Physiology, Health, & Hygiene
This page is dedicated to all aspects of a crested gecko's physical well-being.
Scientific Classification: Kingdom: Animalia. Phylum: Chordata. Class: Reptilia . Order: Squamata. Family: Diplodactylidae. Genus: Correlophus. Species: C. ciliatus.
Native to: New Caledonia (an island located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, 750 miles east of Australia)
Life Span: Crested geckos in captivity can live 15-20 years on average. Sexual maturity usually occurs between 1 to 2 years.
Sexing: Crested geckos can be sexed when young with a loupe. What we are looking for are called pores, located above the vent, they are tiny dots in the middle of the scales in a V shapped line. They may make the scales look a little cupped or like tiny little black heads. You may see young geckos sold as NPV (no pores visible) or PV (pores visible) or even PPV (possible pores visible/pseudo pores visible). A male gecko will grow a bulge at the base of his tail once matured, sometimes males are late bloomers so if you are looking for a breeder of a specific gender, go with an animal that is either proven or is past the point of questioning gender.
Physical Characteristics: Crested geckos get their name from the spiky looking bits coming off their heads and body, they are sometimes also referred to as eyelash geckos, even though these are not eyelashes and they have no eyelids. They are typically 6-10 inches with 4-6 inches of semi-prehensile tail. The toes and tip of the tail are covered in tiny tiny hairs called setae. Each setae is divided into hundreds of smaller hairs called spatulae. This allows the gecko to grip things and climb, giving them "sticky" feet. When the toes are not engaged, they will curl upwards, when pressed flat they are "attached" to a surface. Each foot has 5 toes and each toe also has a claw on the very end, some gecko's claws are sharper than others. A crested gecko's skin is surprisingly soft and not bumpy or dry feeling like a leopard gecko. Geckos come in many different "morphs" and an abundance of traits on top of those base morphs, you can read more about that on the Morphs & Traits page.
Senses: Crested geckos have no external ears, instead they have little holes to their inner ears, they are sensitive to sudden loud sounds. Being nocturnal, they have excellent night vision and can focus on two different depths at once, they primarily use their sense of smell to find food like over ripe fruits and mates and sight for hunting insects.
Healthy Weights and Body Shapes: Gecko weights can be all over the place, but in general a healthy adult should weight 35-60 grams, females are generally heavier (especially when gravid). A crested gecko should not have fat rolls, females that are gravid may have rounder looking sides that may be tight or full looking and once eggs are laid they may leave wrinkles or deflated looking skin, this is normal. Heads should be spade/wedge/triangular shaped, not too long in the snout and have decent width from crest tip to crest tip (this is what we call structure). Some morphs like the lily white have overall poorer head structure, it's not a mark against the health or breedability of the animal, it's just the nature of the morph at this time. In general, the width of the stomach should be about the width of the head. You can definitely tell when your gecko is too skinny, they are nothing but heads.
Shedding: Like other reptiles, geckos shed their skin as they grow. Babies will shed more often, adults can go weeks between sheds. You may or may not see your gecko shedding as they typically do it during the night or while hiding. If you notice your gecko looking a little pale or ashy/gray, it's probably just going to shed. Try not to handle your gecko if you notice an impending shed or during a shed. Your gecko will eat most of it's shed skin to reabsorb nutrients. If your gecko doesn't eat it's shed, it's nothing to worry about, just throw it away. Sometimes your gecko may need assistance shedding, the best way to do this is provide a moist hide with either some wet paper towels or wet sphagnum moss inside it, a warm soak, or products like Zoo Med's Shed Aid and a q-tip and some tweezers. Be careful pulling shed off your gecko, whatever you pull on should be thuroughly moistened before you atempt to remove it.
Brumation: Crested geckos can go through a period of brumation if the right conditions are met. This usually involves lower temps and less light. Some refer to this as "cooling down" or "cooling off" when referring to females. The animals may still eat or may eat nothing, they will be less active, and the females will stop laying eggs. Some females will stop laying all on their own without being forced to cool. Never force a sick or injured animal into brumation. If you are not breeding your animals, brumation does not need to occur, just let it happen if it happens but you don't have to force it to happen.
