Understanding a crested gecko’s dietary needs is vital to the animal’s health and overall well-being.
An adult crestie needs a varied diet of live insects three times per week. Baby geckos have to eat daily to keep up with their rapid growth.
But do you need to add a calcium supplement to your crested gecko’s diet?
Feeder insects do not contain adequate calcium for a crested gecko, so supplementation is necessary. A crested gecko’s body uses calcium to aid in proper muscle and organ function and egg production. Calcium also plays an important role in the prevention of metabolic bone disease.
A lack of calcium will cause a crestie to become very sick, and it may even prove fatal over time.
A gravid female gecko is also more prone to becoming egg-bound if she does not have enough calcium in her body.
Keep reading to learn how and when to add calcium supplements to your crested gecko’s diet.
How To Add Calcium To Your Crested Gecko’s Diet
Crested geckos are crepuscular reptiles, which means they are most active from dusk until dawn.
Sunlight provides a source of vitamin D for reptiles, which is then synthesized into D3 by the animal’s body.
Because they spend most of their day resting instead of basking, a UVB lamp may not provide the gecko with enough D3 for proper calcium absorption.
This lack of UV rays makes adding a calcium supplement powder to your crestie’s diet necessary.
Choosing A Calcium Supplement Powder
Crested gecko calcium supplement powders, such as this one, are available both online and in most pet supply stores.
- Highly bio-available source of calcium carbonate
- Free of harmful impurities (not from Oyster Shells)
- Safe levels of Vitamin D3
These calcium powders are formulated with and without vitamin D3, an essential nutrient for a crested gecko’s body to metabolize calcium properly.
If you choose a calcium supplement without D3, you may use a separate D3 supplement.
Be sure to follow the proper dosage instructions on the supplement label to avoid a vitamin D3 overdose.
When there is too much D3 in a crestie’s diet, it will lead to the over-absorption and utilization of calcium.
How To Dust Feeder Insects with Calcium Powder
Calcium supplement powders are very easy to use, even for beginner reptile keepers.
Use a small plastic bag or a container with a lid.
Place the feeder crickets, roaches, or worms in the container and sprinkle the calcium supplement powder onto the insects.
You want to aim for a light dusting of the supplement because adding too much will make the insects unappetizing to your gecko.
After sprinkling the calcium powder into the bag or container, add a lid and gently shake to coat the feeder insects thoroughly.
Remove the insects and offer them to your crestie for a healthy meal.
A calcium or vitamin supplement may also be added to the food used to gut-load your feeder insects.
This will add extra nutrition they will pass on to your gecko.
How Often To Add Calcium To Your Crested Gecko’s Diet
A balanced diet for an adult crested gecko consists of feeder insects twice per week and a Crested Gecko Diet (CGD) food once per week.
Fruit purees may be added as a treat as long as they are low in phosphorus.
This feeding schedule gives your crestie more variety in its diet, and live insects stimulate the reptile’s hunting instincts.
As a general rule, you will only need to add a calcium powder supplement to your crested gecko’s diet when the meal consists of insects.
Commercial diet powders have all of the necessary nutrients a crestie needs.
These powders are mixed with water according to the directions on the label.
Mixing a calcium supplement with a commercial CGD powder may add too many nutrients and lead to vitamin toxicity or excess calcium deposits in the gecko’s body.
Too much calcium will also prevent a crestie from absorbing other essential vitamins and minerals necessary for its body to function well.
However, gravid female crested geckos will require a calcium supplement at every meal to stay healthy.
Producing and laying eggs requires large amounts of calcium from the female’s body.
Not only do the eggs themselves need calcium for healthy development, but a female gecko also needs enough calcium to produce the contractions needed for egg-laying.
A gravid female crestie is likely to suffer from a calcium crash if her diet is not supplemented correctly.
This calcium deficiency will cause the female gecko to become egg-bound and may lead to metabolic bone disease.
Learn everything you need to know about crested gecko metabolic bone disease in our other article here.
Low calcium levels cause the parathyroid gland to secrete a hormone, signaling the body to leech calcium from its bones.
Routine supplementation maintains balanced levels and other vital nutrients a crestie needs to stay healthy and grow.
What Is The Correct Calcium To Phosphorus Ratio For Crested Geckos?
Phosphorus requires calcium to be properly absorbed by a gecko’s body.
The ideal calcium to phosphorus ratio for crested geckos is 2:1, meaning the reptiles need twice as much calcium as phosphorus to maintain a balanced and healthy level of nutrients.
An imbalance of calcium to phosphorus in a crestie’s diet will quickly lead to metabolic bone disease if it is not corrected.
Most insects contain more phosphorus than calcium in their bodies.
Certain fruits also have high phosphorus levels and need to be fed to your gecko sparingly or avoided altogether.
Calcium powder supplements offset high phosphorus levels and ensure proper calcium absorption in a crested gecko’s body.
Always check calcium and multivitamin labels to ensure they do not contain too much phosphorus.
Many supplement powders are specifically formulated without any phosphorus.
The following tables illustrate the calcium to phosphorus ratios of common insect feeders and fruits to help you make the healthiest choices for your crestie’s diet.
The Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio for Common Feeder Insects
|Feeder Insects||Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio|
|Domestic Crickets, High Calcium||1:1|
The Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio for Common Fruits
|Fruit||Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio|
|Apples (with skin)||1.1:1|
The Importance Of Calcium To A Crested Gecko
Calcium plays a vital role in the healthy functioning of a crested gecko’s body.
A calcium deficit will cause many health issues, and they are all easily prevented with proper dietary supplementation.
A healthy level of calcium in a crested gecko’s bloodstream is 1%.
While this may seem like a low amount, a gecko’s body uses a lot of calcium to function correctly.
Without steady calcium levels in the crestie’s bloodstream, its body will start to steal the calcium from the bones.
However, too much calcium leads to hypercalcemia, which inhibits the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Calcium also suppresses stomach acid, so too much will slow the gecko’s digestion as well.
The optimal amount of calcium in a crested gecko diet is around
In this section, we take a closer look at how important calcium is to a crested gecko, including proper organ function, egg production, and bone health.
Proper Organ and Muscle Function
Without enough calcium, a crested gecko’s muscles will be unable to contract, causing the reptile to tremble.
In a gravid female gecko, the lack of muscle contraction will make it difficult for her to lay eggs, leading to dystocia. Dystocia, also known as egg binding, may lead to cloacal prolapse, and the female will die unless emergency veterinary treatment is sought.
A calcium deficit will also cause reduced liver, kidney, and nerve function and problems with blood clotting.
A loss of function in these vital organs and body systems will be fatal to a crestie if left untreated.
A female crested gecko will lay eggs for the entire reproductive season if she has only mated once.
She can store the sperm from the male gecko in her body, and she will lay two eggs per clutch with up to 8 clutches per year.
Female cresties are also capable of laying eggs if they have never mated before.
The eggs in these clutches will be infertile, but they still require much calcium for the shells to form.
As soon as you discover your female crestie is gravid, increase her calcium intake by dusting every meal with supplement powder instead of dusting every other meal.
If the female is calcium deficient, her eggs will not form properly, and they may be misshapen.
Likewise, if the female gecko receives too much calcium, the shells of her eggs will be too thick for the hatchlings to crack.
As previously stated, a lack of calcium will cause the crested gecko to be unable to have the muscle contractions needed to lay her eggs.
This creates a very dangerous situation for the gecko, and she will need immediate veterinary care.
A calcium deficiency creates a dangerous situation for the female crestie and her hatchlings.
Unfortunately, a lack of calcium does not always prevent a crested gecko from producing eggs, and she will continue to lay more clutches throughout the season.
Continuing the egg production and laying process will only exacerbate the crestie’s calcium deficiency.
To get your crested gecko to stop producing and laying eggs, temperatures should not be below 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C).
The lower temperatures trick the gecko into thinking the breeding season is ending, and she will stop laying eggs.
The crestie will be able to use this time to rest and replenish her calcium stores.
Preventing Metabolic Bone Disease
Metabolic bone disease is a catastrophic illness, and calcium supplementation is the only preventative measure.
When a crested gecko has a calcium deficiency, its body will use the natural calcium reserves in its bones.
The reduction in bone mass causes them to become soft, and they will deform.
The crested gecko will start to have difficulty walking and may become paralyzed if the bones in the spine are damaged.
Other signs of metabolic disease in crested geckos include:
- Deformed jaw
- Swollen limbs
- Kinked tail
- Inability to stand
- Loss of appetite
Bone deformities are irreversible, and there is no cure for metabolic bone disease.
The painful deformities may be halted through calcium supplementation if the disease is caught in its early stages.
Unfortunately, once the signs of metabolic bone disease become apparent, the illness has already progressed enough to cause long-term damage.
The disease is very painful for the crested gecko, and severe cases are usually fatal.
If you suspect your crestie is suffering from metabolic bone disease, seek veterinary care as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment.
What Are Crested Gecko Calcium Sacs?
Calcium sacs are tiny pouches located in a crested geckos’ mouth.
The purpose of the calcium sacs is to store extra calcium until it is ready to be used by the body.
Male cresties typically have smaller calcium sacs than females, as they rarely require large amounts of calcium at one time.
Female cresties, however, need a lot of calcium stores during breeding season, so they are ready to produce and lay eggs.
The calcium sacs in female geckos are easier to see.
How to Check Your Crested Gecko’s Calcium Sacs
Checking your crested gecko’s calcium sacs is a good way to gauge whether or not your lizard has a calcium deficiency.
In a crestie with a lack of calcium, the sacs will be small and gray.
When a crestie has ample calcium stores, the sacs will be round and white, resembling two small eggs.
Since the calcium sacs are located in the gecko’s mouth, you may have difficulty checking them.
The sacs are located near the back of the throat, and you will have to gently pry your crestie’s mouth open to look for them.
Crested geckos are very resistant to having their mouths pried open, and they will likely bite you during the process.
And if you’re worried about being bitten read our post on crested gecko teeth and the danger of their bite.
It is important to be extremely gentle with the gecko to prevent any injury to its neck or jaw.
If your crestie is very uncooperative or you simply do not feel comfortable checking the calcium sacs yourself, a veterinarian will be able to do it for you.