Crested Gecko Handling

Most crested geckos are easy to “tame” as they are generally laid back and non-aggressive. However, if you are new to owning reptiles then you should learn some tips and techniques for handling your new pet. Some crested geckos can be more high strung, so if yours squirms, nips or tries to get away you will also want to make sure how to safely hold a reluctant gecko.

Most crested geckos do fine with only weekly handling during cleaning. This is a good time to monitor health, check weights, and socialize them so they are used to people. We do have a few favorites that are naturally more calm and receive extra attention and handling because they seem to enjoy it.

When handling, there are two main areas of concern – falls to the hard ground and the loss of the tail. If you have a “frog butt” that has already lost his tail, you don’t have to worry about the second. These geckos are from densely packed forests, so they instinctively perform “leaps of faith” into the air. In the wild, it’s highly likely they’ll land on a tree branch to get away from potential predators or unwelcome advances from other geckos. They are great for grabbing on to things on their way down, which you will probably find out in the first 5 minutes of holding your pet! They will treat you as a living tree, and if they jump away from you, bring your hand up to catch them as they fall and they will willingly stick to you like they would a tree branch in their native environment. If they land on the ground in the wild, they are usually cushioned by leaf litter and low-growing plants. These geckos have loose folds of skin that they use to partially sky dive and make their landings softer. Still, be careful when holding crested geckos over hard floors like wood, ceramic, tile, concrete, etc. Especially babies or gravid females ready to lay their eggs. Even carpeting can cause problems, as fibers and hair can get stuck to geckos when they land. This can constrict on their extremities or be ingested to cause impaction.

Probably the biggest fear for a new owner is having their crested gecko drop his tail. This often happens when a crested gecko is stressed during handling. One sign of stress is breathing heavily, when you can see their chest moving in and out, not just the more relaxed throat bobbing. Also look out for tail twitching or waving, especially in an “S” formation. That means “back off” or they may drop their tail. Tail drops are usually no problem for the gecko. It’s more about the human keeper’s emotional attachment to the tail and the desire to keep it intact.

Also, it is very likely your gecko will relieve himself on you at some point during your handling session. If this bothers you, you can put them in a deli cup with damp paper towel to see if they will use that as a toilet instead of your hand.

Jumpy Babies, Teenagers & Gravid Females

The age and reproductive status of crested geckos can sometimes indicate how difficult they may be to handle. Luckily, geckos grow out of these phases and eventually most are reasonably well-behaved pets.

Tiny, jumpy babies are nerve-wracking for a new owner. That’s why we usually recommend a sub-adult or older juvenile. Around 8-15 grams is usually good for a beginner. All geckos can be unpredictable, especially when settling in to a new home. Some babies that are laid back for a breeder become really rambunctious in a different environment. Same goes for adults, too. It’s not uncommon for personality changes during the settling in process.

Some geckos handle change just fine, but captivity in general is stressful, unfortunately, and some animals handle it better. It’s a good idea to not handle new arrivals for the firs two weeks to minimize stress and get them to eat. Even a friendly gecko can get stressed by strangers trying to hold them. Let him get familiar with his new tank and new routine.

Teenage geckos seem to go through mood swings due to physical changes, growth spurts and hormones. Many seem to go crazy for bugs around this time, too. Keep your fingers away from hungry mouths and make sure they don’t mistake you for food before picking them up!

Handling a gravid female can also be a challenge. A female that is carrying eggs is often mistakenly called pregnant – but this term applies to animals that give live birth instead of laying eggs. You don’t want to cause a gravid female stress, which in rare instances can cause her to hold onto the eggs and become eggbound. Dropping a gravid female could cause the eggs to rupture inside her, causing dangerous internal problems. This is very rare, so just be cautious when handling. Some females can be nippy after laying eggs, and seem to guard them. Let her be, avoid handling her directly, but be sure to retrieve the eggs from the lay box within about 24 hours.

Handling Tips

To assist in the settling in period, replace food and water in late afternoon while your gecko is asleep to avoid stress. Swap out paper towel weekly. Slowly incorporate handling into their routine to avoid too much at once.

Handling during the day is easier with a jumpy gecko. At night they are alert and ready to run.

Use a technique called “hand walking”, in which you let the gecko run or jump from one hand to the other. It’s a big like handling a jumping slinky but you can usually get used to it pretty quickly. So will your gecko!

