Are Crested Geckos Arboreal or Terrestrial Animals?


Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

When you choose a reptile as a pet, it’s essential to know in what kind of habitat it lives. For example, does it live in trees (vertical) or on the ground (horizontal)? If you don’t know if it’s an arboreal species or not, you may end up choosing the wrong kind of terrarium.

Crested geckos are a (semi-) arboreal species. In their natural habitat, they live in small trees and shrubs. They mainly inhabit the canopy and under-canopy layer of the rainforest. Therefore, as pets, crested geckos should get a vertical terrarium that mimics their natural habitat, the rainforest.

I mentioned that they’re semi-arboreal. Most sources will say that they’re arboreal, but this doesn’t mean that they never touch foot on the ground.

If you watch your crested gecko, you’ll notice that they will sometimes stay on the floor of the terrarium for an extended period. There are several reasons for this, but I won’t get into these reasons in this article.

This article is all about understanding your crested gecko and giving it a terrarium or cage that is suitable for it.

In this article, you’ll learn how crested geckos are adapted to living in trees and shrubs and how you can set up your terrarium to be suitable for them.

Crested Geckos Are (Semi-)Arboreal

Crested geckos can be found in the rainforests of New Caledonia. They inhabit the small trees and shrubs, where they can find shelter during the day.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about their natural habitat, you should watch the following video from Exo Terra on the Exo Terra expedition to New Caledonia.

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As indicated in this video, crested geckos can mostly be found between 1 and 4 meters above the forest floor. They live on the smaller branches and vines that can be found in this forest layer.

It’s visible that the crested gecko is adapted to live in trees. The prehensile tail allows (young) crested geckos to jump and climb around safely. The toepads adhere to almost any surface, which enables them to climb the trees without any trouble. They’re also masters in jumping from branch to branch.

Arboreal Terrarium Setup

When choosing a terrarium or cage for your crested gecko, you have to look for a vertical terrarium or cage. This allows your crested gecko to jump and climb around, which is its natural behavior. But not only the type of terrarium or cage is important. The interior decorations and plants also play a big part.

Vertical terrarium or cage

So first, you should get an appropriate terrarium or cage. A small bin, container, or faunarium is often better than a large terrarium for a hatchling or small juvenile crested gecko.

To give you an indication of the minimum sizes for juvenile and adult crested geckos, take a look at the following table:

Crested gecko sizeMinimum tank size
up to 10 grams1.5 to 5 gallons
10 to 25 grams7 to 10 gallons
25 grams and larger20 gallons

It’s better, especially for adult crested geckos, to live in a larger terrarium or cage. The most important thing is that the enclosure has enough surface area and has enough height.

I’m talking about a terrarium and a cage because both are available for geckos. If you can keep the humidity high enough, you can choose a cage, but more often, a glass terrarium is better for crested geckos.

Before buying a crested gecko cage or terrarium, make sure to visit our shopping list for our recommendations. If you’re looking for a bigger terrarium than the standard sizes (40 gallons or more), you should check our article on big tank sizes.

Decoration and plants

A vertical terrarium is not enough to satisfy the needs of your crested gecko. You also need to provide enough decorations and plants to allow your crested gecko to jump and climb.

A crested gecko terrarium should contain branches, vines, and plants. You can use fake plants or live plants (more information on plants can be found in our terrarium plant guide). The choice is up to you and crested geckos can live perfectly fine in a terrarium with artificial plants. The only thing they care for is that they’ve got hiding places and that they can jump and climb.

Roughly 50 percent of the terrarium or cage should be filled with plants. Divide the plants, branches, and vines throughout the cage but make sure that your crested gecko can still jump from one place to another. A crowded terrarium – where your crested gecko can only climb – isn’t the goal!

Hiding places

Since crested geckos are arboreal, they will prefer hiding places above ground over hiding places on the floor. Although you can add some excellent hiding places on the bottom of the terrarium or cage, you should make sure that your crested gecko also has plenty of hiding places above the floor.

A ‘traditional’ hide for crested geckos is the hanging coconut. You can buy these at pet stores or online. They’re also often used for gerbils, so if you can’t find them in your pet store, make sure to check out the aisle with rodent accessories.

Crested geckos will also use plants and leaves to hide. From my own experience, I also noted that crested geckos love to hide in hollow decorations, like the Tiki statue from the Exo Terra Starter Kit. A young crested gecko can easily crawl in the figure and pretend it’s a hollow tree.

When buying hiding places or decorations, always make sure that they fit in your terrarium!

Feeding ledges

Feeding bowls and water dishes are usually put on feeding ledges when it comes to crested geckos. Most of the time, your crested gecko will be above the ground, and the first thing it will look for above the ground is food and water.

You could put a bowl with water and food on the ground as an additional food source, but most crested geckos will use the feeding ledge. These feeding ledges can use suction cups or magnets to stay put.

I prefer to use magnets, but many owners use feeding ledges with suction cups without a problem. My recommendation would be to get the Pangea Ultimate Gecko ledge if available.

Want to Learn More?

If you want to learn more about crested geckos as pets, please read the following articles.

If you’re interested in getting crested geckos as pets you should also definitely read our article about baby and juvenile crested gecko care or (adult) crested gecko care.

Kevin N.

Kevin is the owner of My Crested Gecko. He wrote this blog for many years and has been a geckos enthusiast his entire life, but only became an official "geckophile" five years ago when he acquired one as a pet! Kevin knows how to care for hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, and degus in addition to crested geckos which are more than happy with him every day!

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