Crested Geckos

Crested Gecko: Rhacodactylus ciliatus

Crested Geckos are becoming and increasingly popular pet. Their care and set up are relatively simple and they can become quite hand tame. Crested Geckos are also becoming popular pets for breeding due to the fact that they breed readily in captivity.

Quick Facts:

Natural Habitat: Southern Rainforests of New Caledonia. They are primarily arboreal and noctoural.
Adult Body Size: 4-6 inches snout to vent. Like most reptiles, they reach adulthood based on size rather than age.
Life Span: 10-12 years. It is thought that in the wild they can live up to 20 years.

Enclosure/Cage

The enclosure for a Crested Gecko should be tall rather than wide to allow for vertical movement. Size for one gecko should be about 18w x18d x 24h. Exo-Terra makes a popular front opening aquarium. The cage should consist of several branches and fake plants. We recommend fake plants mainly for the ease of cleaning. Substrate should be indoor/outdoor carpeting, newspaper, or paper towels. It is not recommended that natural substrate be used (ie – bark, wood shavings, soil, sand). These can be drying, hard to clean, and particles can get into the nose, eyes and vent.

Crested Geckos live in a moderate climate. Temperatures should range from 75-80 degrees in the warmest part of the cage with an ambient temperature of 65-70 degrees. Always measure temperatures in the area where the gecko spends the most time. There is no need for a UVA/UVB light since they are nocturnal.

Diet

Crested Geckos are mainly insectivorous but will also eat fruit such as berries, melons or fruit baby food. There is also a commercial food made by Repashy which can be used as their sole diet. Juveniles should be fed daily, adults every 3-5 days. If offering crickets, they should be dusted with a calcium/vitamin D3 supplement twice weekly and every other week with a multivitamin. Calcium should contain vitamin D3 (such as Rep-Cal brand) and the multivitamin should contain a pre-formed vitamin A (such as Zoomed’s Reptivite), rather than Beta Carotene.

For juveniles you can increase the frequency to four to five times a week with the calcium/vitamin D3 supplement and a multivitamin once a week. Fresh water in a dish large enough for the gecko to sit in should be offered daily. Weekly to bi-weekly soaks in warm water for about 15-20 minutes is also recommended.

COMMON MEDICAL PROBLEMS

Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism (NSH, also known as Metabolic Bone Disease)
Signs of NSH are swollen and crooked limbs, anorexia (loss of appetite), muscle tremors and lethargy. It is most commonly caused by calcium deficiency either due to lack of calcium in the diet, although NSH is sometimes caused by kidney disease. See a qualified veterinarian for treatment. See above section about diet for recommendations to help prevent recurrence.

Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A deficiency is caused by the lack of vitamin A in the diet or by using a multivitamin that has Beta Carotene rather than pre-formed vitamin A. Signs include stomatitis (“mouth rot”), anorexia, dysecdisis (poor shed), abscess development around mouth and head, and hemipenal prolapse (see below). A qualified veterinarian will address the secondary problems, but husbandry/diet changes will need to be made to prevent recurrence. See above section about diet for recommendations.

Impaction
Signs of impaction are constipation, bloating, lethargy and anorexia. There are several different causes including foreign body (usually from substrate), parasite overload, and egg binding. Treatment can range from simple laxatives and antiparasitics to surgery. See a qualified veterinarian for treatment.

Parasites
Parasites are generally internal. Impaction, anorexia and weight loss are the most common signs of internal parasites. They can be detected from a fecal exam by a veterinarian. Infestation is caused from either contamination from another lizard or from being a wild caught animal. Some parasites will live symbiotically with the gecko until stress or other illness increases the numbers. See a qualified veterinarian for treatment.

Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)
Signs of this disease include open mouth breathing, wheezing, anorexia and lethargy, often with secondary stomatitis. URI’s are usually caused by improper cage heating. It can be treated with antibiotics acquired from a veterinarian and husbandry changes.

Stomatitis (“Mouth Rot”)
Stomatitis can be detected from malocclusion/abnormal face shape, lesions/crusting around and in the mouth, anorexia and sometimes bleeding from the mouth. There are several different causes including vitamin A deficiency and URI. Stomatitis is treated by antibiotics acquired from a veterinarian as well as changing the primary cause of the disease.

Dysecdysis
Also referred to as retained shed, this is usually a husbandry related problem and is easily fixed by increasing humidity. There are, however, many other more serious causes, such as vitamin A deficiency, which will need diagnosis and treatment from a qualified veterinarian. Signs of Dysecdysis are retained shed (especially around toes and tail), lesions appearing immediately after a shed, and necrotic or missing extremities.

Egg Binding
Signs can be very similar to NSH (see above) as well as a swollen abdomen and constipation. Causes range from poor diet to excessive laying to much more serious internal problems. Since geckos cannot be spayed easily, supportive care is usually the method of treatment. There is a chance of reoccurrence. The gecko should be taken to a qualified veterinarian for treatment.

Septicemia
Septicemia is a general term for a secondary systemic or blood infection. It is a very serious disease which can be fatal. Signs include lethargy, anorexia, weakness, general swollen appearance, and red patchy skin. Treatment ranges from antibiotics to surgery to remove bacterial lesions. The initial cause of the septicemia also needs to be addressed.

Abscess
If caught early, an abscess is very treatable but can lead to septicemia if left alone. It is caused by lacerations or punctures which become infected. Swelling just under the skin is the most common indication. Minor surgery is usually needed to open up the wound and clean out the abscess material, as well as antibiotics. Abscesses will sometimes rupture on their own but will still need to be treated with antibiotics.

Hemipenal Prolapse
The hemipenes are the dual penises of the male gecko. Prolapse can be caused by substrate impaction, vitamin A deficiency, or over breeding. Immediate attention is needed in order to avoid amputation. When first noted, a water-based lubrication should be used on the prolapsed hemipene(s). The gecko should then immediately be brought to a qualified veterinarian for treatment. Husbandry changes as discussed above will prevent further prolapse.