When caring for a crested gecko, perhaps nothing is more important than proper lighting, temperature, and humidity settings within their enclosure setup.
Although these adorable little lizards are relatively docile and low-maintenance, controlling temperature and humidity is often tricky, particularly for novice reptile keepers.
Crested geckos require around 12 hours of daytime lighting per day. In addition, their enclosure should be kept at about 75 to 83° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C) at most. Humidity levels need to be pretty high, at around 60% during the day and 80% at night.
To learn more about what kind of lighting you’ll need to use in your crested gecko’s enclosure, keep reading.
We’ll also go over the proper humidity and temperature settings and how to easily adjust them.
Crested Gecko Lighting Requirements
Although crested geckos are nocturnal and don’t require UVB to survive, they still need adequate heating and a proper day and night cycle provided by fluorescent lighting in their enclosure. 10 to 12 hours of daytime lighting per day is ideal. Turn all lights off at night.
In general, you will want to replicate the same day and night cycle your crested gecko would experience in their natural environment.
We’ll get into the specific temperature settings soon, but for now, focus on providing their enclosure with a bright, white low-wattage heat bulb.
We recommend something like Zoo Med’s Repti Basking Spot Lamp.
A 50-watt bulb or even lower is best, as crested geckos don’t require a very intense heat source.
Remember, you’ll also need a dome fixture to house the bulb, such as this Repti Zoo 8.5″-Inch Reptile Lamp Fixture.
This bulb will produce a small amount of extra heat to keep the enclosure warm and lighting to mimic natural sunlight.
Avoid colorful bulbs, as these will irritate your gecko’s eyes.
Stick to plain white bulbs for best results.
It’s best to mount the bulb and its fixture just above the enclosure, either by placing it directly on top of the screen lid or using a hook attached to the wall to hang the light from.
Be sure the bulb is mounted, so it adequately lights up the entire habitat properly.
Do Crested Geckos Need UVB Lighting?
Crested geckos are nocturnal, so they don’t need UVB lighting to survive. However, they do benefit from a small amount of UVB. Use a UVB bulb with a low output of around 3% to 5% at most.
While most pet reptiles do require UVB to survive and prevent health issues such as metabolic bone disease, crested geckos are a bit unique in this regard.
They are primarily active at night, so they don’t get much actual sunlight in the wild.
As a result, they don’t particularly need it in captivity, either.
However, as we briefly mentioned above, a small amount of UVB is beneficial to your gecko’s health, and it mimics the way sunlight behaves in its natural habitat.
If you do opt for a UVB bulb for your gecko’s enclosure, it’s best to select one with a meager output.
Use a bulb with, at most, 5% UVB output.
This is also sometimes denoted as a decimal, so in this case, it’d be written as 5.0 on the packaging.
We recommend something like this Lucky Herp 5.0 Fluorescent Tropical Terrarium Lamp, as it gives off just enough UVB to be beneficial to your gecko’s health.
Additionally, UVB is helpful if you’ve opted for live plants in your crested gecko tank, as the UVB rays help to facilitate plant growth.
How Much UVB Does A Crested Gecko Need?
Crested geckos don’t need any UVB to survive, but a small amount is safe and even beneficial for their bone and muscle health. At most, a UVB bulb with a 3% to 5% output is best for a crested gecko habitat.
Like we touched on earlier, it is perfectly fine if you choose not to use a UVB bulb for your gecko’s enclosure.
Since they are primarily nocturnal animals in the wild, crested geckos don’t get much UVB anyway, so in captivity, it’s OK to forgo UVB, too.
However, consider UVB is necessary for live plants if you’ve planted any in your gecko’s enclosure.
This is especially crucial for bioactive enclosure setups with lots of natural plants!
Many crested gecko owners opt for artificial plants since they don’t need any additional UVB.
Can Crested Geckos Get Too Much UVB?
While crested geckos benefit from a small amount of UVB exposure, too much is harmful to their eyesight. Because they are nocturnal, crested geckos are unable to shield their eyes from sunlight. Be sure to keep UVB exposure to 5% or lower.
For most reptiles, the more UVB light, the better.
However, crested geckos aren’t very active during the day in the wild, so their bodies have evolved to adapt to a nighttime lifestyle.
Plus, they are climbing geckos, so they spend most of their time in trees hidden beneath plenty of plant cover.
These evolutionary adaptations also mean crested geckos don’t tolerate excessive UVB exposure very well.
In particular, excess UVB is irritating and even harmful for their eyes, so it’s best to keep UVB to 5% or less.
Additionally, only keep the UVB lights on during the day, as it isn’t necessary at night.