Start up slowly by only handling them when cleaning their enclosure. Put them on a branch or in a cardboard tube instead of trying to grab them. Go slow. When hand walking them, do so only for a minute or two at a time every other day – after they’ve settled in, are comfortable with their tank and started to eat. You can increase this to about 15 minutes. After a few months, you may have a gecko who will hang out with you during the evening, but always expect them to dart away.

The good news is that most geckos can tame down within a month. However, you may have a gecko that just doesn’t tolerate handling as well, or is always jumpy. Although you may not be able to change their personality, you can likely improve handling considerably if you do so consistently and in short sessions.

55 thoughts on “Crested Gecko Handling

  1. I have a 9 month old crested gecko, who after about 6 months stopped holding himself up on his legs. Rather, he seems to slither around more and does not jump as often. Could this be a health issue, or simply a lazy gecko?

    • It could definitely be a health issue. What do you feed? It could be deficient. Do you feed a lot of bugs like mealworms that can be hard to digest? Do you use a substrate that can be eaten? This can lead to back leg paralysis. How is his body condition? Do you provide plenty of hydration?

  2. I have a crested gecko he was doing fine until I added a bearded dragon to collection. I don’t know if he smells him in the room but he has totally changed his attitude. He seems stressed out. Won’t let me touch, runs around the cage like scared of something and now sleeps in the ground. What should I do?

    • May be a silly question, but you don’t keep the bearded in the same enclosure? Just the same room. Obviously beardies and crested geckos should never be housed together. Make sure the heat from the beardie’s enclosure doesn’t heat the gecko tank. If you are keeping more bugs and the gecko can hear or smell them, that could also cause him to be more energetic. Be sure to wash your hands before and after handling each animal so you don’t spread any diseases or parasites. Otherwise, I expect the gecko will calm down eventually. Good luck!

    • What are the conditions in his tank? It could be too small, too hot, not have enough places to hide, or he could be hungry or looking for a mate. Sometimes it takes a few weeks for them to settle in.

  3. I just got my Crested a few days ago from pecto. They didn’t know how old it was or its weight. Anyway it’s eating and looks like it’s got comfortable in its new home. I have to stray the tank a little more then twice a day just cause the Zilla tank doesn’t seem to like getting higher then 60. I only stray it when it drops to 50.

    Anyway I was just wondering if you had any tips to keep humidity up in the tank and maybe a few tips on holding. Also wondering how to tell the tip of crested gecko it is.

    • Keep a water bowl in there, that will help regulate humidity as well as give them the chance to drink whenever they are thirsty. You can also put some plastic wrap or plexi glass over half of the top ventilation to help conserve moisture. A damp towel will also help. Handling just takes practice, and let the gecko settle in before you handle him too much. Eating is a good sign!

  4. Hi my crested gecko seems fine hes pretty small still or she, dont know the gender still. But i cant clean my tank he/she wont let me grab it to take it out to clean it runs away from me immediatley when i try. How do i get it to stop being so scared? ive had it for about 2-3 weeks now.

    • Patience and gentle handling will help tame him or her down. Don’t grab, instead try to get him/her to climb on a branch or something and pick that up and take it out and then try to gently nudge him/her onto your hand. Do this a couple of times a week while cleaning. Do “hand walking” – letting the gecko jump from one hand to another and then put him/her back after a few minutes. You can keep in a separate enclosure or a plastic tub while you clean the main tank. Good luck!

  5. I have a crested gecko that breathes heavily when I hold it. I’ve had it for about one and a half months, and since the first time I held it I’ve made some progress. It’s pretty sluggish. I don’t really see any bad signs of stress; the only thing I doubt is that it looks dehydrated. The skin on it’s back forms a narrow, slightly deep impression from the neck to the base of the tail, which leads to believe the problem is dehydration but I need a different opinion. Is there anything badly wrong with my crested gecko?

    • Without pictures it’s difficult to speculate. It sounds like he could be sick – either from dehydration or if dehydration is a result of illness. Try giving him a cool “bath” in a deli cup with enough water to reach the cloaca. Soak him for about 20-30 minutes, he may lick up water. Do this every other night. Make sure his temps aren’t too high and that he has a water bowl always available and that he’s around 60% humidity at night after spraying the tank. Feed a good commercial diet like Repashy or Pangea. You can give gutloaded, dusted insects once a week. If he doesn’t improve and get a little more energetic, then a vet trip may be necessary. It’s never a bad thing to have a vet check him out first! So if you are worried, that should be your first step, after a soak. Good luck!

  6. I just bought a crested gecko at petco. This is my first gecko and was wondering if you had any tips and tricks I should know. Thanks!

