CRESTED GECKO
Rhacodactylus ciliatus

CARE SHEET

By: Ryan Turnquist of
Ryan Turnquist Reptiles

www.rtreptiles.com

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This document is for your personal benefit and feel free to refer others to it but please don’t pass it off as your own.


 

INTRODUCTION

 

Crested geckos, Rhacodactylus ciliatus, are one of most, if not the most, promising up and coming reptile species to hit the reptile market in the past decade.  Their easy captive care, high breeding rates, unique physique and wide variety of available color morphs make this gecko a fascinating species to keep.  As their popularity rises more literature becomes available to the public.  One such book is at the forefront of crested gecko captive care and that book is Rhacodactylus: The Complete Guide to their Selection and Care by Philippe de Vosjoli, Frank Fast, and Allen Repashy.  It is what I call the Rhacodactylus “Bible” and is a must have for any herper looking to keep any Rhacodactylus specie.  Another book recently released is Crested Geckos by Philippe de Vosjoli, which I have found to be a great help.  It is not as extensive as the Rhacodactylus book but is equally informative and educational.  I highly recommend both of these books. 

This care sheet is made up from my personal experiences and many techniques employed by some of the top crested gecko breeders in order to save time and improve crested geckos’ captive care.  Many of the time saving techniques I presently use were developed by the commercial breeders and therefore, I must give them credit for sharing the information and making my life much easier.  So I hope you find this care sheet helpful for any of your crested gecko needs.

 

NATURAL HISTORY

 

Crested geckos are native to New Caledonia, which is made up of numerous islands located approximately 900 miles east of Australia.  Crested geckos are indigenous to the largest island, Grand Terre, and the Isle of Pines to the south.  They were once thought to be extinct.  However, an expedition in 1994 led to their “rediscovery” and subsequent arrival in the United States.  Their popularity has been rising ever since due to the realization of how easy it is to keep and breed this species.

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New Caledonia Map

 

Crested geckos have many unique characteristics including a prehensile tail (that doesn’t grow back if it falls off) with a lamellae tip-the same lamellae that is located on their toes that allow them to climb.  They also have a velvety feel to their skin, a large flat head and, of course, the crests.  In addition, crested geckos are polymorphic, which means that they come in a variety of patterns and colors that can be refined with selective breeding.  This polymorphic quality makes the crested gecko a fascinating gecko to work with because the colors are almost limitless.  Crested geckos are often referred as the koi of the reptile world.  Crested geckos are relatively large for gecko species-about 8 inches in total length.  Their life expectancy is not known but it is believed to exceed fifteen years because some of the original animals brought to the United States in 1994 are still alive.

 

One of the most predominant habits of crested geckos is that they are jumpers.   It is not uncommon that cresteds will take a “leap of faith” from your hands.  Usually they are unharmed from a fall; but it is best to handle these geckos while sitting down.  Also, crested geckos have the capability to vocalize.  It is most frequently heard during breeding and occasionally a hatchling gecko will let out a “chirp” in order to get away.  Finally, crested geckos have an overall good temperament.  If you manipulate them for too long, they might give you a nip but it is unlikely that it would draw blood.  However, with more handling, crested geckos’ temperament becomes better, which allows for longer handling sessions.

 

SELECTING A GECKO

 

Selecting a gecko for a particular color morph can be problematical because crested geckos’ colors can change at different times during the day, different stages in growth, and at different stress levels.  It is sometimes better to see the color of the parents rather than the color of the juvenile because the juveniles’ colors will transform as they get older and will usually resemble their parents.  When selecting a gecko, as with any reptile, make sure that the animal looks healthy, clean, and alert.  Make sure that the gecko has all of its toes (one or two toes missing shouldn’t have an effect on its health), which could be lost with shedding problems.  Since cresteds are nocturnal, they may be slightly sluggish when first picked up but they should quickly become alert.  When purchasing for a particular sex, note that hatchling crested geckos have a sex ratio of about 50:50.  It is impossible to sex crested geckos until they have a snout to vent length of about three inches at which time males develop noticeable hemipenal bulges.  At that point, extra males will become available because breeders will often keep the females to increase their breeding stock.  However, high quality males are important to any breeding stock because he can pass his colors to multiple females.  If you’re attempting to begin a breeding operation, I suggest that you purchase many juveniles and raise them up.  You have to play the lottery but you could also get many females.

