Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Crested geckos are adorable lizards that are becoming one of the most popular pet lizards in the world. But they’re not suitable for everyone! When choosing a pet, you’ve got to consider if it’s ideal for your lifestyle. One of the things to consider is whether or not your potential pet – in this case, a crested gecko – is nocturnal or not.
Crested geckos are crepuscular and nocturnal creatures. They are most active at twilight periods (dawn and dusk). They will stay active for most of the night and will feed and explore their terrarium. During most of the day, your crested gecko will sleep in a hiding place.
In the wild, crested geckos are usually found near trees where they sleep beneath bark or leaves during the day. During the nighttime, they feed, socialize, and explore their territory under the safe cover of darkness. But what about keeping a crested gecko in captivity? How do crested geckos fit in a “human” – diurnal – lifestyle?
In this article, you’ll be learning everything there is to know about crested geckos’ sleeping habits. I’ll also give you some tips and tricks to not disturb your crested gecko while it’s sleeping.
Nocturnal Nature of Crested Geckos
Crested geckos are amazing creatures that come out at night to explore their environment. They prefer being active during twilight periods (dawn and dusk).
How are crested geckos adapted to nightlife?
Crested geckos are adapted to a life in darkness. They have specialized eyes that can see much better in the dark. If you’re interested in learning more about the eyesight of crested geckos, please read the following article about the sight of crested geckos in the dark.
Why are crested geckos nocturnal?
If you don’t know a lot about animals’ sleeping habits, let me give you an intro. There are a lot of different sleeping patterns, but basically, a pet can show one of the following behaviors:
- diurnal: active during the day, for example, humans
- crepuscular: active at twilight, for example, degus
- nocturnal: active during the night, for example, owls
An animal’s sleeping behavior depends on several factors, but the most important ones are the animal’s environment and its status as a predator or prey animal.
Environment of crested geckos
A lot of animals adapt their sleeping behavior to their environment and its climate.
In hot climates, an animal will often sleep during the day to conserve energy. At twilight or during the night, they’ll become active and look for food. In cooler climates, most animals will be active during the day and will sleep at night.
Crested geckos are fascinating creatures and they originated from the rainforests of New Caledonia. They’re arboreal, which means that they typically live in trees!
The temperatures in their natural environment are generally moderate and can be compared with “room temperatures,” although slightly higher and lower temperatures can occur. The temperature is higher during the day, which is one reason why crested geckos find rest in the cooler areas at this time.
Crested geckos can’t tolerate high or low temperatures for a long time and happiest at room temperatures (or slightly higher). In their natural habitat, this kind of temperature will occur at twilight and nighttime. At these times, it’s not too hot and not too cold for the crested geckos.
Crested geckos are prey animals
Predators and prey adapt their sleeping habits to each other. Predators will be awake at times when they’re prey is available. On the other hand, the prey will avoid the times when their primary predators are out hunting.
Crested geckos aren’t predatory and are a so-called prey animal. Their main predators are fire ants, dogs, cats, rats, snakes, larger reptiles, and prey birds.
Most of their predators are nocturnal and will stay in their burrows or nests during the day. So, crested geckos are out at the same time their predators are, which is generally not a very good idea. The crested gecko does benefit in that it’s pretty agile and tiny to avoid contact with predators.
What are the consequences of being nocturnal?
Being nocturnal has some consequences. It’s essential to be aware of them before you buy a crested gecko:
- crested geckos will be awake during the night, might make noise and disturb your sleep
- they sleep almost the entire day so that they won’t miss you during the day
For most people, this will be no problem. If you’re at work or school during the day, your crested gecko will be sleeping. When you come home in the evening, your crested gecko will be (almost) waking up. You can then feed them and handle them if you want to increase the bond between you and your gecko.
The nocturnal nature of the crested gecko also has its possible downsides:
- terrarium location is important: you should place the terrarium in a room that experiences a typical day/night light cycle. The terrarium should be in a location with full daylight during the day and little light (or no light) during the night.
- hideaways are necessary: crested geckos will need their sleep during the day and need enough foliage and branches to feel safe and secure. You must provide enough of these kinds of hiding places, so your crested gecko gets a good rest.
- noises during the night: crested geckos are sometimes vocal when they’re awake. This might be a problem if you want a good night’s sleep. Usually, you shouldn’t have a problem when the terrarium isn’t in your bedroom. However, if you live in a small apartment or a place with thin walls, you can expect some (slight) noises at night.
Crested Gecko Sleeping Habits
How long do crested geckos sleep?
