Those of you who visit the Reptile Zoo often probably know of the cutest little lizard in existence, Charlie the Crested Gecko!
With his big, off kilter eyes, stubby little tail, and tiny toes that look like leaves, Charlie steals the hearts of hundreds of visitors a year, who will often coo “Can you have these as pets?!” Yes you can! Crested geckos like Charlie are becoming incredibly popular for their ease of care and sweet personalities.
Crested geckos are native to the southern parts of the island of New Caledonia, located between Fiji and Australia. They get their name from the eyelash-like projections over their eyes, which continue down the back, creating a “crest”. They are also referred to as eyelash geckos. These geckos are primarily nocturnal, and prefer to live up high and in trees, but may move lower to the ground to sleep. They are decent climbers, aided by their sticky feet, small claws, and prehensile tails.
Check out that prehensile tail and those sticky feet!
Their feet possess microscopic hairs that will bond (on a molecular level!) to whatever surface they stand on. If you observe one walking, you will actually see them peel their toes up backwards so they can simply take a step! These geckos are able to lose their tails as a defense mechanism, but unfortunately do not grow them back once they have dropped them. While this sounds traumatic, it actually isn’t such a huge deal. The blood vessels running to the tail seal off almost instantly, and will heal over completely in less than a month. It is highly uncommon to see an adult crested gecko in the wild that still has its tail. While most lizards with this ability grow their tails back, crested geckos only get the one tail. If they drop it, it’s gone for good.
Charlie is an example of a crested gecko without a tail.
Another fun thing about this species of gecko is that they are vocal! People usually don’t think of lizards as loud pets, but some geckos can be quite the talkers! Species like tokay geckos are loud and even sound like they’re yelling their name (TO-kay TO-kay is what it sounds like!). Crested geckos aren’t quite so noisy, and make anywhere from a low quiet growling noise to a surprisingly loud harsh bark. They’re known as “the devil in the trees” back in New Caledonia, as their barks can get quite unnerving when a loud chorus starts.
Crested geckos have several traits that make them desirable as pets. They do not require a huge amount of space, have fairly simple lighting and heating needs, and can be fed a prepackaged powdered diet and completely thrive on it. Hatchling and juvenile crested geckos do well in a 10 gallon aquarium, and adults can be kept in a 20 gallon tank. Since they are such avid climbers, height and plenty of foliage are more important than length. Reptile Supply companies have actually started to make specific setups just for crested geckos. Combine that ease of care with a gecko that tames very quickly, lives on average 15 years, and is known for its sweet nature, and you have one super awesome Prehistoric Pet!