WIld crested geckos are native to islands in the South Pacific where the average temperature is around 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C).
Since crested geckos rely on external temperatures to regulate their body temperature, their natural habitat is perfect for ensuring the animals are neither too hot nor too cold.
Unlike leopard geckos, crested geckos are avid climbers and spend most of their time in trees.
In captivity, your crested gecko requires a vertical tank to fulfill its climbing needs.
Because they are taller than traditional horizontal reptile tanks, vertical tanks present more of a challenge when creating a temperature gradient.
A tank size of at least 20 gallons is required to create a proper thermal gradient, as any enclosure smaller than this will get too hot.
Maintaining a proper temperature gradient is important for crested geckos because they are sensitive to higher temperatures and can suffer from a heat stroke. While they do not require high temperatures, crested geckos need warmth to digest food and grow properly.
Creating a warm area in a crested gecko enclosure is best achieved using a low-wattage infrared or compact fluorescent light bulb.
A ceramic heat emitter is also a good option.
Keep reading to learn more about the importance of optimal temperatures for your crested gecko enclosure, the best and worst heating devices, and how to monitor tank temperatures.
We also provide information on the consequences of improper temperatures and which factors affect the humidity in a crested gecko’s environment.
Crested Gecko Tank Temperature Guidelines
The optimal daytime ambient temperature in the enclosure should range from 72-78° degrees Fahrenheit (26° C). At night, crested geckos need cooler temperatures between 69-74° degrees Fahrenheit (23° C).
Crested geckos are both crepuscular and nocturnal animals, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk, and they spend most of their night hunting and exploring.
Even though cresties are not very active during the day, providing them with a small basking area with a temperature no higher than 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C) is still important.
While crested geckos can tolerate small temperature fluctuations, keeping temperatures steady within the enclosure is best.
Temperatures in a crestie’s enclosure should not be lower than 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C) for prolonged periods and never higher than 82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C).
Adding live or artificial plants and branches to the enclosure not only gives your crested gecko plenty of places to climb and hide but also provides shady areas with cooler temperatures.
A crested gecko does not necessarily need additional heat in the enclosure if the ambient room temperature is warm enough.
However, creating a thermal gradient in the enclosure gives your lizard more options when it comes to heating and cooling itself.
A temperature gradient also offsets cool air coming from vents or drafty windows.
To create a thermal gradient, the warm basking spot should be at one of the highest points in the tank to allow for cooler temperatures in the shade of the foliage.
How To Heat Crested Gecko Tanks
Remember, you only need to heat a small portion of one of the higher areas of the tank for a basking spot. The areas of the tank further away from the heat source will naturally be cooler, which will create a gradual temperature gradient in the enclosure.
There are several ways to provide heat in a crested gecko’s enclosure, with some being safer than others.
Monitor the temperatures of your heating devices regularly, even if they are equipped with thermostats.
This ensures the devices are not producing too much heat in your crestie’s tank.
Keep your crestie’s enclosure away from windows and air vents in your home.
Sunlight coming in through a window will cause the tank to get too hot.
The air from heating and cooling vents will make it difficult to maintain a proper thermal gradient.
Using Lighting as a Heat Source
Low-wattage infrared or compact fluorescent bulbs are the safest options for providing heat in a crested gecko tank because they produce low heat levels. A 50-watt heat bulb can produce temperatures above 100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C), which is fatal for a crested gecko.
Avoid using reptile basking bulbs to heat your crestie’s enclosure.
While these heat lamps work well for ball pythons, leopard geckos, and other reptile species, they produce too much heat for a crested gecko.
A low-wattage incandescent bulb will emit heat and provide lighting for live plants in the enclosure, but special consideration to the placement of the bulb is necessary.
Placing the bulb too close to the enclosure may produce too much heat for a crested gecko.
A 25-watt infrared bulb will raise the temperature by 5-8° degrees in the basking area in a small enclosure.
A 40-watt infrared bulb will raise the temperature between 8-11° degrees for a large enclosure.
A low-wattage compact fluorescent bulb can produce enough heat to raise the temperature by 5-10° degrees in the basking area.
If the basking temperature is too high, you will need to raise the bulb’s height using a lamp stand.
Infrared bulbs are not as durable as compact fluorescent bulbs, and they will need to be replaced more often.
An infrared bulb will also not produce enough light to create a proper day and night cycle, so you will need supplemental lighting.
Our post on using lights at night for crested geckos has more details on creating a good day and night cycle.
Low-level LED lighting does not produce very much heat, and it works well for providing light to any live plants in the enclosure.
Never use a blacklight in your crestie’s enclosure because it emits UVA rays harmful to the animal.
How Much Light Does a Crested Gecko Need Every Day?
To maintain a crested gecko’s circadian rhythm, lights should be on for 12-14 hours during the summer and 10 hours in the winter. The changes need to be gradual to mimic the natural transition of the seasons.
It is wise to invest in a light timer, which will allow you to program the lights to turn on and off at specified intervals.
If the light is left on during the night, it will not only disrupt your crestie’s circadian rhythm, but it will cause the animal to become stressed as well.
