Overview/Natural History

Crested geckos (Correlophus ciliatus), also known as eyelash geckos, are a species of gecko native to the southern New Caledonia islands in the South Pacific. This area provides a humid, tropical climate that is critical to their survival. Crested geckos were once thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered in 1994, sparking a surge in their popularity within the pet trade due to their unique appearance and manageable care requirements.

These geckos are known for their distinctive “eyelashes,” which are actually spiny crests running from above their eyes down to their necks and backs. The skin of crested geckos is soft to the touch and covered in small granular scales. They exhibit a wide range of colors and patterns, typically seen in various shades of browns, reds, oranges, and grays, often with a prehensile tail that they can lose as a defense mechanism but do not regenerate.

Crested geckos are primarily arboreal, spending most of their time in trees. They are nocturnal creatures, which means they are most active at night when they hunt for food and explore. During the day, they prefer to rest in the safety of dense foliage or hollow tree trunks, which offers protection from predators and the harsh daytime heat. Their diet in the wild consists mainly of fruits, nectar, and insects. The adaptive nature and striking appearance of the crested gecko, combined with their relatively straightforward care, have made them a beloved pet among reptile enthusiasts.

Caging Requirements

The enclosure for a crested gecko should mimic its natural humid, arboreal habitat to ensure its health and well-being. A single adult crested gecko requires a vertically oriented terrarium with a minimum size of 20 gallons, though larger spaces are encouraged to provide ample room for climbing and exploration. For juveniles, a smaller enclosure, such as a 10-gallon tank, can be used initially to prevent stress and ensure easier feeding, but they will need to be upgraded as they grow.

The terrarium should include multiple branches, vines, and foliage for climbing and hiding. These features not only replicate their natural environment but also provide necessary enrichment and security. The enclosure must have a secure lid as crested geckos are skilled climbers and can escape easily if given the opportunity. Proper ventilation is also crucial to maintain air circulation while keeping humidity levels within the ideal range of 60-80%. This setup helps simulate the tropical conditions of their native habitat, promoting healthy behavior and physiological functions in crested geckos.


Choosing the right substrate is crucial for maintaining a healthy environment for crested geckos. A substrate that holds humidity well without becoming waterlogged is ideal to support the necessary humidity levels in their enclosure. Coconut fiber, peat moss, or a mixture of these with soil are excellent choices as they retain moisture and are also safe if accidentally ingested during feeding. These materials help maintain the terrarium’s humidity while also providing a naturalistic look and feel.

For those preferring a cleaner, easier-to-maintain option, paper towels or reptile carpet can be used, especially in juvenile enclosures. These substrates make it easier to monitor the health of the gecko through their waste and simplify the cleaning process. Regardless of the choice, the substrate should be free of sharp edges or overly coarse materials to prevent injury to the delicate skin of the crested gecko. Regular replacement or cleaning of the substrate is essential to prevent the build-up of mold, bacteria, and parasites, which could harm the gecko’s health.

Heating and Lighting

Crested geckos require a specific range of temperatures and lighting conditions to thrive, mimicking their natural habitat’s climate. The ideal temperature for a crested gecko’s enclosure should range from 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, with a slight dip to 65-70 degrees at night. These temperatures can generally be maintained at room temperature in most homes, but if additional heating is needed, a low-wattage heat lamp or an under-tank heater can be used. It’s important to avoid overheating the enclosure, as temperatures above 80 degrees can stress the gecko and may lead to health issues.

Lighting for crested geckos should simulate a natural light cycle, providing 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. Although crested geckos are nocturnal and do not require UVB light to metabolize calcium (if their diet is supplemented properly), providing a low-intensity UVB light can be beneficial for their overall health and well-being. This lighting helps support their natural circadian rhythm and can aid in the naturalistic appearance of the enclosure. Always ensure any lighting used does not elevate the terrarium’s temperature beyond the recommended range.

Diet and Supplements

Crested geckos have a somewhat unique diet compared to other reptiles, primarily consisting of both animal and plant-based foods. In captivity, they can be fed a well-balanced diet of commercial crested gecko food, which is formulated to provide all the necessary nutrients and comes in powder form that is mixed with water. These commercial diets often include ingredients such as fruits, insects, and essential vitamins and minerals, catering to their omnivorous nature. In addition to this, live insects like crickets, dubia roaches, or waxworms can be offered once or twice a week to encourage natural hunting behaviors and provide enrichment.

Supplementation is crucial to prevent nutritional deficiencies, especially calcium and vitamin D3, which are vital for bone health. If using a commercial diet that includes these supplements, additional supplementation may not be necessary. However, if supplementing their diet with live insects, it is essential to dust these insects with a calcium supplement with vitamin D3 at least twice a week. This ensures that the gecko receives adequate levels of these nutrients, which are critical in preventing metabolic bone disease, a common issue in captive reptiles.

