house on adult crested gecko, and is recommended for a tank to be over 35 gallons for 2-3 adult crested geckos.
Remember, their an arboreal species and like tall enclosures! And the more decor in their enclosure the happier and less stressed they are.
I decorate my cresteds enclosure with bendy vines from pet stores, sterilized branches from outside, fake vines and live plants such as: pothos, boston ferns, tropical palm plants, baby tears, bromeliads, earth stars and orchids. I arrange the vines to go upwards so my geckos have something to climb. I also make custom backgrounds for each gecko as well as specific structures. I make these backgrounds out of styrofoam and grout then paint them and finally seal them. It’s quite the process and takes a lot of time but the geckos love to climb all over them.

Temperature:

The general range for crested geckos is 21°C-23°C ( 70°F-75°F). Temperatures drop to 18°C-21°C (66°F-70°F) at night. During the summer temperatures are generally kept between 22°C-26°C ( 72°F-80°F) during the day and 21°C-23°C ( 70°F-75°F) at night. I never let my geckos enclosures exceed 27°C ( 82°F) as the heat begins to make the geckos become sluggish and almost lethargic.
During the winter you may notice your gecko may not eat as much of his or her food. This is normal. Their metabolism slows down in the winter as their photo period is shortened due to shorter days of sunshine. In the summer when the photo period is longer your gecko will most likely have a great appetite again. You may add a light to your geckos tank to increase the daylight hours so your gecko thinks the days are longer and may want to eat more.

Food:

B.C.'s_Secret_Reptiles_Canada_BC_Rachodactylus_Cilitaus_crested_gecko_harlequin_pinstripe_dalmatian_red_greenMRP stands for Meal Replacement Powder. This is an easy choice for most crested gecko owners as all you have to do is add water to the meal replacement powder and offer it to your geckos. This also makes it easier to ensure your gecko is getting essential nutrients it needs. Since crested geckos are a fruit eating species, you can also make fruit smoothies for them. These however are typically very high in sugar and vitamins and nutrients deteriorate fast as the smoothie ages. Commercial MRP’s make feeding much easier and ensure your gecko is getting what it needs if you are feeding the right MRP.
There’s a lot of Meal Replacement Powder meals in the market, and a lot of them have less than nutritional ingredients. I look carefully at the ingredients of every commercial MRP product as I’ve seen lots with fish meal, chicken meal, and corn as the main ingredients. I trust Repashy’s and Pangea’s (in particular the bugs & fruit formula) crested gecko diet as they have years of experience and their ingredients are made with 50% real fruit and have kept my geckos healthy and happy for years. Plus my geckos love the taste! They lick their bowls clean almost every feeding. Please note that even when feeding complete balanced MRP diets, you will still need to supplement your gecko with calcium and vitamins twice a month.

Humidity/ water:

Crested geckos are native to a tropical rain forest and need humid enclosures. Their humidity should be a constant 70%-85%. This is essential for geckos to complete a proper shed and also helps hydrate them. There’s several ways to keep their humidity up. Such as, live plants (Boston ferns, pothos, bromeliads, and baby tears), sphagnum moss substrate and regular misting.
To maintain this humidity I mist my geckos enclosures every night for adults and every morning and night for hatchlings.

Crested geckos are arboreal so they do not swim in the wild and should not swim in captivity. You may offer a small water bowl (bottle cap size) of fresh clean water (allow the water to be exposed to open air for 24 hours to eliminate chlorine if using tap water). Your gecko is more likely to dump the water bowl over than to drink from it. That being said, some of my geckos love it when I offer them water bowls. However one of my females drinks too fast and too much and will regurgitate what she just drank. So for special geckos like her, I only mist the enclosures every night, making sure there’s enough water to drink (it’s very common for people not to spray the geckos enclosures well enough, it’s important you do as this is your geckos main source of water) but not too much that will not turn your geckos tank into a swamp. Excess water may cause mold and build up of dangerous bacteria. Geckos will drink the water off leaves and the sides of their enclosures.

Substrate:

The kind of substrate you use will play a big role in the humidity in your geckos enclosure. I use sphagnum moss as a flooring for my geckos enclosures. I use sphagnum moss because it holds humidity, can pass through a geckos digestive tract easier than dirt and creates a soft landing when geckos fall. You may also use paper towel, which has its pro’s and con’s. Its pro’s being paper towel highly reduces risk of impaction, and makes it easier to monitor your geckos stool. The con’s being, it looks non naturalistic/stands out, holds less humidity, molds quickly and was bleached to become white (which can be toxic if ingested).
If you’re quarantining a new gecko I recommend keeping him or her on paper towel until you monitor that the gecko is eating and has regular stools free of parasites.

