Crested geckos have a docile temperament and a low-maintenance lifestyle, making them an excellent choice for new reptile owners.
These reptiles are also known for some of the unique traits which make them stand out among other species of lizards.
Cresties have special toe pads which allow them to climb vertical surfaces easily, and they have very long eyelashes, which is why they are sometimes known as “eyelash geckos.”
A crested gecko is even able to brighten its color through a behavior known as “firing up.”
As a general rule, crested geckos tend to fire up when stressed, happy, or exposed to water. Many will also change color in response to shifts in daylight, with darker colors appearing to camouflage at night. However, each gecko will be unique in what causes them to fire up or down.
Firing up is generally harmless to a crestie unless it is caused by prolonged stress.
This fascinating behavior is another one of the unique traits found in cresties, and it is one of the reasons they are so popular among reptile enthusiasts.
Keep reading to learn more about what causes a crested gecko to get fired up.
What is a Fired Up Crested Gecko?
Before you understand why this change occurs, it is important to note exactly what it means.
Firing up usually refers to a change in color in response to a specific event.
Often, firing up will mean they transform from a lighter shade to darker colors.
You might notice their skin looks a lot more defined as a result of this color change.
The color is not the same as a chameleon.
Firing up does not give them the ability to blend into their surroundings, but it can help.
Most crested gecko colors are identified based on the color they turn when they are fired up.
Even though they may be a light yellow color, olive colors or darker brown color may emerge when they fire up.
This is the coloring used to identify your crestie.
On the other hand, many crested geckos live out their lives, rarely firing up.
This alternative state is known as firing down.
Some cresties rarely fire up, particularly as they grow older.
It is completely normal if you never notice your gecko in this fired-up state.
They may do it while you are sleeping, but it is also perfectly normal if they never do it at all.
The reasons behind this firing up or firing down phenomenon are not necessarily known.
However, many researchers and crested gecko lovers have a few theories on why they do this.
Gecko color can change based on their stress levels, time of day, and even in response to temperature or humidity levels.
Why Crested Geckos Fire Up (Or Down!)
Firing Up as a Defense Mechanism
Crested geckos are known to fire up when they are stressed or feel threatened.
This threat may come from another crestie or from being handled too roughly.
Scientists aren’t sure what causes this behavior in cresties, but it is believed to be an instinctual response to what is happening around them.
When a crestie fires up in these stressful situations, it is not healthy for them.
Prolonged stress will shorten your crestie’s lifespan.
The stress of bringing your crested gecko home to a new environment is unavoidable.
However, there are things you should do to maintain a calm living space for your crestie.
Never place your crestie’s enclosure in a busy area of your home.
The constant traffic and noise will cause your reptile to be stressed, and you may notice this if it fires up more than usual.
You should also avoid placing the enclosure near a window, as outside movement from birds and other animals may scare your crestie.
Keep dogs, cats, and other pets away from your crestie.
The curious nature of cats and dogs means they will constantly be near the crestie’s enclosure, which will stress the reptile out.
If you want to keep more than one crested gecko, it is essential to have the right mix.
Crested geckos are solitary creatures, and it is best to keep them alone.
However, if you insist on having more than one crestie in an enclosure, there are some things you need to know.
Female cresties are safely housed together, but you should never keep two males or a male and female together in the same enclosure.
Males are very territorial and will become aggressive and fight with each other, resulting in injuries.
A male and female should not be kept together because the male will become aggressive and constantly mate with the female, possibly causing her harm.
Firing Up to Adapt to the Environment
A crested gecko’s environment has a lot to do with how much they get fired up.
Cresties are nocturnal animals, and they tend to fire up a lot at night when they are more active.
They will then fire down during the day when they are resting.
They do this because it is easier to blend into their environment when they are a darker color at night and a lighter color during the day.
The humidity, temperature, and lighting in a crested gecko’s enclosure will also contribute to the reptile firing up.
Cresties tend to fire up in high humidity and low light, perhaps because they think it is nighttime.
Proper humidity levels for a crested gecko enclosure should be between 50%-60%, with periodic misting to briefly bring the humidity levels up to 80% a couple of times during the day.
A crested gecko will usually fire up right after it has been misted.
Since cresties are sensitive to heat, the optimal daytime temperature should range from 72-75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C).
Invest in a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels and a good thermometer to check the enclosure temperature throughout the day to ensure an ideal environment for your crestie.
And read our post on crested gecko humidity, lighting, and temperature requirements for additional information.
Firing Up According to Mood
We have already discussed how stress affects a crested gecko and causes it to fire up more than usual.
While prolonged stress is bad for you
As they age, crested geckos will fire up less often, and their fired-up colors may not be as dark as they were when the reptile was younger.
Crested geckos will usually get fired up when they first wake up, and they are always fired down when sleeping.
This is completely normal behavior, and it does not cause any harm to the crestie because it is not caused by stress.
When a crested gecko is totally relaxed, it will be in its more subdued, fired-down state.
This is most likely to happen during the day when a crested gecko is less active or sleeping.
When you are looking for a crested gecko as a pet, it is important to remember its color morph is based on the colors the reptile shows when fired up.
Breeders will usually photograph cresties in their fired-up state to get the best color representation, so do not be alarmed if your crested gecko is a different color than what the breeder advertised.
For instance, a crestie advertised as having a bright orange color may actually be a peach or pale brown color when fired down.
If you want to be sure about the color morph of the crestie you are getting, a breeder will be able to safely get the reptile to fire up, either through misting or handling.
Exposure to Water
The exact mechanism causing your gecko to fire up may not be known, but many will fire up in response to water.
All you have to do is lightly mist them with some water and set them somewhere dark for about fifteen to twenty minutes.
When they emerge, chances are your reptile will be completely fired up.
Saunas are another popular way owners can persuade their cresties to fire up.
Beyond just causing your gecko to fire up, saunas are great for convincing stuck sheds to slough off.
How do you make a sauna?
Take a small Tupperware container and poke air holes in it so your gecko can breathe.
Be generous with the amount of holes you poke here.
Line the bottom of the container with a paper towel and add a splash of room temperature water.
It should be just enough for your gecko to splash around but not enough for him to have to worry about drowning.
Place your gecko inside for fifteen minutes and watch the magic happen!
The humidity levels occurring inside the sauna are often a trigger for your crestie to change color.
It may not last long once you remove them from the container, but it is still a cool way to see what your crestie looks like fired up if they never seem to do it on their own.
Here’s our post on how to create a crested gecko sauna.
Will Geckos Change Color With Age?
If you have a crestie who is getting on in years, you might find they are different now than they were when they were younger.
It might become harder to tell when your gecko is fired up because of the way they change color with age.
As a general rule, many of these reptiles will become a lighter color as they grow older.
A juvenile crested gecko is likely to have the most vibrant colors when fired up.
However, as the years pass, those colors can easily fade.
Older cresties still get fired up, but they won’t have the vibrant color you typically see with babies.
They may also not fire up as often as juveniles do.
Babies are still figuring out their world and often fire up more frequently.
As they age, this behavior lessens in some geckos but not all.
In the end, the frequency your gecko gets fired up depends on their overall personality.