“ Animal Species: Reptiles / Amphibians „
After falling in love with Crested Geckos after seeing them on a TV program, I researched them, as I am not an experienced reptile keeper and knew that some reptiles can be tricky to care for. I bought a gecko shortly after! After researching them, I discovered that Crested Gecko's are actually very easy to care for. They come from New Caledonia, an island off the coast of Australia. It is the only place in the world that they are found in the wild, and exporting them is now illegal. So, any Crestie's found in pet shops in the UK, will have been born and bred here, rather than imported. Because these gecko's were only re-discovered in 1994, keeping them as pets is a relatively new thing, and thus people are still learning about them. The average life span in capitivity is thought to be somewhere between 15 and 25 years. These gecko's do not need a constant source of heat like many other reptiles do, so long as your house is fairly warm (20c upwards), then your Crestie will not require another source of heat. Do be careful for temperatures not to rise above 28c though, as this will cause stress to the gecko. The fact they can live at room temperature makes caring for Crestie's very easy, and what makes it even easier is they can live purely off a pre-mixed "gecko food" that comes in the form of a powder. It contains all vitamins and minerals that your gecko will need. However, in order for the gecko to have variety and not get sick of eating the same thing all the time, it is highly recommended that this gecko mix is also supplemented with fresh fruits (mango and banana seems popular) and crickets or wax worms. Any additional food such as this needs to be dusted with a calcium powder, that is readily available in large pet stores. Their vivarium should be sprayed with a water mist a few times a day, to keep the right level of humidity. In terms of care, that's about it! With regards to handling Crestie's, be aware, they love to jump! And can be clumsy and jump into thin air, so be careful when handling them that they cannot jump on something (or nothing!!) that will cause them injury. Juvenile gecko's can be quite quick and feisty, but once they've grown up and gotten used to being handled, they make great pets to handle. JUST BE WARNED that Crested Geckos (and many other forms of gecko) can "drop" their tails, so be careful not to pick them up by their tail or grab/trap it. Once a Crested Gecko drops it tails, IT WILL NEVER GROW BACK! However, it is very common for a Crestie to drop it's tail, so if it happens, don't worry as they can live quite happily without them, they just won't look the same! I am now the proud owner of a Gargoyle Gecko. Garg's a very closely related to Cresties, and the care is identical. However, Garg's tend to have slightly more sense than Cresties (don't USUALLY make a death leap into thin air), and if they drop their tails they DO grow back over time, however they will never have the same colour/markings on them. They do cost a little more than Crested Gecko's though, Cresties are usually been £50-70, and my Garg cost me £100. Purely for the tails growing back, I'd recommend a Gargoyle Gecko...but Crested Gecko's make excellent pets too, and are brilliant for beginner reptile owners.
I never used to be a fan of reptiles and always shared the same stereotypical views as many other people, that reptiles were generally slimey, cold and horrible. That was until I gave in to my boyfriends desires and bought him his first lizard; a Blue Tongued Skink that we called Mushu. Fast forward several years and reptiles are now every much a big part of our lives and our reptile family has grown to include two Leopard Geckos (Panzer and Zeus), a Black and White Argentinian Tegu (Seth) and a Royal Python (Pliskin a.k.a. Skinny - although I must admit that I don't like the snake much). One day a few months ago my boyfriend returned home with a new addition to our family and my first thought was 'oh my god, not another lizard!'. I love all the ones we have but thought another one would just be more hassel as their vivariums take up so much space and we always struggle to get people to look after them when we go on holiday - it turns out people aren't as happy to volunteer to pet sit Lizards as they are cats and dogs. Never the less, the new addition was here....Echo the Crested Gecko.....and I instantly fell in love with him. He was the size of my thumb, and a burnt orange/brown colour with little crests running down his back and on top of his eyes, making him look like he has eyelashes ( I think thats how they got the name Crested Gecko) but he is in no way spikey. To touch, Echo's skin is as soft as velvet and he was and still is as light as a feather. From the moment he arrived, Echo has always been extremely tame and has never shown any signs of trying bite us while we have been handling him. In my opinion, Echo also looks like he is always smiling, I'm certain that it is just the way his jaw is set but I do like to think of him as a happy lizard. It turns out that crested geckos are also really easy to care for. Echo doesn't need a heat mat or lamp, he is happy at room temperature in his glass vivarium, although we do have a spare heat mat on stand by for the winter months as I am told that the temperture in Echo's vivarium shouldn't drop below 13 degrees cellcius. Obviously you need a decent, lizard friendly thermometer to keep an eye on this. Inside Echo's viv is some bark substrate, a couple of wooden branches and some plastic plants with big leaves as he does seem to like to sit in amongst the leaves. He also has a little water bowl and is given fresh water daily. His viv is also sprayed once a day with water as Echo also likes to lick water droplets from the plastic plants. A crested geckos diet can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be; you can buy crested