Crested gecko health: Keeping your crested gecko fit and health
Crested geckos are some of the easiest reptiles to keep as pets, providing that a few very simple rules are followed.
- Crested geckos require a nutrient and calcium rich balanced diet, in order for them to grow properly and live a long and healthy life.
- They also require a temperature gradient in order for them to thermo-regulate and better digest the nutrients in their food.
- They also require plenty of space to move around, and being arboreal tree dwellers they also require a lot of climbing branches / perches.
The most common health problems that occur in cresties in captivity are usually a result of one of the above not being offered, or not being offered to the correct standard.
Below you will find an insight into the most common of these problems and ways to ensure that they are prevented.
MBD: Metabolic Bone Disease in crested geckos:
Metabolic bone disease in geckos is most often caused due to a lack of the correct nutrients being provided in their diets.
Metabolic bone disease is a deficiency of calcium, which results in the gecko utilising the calcium reserves from its own body and skeleton to supplement this lack in calcium.
By using the reserves of calcium in its own body, the gecko’s skeleton is ‘warped’ and misshapen due to the bones becoming very weak and pliable.
This often results in permanent disfigurement of the gecko, especially in the form of bumps, twists and dips in the spine and a rotating of the hips, causing the tail to flop or jut-out at an unusual angle.
Metabolic bone disease can also cause a weakening of the jaw, resulting in the gecko finding eating much more difficult.
The jaw is often too weak for the gecko to close it itself, and the jaw remains permanently open.
Due to the weakening of the bones, MBD can also at its worst result in numerous broken bones.
A gecko with MBD finds it more difficult to climb, and often lose the ‘stickiness’ on their feet and tail. If a gecko with MBD falls from a height, broken bones are usually the result.
Metabolic bone disease in its latter stages is a horrific sight to witness, and the gecko is twisted and contorted out of recognition.
In younger and crested gecko breeding females it is extra important to supplement feeding properly. Hatchlings put a lot of calcium into bone growth, and breeding females use an extraordinary amount of calcium when producing eggs.
Providing a healthy, nutrient rich and balanced gecko diet is the most foolproof way to help prevent your crested gecko developing MBD.
Preventing gecko Metabolic Bone Disease in crested geckos:
- Gut load live food prior to feeding making them more nutritious
- Dust live food with nutrient powders, Calcium, and/or Calcium D3
- Provide a good meal replacement gecko diet powder
- UVB light can also help to prevent MBD, as it helps the gecko to absorb and utilise the calcium in its diet more efficiently
- Too much phosphorous in a diet can prevent calcium being absorbed. Avoid foods with high phosphorus content.
Floppy tail syndrome: FTS in crested geckos
Floppy tail syndrome in geckos is when the gecko’s tail literally flops in an abnormal direction. It is most noticeable when the gecko is laying upside-down, flat against the side of its enclosure, at which point the tail usually flops down over its head or at a jaunty angle.
A healthy gecko tail would rest against the glass in its natural position.
It is thought that Floppy tail syndrome results mainly from a captive environment as cresties in the wild would rarely come across a surface as flat, smooth and vertical as an enclosure wall.
It is believed that this flat surface is what can contribute to FTS in crested geckos, as laying on this vertical surface for extended periods of time results in the tail ‘flopping’ over due to gravity, and weakens the muscles at the tails base.
At its worst, floppy tail syndrome is believed to be able to twist the pelvis of the gecko, predominantly due to the excessive weight put on the pelvic area when the tail flops to the side.
Due to this it is not advised to breed a female crested gecko with FTS, as she could well encounter problems trying to pass the eggs.
Although no concrete evidence is available, it can be assumed that providing plenty of climbing and hiding places for your gecko could help to prevent them from sleeping on the enclosure walls.
However it is still not fully understood whether this is the actual underlying cause of FTS. Many believe it could be a genetic deformity, and as such it could be passed from parents to their young although at the minute this seems unlikely.
Heat Stress in Crested Geckos
Heat Stress in crested geckos is the number one killer of these usually very hardy and easy to care for reptiles.
Crested geckos will begin to show stress if kept at temperatures above 28C for prolonged periods of time.
It is much easier to maintain your crested gecko enclosure at temperatures closer to around 25C than to risk over exposure to higher temperatures.
That being said you can allow parts of your enclosure to reach 28C – for example directly below the basking bulb – so long as your pet gecko can choose to move into a cooler area if they wish.
Higher temperatures only become a deadly problem when your gecko is forced to endure them constantly or for long periods of time without the option to cool down.
Research has shown that crested gecko exposed to temperatures of 30C without being able to cool down, can and will very likely die within an hour.
Young/small geckos are even more prone to heat stress so it is best to always allow them the choice to move to the cooler end of their temperature range.
Cleaning your crested gecko vivarium:
Keeping your gecko enclosure clean will help to prevent illnesses linked with bad hygiene, bacteria and moulds.
The crested gecko tank / enclosure will periodically need a thorough clean when it becomes dirty.
I find it easiest to spot-clean the enclosures every day or two, removing uneaten food and excrement and wiping the sides of the enclosure with damp paper towel.
There are numerous reptile-safe disinfectants available now and these can be diluted with water to ensure a safe environment for your gecko after cleaning and you can use newspaper to clean up smears and streaks on glass enclosures.
It is advised to do a thorough complete clean of the enclosure and all of its contents once in a while. I tend to do a big clean out every month to help stop any unwanted bacteria building up.
With regular cleaning and upkeep your crested gecko enclosure should not create an unwanted odour or create mould/bacteria.
Choosing a healthy crested gecko:
A healthy gecko:
• Will have clean and clear nose and eyes. Eyes will be bright and shiny and will not be sunken into the head.
• Will not have layers of retained shed skin stuck at its extremities. Healthy geckos shed in a few hours and shed should not remain much longer than this.
• Will not be dehydrated: Dehydrated geckos will have loose skin, sunken eyes and will be somewhat lethargic. Dehydration often results in the gecko looking thin in comparison to a well hydrated gecko.
• Will be alert when handled, a unhealthy animal will be limp and possibly shaky in your hand and will show little to no interest or reaction in being handled
• Should have a plump, straight tail that can ‘grasp’ onto objects. A good test of this is if the gecko wraps its tail around your finger.
• Should have almost Velcro like feet. If the gecko is failing to stick/climb – this can be a sign of MBD or retained shed.