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Bavayia | Eurydactylodes Agricolae | Phyllurus Platurus | Rhacodactylus Auriculatus | Rhacodactylus Ciliatus

  Rhacodactylus ciliatus

Crested gecko eating T-Rex Crested Gecko Diet
Scientific name: Rhacodactylus ciliatus
Common name(s): New Caledonian crested gecko; Crested gecko

Introduction: Crested Geckos were thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in 1994, on the Isle of Pines, a tiny island just off the coast of New Caledonia. The rediscovery sparked much excitement amongst gecko hobbyists, but I don‘t think anyone could predict how these geckos have taken off. Due to their docile nature and easy care requirements, the crested gecko is now one of the most commonly kept geckos in the world.

Habitat/Distribution: R. ciliatus belongs to the Rhacodactylus family, which is native to New Caledonia. They are semi-arboreal, spending most of their time in small trees and low shrubs. They will however, seek out hiding places near the ground to sleep during the day.

Size: 7-8 inches total length 3.5-4.5 inches nose to vent length

Housing: Crested Geckos can be maintained in simple conditions or in elaborate naturalistic vivariums. Adult crested geckos should be housed in a 20 gallon tall aquarium or larger. Three adult cresteds can be comfortably housed in a 30 gallon aquarium.

Adult male crested gecko
Adult cresteds do very well in naturalistic vivariums and these can be quite the spectacle and can add somewhat of a challenge for keepers. I recommend a peat moss/coco fiber type substrate or something similar. The only drawback with naturalistic setups is it will prove difficult to find eggs, but if like the idea of finding a surprise in the cage occasionally then this won't be a problem. I have used ficus trees and pothos vines in cages and these seem to do well, though other plants can be used. Main thing is to use plants that can withstand the weight of the geckos. You may also choose to add some vines or cork bark for your geckos to climb on and add to the natural look.

Due to the number of geckos I keep, I prefer to house my geckos more simplistically. I house single adult cresteds in 20 qt. Sterilite racks and house my breeding groups (either 1.1-1.3) in 66 qt. Sterilite racks. I use paper towel as a substrate and provide paper towel rolls and egg carton flats for hiding and climbing, this helps keep the cages clean and reduces the spread of disease.

Juvenile Care: I house my babies as clutch mates in small kritter keeper racks. I use paper towel as a substrate and provide egg cartons for them to hide/climb. At around 10-13 grams I separate the babies, I am also usually able to sex babies at this weight. I move the babies to medium sized kritter keepers where they stay until about 20-24 grams. After the medium kritter keepers I move them to the 20qt. bins where they stay until I am ready to breed them.

Here is a basic rack system for Cresteds.
Temperature/Lighting: Cresteds thrive at room temperature. I keep mine usually between 75-80 during the day with a drop into the low 70's at night. Though for breeding I do provide a cool down period, see the breeding section for more info. At temperatures of 85 degrees or warmer, Crested geckos will become stressed, which could lead to illness or death. I give mine a photoperiod of 14 hours during the breeding months and then I reduce this to 12 hours during the colder months. UV lighting is not necessary for Crested geckos as they are nocturnal, but UV lighting may be beneficial to them as well as any plants in the cage. I do not provide my cresteds UV rays and they do fine.

Humidity/Water: Cresteds need high humidity, preferably between 60-80%, though you want to make sure the cage does dry out between mistings to reduce bacteria/fungus growth. For water I mist my cresteds 1-2 times a day and they do fine just by drinking the water off the side of the enclosures. Other breeders provide water bowls and don't have any problems so I think either would work.

Feeding: Crested Geckos I think are one of the easiest geckos out there to feed, in nature they eat bugs and fruit. In captivity many keepers feed there cresteds nothing but T-Rex Crested Gecko Diet. I prefer to provide my geckos with variety as I think no one item should make up 100% of an animals diet, I also think the geckos enjoy variety as it keeps things interesting for them. I figure I would go crazy if all I could ever eat was Hamburgers, while they may be good at first, after a week or so I would be ready to explode. I feed my cresteds every other day an alternating diet of T-Rex CGD, Clarks Diet, and crickets/roaches. I dust all feeder insects in a 50/50 mix of Miner-all calcium powder and Rep-Cal Herptivite multivitamin powder. With this feeding schedule all my cresteds are growing and breeding great as they have done for many years. I also gut-load all feeder insects with cricket chow, potatoes, and collard greens; thus making them a lot more nutritious.

