How to Create a Naturalistic Terrarium for a Crested Gecko?

March 7, 2024

Creating a naturalistic terrarium for your crested gecko is not just about aesthetics. It is about providing a conducive environment that mimics their natural habitat. This will substantially enhance the quality of life for your gecko. This guide will walk you through the process of setting up a beautiful and practical naturalistic terrarium for your crested gecko.

Choosing the Right Enclosure

The first step in setting up a naturalistic terrarium for your crested gecko is choosing the right enclosure. The size of your gecko will dictate the size of your vivarium.

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For a single adult crested gecko, a 20-gallon tank is suitable, with dimensions of around 18x18x24 inches. This size gives your gecko ample vertical room to climb, which is an essential feature of a crested gecko’s natural habitat.

When looking for an enclosure, prioritize those with front-opening doors. This type of design will make it easier for you to feed your gecko, clean the enclosure, and interact with your pet. Additionally, ensure the enclosure has a secure top to prevent your gecko from escaping and to provide an area for heat and light fixtures.

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Setting up the Right Substrate

The substrate is a crucial part of the terrarium as it aids in maintaining the right humidity levels and is a significant part of the naturalistic design. For crested geckos, a moisture-retaining substrate is well-suited because it helps to maintain the high humidity level that they naturally require.

A blend of organic soil and sphagnum moss makes an excellent substrate for a crested gecko terrarium. It is capable of retaining moisture well and is safe for your gecko. Avoid using substrates like sand, as they can lead to impaction if ingested.

You can also consider a bioactive substrate, which includes living organisms that help break down waste, reducing the need for frequent cleaning. This type of substrate provides a more naturalistic environment for your gecko, but it does require additional care and setup.

Creating the Perfect Habitat with Plants and Decorations

Adding plants and decorations to your terrarium will not only make it aesthetically pleasing but also mimic the crested gecko’s natural habitat, promoting their natural behaviors.

You can use both live and artificial plants in your setup. Live plants contribute to the enclosure’s overall health by recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen and maintaining humidity. Some excellent choices for your terrarium include Pothos, Bromeliads, and Ferns.

In addition to plants, you will need to add branches, vines, and other forms of climbing material for your gecko. Remember, crested geckos are arboreal creatures, meaning they spend most of their time in trees. Therefore, vertical space utilization is critical.

Food and Water

Just as important as the habitat is the feeding of your crested gecko. They thrive on a diet of crested gecko diet (CGD), which is a pre-made food blend that you mix with water, and occasional live food.

It’s important to rotate live food sources, such as crickets, roaches, and waxworms, to provide a variety of nutrients. Remember, all live food should be dusted with a calcium supplement to ensure your gecko is receiving adequate nutrients.

Crested geckos also get most of their water from licking droplets off leaves, so it is important to mist the terrarium daily. However, it’s also good to have a small water dish available.

Maintaining the Right Temperature and Humidity

The last piece of the puzzle in creating a naturalistic terrarium for your crested gecko is maintaining the right temperature and humidity.

Crested geckos thrive in temperatures between 70-80┬░F during the day, with a slight dip at night. They do not require intense basking spots like some other reptiles. Instead, they prefer cool, humid environments.

Humidity should be kept between 50-70% during the day and increased to about 80-100% at night. This can be achieved by misting the enclosure with water once or twice a day, depending on your specific conditions.

Creating a naturalistic terrarium for your crested gecko can seem like a daunting task, but with time, patience, and the right setup, you can create a captivating and healthy environment for your pet.

Essential Components for a Crested Gecko Kit

Creating a naturalistic terrarium for your crested gecko requires gathering all the essential components. These include your gecko’s habitat, lighting and heating equipment, feeding and watering supplies, as well as cleaning materials.

An essential part of your crested gecko kit is the enclosure. As previously mentioned, a 20-gallon tank with dimensions of approximately 18x18x24 inches is suitable for a single adult crested gecko. The enclosure should have secure front-opening doors for easy access and a secure top for mounting heat and light fixtures. Companies like Exo Terra and Zoo Med offer high-quality enclosures for reptiles and amphibians.

For lighting and heating, a dimmable heat lamp can provide the necessary warmth without being overly intense, given crested geckos prefer cooler, humid environments. LED lights are also an excellent choice for illuminating the terrarium without producing excessive heat.

Feeding and watering supplies include crested gecko diet (CGD), a blend of pre-made food that you mix with water, and a small water dish. Occasional live food, such as crickets, roaches, and waxworms, should also be on hand.

Lastly, cleaning materials are necessary for maintaining a fresh environment for your gecko. Some of these include a mister for maintaining humidity, paper towels for cleaning up any mess, and tools for removing any waste.

Bioactive Enclosure: The Ultimate Naturalistic Terrarium

A bioactive enclosure takes a naturalistic terrarium to the next level, as it replicates the natural ecosystem of crested geckos. This type of gecko setup includes live plants and a bioactive substrate, which houses beneficial microorganisms. These organisms help to break down waste, reducing the need for frequent cleaning and maintaining a balanced environment.

Companies like The Bio Dude and Josh’s Frogs offer complete bioactive kits for crested geckos. These kits include everything you need to create a bioactive enclosure: substrate, live plants, leaf litter, and a cleanup crew of beneficial insects.

The substrate in a bioactive enclosure typically includes a blend of organic soil, sphagnum moss, and a drainage layer to prevent over-saturation. The live plants provided in these kits are safe for crested geckos and thrive in their habitat. Leaf litter, on the other hand, mimics the natural ground cover found in a gecko’s native environment, enhancing the naturalistic feel of the terrarium.

The cleanup crew consists of beneficial invertebrates, such as springtails and isopods, which help break down waste and uneaten food, maintaining a clean and balanced environment. However, it’s important to note that a bioactive enclosure requires careful monitoring to ensure all the components are working together effectively.


Creating a naturalistic terrarium for your crested gecko is a rewarding project that significantly enhances your pet’s quality of life. With the right equipment, a bioactive enclosure, and a comprehensive crested gecko kit, you can offer your gecko an environment that closely mimics their natural habitat. It may seem daunting at first, but with patience and careful attention to detail, you can set up a captivating and healthy habitat for your crested gecko. Don’t forget, maintaining the right temperature and humidity levels, as well as feeding your gecko a balanced diet, are just as crucial for their well-being. Enjoy the process – your crested gecko will surely appreciate the effort.