 

THE COLOR GAME

 

Accurately describing crested geckos can be a daunting task.  Since crested geckos are polymorphic, each gecko is unique in some way.  Also, crested geckos’ colors can change with the time of day and at different stress levels.  Generally, during the day and at high stress levels their colors will become lackluster.  However, during the night the colors can be vivid and intense.  A categorization system was created in order to attempt to tame the confusion; however, it is still somewhat up to the eye of the beholder.  Philippe de Vosjoli, Frank Fast, and Allen Repashy did an excellent job going into detail about every morph in their Rhacodactylus book.  I often find myself paging through their book in order to describe one of my geckos.  Here, I have tried to overview the different color morphs with a picture when available.  I suggest purchasing the de Vosjoli, Fast, and Repashy book for any additional information and photographs.  When naming crested geckos, first state the background color that is most prominent (if you are able to).  Then name any distinguishing features such as tiger, dalmatian, fire, etc.  


Morph

Description

Picture

Patternless

“Patternless” crested geckos are usually one solid color that has little to no pattern.  The color range from brown/tan, buckskin, olive, chocolate, rust to much more brilliant colors including orange, yellow, red, and white (moonglow).


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Bicolor

“Bicolor” is very similar to “patternless”; however, the dorsal area is a different solid color from the rest of the body.


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Tiger

“Tiger” is streaks of color usually running down the back.


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Brindle

“Brindle” is basically an extreme “tiger” in which there are more streaks and may extent to the limbs.


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Chevron back

“Chevron back” is distinguished by bands of lighter colored blotches running down the dorsal area.


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Fire

“Fire” is one of the more common color morphs.  A “fire” crested gecko has a lighter patterned head, dorsal area, as well as the area between the forelimb and hind limb.


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Harlequin

“Harlequin” crested geckos are basically a fire crested but the pattern extends onto the forelimbs.


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Creamsicle

“Creamsicle” color morph is one of the most sought after morphs, today.  It is a cream/orange “fire” crested gecko.


Picture Coming Soon

Halloween

“Halloween” is a brown and orange “fire” crested gecko.


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Pinstripe

“Pinstripe” is a newer morph being developed by Allen Repashy.  “Pinstripe” crested geckos is usually a “fire” crested gecko with two white stripes along the dorsal crests.


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Stripe

“Stripe” crested geckos have a lateral white stripe about midway between the dorsal and ventral areas.

Dalmatian

“Dalmatian” is characterized by black, white, and/or red spots all over the body.


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White Fringe

“White fringe” trait is when the edges of the hind limbs are white.


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Structural Morph

Description

Picture

Enlarged Crests

“Enlarged crests” describes when the crests are abnormally large and may extend down the back.


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Crowned

“Crowned” is when the head is larger than normal and may droop downward.

 


 

CAPTIVE CARE

 

HOUSING

 

The enclosure for crested geckos can be very simplistic to a very complex display enclosure.  I keep all my animals in simplistic caging for quick and easy maintenance.  However, it is not aesthetically appealing for most people who want to watch their pets.  I have not set up a naturalistic enclosure for crested geckos.  However, I do have experience in designing enclosures from my time working in the Herpetarium at the St. Louis Zoo.  Therefore, I am able to give tips and suggestions about how to make an easily manageable display enclosure.  I would highly suggest reading de Vosjoli’s Crested Gecko book because he does a great job in describing how to set up a naturalistic enclosure for crested geckos.  First, I will describe in depth the methods that I employ in my breeding group followed by some comments on a naturalistic enclosure setup.

