Housing

Crested Gecko Setup Introduction

The minimum requirements for keeping Crested Geckos are easy to meet, and can even be quite cheap, but much more elaborate setups can be enjoyed by both the geckos and people looking at them.  Although most of my geckos are  housed in simple, low budget setups, I find the larger naturalistic enclosure on my desk to be the most enjoyable.

We will primarily discuss the most common types of crested gecko setup, which are almost universally agreed to be reasonable, but there is still some controversy about very large and very small enclosures, types of substrate and other specific issues.  The more controversial opinions will be marked as such.

A juvenile crested gecko under 10 grams can be kept in a 6qt “shoebox” style plastic tub or a large Kritter Keeper. A 16-20 quart tub is good for up to 24 grams. After that, the animal is generally sexable and can do into an adult enclosures with a minimum of 10 gallons. 20 is preferable. We prefer the 12X12X18 ZooMed tanks for 24-35 gram adults and for breeding size adults pairs usually go into 18X18X24 ZooMed tanks. Exo Terra tanks are also available in similar sizes.

Types of Housing

For most people, the standard type of housing for crested gecko is a glass tank available at most pet shops. Reptile specialty stores may give you more options, such as front-opening glass enclosures with screen top and ventilation holes at the bottom. Most have an area that can be used to place natural-looking terrarium soil or moss, depending on how elaborate you want to go. You don’t have to go the natural route with this type of housing, but it’s a great option and we encourage you to research how to properly set up a naturalistic habitat.

For more information on glass and acrylic tank setups, check out our Standard Enclosures Guide.

For those with a large collection and need affordable, space-saving housing, a plastic tub with appropriate ventilation can be assembled cheaply and with a minimum of DIY effort. Tubs make geckos feel secure due to their semi-opaque material, but don’t allow for great visibility to those who want to display their animals. For a more detailed discussion of tubs, check out our Simple Setups Guide.

If you want to get more out of owning a gecko than just keeping your pet in a basic starter kit, consider going the natural route with our Naturalistic Enclosures Guide. Building a fully-stocked vivarium with bio-active soil and live plants is easier than you might think, and very rewarding. This type of terrarium setup will allow you to see how crested geckos interact with a more naturalistic environment.

The Bare Minimum

There are very few things that are requirements for keeping a Crested Gecko, but the following list should be considered the very least that is acceptable for housing.

  1. A water source. Daily misting with a spray bottle, with or without a water bowl will work.  Misting also helps keep humidity up which in turn makes shedding easier. If you choose to include a water bowl, it should be cleaned frequently and should be shallow and easy for geckos to climb out of to avoid drownings, especially for babies.

    Note that a water bowl is NOT a substitute for regular misting

  2. Appropriate food. Well balanced commercial diets are healthy and easy to use, but dusted insects and other homemade foods may also be fed.

    Whether you use a commercial diet or mix up your own, you will need a small container for it. For babies something as small as a plastic bottle cap can be sufficient, and for adults and subadults a 1-2 oz deli cup is more than large enough.

    Neither of these needs to be filled completely, but you should quickly see how much your geckos actually eat in a night and you can adjust what you give them accordingly.

    Babies generally eat about 1 teaspoon of food; adults can eat up to 2 tablespoons; juveniles eat somewhere in between. Some geckos are piggies and some eat very little.

  3. Somewhere to hide. Whether it’s living or fake plants, a cork bark tube filled with moss, a simple toilet paper tube, or even a small cardboard box, Crested Geckos need a place to hide to feel safe.They also appreciate humid hides, which are generally small containers with moist substrate. These can also help with shedding problems, but are not as critical as just having some place to hide.
  4. An enclosure with room to move around. Many people feel that young crested geckos are more comfortable in small enclosures such as small Kritter Keepers, plastic shoeboxes (with holes) or even glass jars.  Few if any would recommend anything smaller.  Even babies need more room than there is in a plastic sandwich-sized tupperware box.

    Being arboreal creatures, Crested Geckos prefer height to width, so it is often better to turn traditional long aquariums on their sides when they are used to house geckos, but they are usable either way.

That is basically it.  In the other subpages of the Housing section we cover how to put together simple and basic setups, standard and typical tanks, and elaborate crested gecko terrariums, as well as guides on choosing materials to use.

54 thoughts on “Housing

  1. Very good info. Although, I personally think exo terra or a zoo med arboreal tank with the front opening doors is way better than flipping a standard aquarium.

