Cleaning the Crested Gecko Terrarium: Instructional Guide

Crested geckos don’t need a lot of special care and are relatively easy to take care of. However, you should routinely clean the enclosure and its decorations for your and your crested gecko’s health.

Crested geckos don’t cause a lot of mess. However, it’s best to spot-clean the terrarium daily and thoroughly clean the terrarium each month. This prevents the buildup of bacteria. A bioactive terrarium will need to be cleaned less often (around two to three times a year).

Your crested gecko can have bacterial infections without showing any signs of illness. Most notable, crested geckos can transmit Salmonella bacteria. Besides that, a humid vivarium also risks getting moldy and can harbor bacteria. For these reasons, you should clean the vivarium and its decoration at least each month.

In this article, you’ll learn what cleaning equipment is necessary when cleaning the terrarium and how to clean the entire terrarium and its decorations.

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Necessary Cleaning Equipment

You can’t clean a terrarium with just soap and water. You’ll need a wide range of cleaning tools to clean the terrarium and its decorations. As you’re going to buy a crested gecko, make sure that you have prepared yourself and got yourself a cleaning kit.

Cleaning kit for crested gecko terrarium

The cleaning kit consists not only of cleaning equipment but also a temporary enclosure to keep your crested gecko in while you’re cleaning. The cleaning kit itself should contain the following tools:

  • brushes: decorations often have a lot of edges and details. To get into all crooks and crevices and to give a good scrub you should use toothbrushes. Make sure these toothbrushes are kept in the cleaning kit and that you don’t put it back with other toothbrushes that you still use for yourself.
  • buckets or small tubs: you should never wash the decorations in the kitchen or bath sink or in the bathtub. You should rather use a large bucket or a small tub to soak the decorations and clean them.
  • reptile-safe terrarium cleaner: a terrarium cleaner should be reptile-safe or reptile-friendly and not contain any harmful chemicals. Get a safe alternative and don’t risk the health of your crested gecko.
  • paper towels: paper towels can be used to wash the terrarium and dry it and to dry the decorations.
  • cotton swabs and toothpicks: as I already mentioned, decorations can have tiny details that contain dirt. Even the terrarium corners can contain hard to remove dirt. To remove these hard-to-remove stains you can use cotton swabs and toothpicks.
  • soap or dishwashing detergent: as is the case with the terrarium cleaner, use a product that doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals.
  • sponges: sponges, like the Cold Life sponge, can be used to wash the terrarium and give it a good scrub.

Disinfectants and terrarium cleaners

Disinfectants are used to kill viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Most disinfectants won’t be reptile-friendly and the toxic fumes of the disinfectants are dangerous to your crested gecko.

The following reptile-friendly disinfectants and cleaners are on the market:

Safety measures when cleaning

Since you’re dealing with a terrarium and reptiles can transmit bacteria, you should take some caution when cleaning the terrarium of your crestie. One of the best ways to prevent contamination with bacteria is by using rubber gloves, goggles, and a mask when cleaning.

Most owners won’t take these precautions and will clean the terrarium without protective gear. This can be just fine but you should always use an antibacterial soap after you’ve cleaned the terrarium and the decorations.

How Often to Clean the Crested Gecko Terrarium?

You should spot clean daily and remove uneaten food one or two days after you fed it (depending on your feeding schedule). Refresh water daily. Clean the entire terrarium and its decorations at least once a month. The substrate should be replaced weekly or monthly depending on the kind of substrate.

Daily cleaning

Daily cleaning needs to be done to prevent the build-up of bacteria. This daily cleaning will consist of:

  • removing uneaten food: crested geckos don’t need to eat every day and will eat about every other day. When you do your daily cleaning you should remove uneaten food before it gets bad.
  • refreshing water: refresh the water in the water bowl even when your crested gecko didn’t touch it. Crested geckos like to lick droplets of water from plants or the terrarium walls but will also need a water bowl just to be sure.
  • removing the poop and urates: spot clean daily to remove the poop and urates of your crested gecko. This only helps keep the enclosure clean and your crestie healthy.