As a treat, I occasionally feed a blend of fresh fruit, the geckos really seem to enjoy this. This blend usually includes: Peaches, Apricots, Strawberries, Bananas, and Mangos. Many people often think there geckos are not eating, but I think nine times out of ten there geckos are eating and they are just not noticing. Juvenile cresteds don't need to eat that much to survive so you may not notice the small amounts of food they are eating. I have never had a crested die from starving itself, so as long as there is food available they will eventually eat. Though if you are absolutely certain your gecko is not eating or losing weight then I advise you to take the animal to the vet to see if there is a bigger problem at hand.

Here is a what my breeder tubs look like. It is a 72qt. tubware container. I cut a hole in the top and added thin mesh. Then I added some PVC perches and some foliage and a nest box.
Breeding: The first requirement is to have a breeding pair, see pictures below to see the difference in the sexes. Before I breed, around Thanksgiving, I start to cool down the cresteds. I cool them for 2-3 months at around 63-70 degrees. I also reduce feeding during this time period. After cooling, usually in late February/early March I raise temperatures and resume my normal feeding schedule. I breed my cresteds in pairs up to 1.3, this way I can keep track of all my geckos and keep records of weights, clutches, etc. Though some breeders have bred cresteds in groups up to eight or nine females for one male and have had good success, I just prefer to keep records of everything. After introducing the male and females together you should see eggs in about 25-45 days. Make sure to provide a nest box during this time. My nest boxes are 6qt. shoeboxes with a 2x3 inch hole cut in the lid. I fill the box with 2.5-3 inches of damp (not soaking) peat moss. Make sure to keep an eye on females during breeding to make sure they are getting their nutritional requirements met. Also keep an eye on females so you know when they have laid eggs, as you want to remove the eggs and put them in an incubator as fast as possible. I try to have the eggs removed within 12 hours of them being laid, sooner the better. Also when you find eggs, try to keep them facing the same way they were laid as rolling the eggs could cause the developing embryos to drown in their own yolk. I usually get 7-9 clutches a year per female as I only breed mine from March to November, some breeders breed their cresteds year round which yields as many as 13 clutches a year. I don't find this advisable as you risk burning out your females quicker and it is very hard on the gecko, which increases the risk of disease an death.

Female crested gecko laying eggs
Incubation: I have incubated eggs on Vermiculite and Perlite, and both have served there purpose well. I mix 1 part Vermiculite or Perlite to 1 part water (by WEIGHT) in large tub ware containers. I punch 2-3 tacks through the lid for circulation, though some breeders use airtight containers with no air holes with good results. I would recommend using a clear container so you can monitor eggs without opening the container as continuous opening will cause the eggs to dry out faster. Though I do recommend opening the container once a week to allow air exchange. Eggs can be incubated anywhere from 70-80 degrees. Incubation times vary with temperature, but usually the hotter they are kept the faster the incubation time with cooler temps taking longer. Most of my eggs hatch around 70-90 days, average is around 80 days.

Defense: Crested geckos can and will drop their tails if threatened, the whole point is to confuse the predator with what just happened, so while the predator is trying to figure out what to make of the situation the gecko disappears. Unlike other geckos, Crested geckos do not regenerate their tails. If your gecko drops its tail, don't freak out, it is fairly normal and in matter of fact most wild Crested geckos are tailless. Many people believe tails are more of a hindrance to cresteds as there pelvises are not made to handle the weight of the tail, which causes floppy tail syndrome, although calcium supplies also plays a factor in this. Cresteds also make many different clicks, barks, and chirps when threatened as well as during breeding.