    • Our website has lots of great tips on care and feeding! Read through all the sections and feel free to ask specific questions if you don’t find the info you need.

  7. I have had my crestie for roughly a year I bought him nearly mature early winter and until a month ago has been fine.

    He has a mini nontoxic real palm tree a small half log to hide under and a medium pine chip substrate mostly to big to eat

    He eats a crested gecko formula daily along with apple chunks and crickets roughly bi monthly as a protein supplement

    Lately he (I think) has been edgy and trying to escape and keeps waging his tail and refuses to be held.

    Stresses lately

    A bad shed

    A failed attempt to escape getting stuck under a bed imbedded in a dust bunny

    Pinechips changed

    Any advice its freaking me out the sudden mood swing

  8. I have a crested gecko that is fairly new, and with handling I’ve tried the hand walking, but she doesn’t actually move much when I try this. Also, when she jumps I’m either too slow, or just shocked to where I can’t catch her, any tips?

    • Try to keep your hand out even when she doesn’t jump. Or you could watch for when they jump. Signs that they are about to jump may be wagging head back and forth or putting their back legs near their front into a leapfrog looking position.

  9. Ive had a crested gecko for about 3-4 years now, I almost never handle him. He is extremly wild and does not liked to be touched. Is there any way to get him tamed down or is it to late.

    • It’s not too late but you will need to work with him once a week for a couple months. He needs to learn that you are not a threat, that you’ll put him back eventually, and that you might give him treats (like bugs or fruit) while he’s out. Start with 5 minutes and build up to about 20 minutes a week. Don’t put him back if he squirms or bites, but if he seems stressed, put him back within 5 minutes. Good luck!

  10. I’ve had my gecko for about a week and he won’t eat and I know the new environment can be stressful and I’m trying not to even open the cage unless for food and misting but he still breathes very heavy everytime I see him and he won’t eat and I’m very worried:/

    • Try covering the tank so he can’t see you watching him and he should start exploring on his own soon. I’ve had one go for 6 weeks without seeming to eat so he probably just needs time to settle in.

  11. My geko is a female and is 4 years old. Sometimes when I try to hold her she will make a little squeak noise. Is this bad?

    • She is saying “back off” as she would to a male paying her unwanted attention. It’s normal. Continue to handle her as usual but she may give a nip if she feels you are imposing on her too much!

  12. My crested gecko Zeke seems to absolutely love peoples attention. He was at petsmart for about a year so they cut the price because he was outgrowing his tank. Anyways what im sayi g there is hes an adult not tiny. He seems to like being out all the time. I have a shipping tub and i actually take him to school with me. Everyone always loves seeing him, even the teachers. He is easy to handle and dosent cause trouble. I keep him cuddles in my hoodie sleeve or hoodie pocket when he wants to and to carry him in crowded areas so he can rest. I keep him warm on my arms and in my shirt. The tub is for him to go to the bathroom. Any opinions on this?

    • It’s great that Zeke feels so comfortable with you! As long as he is healthy and eating well, you can continue to handle him for such long time periods. However, be very careful when you take him outside your home. He could be exposed to parasites, bacteria, viruses, etc. that can cause harm that could be present on people, floors or furniture he climbs on. Also, other people could startle him or hurt him accidentally. He could also jump away unexpectedly and end up hiding in a place you can’t get him out of. I think letting him ride around on your shirt is fine at home as long as you don’t have cats, but when you go out you should keep him in his tub unless you are able to monitor him. Sounds like he’s a great gecko, and you wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to him!

  13. I have 2 crested geckos I’ve had the one for about 6 months and got the second about 2 months ago, they live in the same cage and get a long fine. I’ve recently moved and the geckos were left in their cage for the first couple of days, I held them and had them out during the day today and they were completely fine, however the same night at 10pm my roommate took the initial gecko out and it was very skidish it would run away from anything placed by it and it stuck it’s tail straight up in the air I wasn’t there to witness it so I’m not sure on all the details but this is what I was told. They tried to get the gecko to go into its favorite potted plant on the table, to go in their hands, to go on a paper or anything so they could get it in the tank, it would run away from all these things. The gecko is normally very calm and doesn’t jump often I am worried that there is something wrong.

    • It’s possible the recent move could have stressed them out – their world outside the cage has changed, probably new smells and new sounds. Sometimes they get freaked out even if they are normally calm. Make sure that they are being kept in optimal conditions – not too hot or dry, plenty of ventilation, not kept in direct sunlight, etc. Sometimes they get flighty if they are hot and don’t have access to water. Otherwise it could be stress from the move. Good luck!

