Why Is My Crested Gecko Moving in Slow Motion?

Healthy crested geckos are typically active and curious by nature. The crested gecko is also crepuscular and nocturnal, meaning they are most active at twilight and at night, so there is usually no reason for concern if they are inactive during the day. Their overall level of activity can vary based on the personality of a “crestie” but any lethargy that is outside of their normal range should be addressed.

So, why is my crested gecko moving in slow motion? A slow-moving crested gecko could be experiencing anything from stress to a more serious illness, such as metabolic bone disease.

It’s important to consider your crested gecko’s sluggishness within the context of their overall routine, environment, and personality when determining how to address the issue. In this article, we’ll look at several factors to help you figure out why your crested gecko has slowed down. Read on for more information about common stressors, illnesses, and recommendations to get your crested gecko back on-the-go.

Stress

If you’re new to owning a crestie, it’s important to distinguish between sleepiness and lethargy. It’s common for crested geckos to spend most of the day sleeping and hiding. A lethargic gecko, on the other hand, will appear to have virtually no energy at all and it may not respond to stimuli in the slightest bit.

Another unique feature of the crested gecko is their stop-and-go movement patterns. It’s completely normal for your gecko to take long pauses when they move, almost like they’re doing an extremely slowed-down version of The Robot dance.

The crested gecko’s hardiness and resilience are some of the reasons that they have become popular pets, especially with first-time reptile owners. This does not mean that they are immune to stress; in fact, stress is a common culprit for irregular behavior in these lizards. Two frequent sources of stress for the crested gecko that new crestie owners may not realize are:

  • Moving to a new home
  • Handling

Further on, we’ll discuss in greater depth other possible stressors and conditions that may be affecting your crestie’s behavior, including:

  • Environmental stressors
  • Temperature and humidity
  • Lighting
  • Food and water
  • Habitat
  • Common conditions, such as dehydration and shedding
  •  Illness

New Home, Who Dis?

When you first bring your crested gecko home, it can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks for them to adjust to their new environment. This adjustment period can actually cause some crested geckos to be more active than usual at first!

It’s not uncommon for a new gecko owner to get their pet home and start to wonder if they purchased a defective or sick gecko. Fear not, the most likely culprit is just nerves.

To help your crested gecko acclimate, let them settle into their tank for a few days without disturbing them. It’s best to set up their tank in advance with food and water, and check to make sure that any heating or lighting systems are working properly.

Use this time to ascertain whether your gecko is eating, drinking, and eliminating waste as it should. Be aware that some crested geckos may go without eating for a week or more while they get used to their new home. 

Once your crestie seems comfortable in their new environment, you can begin short handling sessions. If you move too quickly or are too rough with your gecko, they may become fearful of handling.

What’s more, rough handling can cause a crested gecko to shed its tail, which won’t grow back. To start off, handling sessions should last no longer than a couple of minutes. You may want to begin by just putting your hand in their tank so they can get used to your smell.

If you’ve had your crested gecko for a while, and its slow movements are a marked change from their typical activity level, the most likely culprits are environmental stressors or other common conditions, such as shedding or dehydration.

Environmental Stressors

Crested geckos have fairly simple habitat requirements, which is part of why they’re so popular. A minimum 10-gallon tank is needed for an adult crested gecko, along with some substrate, spots to hide under, and something to climb on. That being said, they are susceptible to environmental stressors that can cause aberrant behavior and could potentially lead to illness if not addressed.

Temperature and Humidity

A common source of stress for crested geckos are enclosures that are too warm. This species is particularly vulnerable to overheating, which can be fatal. The correct temperature range for the crested gecko is a max of 83°F at the highest point in the tank under a basking light, if you have one. Lows should be mid-70s in the shade. Use a thermometer to check the temperature under any lights and the temperature of the shadiest spot in the tank. If using a heating element, it’s best to keep it on one side of the tank so they can regulate their temperature by moving.

Maintaining an appropriate humidity level is important for the health of crested geckos. A humidity range of 55-80% is ideal. Use a hygrometer to check humidity levels, which can usually be maintained by misting the tank in the mornings and at night. This will help ensure that your crestie stays adequately hydrated and will facilitate proper shedding.

Lighting

Regular daylight will typically be adequate for a crested gecko. Bright lights may, in fact, cause your crestie to hide more during the day or exhibit behaviors you consider sluggish. It’s also possible for exposure to bright lights to interfere with the crested gecko’s natural sleep patterns, making them more active during the day when you may not be home, and less active in the evenings and night.

Food and Water

Crested geckos should always have access to fresh, clean, preferably dechlorinated water in a shallow dish. Proper nutrition is best managed by using specially formulated diets in combination with a regular supply of insects, which should be supplemented with a calcium powder.

Provide food every night, with any leftover food removed the next day. They can be fed insects at night, 1-3 times per week. Inadequate nutrition can cause lethargy and have lasting negative health impacts if not corrected, including metabolic bone disease.

Habitat Substrate

Crested geckos enjoy having leaves or other substrate to burrow in. If substrate is not properly maintained and replaced, it may harbor bacteria or other microorganisms that could negatively impact your gecko’s health. It is also possible for substrate to absorb the humidity in the tank, which can contribute to dehydration.

Common Conditions

Aside from all of the external factors that could be causing your crestie to behave in the way that they are, there are some other more physical factors that could be to blame for this sluggish behavior as well.

Dehydration

Lethargy can be a sign of dehydration in crested geckos. Look for additional signs that indicate dehydration, such as dry or flaky skin and loss of skin elasticity; sunken eyes; protruding ribs or hips; or unusually wrinkled skin. Fortunately, dehydration can be remedied with adjustments to their habitat and more targeted treatments, such as baths.

Shedding

A healthy adult crested gecko sheds as frequently as twice a month. You will notice their skin become dull looking a few days before shedding. It’s not uncommon for your crested gecko to eat less than normal prior to shedding and they may seem more lethargic than usual.

Various Illnesses

If your crestie is displaying any other concerning symptoms, including the following, it is best to get them to a vet that specializes in reptiles as they may have a more serious illness:

  •         Loss of appetite and/or weight loss
  •         Heavy breathing
  •         Limb paralysis
  •         Abnormal swelling
  •         Bumps or abrasions
  •         Mucus in eyes or nose
  •         Abnormal feces
  •         Retained shed on toes
  •         Wavy tail

Metabolic bone disease is the most common illness in crested geckos. It is caused by a severe calcium deficiency, usually resulting from improper nutrition. A soft or protruding lower jaw, in combination with lethargy, can be signs of metabolic bone disease. If left untreated, it can be fatal.

Lethargy can also be a symptom of dysecdysis, which is abnormal skin shedding. While dysecdysis is typically related to environmental factors, such as housing, it can also be caused by more serious problems, like parasites.

Conclusion

If your crested gecko is moving slowly and acting like it’s perpetually Monday, it may be because your crestie is adjusting to a new home, or it may be the result of more complex environmental factors. Less frequently, the source of lethargy may be illness. The quicker the cause is identified and mitigated, the sooner your crestie will be back to keeping you up all hours of the night with its activities.

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