Do you wonder if crested geckos are nocturnal and what kind of a pet they’ll make as they seem sluggish the whole day? Then you’ve come to the right place to get answers.
Crested geckos are nocturnal and crepuscular. This means that they are active during the night as well as being active during dusk and dawn. They then rest during the day.
Keeping your crested gecko’s day/night rhythm isn’t as simple as letting them sleep, however. There are various aspects to keep in mind, including the correct tank setup, the amount of light that they need. In this article we’ll cover all of this and more.
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Crested Geckos Are Nocturnal And Crepuscular – 9 Tips Owners Should Follow
Now that you know that cresties are crepuscular and nocturnal, it’s time to have a look at the best way to keep them healthy and happy in their habitat while respecting and working with their natural day/night cycle.
Does Your Crested Gecko Need To Have Light During The Day If They’re Not Active During The Day?
Yes, your crested gecko does need to have light during the day. Although they will keep mostly to the shade that the plants and hides in their tank provide, your crested gecko will need to have light as well.
The reason why crested geckos need light is that they require light to keep their circadian rhythm in check, i.e. they need to know when it’s day and night in order to keep a healthy daily routine.
You also need to keep your own climate and seasons in mind. For example, if you live in the northern hemisphere – and therefore quite far away from the crested gecko’s natural habitat – you may have much longer and/or extreme winters than that of New Caledonia.
You will then need to mimic the number of daylight hours that a crested gecko would get in their natural habitat and will most likely need to use some specialized bulbs for that.
Here is a table showing the average daylight hours per day per month in New Caledonia. This will give you an idea of the difference between that climate and yours.
Source: My New Caledonia
Note! Do not place your crested gecko’s tank next to a window in order to make use of sunlight – the temperatures inside the tank can rise significantly and very fast, leading to an awful death or at the very least a lot of suffering for your poor crestie.
Does Your Crested Gecko Need UVB Light At All If They’re Nocturnal And Crepuscular?
Yes, your crested gecko does need some UVB light to stay healthy – though not nearly as much as diurnal gecko species (those active during the day).
The reason why they need UVB, is that they use it to synthesize vitamin D; a vitamin that is critical for their health.
Although it is possible to give your crested gecko enough vitamin D by supplementing their diet, exposure to UVB light for short amounts of time holds other health and fertility benefits as well.
You should not expose your crested gecko to too much UVB per day as their skin is extremely well adapted to synthesizing vitamin D, and very sensitive.
According to the research done by Baines et al, and published in the Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research in 2016 (How Much UV-B Does My Reptile Need?), the UV-I Zone average for a crested gecko should be 0 – 0.7.
Baines also suggests using fluorescent UVB lamps without reflectors as daytime background lighting for a limited time. Note that this should all be low-level UVB (5% UVB tubes).
You can, therefore, put the light on a timer if you’re not going to be home during the day to switch it off manually.
When Should You Switch The Lights Off In Your Crested Gecko’s Tank?
You should ideally give your crested gecko a 12-hour day and night every day (although the days can be an hour or two shorter during winter to mimic the season, see again the table above).
As you need to incorporate dawn and dusk as well into this time, try not to go from completely dark to a fully lit tank and vice versa. This is important because cresties are both crepuscular and nocturnal and need dim light to start their activity.
By giving them dim light to hunt in at dusk will satisfy their natural instincts more than if you put a few crickets in the tank and then make it “night” all of a sudden.
You can make use of a lamp with a dimmer switch in order to make it dawn or dusk for your crested gecko.
You can just leave your crestie to their own devices during the night – you’ll probably hear them hunting or simply climbing about their tank – as this is perfectly normal.
Keep reading to find out if and when you should use a blue light in your crested gecko’s tank.
Should You Leave Your Crested Gecko Alone During The Day To Sleep?
The short answer to this question is ‘yes’. Much like you want to be left alone during the night when you’re trying to sleep, you should also leave your crestie alone.
Being disturbed and woken up during the day can have a negative impact on their day/night cycle and will, in turn, be bad for their health – especially in the long run.
But now you may wonder how one knows when a crested gecko is asleep as they have no eyelids? The trick is to look at their crests or their “eyelashes”.
When they’re awake, the crest will stand upright and lie flat when they’re asleep. Their eyes also change; when they’re awake their pupils are dilated and when they’re asleep their pupils are slits.
You may notice that your crestie does move around somewhat during the day to move from hide to hide, to drink water, or to climb about a bit (albeit quite sluggishly). This is all completely normal and you shouldn’t be worried.
You can take some of this time when they’re awake to interact with them for a short while.