Avoid using “moonlight” bulbs at night because they will not only disturb a crestie’s circadian rhythm, but they may cause temperatures to be too warm.
Some crested gecko owners use UVB lighting in the enclosure, but the light should only be left on for 4-6 hours per day if you choose to do this.
Too many UVB rays will cause eye or skin problems in a crestie.
While UVB rays are also beneficial to your crestie, using a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement in its diet will work just as well.
Using a Ceramic Heat Emitter
A ceramic heat emitter produces heat similar to an infrared bulb, but it does not light. Ceramic heat emitters allow for more accurate temperature control and are safer to use than other types of bulbs.
Even though the initial cost of a ceramic heat emitter is a bit higher than an infrared bulb, it will last much longer because it is more durable.
Always use a thermostat with a ceramic heat emitter to ensure it is not getting too hot.
A thermostat works by turning the heat emitter on and off to achieve the desired temperature.
Monitor the temperature of your ceramic heat emitter regularly to make sure the thermostat is working properly.
A reflective dome should be used with a ceramic heat emitter to direct the heat to a small area.
Do not use any plastic parts with a ceramic heat emitter because they will melt from the bulb’s heat.
Because they do not emit light, ceramic heat emitters may be used if the temperature in the room is too cold at night.
Ceramic heat emitters are more challenging to set up, especially for new crested gecko owners.
Regular adjustments may be necessary to achieve the desired results in temperature.
If you have a difficult time because the ceramic heat emitter is providing too much heat, adjust the thermostat or use a lamp stand to raise it higher above the enclosure.
Using Heat Mats
Heat mats should not be used in a crested gecko tank because they cannot provide heat where the reptile needs it.
Heat mats are usually placed underneath or on the side of an enclosure and are controlled by a thermostat.
A heat mat is used to heat the surface of a reptile enclosure.
While this may work well in a horizontal tank for certain ground-dwelling reptiles, it is ineffective for heating a vertical tank with a tree-dwelling crestie.
Even if a crested gecko spent time on the floor of its enclosure, a heat mat would provide too much heat for the reptile.
This will result in burns on the reptile’s belly, heatstroke, and possibly death.
The heat mat does not work well to raise the overall ambient temperature of the tank, and it also poses more of a fire risk than other heating methods.
Using a Heat Rock
Never use heat rocks in a crested gecko enclosure. Even when a thermostat controls them, they tend to overheat, and this will cause burns to the thin skin on a crested gecko’s belly.
Heat rocks provide heat in the same way as a heat mat by producing heat from within the rock and using a thermostat to control the temperature.
It is difficult to know when the thermostat on a heat rock goes bad until it is too late, which creates a dangerous situation for any reptile.
Since a heat rock is usually placed on the enclosure floor, a crested gecko is not likely to benefit from the heat because it spends most of its time climbing branches and ledges.
How To Monitor Tank Temperatures
A digital probe thermometer is used to measure the ambient temperatures in the tank. A temperature gun is used to measure surface temperatures within the tank.
It is vital to monitor the ambient air temperature and the surface temperature of any objects in the enclosure.
You should do temperature readings several times throughout the day to maintain a proper temperature gradient.
To properly monitor tank temperatures, you will need both a digital probe thermometer and a temperature gun.
Use a digital probe thermometer by placing the probe where you need to measure the air temperature, such as the basking spot and the cooler areas of the tank.
A temperature gun is used by simply pointing it at any surface in the tank.
An infrared beam measures the temperature and shows the result on the digital display of the device.
Temperature guns are especially useful for taking the temperature of the enclosure walls, substrate, plants, and any heating devices you have placed in the tank.
It is important to measure any surfaces your crested gecko has contact with to ensure they are not too hot.
Ribbon thermometers are sold in many pet stores, and they have adhesive for sticking them to the sides of the tank.
Ribbon thermometers are very inexpensive, but they are often inaccurate when measuring the ambient temperature.
If you decide to use a ribbon thermometer, use it with a digital probe thermometer for more accurate ambient temperature readings.
What Happens When the Temperature is Too Low?
If temperatures in the enclosure are consistently below 72° degrees Fahrenheit (22° C), your crested gecko will begin to have symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, and slowed digestion which may lead to impaction.
Crested geckos can tolerate temperatures as low as 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C) at night.
They will also withstand temperatures as low as 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C) as long as they can get warm during the day.
However, these low temperatures are not ideal for a crestie, especially for long periods.
A cold crested gecko may even slow its metabolism enough for it to enter a state of brumation.
While brumation itself is not harmful to a crestie, it may lose weight since eating less.
If the brumation period lasts longer than 3-4 weeks, a crestie will become weak from lack of nutrition.
This lack of proper nutrients will lead to metabolic bone disease and death.
You can learn more about the metabolic bone disease in crested geckos here.
If low temperatures are combined with high humidity levels, your crestie will also be more prone to upper respiratory infections.
If you live in a cold climate, keep your crestie’s enclosure away from cold air coming in through open doors or leaky windows, and use a ceramic heat emitter or infrared bulb to provide heat.