  14. Hi! So I just went and got a little crested baby yesterday from petco and I purchased the Zilla cage and a half log and 2 plants for him but I’m having issues keeping the temperature down in his little terrarium. I went to bed and woke up and it was in the 90s I immediately moved him to a different room and put a fan on the tank to cool it down and it went down to 80 but I can’t keep him out here all the time so I need suggestions on how to keep him cool regularly. I live in Texas so it’s super humid and hot right now and our A/C is broken so that doesn’t help but I’m worried that he’ll over heat or something. He also hasn’t eaten yet and I know that it’s probably cause he’s adjusting to his new tank but it’s still worrying me

    • You can put frozen water bottles in, and on top, of the tank to cool it down. They can be pretty effective. Make sure there is water available in the tank at all times, especially when running a fan. The fan can circulate air but doesn’t cool the air. The frozen water bottles will help with that. Good luck!

  15. I’ve recently bought a year old crested gecko and every time I spray the tank I put my hand in and let it get used to me it has even licked my hand once however how long will it take before I can handle it and also how do I pick it and can I do this during the day also? Ps, this is my first time with any lizard so I am not experienced

    • Give your gecko a week or two to settle in before regular handling. They all have different levels of tolerance for interacting. Let him crawl into your hand instead of grabbing him, that can stress him out. You can pick him up day or night but if he’s sleeping it may startle him! It takes time for both of you to get used to each other so be patient and keep trying a little at a time, every few days. Good luck!

  16. I got my first gecko from Petco last year. His name is Charlie and he will be a year in September. He always seemed to be an energetic, curious, and flighty thing, but most of the time I could calm him down using the methods you have mentioned above. As the handling process continued, he seemed to relax a bit more and seemed to enjoy it. I have even taken him outside when the weather was 70 degrees or so. He was a very sweet little guy. UNTIL, I got a female gecko who is a year older than him. Now keep in mind he is HUGE for his age. Right now he has been 30 grams for a couple months, and he isn’t even a year old yet. He seemed kind of lonely and he was only 5 months at the time. He was nearly her size so I didn’t worry about the female bullying him. I decided to enclose them together until they started to not get along after a couple weeks. Soon after I took the female out, he developed his hemipenal bulge and went through CRAZY mood swings. He will let you put your finger to his nose and he will lap out CGD or he will lick your finger, but if you move any more than that, he will take the first chance he gets to escape. I don’t know what else I can do. I have tried working with him and the slower I move, the slower he moves. But his ultimate goal is to escape that cage. It is a 20 gallon long. There are plenty of hiding spots. He gets continuous CGD (since I can no longer remove him from his enclosure for crickets). He actually has escaped twice and I’ve been able to catch him THANK GOODNESS. It stays about 74 degrees in there and humid. I love him so much but I don’t know what else to do. I think it was introducing him to a female. Ugh big mistake. The way he flails his body around his cage and running lighting speed up the sides and on the ceiling is just insane! He looks possessed. Any tips on what to do? I don’t believe this is just a typical case of a flighty gecko. This is a gecko who must hate his life to the point he will take death leaps to escape his cage… He acts like I am a predator. Any suggestions? Is there such thing as Gecko Xanax? (totally kidding). He is a psycho.

    • Hi Hailey! I agree it’s likely the presence of a female and him going through puberty. Even geckos who aren’t around the opposite sex can become crazy and try to get away. If you have the option, I would recommend getting a large 18X18X24 enclosure, with lots of branches and vines, to let him work off some energy by exploring. This can help calm them down a bit, but he may just be a little hard to handle while he’s growing to adult size. Just be patient and continue to work with him a little at a time until he calms down. Hopefully he’ll become more laid back! Good luck with him!

  17. So I’ve had my gecko about a month now and he is still running away from me when I put my hand in I regularly spray him and feed him but it’s getting to a point where I desperately want to handle him and I have no idea how to get him to come to me and I don’t know how I’d start handling him because I know if he got onto me he’d be used to me and ok with me

    • Some geckos are more shy than others, so it can take longer. Try putting a branch in there for him to climb on, remove the branch with him on it, and then transfer him to you hands for some hand walking. Only do it for a few minutes at a time, you can give him a treat like mashed fruit when you do this. Find out what he likes best and use that as a reward for calm behavior. Good luck!

  18. I have two geckos one female and one male they have been laying eggs and idk what to do to make them hatch.. Or should i not touch them and leave them there?

