Some of the Most Common Health Issues in Crested Geckos are Caused By Improper Humidity
Crested Geckos are a tropical species, meaning they generally appreciate high humidity. However, if a Crested Gecko's humidity is improper, it can lead to a myriad of health concerns. Crested Geckos are a hardy reptile species overall, however, besides being heat sensitive, they are also quite sensitive to humidity levels.
Humidity that is too low can cause dehydration and poor shedding. On the opposite end, humidity that is frequently too high can cause poor shedding and bacterial or fungal infections. Some keepers may not realize that the shedding issues they are facing with their gecko is caused by high humidity, and try to remedy the issue by increasing humidity or doing saunas/humidity chambers for their gecko, which can further make the problem worse. We will be discussing how to make sure your gecko has a proper humidity cycle, and how you can troubleshoot issues you may be having with your Crested Gecko’s humidity.
What is the Best Humidity for a Crested Gecko?
The best humidity for a Crested Gecko is a fluctuation between high humidity and a dry out period. To achieve this, you can mist heavily before bed and then allow the enclosure to dry out until the next night. In the wild, humidity levels would rise overnight when the sun sets, and begin to fall once the sun comes up the next morning. Replicating this humidity cycle in captivity allows our animals to have a natural fluctuation in their ambient humidity.
After misting, you should aim for the humidity to reach 80% or more and linger around 60-80% overnight. While the habitat dries out during the day, you want it to dry out to 45-50% before re-misting the enclosure. It is best to measure humidity using a digital probe hygrometer, as analog hygrometers are typically very inaccurate and can be thrown off if they have moisture droplets entering the device. Having proper ventilation in your habitat ensures that the enclosure will not stay too damp and humid consistently.
Tips for High and Low Humidity in Your Crested Gecko’s Enclosure
If your humidity is remaining too high and not drying out:
Signs your enclosure is staying too humid:
- Excess mold growth (especially in non-bioactive setups)
- Water droplets remaining on the enclosure for prolonged periods of time
- Poor sheds or your geckos’ skin looking damp*
*Crested Geckos have hydrophobic skin, which means their skin naturally repels water. When kept in too high of humidity, their skin can lose this property and they will appear wet. This can be quickly dangerous to your gecko, and prompt action should be taken to move them into an enclosure with a proper humidity cycle.
How to remedy a reptile habitat that is too humid:
- Ensure the enclosure has ventilation that is not blocked, add extra ventilation if possible by adding holes or screen to promote cross ventilation
- Add a small computer fan to the top of the enclosure to promote air circulation in the enclosure
- Add a fan to the room to promote air circulation in the entire room
- Only mist a small section of the enclosure and not the entire enclosure
- Add a small light source such as a UVB and or full spectrum bulb to add a thermal gradient and promote evaporation
If your reptile enclosure is drying out too quickly:
First ensure that your habitat is not too warm. Heating elements can cause moisture to evaporate faster, which can cause the enclosure to have low humidity.
Signs your enclosure is drying out too quickly:
- Water droplets evaporating rapidly
- Crested Gecko diet drying out within the day (can also be a sign of too high of heat/food being placed too close to heat source)
- Stuck or poor sheds
How to remedy enclosures drying out too quickly:
- Partially cover the screen top with acrylic, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil to slow evaporation
- Look into creating a bioactive enclosure with live plants to promote higher humidity
- Add a humid hide or area with moist sphagnum to offer microclimates that your gecko can retreat to and get moisture
- Add a humidifier to the surrounding room to promote overall higher ambient humidity in the surrounding area
Note: You should not need to mist multiple times per day if your temperatures, ventilation, and enclosure are proper. An exception to this rule would be keepers in extremely dry, low humidity environments where the surrounding room may pull moisture from the habitat. In this case, a humidifier for the room may help your enclosure stay humid for longer. A humidity fluctuation will ensure your Crested Gecko has a natural wet/dry cycle and can properly shed their skin.
How to Hydrate Your Crested Gecko
A Crested Gecko that is kept with adequate humidity and misted nightly is likely to be well hydrated without intervention. Crested Geckos will use water dishes, and therefore should be offered a clean, shallow water source at all times. Your gecko should be given filtered, tap, or spring water.
Do not give your gecko distilled water as the distilling process removes highly beneficial minerals that your gecko requires for hydration. Prolonged use of water that is low in minerals can cause the animal’s body to pull vitamins and minerals from their reserves to hydrate, and will cause further issues and dehydration in the long run.
Softened water and RO water is also not recommended for exclusive use. The water softening and filtering process removes calcium and magnesium from the water. Some homes may have a whole house softening system installed. If you choose to use these options, ensure your animal is receiving these minerals elsewhere in their diet such as a multivitamin powder on insects. To remove water spots from an enclosure, a distilled white vinegar and water solution can be applied and a razor blade can be used to scrape the hard water away. Lemon juice on a cotton ball is also an effective way to remove hard water spots.
What Are Some Signs of a Dehydrated Crested Gecko?
- Sunken eyes
- Wrinkles or creases in the skin
- Sandpaper feeling skin/more dry than usual
If you notice your gecko is showing signs of dehydration, mist the enclosure around them so they can lick the droplets. Ensure your temperatures are not above 80ºF ambient, as this can cause rapid dehydration and heat stress. In most situations, offering a healthy Crested Gecko the opportunity to drink will resolve mild to moderate levels of dehydration.
Crested Geckos are not hydrated by soaking. It is a common myth that soaks (or electrolyte soaks) will absorb through the Geckos skin or cloaca and hydrate the animal. This is not true. A Crested Gecko must drink orally in order to hydrate or receive hydration injections from an exotic vet in extreme cases.