Crested geckos certainly have a wise expression, with their distinct eyelashes and large eyes. However, how smart are crested geckos, really?
Crested geckos may be fairly intelligent, especially compared to many other reptile species, thanks to their diet being omnivorous with a focus on fruit, the fact that they communicate with sound, and their extraordinary adaptability, including tolerating handling.
If you’re wondering just how smart your crested gecko is and if you can teach them tricks, here’s what you need to know, as well as some tips to give them the most enriching life in captivity that you can.
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Reasons Crested Geckos May be Intelligent
They are Omnivores and Consume a Fair Amount of Fruit
Primates that are omnivores have larger brains and may be more intelligent than primates that only eat leaves. Primates that eat fruit have slightly larger brains than omnivores.
While it isn’t clear whether this research also extends to geckos like the crested gecko, the hypothesized reason for this intelligence discrepancy seems to relate to crested geckos as well as other species of omnivores.
It is believed that animals that must maneuver into tricky places to get fruit and who must remember when the fruit is seasonably available have required larger brains in order to survive.
Since crested geckos eat a fair amount of fruit as well as being omnivores, it is reasonable to believe that they may require a fair amount of intelligence to survive.
They Communicate With Sound
Geckos are the noisiest type of lizards, and the crested gecko is no exception. The reasons for crested gecko vocalizations are not well studied, but it is believed that they call to attract mates and scare away rivals.
This level of communication may indicate a higher level of intelligence than that found in other reptiles. Some geckos may even adjust their sound to accommodate a noisy environment.
Many people find that their crested geckos use sound to communicate with them. Geckos may chirp at you if they are startled or if you insist on handling them when they would rather be left alone.
They are Highly Adaptable
Crested geckos are extremely popular in the pet trade, largely because of their adaptability. Despite being residents of dense jungles in the wild, they have been able to adapt to artificial environments very readily in captivity.
They even breed quite easily in captivity and are frequently observed breeding by hobbyists, although they have not been observed performing breeding behavior in the wild.
The readiness of the crested gecko to adapt to captivity may be an indication of their intelligence, as adaptability is often tied to increased intelligence in a variety of species.
They can Learn to Tolerate Handling and Get Used to Their Owners
While most crested gecko owners may not argue that their gecko really enjoys being handled, most captive crested geckos will tolerate it.
When acclimated to handling properly, crested geckos will tolerate being handled without dropping their tail, which would be their natural response to being lifted up by something very large in the wild.
The ability to learn to tolerate something that would cause fear in the wild may be a strong sign of your crested gecko’s intelligence.
Can Crested Geckos Learn Tricks?
When people ask whether crested geckos are intelligent, they usually want to know if their crestie recognizes them and if they can teach their crested gecko tricks. So here is what you should expect.
While crested geckos can’t really learn tricks, it is possible to get them to do certain things by offering food. They can associate sounds, like their name, with food and thus learn to react to their name. They can also be brought to jumping from one place to another by offering food.
Crested Geckos Can Learn Their Name
What this means is, you can say your crested gecko’s name every time you feed it. Over time, your crested gecko will learn that something good is about to happen if you say his or her name.
Soon your crested gecko will always react to his or her name. This process can take several months so be patient.
You can also make your crested gecko jump from one hand to the other by offering food. When doing that, you can say your cresties name and wiggle the food.
It is possible that your crested gecko learns that wiggling with your fingers and saying its name means that their is food in your hand and that a jump on your hand could pay off – even if you have no food in your hands.
However, not all crested geckos learn to jump on your hand. Especially if you have a crested gecko that is rather shy, this can be hard to teach.
So you should not expect too much when it comes to crested geckos and tricks. They are intelligent in their own way and it is important to cater to your crested gecko’s intelligence.
Here is how you should do that.
How to Cater to Your Intelligent Crested Gecko
If you want to give your crested gecko the best possible life in captivity, their intelligence cannot be overlooked.
You want to cater to their intelligence in every aspect of your crested gecko’s life, both to keep them happy and to provide you with a more interesting pet to observe.
Here are just a few tips to taking your crested gecko’s intelligence into account in your care of them:
Offer as Large a Cage as Possible
In the wild, crested geckos forage through the rain forest in search of food, often covering fairly large distances. Therefore, your crested gecko will very likely be happiest and best able to display intelligence when given a large habitat in captivity.
Although crested geckos certainly can survive and even breed in smaller habitats, a larger cage is likely to make for a happier and more interesting gecko. Since crested geckos in the wild travel on the forest floor and in the trees, a cage that is both tall and long is ideal.
Consider a Bioactive Environment
Crested geckos can do just fine in an entirely artificial environment, but creating a bioactive enclosure for your crested gecko may offer them more enrichment.
In a bioactive environment, your crested gecko can continuously forage for a variety of different types of small insects and invertebrates, as well as browsing on edible flower pollen and even fruit in their enclosure.
A wide variety of plants can be used in a bioactive environment for your crested gecko. Since crested geckos generally don’t eat leafy matter, you don’t need to be terribly concerned about toxicity in the plants that you choose.
However, ideally, the plants and animals that you use in the terrarium will provide some food for your crested gecko to forage on. Here are a few things to consider:
- Flowering plants. Any plant with flowers will provide crested geckos with pollen, which is a part of their diet that they are unlikely to get in captivity otherwise. Chamomile and chrysanthemum are some of the flowers which produce the most pollen.
- Fruiting plants. Most fruiting plants are too big to go in your crested gecko terrarium, but you may be able to get away with a couple of strawberry plants or even a blueberry plant.
- Insects. Insects are important to clean up the terrarium, eliminating leftover insect carcasses and getting rid of crested gecko poop. They may also provide a snack for your crested gecko in between regular feedings. Isopods and springtails are some of the best options for your crested gecko enclosure, but you may want to consider roaches and mealworm beetles.
Enjoy Your Intelligent Gecko
Crested geckos may be smarter than you thought. Many crested gecko owners find that their geckos show many indications of intelligence and thrive when given opportunities for enrichment. Have fun looking for ways to cater to your intelligent crested gecko.