In the wild, Crested Geckos have wide availability to live insects and overripe fruit to eat. Knowing what they need nutritionally in the wild can help us understand what they need in captivity.
In order to give them a well-rounded diet, we may need to add in calcium and vitamin supplementations. The goal is to find a good middle ground while there are lower risks to over-supplementation and under-supplementation.
Reptile enthusiasts will tell you that it is vital that calcium supplementation is required for a Crested Gecko to live its very best life.
Why do Crested Geckos Need Calcium?
This is easily answered by making this comparison- If we as humans need to make vitamin supplementations at some point, why wouldn’t we need to give our Cresties the same treatment? In the wild, Crested Geckos have access to everything they need, including a diet rich in calcium.
When we bring them into captivity, we take away some of that access that ensures a healthy and thriving life. While this sounds detrimental, it is easily remedied with calcium supplements increasing bone density and preventing illnesses such as Metabolic Bone Disease, which will be discussed further in this article.
Three Ways to Give your Crested Gecko Calcium
There are three main ways to give your gecko calcium supplements:
- The first way that you can provide calcium is to dust live insects with a calcium powder. Miner-All Calcium/Mineral Supplement & Repashy Calcium Plus are both recommended by the experts. Simply place the insects that will be fed to your gecko in a bag, add a pinch or two of the powdered supplement, close the bag, shake, and feed. Be sure to closely follow the instructions on the bottle to determine how much of the supplement to give. This will be determined by the weight of your gecko in grams.
- Gut loading your live insects with calcium-rich foods is another great way to add calcium to your gecko’s diet. Dark leafy greens such as spinach or kale or oranges are both excellent sources.
- Lastly, the easiest and most effective way to provide calcium supplementation is to provide a Meal Replacement Powder diet. Thanks to commercial foods (such as Pangea or Repashy), food rich in calcium is easier to get to your gecko than ever before. Repashy is top-ranked by experts as the most vitamin-rich Meal Replacement Powder, with Pangea following. Keep in mind that if your gecko does not seem to be eating this food well, you may need to supplement with live insects.
If you are afraid that your gecko may not be getting enough calcium with Meal Replacement Powders, there is a lot of great information out there on how to feed live. This can also increase the growth rate if you’re concerned about how quickly (or not) your gecko is growing. https://cleverpetowners.com/do-crested-geckos-need-to-eat-live-insects-surprised/
How Often Do I Need to Give My Crested Gecko Calcium Supplementation?
This varies wildly depending on which method you decide to use. If you’re only using Meal Replacement Powdered food, you may be able to stick to your regular feeding schedule of feeding 3-4 times per week and not have to worry anymore about it.
If you’re feeding with live insects, you will need to supplement with calcium every 1-3 days with powdered insects. The same guideline goes with gut-loaded insects.
If your gecko is still young, you will need to be feeding them 4-5 times a week. It is recommended to be feeding meal replacement powder 2-3 times a week and live insects two times a week if you’re feeding a hatchling.
How do I know if my Gecko is getting enough calcium?
If you have an adult female crested gecko, you can check her calcium sacks inside her mouth. There are youtube tutorials on how to do this everywhere, but I found that this one was the most helpful: How to Check Calcium Sacks in Crested Geckos.
These calcium sacks contain extra calcium storage for females who are ready to breed and need the extra nutrition. However, you will not find these stores in juvenile or male crested geckos. If you have a young or male gecko and are concerned about low calcium levels, please see an exotic vet for the appropriate tests.
What Happens if My Gecko Doesn’t Get Enough Calcium?
When a Crested Gecko doesn’t get enough calcium, it can end up with brittle bones, weak muscles, low energy levels, or twitching toes. Signs of a calcium deficiency can look like a shaky disposition, a zig-zag tail, or swollen limbs.
If the deficiency gets bad enough, they can end up with Metabolic Bone Disease, which could directly or indirectly end in death. The good news is that this disease is easily preventable!
What is Metabolic Bone Disease?
Metabolic Bone Disease is a spectrum of disorders caused by low calcium levels in conjunction with its interaction with other vitamins and minerals (particularly Vitamin D3 and phosphorus). The low levels cause the body to pull calcium from the gecko’s bone mass, causing a plethora of other issues.
Symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease can be any number of the following:
-A kinked tail with abnormal zig-zags or bends
-Shaking or trembling
-Inability to eat
*Again: if you suspect your gecko of having Metabolic Bone Disease, please seek advice and a treatment plan from an exotic vet.*
Can Metabolic Bone Disease be Cured?
A sick Crestie can be brought back to health; however, any bone deformities caused by this illness are permanent and cannot be reversed. The absolute best cure for Metabolic Bone Disease is prevention with a balanced diet.
Can My Crested Gecko Get Too Much Calcium?
Over-supplementation is possible and can lead to hypercalcemia which can also weaken your gecko’s bones over time and disrupt thyroid function. Hypercalcemia can inhibit overall digestion and absorption of nutrients in the body, pushing the rest of their nutrients out of whack and eventually causing any number of different issues that, of course, you want to avoid. While this is very rare, it is possible.
A smaller amount of calcium over time is better- ideally, you want to keep the total amount of calcium in your gecko’s diet around 1.5%. Supplement powders have a highly concentrated amount of vitamins in them, which is why it is vital to follow the instructions as to not give your gecko more than they need.
What Is The “Right” Amount of Calcium to Give?
Honestly, there really is no “correct” answer to this question. The amount of calcium to give your gecko is dependent on several different factors.
Age, sex, and size are all determining factors of how much calcium a Crested Gecko needs. But do not worry. If you are feeding your gecko appropriately, low or high calcium levels should not be of any concern. A good rule of thumb is to try not to worry unless you have reason to do so, which would not be unless you see signs of the symptoms listed above.
Experts and reptile enthusiasts alike will all tell you that you should be adding calcium supplements in one way or another. Whether that be through live insect feedings, meal replacement powders, or gut loading your live feed with calcium-rich foods, you should be intentional in making sure that your Crestie has everything it needs to have a well-rounded diet full of the proper vitamins and nutrients.
While the consequences of not doing so can be dire, they are also easily preventable. With the right balancing of vitamins and nutrients, your gecko should live a long, happy, and healthy life.