  2. hello :) how are you? hope you are doing great just wanted to ask a really quick question on the “Tokay Gecko”. A lot of people use a Sterilite tub for “leopard geckos” and also for other reptiles and small amphibians but my question would one be able to house a “Tokay Gecko” in a relatively large Sterilite tub mounted on its side?

    • Yes, Sterilite tubs are great for Tokays and many other arboreal geckos. Cut out a “window” on the lid and attach patio screen to it with a hot glue gun. Drill air holes or melt with a soldering iron for additional ventilation. You can use paper towel or newspaper to line the “bottom”, which is actually just one of the sides of the tub when not placed vertically. I recommend 50+ quarts; we use 64 quart tubs. These work really well!

  3. HI ,My name is viki and we are thinking of getting our first crested Gecko.
    I was just wondering where is the best place to put the enclosure in the house .I like to put it into my sons room ,he has a dresser beside the window and when I open the window it would be cold air coming in every day ,not directly there but only 1 feet away, .. Let me know what you think ,please . Thank you

    • I do not recommend placing the enclosure near a window. Sunlight can heat a tank very quickly to dangerous temperatures. A draft from an open window can dry out the tank. Plus the extremes in temperature, especially very cold to very warm can also be deadly. A quiet area in the corner of a room, away from windows, heating and cooling vents, is ideal. Good luck with your first crestie!

    • Hi Elaijah! Crested geckos all have different growth rates. Check out our article on the topic here: . As long as she is eating, pooping, and healthy, she’ll grow at her own pace. Increasing her temperature to the high 70s during the winter may help speed her growth, as normally they don’t eat and grow as much in cold weather. Good luck with her!

  4. Hello! I have a crested gecko I bought about 3 days ago and was wondering if a 27q tub is too large for a 3 month old gecko? I have a large Lee’s Herp Haven that I can put him in but I would like confirmation that I should do that before I change his environment again. I have poked 40 or so holes in the top of the lid and two on each side close to the top of the 27q tub (17 x 11.2 x 12.8 inches) . I have two types of fake leaves in the tub on either side with a food and water dish in the middle. Should I reduce the amount of plants in the enclosure or does this seem about right? I have a large Lee’s Herp Haven (14.5 x 8.8 x 9.6 inches) that I can put him in but I would like confirmation that I should do that before I change his environment again. I believe I might be spraying the enclosure a bit too much because the humidity has not gone down from about 80%.

    • A 27 quart tub could be fine for a juvie, but it may be hard for you to find poop and make sure he is eating. You could get a styrofoam insert or cardboard box or something else that can take up space until he’s bigger. Then you can just remove it and keep him in there for a little while longer before moving him into an adult sized enclosure. Around 20 gallons is good – you can do conversions with online tools to find out how many gallons the dimensions give you.

      The plants sound fine – general guideline is to have 50% leaf cover and 50% open space for jumping from branch to branch.

      Plastic bins can hold in humidity very well. Adequate ventilation is key. For a 27q tub, the holes should suffice but if you use a larger plastic container (64 quarts is what we use for adults) you will want to cut out screen “windows” for better ventilation. Depending on your gauge, your humidity may not be a problem. Some plastic analog hygrometers that measure humidity are inaccurate. We like keeping water bowls in all our enclosures and spray lightly every day to every other day just because too much humidity can be bad. As long as they have a water source at all times, do not have shedding issues and the enclosure isn’t constantly damp, you can judge how often you should spray. Some people advocate only misting or only providing a water bowl, we like to do both since spraying can encourage feeding response as well.

      Good luck!

  5. I am new to crested geckos and am in the process of learning about them so that I can build a suitable habitat for one. I was thinking about getting an aquarium and putting it on it’s side and building it up. Would a screen top cover be recommended to cover that open side of the tank or should I construct some type of plexi glass panel to cover the opening? I was also thinking of putting live plants and making some type of climbing tree out of PVC pipe covered with pipe insulation. Would the PVC or insulation cause any danger to the animal and what is the recommendation for mounting of the live plants? Should I just have planters with the plants set in the tank?

    • A screen would be preferable, but plexiglass may be needed on part of the screen to hold in soil for a natural enclosure or to maintain humidity. PVC and the foam pipe insulation is fine – we use both in many of our tubs. You can use the insulation on its own, as it is hollow and allows the geckos to crawl inside. However, you may not be able to find them for routine inspection if they have such a retreat. We plant directly into the tank substrate, but potted plants can be used and rotated in or out as needed for cleaning or for them to recover or get sun exposure. We use lighting on planted tanks. Good luck!

