Crested Geckos are fascinating pets that have gained popularity for their adorable appearance and beginner-friendly care requirements. However, despite their hardiness, crested geckos can suffer from stress that leads to a range of health issues over time.
There are many signs to watch out for in a stressed crested gecko. While several of them are nonspecific and can also be observed in other situations, a few, such as tail dropping, almost always occur due to stress. The best way to address and prevent stress is to identify the trigger and remove it.
Identifying stress in your crested geckos is a critical skill that all reptile owners must have. In this article, we will explore the 10 common signs that suggest that your crested gecko is stressed and provide tips on how to address such problems to make your reptile happy.
Table of Contents
Signs of Stress in Crested Geckos
Before we show and describe the stress symptoms, have a look at our infographic below. It will help you to find out if and why your crestie might be stressed right now.
Let’s have a look at the stress symptoms in detail!
1. Tail Dropping
Tail dropping is probably the most prominent sign of stress among crested geckos.
Like other geckos, crested geckos exhibit autotomy. They drop their tails when they are threatened or feel stressed, and most crested geckos in the wild drop their tails at some point in their lives.
It is a defense mechanism to distract predators while they run away.
However, unlike other geckos, crested geckos do not have the ability to grow their tails back. What remains will be a stump that regrows to a small tail tip.
Most owners prefer that their crested geckos keep their tails, so this is another reason to avoid stress.
Tail dropping generally doesn’t lead to anything serious, thanks to the tail’s inherent nature to stop bleeding on its own. However, it is suggested that the tail provides balance and agility when geckos climb and leap.
2. Lack of Appetite
Stressed crested geckos tend to lose interest in food, so you may notice them eating less than they usually do. Take note, however, that stress is not the only reason why crested gecekos lose their appetite.
Crested geckos become less inclined to eat when they are shedding and during breeding season. In these circumstances, a lack of appetite is normal. However, inappetence can be concerning if it is caused by stress or illness.
While it is normal for crested geckos to eat less when they are under temporary stress, be aware that this should not be so bad as to cause them to lose a large amount of weight.
Crested geckos are nocturnal creatures. It is normal to see them sleeping during the day, but more playful and active at night.
However, stressed geckos tend to reduce their exploratory behavior and may also exhibit freezing tendencies.
You may notice that your crested gecko is not exploring its enclosure as much as it used to, and may be spending most of its time hiding from view and unmoving.
Although it is also normal for them to find a favorite spot in the enclosure and spend much of their time there, a lack of exploratory behavior may also suggest lethargy caused by stress or illness.
Tip: If you fear that your crested gecko might be seriously sick, read our article on that here! It will show you what you should do now.
4. Frequently on the Ground
Crested geckos are arboreal, so they love spending most of their time perched on branches, vines, rocks, or anything in the cage that has been provided for climbing.
Stressed geckos, however, may suddenly spend more time on the ground than on elevated surfaces.
5. Mouth Gaping
Crested geckos can adopt a distinct body language when they are stressed, startled, or threatened. They can rise up on their hind legs, open their mouths wide, and employ a threatening posture to show aggression.
A stressed crested gecko will make it clear that it does not want to be handled. When provoked, it can try to bite and employ a forceful grip on the handler.
While a crested gecko’s bite is not usually painful or penetrates through skin, this should be taken as a sign that it should be given space.
7. Your Crested Gecko Is Always On The Glass
A stressed crested gecko may spend much time climbing and crawling along the walls of its enclosure in other reptiles, this is a behavior known as ‘glass surfing’.
However, since crested geckos can stick to the glass, they can’t really “surf” the glass as other reptiles like leopard geckos for example. Still, it has the same reasons.
Crested geckos may glass surf or climb the glass in an attempt to escape their enclosure, whether it is out of boredom or because something in the enclosure is bothering them.
Staying on the glass for days can involve nose-rubbing against the corners and surfaces, which may lead to bruises over time.
Identifying the presence of a stressor that may be causing the stress is critical to help address the behavioral problem.
Note: All crested geckos climb or even sleep on the glass from time to time. It only is a problem if your crested gecko is always on the glass trying to get out by rubbing its nose in the corners, etc.
8. Shedding Problems
Like most other reptiles, crested geckos regularly shed their outermost layer of skin to allow the regrowth of a new layer. It is normal for crested geckos to eat their shed as an instinctive behavior in the wild.
However, stressed geckos are more prone to having troubles completely removing their shed.
Retained shed is frequently seen around the small areas of the body and extremities such as the toes, tail tips and around the eyes and nose.
