Crested geckos are beautiful creatures that make for a perfect starter pet for those interested in obtaining their first reptile. As of March 2021, crested geckos were the fifth most popular pet reptile in the United States. Cresties are low-maintenance and usually docile and because of this are perfect for those with somewhat busy lives.
Like many reptiles, crested geckos can change their color. This is a unique characteristic of cresties; they come in a seemingly infinite number of colors and patterns. Most are born a shade of red or orange before their other coloration comes through with age. They can become darker and they can become paler, both naturally and as a result of their environments. These are called morphs, and several reasons affect a color change in your reptile.
Why is My Crested Gecko Changing Color?
There are four main reasons for the color changes observed in crested geckos. These are:
- Mood related
- Age related.
Reptile’s skin doesn’t grow as they do, as is the case with other vertebrates. As such, shedding is a completely natural part of life for any reptile when they ‘outgrow’ their old skin. Crested geckos are no exception. Many owners, especially first-timers, worry and wonder “why is my crested gecko pale?” A few days before shedding, your crested gecko will become paler and even gray, which is totally normal. Within a few days of shedding, they should return to their earlier normal color.
Crested geckos also change their color depending on their mood at the time. The general rule is that the paler and duller your crestie is, the more relaxed and settled it is (this is called being ‘fired down’). The opposite can of course happen, with crested geckos becoming a much darker shade than their natural state. This is called being ‘fired up’ and is essentially a visual way of showing emotion. Happiness, fear, stress, or aggression can all cause a crested gecko to become fired up. Transportation, travel, and bad handling can all lead to firing up. Poor or inadequate living conditions can also have an effect on the mood, and hence the color, of your crestie.
The environment can play a huge part in a crested gecko becoming both pale and fired up. The time of the day is often a major factor. Many crested geckos are pale in the day, when relaxed or sleeping, and become fired up in the evening as they become more active. There are several theories behind this, a couple of which are a need to camouflage in a darker environment, and the potential of exposure to stress. Both are key elements to avoiding predators in the wild.
As you have probably gathered by now, the right environment is crucial to a crested gecko’s wellbeing. Where you keep your crested gecko will certainly have an effect. Too much light may cause them to become pale, while not enough light might cause them to fire up.
Important: Crested geckos need a relatively high humidity level – around 60% during the day and 80% at night.
Anything out of these norms could cause issues. You can get a hygrometer (humidity gauge) to check the levels every day (if you’re interested, Amazon sells a great range here – opens in a new tab). If need be, you can increase the humidity levels with regular misting.
Furthermore, temperature goes hand in hand with humidity, and anything above 80 degrees Fahrenheit could cause your crestie to fire up. As you cans see from the above, it doesn’t take much for a change in environmental conditions to affect your crestie and hence its color.
It is not possible to tell the color your crested gecko will become before they reach adulthood. In the first few months of life, they will gradually change until they settle on their adult color. Often, your crested gecko can be much darker in the earlier stages of life only to become paler as they mature. Again, this is natural and nothing to worry about. At around 12 months old, a crestie’s adult color will come through and remain for the majority of its life. Upon reaching old age, they may once again start to become gradually paler.
Color Changes to Watch Out For
While color changes are, for the most part, both natural and common, some changes could be indicators of bad health. If your crested gecko started turning black around the toes and tail, for instance, it could be a sign of incomplete shedding, known as dysecdysis. Many crested geckos are either born with spots and patterns or develop them before reaching adulthood. Nevertheless, if your adult crestie gets spots that are generally darker in appearance than normal, it could be because of a viral or fungal infection. In both cases, it is best to visit a vet as soon as possible.
A Pale Crested Gecko is Normal
As mentioned above, there are many reasons for a crested gecko to become pale. Growing from adolescence to adulthood and from adulthood to old age will cause color changes, and commonly these will be from brighter to paler. A healthy environment for your crested gecko will help to keep them in a calm and relaxed mood, as will mimicking their natural habitat; one in which they frequently become fired up and fired down. The most common reason of all for a crestie becoming pale is shedding. Adult crested geckos will shed anywhere from every two weeks to once a month. As a result, they will almost always be pale before and after they shed.