Crested & Gargoyle
Crested Gecko and Gargoyle Gecko Care and Breeding
The Crested Gecko (Rhacodactylus ciliatus) has become increasingly popular among reptile enthusiasts over the past few years. Thought to be extinct until 1994, they are now fairly common in captivity. These geckos, from the New Caledonian Islands near Australia, make excellent pets. They are extremely hardy, easy to keep and handle, and come in a variety of beautiful colors and patterns.
Gargoyle Geckos (Rhacodactylus auriculatus) are very similar in size, care and breeding to Cresteds. These geckos are quickly catching on with gecko enthusiasts. Color and patterns such as striped, orange/red blotch, and others are becoming available.
The following is a brief summary of their care, maintenance, and breeding. Unless noted, the information below will work for both Cresteds and Gargoyles:
Acclimating New Geckos: When you receive your new crested gecko, it may take some time for it to adjust to its new surroundings. Geckos can get stressed from being shipped, then placed in a strange environment. This may cause them to go off-feed for several days or more. As long as you set the environment up properly, the gecko should settle in within a few days. One stress factor is the cage type. Most breeders keep their geckos in plastic boxes in a rack system. There is no overhead light other than the ambient room light. Their hot spot comes from heat tape underneath their box. Geckos raised under these conditions usually do very well. However, most pet owners prefer to keep their geckos in a glass tank. They can be decorated much nicer and are better for viewing the animals. The problem is that geckos don't like change. They may be stressed by the glass. The stress level may go up even more if a bright daytime bulb is being used as the primary heat source. Crested Geckos don't like bright light. It will cause them to hide whenever it is on. The best way to acclimate geckos to a glass tank is to do the following: 1: If you use a bulb, make sure it is a nocturnal blue bulb designed for low light emissions. A heat pad can also be used to provide "belly heat". 2: Make sure the gecko has a warm, dark, and somewhat humid hiding place. They need to hide to feel secure. 3: Handle them very infrequently, if at all, for at least the first 2 weeks. 4: Tape black construction paper or cardboard to all 4 sides of the outside of the tank. Every week, remove on side of cardboard. After a month, all 4 sides will be removed. This will give the gecko time to adjust to the new cage. 5: Try to feed it the same food type is used to. Dietary changes can be stressful on crested geckos. 6: If you have geckos and you want to add a new one, keep the new gecko separate for at least 30 days to let it acclimate, and to watch for signs of health concerns. 7: If you put several geckos in one cage, make sure they are approximately the same size. Keep an eye on their food intake to make sure they are all feeding and maintaining good bodyweight. Never, ever put more than one male in a cage, no matter how big the cage is.
Cage Setup: Crested Geckos do well in either a simple, hygienic cage, or an elaborate, naturalistic setup. If your purpose is to display them, you may want to take a naturalistic approach. In the wild, these geckos live in rainforests. They can be found both on the ground or high in the tree canopy. It is very important to give them similar conditions in captivity. This includes a substrate of peat moss, coco-fiber, cypress mulch, or other bedding that will keep the humidity high. Also, include hiding and perching places such as clean branches, driftwood, corkbark, and live or artificial plants. 20 gallon tall aquariums are perfect for single geckos or pairs. 29 gallons and larger cages are need for larger groups. There are many types of reptile-specific cages on the market as well. Be sure to choose one that is tall so the geckos will have vertical space to climb.
If you plan to keep large numbers of geckos, you may want to try a simple, easy maintenance setup. The substrate can be newspaper or paper towel. Cardboard tubes, PVC pipe, and cardboard egg crates can be used as hiding places. A small plastic box with moist peat moss and a small entry hole cut in the lid can be used as a humid hiding place or egg deposition site.
Temperatures: Although they come from a tropical environment, Crested Geckos prefer cooler temperatures. During the day, temperatures in the upper 70s and low 80s is ideal. This can drop to the low mid 70s at night. Crested Geckos will become stressed if exposed to temperatures above 85.. Hatchlings and juveniles are more fragile than adults when it comes to temperature extremes. In most cases, room temperature is fine, although a low wattage blue bulb, or an undertank heating pad made for reptiles can be used to provide a little extra warmth.
UV Light: Crested and Gargoyle geckos will do fine without any UV or full-spectrum lighting. However, it can't hurt, and there are some health benefits to it. Also, it is important to have good lighting over the cage if live plants are being used. The geckos will usually hide when the lights are on, but they may expose some of their body to absorb some of the UV rays emitted by the bulb.
Food and Feeding: One of the biggest advantages these geckos have over most other small lizards is that their feeding is not restricted to insects. Fruit babyfood, such as peach or apricot is readily eaten. This should not be used as the only food source for crested geckos because it lacks protein, calcium and other vitamins and minerals. There are several powdered Crested Gecko diets on the market today. We use the Repashy Superfood's Crested Gecko Diet for our cresteds and gargoyles. It's a powder that contains vitamins, minerals, protein, bee pollen, spirulina and other nutritious food for Crested Geckos. There are also flavors of fruit supplements that can be added to the base diet such as apricot, peach, banana, strawberry, kiwi, and several others. Crested Geckos can be raised on this diet exclusively. Water can be added to it, but we prefer to keep it in dry form in a shallow bowl available at all times. It lasts much longer this way, giving the crested gecko a constant access to food. However, it is extremely important that the food remain completely dry, and changed a couple times a week. If it is allowed to get wet it will become stale quickly, and the geckos will not eat it. Ideally, the diet should be fed in wet form as described on the package. That takes any guesswork out as to whether or not the gecko will eat it. It is not necessary to feed crickets to the geckos, although extra variety is never a bad idea. A good feeding regimen is to give them crickets once or twice a week and Crested Gecko Diet twice a week. Replace uneaten diet with fresh diet. This schedule will give the gecko a fast growth rate and will allow a hatchling to reach maturity in about 9-12 months. It is important not to overfeed, as extra crickets crawling in the cage will stress them. Feed each gecko five or six crickets that are each about 1/2 the size of the gecko's head. Dust the crickets with a calcium and multivitamin mix with each feeding. Make sure to use both a calcium AND a multivitamin powder as these provide different vitamins and minerals. The easiest way to ensure that your crickets are properly supplemented is to use the Repashy Superfoods Calcium Plus supplement. It contains vitamins, calcium and other ingredients that will enhance your gecko's diet. If any fruit babyfood is used, it should be offered in a low dish or jar lid. Generally, each adult gecko will consume about one tablespoon per feeding.
