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Why Crested Geckos Are Good Beginners’ Pets

Crested geckos are adorable, colorful, and readily available which makes them ideal pets for reptile beginners. Initially thought to be extinct, but only to be rediscovered a few years ago, this breed is becoming popular pet choice for lizard enthusiasts.

Why are Crested Geckos good beginners’ pet? Crested geckos have gentle dispositions that allow them to be handled once comfortable. They are also resilient, making then a good choice for a beginners’ pet. Other reasons include:

  • Crested Geckos are very easy to feed.
  • Crested Geckos are available in number of colors and patterns.
  • Crested Geckos are known to thrive at room temperature and requires no special lightning.

As a beginner, it is advisable to purchase a captive bred crest gecko and also read about the care of crested gecko before bringing them home. Read on for tips that will ensure you and your new crested gecko gets off with a great start!

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Photo by Pierre Bamin

Reasons Why Crested Geckos Are Good Beginners’ Pets

Crested geckos are relatively easy lizards to look after, and make great pets for older children and adults. Smaller geckos can be very delicate, so younger children must be supervised when handling them. Below are 10 reasons why crested geckos are considered good beginners’ pets:

  • They are Easy to care for: This is perhaps one of the major reasons why this breed is increasingly becoming popular among beginners. In captivity, Crested Geckos can completely thrive on commercially bought gecko diet.

This diet provides all the nutrients the gecko requires. They also come in a powdered form that is mixed with water and offered in a small cup or container, making it very easy to feed them.

Furthermore, crested geckos are no stranger to eating insects, so in addition to their commercial gecko diet, you can also cricket or other feeder insects to your crested gecko. 

  • No Light or heating Setup Costs

Crested geckos don’t require any special lighting or heating needs–with a few exceptions, of course. If you keep your crested gecko is an area that remains between 74-78 degrees Fahrenheit, then it won’t be necessary to invest in a heating element for your crested gecko.

In addition, because of their nocturnal nature, crested geckos don’t require the special ultraviolet lighting that, for example, a bearded dragon requires. Just be sure that your gecko still experiences a day-night cycle–that is, you don’t want to keep your geckos in the dark all day or with lights on through the entire night.

Not having to invest in light fixtures, bulbs, and replacement bulbs can save you on some money and also make the gecko a great option for beginners.

  • Tolerates Handling once comfortable

Not all geckos tolerate being taken out of their enclosure or handled, but crested geckos tolerate it fairly well. Young crested geckos are likely to be more skittish and nervous, but with regular handling, your pet crested gecko will come to realize that you are not a threat.

If you decide to purchase one, be sure to give your gecko a week or two to settle in their new home before attempting any unnecessary handling. When first handling your crested gecko, it’s important to minimize stress by keeping handling sessions short, starting at a few minutes at a time and increasing the handling sessions over time.

Never grab your gecko, as this can be extremely stressful and even harmful to the animal; instead, use your hands to gently scoop your gecko up.

  • Crested geckos are readily Bred in Captivity

Generally, captive-bred geckos make better pets than those collected from the wild. Captive-bred geckos are more accustomed to the presence of people, making it easier for them to settle down once you bring them home. This also means that the “formula” food the crested gecko is likely well-established.

They are also less likely to have contracted pathogens or parasites than wild-caught geckos. It is therefore advisable for beginners to select a specie that is bred in captivity. Fortunately, Crested Geckos bred in captivity are readily available for sale, thus making it a good choice of pet for beginners.

  • Crested Geckos come in different colours and patterns

Crested Geckos come in various colours and pattern that give a beginner endless choice to choose from. The various markings and colorations on geckos – referred to as “morphs” – make each gecko unique and interesting to look at.

It can also be a great way to reference and discuss what your gecko looks like as a beginner. In addition, Crested geckos can actually change colours. When a gecko’s colour is more vibrant, this is referred to as “fired up.” Being “fired down” is when the colouring is duller.

  • No need for company

As a beginner, it might be very difficult to effectively handle more than one pet at the same time. Fortunately, Crested Geckos have no need for company like most pets do. In fact, they are mostly just being kept on their own.

  • Low and inexpensive maintenance

Crested Geckos are very low-maintenance pets, and hence well suited for beginners and older children.

  • They are super adorable

Crested Geckos have these floppy ear flaps called crests, these ear flaps give them a unique shape and are indeed quite velvety to touch. Crested Geckos are also amazing jumpers.

They are famous for their ability to jump long distances, which is really pretty cool and will be quite interesting for a beginner to see.

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Crested Gecko
  • Reasonable Lifespan

Lifespan is an often-overlooked characteristic among prospective lizard keepers, as well as the more experienced keepers who advise these newcomers. Simply put, you’ll want a lizard that lives long enough to make your husbandry efforts worthwhile, as well as one that doesn’t live so long that you must incorporate him into your long-term plans.

Take, for example, carpet chameleons. They’re a beautiful and interesting species, but they typically only live for about 1 year – the species simply has a very high natural turnover rate in the wild. They only stick around long enough to hatch from their eggs, eat enough bugs to reach maturity, and then breed. Shortly after, they die off.

So, while some experienced keepers may find it rewarding to maintain a colony of these lizards across multiple generations, most beginners would be disappointed to go to the effort of setting up a proper habitat, figure out how to care for their lizard, only to have it die in a matter of months.

On the other hand, it is wise to avoid lizards that routinely live for excessively long lengths of time. A lizard that normally lives for 20 years may sound appealing in theory, but in practice, it’ll often cause considerable difficulties. In the real world, trying to envision your life two decades from now is rarely possible.

