Can Crested Geckos Swim? (3 Reasons It’s Bad Idea)

crested gecko licking water but not swimming

Crested geckos are commonly recommended for beginners due to their low cost, easy care, and handleability. But even with such a straightforward reptile, it’s important to understand every aspect of crested gecko husbandry. Whether you’re considering adding a water section to your gecko’s enclosure or are just curious about the behaviors of cresties, you may be wondering: can crested geckos swim?

Although crested geckos are able to instinctively swim, swimming is not fun or natural for them. Instead, they will only swim to return to land in an emergency. Crested geckos will become stressed if forced to swim and may become injured or even drown.

In this article, we’ll explain why it’s not a good idea to let your crested gecko swim as well as answer a few common questions about geckos and water.

3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Let Your Crested Gecko Swim

It’s well-known that crested geckos aren’t aquatic lizards, but whether or not crested geckos can swim isn’t exactly common knowledge. While crested geckos are physically able to swim, there are several reasons they shouldn’t.

1: It’s Unnatural

Crested geckos are a semi-arboreal species found in the rainforests of New Caledonia and its surrounding islands. In simpler terms, this means they spend much of their time up high in trees or shrubs and some of their time hiding on the ground. This variety ensures that geckos can find a fitting environment to regulate their temperature as well as find some tasty bugs and fruit.

As you may have noticed, neither of these locations really involves much water or swimming. But just because most crested geckos prefer to spend their time in treetops doesn’t mean that they’ll sink like a rock the second they touch water. Crested geckos can instinctively tread water to get to safety as needed without needing to be taught.

But as with leopard geckos, swimming is not an activity that is done for fun, but simply to get back to land. While they are able to swim, crested geckos would never enter water by choice in the wild. As a result, being forced into something so unnatural can have disastrous consequences.

2: It’s Dangerous

Although crested geckos are able to swim, it is never a good idea to let your crested gecko swim. It is incredibly easy for this species to drown, even in a matter of minutes. This is especially true in cases where they can’t escape easily, such as in a bathtub or other enclosed container.

Even if your crested gecko does manage to make it back to land, their health will likely be impacted. For one, inhaled fluids can result in respiratory  issues, which are often fatal in these small reptiles.  Namely, water pooled in a gecko’s lungs will quickly lead to aspiration pneumonia, resulting in difficulty breathing, lethargy, loss of appetite, and ultimately, death.

Outside of this, a variety of injuries may result from scrambling back onto land, and these injuries can lead to complications such as cellulitis or other skin infections. Finally, harmful contaminants such as residual soap or chlorine can be absorbed through their skin or be swallowed by your gecko.

3: It’s Stressful

Outside of the medical issues caused by swimming, being thrown into such an unnatural situation is incredibly stressful for your crested gecko. And if they find themselves in a bathtub or container from which they can not easily escape, they will find themselves in what appears to be a life-or-death situation. Your gecko may be understandably scared of you after this traumatic experience, and is likely to drop their tail. And unlike other gecko species, their tail– which is used for climbing as an extra, sticky limb— does not regrow.

Plus, too cold of water may come with its own issues. Because crested geckos are ectotherms, they rely on external heat to regulate their body temperature. This involves moving around throughout their enclosure’s temperature gradient to find the perfect temperature to regulate their metabolism and maintain their activity level. Not only will cold water disrupt this delicate balance, but it may even send your gecko into shock, making drowning a much more likely possibility.

Can I Put My Crested Gecko In Water?

As we’ve covered, it’s not a good idea to ever place your gecko in deep water. Even so, you still may still be wondering if it’s alright to let your gecko go for a dip in a shallow dish.

Crested Geckos Don’t Enjoy Being in Water

Many species enjoy soaking in water, especially before a shed, but crested geckos are not one of them. Crested geckos will typically not enter water on their own in the wild or in captivity, and rarely find the experience enjoyable. Shallow, warm water may be accepted in certain circumstances, but cold or deep water is downright unpleasant to these critters.

Warmth and standing water are also a recipe for mold and bacteria, both of which can cause skin or respiratory issues for your gecko. Since your gecko would never enter water on their own, you shouldn’t force them into doing so unless absolutely necessary.

Soaking Shouldn’t Be Used for Stuck Sheds or Dried Food

Dysecdysis, more commonly known as a stuck shed, is a common issue captive reptiles face. Most of the time, it can be easily managed, but successive stuck sheds can lead to a lot of issues, like blindness, dehydration, and even loss of toes. On the other hand, a gecko stepping in food is rarely a medical issue, but the loss of stickiness can be stressful for your gecko.

Soaking in warm water is a common treatment for stuck sheds or dried food in many lizards, but the better option for crested geckos is the use of a shed box (as we covered in greater depth in our article on gargoyle gecko shedding). For a quick, temporary box, you can use something like in the video below, along with a cotton swab for easy removal.

Better yet, you can up the humidity or add a more permanent shed box when your gecko shows signs of shedding to avoid a stuck shed in the first place . If upping the humidity doesn’t help, you can identify the cause behind chronic shedding issues, possibly with the help of a veterinarian.

A Brief Soak In Warm Water Can Be Useful

While a soak isn’t the recommended treatment for stuck sheds, it can be useful in some veterinary circumstances. As with leopard geckos, many crested geckos can benefit from a brief supervised soak in shallow, warm water if they have clogged femoral pores or are constipated. Warm water can help remove build-up from the pores and help move things along respectively.

Dehydration may be the cause of constipation, but it may also be an issue on its own. Crested geckos can’t absorb water through their skin quite as easily as frogs, but a warm water soak can still do wonders in cases of mild dehydration. That said, soaking is really only first-aid for these issues. If you suspect infected pores, impaction, or severe dehydration, you should take your crested gecko to the vet immediately.

In summary, you should not put your crested gecko in water outside of very specific circumstances to avoid stress or health issues.

Do Crested Geckos Like to Be Wet?

Just because swimming and soaking are unpleasant for geckos doesn’t necessarily mean they hate being wet. Unlike swimming, misting can be a pleasant, if not necessary, experience for geckos. Due to naturally living in rainforests, geckos require 60-80% humidity at all times and even higher when about to shed.

Unless you live in an incredibly humid climate, crested gecko husbandry involves misting of their enclosure once or twice a day. Direct or indirect misting is also one of the major ways to keep your gecko hydrated. The water droplets formed by misting give your geckos the opportunity to drink in a more natural way, as wild crested geckos lick water off of leaves rather than from standing bodies of water.

Some crested geckos enjoy being directly misted with warm, filtered water, but more nervous geckos may only enjoy indirect misting further away from the stream. Either way, one thing is for certain– geckos do enjoy water when they aren’t sitting or swimming in it!

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, crested geckos are able to swim due to their natural survival instincts, but this doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Putting a crested gecko in deep water can easily result in drowning, along with a variety of medical issues. Even placing your gecko in shallow water is unnecessary outside of specific medical instances.

Despite all this, crested geckos are ultimately rainforest creatures who adore high humidity and moisture. Instead of trying to take your gecko for a dip, try seeing if they enjoy a light misting!