I'm just curious, what would you say someone could to do provide enrichment for a leo or crested?
Leopard geckos should have both a vertical and a horizontal temperature gradient within their enclosure. This means their basking spot (1/3rd of the tank) should be 91 degrees (belly heat). The temperature should be 84 degrees approximately 4″ up (in the air). The air should cool towards the other end of the enclosure, so that it is ~75 (mid-70s to 80) on the cool side of the enclosure. This allows the gecko to choose a comfortable temperature. Choice is key to enrichment.
A variety of hides. At least three. These should be available at all times. Leopard geckos need a moist hide with substrate that is kept 85-88 degrees. This usually means it is on the hot side of the tank. This should have a substrate in it that is kept moist. This “alternate substrate” is a form of enrichment because it is different than the rest of their substrate, and it is a choice they can make (humidity, texture). They also need a hot dry hide on the hot side. They need a cool, dry hide on the cool side.
I like providing both “cozy” and “stretch-out” hides. Cozy hides are hides that are more round that they can curl up in, and stretch-out hides are ones that they can stretch out to their full length in. Some hides may have big openings, some hides may have small openings. Hides don’t have to look good to be enrichment opportunities.
Open space. There should be unimpeded open space for the gecko to walk around on. They should be able to choose whether to explore open space, or retreat to a hide.
Climbing opportunities. No climbing area should be so high that the gecko would fall more than its body length! Leopard geckos are kind of clumsy and they are terrestrial animals, and falls can hurt them badly, so make sure they can’t fall far no matter where they go climbing. Hammocks can provide extra space and a lot of leopard geckos love them. The tops of hides, as long as they are stable, make excellent “second stories”. Pieces of driftwood and stones are good textures to make things interesting.
Day/night schedule of lighting. You don’t need to use a dedicated light source on the tank for this, but the room that the gecko is in should have ambient light, so that the gecko experiences day and night normally. They should not be kept in the dark all the time, or in constant light. It is unhealthy.
In wild-type leopard geckos and other morphs that have normal eyes, you can put appropriate lights on a timer on the enclosure to give them a day-night schedule (it shouldn’t be too bright). You can even use a very low wattage (15 watt) incandescent light in a dome fixture, as the temperature increase and risk of drying is not much of a worry with such a low wattage for leopard geckos. (Always double check your temps and humidity, of course.)
You should not put lights on the enclosure of a morph with sensitive eyes like albinos and similar!
If you use UVB lights, such as a Reptisun 5.0, do not dust the insects you feed with calcium with D3 or a vitamin that contains D3. (Obviously the geckos must have those hides so they can retreat from the lights as they choose!)
Do not use any form of light at night (blue, red, and other colored bulbs included.)
Substrate variation. Tile and paper towel, or a pile of river rocks in one corner, for example. I don’t recommend switching up the substrate often. Also, make sure you don’t make the substrate too thick over the UTH!! This picture is of Intense’s cool side.
A variety of feeders. Do not feed the same insect all the time; it’s not healthy. All insect-eating reptiles should be fed a variety of insects for maximum health, with a healthy feeder insect as a staple (main feeder). Use a vitamin and calcium (with and without d3) dust rotation.
Other: As long as your enclosure isn’t too crowded (remember that open space), you can add in some other opportunities. For example, in my gecko’s enclosure I have a large silk plant on a suction cup; I’ve spread it throughout the enclosure (securing it with more suction cups and a twist tie) to drape over his hammock and hides and provide additional cover and opportunities to wiggle through.
Humidity of at least 50% but with daily spikes to around 80-90%. These daily spikes are enrichment for crested geckos as well as vital to their health. They mimic rainfall in their native habitat. It is important that after each misting, the humidity drops again to 50%, or the gecko can get skin problems.
Vertical space. Crested geckos are arboreal, and they need to be able to choose where in their enclosure they want to hang out. Their enclosure should be at least 15 inches tall (for adults). Sometimes they might choose to hang out on the floor, but that is the point of enrichment – choice.
Lots and of different kinds of cover. Usually this is provided in the form of plants (real or silk) but as long as it provides support to the gecko’s body, a visual barrier (hiding and concealment), is non-toxic and safe, and holds up to the high humidity of the enclosure, it will work fine. For example, there’s no reason you couldn’t use Fun Foam shapes (the non-adhesive kind), Coroplast (corrugated plastic), or plastic canvas. Silk plants from the dollar store, (no glitter, etc., and washed very well because they’re usually treated with formaldehyde), or fake plants meant for reptiles work very well. Live plants should generally be purchased from a terrarium supply store meant for animals, so that they’re not treated with pesticides or herbicides.