You ideally want to replicate a natural day and night cycle, so keeping harsh UVB lighting on at night will seriously disrupt this delicate cycle.
When Should I Replace My UVB Bulb?
Although many manufacturers claim their UVB bulbs last for 12 months or more, it’s best to replace them every six months or so for the best results. UVB output diminishes over time, so to keep UVB levels consistent, you’ll need to replace the bulb at least twice a year.
Thankfully, UVB bulbs typically don’t need to be replaced nearly as often as heat or basking bulbs.
While these bulbs often burn out after a few months or even weeks in some cases, UVB bulbs are designed to last far longer.
While it’s certainly possible for a UVB bulb to last for a year or longer, most bulbs tend to burn out at around the 6 to the 8-month mark.
UVB output often decreases over time as the bulb wears out, so it’s hard to gauge the production after around six months of use.
Can I Turn My Crested Gecko’s Lights Off At Night?
It’s best to turn off all lights for your crested gecko’s enclosure at night to properly mimic a natural day and night cycle. Keep heat and UVB lights on for 12 hours during the day and off for 12 hours at night.
It helps to use a timer to keep track of when to turn the lights on and off.
This will maintain a strict, consistent day/night cycle and prevent disrupting your gecko’s sleep patterns.
See this post on crested gecko sleeping habits to learn more.
Since crested geckos only need a small amount of heat to be comfortable and healthy, you won’t need to worry about them getting too cold with the lights off at night.
It is safe for temperatures to dip down to around 70 to 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C) at night.
If your home gets colder than 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C) or so at night, though, it is a good idea to use a ceramic heat emitter to give off a small amount of heat once the sunsets.
Ceramic heat emitters give off no light, only heat, so they won’t disrupt your gecko’s circadian rhythm.
We recommend a ceramic heat emitter like this one from BOEESPAT, as it is available in various wattages.
It’s best to use a ceramic heat emitter of around 60 watts or less since crested geckos don’t need much heat at night.
Crested Gecko Temperature Requirements
Crested geckos are native to warm, humid rainforest environments, so you’ll need to mimic this temperature range in captivity. They prefer temperatures of around 75 to 83° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C) during the day, though at night it is safe for this to drop to about 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C) or so.
While most cold-blooded reptiles require pretty intense heat to thrive, crested geckos are a bit different.
Since these arboreal geckos are primarily active at night and live in warm, humid rainforest environments in the wild, it’s best to replicate these settings as closely as possible.
To be more specific, the temperature range for a crested gecko terrarium will typically hover around 75 to 85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C) at most during the day.
At night, temperatures should dip slightly lower to around 70 to 75° degrees (24° C).
This temperature range is relatively easy to maintain with low-wattage heat bulbs.
However, at night, it’s best to use a low-wattage ceramic heat emitter like the one we mentioned previously to not disrupt the natural day/night cycle.
For full details, check out our crested gecko temperature guide.
Do Crested Geckos Need Heat Lamps?
Since crested geckos need a temperature range of around 70 to 85° degrees (29° C), they will generally need a low-wattage heat lamp or ceramic heat emitter to maintain these conditions. A plain, white low-wattage basking bulb mimics a day/night cycle and heating the enclosure.
The exact wattage of the heat lamp you’ll use will depend on the average temperature of your home and how far you have mounted the bulb from the enclosure itself.
However, as a general rule of thumb, heat lamps of around 60 watts or less are ideal.
You’ll want to avoid exposing your gecko to very intense heat since they don’t get much direct sunlight in the wild anyway.
Avoid using extremely large or high-wattage basking bulbs.
Alternatively, some gecko keepers will opt for a white, low output UVB bulb to maintain the day/night cycle and a ceramic heat emitter to provide heat to the enclosure.
This is a good idea if you find basking bulbs are making the enclosure too hot or dry.
Either way, regardless of how you heat and light up the enclosure, be sure to maintain a day/night cycle and the appropriate temperature range.
This will likely take a fair bit of troubleshooting and adjusting the bulbs to find the perfect settings, as everyone’s homes have slightly different temperatures and humidity levels.
Are Heat Rocks/Pads Safe For Crested Geckos?
It’s best to avoid heat rocks and pads for crested geckos, as the direct, concentrated heat will burn their sensitive skin. Also, these types of tank heaters typically don’t have any means of adjusting their temperature, making them especially unpredictable and dangerous.
Heat rocks and heat pads are particularly dangerous for crested geckos since these lizards don’t need very hot conditions to thrive in, to begin with.
Direct heat emitters like heat rocks and heat mats are also completely unnecessary for cresties.