When housing crested geckos together, it is best to not house two males together.  When males are housed together, they will fight and that will cause wounds, a lost tail, or even death.  Males can only be kept together if given ample space but it is still no guarantee and one or both geckos may lose their tail.  One time when I was cleaning cages I placed two males together while I cleaned their individual cages.  In a matter of minutes, one male had clamped onto the others head and drew blood.  As for breeding groups, a single male can be placed with multiple females if space allows.  Also, multiple females can be housed together without incidents.  As for juveniles, many unsexable juveniles of similar size can be house together in an appropriate sized enclosure but once hemipenal bulges appear in the males, the geckos must be separated according to sex.

SIMPLISTIC ENCLOSURE

Crested geckos can be housed in a number of different enclosure types including glass aquariums, plastic storage containers, Kritter Keepers, and all screen enclosures (commonly used for chameleons).  However, height and ventilation is key.  Crested geckos are arboreal so the amount of floor space is not very important but the height of the cage is important.  Ventilation is essential because you don’t want the air in the enclosure to become stagnant, which may cause an increase in mold and diseases.  At the bare minimum, an adult crested gecko can be housed in a ten gallon aquarium or similar size enclosure if given adequate climbing materials.  An adult pair should be housed in nothing less than a twenty gallon high aquarium.  Glass aquariums provide good visibility but are often expensive.  A cheaper but equally effective alternative is plastic storage containers (66 qt +).  However, it is harder to view your animals through the semi-transparent walls.  All screen enclosures are rising in popularity because they provide ample climbing surfaces as well as great ventilation.  I currently use screen enclosures (20” h x 16” w x 15” d) with my breeding groups (1.2-1.3) and I really like them.  As for hatchling and juvenile crested geckos, I like to use Kritter Keepers.  I prefer to start out with the medium sized Kritter Keeper and house clutch mates together.  It seems to work really well because it gives them enough space but still small enough so they can find food easily.

SUBSTRATE AND DECORATION

 

I personally keep all my animals on newspaper because it is cheap, sanitary, and protects against impaction.  I would never house hatchlings or juveniles on anything other than newspaper or turf because they can become impacted very easily.  Adults are usually able to spit the substrate out of their mouth.  When crested geckos eat crickets they usually leap or dive toward the crickets and may miss and get a load of substrate instead.  The only decoration I use is egg trays because they are cheap, sanitary and provide abundant climbing surfaces.  I first saw Allen Repashy use this idea and I decided to use them in my enclosures.  The egg trays create climbing area and visual barriers when they are placed on end and side by side.  I purchase my egg trays from eggcarton.com (140 egg trays for $30 shipped) and I am really pleased with their product.  I have used this idea in my breeding groups as well as in ten gallon aquariums for individual males or subadults with really good results.  For my hatchlings and juveniles I used to tear egg trays into approximately 2 x 2 cells and place two of these pieces in the Kritter Keepers.  However, I noticed that they spent too much time on the walls.  Therefore, I now tear (with the help of a razorblade) a strip the length of the egg trays and 2 cells wide and bend it to fit in the Kritter Keeper.  The hatchlings and juveniles really like to curl up in the cells or under the egg trays.  For my breeder enclosures, I use the idea developed by Allen Repashy to raise the egg trays off the ground in order to increase floor space for the nest box.  In order to do this, I purchased rubber coated fencing (2” x 3”) and cut (sand to remove sharp edges) and bent it so that it would make an “n” shape.  Therefore, the fencing would create a shelf 4-5” off the floor of the cage that the egg trays could be set on.  This works great for breeder cages because it allows for a space where the nest box could be placed.

 

Juvenile Setup

Subadult/Male setup

Breeder Setup

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If you do not want to use the egg trays, I suggest using fake or real (potted) plants, branches, and cork bark.  I have used fake plants before and the crested geckos seem to really like to coil in the leaves during the day.  Also, branches will give added climbing area.  Cork slabs or tubes are really good for hiding.  You want to try to use all the space in the cage effectively.  So if you have a taller cage, then try to utilize the additional space with branches and plants.  Also, with additional climbing and hiding areas, the chances of floppy tail syndrome will be reduced (see Diseases and Health).                