Conclusion: Crested Geckos have taken off since their rediscovery and is currently one of the most common pet geckos out there. They just come in so many colors and patterns it seems there is one out there for everyone. I would recommend Crested geckos to anyone!

Male crested gecko
Female crested gecko

Climate for New Caledonia
Relative Humidity
F C Percent
January 78.4 25.8 77
February 78.9 26.1 79
March 77.9 25.5 78
April 74.8 23.8 78
May 72.1 22.3 77
June 69.8 21.0 76
July 67.8 19.9 75
August 68.1 20.1 74
September 69.4 20.8 73
October 72.1 22.3 72
November 75.0 23.9 73
December 77.1 25.1 74

Disease Causing Organism in Captive Crested Gecko Population
Photos and text by Randy May - Neoscales

The purpose of this post is to make Rhac keepers aware of an unusual problem that affects Crested Geckos. I had read on this forum just a few days ago, a telltale story that parallels what I experienced. That person lost his male Crested for “unknown” reasons. While we'll never know if what happened to his gecko is related, there is certainly a high degree of probability that it may be based on his description.

Early this fall I received 4 Crested Geckos from a breeder/dealer. Outwardly all 4 appeared healthy (with one being considerably larger than the other three). But as with all new animals, these 4 were placed in quarantine containers. Initially they all fed and behaved normally. After approximately 2 weeks, the larger one appeared to have lost weight. Certainly not something that triggered any alarms for a newly arrived animal, perhaps just a stress related anomaly. Well, I got rather busy over the following 2 weeks and hadn't remembered to pay any particular attention to the large one. So when I did take a special look, I was startled at what I saw. The Crested had gone from robust to emaciated within a span of 3-4 weeks. At that time he was obviously near death, and by the next morning he was in fact dead. The 3 other geckos that came from the same source were still doing fine and continuing to gain weight.

That afternoon I was determined to find out what had happened to this animal. So I performed a comprehensive necropsy. I've spoken with several Rhac breeders and after they shared their stores with me, I shared mine with them. Now I'm sharing this with you in the hopes that you can identify potential trouble early and save the ailing gecko. Here's the results:

This is the Crested as it appeared on the morning it passed. In this image you can see a very thin gecko with a bloody and congested intestine. As well as what appears to be 30% of its liver in a state of necrosis (later confirmed on histological exam of the tissue).

Here you can see a focal area of ulceration, a product of ulcerative colitis.

I performed a wet-mount of the intestinal contents. What I found was a lot of blood (RBC's) and a few protozoan parasites. Those are likely to be non-pathogenic organisms (probably Trichomonas spp) that inhabit their intestine, but still interesting.

Here you can see a cross section of the ulcerated area of the intestine. It shows a lot of blood and a loss of mucosal surface (epithelium).

Now we get to the interesting part. This is a photomicrograph of the sloughed tissue and other material in the intestinal lumen (middle area). What I found were ameba like structures that later presumptively identified by an infectious disease specialist as Entamoeba invadins.

Here is the same organism in the liver, 30% of which was necrotic (dead).

This particular organism appears to devastate the normally very disease resistant Crested Gecko (but doesn't appear to have the same affect on other Rhac spp. based on lack of reports of affected gecko). Other breeders have relayed to me similar circumstances where Crested have died, so this organism is within the captive community.

Signs & Symptoms
• Rapid weight loss
• Lethargy
• Swollen Vent (late stage)
• This is contagious though contact with the feces of ailing geckos

• Highly susceptible to Flagyl (Metronidazole)
• 250mg/kg for 3 treatments is probably enough
• You must keep the cage clean and bleached during treatment to prevent re-infection.
• You should also treat all other geckos that have had any contact with the affected one. Treating the entire colony (could easily done by medicating their food) may be needed as a precaution if food/water dishes and cages are moved from cage to cage.

Take home message: If noticed early on, this is an easy and highly treatable disease!!!

There are other causes of weight loss (like intestinal blockage), but amebiasis should be part of the treatment plan straight away - if you want the best chance to save your ailing gecko.

Feel free to comment and thanks for the long read (JFYI - I'm a reasearch scientist by profession),

-Randy May
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