This will become a problem when the retained shed constricts the area and causes necrosis or death of tissues because of poor blood flow.
A warm shallow water bath can help with shedding problems, as well as misting your crested gecko and ensuring that proper humidity levels are maintained.
9. Tail Twitching
Aside from tail dropping, another tail-related sign of stress is twitching or bobbing. Some crested geckos may do this when they are excited or happy, but tail twitching can also be a sign of agitation.
10. Squeaking and Chirping Noise
Crested geckos are actually very vocal. They can make several different sounds for different purposes. When they are stressed, crested geckos may emit a squeaking or chirping sound.
However, similar sounds can also be made during mating and other situations, even when a crested gecko is playful and happy.
What Causes Stress in Crested Geckos?
Crested geckos are generally easy to care for and make great pets, but things can get difficult when they are stressed.
It is important for pet owners to understand what triggers stress so that they can take the necessary steps to reduce it and keep their crested geckos healthy and happy.
A New Environment
Bringing a crested gecko to a new enclosure, a new home, or simply relocating its terrarium to a different part of the house or making too many new changes to its habitat can bring about unfamiliarity that can cause stress.
Your crested gecko might react to the environmental changes by glass surfing as a means to try escaping, or hiding behind foliage or under substrate to feel safer.
Too Much Handling
One of the primary causes of stress in crested geckos is improper handling. These pets are generally docile and enjoy human interaction, but they can become stressed if handled too frequently or too roughly.
Crested geckos will also react poorly and bite, leap out, or drop their tail if they feel threatened by improper handling, such as being picked up by the tail.
It is important to handle your crested gecko gently and provide plenty of support, as well as limit handling sessions to short periods of time.
You should also avoid handling your crested gecko during shedding periods or if it is sick or gravid, as this will only add to more stress.
Inadequate Enclosure and Setup
Crested geckos are very prone to experiencing stress from their surroundings. A habitat that is cramped or poorly ventilated can induce stress in them.
Likewise, excessively high or low temperatures and humidity, as well as exposure to loud noise or bright lights, can also be sources of stress.
Lack of Hiding Spots and Climbing Areas
Crested geckos need a lot of climbing opportunities and hiding spots in their terrarium.
Not providing enough tank accessories to let them climb and leap around as they do in the wild can easily stress them out. A lack of enrichment can make any crested gecko bored and agitated.
Finally, social stress can also affect crested geckos. These pets are solitary animals and may become stressed if housed with other geckos.
Crested geckos are best kept alone, but if you do choose to house multiple geckos together, make sure they have plenty of space and hiding places to reduce stress and potential aggression.
Is It Normal That My Crested Gecko Is Stressed?
It is not uncommon for crested geckos to experience stress from time to time, but it is important for pet owners to understand what is normal and what may require intervention.
Some level of transient stress is normal for crested geckos, especially during times of environmental changes such as moving to a new home or during breeding season.
During these times, you may notice changes in your gecko’s behavior, such as decreased appetite, hiding more often, or unwilling to be handled.
Reactions to transient stress are normal and may not be a cause for concern, as they should resolve on their own once your gecko has adjusted to the new environment.
However, if you notice that the stress becomes persistent and does not improve over days or even weeks, then this becomes a cause for worry.
When Is It Time To Visit The Vet?
As a rule of thumb, it pays to be cautious when it comes to your pet’s health. If you have any doubts or concerns regarding your crested gecko’s health or behavior, seeking veterinary care is always a wise decision.
A qualified reptile veterinarian can aid in identifying any underlying health problems and providing appropriate treatment.
Stress issues that remain unresolved for long periods of time can ultimately take a harmful toll on your crested gecko’s health.
You know that it is definitely time for a vet visit when the common signs of stress have led to worse health-related symptoms, such as the following:
- Refusing to eat at all: If your crested gecko has stopped eating entirely and is not showing interest in anything you try to give, its health can quickly deteriorate.
- Drastic weight loss: As a consequence of long-term inappetence, your crested gecko may lose a lot of weight and appear emaciated over time.
- Constantly poor shedding: If your crested gecko is having trouble completing its shed each time, and having difficulties shedding in areas other than the extremities, it is recommended to consult the vet on whether this may be caused by a different health issue.
- Nasal discharge: Chronic stress compromises your crested gecko’s immune system, making it more vulnerable to infections and diseases. Your crested gecko might start exhibiting respiratory issues such as nasal discharge, wheezing, or difficulty breathing.