  6. We just got our first crestie and have a few questions. We bought the 12x12x18 Exo-Terra Crested Gecko Kit. I read that we should keep him in a smaller critter carrier for a few weeks to make sure he is eating and pooping. Is that recommended? Also he is a young guy, maybe a few months old, is that terrarium to big to put him in now, should we keep him in the critter carrier for a few months? We have the carrier standing on end with a plant for him to hide.

    • If he is young, a critter keeper is perfect. Often they stress out in larger enclosures. I would wait until he’s 10 grams or so.

    • A 35 gallon tank should be fine. If it’s got more height to it, that’s better than one that is longer. Depending on the type of tank, it can be turned on its side to give them maximum height for climbing.

    • I don’t recommend more than one crested gecko in a 12X12X18. Multiple juveniles are possible, but there are always risks co-habitating them so don’t recommend it.

  7. I am looking into getting a pet for my second grade classroom and I keep going back and forth between a crested gecko and a leopard gecko. I’ve heard that leopard geckos can be more sedentary than crested geckos and I don’t want my choice to end up being more boring than educational for the kids. Do you recommend one over the other?

    • The problem with both leopards and crested geckos is that they are nocturnal. Neither is likely to be out and about during the day for kids to see. Some leopard geckos can acclimate to be out during the day if the lights are kept dim. Crested geckos try to be hidden during the day, although some are comfortable enough to sleep on the glass out in the open. Day geckos are an option (hence the name) but most are not easily handleable because they have delicate skin. Definitely not a great pet for kids. A bearded dragon or a blue tongue skink might be a better option. There are a lot of diurnal lizards that could be a choice, too. Uromastyx can stress easily, but some calmer ones may adapt well to a classroom. Good luck!

  8. I’m thinking of putting a 20 gal tank on its side and make a plexi glass opening door but how could I heat the terrarium? I’ve looked and haven’t found a way that other people have used yet also could a 20 gal on its side be suitable for 2 crested geckos?

    • Many people do flip tanks on their side and use plexiglass or purchase “conversion” kits to keep dirt from falling out the screen holes of a conventional tank top. The best way to heat any tank is with lighting during the day or a ceramic heat emitter at night to not disrupt their nocturnal habits. You could also use a heat mat. Depends on how much heat you need. If the room you keep them in is between 70-80 degrees year round, you shouldn’t need to provide supplemental heat. In the winter, drops as low as 50-55 are fine as long as it heats up during the day. In the summer you’ll want to keep the temps in the 70-75 range to get a typical growth rate or breeding response. But many people keep their tanks around 65 year-round and don’t have a problem. Good luck!

  9. I’m looking at getting a crested gecko, I have been recommended an exo terra but I’m a bit confused about whether i need a heat lamp or UV lamp as some places have told me I need one and others say I don’t…. any help would be must appreciated thanks

    • If your room stays over 70 degrees year-round you don’t need a heat lamp in my opinion. You want to make sure the temp never goes over 80. Heat is more deadly than cold as long as it’s not below 50.

      You don’t need a UV lamp in most cases, but they can help promote natural conversion of UVB into vitamin D. It wouldn’t hurt. You can get a bulb that fits the Exo Terra hood (it doesn’t have to be the same brand). Or you can get a regular CFL for the hood. It’s up to you. The hood is only important if you use lights; so if you want to save money you can skip it. However if you want a planted enclosure you obviously need to provide lights for the plants. They can use UV lights but they are not necessary. If it’s just for plants, use 6500k CFLs if you can – they produce a more accurate “daylight” spectra of light and plants appreciate it and look better under it.

  10. Hi, I just bought a Crested Gecko, I’ve had it about six days. I don’t think it’s eating (which I know is rather common) but it looks relatively healthy. Hes only three months old though. I put him in the 20g (12x12x18) tank the day I got him, should I leave it in the tank or move him to a kritter keeper?

    • If you don’t see any poop in the next couple of days you should consider downgrading his tank to a KK or something similar. However, keep an eye on humidity as KK tops let a lot of the moisture escape. Having a water bowl is definitely recommended.

  11. I’m interested in getting a crested gecko and ive been to a lot of websites, but cant figure out what to really feed them and how. And what kind of heating/lighting do they need? The info of their housing helped a lot, thanks.

    • Hi Megan! We have a huge section on food in the Diet & Nutrition section. Generally, we recommend feeding either Repashy or Pangea diets. Feeding both on rotation is a good idea. You can provide many flavor varieties this way and also ensure they are getting the right levels of nutrients. Feed 2-3 times a week, with insect feeding every few weeks if you can. Make sure they are dusted and gutloaded for maximum nutrition and hydration!