Water: A small water bowl should also be offered. Make sure this is not deep as babies can easily drown if they fall in. Spray the cage with water once or twice a day. Crested Geckos tend to be more active after spraying, especially at night. Distilled water is best for spraying the cage, because it won't leave hard water stains on the glass.
Handling: These geckos tend to be fairly easy to handle. However, there are some individuals that are flighty and may try to bite. As a rule, cresteds and gargoyles will allow gentle handling several times a week. Care should be taken when handling. Rough handling is stressful and may cause them to drop their tail. Gargoyles will regenerate their tails, but crested gecko tails will not re-grow if it is lost.
Raising Babies: Juveniles are best raised in small, plastic shoe boxes with paper towel as a substrate. They should be given a hiding place and a shallow water bowl. Feed them at about the same frequency as the adults. Make sure there are no extra crickets in the cage to stress the gecko. Also, keep the temperature within the safe range, as babies to heat stress easier than adults. GARGOYLES should be raised individually as they tend to bite the tails off their cage-mates.
Longevity: Since Crested Geckos haven't been in captivity for very long, it is not known how long they may live. It is suspected that their average lifespan in ideal conditions is about 10-15 years. Some individuals may live much longer, possibly up to 20 years or more.
Sexing: Crested Gecko cannot be accurately sexed until about 5 months of age and about 15-20 grams in weight. At that time, males develop large hemipenal bulges at the base of their tails. Females have a slight bulge or none at all
Breeding: Both Cresteds and Gargoyles are very easy to breed. Males and females should be approximately 35-40 grams before breeding is attempted. Most are mature at 12-14 months. It is best to raise the males away from the females until they are mature. Once they are mature, they can be placed together. It is important to watch for signs of aggression during this time. Be absolutely sure you are not placing more than one male in a cage. Males are extremely aggressive towards each other. It is helpful to put your geckos through a cool-down prior to breeding. In late fall or early winter, turn the room temperatures down to the upper 60s and turn off any heat source on the cage itself. Keep them at this temperature for 6-8 weeks. You should feed them twice a week, but they may not eat much at this time. Once you warm the room back up and turn their heat sources on, they should begin laying eggs in their nest boxes. Females will usually lay every 3-6 weeks. Crested Geckos will lay up to 18 eggs per season. Gargoyles seem to have a lower reproductive rate, only laying 8-10 eggs per season.
Incubation/Hatchling: Check your nest boxes for eggs every other day. Healthy eggs will be pure white and have a solid feel. Any small, spongy eggs will most likely be infertile. Eggs need to be placed in a deli cup or other small plastic container with about 1-2 inches of perlite or coarse-grade vermiculite. This needs to have water added to it in a 1:1 ratio by weight. It must be moist enough to pack when a handful is squeezed, but no water should drip out. It takes a little practice to get the consistency right. If it is too moist, the eggs will tend to take up too much water and mold. If it is too dry, the eggs will usually shrivel and dry up. You'll want one or two tiny holes in the side of the container to provide fresh air. If you have more air-holes, you will lose too much moisture, which may kill the eggs. Eggs should be incubated at 74-80 degrees. They will hatch in 6-12 weeks. Temperatures closer to 80 will make them hatch quicker. Most "reptile room" temperatures should be warm enough so that you can put the egg containers on a shelf. If the room is cooler than 74, you may want to purchase a Hovabator incubator. These are inexpensive and can be purchased at most reptile supply companies. Make sure this is set up and calibrated before you need to put eggs in them. When the babies hatch, you can set them up individually in plastic shoeboxes. You may house Crested Gecko babies in small groups as long as they are similar in size, and lots of hiding places are available. They should start feeding 3-4 days after they hatch.
Color and Pattern Morphs: Crested Geckos are available in many different colors and patterns, most of which are bright and vibrant. Colors include red, orange, yellow, cream, charcoal, brown, grey, tan, and olive green. Patterns types are patternless, bi-color, tiger-banded, dalmation-spotted, fire-striped, pinstriped, and harlequin. A particular morph gets its name by combining the color with the pattern. For example: a red gecko with a fire stripe down the back and dalmation spots would be labeled a red fire dalmation. See our Gecko Gallery for photos of some of the morphs we are working with.
Crested Geckos are extremely polymorphic, meaning that any combination of breeders can produce multiple color/pattern morphs in the babies. However, selective-breeding of similar traits will tend to produce babies that also show those traits. Selective-breeding in crested geckos has really just begun. A lot of progress in creating new and exciting morphs will be done over the next few years.
Gargoyle Geckos don't have the diversity that cresteds do, but they do come in several patterns- reticulated, blotched, and striped. In some, the blotches or stripes may be bright orange or red.
This information should be enough to get you started. For more information, especially about the color morphs, we recommend "Rhacodactylus: A Complete Guide to Their Selection and Care" by deVosjoli, Fast, and Repashy.
Enjoy your Crested Geckos and Gargoyle Geckos!