Bugs:

B.C.'s_Secret_Reptiles_Canada_BC_Rachodactylus_Cilitaus_crested_gecko_harlequin_pinstripe_dalmatian_red_greenBugs are a recommended part of the crested geckos diet during all ages. Growing cresteds greatly benefit from the extra protein and offering bugs is a great way to sneak supplements into your geckos diet! I offer my young cresteds bugs once or twice a week. To determine the amount of bugs your gecko can eat, you simply offer them one bug at a time allowing them to completely swallow it first before you add another one. If you offer too many at once, your gecko may eat too much and vomit afterwards. My hatchlings typically eat 2-4 small bugs each feeding.
Adults typically eat 3-5 medium sized bugs (depending on what you’re feeding). To measure the appropriate size of bug for your gecko, look at your gecko from a birds eye view and judge the distance in between their eyes. This is the max size the bug should be.
You can offer: crickets, black soldier fly larvae (high in calcium), wax worms (very high in fat), silkworms, dubia roaches, isopods and hornworms. Be sure to offer appropriate sized food items! People offer mealworms which I do not recommend. Mealworms are low in protein and have hard shells that cresteds often cannot be fully digested by the geckos gut and can cause impaction.
Too much protein can cause fatty liver disease as crested geckos mainly eat fruit and are not true insectivores. This disease occurs when they consume large amounts of protein and their bodies turn it excess protein into fat, and their liver begins to store the fat and simply the liver becomes fatty and ultimately causes death. You should always gut load your feeder insects 24 hours prior to feeding them with veggies or appropriate high standard gut loading diets. Be cautious of some cricket diets sold in pet stores that are purely fillers for the crickets. These diets aren’t suitable for crickets let alone the gecko that th cricket is being fed to. B.C.’s Secret Reptiles offers human grade ingredients in our insect gutload diets.

Here’s an example of my feeding schedule:

Monday: fresh crested gecko diet, mist tank
Tuesday: mist tank
Wednesday: remove old gecko diet, put in fresh crested gecko
diet, mist tank
Friday: mist tank
Saturday: remove old gecko diet, add in fresh food, mist tank
Sunday: mist tank (offer bugs)

 

Sexing:

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female (no bulge) left, Male right (bulge)

You can sex your gecko as young as 6 months old. But anything earlier than that makes sexing less accurate and much more difficult due to size and squirming. You may use a jewelers loop to look for pre-anal pores just above the vent of the gecko. Pre-anal pores are seen in males and will later develop a hemipenal bulge. Females lack these pores and have no bulge.
Crested geckos reach full maturity around 2 years old depending on diet, humidity, temperature and genetics. Your gecko should not be paired with a mate until it is 40-45 grams (for females) and 35 grams for males.

Breeding:

Crested geckos are very easy to breed, comparable to rabbits! Once both fully mature and of the proper weight, you can place the male in the females enclosure for a successful pairing. Males court females with chirping and vocal chirping. The pair will breed during the night. You can remove the male the next morning or after a couple days. It will take roughly 1-2 months for the female to lay her eggs. After breeding the female’s supplements (calcium in particular) should increase and a calcium dish should be offered.
Female crested geckos that are carrying eggs are called gravid. Gravid females need more calcium supplementing. Gravid females should be offered calcium every other feeding until she lays her eggs. Improper calcium levels in gravid females may cause egg binding or poor egg calcification resulting in poor health embryos or the molding of the eggs. Gravid females should NOT be housed with males. A males presence will cause the female to become stressed which may cause her to become egg bound from not feeling comfortable to find a place to lay. In many other gecko species males and females can live together even while a female is gravid. This is usually because other gecko species do not have the drive to breed nearly as often as crested geckos.
I have housed gravid females together and had no problem with them laying other than trying to figure out who laid which eggs if they lay on the same night.
It’s important for females to have a minimum of 3 months break from laying eggs/ breeding. This can be achieved by cooling the temps in her enclosure and placing the male in his own enclosure.