gecko diet which is a powder you mix with water to create a feed that is supposed to provide a crested gecko with all he needs nutritionally. However, they can also eat fruit flavoured baby foods, soft fruits (but not citrus fruits), crickets and then as a treat they can also have wax and meal worms. When we first got Echo, we mostly fed him baby food and he seemed more than happy to sit there are lick it from my finger, which was really cute. Now he has a bit more of a varied diet which includes soft fruits like banana and peaches which we mash up for him and crickets. My boyfriend does most of the looking after of the reptiles, I usually just get them out of their vivs to handle them and feed them if he isn't around. My boyfriend fully cleans Echo's vivarium about once a month and inbetween that does spot cleaning when needed. Echo is now about 4 to 5 inches long and still seems more than happy to be handled, he even sometimes climbs onto my hand quite happily when I put my hands into his vivarium to get him out. In the wild, crested geckos get around by jumping from branch to branch and Echo really does know how to jump; for this reason I usually sit on the floor while handling him as I'm always scared he'll hurt himself by jumping off me when I'm stood up, although most of the time he just sits on my hand with his tail curled around one of my fingers, which I think is really cute even though I know that he only does it to keep himself safe incase he were to fall. One thing to remember about crested geckos is that you should never grab or pick them up by their tails and they will shed it as a survival response and it wont grow back. Crested geckos apparently live for around 10 years and so are great if you want a small pet thats a bit different and has a longer life expectancy than a hamster. I think that these little guys would be fantastic as a first reptile as they are so cute, friendly and easy to care for that you really couldn't go wrong. Echo is now a well established member of our little reptile family and we wouldn't be without him. It turns out that he is actually no hassel at all, he makes no noise at all, unless the room is so quiet that you can hear him jump from one branch to another in his vivarium and the fact that he is so small and cute and eats 'normal' food like fruit means that our friends are less reluctant to look after him while we're on holiday. I love Echo to bits, he is easily the cutest and friendliest reptile I have ever come across and would happily recommend crested geckos as a pet for the experienced or inexperienced reptile keeper.
The crested gecko (Rhacodactylus ciliatus) was thought to be extinct in 1866 but was rediscovered in 1994 on an expedition to New Caledonia and since then has become massively popular in the pet trade due to them being incredibly easy to keep, friendly and not requiring live food (although they certainly do enjoy it as a treat). Crested geckos are named so due to the unique 'crests' that look like eyelashes round their eyes and go down the sides of their backs. These are actually soft as is their skin and they feel like velvet to touch. They feel very delicate because of the texture of their skin but they are not too fragile, if you pull on their tail they will drop it and unlike geckos such as the leopard gecko they will not re-grow their tail. Most wild cresties do not have a tail anyway so dropping their tail is no problem, when they do have their tails in captivity they can get what's called floppy tail syndrome where the gecko no longer can move it so it flops down. It doesn't really affect the gecko, it is just a result of captivity as in the wild they wouldn't be contained in tanks but in their cages they spend a lot of their time clinging to the walls of the tank where the weight of the tail to causes it droop. Cresties eat a food called Crested Gecko Diet (CGD) which in the UK comes in original form which has recently been changes, it was Banana flavour but now it has been re-blended and is a combination of Rose, Strawberry and Mango, sounds yummy! This is sold in little tubs from most good exotics pet shops or you can order it online. There is also a 2-part system which you can order from America which allows you to choose which flavour you will be feeding to your gecko so you can offer a variety to their diet, it comes in the following flavours; Rose Strawberry Mango Passion fruit Apricot Papaya Banana Fig Peach Cherry I have personally tried Banana, Rose, Strawberry, Apricot, Peach and Cherry and I haven't noticed a massive preference but I like to offer them the variety. Some people say Rose, Strawberry, Fig and Cherry are their gecko's favourites but I really think this varies with each gecko and can't be generalised. To mix up this diet it depends on how you feed your gecko. If you are using the original diet, mix 2 parts water to one part water (by volume) but you might need more or less water, you want it to be the texture of baby food. If feeding the 2 part system, if you are feeding this as a complete diet with no supplements mix it 60/40 (Base/Nectar) by WEIGHT and add the required amount of water to get the right texture. If you are feeding dusted insects a few times a week then you mix the diet 50/50 (Base/Nectar) again by WEIGHT. You can mix this up in advance and store it in the fridge or if you have only mixed a small amount then room temp is ok for this (the fridge just makes it last longer, about a year, but it is fine at room temp if you don't intend to take more than a few months using it up) I feed my geckos about half a teaspoon of CGD a night as mine are not full grown and they don't eat all of this, I change it every night/every other night. Cresties have quite small stomachs as youngsters (about a ¼ the size of a pea) so if you can't see they have eaten the diet, if they are pooping, don't worry. I supplement my cresties diet with live