Buying a crested gecko may be a confusing process, especially for first-time reptile owners.
It is crucial to understand everything involved in crested gecko ownership, including what to look for when purchasing your new pet.
When buying a crested gecko, some important factors include the animal’s health, age, and sex. If you have a certain budget or are looking for a specific color morph, this will also affect where you decide to purchase your crested gecko.
Since crested geckos have an average lifespan between 15-20 years in captivity, buying one is not a decision to be taken lightly.
Do your research, and do not be afraid to ask questions about things you do not fully understand.
Read on for helpful tips when purchasing a crested gecko, and information on where to buy one and what you need to do to prepare for your new reptile.
The Health of the Crested Gecko
The most important factor of buying a crested gecko is the animal’s health. Purchasing a sick crested gecko will result in costly vet visits and may also cause the animal to die prematurely.
The best way to avoid this is to check the crestie you want to purchase for signs of good health.
Indicators of good health in a crested gecko include:
- Bright, clear eyes
- A clear nose and vent
- A strong jaw with no signs of an underbite or overbite
- Healthy weight
- A flat belly without the presence of any bumps
- Intact digits (toes)
- A healthy tail (if the gecko has lost its tail, which is common, ensure the area is clean and healthy)
- A normal walking gait, with limbs having a full range of motion
- A healthy spine, limbs, and tail without the presence of kinks or swelling
- No signs of a stuck shed
- Alert and active behavior
When purchasing a crested gecko from a local breeder or pet store, always ask to see the animal check for these signs of good health.
It is more difficult to assess a crestie’s health if you are purchasing from an online breeder.
Fortunately, many reputable online crestie breeders offer a health guarantee as well as a live-on-arrival guarantee to ensure the gecko is in good health.
Always check for these health policies and read them thoroughly when buying a gecko online.
Common Illnesses in Crested Geckos
Most of the common illnesses in crested geckos will manifest with recognizable physical symptoms. Many of these illnesses are easily treatable, while others may prove fatal.
Cloudy eyes or discharge from the nose are signs of an upper respiratory infection, easily treated with a round of antibiotics.
A dirty vent and weight loss indicate diarrhea in a crested gecko, usually caused by a parasite infestation or poor nutrition.
Visible bumps on a crestie’s stomach signify a skin infection, and it is generally treated with an antifungal medication.
Jaw, spine, and limb deformities are all symptoms of metabolic bone disease, incurable and often fatal.
Metabolic bone disease will also cause a crested gecko to have difficulty walking or standing.
The disease is easily prevented by adding calcium and vitamin D3 supplements to a crestie’s diet.
Missing toes or tail damage are signs of a previously stuck shed, which has led to necrosis and amputation.
Shedding issues are caused by poor enclosure conditions such as improper temperature or low humidity.
Lethargy and loss of appetite are symptoms spanning across all illnesses in crested geckos.
Our post on different types of crested gecko sicknesses goes into more detail on this topic.
The Age of the Crested Gecko
The age of the crested gecko you want to purchase depends on your experience as a reptile keeper. Baby crested geckos are more difficult to care for than juveniles or adults. If you want a crested gecko for breeding purposes, you will need to purchase an adult.
Most breeders will sell a crestie once it is two months old.
If the crestie is younger than this, it may refuse to eat, ultimately dying.
Baby cresties will need to eat more often and should be monitored closely for signs of healthy growth.
Aside from the extra care, another drawback to purchasing a baby crestie is determining its sex.
You will also be unable to see a crestie’s color and pattern morph until it is much older.
It is difficult to tell the sex of a baby crestie until it is between 6-8 months old and weighs at least 10 grams.
If the crestie weighs less than 10 grams, wait until the reptile is older and has gained more weight to determine the sex.
For more help in gendering your pet, read our article on crested gecko sexing.
Another factor in determining whether or not to get a baby or juvenile crested gecko instead of an adult is enclosure size.
Young cresties need a smaller tank to help them feel secure, and once they grow and become an adult, you will need to provide them with a larger enclosure.
If you decide to purchase a baby or juvenile crested gecko, you will need to factor in this expense of buying multiple enclosures.