A crested gecko will usually sleep about 12 hours during the day and will wake up a few hours after dusk and stay up until dawn or early morning. Some crested geckos will sleep a little more or less. Just as is the case with other animals, not all crested geckos are the same and their sleeping habits might differ.
How do crested geckos sleep?
If you first try to watch if your crested gecko is sleeping, you might be in for a surprise. An observant owner already knows that crested geckos don’t have eyelids. You won’t determine if your crested gecko is sleeping by watching it close its eyelids.
To determine if your gecko is sleeping, you’ll have to watch its crests and eyes:
- when a crested gecko is awake, its crests “stand up” while their crests lay down when a crested gecko is sleeping
- the pupils are large and wide when your crestie is awake and will be tiny slits when it’s asleep
Where do your crested geckos sleep?
Crested geckos are – like most other geckos – nocturnal creatures. In the wild, they sleep and hide during the daytime on the underside of leaves and beneath tree barks. This way, they’re protected from their natural predators. In captivity, they won’t have any predators but they’ve retained their natural instinctive behavior.
Your crested gecko will sleep wherever it can but preferably in a place where it’s sheltered from prying eyes. You can usually find them in one of the following locations in the terrarium:
- beneath tree bark
- in artificial hides
- beneath or between the leaves of terrarium plants
However, it’s entirely possible that your crested gecko feels comfortable in its terrarium and sleeps out in the open. It’s not uncommon to find your crested gecko sleeping:
- on top of the leaves of terrarium plants
- hanging or resting on branches
- sleeping on the terrarium walls (even sleeping upside down)
Some crested gecko owners have noticed that their crestie has a fixed sleeping spot and will almost always look up the same hiding place to sleep. This is not the case for every crestie as they – as humans do – have their own character and preferences. Some will sleep wherever they want and some will sleep in a fixed spot.
What Do Crested Geckos Do While Awake?
Crested geckos are usually kept in a reptile room, a living room, or a bedroom. Unlike pet rodents, crested geckos don’t run in exercise wheels and won’t run several miles around their terrarium.
At night, your crested gecko will:
- explore the terrarium
- crawl up the terrarium walls
- crawl and jump on the leaves and branches of the terrarium plants and branches
- look for food and water
Crested geckos can make some weird chirping and even barking sounds when awake. These noises usually aren’t that loud and will more often be made when housed with other crested geckos. Your crested gecko might also make sounds when it’s uncomfortable or unhappy.
In all my years, I was never kept awake by a crested gecko in my bedroom. You may hear a smacking sound of your crested gecko jumping on the terrarium walls. But this shouldn’t keep you awake or wake you up.
Tips and Tricks
A healthy crested gecko will need its sleep during the day. This means that you and your family need to be careful not to disturb him too much if you’re home during the day.
To help you give your crestie the best sleep, here are some tips and tricks:
- make sure that the terrarium has at least one hiding place to sleep in
- make sure that the terrarium is in a room that experiences a day/night light cycle
- don’t walk around the terrarium (a lot) during the day
- avoid loud noises in the vicinity of the terrarium
- don’t put on extremely bright lights on the terrarium
Crested geckos love hiding places. It’s best to provide multiple hiding places. The following (and similar) products are great to help you offer hiding places:
But you can also create hiding places with foliage and branches to mimic the natural habitat of the crested gecko. Branches and foliage are essential in a crested gecko tank. Play around with these essentials to provide enough hiding places for your crested gecko to feel safe.
If you’re looking for live plants I would highly recommend these plant kits from Josh’s Frogs.
As always, make sure that the products you buy are appropriate for the size of your terrarium. Some products, like ornaments, can be too large to fit in a small tank.
Is my crested gecko sleeping too long?
You might think your crested gecko is sleeping too much. If he’s eating, drinking and doesn’t show other signs of health issues, it’s possible that your gecko is just a little bit lazy.
If you’re not sure how long he sleeps, you want to check if and when he wakes up during the night. You can use a camera to try to record this but since most crested geckos aren’t that easy to spot this might not work. So if you want to be sure, just stay awake and watch him for a couple of nights.
Is it possible to change the sleeping pattern so he’s awake during the day?
You might not like the nocturnal nature of your crested gecko and want it to be awake during the day. There has been some discussion if it’s possible to change the crested geckos sleeping pattern.
Changing this pattern would involve exposing it to light during the night and changing the temperature in the terrarium. It would be possible to change the sleeping pattern but it can lead to stress and a disturbance of the circadian cycle of the crested gecko. So I don’t really advise changing its sleeping pattern.
Want to Learn More?
If you want to learn more about crested geckos as pets, please read the following articles.