How To Clean A Crested Gecko Tank

Is your crested gecko tank dirty?

Do you want to make sure you’re providing a clean environment for your pet?

Just like humans, reptiles in captivity benefit from a clean living space. 

Your crested gecko is no exception!

You should be routinely cleaning your pet’s enclosure, but you may be wondering how to best accomplish this task.

We’ll walk you through everything, from the equipment you’ll need to a step-by-step guide of how to do it.

Keep in mind: Cleaning your crested gecko’s tank is a must if you want to maintain a happy and healthy environment and protect both you and your pet from disease.

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What You’ll Need For Cleaning A Crested Gecko Tank

Before you get going on cleaning your gecko’s home, you’ll want to make sure to have these cleaning equipment items on hand:

  • Sponge
  • Reptile-safe disinfectant 
  • Bucket or small tub (in which to wash the decorations)
  • Paper towels
  • Toothbrush and/or cotton swabs (to get in the nooks and crannies)
  • A separate enclosure for your gecko to hang out in while you’re cleaning (like an old tank or a faunarium)

Youtube Video: How To Clean A Crested Gecko Tank

Steps For Cleaning A Crested Gecko Tank

Now you have your supplies and a video for reference, so we’ll break it down step by step—here’s how you should go about cleaning the tank.

Pro tip: To be on the safe side, consider wearing rubber gloves, goggles, and a mask in the cleaning process. 

Reptile tanks and reptiles themselves can transmit dangerous bacteria, so be careful.

If you don’t engage with these precautions, we recommend washing your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap before and after you’re done. 

Step One: Relocate Your Gecko

First things first: you should make sure your pet has a safe place to be while you’re elbow-deep in their enclosure. 

As mentioned above, this temporary housing could be an old tank or faunarium. 

They won’t be there long, so no need to redecorate, but consider placing a damp paper towel on the bottom of the space, so there’s some moisture in there.

Step Two: Remove Decorations, Substrate, And Other Items

With your gecko out, it’s time to dismantle the habitat. 

Take out all plants and decorations and place them in a small tub to wash later on.

You should remove water and food bowls at this point and place them in a tub, as you’ll be disinfecting these later on, too.

Next, get rid of all the old substrate in the tank and put it in a trash bag for disposal. 

If there are tiny pieces remaining on the tank floor, a handheld vacuum works well to get rid of the last few bits.

Step Three: Wash And Disinfect The Decorations And Other Items

Head back to the tub containing your plants, decorations, and food and water bowl. 

Start by rinsing these items with water to remove any significant debris.

Then go about disinfecting the items using a safe product also reptile-friendly and free from any harmful chemicals. 

Use your sponge and paper towels for an initial wipe-down, but then you’ll likely need to turn to the toothbrush and cotton swabs to get into the hard-to-reach places on your decorations. 

Please note, our instructions had you place these items in a separate small tub or bucket rather than your kitchen sink, bathroom sink, or bathtub for the same reason we recommended you suit up beforehand—crested geckos and their habitats can carry bacteria like Salmonella, which can lead to a disease in humans called Salmonellosis.

Pro tip: if you have other items besides plastic plants as decoration in your gecko’s tank, like natural pieces such as rocks and branches, there are other cleaning methods to consider. 

For rocks, boiling them in water for 30 minutes should do the trick. 

For branches, wash them first and then stick them in the oven at 200-250° degrees Fahrenheit (121° C) for about two hours, frequently checking to avoid burning. 

After two hours, remove the branches from the oven and let them cool. 

In both cases, the heat will help kill bacteria on these natural decorations.

Step Four: Wash And Disinfect The Tank

Next, while everything is out of the tank, wash the entire inside of the terrarium with water. 

Then spray your non-toxic disinfectant for reptiles on all inner surfaces of the tank.

Wait for about ten minutes, then wipe all the surfaces down with a water-soaked sponge.

Lastly, dry the inside of the tank off with paper towels.

Step Five: Add New Substrate

Once the tank is fully dry, it’s time to add a fresh layer of substrate across the enclosure floor.

There is a wide range of substrates available, but your choices include sphagnum moss, soil mix, coconut fiber, mulch, or some bioactive substrate mix of these and other natural items.

Pro tip: lay a paper towel at the base of your gecko’s tank before adding the new substrate as a drainage layer. 

This practice will also make it easier to clean the tank in the future since removing old substrate would be as easy as scooping up the whole mess by lifting the paper towel underneath.

If you’re interested in using a bioactive substrate we have an article on how to set up bioactive substrate for crested geckos that’s extremely helpful.

Step Six: Replace Plants, Decorations, And Other Items

With your new layer of substrate has been installed, it’s time to decorate. 

Place your disinfected, dry plastic plants and other decorations back into the freshly cleaned tank, arranging them as you see fit.

Step Seven: Don’t Forget Your Crested Gecko!

With everything in place, don’t forget to bring your pet home, transferring your gecko from their temporary enclosure to their newly refreshed habitat. 

Step Eight: Clean Your Cleaning Tools

Before calling it a day, be sure to wash and disinfect your sponges, toothbrush, small tub, and other tools, you’ve used in the process. 

These items could have bacteria lingering on them, so you need to ensure their cleanliness before using them again in the future.