Adult crested geckos are much easier to care for in terms of feeding and housing.
Buying an Adult Crested Gecko for Breeding
If you purchase a crestie for breeding purposes, ensure the animal is at least 15-18 months old, which is when it will reach sexual maturity.
The crestie should also weigh at least 35 grams for successful breeding.
This is especially important in female crested geckos, who are less likely to produce viable eggs underweight.
It is also vital to be sure of the sex of your gecko to avoid any surprises later when it comes to breeding.
Purchasing Multiple Crested Geckos
Two or more crested geckos may live together, but there are important rules to follow. Two females or one male and multiple females may be kept in the same enclosure. Never house two or more male crested geckos in the same enclosure.
Crested geckos are usually solitary animals, and they can live a happy life on their own.
It is not recommended to purchase more than one crestie if you are an inexperienced reptile keeper.
Only purchase multiple cresties if you have the time, experience, and adequate space to house them properly.
Two females will get along with each other as long as they are the same size.
A larger female may assert dominance over a smaller female.
Keeping one male in an enclosure with several females reduces the chance of the male aggressively mating with a single female and causing injuries to her.
If you house a male crestie with females, they will inevitably breed, so you must be prepared for this.
Male cresties are extremely territorial and keeping more than one in the same enclosure guarantees aggressive behavior between them.
Male crested geckos are capable of causing a great deal of harm to each other, sometimes resulting in death.
Where to Purchase a Crested Gecko
Crested geckos are available for purchase from several sources, including pet stores, online breeders, local breeders, reptile rescues, and reptile expos.
Average prices for crested geckos range from $50-$100, but rare morphs will sell from anywhere between $500-$5,000.
Most cresties for sale are captive-bred, as it is illegal to sell wild-caught geckos.
It is important to ensure your crestie is captive-bred, not just for legal purposes, but because wild-caught geckos are likely to be infested with parasites or other diseases you may not be aware of.
Always ask for more information about a crestie you wish to buy, and check for any signs of illness or injury whenever possible.
Some of the disadvantages of buying a crested gecko from a pet store include not seeing the gecko’s parents, they usually do not have any special color morphs, and the employees may not be informed enough to answer any questions you may have.
A pet store is one of the most common places to purchase a crested gecko, and they are usually inexpensive.
There are also specialty pet stores which only sell reptiles.
You are more likely to find different morphs and more knowledgeable staff at a specialty reptile store.
Always ask to handle the crestie so you will be able to check its health and activity level.
Do not purchase a crestie if it is lethargic or if you suspect the animal has an illness.
Reputable online breeders will have a health guarantee as well as a live-on-arrival guarantee posted on their website. They will also include multiple pictures of each crested gecko they sell, pictures of their breeding operation, care sheets, and contact information to answer questions.
Online crested gecko breeders will typically have a variety of rare and colorful morphs available for sale.
There are hundreds of online crested gecko breeders, and it is important to know what to look for when buying an animal without physically handling it.
A live-on-arrival guarantee ensures the animal you purchase will be alive and in good health when you receive it.
It is important to read the fine print on this guarantee, as there are often certain steps to follow for returning the animal if it arrives dead.
Health guarantees are very similar, and they usually guarantee the health of your crestie for anywhere from 1-6 weeks, with stipulations on returning the animal for a refund or replacement.
If you do not see this information on a breeder’s website and are not open to answering any questions you have, it is best to look for another breeder.
Even if they have a rare morph, you are looking for, and if an online breeder is not supplying you with the information you need or a written health guarantee, this is a red flag.
Local crested gecko breeders usually advertise through reptile forums, social media, classified ads, or flyers on your local community board.
You may be fortunate enough to have one or more private crested gecko breeders in your area.
If you are new to owning cresties, a private breeder is your best option.
They will answer your questions, and you will get to see the crested gecko you want in person.
Private breeders will usually offer various crested gecko morphs you will not find at a pet store.
Some important information a local private breeder will be able to provide to you about a crested gecko includes:
- Lineage and parentage
- Hatch date and age
- Diet and how the gecko is fed
- How and where the gecko is housed
Knowing the lineage and seeing the parents of the crestie will give you an idea of how it will look like an adult.