With proper lighting and/or ceramic heat emitters; you will easily be able to get their enclosure within a safe temperature range anyway.
Essentially, don’t ever put a heat rock or heat pad in your gecko’s enclosure.
It’s too risky, and the additional heat isn’t necessary, to begin with.
Crested Gecko Humidity Requirements
Since crested geckos are native to very humid rainforests, they require very high humidity settings in captivity to thrive. Ideally, humidity levels should be around 60% to 80% at most, at the higher end of this spectrum during the day and lower at night.
While most reptiles prefer drier environments, crested geckos need a fairly humid environment to feel comfortable and stay healthy.
This is because they are native to the wet, warm forests of southern New Caledonia, where humidity is very high.
Maintaining a proper humidity level is one of the more tricky aspects of housing a crested gecko.
Although their temperature settings are quite simple to maintain, humidity requires more intervention from you regularly.
Thankfully, there are many ways to increase and decrease humidity with a bit of effort and careful, regular monitoring.
For example, misting the enclosure with a water bottle is one of the primary ways crested gecko owners increase and maintain humidity levels in their pets’ enclosures.
Additionally, many substrates help to retain moisture very well for crested geckos, such as coconut fiber or sphagnum moss, for example.
We’ll cover substrate in more detail soon, but it’s worth mentioning now, too.
Decreasing humidity is also fairly simple.
If you find the humidity settings in your gecko’s enclosure are becoming too high, simply hold off on misting the enclosure for a few hours or even for the rest of the day until the humidity drops to an appropriate level.
It is essential to have humidity gauges, also known as hygrometers, in the enclosure to monitor humidity levels.
Ideally, opt for two of them at opposite ends of the tank if the levels are uneven.
There are many types of thermometers and hygrometers on the market, but many reptile owners find those with a digital display are most convenient.
We recommend something like these Repti Zoo 2-Pack Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Hygrometers, as they are fairly inexpensive and come with two of them per package.
Plus, the sleek digital display is easy to read from a distance and looks great, too.
Mount one at the higher end of the enclosure and one at the lower end for best results.
What Substrates Help Ensure Proper Humidity?
Certain substrates retain more moisture and help to maintain humidity levels in your crested gecko’s enclosure. Ideal substrates include sphagnum moss, coconut fiber, and cypress mulch, as they present little risk of impaction and release small amounts of moisture into the air to increase humidity.
Many crested gecko owners tend to overlook the importance of proper substrate.
For these particular lizards, your choice of substrate is especially important since they need very high humidity settings to stay happy and healthy.
There are many substrates safe to use for crested geckos, though not all promote humidity equally.
Some, like reptile carpet or tile, don’t affect humidity at all.
On the other hand, though, some substrates such as sphagnum moss retain moisture extremely well and release small amounts of moisture into the air, increasing the overall humidity levels in the enclosure.
At the same time, though, you’ll want to be careful when choosing a loose substrate, as many of them present at least a small risk of impaction.
Impaction is a painful blockage of the digestive tract and is often fatal if not treated promptly.
Often, crested geckos will accidentally ingest small amounts of their loose substrate.
If they can’t safely digest or pass those pieces, they will build up in their digestive tract and eventually block it off entirely.
Fortunately, many loose substrates ideal for crested geckos either are natural and easy for them to digest if ingested or have large, dense enough pieces to prevent your gecko from munching on them accidentally (or out of curiosity).
Substrates like sphagnum moss, coconut fiber, and cypress mulch are perfect both because they present very little risk of impaction and promote high humidity very well.
Paper towels work well if you want a cheaper option, though they don’t look as natural as the options mentioned above.
Organic potting soil is also a good choice, though it shouldn’t contain any of the following:
Additionally, it’s best to use soil as a base layer with a larger, denser substrate on top or use a moss and soil mix to prevent impaction.
Head over to our other post for a complete list of substrates for crested geckos.
What Substrates Should Be Avoided?
For your crested gecko’s enclosure, avoid any substrates which don’t promote humidity well, have toxic components, or present a risk of impaction. These hazardous substrates include:
- Crushed walnut shells
- Cedar shavings
- Soil not covered by or mixed with another denser substrate
Choosing the right substrate is important not just for the humidity settings in the enclosure but also for your gecko’s health.
The above substrates are unsafe because they present a significant impaction risk, are uncomfortable for your gecko to walk on, and aren’t very good at retaining moisture.
Some substrates, such as cedar shavings, contain toxic components that often cause respiratory issues and skin problems for many reptiles.
Stick to the safer options mentioned above for best results.