Crested Geckos: What Plants Can I Safely Use?
Most crested gecko owners want to beautify their vivariums by adding a variety of living plants. Living plants can add tremendous aesthetic value to most crested gecko habitats. However, plants must be selected carefully. Some varieties of plant may be toxic or harmful to your lizard, and they should be avoided or kept separate from your pet.
While there is no single list of “good” and “bad” terrarium plants, most common houseplants and ornamentals can be used in crested gecko enclosure. Plus, if you are unsure, there are some pretty easy ways to test whether a plant is toxic. You can find everything you need to know about vivarium plants for crested geckos in this article!
Basic Vivarium Design
Before you start, there are several important considerations you must make before adding plants to any enclosure. First, you must consider the natural habitat of your pet. Then, you must consider the aesthetic and functional appeal of different plants. Lastly, you must make sure that the plants you are introducing are not toxic to your pet. If you follow these three steps, you can easily design a functional and unique habitat!
Let’s take a look at the first task - considering the natural environment of a crested gecko.
Crested gecko habitats require high humidity and temperatures ranging from the upper-70s to the mid-80s. Plus, crested geckos come from very humid tropical environments, with seasonal dry periods, full-spectrum light, and an abundance of insects and small fruits. Thus, any plants that you select must also be able to handle these conditions. This is not a very limiting condition, as most house plants and ornamentals can thrive in these conditions.
The next task is much more important when it comes to crested geckos - designing a functional and appealing arrangement of plants.
Crested geckos are mostly arboreal. In lay terms, this means that they spent most of their time climbing and hunting for insects. To replicate this environment, you must carefully plant your vivarium. You can start by selecting two base plants: one that will grow up the back and sidewalls, and one that will spread throughout the terrarium. This will create climbing and basking surfaces all over the terrarium. See the section below on some commonly selected plants for this task.
Last, but certainly not least, is to cross-check your list of selected plants with potentially toxic plants.
Many reptile breeders, adoption organizations, and other reptile-focused websites and forums have extensive lists of plants that have been found to be toxic. These plants only represent a small fraction of the plants available to you through nurseries and the internet. If the plant you selected is found on one of these lists, simply find a similar replacement that is not.
Wherever you get your plants, be sure to wash them before putting them with your reptile. You can simply wash them off with water to remove any residual pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers that may be present. To maintain your plants, keep the soil they are planted in moisturized to the right level and fertilize the plants on a regular schedule. Always use a non-toxic, natural fertilizer, such as Black Soldier Fly Frass.
Commonly Used Houseplants
Among commonly used houseplants that are suitable for crested geckos are large, broad-leafed plants such as the Golden Pothos, Jade Jewel, and Chinese Evergreen. While these are safe and effective choices, the list of safe and usable houseplants is much longer than this. Here are a couple of lists that provide some more good suggestions:
But, you should just use this list as a starting point. There are many beautiful plants available at nurseries and home stores that can be used. See the section below on how to test your plant if you are unsure!
Plants to Avoid
If any of the plants you select are found on the following lists, you should not use them in your vivarium! These plants have been found by gecko breeders to be unhealthy, toxic, or hard to grow in a vivarium. Check them out:
While this is one of the only cohesive lists of plants toxic to reptiles, it should probably be followed just for safety. If the plant you selected is on neither the good list or the bad list, you can easily test the plant by following the tips in the next section.
Test a Plant!
Most plants that you can select are not found on either the good or the bad lists. However, this is more due to a lack of experimentation than a true understanding of which plants might affect your pets. If you have found a plant that you love but are not sure if it is safe, you can do some simple experiments. Keep in mind that when doing these experiments you may expose your pet to an irritable substance.
Before you start, wash all plants with cool, clean water. This will rinse off any commercial pesticides or herbicides that may harm your pet.
Test 1: Edibility Test
Crested geckos are omnivorous, but they mostly stick to insects and small fruits. If they do not try to eat any part of the plant, there is a low likelihood that the plant will be toxic to them. To test this, simply place the plant in their enclosure and watch them interact with it for an hour or so. If they don’t eat it, that’s good!
Test 2: Irritability Test
Some plants are considered toxic because they produce chemicals that can irritate your reptile’s skin or mucous membranes. To conduct this test, place your crested gecko on the plant for a few minutes. With a magnifying glass, inspect their eyes, feet, and bellies. If there is any sign of irritation, swelling, excess mucus production, or change in color, stop the test. You can wash your lizard with some warm water and place them back in their tank if they have been exposed to an irritable substance. If there is no noticeable irritation, leave the plant in their terrarium for longer and check again.