Daily cleaning is also a good way to check if:

  • your crested gecko eats,
  • the temperature and the humidity in the terrarium are within the ideal ranges
  • there are signs of parasites in the enclosure

Monthly cleaning

A more thorough or deep cleaning should be done at least once a month. This monthly cleaning will consist of cleaning and disinfecting the enclosure (tank, cage, terrarium), its decorations, the food and water bowls.

Terrarium Cleaning Guide

Before you clean the terrarium

You don’t want to be cleaning your terrarium with a gecko in it. So gently take your crested gecko out of its terrarium and place it in a separate enclosure like an old tank or a faunarium.

You don’t have to put in decorations in this temporary house but you should put in some damp paper towels to increase the humidity in it. In other words, you don’t need to place hiding places or plants in the temporary house. However, if you want to give your gecko something to do you can put toilet rolls in it and a bit of foliage. Your crested gecko will only need to spend time in the temporary house for a short period of time.

Step by step instructional cleaning guide

How to clean the terrarium of your crested gecko

Remove all decorations

All decorations should be removed from the terrarium. Place them in a separate bag like a trash bag or shopping bag.

Remove the disposable substrate

Remove the old substrate. You can do this by shoveling up the substrate and putting it in a trash bag. Tiny amounts of substrate can be vacuumed.

Disinfect the water and food bowls

Take the water and food bowls out of the enclosure and rinse them with water. Then disinfect them with a safe product without harmful chemicals.

Wash the decorations

The decorations should be thoroughly washed with water and reptile-friendly detergent. Wash the decorations in a separate tub that you use only for this purpose. It’s highly recommended not to wash the decorations in the bath or the sink of your bathroom or kitchen (to prevent contamination with Salmonella).

Wash the entire terrarium

When the terrarium is entirely free of decorations and substrate you should first wash the entire inside of the terrarium with water. Next spray reptile-friendly detergent on the different sides of the interior. Let it work in for 10 minutes and wash it off with water and a sponge. Next, dry the interior with a (paper) towel.

Place new substrate on the terrarium floor

When the terrarium is dry, add a new layer of substrate in the terrarium. As I already mentioned you can add a paper towel on the floor before you add substrate.

Put the decorations back in the terrarium

Place the freshly washed and dried decoration back in the terrarium. You can make changes to the setup of the terrarium if you want to.

Place your crested gecko back in its terrarium

Take your crested gecko from its temporary housing and gently place it back in its cleaned terrarium.

Clean and disinfect all cleaning tools

Your cleaning equipment can contain bacteria so wash it with water and disinfect them so you can safely use them next time.

Specific cleaning instructions

Cleaning instructions for food and water bowls

Food and water bowls can be put into a dishwasher when they’re dishwasher-proof. If the bowls or dishes can’t be cleaned in a dishwasher you can clean them with just water and soap. To disinfect them you should use a reptile-friendly disinfectant and rinse them with water.

Cleaning instructions for decorations

Decorations and accessories can be cleaned with just water, soap, and disinfectant. But some crested gecko owners also have natural items like rocks and branches in their terrarium.

Rocks are generally avoided because they can topple and crush your crested gecko. However, if you do use rocks you should make sure that they’re clean. You can clean real rocks by boiling them in water for 30 minutes. Good instructions can be found on Hunker.

Branches can be cleaned by washing them and then putting them in a heated oven. The oven should have a temperature between 200 and 250 °F for 2 hours. You should, however, check every 10 minutes if there’s no charring. The heat will kill the bacteria and microbes on the wood. After 2 hours you should take the branches out of the oven and let them cool down.

Tips and Tricks for Cleaning the Crested Gecko Terrarium

Now you know all about cleaning the terrarium of your crested gecko, I leave you with some extra handy tips and tricks:

  • place several sheets of paper towel under your substrate: substrate can be difficult to remove from the enclosure. To make it a little bit easier, you can place a couple of paper towels on the floor of the enclosure before you put in the substrate. Next time you can pick the corner of the paper towel and wrap it around the substrate. This way you can get most of the substrate out and use a vacuum to get the rest.
  • get two sets of food and water bowls: while you clean one set you can use another set of bowls so your crested gecko doesn’t need to go without food and water.

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.

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