So, beginners are often best served by selecting a species with a 5- to 15-year lifespan in most cases and fortunately, Crested Geckos are within this lifespan range.

  • Reasonable Size

Size is also an important consideration for both beginners and experienced lizard pet keepers. Very large and very small lizards both present challenges that may be difficult for beginners to overcome, so it is wise to stick to species that have an adult size that falls between about 8 and 18 inches.

Very small species can be difficult to handle without causing injury, and they are also difficult to feed in many cases.

Further, small lizards are more vulnerable to temperature and humidity swings than larger animals are. They often overheat or become dehydrated much more quickly than medium or large lizards do.

On the other hand, very large species are simply difficult to house and handle. Take the green iguana, for example. Once hailed as a great pet lizard for beginners, these lizards routinely reach 5 to 7 feet in length.

This means they not only need very large accommodations, but they can also inflict moderately serious injuries on their keeper if they become frightened or irritable.

The Crested Gecko is approximately 7-8 inches in total length, making it fairly suitable for beginners.

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Crested Gecko

Crested Gecko: What You Need To Know

The crested gecko is an arboreal, nocturnal gecko with a wide body and large head. Crested Geckos get their names from the fringed crest that runs over their eyes and down the neck and back. Specimens measure approximately 4 to 5 inches without the tail and7- 8 inches in total length.

Crested Geckos can weigh an average of 35 grams when they are sexually mature at 15 to 20 months. Crested geckos’ tails do come off when they are exposed to a stressful situation, and they do not regenerate.

Those missing their tails are known in the hobby as “frog butts” because their rear ends look like a frog’s. Tailless crested geckos can live perfectly normal lives, so there is no cause for concern if one’s tail is lost.

This specie likes a cooler habitat (around 72 to 82 degrees).  Like leopard geckos, a 10-gallon aquarium tank is large enough for a juvenile. However, in the case of an adult crested gecko, a 20-gallon tall tank will be the best option.

A tall tank will mean larger to climb, jump and play because crested geckos need space to climb on branches and plants. Crested can be handled, if done with care, although they are generally docile, they can also skittish when they are young.

Juveniles or adults can be kept on paper towels, or adults can have a coco fibre substrate. Crested Geckos like it humid, so the enclosure needs to be heavily misted twice a day. They will also need a water dish and plenty of branches and plants to climb in their exhibit.

Crested Geckos have the potential to live 15 years or more. They do not get too big, with a maximum size of 17cm to 20cm.

As mentioned earlier, these lizards are nocturnal, this means that they are active during the night, or when the vivarium lights are switched off. They can sometimes be quite noisy moving through foliage late at night.

Males can also sometimes make a quacking or squeaking noise, especially if they are courting a female, so may not be suitable to keep them in a bedroom. They are very variable in their color forms and crest development. Some common color forms or ‘morphs’ include buckskin, pinstripe, dalmatian and flame.

Choosing Your Crested Gecko

Although, Crested geckos are one of the most common Gecko breeds and can be readily found in pet stores. It is always advisable to get your crested gecko from a trusted source to avoid contracted pathogens and parasites.

Note: healthy gecko doesn’t have visible ribs or pelvic bones. Crested Geckos don’t like excessive handling, so avoid it if possible. And while they rarely bite, they may do so if stressed, though their bite is not venomous.  

Common Health Problems

Many 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. 

When your crested gecko has what looks like a rash, it may be a sign of parasitic infection; another symptom is difficulty shedding its skin. All these conditions are treatable by a reptile veterinarian.

Food and Water

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.

You can feed your crested gecko in the evenings; juveniles should be fed daily but adults do not need to be fed every day (three times a week is recommended by many keepers).

Designing your Crested Gecko Habitat

Where your Crested Gecko will live is an important consideration you have to make before bringing him/her home. There are basically two option:

You Can Go Bioactive

Going Bioactive means including live plants in your setup, providing lights will ensure that they flourish. Going all-out with a full bioactive planted enclosure will raise initial setup costs–but there are several benefits on the long run!

In addition to being aesthetically beautiful, a planted enclosure will help keep humidity up in your crested gecko’s enclosure–a great advantage since these geckos need a higher ambient humidity at around 60-70% (although you’ll still want to regularly mist your gecko’s enclosure). Many geckos will drink water drops from the sides of their enclosure and will enjoy regular spritzing. 

Introducing springtails and isopods into your substrate means that you’ll have your own natural clean-up crew to clean up any waste that reaches the bottom of the enclosure, giving you more time to admire your gecko!

You can keep it simple

If the full bioactive set up is too much as a beginner, then you can stick with a less expensive and simple setup. Whether in a fully bioactive or simple environment, crested geckos will still do well. A simple environment will involve an enclosure with fake plants and a simpler substrate like coco fibre. Just remember to take the time to regularly clean the enclosure.

Regardless of what you decide, it’s important to provide your crested gecko with vertical space and plenty of climbing material to satisfy their arboreal nature; they will take full advantage of branches, bark, plants, bamboo, and just about anything else they can climb on.

As long as you provide your gecko with the right temperatures, humidity, and plenty of climbing materials, you can go as elaborate or as simple as you want with your setup.

Further Reading:    
Crested Geckos: From the Experts at Advanced Vivarium Systems 
Crested Geckos: A Complete Guide to Rhacodactylus (Complete Herp Care) 
Rhacodactylus: The Complete Guide to their Selection and Care