Can Crested Geckos Swim Safely?

Many new and experienced reptile owners alike wonder whether their crested gecko can safely swim. 

They wonder whether they can splash around in the bathtub like other popular reptiles, including the leopard gecko or bearded dragon. 

You may even be considering adding a water feature to their enclosure, but is this safe for your pet?

Never force your crested gecko to swim. There is a serious risk of drowning your crested gecko even though they are natural swimmers who can do so instinctively. They do not need anything other than a small dish of water in their enclosure and a quick misting. Baths are not necessary. 

For more information on how your gecko can swim, this guide will help you determine what is best for your reptile. 

crested gecko swimming

Can Crested Geckos Swim Safely? 

The main question is whether crested geckos can swim safely. 

As with all reptiles, your crested gecko has an instinctive response to swim when presented with water reaching over its head. 

They will swim if they have to and have no other options available to them. 

However, it is never their first choice. 

For the most part, your crested gecko is an arboreal creature. 

They prefer to climb and hide in the trees or leaves available in their crested gecko habitat. 

This is also true of their behavior in the wild. 

They may only consider swimming across a pool of water if they are being chased by a predator and have no other options available to run to. 

They will do what they have to do to get away from danger. 

Their swimming is not super practical or fast, though. 

Their tails can help them to move more smoothly through the water, but they tend to move more to the side rather than in a line straight ahead.

It is more common to see their swimming described as walking on water. 

Their skin naturally resists water which makes it easier for them to stay above the water’s surface as much as possible. 

If their head dips below the surface, they can hold their breath for a short period. 

However, they need to resurface quickly as they cannot do this for very long. 

Keep in mind that your gecko does not have gills for them to breathe in the water. 

It is very easy for them to drown, particularly if they are overwhelmed by the water. 

For the most part, this limits them from attempting to dive. 

They are more likely to swim across the surface of the water until they reach a point where they feel safe enough to exit without imminent danger. 

Because they are not likely to swim, there is no need for a water feature in their enclosure. 

Crested gecko owners may like the look of a pool of water in their habitat, but it is unnecessary. 

Your gecko will never use this water feature, and it will take up valuable space where they could hide and play instead. 

The only water needed is a small water bowl or water dish for them to drink from.

If you are determined to have water in their enclosure, it should never be too deep. 

Keep it to 1/2 to 1″ inches deep at the bottom of the fish tank. 

Water deeper than this can leave your gecko scrambling to stay to the surface, which leads to drowning.  

Should I Force My Crested Gecko to Swim? 

Just because it is instinctual for your gecko to swim does not mean you need to force them to engage in this behavior. 

The need to swim causes them great stress, and they do not want the water level to overwhelm them. 

You might be disappointed with the results of forcing your gecko to swim. 

The stress could lead them to drop their tail which is upsetting and distressing for many gecko owners. 

Putting your gecko in a container of water to see them swim also ruins the trust and bond between the two of you. 

Your gecko will remember you put them in an uncomfortable situation. 

They may be a bit warier of you when you come around to pull them out to play with them in the future. 

This can cause some serious damage to your relationship with them. 

They are more likely to view you as a threat rather than a friend or benevolent owner.  

Not to mention, there is a serious risk of drowning even though they are instinctual swimmers. 

They are not meant to be aquatic reptiles. 

Their swimming is not very fluid or graceful. 

It is very easy for them to slip under the surface of the water, leading them to breathe in too much fluid. 

It’s possible to kill your crested gecko with this behavior!

Many owners feel they need to teach their gecko to swim. 

Unfortunately, this is misguided advice. 

They are natural swimmers, but they will never do it in the wild unless forced to. 

There should be no reason for them to swim at all in captivity. 

As a result, there is no real reason to “teach” them to do this behavior naturally. 

It will be a bad experience for your gecko and will cause them unnecessary stress. 

Swimming should always be avoided at all costs. 

What About Bathing My Gecko? 

Just because you shouldn’t force these natural swimmers to practice, does it mean they shouldn’t have baths either? 

Many reptiles can benefit from a warm bath from time to time. 

For example, the bearded dragon and the leopard gecko love a good bath a couple of times a week. 

It helps them to loosen up stuck shed and keeps their skin moisturized. 

Does it do the same for the crested gecko? 

Crested geckos do shed, so you may think giving them a quick bath on occasion makes sense. 

The adults typically shed their skin about once a month. 

If they have an issue with stuck shed on their bodies or feet, it’s OK to think about bathing them. 

But I recommend reading our guide on crested gecko’s shedding to learn more about how these reptiles handle shedding.

The process will look different for your gecko than it does for other reptile species.

These other reptiles benefit from a bathtub filled with enough water to cover their knees and bellies.

However, your crested gecko needs a different type of bath. 

This has nothing to do with putting them in a dish of water. 

First, start by getting a container with a lid. 

Poke plenty of holes in it, so there is airflow through the container to allow your gecko to breathe. 

Use an old deli cup or a clean piece of Tupperware you no longer need in the kitchen. 

You will not put any water in the container for these instinctive swimmers. 

Instead, you will take a paper towel and soak it in warm water. 

Wring it out a bit and then use it to line the bottom of the container. 

This will give them exposure to the moisture needed to help loosen up stubborn dead skin, but it does not force them to swim. 

The high humidity level in the container is what you are aiming for. 

Once they get out, gently use a Q-tip or cotton swab to help them remove stubborn pieces of the shed from their body. 

Never pull on pieces of skin that aren’t ready to come off just yet. 

This can cause cuts and injuries to your gecko. 

What Moisture And Humidity Levels Do Crested Geckos Need?

If these natural swimmers do not need a water feature in their enclosure and do not require baths, what type of water do they need to survive? 

Many new owners are concerned about the hydration of their geckos. 

The good news is your gecko does not need much to keep up with their hydration levels and to loosen up any stuck shed on their skin. 

In most cases, all your gecko needs is a water dish. 

This often adds enough moisture to the enclosure on its own. 

They can drink from it whenever thirst strikes, and anything additional is just excessive for their needs. 

Another way to introduce moisture into their enclosure is to mist the walls once or twice a day. 

Lightly spray down the walls of the enclosure and the substrate to keep the humidity levels up. 

This helps them have the moisture necessary to shed properly. 

You’ll also notice they lick the water droplets off the walls of the enclosure rather than drinking from their water bowl. 

A crested gecko swim is just unnecessary. 

Do your best to give them all of the moisture they need in a less stressful way by allowing them a water dish and misting the cage down each evening. 

Learn more about a crested gecko setup by clicking the link to our guide.

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