- Eye problems: While a healthy crested gecko appears bright and responsive with clear, alert eyes, an overly stressed crested gecko may have sunken eyes, eyes with discharge, or retained spectacles. Read our article on eye infections in crested geckos here.
- Digestive problems: If your crested gecko is having diarrhea, constipation, or other digestive problems, it could be an indication of a more serious condition.
- Wounds or injuries: If your crested gecko has sustained any wounds or injuries from stressful behavior, it’s important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Even minor injuries can lead to infection or other complications if left untreated.
Would you like to learn more about caring and properly interacting with crested geckos? Our crested gecko care guide will help you!
How To Address and Prevent Stress In Crested Geckos
Provide a Suitable Environment
One of the main causes of stress in crested geckos is an unsuitable habitat. Crested geckos require a habitat that closely mimics their natural environment.
This includes providing a terrarium that is the appropriate size for your gecko, with plenty of hiding places, climbing structures, and branches.
The Ideal Size
Adult crested geckos should be kept in a 20 to 30-gallon terrarium, and the bigger, the better. As arboreal lizards, height matters most in cage dimensions.
An ideal size of enclosure would be at least 18” x 18” x 24” (LxWxH).
Tank Setup and Decoration
As solitary, arboreal and nocturnal creatures, crested geckos will thoroughly enjoy an enclosure that is fortified by lots of hiding spots and climbing opportunities.
Cork bark makes a good material for hiding areas, as it is resistant to rot even in high humidity.
For climbing, various types of accessories can be integrated to provide an enriching environment. Vines provide ample climbing space, while artificial trees are sturdy and will hold your crested gecko well.
Arboreal hiding spots like this hut are also great at mimicking your crested gecko’s natural hangout spot.
Crested geckos are intelligent animals that require mental stimulation. Boredom can lead to stress and anxiety, so make sure to provide your gecko with plenty of enrichment activities.
This can include hiding food and ample climbing structures.
Other good materials for climbing and enrichment are dry branches, driftwood, and bamboo tubes.
Tall broad-leafed plants like Ficus benjamina, Dracaena, and ferns will give your crested gecko a lot of surface to leap on.
Ensure Adequate Temperature and Humidity
Crested geckos are more likely to show atypical behavior such as staying on the ground, glass-surfing, or hiding too much when the temperature and humidity are not set to their ideal range.
Crested geckos generally thrive under a temperature range of 64-77oF (18-25oC) and a high humidity range of 60-90%. This can be achieved using a fogger or mister (we recommend this one).
Although crested geckos are nocturnal creatures, UVB lighting can be beneficial to them. Have a low-level UVB bulb (this one is good) positioned overhead and follow a 12-hour light and 12-hour dark cycle to maintain their circadian rhythm.
House Them Alone
The ideal living situation for crested geckos is to house them alone, unless you are an experienced owner who wants to keep breeding pairs together.
Generally, crested geckos are territorial creatures, and will tend to fight and bully their cagemates.
Provide Ample Time for Acclimatization
If you are taking in a new crested gecko or introducing one to an entirely new environment, give them at least a week to acclimatize to its new surroundings. Do not attempt to handle them immediately upon arrival.
The acclimatization period is crucial to lessen a gecko’s stress levels, which subsequently preserves the tail as you prevent your crested gecko from feeling danger.
When they are fully acclimated, crested geckos generally tolerate human handling for around 15-20 minutes per day.
Upgrade The Meals
Keep your crested gecko healthy and happy by providing a variety of food to suit its diet. Crested geckos can eat a wide range of fruits and insects.
The most convenient way to feed them is through a commercial diet like this that has been formulated to meet their needs.
For treats, you can offer these freeze-dried insects, fresh fruit, or fruit smoothies. Young crested geckos under 8 months should be fed daily, while adults prefer to be fed every other day.
Handle With Care
While crested geckos are generally docile and easy to handle, they can become stressed if handled improperly or even bite. When handling your crested gecko, be gentle and avoid sudden movements.
Allow your gecko to climb onto your hand or arm on its own free will, rather than grabbing or forcing it to come out of its hiding spot.
Do not pick crested geckos up by their tail, as they may feel threatened and ultimately drop their tail.
Minimize Environmental Changes
Crested geckos are sensitive to changes in their environment, and these sudden changes can cause stress.
Avoid moving your gecko’s habitat frequently or making drastic changes to the temperature or humidity levels. If changes need to be made, do so gradually over a period of time.
This also applies to introducing new tank accessories. Instead of doing a complete overhaul of your crested gecko’s enclosure, try to introduce new items one at a time to minimize stress levels caused by an entirely new environment.
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