 

LIGHTING AND HEATING

 

One of the aspects that separate the crested gecko from all other reptiles is that they do not have any heating or lighting requirements.  Crested geckos can be kept at room temperature-mid to high 70s during the day and high 60s to low 70s during the night.  In New Caledonia, where they are from, it usually doesn’t exceed 78° F.  When cooling the crested geckos down (to stop breeding), the temperature can stay about 10° F cooler (low 70s day/low 60s night).  I house my geckos in a room in my basement, which is usually cooler than the rest of my house so I use a space heater to keep all my cages in the 70s.  But in most cases no supplemental heat is needed for crested geckos.  In fact, if the temperatures stay in the 80s for an extended time period it might lead to the death of the gecko.

 

Crested geckos are nocturnal so they have no lighting requirements.  However, it is best that they receive at least indirect light from a window for example.  From this they can get a correct photoperiod (day/night light cycle).  If you would like a light to view your geckos or need addition heat, I suggest using a low wattage red/blue night bulb.  The red/blue bulbs allow you to view natural behaviors at night when your gecko is most active.

 

FOOD AND WATER

 

Another positive quality about the crested gecko is that they have easy feeding requirements.  During the active season, crested geckos can be fed 3-5 times during the week and during the cooling season they can be fed 2-3 times a week.  The three main food items that can be fed to crested geckos are crickets, baby food, and Crested Gecko Diet.  Crested Geckos Diet (CGD) is a complete diet developed by Allen Repashy, the largest Rhacodactylus breeder, and can be solely fed to crested geckos and they will do fine.  It possesses all the required nourishment for crested geckos, which means no crickets to deal with if you don’t want to.  CGD can be purchased at most pet shops but it is much cheaper to buy it in bulk from giantgeckos.com (2.5 lb for $35 or 5 lb for $60 shipped).  This amount of food will last you a long time but it is a better deal by far.  An easy way to mix and dispense CGD is to use a plastic squeeze bottle similar to a condiment dispenser.  I can’t remember whom I got this idea from but it drastically decreases my feeding time.  These bottles can be purchased at most grocery stores.

However, I do not prefer to use CGD exclusively because I like to give them a little variety.  Therefore, I also feed crickets and occasionally baby food.  Hatchling crested geckos are able to eat ¼” crickets.  As a general rule the length of the cricket should be less than the width of the crested gecko’s head.  Hatching and juvenile crested geckos can eat between five and ten ¼” crickets per feeding and adult crested geckos can eat between three and seven adult crickets per feeding.  I generally feed my breeders more than other adults to help with egg production.  After a couple of times feeding crickets you should be able to gauge the amount of crickets that should be given per feeding by the amount left over (if any) from the previous feeding.  I dust the crickets with calcium every feeding to aid proper bone growth and calcification of eggs.  The third main food item is baby food that can be given as a supplement to the previous two food items.  The tried and true baby food flavors are apricot and peach but crested geckos may eat other flavors as well.  Baby food should not be a regularly food item because it doesn’t provide all of the needed nutrients.

The CGD and baby food can be placed in a number of different containers.  I have found that one-gallon milk carton lids work perfectly for hatchling and juvenile crested geckos.  These lids can be cleaned by placing them in the dishwasher and reused.  I do not provide a bowl of water for my hatchling and juvenile crested geckos because they can get all of their water requirements from nightly misting.  For my adults, I use the method developed by Allen Repashy and use plastic disposable containers recessed in a 2” x 4”.  The containers can be purchased at Sam’s as 2-ounce plastic food storage container s (2000 for $20).  The 2” x 4” should be cut in 6” lengths and then

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ripped to make the width 1”, which makes it easier to drill the holes.  The holes can be drilled with a 2 ¼” rotary hacksaw bit.  I have found that using an air compressor to blow on the drill will decrease wood burning and will make the drilling much easier.  The two holes should be equally spaced apart.  One of these containers will be used for food and the other for water.  If you feed crickets and provide a water bowl, I suggest that you place a bio-ball (used for filtration) or a rock in the water to allow

the crickets to climb out of the water or the crickets will drown and foul the water.  Sometimes when I feed crickets, I just take out the water for a day to prevent cricket drowning.  The CGD should be left in the enclosure for two nights.  Many times, crested geckos will wait a day until the CGD thickens up.  I suggest feeding in the evening when the geckos are most active.  This will hopefully prevent any crickets from having time to find a hiding spot in the cage.

