New to cresties? Want some more information? Here are a few quick facts to get you started!
What are Crested Geckos?
Crested geckos, or “cresties”, are a member of the Diplodactylidae family of geckos native to Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. These geckos share a close and special taxonomy which is still being studied today.
The crested gecko was officially discovered in New Caledonia, a group of islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean, by Alphone Guichenot in 1866. Originally classified as “Correlophus ciliatus“, it was later grouped within the genus Rhacodactylus, comprising the other “giant” geckos in New Caledonia. It was long thought to be extinct, prior to their “rediscovery” by science in 1994. Recent pyhlogenetic studies by Aaron Bauer have indicated that crested geckos are not as closely related as the other Rhacodactylus species. The genus Correlophus was reinstated for R. cilliatus, along with sister species C. sarasinorum and a proposed new species C. belepensis, which is considered critically endangered. It’s not certain if the current captive population in the US and Europe consists all pure ciliatus or integrades between the two.
Where are Crested Geckos from?
Crested geckos were once believed to only exist in the Isle of Pines region of the New Caledonian archipelago, where they were rediscovered in 1994. It is believed most of our current captive population comes from this area. Since then, new research and studies have shown the wild crested gecko has a range throughout the southern part of Grande Terre. The mainland has pockets of recently identified gecko populations distributed erratically, with the new C. belepensis species from the Northwest island of Belep.
New 2015 data from a research team studying native geckos found that Corellophus cilliatus, along with Rhacodactylus leachianus in the northern area of New Caledonia called Néhoué River at coordinates 20.41708°S, 164.2212°E. The closest known populations are near Canala, 150 miles to the southeast.
Are they endangered?
Despite being a very prolific species in captivity, the status of crested geckos in the wild is uncertain. They are believed to be endangered, with the population of C. belepensis critically so. C. ciliatus is currently listed as Vulnerable (as R. ciliatus), with a downward population trend due to habitat loss and introduced species of deer, pigs and fire ants.
How do you care for them?
As far as most reptiles are concerned, crested geckos are relatively easy to care for. They should be kept at room temperature, and not go below 60 or over 82 degrees Fahrenheit. They don’t like it hot. Their diet can be met with commercial foods, dusted bugs and homemade fruit treats, and they thrive in naturalistic enclosures as well as simplistic setups. However, they do need keepers who are devoted to their proper care. Please read the Moon Valley Reptiles Crestie Care Sheet for more details!
What do they eat?
The short answer is fruit & bugs in the wild, and a good commercial diet in captivity. Various fruits and bugs can be given as treats, and some experienced keepers have a homebrew consisting of fruits and supplements that they swear by. We prefer beginners start with a good commercial formula such as Repashy or Pangea which both come in a variety of flavors.
How long do they live
The crested gecko lifespan is still debated, but the suggested minimum is 20 years, with a high of 30. There are crested geckos collected in 1994 that are still living and breeding at 20 years or older. Most geckos available today are under 10 years old, and F1 offspring from the original imports are highly sought after.
Are they good pets?
Crested geckos make excellent pets. They are a good size – not too big or small, are hardy, and although they can be shy, they usually tolerate handling very well. We have a few that love to be out and about and watch what you are doing. They are affordable and widely available.
What supplies do they need?
While a baby can get by in a Kritter Keeper, adult crested geckos need a minimum of 10 gallons of space, but we recommend higher by using the special arboreal tanks by Exo Terra and Zoomed that come in a dimension of 12X12X18 (11 gallons). We prefer the next size up at 18X18X24 which is about 30 gallons, and this is good for a pair or trio, but a single adult will use the space so it is not a waste to splurge. You need to provide places to hide and things to climb on – don’t neglect the upper levels of the tank. We’ve outlined everything you need in our Housing section.
We’ve already mentioned a high quality diet along with supplemented bugs and fruits (if desired).
You’ll need to provide water in the form of misting – so keep a spray bottle handy. A water bowl is also important, especially if you live in a dry area.
Think you’ve got everything you need? Read our Supplies Checklist to be make sure you cross everything off!
How much does it cost to buy and to keep a crested gecko?
Depending on what you want your gecko to look like, you can obtain a plain-looking juvenile gecko for less than $50. Adults slightly more, with males being cheaper. There is a wide variety of colors and patterns availalbe! Check out our Morph Guide for details on what options you have. The fancier the gecko the more it will cost – and you can read about that in our Price Guide.
You can set up a crested gecko enclosure for as little as $20 if you are a little crafty and want to get out your exacto knife and glue gun. If you want to observe your gecko in a more natural setting, it will cost around $100 depending on the size of the glass tank. Most branches cost between $5 and $30. Plants around $10-$20 depending on where you buy them. A misting system will cost an additional $50-100. So $300 should be more than enough for a top of the line glass tank. You can also go midrange if you buy off of Craigslist – just be sure to clean and disinfect anything you buy. A little sweat equity can go a long way! You can have a very nice looking tank for under $100.
Once you have bought your gecko and the initial setup, the cost is very minimal. Commercial food is cheaper in the long run, and costs around $25 per year, compared to over $100 if you try to make your own blends or use baby food (not recommended – at all!).
What diseases do they get?
Although these are hardy little reptiles, they are not bullet proof. Crested geckos are mostly prone to nutritional problems due to poor diet. Captivity in general causes stress, which weakens the immune system and allows diseases and parasites to proliferate. It’s always good to get your new pet examined by a vet, and bring along some poop for a fecal exam! That’s the best way to screen for parasites. Read more about how to keep your gecko healthy.
If you have other reptile pets, make sure you keep them separate. Often some microorganisms are not a problem for one species but can really make other animals sick. So we recommend keeping your reptiles separate, although sometimes they enjoy looking at each other through the glass of their enclosures.
Don’t worry, it’s not likely that you’ll catch anything from your crested gecko!
When can I play with them?
While you and your gecko may have different opinions on playing together, you can expect your gecko to be active at night (they’re nocturnal!) and sleeping during the day. It may take some time for your gecko to get used to you, so minimize handling during his first few weeks with you.
Do they need friends or a mate?
No, crested geckos do not need friends, and only pair males and females together if you want babies. Lots and lots of babies, and there is no shortage of crested geckos. Remember the 30+ year lifespan? Imagine that with the 10-16 babies you could get from one female in a breeding season.
Once you get some more experience with your first gecko, you can see how it goes and add another to your collection – but don’t house them together. If you have adult females that are the same size, you can try introducing them to each other to see how they interact. You’ll need a large enclosure (18X18X24 or bigger) and be ready to separate them all individually if things don’t work out. Kids don’t always like to share a room, and neither do geckos!