|Crested Gecko||Correlophus (Rhacodactylus) ciliatus||Vulnerable||-||-|
Crested Geckos (Correlophus (Rhacodactylus) ciliatus) is a semi-arboreal reptile originating from New Caledonia in the south-east Pacific, approximately 1500km from Australia and 2000km from New Zealand. They live in the tropical rainforest and there are three populations, one in Isle of Pines and two in Grand Terre. The southeastern rainforests of Grand Terre are divided by a high peak which influences the climate and soil where they inhabit. Temperatures can range from 11.1-27.8ºC. Precipitation levels are up to 400cm per year. They typically rest close to the ground during the day and are active at night in shrubs and lower canopy (rarely travelling more than 3m high) (Animal Diversity Web).
In captivity in the UK and rest of Europe we tend to keep reptiles warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter which is the inverse to what happens in their natural habitat:
Cold season - June-August
Hot season - November-April
Following a tropical storm they were rediscovered in 1994 as they were considered extinct. Since then numerous individuals have been found in Grand Terra, the main Island of New Caledonia, and Isle of Pines. Thanks to captive breeding more individuals are likely present than on the islands themselves. Numbers in their natural habitat are threatened by the Fire Ant (Wassmania auropunctata).
They are able to climb vertically thanks to their lamellae on their digits that create Van der Waals forces on the surface and they also have a prehensile tail which may regenerate following caudectomy. Their size is around 20-25cm (including tail) or 10-13cm snot-vent length and weigh between 35-55g. Male geckos have hemipenal bulges caudally and a spur is present each side of the cloaca which is larger than in females. Lifespan is around 15-20 years.
In recent years captive breeding has increased and now different morphs may be purchased with reputable breeders on the rise.
As they are considers semi-terrestrial or semi-arboreal they are typically kept in planted vertical vivariums 45 x 45 x 60 cm. Ventilation is important and a mesh top may achieve this.
Natural or artificial plants may be used and large leaves help with the sense of security especially during the daytime. Plants commonly used are Ficus benjamina, Dracaenas, Pothos aureus or Scindapsus aureus. Bark or branches can be added, as can vines or bambu to increase utilized space in the terrarium.
Substrates should be used to maintain moisture and typically tropical soil or coconut fibre are used. A bioactive setup is certainly recommended as this will enhance natural behaviour and allow females to lay eggs.
Daytime lighting should include a full spectrum including ultraviolet (UV) (UV-B and UV-A) ideally. generally they will hide away during the day and exposure to UV rays will not be obvious. Supplementation with calcium and vitamin D3 is highly recommended as metabolic bone disease (secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism) seems to be a common presentation in our clinics. Regarding the debate whether or not to supply them with UV lighting - it will not do any harm and possibly will enhance calcium metabolism; UVA provides the spectrum where reptiles see colour (unlike in humans) so the behavioural side of UV-A supplementation should also be considered. A 12h photo period should be used. A drop to 10h can be used during the "cooling" period. Usually temperatures and lighting should go hand in hand and therefore temperatures will usually drop with photo period.
TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY
Day temperatures should be kept between 25.5-28ºC (De Vosjoli) with a drop to 21-25ºC at night. During the cooler months temperatures can drop 3-5º. A temperature gradient should always be available. Sick reptiles will change their behaviour by basking more or less, some will seek heat whilst others seek the cooler end of the vivarium.
Relative humidity should be kept around 60-80% with daily nebulisations or spraying for this to be maintained. Increased humidity and reduced ventilation will increase condensation; a well ventilated top is advised.
The use of a thermometer and hygrometer are strongly advised.
DIET, SUPPLEMENTATION AND WATER
Crested Geckos are omnivores and their diet consists of fruits, nectars and insects. Their diet should be varied and consist of mushed fruits (peaches, nectarines, mangos, pears, etc) and insects (crickets, flies, etc). Commercially available foods that include nectars and fruits are readily available now - Repashy foods have widely been used as have others including Pangea, etc. Variety is key. Feeding frequency should be 3-4 times per week. Fruit/Nectar based foods can be placed on shelves in the terrarium and insects should always be gut loaded with vegetables or commercially available products.
Supplementation with calcium carbonate and vitamins is highly recommended and calcium sacs can and should be assessed in females, especially those during vitellogenesis or egg laying females. A widely used protocol may be dust insects 2/3 times with calcium and 1/3 with a multivitamin supplement.
Regular misting or spraying provides the geckos with water droplets and these are usually their source of water - hence why the terrarium should be kept clean ie faeces removed from glass sides etc.
Sexing is relatively easy from 6 months of age and males have hemipenal bulges at the tail base - they also have preanal pores that are more developed and visible than in females.
Males may become fertile around 9-12 months and females around 12 months. Ideally females should weigh around 40g and over 1 and a half years of age before mating. Females may retain sperm and may lay 4 eggs before copulating again. they usually lay 2 eggs 30-40 days after copulation and will continue laying every month between 8-10 months per year.
Females will dig and bury eggs approximately 7-10cm below the surface. Eggs can be transferred to an incubator with commonly used incubation temperatures ranging from 23-29ºC, these will hatch 60-100 days after depending on temperatures.
Hatchlings are independent and should be removed from the main terrarium in to their own setup - often a small vivarium or plastic tub with either the same substrate as the main terrarium or moist paper towels can also be used. Within 24h they will usually have performed their first shed and will start feeding. Humidity and temperatures should be monitored and water droplets should be present in the setup.
Parasitology testing every 6-12 months is advised.