Diseases/Ailments: Crested geckos are susceptible to a wide range of illnesses, diseases, and other health conditions. Some of these diseases and illnesses listed below will only affect the animal inflicted, some of them can be passed on to other geckos you may have, yourself, or pets of other species in your home. Always quarantine any new animal away from other animals.
MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease): This is the number 1 disease we see in reptiles, it is 100% due to neglect and lack of proper care, PERIOD. It is 100% preventable! Phosphorus binds to Calcium and if there is not enough free calcium in the blood, it will take it from bones in the body causing brittle or soft bones. Metabolic bone disease can be prevented by always feeding the correct Ca:P ratio. More information on correct Ca:P ratios and how to check a gecko's calcium levels can be found under the Nutrition page.
Crypto (Cryptosporidiosis): This is an intestinal tract infection caused by a single celled parasite, Cryptosporidium varanii. It is not as common in crested geckos as it is in fat tailed geckos and leopard geckos. The most common cause is contact with infected fecal matter. It is extremely difficult to treat once the gecko is infected. If your gecko becomes lethargic, looses weight, and/or has diarrhea, please seek a vet immediately.
Impaction: This is a sever blockage of the digestive tract, usually caused by accidental ingestion of substrate, sometimes caused by illness. A gecko that is not eating or drinking properly can become impacted simply because the digestive system is not functioning like it should be. In mild cases, impaction can resolve itself over time. In moderate cases, you can try helping things along by giving your gecko a warm (not hot) bath and gently message their belly. A drop or two orally of olive or mineral oil can also help loosen things up. In severe cases, seek veterinary care.
Respiratory Infection: These infections are almost always caused by improper humidity levels. Signs of an infection can include labored breathing, nasal or mouth discharge, coughing, weezing, or crackling sounds while breathing, bloating, loss of appetite, lethargy, and weight loss. Maintain proper temps and humidity to prevent respiratory infections. Should you think your gecko has one, seek vet care immediately, you will need an antibiotic to clear it up.
Pests and Parasites: Geckos can be infested with mites. Substrates from the pets store, feeder bugs, and items gathered from nature come with the risk of mites and/or other parasites, which is treatable, but preventable. There are 2 prevention methods. Freezing for at least 24 hours (must be a deep freezer, regular freezers usually don't get cold enough) or oven bake about 2 inches deep in a pan at 200 for an hour. Always bring your frozen or baked bedding back to room temp before putting in your enclosure. Clean cultured insects will prevent internal parasites. When you buy live bugs from the pet store, immediately change the bedding they come in to a clean (pre-treated via deep freezing) source of oats, wheat germ, etc. To get rid of mites, you will need to completely clean out the enclosure, give your gecko a warm soak and use a cotton swab to remove any visible mites. You may have to do this over a period of time as you will probably not get them all in one go. You may also have to include a mite spray treatment or a vet visit for stronger medication.
Tip: Pests in Cages: The most common thing you will see (especially in late summer/early fall aka harvest time) is gnats/drain flies/fruit flies and house flies/green bottle flies. If you are struggling with these pests, hanging fly traps in the room (not your gecko's cage), setting up gnat traps, and window sprays are great options.
Salmonella: Like many other animals, crested geckos can be infected with Salmonella, they can pass that on to you or your other pets. ALWAYS wash your hands BEFORE and AFTER handling EACH pet you own. DO NOT kiss your gecko, DO NOT let it crawl on your face, or near your mouth.
Cage Cleaning: Keeping your cage clean will go a long way to keeping your gecko healthy. Spot cleaning should happen every day or every other day if things are not looking too bad. This means picking up all the poo and food all over the floor. Full cage cleans should happen once a week to once a month depending on how many geckos you have per enclosure. This includes and decor, hides, vines, etc. Regular soap and water can be used to clean items, a mix of 50/50 of water and white vinegar can be used to clean the insides of enclosures. If you suspect bacteria or parasites, something stronger like bleach or chlorhexidine solutions should be used. It is also important to never wash anything that is for your hedgehog in your kitchen sink or where food is prepared.
Emergency Caretaker: It would be wise to talk to someone about being an emergency caretaker for your pet in case something should happen to you. Write up a care guide of all the products you use and things that you do everyday, what vet sees your pet, etc. Remember to update it periodically as things change and leave it somewhere obvious or let them know where it is.