Age is important, especially if you are buying an adult crestie to breed.
The weight and diet of the crested gecko will let you know if the animal is properly fed.
How the crestie is fed is also important for knowing if the animal is used to catching its prey or being hand-fed.
How the crestie is housed is important for ensuring you provide your new pet with a comfortable environment, and it will make the transition to your home easier for the reptile.
Reptile Rescue Groups
Reptile rescue groups and shelters have many crested geckos available for free or at a very low price. These crested geckos have either been abandoned, or they come from breeders who cannot sell them due to minor cosmetic flaws.
A reptile rescue is not likely to have any special color morphs, and there will be a small number of cresties to choose from.
But, it is a great opportunity to give an abandoned or otherwise unwanted crestie a new home.
Adopting a crestie often requires you to fill out an application with numerous questions regarding your home, income, and your experience in caring for reptiles.
These questions will help the reptile rescue decide if you will provide proper care for a crestie.
This is important to the reptile rescue because they are looking for someone to give the crestie a permanent home.
Moving to a new environment is stressful for a crested gecko, and the reptile rescue wants to ensure the animal does not wind up back in an animal shelter.
Reptile expos are great for meeting other reptile enthusiasts and learning about new products specifically for reptiles. There are usually many breeders and sellers at these expos offering various reptile species, so it is a great place to find a new pet.
If you have any questions about crested gecko ownership, there will likely be many different people at the expo who will be able to give you answers.
You will also be able to handle the crestie you want and ask the breeder questions about the animal.
Some reptile expos sell enclosures and other reptile products, as well as books with in-depth information on how to care for your new pet.
The only drawbacks to a reptile expo are the location, frequency, and crowds.
Reptile expos may be located several hours away from you, and most of them only happen once a year.
Because they do not happen very frequently, reptile expos usually draw very large crowds, so you’ll have to navigate around thousands of other people.
If you do not mind the traveling, the waiting, and the crowds, a reptile expo is a great place to purchase a crested gecko.
Reptile expos may also require a small entry fee, so be prepared for this.
To find a reptile expo near you, check out reptile forums and social media.
There may also be advertisements for these expos in your local newspaper if one is coming to your area.
How To Prepare for Your New Crested Gecko
If you do not already own a crested gecko, it is important to prepare for your new pet. You will need a suitable enclosure, a heat source, branches and ledges for climbing, substrate, food, and a quality thermometer and hygrometer.
Crested geckos have specific temperature and humidity requirements, and it is easier to perfect the setup before you get the animal.
This reduces the risk of injury or illness to your crestie due to improper temperatures or humidity.
If you use live plants instead of artificial ones, you will also need to do your research to ensure the plants are safe for your crestie.
Choosing a Crested Gecko Enclosure
Because crested geckos are arboreal reptiles, meaning they are avid climbers, they require a vertical tank. A 20-gallon tank is ideal for an adult crested gecko, while a smaller 10-gallon tank is more suitable for a baby or juvenile gecko.
An enclosure with a height between 18-24″ inches will give an adult crestie plenty of space for climbing.
The enclosure will need a mesh lid to prevent the crestie from escaping while still providing adequate ventilation.
Optimal daytime temperatures for a crested gecko’s enclosure should range from 72-78° degrees Fahrenheit (26° C). Nighttime temperatures should be slightly cooler, ranging from 69-74° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C).
Crested geckos are native to a moderate climate, and they do not require as much heat as other reptile species.
Cresties are very sensitive to heat, and they will suffer from heatstroke and possibly die if temperatures in the enclosure are higher than 82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C).
Because of this heat sensitivity, many crestie owners do not provide their reptiles with any additional heat source.
This is fine as long as the ambient room temperature is within the proper range.
However, a crestie will benefit from having a thermal gradient in their tank.
There will be a warm area on one side of the tank for basking in a thermal gradient, and the other side will be cooler.
Since cresties rely on external temperatures to regulate their body heat, a thermal gradient gives them a place to warm up and cool down, as needed.
Providing a temperature gradient in a crested gecko tank is more challenging because it is much taller than it is wide.
