The Crested gecko (Rhacodactylus ciliatus) originates from the islands of New Caledonia where the species was believed to be extinct until 1994 when it was subsequently rediscovered. In its natural environment, it can be found resting in rainforests, sleeping in trunk hollows or leaf litter, and only becomes active at night. Similar to other geckos, it can shed its tail as a defence mechanism (autotomy), but unlike others it lacks an ability to regenerate the tail, so care should be taken while handling. Geckos may live 10-15 years if looked after correctly.
As large a vivarium as possible should be provided to enable room for exercise, and a thermal gradient to be created along the length of the tank (hot to cold). Wooden or fibreglass vivaria are ideal as this provides the lizard with some visual security and ventilation can be provided at lizard level.
Good ventilation is required and additional ventilation holes may need to be created.
Hides are required to provide some security. Artificial plants, cardboard boxes, plant pots, logs or commercially available hides can be used. They should be placed both at the warm and cooler ends of the tank. One hide should contain damp moss or kitchen towel to provide a humid environment for shedding.
Substrates suitable for housing lizards include newspaper, Astroturf and some of the commercially available substrates. It is important that the substrates either cannot be eaten, or if they are, do not cause blockages as this can prove fatal. Wood chip based substrates should never be used for this reason.
The vivarium should be cleaned out at least once a week with a suitable disinfectant and spot cleaned daily to help prevent disease.
Temperatures and humidity
Reptiles are ectothermic so a heat source is required.
Typically a spot area is created using a spot bulb, providing a basking temperature of 300 C. This should be kept on all day. Temperatures must be measured to ensure the tank is not overheating especially in a small vivarium. The cool end should be maintained at 250 C.
Background heat can be provided with a heat mat (on the back wall) a tubular heater, a heat plate or a ceramic bulb. This should be set on a thermostat so that the overnight temperature does not drop below 200 C.
Temperatures should be measured with a maximum/minimum thermometer. During the cold winter months careful checking is required to ensure the heat sources are keeping the tank sufficiently warm. Heat sources should be guarded to prevent thermal burns.
Humidity should be checked with a hygrometer and kept moderately high by spraying at regular intervals.
Despite being crepuscular/nocturnal species (active at dawn and dusk), crested geckos appear to benefit from UV-b light.
A low percentage UV light is recommended. This will need to be on all day for 12 hours and at an appropriate distance from the lizard as recommended by the manufacturer. A small branch or rock can be placed below the basking site (please ask for further information on UV light in reptiles).
All UV-b bulbs should be checked regularly for their UV output and should be changed at least as frequently as manufacturer’s instructions.
In general the happiest lizard is the solitary lizard. Adults may be maintained in pairs or a harem if breeding is desired.
What to feed
Crested geckos are omnivores so will eat both live food and vegetables.
They may be fed invertebrate prey such as house crickets, black crickets and locusts once or twice per week. Mealworms should only be given in moderation. Waxworms should only be given as occasional treats.
Live food should be gut loaded with a high calcium content supplement (8% of calcium in the dry matter) and many products are commercially available. It is worth checking the label for the calcium content. Live food should also be dusted with a high calcium balancer with little or no phosphorous content. Live food should be fed immediately after dusting and removed if not eaten within 30 minutes.
A mix of fruit items and dark leafy salad vegetables may also be offered daily. Some keepers report success with the use of baby foods and specially formulated commercial diets, but care should be taken to check the vitamin and mineral contents of these foods.
Water should always be available and a container is required which will allow the lizard to submerge completely. This should be changed daily. Regular bathing may also be enjoyed.
All reptiles can potentially carry Salmonella.
However it is rarely a cause of illness in reptiles and treatment is not required.
It can be transmitted to people (especially young children or those who are immunocompromised) so good hygiene after handing the reptile is important. Generally washing your hands in soap is sufficient. There are commercially available disinfectants that can be used as an alternative.
Download our Crested Gecko caresheet