Why is My Crested Gecko Breathing Fast?

Crested Gecko on branch

Owning any pet can often be stressful. After all, the health and wellbeing of our pets are of the utmost importance to us, and if there are just the slightest indicators of something being wrong it can worry even the most experienced pet owners.

Crested Geckos have become a very popular pet since their semi-miraculous rediscovery in 1994.Opens in a new tab. However, unlike with the more traditional pets, there is often a lack of information available when a crestie exhibits strange or unusual behavior. A change to a crested gecko’s breathing can be immediately noticeable and, as is the case with any respiratory issues, could cause anxiety for you the owner.

How Do Crested Geckos Breathe?

Despite being vastly different to humans in terms of reproduction and growth, a crested gecko‘s respiratory system shares some elements with a human system. The position of their lungs is similar – in between the ribs and muscles in the stomach – and the breath enters the body through the nose. Where things differ from mammals are:

  • Structure – crested geckos have a slower metabolism than humans, and the surfaces of the lungs of reptiles do not have as many capillaries. Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the blood don’t start the breathing process, and oxygen levels can drop lower and lower until they feel the need to breathe.
  • Movement – The muscles that control the lungs also control movement in reptiles. As such, many reptiles cannot, or do not, breathe regularly during extended periods of exertion, such as running away from a predator.

Why Is My Crested Gecko Breathing Fast?

Faster breathing in your crested gecko can occur for several reasons. As with any other animal, cresties are susceptible to illnesses. Respiratory infections can affect crested geckos, and the main cause of respiratory infection is usually environmental. There are a number of things to check to ensure your crestie’s enclosure is suitable and healthy so as to avoid infection:

  • Humidity – To mimic their natural environment, a humidity of 60% in the daytime and up to 80% in the evening is ideal for your crested gecko’s enclosure. If the humidity is too high, then faster breathing may begin as a sign of a respiratory problem. You can get a hygrometer (humidity gauge) to check the levels every day. If you’re interested, Amazon sells a great range hereOpens in a new tab. (opens in a new tab).
  • Temperature – Crested geckos thrive at a temperature of around 75 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime and a drop of around 5-10 degrees at night. If the temperature in their enclosure or terrarium is above 80F for too long, your crestie could start breathing fast; a tell-tale sign that something is wrong.
  • Unhygienic cage – A large terrarium needs to be cleaned once a month minimum, with food and waste being removed daily. If the material at the bottom of the terrarium is not cleaned regularly enough then bacteria will fester which can then, in turn, infect your crestie and cause its breathing rate to increase.

Another reason your crested gecko could be breathing fast is stress. These animals can become stressed quite easily despite having a reputation for being hardy reptiles. Lots of signs point to a crested gecko being stressed, which could explain their fast breathing. Firing up (when a crestie becomes darker or brighter than its usual color) is a common and unmissable sign of stress that may accompany an increase in breathing rate.

Handling your crested gecko can be a delicate business; if done wrong it can cause faster breathing due to stress. At a young age, cresties can be handled fairly frequently. Regular, gentle handling can help them adjust to their new environment, which is a stressful process in and of itself.

Important: Be very gentle when handling a crested gecko around the tail area. If they perceive contact with the tail to be similar to that of a predator, their defense mechanism will kick in and they may detach their tail.

This is stressful for a crestie and may cause them to breathe faster and irregularly. An easy sign to watch out for is wagging or waving of the tail. If this starts to happen, place them back into a familiar environment as soon as possible. This helps minimize stress and will allow any faster breathing to return to normal.


Although crested geckos have a reputation for being low maintenance pets, they still need care and attention. They can be docile, but generally they are full of life. Continuous rapid breathing though is a clear sign that something isn’t right. Owners obviously want to handle their crestie and feel physically close to their pet, but there are risks and any warning signs must be heeded as soon as they appear. Pay close attention to anything that looks to be heavy breathing, especially during handling.

Often it can appear as though a crested gecko is stressed and is breathing faster when, in fact, they are sniffing their environment to familiarize themselves with it. If you are sure they are breathing faster, try to analyze the cause, whether that is environmental, health, or stress related. Prolonged stress can be fatal, and for this reason it is important to seek the help of a vet if your crestie’s breathing remains fast for an extended period. Once you have ascertained the cause, you can try to effect change and prevent your crested gecko from breathing fast.

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I am a content creator by profession but exotic animals are one of my great passions in life. Over the course of my adulthood, I have had the pleasure of looking after stick insects, terrapins, an Egyptian tortoise, giant African land snails, a crested gecko, a Chilean rose tarantula, a couple of curly-haired tarantulas, and a selection of millipedes, centipedes and worms!

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