Commonly Asked Questions On Tank Cleaning

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How Often Should I Be Cleaning A Crested Gecko Tank?

This deep clean can take time, and you’re probably wondering just how often you need to go through this process.

We recommend a monthly cleaning at this level—the kind of cleaning involving taking everything out of your crested gecko’s habitat and disinfecting all surfaces and decorations. 

But this larger overhaul isn’t the only form of necessary upkeep! 

In addition to this monthly cleaning, you should be performing regular, daily cleanings. 

These smaller spot cleanings are also crucial to preventing the unwanted growth of bacteria in your gecko’s tank.

Daily cleanings will involve:

  • Changing the water in your pet’s water bowl. (Even if it’s still full enough, you’ll want to renew this resource to ensure they’re getting access to clean water.)
  • Removing any uneaten food from your crested gecko’s environment to prevent rotting.
  • Cleaning poop and urates which have accumulated since the last clean.

While it’s necessary to provide fresh water to your pet in a shallow water dish of some sort, they usually prefer to hydrate by drinking water droplets off the leaves in their habitat (which accumulate in high humidity), so don’t be alarmed if they don’t seem to be drinking from the dish as much.

Depending on what kind of substrate you use, you’ll also likely need to replace the substrate more than once a month (but less than once a day). 

A weekly cleaning could be a good time to work in fresh substrate, but, again, the frequency will vary based on what material you’re using.

Why Are These Cleanings So Important?

As we touched on during our step-by-step tank cleaning instructions, this cleaning advice is essential to proper care in large part because reptiles can carry harmful bacteria like Salmonella.

Special care should be taken when spending time with your pet and cleaning their habitat to ensure you do not contract the bacteria.

Salmonella lives in the intestinal tract of many reptiles—about 90% of captive reptiles carry this bacteria at some point. 

Much of the time, this occurrence is natural and does not mean your crested gecko is ill; in fact, geckos themselves rarely get sick from exposure. 

Humans, though, can get infected with potentially hazardous results from handling an infected gecko or coming into contact with food, water, substrate, or other items in contact with an infected gecko.

People at increased risk of developing the disease Salmonellosis stemming from Salmonella include infants and young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. 

Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps—a state of illness often resembling what we think of as “food poisoning.” 

The infection usually spans 5 to 7 days, and symptoms begin developing 1 to 3 days after contraction.

If you notice these symptoms, rest assured, in most cases, hydration and rest will be the best medicine, and the Salmonellosis is likely to pass naturally. 

If your symptoms are especially severe, though, or you have underlying health conditions (especially related to the immune system or if you’re pregnant), please consult a doctor.

To avoid infection, the CDC advises always washing your hands before and after handling your pet or items associated with your pet, as well as:

  • Not touching your nose or lips to your crested gecko.
  • Not housing the gecko near your kitchen.
  • Not washing their tank in your shower or bathtub. 

What Other Kinds of Maintenance Are Involved in Crested Gecko Care?

While it’s essential to perform the daily and monthly cleanings as outlined above, there’s more to crested gecko care, and these cleanings are a good opportunity to engage with other necessary checks.

Other important questions to ask when checking on your gecko and performing routine maintenance on their setup include:

  • Is your gecko eating the right amount of food?
  • Is the temperature in the tank at an ideal level?
  • How’s the humidity level?
  • Is there any evidence of parasites?
  • Are the feces normal in appearance and quantity?
  • Do any of the decorations, accessories, or tank itself need replacing?

Crested geckos are nocturnal and so should be eating in the evening. 

They don’t need to eat every day but should be eating at least three times a week. 

A commercial crested gecko diet is fine but should be supplemented with crickets and other prey insects like roaches, waxworms, and silkworms. 

A balanced diet will also include various fruit and a multivitamin supplement featuring calcium and vitamin D3.

When it comes to temperature, crested geckos thrive in a daytime temp of 72 to 78° degrees Fahrenheit (26° C) and a nighttime temp of 69 to 74° degrees Fahrenheit (23° C). 

A thermal gradient offering varying hot and cool temps is ideal, with the basking spot being the highest temperature point.

We recommend 80 to 83° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C) here.

The correct humidity level is also essential to mimicking a crested gecko’s native habitat and should fall between 70 and 80 percent. 

Be sure to obtain a hygrometer to measure the tank’s humidity, like this one—or this one, if you want to check temperature and humidity at the same time!

During your routine tank checks, also make sure your crestie is in good shape and displaying natural behaviors. 

If they’re moving less, not climbing much, losing weight, or have particularly runny or smelly stools, these may be signs of illness. 

When you’re cleaning poop out of the tank, take care to notice any changes of this nature or any worms in the feces, as these are common indicators of parasites. 

Check out this guide on crested gecko poop to learn what to look out for as their poop is a huge indicator of their health.

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Final Thoughts

We hope you found this article helpful as a reference for how to keep your crested gecko safe and healthy, particularly when it comes to cleaning their enclosure.

To ensure proper care, a thorough monthly cleaning following the step-by-step tutorial above needs to be administered in addition to more low-maintenance daily cleanings.

As a crested gecko owner, it’s up to you to provide your pet with an optimal living environment, just as we do for ourselves and our families.

A clean space is more than just comfort, as it can prevent illness in your crestie and can protect you from contracting infections from them, too.

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