However, don’t overdo it. There’s plenty of time in the evenings and in the mornings for some quality time with your crestie. Rather let them get their beauty sleep to keep them healthy and happy.
What If You Disturb Your Crested Gecko’s Sleep All The Time During The Day?
Continually disturbing your crested gecko’s sleep during the daytime can lead to various ailments because their bodies don’t get enough rest.
Their internal clock (or day/night cycle) will also get messed up and this, in turn, can wreak havoc on their health as they have evolved to be crepuscular and nocturnal.
This won’t change overnight or even in a few months simply because you don’t want to wait for dusk to arrive to interact with your crestie.
Trying to “switch around” daytime and nighttime for your crestie using artificial lights and blackout curtains, for example, can also be detrimental to their health. Rather let your crestie’s internal clock do its thing and let nature go its course.
If you really can’t stand the wait, or having a crepuscular pet, then a crested gecko may not be the best pet for you after all…
When Should You Feed Your Crested Gecko?
Your crested gecko should be fed in the evenings at dusk when they start to become active for the night.
This is especially important when feeding them live insects as they will need time to catch their prey and digest it (at least) partly before settling down to rest the next day.
Keep reading to find out why your crestie may be hunting during the daytime when they should be resting.
What Does It Mean If Your Crested Gecko Is Active During The Day?
There are various reasons why your crested gecko may be active during the day. Some forms of activity are perfectly normal – for example if they change the spot where they’re sleeping or drink some water.
However, if there are times when there may be something wrong either with them or their environment that keeps them from resting. Let’s start with the environment, as this seems to be the thing that most often causes a crestie to lose sleep.
Your Crested Gecko’s Immediate Environment Inside Their Tank
You should always make sure that your crestie’s tank is neither too hot nor too cold and that the humidity is also just right.
This means that the temperatures inside your crested gecko’s tank should be as follows:
- The ambient daytime temperatures should range from 71 – 79°F (22 – 26°C)
- The temperature gradient should measure as follows: the cool side should measure 68 – 70°F (20 – 21°C) and 79°F on the warm side. It is of utmost importance that the basking spot should not measure more than 83°F (28°C) as this type of heat can be bad news for your crestie and even lead to their untimely death.
- Nighttime temperatures for your crestie shouldn’t be lower than 69°F (20°C).
- In winter the temperatures in the tank should be a little lower and should measure no lower than 70 – 72°F (21 – 22°C) during the day and 63 – 65°F (17.2 – 18°C) during the night.
Remember that you should never put your crestie’s tank on the windowsill or in the window as the temperature inside the tank will soar and – to put it lightly – kill your crestie in a horrible way.
The humidity in the tank should be between 60% and 80% and you’ll most likely need to mist it daily using distilled or filtered water.
Your Crested Gecko’s Environment Outside Their Tank
Now that we’ve covered what the temperature and humidity inside your crestie’s tank should be like, it’s time to look at the environment around the tank.
Because they’re crepuscular, your crested gecko needs a daytime environment that is conducive to rest. This means that you should put the tank in a room or place that is quiet and doesn’t have too much traffic.
For example, the family room is an option only if the family only gathers there in the evenings and not if it’s used throughout the day.
Basically, if there’s kids, pets or noise there throughout the day, it’s not the place for your crestie’s tank.
Should You Use Blue Light To Observe Your Crested Gecko At Night?
Some people who keep crested geckos believe that you should keep nightlights on throughout the night to help their crestie to hunt. However, this is not true, as crested geckos can see in the dark and even see in color in low light.
Lights, in fact, can keep your crestie from going about their night and feeding in a normal way as they think that it’s still day because they are able to see the blue light.
If it is already dark and you want to check on your crestie or want to watch them hunt for a while before bidding them ‘goodnight’, you can switch on a blue light for an hour or less and interact with them during this time (for instance by feeding them more insects if they want some more).
Then, switch off the blue light for the rest of the night – unless you think something is actually wrong and need to see what’s going on inside the tank.
Does Blue Light Hurt Your Crested Gecko’s Rhythm?
We know that watching your crestie by blue-tinted light looks extremely cool, but it can really mess with their rhythm and this can, in turn, lead to various ailments.
Therefore, we recommend that – if you decide on using a blue light – you don’t use it for more than an hour a day. For more on gecko night vision, be sure to read this paper.
Keeping a crested gecko is about much more than simply knowing what to feed your crestie and giving them a habitat with the correct humidity and temperature gradient.
Like any other pet, you need to take full responsibility for their wellbeing and learn as much as you can about their natural instincts.
And, just like you learn to live with a cat that runs through the house at 2am chasing nothing (or are they…) you’ll also soon get used to interacting with your crestie on their terms and get used to the sounds of them hunting through the night.