    • Depends on the conditions in your tank. If you have a terrarium with several inches of organic soil and a drainage layer, you may be able to leave them in the tank. Otherwise you’ll want to put them in a separate container where you keep the humidity and temperature consistent. A 6-quart plastic shoebox filled with a hatching medium (Superhatch, Hatch’em or generic aquatic pond soil work well) with no extra air holes (keeps humidity regulated) works well.

  19. I was wondering if i could house a 2.5 gram a 3.1 gram a 4.2 and 5 gram crested gecko hatchlings together? Also own parents and a few other ranging from 10 to 20 grams just curious how well they would do obviously I would do checks when they get bigger incase their are multiple males could I house them all together?

    • I wouldn’t house ones under 3 grams with those at 5 grams. Depending on how big your enclosure is, I wouldn’t recommend more than 2 together at one time. Whenever you house multiples you risk tail drops, toe and tail nips, and slow growth. We recommend pairs and in some cases breeding trios but otherwise kept separate.

  20. I have a 1 year old crestie that I haven’t handled yet because I was afraid of her getting hurt somehow or getting lost in the house lol. Changing her cage is beginning to be a problem as she knows my tricks to get her in the box now. Is it possible to get her used to handling at this age? What would be the best course of action?

    • Slowly handling her should help her get used to you, doesn’t matter her age. Follow the tips above so she gets used to being out of the tank. You can keep her in a Kritter Keeper (or a modified tupperware/shoebox with airholes) during a cage cleaning, after you’ve handled her for a bit. Good luck!

  21. Hello! I just bought a crested gecko. His (I think) name is Zazz. I bought him Friday to be exact. I am just worried because I don’t think he is eating or drinking. Well he will drink the drops after misting sometimes. I have never owned a crested before so I am really nervous. He is pretty small. So small that he couldn’t be sexed yet. I just need reassurance that not eating right now is ok. I have the repashy and I just got in his ledge feeder to see if that encourages him to eat more. I also tried crickets in a separate critter container but he showed zero interest. He’s very skittish but sometimes he will just stare at me. Just need some insight :)

    • Hi Heather! It can take a few weeks for them to settle in and start eating, especially juveniles. Once you start finding poop, you’ll know he’s eating. Good luck!

  22. Hi. He’s so aggressive and wants to bite me in the evening, maybe it’s because I feed him at evening a think i am food or something. Its normal?

    • It’s normal for some geckos to be more bitey than others. It could be a food or fear response. Make sure he’s well fed before you try to handle him, and give him plenty of hiding spots in the tank so he feels secure. Good luck!

  23. Hi. I just got 2 crested geckos about 2-3 days ago they let me pet them but the female runs awa when I pet her the male just let’s me pet him should I be worried? And and I feed them meal replacement powder how do you suggest I feed it to them and the male isn’t eating I mean I expect him to not eat but I’m worried.

    • Most crested geckos don’t really like to be pet. They usually tolerate it. It’s normal for her to be shy. Mix the meal replacement powder with water to make a milkshake consistency, and then feed in soda bottle, juice bottle or Gatorade caps. It’s normal for them to not eat for the first few days to weeks of settling in. Good luck!

  24. Hello! I have had my crested gecko for over 5 years now. Up until about 2 months ago he was a fairly chill gecko (only freaked out when I would initially get him out of his cage, but would be fine to be handled afterwards). He had never bitten or attacked me or even acted defensively (mouth open/tail wagging). However, in the past 2 months all of that has changed.
    – I cannot handle him without him biting me.
    – He is defensive even when I pass his cage (mouth open).
    – He constantly follows my movements when I am home (day and night).
    – He stays at the cage opening and attacks if I go to open his cage.
    – He lunges for me when I go to change his food so now I wear gloves.
    – When he bites, he holds on, shakes his head violently, and will not let go.
    A few changes have been made to his regular life style:
    – I recently got married and moved to a new place.
    – I have added a fogger to his cage for the times when I am out of town but his cage needs to maintain humidity. I only have this going when I am gone (which is maybe one weekend every 2 months).
    Any suggestions on what is causing this change or how I can re-socialize him?

    • Hi Jacqui! It sounds like he is looking for a mate rather than displaying aggressive behavior. They lunge at females and hold onto them by the neck before mating. This often happens in the spring when weather warms up. Have you gotten any other geckos recently? Sometimes that triggers it as well. I would just wait it out and keep up your normal routines. Wearing gloves can prevent him breaking the skin. Most geckos do calm down after a few months of this hyper activity. You can also try giving live food as this can help him exercise and burn off extra energy. Good luck!

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