Can Crested Geckos Swim?

What will happen if you put your crested gecko in the swimming pool? While it is not obvious that the lizard will immediately suffocate, there may be some serious risks involved in putting a crested gecko in water. So, can crested geckos swim?

Crested geckos can swim as a natural instinct to survive. However, being under water is risky for the lizards because they need to stick their nose out of the water in order to breathe. Do not put crested geckos in water as this can easily kill them.

Geckos will simply float and “walk on water” in case you put them in a pool. This is what most people call swimming, but it is not a natural action of swimming.

Do crested geckos swim?

Crested gecko swimming

Crested geckos live in humid environments and their swimming ability is a survival instinct – not something they would normally do. As it turns out, these little creatures cannot actually swim as a normal activity due to their lack of webbed toes. They just walk on water, which is possible due to their light weight.

Swimming requires the lizard to hold its breath or come to the surface to take in oxygen from air pockets near the surface. If there are no air pockets, then they will suffocate. This means that your crested gecko would have trouble staying afloat without help – like being placed inside a plastic container with holes punched through it so that he can still breathe.

Lizards, in general, may not be able to hold their breath, which is why water may enter the respiratory system and cause suffocation, drowning, and even death.

How do crested geckos breathe?

All lizards breathe through their lungs, which is why it’s not wise to put one in water. Submerging the lizard in water is risking suffocation and possibly death.

In fact, it is not recommended to put geckos and other lizards in your swimming pool as water and swimming are stressful activities.

Animals that are able to swim have gills for respiration underwater. If a gecko swims in shallow water, it will quickly get out of the water to breathe.

In the wild, lizards can only jump in water either accidentally or as a last resort to escape from a predator, but they’ll quickly come outside to breathe through their nostrils.

READ ALSO: Do Crested Geckos Have Teeth? Their Biting Tendencies, and Treatments

Providing water for your crested gecko

There are not many circumstances when you will need to put your gecko in water. Usually, you’d put hatchlings in water to remove sand or other hard particles from their skin – which is an easier way of cleaning them up.

Do not bathe your crested gecko even if the water is shallow. Crested geckos have a way of cleaning themselves, which does not involve water.

Provide a shallow dish of water in the crested gecko tank to prevent the gecko from drowning accidentally. If you have a deep water bowl, you might want to replace it with a shallow water sauce.

Crested geckos are not aquatic animals. They can’t swim voluntarily, unless when they’re very stressed and have no choice. When in captivity, they need a shallow water dish to drink from but they’ll not typically touch it with their feet.

Can you put a water pool in the tank (Paludarium)?

If you’re creating a bioactive vivarium, also called a paludarium, you might easily consider great plants for crested geckos as well as a waterfall feature, or even a small pool of water inside the tank.

While this can be aesthetically pleasing, you do not want to put your crested gecko at risk. The gecko might fall into the pool and drown. However, if you must add a shallow water feature into the bioactive vivarium, you want to add a lot of clutter into the water to make it easy for the gecko to wade and move in the water to safety.

Can you soak crested geckos in water?

If you would like to soak your crested gecko in water, then it is recommended that the container be filled only about an inch deep.

Crested geckos can’t hold their breath and do not have any adaptations for swimming. If their tank was flooded with a much deeper amount of water, they could drown.

It is not necessary to soak or give your gecko a bath. However, if you must for some reason, the best way to give them a bath without placing them in water is to use a damp paper towel or tissue which will remove dirt from their scales without causing this stress of being placed into shallow amounts of water.

Arboreal vs aquatic lizards

Crested geckos are usually arboreal, but they can be found on the ground. In their natural habitat, they spend most of their time in trees and bushes where there is more food than on the forest floor. They will go down to eat insects or other small prey that live on the ground.

Most pet lizard owners may confuse a swimming gecko with crested geckos. Actually, they are different. The aquatic gecko, green basilisk lizard is able to swim. It is also called the double-crested basilisk.

The double-crested basilisk is a type of lizard that can be found in Central and South America. They are also called aquatic geckos for their ability to swim. These types of lizards swim well and can remain submerged in water for as long as 10 minutes without suffocating.

Can You Force Your Gecko to Swim?

It is not a good idea to force your leopard gecko to swim because it is a stressful activity for them. Being arboreal creatures, they will feel that their life is threatened when you put them in water and force them to swim.

There may be other consequences of forcing your crested gecko, or even a leopard gecko to swim. These include the following:

  • The gecko will develop fear towards you: Forcing your crestie to swim is almost the same as trying to kill him/her. The gecko will start to avoid you, or run away every time you try to get hold of it.
  • Injuries and tail loss: If you try to force the lizard to submerge in water, it will go into defensive mode. Extreme wiggling of its body to set itself free can cause injuries and even tail drop or tail loss.

In these situations, the heart rate of your crested gecko will elevate, making it breathe fast and appear distressed.

Return the pet in its tank and allow him/her to hide within the vivarium until they feel safe again to come out and explore the environment.


Crested geckos can swim, but it is not something that they would ever do on their own, or at least in a natural environment. They are ground animals and stay mostly close to the surface of the forest floor for safety reasons. The only time you will find them near water is when they need to drink it from a puddle or pond.

However, if you place them in the water for short periods of time (no more than 30 seconds), some may swim laps around the bowl, off your hand, or even onto any surface that is nearby.

READ NEXT: Can Crested Geckos Live Together? Factors and Numbers to Keep

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