A common worry among first-time crested gecko owners is that their gecko is not eating.  Most of the time when it looks like they are not eating they really are.  Young crested geckos do not require that much food to survive.  One way to determine if they are eating is to look for any divots in the CGD or baby food which most of the time is caused by their tongue and sometimes their feet.  A technique that I like to use to make sure they are eating is to place CGD on their nose with my finger.  This will make them lick it off of their face.  Crested geckos are generally not finicky eaters so just give it time if it seems like your gecko is not eating.

Another misconception about crested geckos is that they need high humidity all of the time and this is not the case.  The enclosure can stay fairly dry during the day but you should mist the cage nightly in order to raise the humidity.  But, the cage should dry out by morning.  I have found that using a hand-held pressure sprayer works really well for nightly misting.  If the humidity is high all of the time, then there is an increased chance of fungal growth, which is unhealthy for the geckos.  On the other hand, low humidity all of the time will most likely cause shedding problems.  Therefore, you must create a nice balance between high and low humidity through misting the cage.

NATURALISTIC ENCLOSURE

 

Crested geckos can make fascinating display animals in a naturalistic enclosure.  Naturalistic enclosures allow you to witness behaviors that are not normally seen in simplistic enclosures.  I have not set up a naturalistic enclosure for my crested geckos since I have so many animals.   However, I had the privilege to design and construct a few display enclosures at the St. Louis Zoo’s Herpetarium.  I was able to learn a few techniques from some of the best in the business.  Philippe de Vosjoli’s book Crested Geckos does a really nice job describing how to construct a naturalistic enclosure and I suggest referencing his book.

 

Naturalistic enclosures are best to house adult crested geckos and not juveniles.  I suggest never housing juveniles in naturalistic enclosures because you want them to find food easily.  Also, juveniles might get impacted on the soil, which could leave to death.  If you house a pair together, then it is likely that they will reproduce and lay their eggs in the soil.  Therefore, it is unlikely that you will get 100% egg recovery.  I have heard that crested geckos can be housed with gargoyle geckos, pink-tongued skinks, and giant millipedes without any incidences.

 

There are a number of different enclosure types that can be used but I believe a top opening glass aquarium is probably one of the best choices.  Open top glass aquariums provided unobstructed viewing unlike some of the front slide glass enclosures.  Also, they are most often cheaper than other display quality enclosures.  I suggest not to begin with anything smaller than a 29 gallon aquarium because if you are going to spend the time and money to design an enclosure you might as well do it big.  Also, it allows you to use larger plants, which will create a more dramatic and interesting display.

 

What is really nice about naturalistic enclosures is that the substrate can become bioactive and decompose the crested gecko’s waste.  Therefore, the cage doesn’t have to be totally cleaned as often as a simplistic enclosure.  I suggest using potting soil because it is free of insects.  First, you should put in a layer of gravel as drainage and then place a few inches of your substrate.  The plants can be planted in the soil or left in the pots.  However, if you leave the plants potted their growth will be limited.  The plants used in a crested gecko’s enclosure should be sturdy because the crested geckos are fairly large and heavy.  Such plants include: ficus benjamina, pothos, dracaena, bromeliads, and some oriental plants like orchids.  From my experience at the St. Louis Zoo Herpetarium, I have learned that placing a couple plants of the same species in the enclosure will help coordinate the display because then the plant doesn’t stick out. Also, I have learned that you should never be able to see the water bowl.  You can hide the water bowl behind a cork bark slab or branch.  Also, the plants and branches should be arranged so that even if the gecko is sleeping, he/she is still visible.     

