Looking to buy a crested gecko or have one already? It can be challenging setting up the proper crested gecko habitat if you are new to having a crestie pet! We wrote this article to help alleviate your concerns in both choosing and setting up your crested gecko home so that they can be happy and live a very long life.
A glass vivarium is the recommended option for a Crested Gecko habitat. Glass is great for maintaining the humidity within the vivarium, which your Crested Gecko needs to thrive. Glass also allows for a little heat loss, which helps to prevent the enclosure from becoming too hot. For practicality, glass is the easiest material to keep clean and also provides the best view.
Plastic enclosures are perfect for baby Cresties under 4 months of age. They are small enough that you can create simple ventilation by drilling holes in the lid and top third of the sides. They are extremely easy to clean and you can use paper towels as a substrate which will not make a mess.
Wooden enclosures are cheaper than glass, however, they need to be sealed to prevent too much heat loss from the joins in the panels. The high humidity of the enclosure will also cause damage to the wood over time, meaning it will need to be replaced. Additional ventilation will need to be added to a wooden vivarium.
Crested Gecko Habitat – Glass Vs Wooden Enclosure
Check out this video going over both wooden and glass enclosures.
Recommended Size Of The Tank
Crested Geckos are arboreal, so they need a tank that allows for climbing options. Although there are pet stores and online merchants who sell smaller sizes, a vivarium for a Crestie should be at least 40x40x65cm. This enclosure is taller than it is wide and provides enough height for several branches and vines to be added. There are options available for vivariums that are shorter and wider, but for climbing reptiles, height is your friend.
Substrate or Flooring
Your Crested Gecko will live quite happily in an enclosure with a layer of moist paper towels as a substrate choice. Since they are hardly ever on the ground, the choice of substrate is more about ease of cleaning, function within the enclosure or visual appeal. Paper towels are easy to clean away and moisten quickly, so they do aid the humidity of the enclosure.
If you want to create a bioactive habitat then your best option is a soil mix (without fertilisers). You can also add a moss layer and/or leaf litter. The moss will aid tank humidity and leaf litter will break down over time, adding nutrients back into the soil. This allows for live plants to be added and will need little maintenance. A soil substrate is easy enough to spot clean and will rarely need changing is the initial setup is done well.
Vertical branches are an absolute must since Crested Geckos love climbing. You can arrange several types of branches crisscrossing the enclosure. Vines are also a good option to include. Artificial plants do not need watering or trimming and cannot die, however, they will need cleaning to prevent bacteria build up and they can have sharp edges.
Live plants improve both air quality and enclosure humidity, plus they provide a naturalistic look and have a nice natural smell. You need to be aware that live plants require watering, trimming and good lighting. Good soil mix and correct humidity will take care of most of your plants needs for you.
Although Crested Geckos do not need as high temperature ranges as other reptile species, they do still require a thermogradient. This means you need to set up a warm area, usually at the top of the crested gecko habitat, along with a cooler section. Your Crestie will spend time in the warm area to bask. Reptiles get their energy from heat, so this is vital for your enclosure. This hot section should be 26/28°C during the day.
It is best to have the cooler area towards the bottom of the enclosure, as light and heating are easiest to fit from the top. Your gecko needs a cool area to rest in if his body temperature climbs too high. During daylight hours this cooler end of the thermogradient should be 20/24°C.
These temperatures should be maintained for around 12 hours per day. During the night, the tank can and should fall to 18-20°C as this mimics natural night temperatures for wild geckos. If your house is centrally heated, you may be able to set your timer to be off during the night. Otherwise, you will need to program the correct temperature and times using a thermostat.
The best option for temperature control is a ceramic heat emitter. These bulbs provide heat but do not emit any light. This is especially important if you need it as a night-time heat source. You will need to connect the ceramic lamp to a thermostat, so the temperature is accurately controlled.
Secondary Heat Source
If you feel you need a secondary source of heat for the vivarium, you can consider using heat tape or a heat pad. These should never be used as your sole source of heat. They only create a heat spot rather than emitting heat across the whole tank. They are usually for terrestrial reptiles to warm their bellies, but you can fit a heat pad to one tank wall to create a basking spot if required. A heat pad should always be connecting to a thermostat and checked regularly as they will eventually need replacing.
Like with you heat source, lighting in your crested gecko habitat should be on timers. Daylight should be 12-14 hours and the remaining time lighting should be switched off. This creates a natural daytime/night time cycle for your Crestie. As with heat lamps, lighting should be fixed to the top of the tank behind mesh. This prevents your gecko from being burnt. You should stay with low-wattage florescent bulbs.
Some research suggests that Crested Geckos do not benefit from UVB lighting because they get vitamin D3 from their diet. Providing it gives your gecko options. They utilise UVB lighting in the wild to synthesize calcium and will seek shaded areas when they do not need it. So, as a gecko owner, it is best to give your Crestie the choice. UVB bulbs are available in 5% or 7% options.
Water and Food
Since Cresties require a humid environment and you will most likely be spraying the vivarium regularly, your gecko will get most of his water by drinking droplets from the branches and plants in his tank. However, you should still provide a small dish of fresh water as well. Crested Geckos do not like being on the ground so you should invest in a small feeding ledge. There are many varieties available with food and drink dish slots that can be fixed to the vivarium wall using suction cups.
Crested Geckos are omnivorous, so they require both fruit and insects in their diet. It is commonplace to fed geckos on a pre-mix powder diet which contains all the nutrients, vitamins and mineral they would normally get from fruit and live food.
You can feed a combination of the two and this is a great choice. Having a couple of live food days adds variety and enrichment to your gecko’s life and will encourage natural behaviours. You can safely give them locusts, black or brown crickets, snails, wax worms, calcium worms and silkworms. For fruit, stick with pear, mango, blueberries, and strawberries. Fruits like banana and citrus fruits can interfere with your gecko’s ability to absorb calcium, so they should never be red. Fruit should be mashed until it is the consistency of watery ketchup.
The most important thing for your crested gecko habitat is choosing the correct size of vivarium. Short tanks do not provide enough room for climbing so should be avoided. It is also important to remember that reptiles are expensive as maintaining their enclosure requires a fair amount of electricity, so be prepared for your bill to increase.
If you find you are choosing options just because they are cheaper, it would be best to do some more research before going ahead. It is not in a gecko’s best interest to be given only the cheapest of everything.
Reputable pet stores will sell complete tank setups. You should always ask what is included and never purchase a setup that does not come with a thermostat or one that uses a heat pad instead of a ceramic heat emitter. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and visit several stores before making a final choice.
Remember, your gecko is going to live between 10 and 15 years if you care for him well, so you want to make sure you can give him the best so he will live a long and happy life.