food. I personally adore giving them calcigrubs as these are very high in calcium and they LOVE them, for youngsters get size small, for sub adults/adults, you will want size large. I also give them small locusts (the locusts i dust with pure calcium powder, i use calypso brand but there are others out there, just make sure it is 100% pure calcium, calcium worms don't need dusting as they are high enough in calcium as they are). To dust your insects, put them in a plastic bag, put a pinch of calcium powder in, shake and serve  Other insects that you can feed include small cockroaches, crickets, silkworms, butter worms and wax worms (keep the wax worms as a treat as they are very high in fat and are like chocolate to them, they will refuse other food if fed too many). Gut load your feeder insects by using a high quality 'bug grub' or feeding them weetabix or porridge oats with fresh vegetables and calcium/vitamin powder for at least 24 hours before feeding your reptile, this ensures maximum nutrition is gained. Feed your gecko live food (if you are feeding live food) once or twice a week and don't feed too many as they will refuse their CGD and this is what has all the vitamins and minerals they need. With calcium worms you can apparently leave a constant supply of these and they will still eat their CGD (this is what Allen Repashy says, the man who invented CGD) although I tend to give them a few every other day just in case. If you feed live food to your crestie, they will grow bigger and stronger a lot quicker than if fed CGD alone but they do not REQUIRE live food, although they certainly do enjoy it. With regard to housing I use specially built Crested Gecko Cages I import from America although the company I get them from is FAR from reliable so perhaps it is best to stick to UK companies although in the UK the choice is limited. You basically have to get an exo-terra glass faunarium which I like the look of but hate the weight which is why I go for the lighter weight American ones. The most important thing with a crestie cage is height as they are arboreal and like to climb to a cage taller than it is wide is ideal. Babies should be housed in smaller cages, the small plastic faunarium is perfect for a very young baby, and then you can move it up to its adult cage when it is bigger. In terms of decorating your cage, lots of fake vines and plants are brilliant; the sign of a good crestie cage is that it is hard to find them. Remember to mist your geckos cage morning and evening (depending on how humid the place you live is, it should have the opportunity to fully dry out, you want a humidity cycle so a light misting is perfect once or twice a day. You can set up a misting system to do this also if you want. It is advised to use de-chlorinated water (there are special liquids you can use that do this or leave the water for 24 hours in a cup) your crestie will drink the droplets of water created by misting but leave a water bowl too so they can drink from that too if they wish, change the water in their bowl regularly. For a substrate, I prefer to put paper towel on the base of my cage so there is no chance the crestie can ingest any substrate and cause impaction but some people put adults on coco fibre as it helps hold humidity. Just be careful your crestie isn't eating this and perhaps put some large stones over the top so that most of the substrate is hidden to prevent this. If anyone wants a picture of my setup feel free to PM me and I can help you or give you advice. It is always best to house your crestie individually so as to prevent fighting and bullying and NEVER house 2 males together as they will definitely fight and may even kill each other. You can sex your crestie from about 8 months old which is when the males will start to obviously show their femoral pores and drop their hemipenis, there will be some very large noticeable bulges at the base of a male's tail, females do not have this. Experienced breeders will be able to sex their cresties younger than this using a jeweller's loupe to look for pores. It is guessed that cresties live for 15-20 years, the exact life span isn't known since they were only recently re discovered. They are easy to keep, require no special lighting or heating, just room temperature is usually fine or if your house is especially cold you can put a heat mat on the wall or use a bulb (WITH A BULB GUARD or putting it outside the enclosure) attached to a thermostat set to about 75-80 (MAX) as temperatures above 83F for a long period WILL kill your crestie as they go into hypothermic shock. Therefore a good digital thermometer and thermostat is essential if providing additional heat. They can go down to 60F at night as long as during the day they can warm up to between 70-80F. Do not provide light at night so use a red bulb if you want to keep them heated at night and are using a heat lamp as they cannot see red and as cresties are nocturnal a light will confuse them and prevent them from coming out to hunt/eat. If using a bulb make sure the crestie has a cooler area of the cage to retreat to so they do not overheat providing a temperature gradient. Crested geckos are very friendly and tolerate handling well which make these a good reptile for children to keep also. As long as you hold them gently and do not pull on their tail they will be fine. Remember that crested geckos do jump and can jump quite far so make sure they won't have a long distance to fall if they jump off your hand and remember that the jumping could startle a young child. Overall I would say crested geckos make a brilliant pet reptile, they are friendly, easy to feed, cheap to keep (as they don't require high temperatures and UV lighting), they are fun to watch jump about their enclosures as night and come in a variety of lovely colours and patterns. The perfect pet!!
The species is native to New Caledonia in the southwest pacific.