Do Crested Geckos Play Dead? Sleeping and Death in Crested Geckos

A common question that people often ask is “Do crested geckos play dead?” Crested geckos are nocturnal animals, so they sleep during the day and come out at night. They have a behavior called thigmonasty which means when threatened, they will go into a catatonic state where they become immobile and generally be unresponsive to stimuli.

Adult crested geckos don’t play dead when threatened. Instead, they prefer running, losing their tail or hissing at the threat. When they appear dead, they’re mostly sleeping since they sleep with their eyes open. Checking for signs of life should tell you whether the gecko is sleeping or dead.

This can look like sleeping or playing dead to unsuspecting prey. This behavior, however, is common only in young crested geckos.

Why is my crested gecko staying in one spot?

crested geckos playing dead

Crested geckos don’t play dead since they have better methods of self-defense than playing dead. If threatened, the crested gecko will likely do one or a combination of the following:

Loses its tail

If grabbed by the tail or being chased, the crested gecko will unravel its tail from the rest of its body and drop it. The detached tail continues to wiggle around, distracting the predator while the gecko escapes unnoticed.

If threatened by a large animal (including humans) that could kill it quickly, then the crested gecko might lay motionless on its back with feet splayed outwards in submission as if dead – this is called “playing possum”.

This behavior reduces fighting power and may give an opportunity to escape when fighting seems hopeless. However, playing dead isn’t foolproof because some predators can tell whether their prey has really died before they start eating them.

As such, crested geckos rarely play dead with only the young ones do that especially when being handled.

Runs away

Being a small animal, the crested gecko often chooses to run away from danger rather than fight back or play dead. It can run at speeds of up to two feet per second, and will do this in order to escape a predator or when it feels threatened.

When running for safety, the crested geckos have been known to use their tail as an extra limb to properly control their runs.

Scaring the predator

If the crested gecko is in danger and it can’t run away or lose its tail, it’ll tend to fight back by barking or opening its mouth wide, ready to bite. The crested gecko will also lick its lips or pretend to attack with a head strike.

If it has been caught and is about to be eaten by the predator, it may play dead which gives an opportunity for escape if the attacker loosens its grip. However, in some cases, playing dead can actually provoke predators because they take advantage of their motionlessness while eating them alive.

How does a crested gecko sleep?

If crested geckos don’t play dead, then why does my gecko look dead? Well, if that’s your question, then you’d be glad to know that crested geckos sleep with their eyes open because they can’t close them as we do.

You may still be startled when the crested gecko sleeps in a funny position and doesn’t respond to touching for a while. As long as you have been taking good care of your gecko, you don’t need to disturb it since it’ll be up and running in a few hours.

You can check whether your crested gecko is asleep or dead by testing the response of its eyes to light. Don’t shine strong light into its eyes. Rather, simply bring a low light close to the pupils. If the gecko is alive and merely resting, the pupils will reduce in size with stronger light and grow back to their normal size with lower light.

Other signs of sleep you can check for in the gecko include the following:

  • It will still have a normal breathing routine.
  • It responds to the touch though rather slowly.

You should only be worried when it doesn’t respond to touch, the eyes don’t respond to the light and it has its mouth open. These are dangerous signs as shall be seen below.

How do I know if my gecko is dying?

Death is sad and, while it’s a topic we’d rather avoid, our beloved crested geckos will live up to 10 years after which they will die from old age.

The signs of death in crested geckos include the following:

  • Rapid loss of weight.
  • A crested gecko who is sleeping but not waking up.
  • The inability to move or respond to touch.
  • No movements for a prolonged period of time (at least 24 hours).
  • Hissing sounds when touched or picked up without necessarily being aggressive.
  • Labored breathing, wheezing, and gasping while asleep.
  • Being cold to the touch despite normal temperature changes throughout the day-night cycle. This is an indication that it has been dead for some time before being discovered by its caretaker(s).
  • Smelly and runny poo.
  • Pupils not responding to light.
  • Leaking bile (bluish dot on the belly).
  • Mouth held wide open.
  • Reacting slowly and negatively to being touched.
  • Goo around its mouth.

Any of these signs should alert you to the possible death of your crested gecko. You can call your vet to know if indeed it’s dying or just sick. At times, these signs may merely be from being sick and not necessarily death.

