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  • Care for Crested Geckos
    (Rhacodactylus ciliatus)

    The Crested Gecko was thought to be extinct from the turn of the century until it was rediscovered in 1994. Having been bred in captivity since then, it has grown to become one of the most commonly kept species. It is indigenous only to the Islands of New Caledonia . There they inhabit forested areas, hiding under tree bark and in crevices during the day, emerging at night to hunt. Unique in appearance, large in size, and easy to care for, these geckos are quickly becoming established in the pet trade.

    Size and Appearance: Approximately two inches long at birth, they average about eight to ten inches in length as adults. Crested Geckos are variable in appearance, being colored browns, tan, yellow, rust, orange, green or even red. Various patterns of tiger-striping, pin-striping and flaming can be present, and some specimens exhibit black or red dalmation spots across the body and head. This variability has already coined a number of trade names to describe the various colors (morphs), and more will be popping up soon!

    Handling: These geckos will rarely attempt to bite, but may do so if restrained. Handle gently, without pinching or squeezing. Remember that the tail may break off if handled roughly, and unlike most geckos it will not regenerate. Crested geckos are very calm and slow-moving, walking along until pausing to measure distance carefully before making a slow frog-like leap. If frightened, they may jump or run. Until accustomed to handling; the gecko should be handled inside the cage or while sitting on the floor. A frightened gecko may leap out of the keepers’ hand and take a fatal fall if held while standing.

    Caging: An Exo-Terra 12X12X18 tank is adequate for a single adult or a pair. An all-screen cage provides too much airflow to keep the humidity level up. Babies should be raised separately in much smaller enclosures. These geckos are strong jumpers and climbers, and climbing and hiding areas should be provided. Climbing branches also prevent the gecko from developing “floppy-tail”, a condition caused by the gecko frequenting the aquarium sides and letting the tail flop. Cages should be equipped with a secure cover as keepers have reported their geckos pushing up a loose screen cover and escaping.

    Substrate: Some breeders prefer to maintain their specimens on plain paper towel flooring, some on a top soil / peat mixture, while others suggest use of damp cypress mulch or coco-fiber to aid in increasing humidity. Substrate should be moist but not soaked and should be devoid of any large pieces that the gecko could choke on.

    Food: Hatchlings will feed on Pangea Fruit Mix Complete and quarter-inch crickets. As they grow, continue with the Pangea Fruit Mix Complete and provide larger crickets or roaches. If offering insects, NEVER offer any prey larger than the width of the gecko’s head! For hatchlings and juveniles, dust crickets with a calcium and mineral powder (without D3) to provide additional calcium for growing bones. Adults may be supplemented once weekly, unless females are producing eggs. This uses huge amounts of calcium, and supplements should be made daily.

    Humidity & Water: Cage should be misted twice a day. If kept too dry, these geckos often experience shedding problems, particularly around the toes. Stuck sheds on toes may harden and constrict the blood flow to the toes, causing loss of the toes. It may be necessary to reduce ventilation of the cage to increase humidity within. A humidity level of 50-75% is adequate. Heating & Lighting: Conditions in their native habitat are quite mild, with average temperatures ranging from 65 to 80F, dropping to 55-65F in the winter. In most cases, normal household temperature is fine and no special heat source need be provided. No special lighting is required for these nocturnal animals. **Remember to keep the aquarium in a room that gets a day / night cycle, but keep it OUT of direct sunlight!!**

    Reproduction: Adult males can be distinguished from females by the presence a pair of very prominent hemipene bulges. Juveniles cannot be sexed until four to six months of age, when the hemipene bulges begin to appear. They can also be sexed using a 20X loupe to locate a row of pores that develop on males and appear well before the hemipenal bulge becomes noticeable. Experienced keepers can determine gender with this method. You may keep two males in a large cage together as long as they have NEVER been introduced to a female. With significant perches and hiding space, they can co-exist happily (this is not 100% guaranteed as every animal has its own personality and it may be possible that there will be a dominance issue. If unsure, a good rule of thumb is: don’t keep males together.) Breeding should not be encouraged until the animals are a year old (or at least 8 inches in total length). Eggs are laid in pairs, usually every four weeks. This will continue until the females’ fat and calcium reserves are depleted. Pairs should be separated in winter months to prevent the females from being over-stressed and over-producing eggs (which will shorten her lifespan). Incubation averages 72 days, depending on temperature. Incubation temperatures ranging from 70-83F have all proven successful, and many breeders report that the temperature may even be allow to fluctuate within this range.

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