 

HANDLING 

 

As I said before, crested geckos are known jumpers.  They use their frog-like leaps to move from branch to branch.  Therefore, it is best not to fight this tendency and let the gecko move freely from hand to hand.  If you try to grasp crested geckos you have a chance of grabbing the tail, which might leave to tail loss.  A common technique to use is the hand over hand method.  This technique allows the gecko move freely on your hands.  It is inevitable that the crested gecko will jump from your hands onto the floor or some object next to you.  The gecko is rarely harmed from a fall but it is best that you handle them will sitting down or over a table.  When picking up a crested gecko it is best to put your finger under their head and allow them to crawl on your hand.  Adult crested geckos can be handled a few times a week for about 20 minutes before they get annoyed.  The length of time can be lengthened with more handling experience.  It is best not to handle young crested geckos because they can become stressed out fairly easily.

 

BREEDING

 

Crested geckos are very easy to breed and can produce many offspring.  Crested geckos are capable of breeding and producing viable young at 35 grams.  Weight of the female is more important that age of the gecko.  Breeding groups can be kept in a pair (1.1) and/or up to five females for each male (1.5).  Once the breeding group is established, copulation and subsequent egg laying will ensue.  Copulation involves vocalization and biting of the female’s forelimbs or neck by the male. 

Copulation often looks painful but this is normal and should not be interrupted.  Three to four weeks after successful copulation, the female will deposit her egg(s) in a provided  nest box or soil substrate.  If a nest box is not provided, the eggs will be laid on the floor of the cage and probably (but not always) will lead to the death of the embryo.  The female will almost always produce a pair of eggs unless she is too young,

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too old and/or under-weight.  Often first time breeders will only produce one egg but subsequence egg layings will produce two eggs.  Well-calcified and fertile eggs will be white.

 

The nest box is very important for good egg recovery.  There is some debate on what is the best type of nest box to use and what substrate to provide but the method I currently use works great.  I use a plastic food storage container for the nest box.  The size of the nest box is of little importance as long as the female can easily bury herself.  I have used containers as small as 6” x 4” x 3” (lwh) but I currently use next boxes measuring 11” x 7” x 3” (lwh).  I prefer to use open top containers because the height of these nest boxes doesn’t provide enough room and the substrate stays moist for too long when the lid is on.

 

There are a few different egg laying substrates to choose from but I have found that the expandable shredded bedding works great because it is sanitary, cheap, and reusable.  There are two ways to set the bedding up depending on the number of nest boxes needed.  When I had a small number of nest

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boxes to make, I soaked a fraction of the brick of compacted bedding in HOT water and use a small fish net to separate the bedding from the water.  When the number of nest boxes increased, I built a seine to separate the bedding from the water.  The seine was made with window screening stretched and stapled across a wood frame with metal hardware cloth for support. Then I use my hand to grab handfuls of expanded bedding to squeeze the remaining water from the bedding.  The substrate

is ready when the stream of water coming out of my fist becomes drips of water.  The substrate is then broken up and placed in the nest box.  The substrate will dry out over the course of a week and then the substrate can be re-moistened I have had great egg recovery using this method.  However, be aware that crested geckos can hide the eggs very well and you must check the nest box thoroughly.

 

For the health of the female, the night and day temperatures should decrease 10° F for three months, which will stop breeding and egg production.  The male can be kept with the female at this time.  Without this cooling period the female will keep producing eggs with detriment to her health because of pure exhaustion.

 

INCUBATION

 

Eggs laid in the nest box should be removed and placed in an incubation container.  Do not rotate or flip the eggs because it might cause the death of the embryo.  For the incubation containers, I use small plastic food storage containers.   I use one container per breeding group so I can keep track of parentage.  I currently use vermiculite as incubation medium but there are other substrates that also work such as perlite.  Add water to the vermiculite however water should not drip out of it when squeezed.  There is no need for holes in the incubation containers but they should be aired out weekly.

