Crested gecko setup: How to setup a complete crested gecko terrarium


The humble little Crested Gecko is a very popular reptile among new and experienced keepers today. But it’s a reptile that has specific care needs which we shall go through in this article. With an average captive lifespan of 15 years, you need to get this right from day 1.

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How to create the best habitat for a Crested Gecko

Crested Gecko facts

A fully grown Crested Gecko will average around 8 inches, including the tail. But an inch either side of this is not out of the ordinary, depending on the care in those vital first few months of rapid growth, as well as the specific bloodline/genetics.

They also have double-jointed toes, allowing them to lift the toes from the front or back as needed when climbing. On the end of these toes are small nails. Making the grip more secure when needed and dependent on the surface they are in contact with.

You may have seen photos or videos of Cresties licking their own eyes. The reason being is because they have no eyelids – only a clear membrane layer for added protection. And they then use their tongue to clean and moisten their eyes as needed.

Crested Gecko on a branchThe Crestie needs specific conditions to thrive

Their skin is very silky and smooth to the touch, as it is covered with extremely small scales. And to actually define the characteristics of the name Crested Gecko, they have a wedge shaped head with a very defined crest running from the eyes (looking like eye-lashes), right down to the tail.

The Crested Gecko is often classed as crepuscular, as opposed to nocturnal due to having similar UVB exposure needs to that of common crepuscular the Leopard Gecko. And having witnessed this behavior myself, I’d have to agree. More on the UVB later.

Crested Gecko habitat kit and equipment

You will need:

  • Enclosure
  • Lighting
  • Heating
  • A bioactive substrate
  • Feeding ledges and pots
  • Plants, mosses


Read on to learn what equipment you’d need and how to set it all up in order to maintain optimal conditions in your Crestie’s habitat.

Crested Gecko enclosure: what type and what size?

A glass terrarium is best suited for this species due to the moisture and humidity involved with the care.

A wooden vivarium “could” work, if sealed properly, and extra ventilation added. But honestly, would be cheaper and more importantly better for the Crestie to just use a terrarium.

Personally I use Exo-Terra glass terrariums. With the minimum size being a 45x45x60cm for one adult crested gecko. Or preferably, 45x45x90cm being even better.

Being an arboreal species the height is very important to their well-being, as naturally they would spend more time up in trees.

Crested Gecko lighting

This is where it may seem contradictory to other “research” you’ve made – a Crestie’s UVB requirements.

I will always recommend the use of UVB for a crested gecko, while many other will say “they live fine without UVB”.

To which my answer will always be, “living is not thriving”. They have access to UVB in the wild, and will openly sleep exposed to such. So why wouldn’t you provide this in your setup?

There is absolutely no answer to that argument.

If you provide a varied amount of height and exposure to the UVB via the use of branches, vines, and plants providing shade, the Crestie will move where it feels safe, secure, and importantly, where it wants to go.

It’s all about providing ‘options’ for the Crestie.

I use the Arcadia Shade-dweller kit (7% UVB), set on top of the mesh of the terrarium. With the closest branches of the canopy in the setup around 10” from the top. This provides a UV-Index reading of around 2. As per the great Arcadia lighting guide for the species.

If you provide the heat and UVB safely and at the correct distances. It will only benefit the Crested gecko.

Crested Gecko on a branchThe Crested Gecko is often classed as crepuscular, as opposed to nocturnal due to its UVB exposure needs

Crested Gecko temperature

I like to use a proper bright Par38 heat-bulb in a dome reflector. Some people use heat-mats stuck on the side of a setup. But for me, they just don’t provide a natural heat source. Nor rarely reach the required temperatures.

Heat comes from above for all living things (the Sun). So we should be replicating this for all our captive animals.

I use the Microclimate Evo lite thermostat to keep those temperatures safe (but any brand thermostat, as long as it’s a dimming stat will be fine). When the dimming point is set at 27c/80f, once that temperature is reached, the stat will subtly dim the bulb, thus lowering the temperature. When the temperature falls, the stat will start to gradually provide more power to the bulb until the temperature is safe again.

This light/heat source is on for 12 hours per day. And off over night with the use of a plug timer (no light at all at night).

I have zero need for a Ceramic/CHE bulb overnight, as my home temperature doesn’t go below 18c/65f, even in the depths of winter. But if they do, the use of a CHE bulb or even the Arcadia DHP (never a red/blue/green or any colour bulb) is absolutely fine.

The best Crested Gecko substrate

What you use here is up to you. As naturally a Crested Gecko will have very little contact with the substrate, if at all.