Lots of shelves, vines, and other perches. Cover and perches provide security, choice, and health to the gecko. Not only is it key to the gecko’s mental health, but also essential to their physical health, as it supports their tail. Crested geckos can be prone to floppy tail, and an appropriate number of shelves and perches help prevent it. Options include natural wood that is humidity resistant (cork bark, ghostwood, bamboo, Malaysian driftwood, mopani), safe plastics (Coroplast, plastic canvas), magnetic shelves, hammocks (humidity resistant such as ReptiHammocks), faux vines sold for reptiles, or foam pipe insulation are all common choices.
Hides are a great choice and often neglected for crested geckos. My geckos all use theirs often. Hides can be made to be elevated (such as a hole cut in foam pipe insulation, or magnetic hides that stick to the side of the enclosure), or placed on the bottom of the enclosure. I have ceramic hides on the bottom of my enclosures and all my geckos use them sometimes. I’ve seen little houses attached to perches and set higher up in the enclosure. (It’s generally best if you can get into the hide for emergencies.) Again, it doesn’t have to look great to be enrichment; the geckos don’t care what it looks like. A washed plastic butter tub attached to the cork wall is just as nice to a gecko as a Magnaturals Hideaway.
Substrate. For geckos under 15 grams, and new geckos, it’s generally best to use paper towel. Coconut fiber (Eco Earth, and some other brand names) can be used for adult crested geckos. ABG Mix or NEHerp substrate or a similar substrate is also an option (and the best choice if planting live plants; if you are using live plants you must also use a drainage layer, etc.).
Leaf litter can be used over part or all of any kind of substrate to provide textural interest (and also keep the substrate moist in the case of coco fiber or loose substrate, while not raising enclosure humidity). Some crested geckos will burrow under it, regulate their own humidity that way, and use it as a hide. You can purchase safe leaf litter online; live oak, magnolia, or other “leathery” leaf litter works best. It can also be gathered outside as long as you know it’s not contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, car exhaust, or other dangerous things. Either way it should be processed so you don’t introduce pest species to the enclosure (some people choose not to if they are doing bioactive enclosures; this is at their own risk). To do so rinse thoroughly, then boil in clean water for 2 to 3 minutes. Strain and allow to cool.
Leaves should be replaced as they get dirty in non-bioactive setups.
Day/night schedule of lighting. As with leopard geckos, crested geckos also need a day and night cycle to remain healthy. Again, this doesn’t need to be a dedicated light source on the enclosure, but the room that the gecko is in should have ambient light, so that the gecko experiences day and night normally. They should not be kept in the dark all the time, or in constant light. It is unhealthy.
They can have appropriate lights on a timer on the enclosure to give them a day-night schedule. They should not have a light that gives off heat on their enclosure, so no incandescent bulbs for crested geckos! Incandescent lights and heat lamps will overheat them or reduce their humidity too much! LED lights and fluorescent are both appropriate.
Crested geckos are nocturnal, so mellow lighting is preferred, although high light may be required on planted vivariums. Make sure the enclosure has a lot of shelter in the form of cover (such as silk plants) and hides for the gecko to retreat from the light if it desires.
Do not use any form of light at night (blue, red, and other colored bulbs included.)
If you use UVB lights, such as a Reptisun 5.0, do not dust any insects you feed with calcium with D3 or a vitamin that contains D3. (You may also choose to feed the BPZD that does not contain supplemental D3.)
A variety of crested gecko diet flavors and high quality brands. Some crested geckos are picky and may only like one diet, but it is helpful to feed a variety of flavors and several different high quality brands. Imagine if you only had to eat one food, day after day, for your entire life? I offer a variety of Pangea flavors, and rotate in Black Panther Zoological Diet, and also offer Big Fat Gecko Smoothie Mix, Clark’s Diet, and Repashy occasionally. Here’s a page on different crested gecko diets. Note, you can get BPZD with added D3 now.
Feeding insects as a treat is also a form of enrichment for crested geckos. They shouldn’t have more than a few insects per week, as it can upset the balance of their prepared diet. My geckos don’t seem interested in eating insects; however, they do enjoy looking at them. So once in a while I offer them some small dubias in a smooth-sided bowl (properly dusted and with a bit of squash to eat) and they just… watch them. I guess it’s gecko TV. That’s a form of enrichment too, and good for them if they ever decide to eat them. Haha. (I just put the bugs back into their colonies if the geckos don’t eat them.) Make sure you only offer properly sized insects for your pet.
“These guys remind me of everything from Dillinger Four, to Lawrence Arms, the Ergs, to something anthemy and screamy.” These guys are semi-defunct pop punk band from New Orleans, LA. The quote from before is from Community Records, who happen to let people download this album for free. They personally really remind me of Latterman. Anyway they’re one of my favorite bands and this is one of their slower songs. I’ll try to post a few more of their songs. I was going to go to their reunion tonight but I had to bail out and go home. Sucked, not too upset though, I managed to still get out of the house.