 

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There is some debate whether crested geckos are temperature-dependent sex determined (TSD).  TSD means that the temperature in the first few weeks of the development will determine the sex of the offspring.  At higher temperatures (78-85° F) the offspring will be predominantly male and at lower temperatures (68-72° F) the offspring will be predominantly females.   I personally think that crested geckos are not strongly TSD.  By this I mean is that at a cooler temperature the sex ratio will be slightly skewed toward female (40:60).  Likewise, at higher temperature the sex ratio will be slightly skewed toward male (60:40).  The basis for my assumption is that during one season I incubated my eggs in an incubator at a constant 78° F and got 46% females.  The following season I incubated the eggs in my gecko room, where the temperature fluctuates in the mid to low 70s I received 56% females.  This was enough proof for me to incubate my eggs at lower temperatures.  However this is not definitive data and more research needs to be conducted to determine if crested geckos are TSD.  In the higher temperature range the eggs will hatch in about 60 days but in the cooler range the eggs can take over 100 days to hatch.

 

 

 

It is fairly easy to incubate crested geckos but to hatch crested geckos is another story.  When crested geckos hatch they are wet from the embryonic fluids and the vermiculite sticks to them. 

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One of the first thing crested geckos do when they hatch is to shed.  Crested geckos eat their shed skin; therefore, they ingest vermiculite and become impacted.  To prevent this, check the eggs often and remove hatched crested geckos as soon as possible.  Remove any vermiculite through lightly misting.  If the gecko is impacted, attempt to remove as much of the substrate from their mouth as possible and hope for the best.

 

DISEASES AND HEALTH

 

For the time that the crested geckos have been in the reptilian market it has been established that crested geckos are very hardy and relatively disease-free.  The main health problems developed by crested geckos can usually be prevented with optimal husbandry. These health problems include floppy-tail syndrome, stuck shed, and calcium deficiency.

 

Floppy-tail syndrome (FTS) is when the tail flops over when the gecko is lying vertical with the head facing downward.  Crested geckos constantly lying vertical on the cage walls cause FTS and the sheer weight of the tail causes the tail to move to one side.  This may cause the pelvic bone to become bent.  FTS has little affect on the overall health of the gecko.  In fact, wild specimens have been observed with bent pelvises.  In order to prevent FTS from appearing, provide ample climbing surfaces such as branches, plants, cork bark, and/or egg trays.  The gecko will then spend less time on the cage walls.

 

Stuck shed is probably the most common problem that crested geckos have.  Stuck shed is due to improper shedding because of low humidity.  When the conditions are too dry the crested gecko cannot shed properly; therefore, pieces of skin are left on their body.  Common locations for stuck sheds are on the crests, top of the head, and on the toes.  Stuck shed on the toes is most harmful because the shed can cut off blood flow to the toe and the toe dies.  Another problem that I have found is stuck sheds on the tip of the tail, which cuts off blood flow causing the loss of the tip of the tail.  Regular misting which will increase the humidity can prevent stuck shed.  Stuck skin can be removed with tweezers or the gecko can be placed in a moist container for a day to help finish shedding.

 

Calcium deficiency can cause a number of health problems for crested geckos including metabolic bone disease, under calcified eggs, and bone deformities.  Crested geckos need calcium for proper bone growth and egg production.  In order to prevent a calcium deficiency, I dust all of my crickets with powdered calcium at each feeding.

 

All of these health problems can be prevented if the crested geckos are given optimal care.  Note I have had only one case of FTS or calcium deficiency in my stock so the problems are not that common.  The first and only crested gecko that got FTS always had a significant pelvic depression, which probably led to the disorder.  I have had a couple geckos with stuck shed but it was easily resolved with tweezers and/or misting.  Carefully observing your gecko(s) daily will help diagnose any health problems early and with proper treatment, prevent the growth of the problem.  As a precaution, any new gecko to your stock should be quarantined for 2 to 3 months so that you do not introduce new diseases to your animals.