Likewise, if you use an air conditioner during warmer months, you will need to provide a source of heat for your crestie.
What Happens When the Temperature is Too High?
If a crested gecko is exposed to temperatures higher than 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C) for a prolonged period, it will lead to dehydration, heat stroke, and death.
Crested geckos are very sensitive to higher temperatures because their native habitat has a moderate climate.
Place your crestie’s tank away from windows, as sunlight will cause temperatures to get hot very quickly.
It is also wise to keep the enclosure away from space heaters, air vents, stoves, and other heat sources inside your home to prevent your crestie from overheating.
Faulty thermostats and heating devices are also common causes for an enclosure to become too hot.
Any damaged thermostats or heating devices should immediately be removed and replaced.
Faulty equipment will not only cause the tank to become too hot, but it poses a serious fire hazard as well.
If you live in a warm climate, keep your crestie’s enclosure in the coolest area of your home.
Only a few hours of exposure to high temperatures will cause your crestie to become stressed and overheated.
It is important to take steps to cool down the enclosure as soon as you discover it is too hot for your crested gecko.
How To Cool Down a Hot Enclosure
The first thing you need to do is remove your crestie from the enclosure so the animal can cool itself down.
Turn off any heat sources, use an ice pack or a frozen water bottle wrapped in a towel, and place it either on top of the tank or inside it for faster results.
Use a portable fan to circulate the air in the room and remove any excess heat.
Consider moving your crestie’s enclosure to a different area to ensure it does not overheat again.
Once the tank has completely cooled, make any necessary adjustments to the setup and use a thermometer to ensure the tank is at the proper temperature.
Do not place your crestie back into the tank until you are sure the temperatures are correct and stable.
Crested Gecko Tank Humidity
The optimal humidity levels in a crested gecko enclosure should range between 60%-80%. High humidity will lead to bacterial infections of the skin and upper respiratory infections. Low humidity will cause dehydration and problems shedding.
The humidity levels in your crestie’s tank have a large impact on the animal’s health.
Invest in a good quality hygrometer to measure humidity levels and monitor them throughout the day, much like you do with the temperatures.
Humidity levels during the day should be between 50%-60%, and this will occur naturally as a heat source warms the enclosure.
At night, the humidity levels need to be in the upper range, close to 80%.
This is usually when a crestie is most active and seeking food.
The higher humidity allows cresties to smell their prey insects more easily.
How To Increase Humidity Levels at Night
To raise humidity levels at night, lightly mist the tank and plants a few times with tap water. Avoid using filtered or distilled water because it lacks the beneficial minerals tap water contains.
It is usually easier to increase humidity in a crestie tank than it is to lower it.
Misting the tank also helps to keep your gecko hydrated.
While cresties generally do not drink water from a bowl, they will happily lick the water droplets from the plants in the enclosure.
Allow the tank to dry down to a humidity level close to 60% before misting.
Keeping the tank humid all of the time poses a risk for bacterial skin infections and upper respiratory infections.
High humidity levels also create a breeding ground for harmful parasites.
How To Increase Overall Humidity Levels
If you consistently measure humidity levels below 50% during the day, you will need to do more than mist the tank. Tank foggers, live plants, moisture-retaining substrate, water dishes, foil, and humidifiers may all be used to raise overall humidity levels in a crested gecko enclosure.
While tank foggers may seem like an easy solution for low humidity issues, they may keep the tank too humid during the day.
If you decide to use a tank fogger, be sure to check the humidity levels throughout the day to make sure they are not getting too high.
Live plants will naturally raise humidity levels as the water droplets on the leaves will evaporate into the tank.
If you are using a loose substrate, add coconut fiber to the mix to help retain moisture in the tank.
Moss is also excellent at moisture retention, so consider adding some to the tank as well.
Even though crested geckos generally do not drink from a water dish, placing one in the tank will help raise the humidity.
Choose a shallow water dish to prevent the risk of your crestie drowning.
Mesh screen tops are good for keeping your crestie from escaping the enclosure and providing ventilation, but they may cause lower humidity levels if you live in a dry climate.
Place a sheet of foil on half of the mesh screen to keep moisture in the tank from evaporating too quickly.
Consider placing a humidifier in the room where the tank is located to raise humidity levels in your home.
Whichever method you choose, it is always important to measure humidity levels with your hygrometer to ensure they are not too high.
How To Lower Humidity Levels
If the humidity level in your crested gecko tank is too high during the day, there are several ways to lower it. Removing live plants, changing the substrate, lowering the humidity in the room, and using a ceramic heat emitter are all excellent steps to take.
Replace live plants with artificial ones if you suspect they are increasing humidity too much.
While live plants are more aesthetically pleasing, they will not make much of a difference to your crestie as long as it has plenty of places to climb.
If you use a loose substrate, consider changing to a less absorbent substrate such as newspaper, tile, or paper towels.
Lower the humidity in the room by opening windows for better air circulation or by using a dehumidifier.
Heat will increase humidity in a crested gecko enclosure because it will cause water to evaporate into the air quicker than cold temperatures.
Ceramic heat emitters mitigate this by heating a smaller area than other types of heat bulbs.