      We also have a heating & lighting section. Basically, keep them between 70-80 degrees, erring on the side of cooler temps rather than hotter. Don’t let them get over 82 as this can be deadly. No special lighting is necessary unless you are growing plants in their enclosure. A UVB light is not essential but it could help ensure proper utilization of calcium and promote more natural behaviors.

      Good luck!

  12. I just got my first crested gecko 3 days ago and she lost all her color and when I open the top to her new tank she try’s to get out. I saw that we should put carbboard on the out side and every week take one off.is that right? I’m just worried help

  13. I just got my first crested gecko 3 days ago and she lost all her color and when I open the top to her new tank she try’s to get out. I saw that we should put carbboard on the out side and every week take one off.is that right? I’m just worried help.

    • Typically the pale color is just their fired down state and doesn’t indicate any ill health. It’s quite normal, especially during the day. They often try to get out as they are not confined in nature and are not domesticated animals. The cardboard or other visual barrier can be removed once the gecko is eating, pooping and otherwise settled into the new environment. Doesn’t sound like you need to worry. Good luck!

  14. Hi my name is Elizabeth. I am looking into getting a crested gecko. I have rabbits and Guinea pigs and hamsters and dogs and cats. I am very used to intermediate care if ever needed and I wanted to branch out of the furry animal usual I always get and try a reptile. I’ve already done some research on these guys but I still have a few questions. I was wondering if someone could tell me specific feeding (I’m still a little confused in exactly what they should eat how much they should eat) also was wondering about lighting is a big question mark to me as well as how old should I get a crestie. I have many questions so if anyone owns a crested gecko and has some great tips please let me know.

    • Check out our nutrition page for more feeding info and our lighting page for more options.

      Feed a good commercial diet such as Pangea or Repashy 2-3 times a week (about 1-2 tablespoons), and you can offer live bugs, dusted with calcium and vitamin D3, once a week if you want to. It’s that simple. You can make some treats but there are multiple flavors of CGD that make this unnecessary.

      They do not need special lighting as long as there is a day period and a night period, it doesn’t have to be bright light in the day or completely dark at night. Most rooms with a window will allow for this change naturally.

  15. I’m new to having a baby crested gecko and was wondering if I should keep it in a small holder cage or can I keep it in a bigger cage? What is too big for a baby crested gecko?

    • Hi Tom!

      It depends on the individual gecko. Generally, they do very well in smaller containers (about 1-2 gallons or a 6 quart plastic tub) until they are around 8 grams and they can be moved up into a larger container. A sub-adult of 20 grams can usually be upgraded to an adult-sized enclosure of 20+ gallons. Some geckos do better (gain and maintain a healthy weight) in smaller containers so some adults can be housed in a 10 gallon but most prefer more space. There is no “too big” for an adult but feasibly you’d keep a single adult in a 20-55 gallon enclosure.

  16. Hi, Could i use cardboard for my crested geckos substrate? Right now i am using paper towels but the crickets keep getting under it. Also what else is easy for a substrate? I don’t want to a fortune on just dirt. btw its for a 20g tank with a juvenile crested gecko.

    • I would not recommend cardboard as a substrate because it can harbor bacteria and mold. You can get a brick of compressed coco fiber pretty cheaply but I don’t recommend feeding crickets in the same tank if you go that route. Crickets can be a problem with hiding in any substrate. If you leave a bit of sweet potato in the tank on a wide jar lid, it might lure them out and give the gecko a safe place to grab them without getting a mouthful of soil. Some people have used rubber mulch mats, so that it also an option. Good luck!

  17. Hi there! Great article but I’m a little confused on one bit. You say use a minimum of 10 gallons, preferably 20 for a single adult and that you use 12x12x18…… But this is around 9 gallons, is that still ok? I’ve raised a hatchling in an exo terra 30x30x45, he’s now 27 grams (no tail). This is the same size as your vivs but not sure whether I should upsize his enclosure.
    Thanks
    Max

    • Hi Max! British gallons are slightly bigger than US gallons. The guidelines I have read I believe are using US gallons. The 12X12X18 is a little over 11 US gallons, but only 9ish British (Imperial) gallons. If there is an option to upsize, I’d recommend it. Most do great in larger vivs but some of them seem to do better in the smaller tank.

      Good luck with your gecko!

