Because I’m new to keeping Crested Geckos, I needed to know what the best way is to keep their vivarium at the right temperature. I found out that there are a lot of different ways to heat a Crested Gecko’s environment, including heat mats — but are heat mats really necessary or the best option?
Table of Contents
Do Crested Geckos Need Heat Mats?
Whether Crested Geckos need heat mats depend on the temperature at which they are kept. Crested Geckos should be kept at temperatures of 72-80 F (22-26.5 Celsius). If your vivarium is colder than this, you will need to use a heat source to keep it at the correct temperature.
Crested Geckos are an arboreal species, which means that they naturally live in trees and foliage. They also do not bask in the sun like many other species.
This means that the same type of heating may not work for your Crested Gecko than works for ground-dwelling (terrestrial) ones. Therefore, choosing the best way to heat your Crested Gecko’s vivarium is extremely important for their health and wellbeing.
What Are The Different Types Of Heat Sources That You Can Use For Crested Geckos?
There are three main types of heating that can be used for Crested Geckos; heat mats, types of bulbs, and ceramic heat emitters. Let’s look at each of these in detail, along with each one’s pros and cons.
Heat mats are designed to heat the floor of the vivarium. This makes them a very good choice for terrestrial species. However, they are not the best choice for heating the large, tall enclosures that Crested Geckos should be placed in.
Moreover, the pad — or even heat tape — will create a warm area rather than properly heating the enclosure without forming a hot spot.
Although there are many who have used heat mats for their Crested Geckos and then mount them on the side of the enclosure (instead of underneath), the creation of a hot spot still remains. A Crested Gecko can also get injured if the vivarium’s side heats too much and they touch it.
This is only one of the reasons why it is imperative to use a thermostat if you make use of heating mats.
One of the pros of the heat mat is that it lasts a long time. However, because it is not designed for or really suitable for arboreal enclosures, you are actually better off choosing another way of heating the vivarium in a more natural and even way.
Ceramic Bulbs Or Heat Emitters
Ceramic heat emitters are a good choice for keeping very accurate temperatures for your Crested Gecko. However, these ceramic bulbs also have some downsides to them, the main being that they can get extremely hot.
Therefore, you need to not only plug the ceramic bulb or emitter into a specific type of bulb holder that is designed for ceramic bulbs, but you also need a thermostat in order to make sure that the enclosure isn’t too hot (or cold).
Because of the levels of heat that these ceramic bulbs can emit, it’s very important not to place the bulb in such a place that your Crested Gecko can touch it and be injured. To keep your Crested Gecko from getting hurt, you must put a guard in place around the bulb.
That these ceramic bulbs don’t emit any light is good because the Crested Gecko is a nocturnal creature. With these bulbs you can give them extra heat at night without interfering their normal cycle through bright light.
All of these elements, especially the accuracy that you can get from the ceramic bulbs, work together to make these one of the best choices for heating your Crested Gecko’s vivarium.
Bulbs, Including Infrared And Moonlight Bulbs
Although heat bulbs were used often in the past, they have now fallen out of favor as, not just do they burn out relatively quickly and can cause hot spots in the vivarium, they give off white light when they are switched on.
This is a problem when you have to keep the vivarium warm during the night, as the high levels of light can cause a lot of stress for your Crested Gecko. (We explain more about heat lamps and compare them to heat mats for Cresties here)
A much better option, then, are moonlight bulbs. These bulbs not only provide some heat, but also low levels of light by which you can view your Crested Gecko at night. (Moonlights is okay, but you should not have any other nights on during the night. We explain why here!)
Usually a 25 watt bulb should do the trick – although you still need to keep a thermometer handy to make sure that the heat is not too much. If you find the enclosure getting too warm, rather put the bulb in a lamp stand so that the bulb is further from the vivarium.
The following bulbs must never be used as heat sources for your Crested Gecko: halogen bulbs, any high wattage bulb intended to create a basking spot.
When you use the correct heat source to heat your Crested Gecko’s vivarium, you will also be able to safely create the temperature gradient that they need to thrive.
How Do I Keep My Crested Gecko’s Vivarium At The Correct Temperature?
It is extremely important to keep your Crested Gecko at the right temperature no matter what type of heating source you decide on using. Here are a few tips to make it easier to keep the
- Keep the vivarium away from direct sunlight as this can increase the temperature significantly. (Just think of being in a car without air-con on a hot day!)
- Keep the vivarium out of drafts and away from open doors and windows, as this can lower the ambient temperature.
- Insulate the enclosure when temperatures drop by putting a polystyrene tile underneath it. You can also insulate the sides by putting cork mats or polystyrene around it. This will keep the heat in — just make sure the temperature doesn’t rise to much.
- Monitor the basking spots as well as the ambient temperature, moving the bulb closer or further away from the vivarium as needed.
- Choose the most suitable room with the most constant temperature in your home to keep the vivarium in. A more constant temperature outside the enclosure will help you regulate the temperature inside more easily.
- Provide various hides for your Crested Gecko in different spots in the vivarium. More than one hide makes it a lot easier for your Crested Gecko to move to the temperature in the temperature gradient where they are most comfortable.
What Should I Do If My Crested Gecko’s Vivarium Is Too Hot?
When your Crested Gecko’s enclosure gets too hot (anything over 82 °F), they are in serious danger of overheating and dying. Should you find that the vivarium is too hot, you should:
- Remove it from the room if the room is hot as well
- Place your gecko in the coolest room, away from direct sunlight
- Put a layer of towel against the outside of the vivarium and then stack ice against it (but make sure your Crested Gecko doesn’t go and sit against the ice as that can put them in shock.
- Never spray your Crested Gecko with freezing or cold water. Only spray with cool water, otherwise, they can go into shock.
What Should I Do If My Crested Gecko’s Vivarium Is Too Cold?
You may find that the vivarium’s temperature drops too much during the winter months. If this is the case, you can:
Place a heat mat against the side of the vivarium — but make sure that you use a foam barrier between the mat and the enclosure to ensure that your Crested Gecko doesn’t burn themselves. Use a thermometer to keep a close eye on the rising temperature.
You can also use a ceramic bulb outside the vivarium. Remember that these can be extremely hot (high wattage), so make sure that the bulb isn’t too close of the vivarium and end up making it too hot.
Some owners of Crested Geckos have even placed quilts or blankets around the vivarium to keep the heat in if there is a power failure or the temperature drops significantly.
How Can I Keep The Temperatures For My Crested Gecko Warmer At Night?
A 25-watt bulb is usually adequate to give the extra heat that your Crested Gecko needs to thrive. Use a lampstand to elevate the bulb further away from the enclosure if you find that it raises the temperature too much.
What should the level of humidity be in a Crested Gecko’s vivarium?
The humidity in the Crested Gecko’s enclosure should preferably be 70% but can be as low as 50%. You can gauge the level of humidity by using a hygrometer.
If you find that the humidity is too low, mist the vivarium as you normally would, being careful not to use cold water as that can cause your gecko to go into shock.