Lay Box:

Female crested geckos will need a lay box in their enclosure. All you will need is a container that is relatively large so your crested can comfortably move around. The container will need to be deep as well so the female can bury her eggs. The lay boxes I use are roughly 12″Lx5″-6″Wx5″Deep. This lay box will need to be filled with moss or a safe dirt substrate (eco earth/ peat moss) or both. My females happily lay in just moss. Whichever substrate you use, ensure it is slightly damp but not dripping. You want to be able to squeeze the soil or moss and have next to no water drip out. Females will search for a humid lay box before they lay their eggs which could take up to 3-4 nights once she’s ready to lay her eggs. You may wish to use a ‘half’ lid or a lid with a hole burned into it so the female feels she has a safe place to lay and so she can get back out of the lay box after. Once the female has laid her eggs in soil or mos she will then leave. The eggs will hatch roughly 70-120 days later depending on the temperature and humidity of the incubator. Females will not raise their young, and would most likely eat them.

Gravid Female Care:

Female crested geckos that are carrying eggs are called gravid. Gravid females need more calcium supplementing. Gravid females should be offered calcium every other feeding until she lays her eggs. Improper calcium levels in gravid females may cause egg binding or poor egg calcification resulting in poor health embryos or the molding of the eggs. Gravid females should NOT be housed with males. A males presence will cause the female to become stressed which may cause her to become egg bound from not feeling comfortable to find a place to lay. In many other gecko species males and females can live together even while a female is gravid. This is usually because other gecko species do not have the drive to breed nearly as often as crested geckos.
I have housed gravid females together and had no problem with them laying other than trying to figure out who laid which eggs if they lay on the same night.
It’s important for females to have a minimum of 3 months break from laying eggs/ breeding. This can be achieved by cooling the temps in her enclosure and placing the male in his own enclosure.

Collecting The Eggs:

You can tell if you’re female has laid her eggs by very gently palpating her abdomen. If you cannot feel the two oval eggs in her abdomen and she looks deflated almost then it’s likely she has laid her eggs. You can also check by cautiously digging through the lay box. To find the eggs in the lay box I use my hands to lightly move dirt aside gently to find the eggs. If you’re using a clear container you can lift it to see the eggs at the bottom of the container.
Once you’ve removed the eggs you need to brush the dirt off the eggs gently. I use a clean paint brush. After this, you candle the eggs. Candling is done by placing the egg against a bright flashlight. Rotate the egg slowly to find the embryo.

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This will appear as a pink ‘doughnut’. I use a pencil to mark the top of the egg where the embryo is. This side will be facing UP in the incubator.

 

 

 

 

Incubation:

Incubation medium can be several things: vermiculite, hatch right medium, aquatic pond soil, or sphagnum moss. I use a mixture of aquatic pond soil (clay rock medium that shows when it is dry or damp) and sphagnum moss for maximum humidity as humidity is the key to healthy eggs. Rinse your incubation media with water, removing dust and unwanted particles. Now select an incubation container, anything that will hold humidity and a baby gecko when it hatches. Avoid large containers as they’re harder to warm and loose humidity fast. Incubation media should be 4″-5″ deep with damp (not wet) incubation media. Make an indent in the media with your fingers for the eggs to lay. Once the eggs are placed (embryo up) incubation temps should be 21°C-23°C ( 70°F-75°F). The warmer the faster the egg will hatch HOWEVER the longer the incubation time, the better for the baby. The longer the incubation time the larger and healthier the baby will be. It’s worth the extra wait time! Incubation can take anywhere from 70-120 days (depending on temps).

 

Hatchling Care:

B.C.'s_Secret_Reptiles_pinstripe_crested_gecko_black_white_orange_harlequin_Hatchlings should be kept exactly like adults, with the exception of food and substrate for the first 3 months. Babies should be kept on either sphagnum moss or paper towel for the first few months. They should only go on dirt once they’re at least 6 months old. Remember, crested geckos are very clumsy eaters and are at risk of impacting soil in their intestine when diving for a cricket. Hatchlings should be misted twice daily for the first several months.

The first shed:

The first shed will take place within 24 hours after hatching. This is when the crested will shed it egg tooth at the tip of their nose. After this first shed the geckos skin will look much less ‘milky’ or shiny. A growing crested will shed every 2-4 weeks depending on diet and humidity. The toughest part about raising any baby gecko is stuck shed around their toes, tail, eyes, or anywhere on their body. Toes are incredibly important to pay attention to as stuck shed can cause circulation loss and loss of toes or even limbs. Regular monitoring will prevent this. Damp Q-tips can be used to ‘roll’ away stuck shed on toes.

 

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