READ ALSO: Crested Geckos Lifespan – For How Long Do They Live?

Causes of death in crested geckos

Your crested gecko can die for the following reasons:

Physical injuries

Your crested gecko can be injured while hunting for food, eating a prey item too large to swallow, or during territorial battles.

Physical injuries may not show up right away but will cause eventual death. The injury could come from your pet’s environment as well like getting caught in an object (such as the wire of their cage). Severe physical trauma is also another possible reason they die.

Chemicals in their environment

Chemicals found in the environment can be lethal to crested geckos. For instance, the bacterium Polychrotatin alters their excretory system and causes urinary tract infections which lead to death in some cases.

This may happen when a pet owner cleans the tank with chemicals that are not safe for reptiles or if they use water from an unsafe source like a public well (that doesn’t meet drinking water standards).

Crested Geckos tend to seek out sources of moisture such as droplets on leaves, so this is how these bacteria get inside them.

Another thing you should know about is secondary poisoning caused by contact with toxic substances found in household items like antifreeze, paint thinners, pesticides and insecticides.


Egg-binding refers to the condition in which a female gecko is carrying so many eggs that it cannot move. These eggs may get stuck in the oviducts resulting in obstruction. This can cause death for both male and female crested geckos. Males are more likely to die due to their inability to eat during egg-binding, while females will struggle with moving around and finding food sources.

This problem often occurs when males have been used as studs or breeders without maintaining any kind of breeding rotation schedule (i.e., not allowing each male one week off every month). It also happens when there’s an excess number of mates available; some females may simply not want sex anymore but still need nourishment from sperm, therefore resulting in higher levels of egg production than necessary.


Crested geckos can experience illness, and can become sick with a number of different conditions. For example:

  • Parasites that live in the gut (intestinal parasites), such as coccidia or worms.
  • Bacterial infections from bacteria like salmonella or klebsiella pneumoniae.
  • Fungal infections from organisms like candida albicans or histoplasma capsulatum.

Crested geckos may also be exposed to sickness if they are living in an area where others have been infected by these pathogens. If you notice any signs of illness, take your crested gecko to a veterinarian immediately.

High temperatures

Too much heat can be deadly to crested geckos. If the temperature is warm enough, it can cause a metabolic shutdown that leads to death.

When temperatures reach 105 degrees Fahrenheit or greater and stay high for more than four hours, there’s an increased risk of sudden mortality in crested geckos.

Crested gecko metabolism slows dramatically at high temperatures due to heat stress. This reduces their ability to regulate body temperature and results in overheating which can lead eventually lead to hyperthermia (a condition where your body’s core temperature rises to unsafe levels).

The best way you know if the environment has reached unsafe levels is by monitoring how much time they’re spending basking under lamps/shelves. Any prolonged exposure without moving to a diurnal area is a red flag that the temperature might be too high.

If you notice your crested geckos spending little to no time basking, make sure to check their environment for dangerously elevated temperatures and take corrective measures if necessary (like moving them or switching off lights).


Dehydration in crested geckos can also lead to death. If the animal is not properly hydrated, it can lead to many problems such as kidney failure and other issues that can be fatal.

For this reason, you should always make sure your pet has access to fresh water with clean dishes or that they are drinking out of a bowl where the water cannot become stagnant. They also need an environment that allows for plenty of natural light and ventilation so that they don’t dry up too quickly.

If you notice any changes in behavior from your pet like lethargy, refusing food or drink, breathing difficulties etc., these could all indicate dehydration and may require medical attention immediately!

Choking or impaction

When the crested gecko eats some indigestible matter such as a piece of dirt or gravel, it will enter the digestive system and can cause choking if it is too large. If not removed by vomiting, then impaction may occur where this material becomes lodged in the crested gecko’s esophagus or throat.

If there is an impaction due to swallowing too much sand while eating crickets for example, the crested gecko will likely show signs that something is wrong like being unable to swallow on its own when picked up from underneath causing food items to come back out of his/her mouth with what looks like a ‘snot’ string hanging off their nose. This could be mucus draining from around the impaction site.

If not treated quickly, a crested gecko will die from suffocation.

If both environmental and behavioral signs of heat stress are present in an animal’s care then it’s important not only to get the appropriate treatment but also to monitor that particular individual closely.

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