It’s important to maintain a balance in the variety of foods provided and not to overfeed live insects, as crested geckos can become overweight if their diet is too high in protein and fat. Fresh water should be available at all times and refreshed daily. Additionally, periodic feeding of small amounts of mashed fruits like bananas, mangoes, or peaches can be offered as a treat, though these should be given sparingly to avoid digestive issues and ensure a balanced diet.

Cage Decor

Cage decor for crested geckos should aim to recreate a vertical, densely vegetated environment that mimics their natural arboreal habitat. Including multiple climbing structures such as branches, vines, and bamboo canes is essential for them to exercise and exhibit natural climbing behavior. These structures should be arranged to allow the gecko to navigate throughout the enclosure without much difficulty, and they should be sturdy enough to support the gecko’s weight.

Live or artificial plants not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of the enclosure but also provide hiding spots and maintain humidity levels. Species like pothos, philodendron, or ferns are suitable as live plants due to their non-toxic nature and ability to thrive in the humid conditions preferred by crested geckos. Additionally, hiding spots such as cork bark, tree hollows, or commercial reptile hides should be included to offer a sense of security, allowing the gecko to manage stress effectively. Proper placement and securing of all decor items are crucial to prevent accidental falls or injuries, ensuring a safe and engaging environment for the gecko.


Crested geckos are known for their docile and easygoing nature, making them excellent pets, especially for novice reptile owners. They are primarily nocturnal, becoming most active during the evening and night hours. During these times, crested geckos explore, hunt, and feed, displaying behaviors that are crucial for their physical and mental stimulation. During the day, they typically remain hidden within the foliage or decor to sleep and avoid the light, aligning with their natural instincts to evade diurnal predators.

In their natural climbing habitat, crested geckos exhibit excellent climbing abilities. They possess specialized toe pads that allow them to adhere to almost any surface, including glass, making secure tank lids a necessity to prevent escapes. When threatened, a crested gecko may drop its tail as a defense mechanism—a process known as autotomy. This tail does not regrow, and while the loss does not significantly harm the gecko, it is a last resort to distract predators.

Socially, crested geckos can be kept alone or in small groups, provided there is no more than one male in the enclosure to prevent territorial aggression. When housing multiple geckos together, it is essential to monitor their interactions closely and provide ample space and resources to reduce stress and competition. Interaction with humans can vary among individuals; some may tolerate and even seem to enjoy gentle handling, while others might be more reclusive. Consistent, gentle handling can help reduce skittishness and build trust, allowing for a more interactive experience for both the gecko and the owner.

Potential Medical Issues

Crested geckos are generally hardy animals, but like all pets, they can be susceptible to certain health issues, particularly when their care requirements are not adequately met. One of the most common health concerns in crested geckos is Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), which results from insufficient calcium or vitamin D3 in their diet. This condition leads to weakened bones, difficulty moving, and can be severely debilitating. Ensuring a balanced diet with appropriate supplements is crucial to prevent this disease.

Another significant issue is respiratory infections, which are typically caused by poor enclosure conditions, such as low temperatures or excessive humidity. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, lethargy, and discharge from the nose or mouth. Maintaining proper humidity and temperature within the enclosure can prevent these infections. Regular cleaning and disinfection also help reduce the risk by limiting the growth of bacteria and fungi.

Crested geckos can also suffer from parasitic infections, particularly if live food is not properly sourced or if the enclosure is not kept clean. Symptoms of parasitic infections may include weight loss, decreased appetite, and abnormal feces. Regular fecal exams by a veterinarian can help detect and treat these infections early. Additionally, stress-related issues can occur if the gecko does not have enough hiding places or if the enclosure is too crowded or too frequently disturbed. Providing a stable, well-structured environment is essential for the health and well-being of crested geckos.

Frequently Asked Crested Gecko Questions

The ideal temperature for a crested gecko's enclosure should be between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Nighttime temperatures can safely drop to around 65 to 70 degrees. It's important to avoid temperatures above 80 degrees, as this can cause heat stress in crested geckos.

The enclosure should be misted twice daily to maintain the high humidity levels that crested geckos need, ideally between 60% and 80%. Misting in the morning and evening will help mimic their natural humid environment and aid in their hydration and skin shedding processes.

Crested geckos can be housed together, particularly females or a male with females. However, it is not advisable to house two males together, as they may become territorial and fight. Always ensure there is ample space and environmental enrichment to prevent stress and aggression among cohabiting geckos.

Crested geckos thrive on a diet primarily composed of commercial crested gecko food, which is formulated to meet all their nutritional needs. This can be supplemented with live insects like crickets or dubia roaches for enrichment. Occasional treats of mashed fruits like bananas, mangoes, or peaches can be offered, but these should be given sparingly to prevent dietary imbalances.