I know many keepers that use paper-towel or newspaper without any issues so to speak. Just often a wet soggy mess when it comes to the moisture. But if you intend on using real plants, which you absolutely should as they are far more hygienic than fake plants and vines, then soil is the only way to go about it.

It’s also perfect for spraying down daily. You shouldn’t even need a drainage layer etc. As with the use of mosses, the humidity should only need a quick spray.

I use a topsoil mix (no added fertilisers). With my own added sections of moss to aid the humidity. All topped with leaf-litter – my setup is bioactive. All of my setups are bioactive and if you have followed my other “setup” articles via Exotic Direct, you should have a general grasp of what it all entails.

How to create a Crested Gecko bioactive enclosure

You add live plants and the likes of Woodlice, Meal-worms, Morios, Springtails to the soil (all available at Northampton Reptile Centre). And they eat any waste produced by the crested gecko. Which if I’m honest, won’t be much at all, even for an adult Crestie.

This in turn aids the natural fertilisation of the live plants within the setup, keeping the terrarium surface “alive”.

Crested Gecko on a branchCreate a bioactive substrate for your Crested Gecko

Crested gecko terrarium humidity

With a hydrometer placed in the centre of the setup (or one of the walls in the centre, I aim for between 60/80% humidity. This will naturally rise when I spray, and often spike to 100%. But as long as you have good air-flow, all is perfectly fine. Humidity is only ever an issue with bad air-flow.

The use of mosses around the surface of the setup not only absorbs the fallen water, but spraying this moss when misting the setup keeps that humidity optimal throughout a 24hour period.

Thus, you should only have to spray the moss and setup briefly,ie once daily.

If you are still struggling to maintain humidity an extra spray during the day can help or just before the lights go out. Alternatively, the acquisition of a fogger unit can help.

I have used the Lucky Reptile fogger in the past, and it’s currently in use with my Tokay Geckos.

Do I need to make a hide for my Crested Gecko?

I have used coconut shell type hides hung in the setup for crested geckos, and they have been used. But 99% of the time, if you have a well planted setup, they with pick an area at the back, out of sight, under some hanging leafs or vines.

It can be at the top of the setup, or near the bottom. Even out in the open (although that is rare). As long as they have the option to hide, then they can go where they essentially feel secure and safe.

Using a hide on the terrarium surface more often than not would just be ignored. As mentioned before, they don’t really venture onto the floor. So it’s just wasted space where a real plant could go.

Crested Gecko feeding ledge

A feeding ledge is an absolute necessity.

As mention already, due to a Crested Gecko not venturing to the surface much, and food and water bowls on the floor of the terrarium would not be seen or used. I love the dual/double feeding ledges you can buy. And I use them in both my Crestie setups.

And you can purchase the pots over at Gecko-Pantry.

Alternatively, if you find a retailer that supplies the “Arcadia Earth Pro Sticky-foot Gold Starter Kit” you’d be able to get some food, a double ledge, the needed pots, and mixing equipment all in the same package.

I use one pot for food (when on pre-mix feeding day). And the other as a constant water supply.

And this is stuck to the side of the terrarium, about half way up the wall.

Crested Gecko on a branchCrested Geckos rarely venture to the floor of their terrariums so and food and water placed there won’t be seen

Can you buy a crested gecko and setup together?

You can, sure. But be very weary of what is included within these ‘complete setups’. Many shops sell these with inappropriate items. And you’ll only end up spending much more money to get the correct equipment.

If it doesn’t include at least a 45x45x60cm setup, even for a young Crestie. Don’t purchase it. No matter what nonsense you are told.

If it doesn’t have any UVB, don’t purchase it.

If it has a heat-mat instead of a heat-bulb. Don’t purchase it.

If there is no dimming thermostat included. Don’t purchase it.

These, as already discussed above are vital factor to creating an optimal setup for your new crested gecko.

And regardless of the reptile or amphibian you purchase cutting corners to save time and money to make things easier for you as a keeper is never the best option.

Put the reptiles needs first; after all, it’s that animal that has to live in the conditions you choose for it. It has absolutely no say in the matter.

Further information For any further information or assistance. Please head over to my personal blog, where I have linked many other of my articles.

Is your Crested Gecko insured? Get a quote for £1,000 of vet fees, death and theft cover. Vet fee cover only also available | We’ve been insuring exotic pets since 1996 | Check out our customer reviews on Feefo.

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Pete Hawkins
13 Nov 2019

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