  18. I have a 55 gallon glass aquarium that I have been using for fish for years. I have gave the fish away and want to put a reptile in it. I’ve been researching what reptiles are best for beginners (I do not want a snake, and don’t care about handling the reptile, just want to observe it). I have come to the conclusion that Gecko’s seem relatively manageable for the beginner, but the problem is that I have a large tank. I am having trouble finding information on the type of heating (under tank heater and size, heat lamps, heat rocks) I will need to heat a tank that size. I realize the tank is likely too large for one gecko, therefore I will likely get three or four (one male, the rest females). I am completely inexperienced with reptiles, do you have any suggestions?

    • Many geckos will enjoy the space of a large tank, and be careful about housing multiples together as they can fight. Housing a male and female will result in babies, probably not what you want as a beginner! For heating, you can set up a really nice heat gradient with a warm side that reaches 80 degrees at the top corner of the tank, and a cool spot at 70 at the far end. The rest of the tank should be around 76 degrees. A natural setup would be ideal! Live plants and soil help them regulate their temperature and moisture needs. Use a light (not necessarily a heat lamp as that can create dangerously high temps!) on that warm end and a heat mat, if needed, on the side of the tank. Don’t put it on the bottom as it can get too hot within the entire tank that way. You don’t need to keep them too warm, not over 80. Good luck!

    • The closest to those dimensions are the Zoo Med or Exoterra 30X30X46 for the first and a 45X45X45 for the second. We recommend a 45X45X60 for an adult, although the 30X30X46 can work. It’s best to buy in local stores, as shipping glass can be a hassle (and expensive!)

  19. Hi. I’ve been a reptile enthusiast for a long time but I’ve never lived in a place where I could own one before. I’ve recently taken over ownership of my grandparent’s home and while I’d love a snake, they aren’t amenable to that and it is their house too. They’ve agreed to “anything but a snake or a spider” and I’ve always had a particular soft spot for Cresties. My main question is about heating. I live in North East Pennsylvania, on a mountain and we use a coal stove to heat the house. Summers aren’t a problem but fall and winter leave my room pretty cold. I’ve heard mixed opinions on whether under tank options or a dome are best. What do you think would best suit this situation?

    • If you get a large enough tank (18X18X24 and larger) you can probably safely heat with a heat pad on the side of the tank, rather than the bottom. This lets them move around and avoids issue of them laying on the floor and getting way too hot with an UTH. You can use a spotlight as well, the same way, by having the focus of the light hit the side of the tank, rather than in the middle of the tank which may overheat the enclosure. A ceramic heat emitter is another option as well and can help at night when they should be kept with low light or no light. Good luck!

  20. I’ve have bearded dragons before, and my partner and I are looking to get a crestie. We have a 45cmx45x45, with the raised bottom and glass doors, with a mesh lid.

    Just wondering roughly time wise this will last the gecko? and how old should I go for gecko wise?

    • I think that tank could serve for the lifetime of the gecko, as it meets the 20 gallon (US gallons) recommendation. Bigger is better though! So you could upgrade once the gecko achieves adult weight (35+ grams), or if they are overly active in the enclosure, indicating they could use more space to roam. For a baby, we actually recommend smaller enclosures (2.5-5 gallons) or a 6 qt shoebox style plastic bin with air holes. Should be ready for your current tank when about 16 grams. So you could get a sub-adult and skip the smaller bin. Good luck!

  21. Hi
    I have my 8 month old (8 gram) crested gecko in a 18x18x24 ” exo terra tank with artificial plants. She enjoys her plants very much but I would like to add live plants to her tank. I was wondering if it is safe to add plants now or if there is a certain age or size she needs to be. Also what type of light should I use for the plants to keep them alive.
    Thanks :)

    • I would add live plants and soil when she’s about 16-20 grams. She may eat the substrate and not be able to pass it if she’s 8 grams. You could try potted plants with large pebbles she can’t swallow covering the dirt. As she grows she might start digging in them, though. A female can lay eggs in potted plants or in a soil-based substrate, so it’s normal for them to dig and even bury themselves when this happens. Lighting for plants can be compact florescent (CFL) bulbs that don’t give off heat. Good luck!

  22. I have a 20 gallon aquarium that has a secure top and there is a light that I can turn on and off. Is that OK to turn on in the morning when I get up and then turn off when I go to bed? I’m pretty sure it’s an LED light but I’m not sure what wattage. If there is something too high (in wattage) what would it be? And if that doesn’t work what kind of light would be OK to use and how long do I keep it on/off? Thanks!

    • Is it a compact florescent or an incandescent bulb? CFLs don’t put out much heat, but other bulbs can. As long as the heat output does not heat the tank over 80 degrees, the light should be fine if you turn it off and on manually or use a timer. Make sure they have at least 8-10 hours of darkness so they can be active at night.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>