Any heat source you use should be placed at the highest point of the tank.
Temperatures will naturally be cooler near the bottom of the tank because there will be plenty of shade from plants and branches.
Cresties are not as active during the day, so they do not necessarily need a basking spot.
However, if you live in a cold climate or frequently use an air conditioner, you will need to provide your crestie with a source of heat.
Temperatures should not drop below 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C).
Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures will cause shedding problems and slowed digestion and may even lead to impaction.
Infrared bulbs and ceramic heat emitters are the best options for heating a crestie’s tank.
For all the details and advice, check out our detailed crested gecko temperature guide.
Humidity levels in a crested gecko tank should be close to 60% during the day and 80% at night. Crested geckos need higher humidity at night to smell their prey better.
Along with temperature, the humidity will affect your crestie’s health if it is either too high or too low.
To raise the humidity in the tank at night, you will lightly mist the tank and the plants with water. Tap water is preferred over distilled or purified water because it contains minerals.
Misting the tank also prevents dehydration in your crested gecko because it will lick the droplets from the plant leaves.
Cresties typically do not drink from water dishes.
Humidity levels should fall to 50%-60% before you mist the tank.
This allows the tank to dry out a little and prevents bacteria from forming so easily.
If you want to learn more read our dedicated post on crested gecko humidity and temperature requirements.
Adding Climbing Spots
A crested gecko tank needs a few well-placed branches and plants to give the reptile many places to climb and hide.
Cresties will spend most of their time on the branches, and they rarely go to the bottom of the enclosure unless they need to cool down.
Avoid using branches you find outdoors, as certain woods such as cedar, juniper, redwood, and pine are toxic to cresties.
Reptile-safe branches are found in many pet supply stores, and they are a much better option.
It’s OK to use artificial or live plants in your crestie’s tank.
If you choose live plants, do your research, so you are able to avoid anything toxic for your gecko.
Since cresties do not spend much time on the floor of their enclosure, you will need to provide a feeding ledge with a food dish.
Feeding ledges are also available at most pet supply stores.
Choosing a Substrate
There are many different types of substrate to choose from for your crested gecko tank, including loose substrate mixtures, tile, and reptile carpet.
A loose substrate mixture is the best option, especially if you have plants in the enclosure.
A substrate mixture with ground coconut will retain moisture and keep the humidity levels in the tank stable.
Our favorite is this Zoo Med Coconut blend substrate on Amazon.
Avoid loose substrate mixtures containing sand, as they may be accidentally ingested and cause impaction.
The main staples of a crested gecko diet are commercial crested gecko food and gut-loaded insects such as crickets, roaches, and small locusts. Offer small pieces of fruit, waxworms, and super worms as an occasional treat.
Your crested gecko may not eat for a couple of days after bringing it home because it is stressed about being in a new environment.
It is important to obtain a food supply before you bring your crestie home so you will be prepared when the reptile is ready to eat.
Never feed your crestie wild insects because they may be infested with parasites and other diseases.
Live feeder insects are easily found in pet supply stores or start your feeder insect colony if you have the space and time.
Calcium and vitamin D3 powdered supplements should be added to your crestie’s diet to prevent metabolic bone disease.
Powdered supplements are given by lightly dusting the feeder insects before feeding them to your gecko.
Baby and juvenile cresties will eat every day, and adults should be fed every three days.
Check out our picks for the best crested gecko food for more details and help with providing a proper diet.
A Thermometer and a Hygrometer
A thermometer is used to ensure proper temperatures within the enclosure, and a hygrometer is used to measure humidity levels. Tank temperatures and humidity levels need to be checked at least twice per day to make sure you are providing an optimal environment for your crested gecko.
Two of the most important tools you will need when caring for a crested gecko are a quality thermometer and a hygrometer.
Avoid the inexpensive ribbon thermometers found in most pet stores, as they are often inaccurate.
Instead, choose a digital thermometer to check ambient temperatures and a temperature gun to measure surface temperatures.
This Repti Zoo thermometer works well for ambient temperatures.
For temperature guns, we like this one on Amazon the best.