Need Help Setting Up My First Crested Gecko Bioactive Vivarium

ahouseofscales

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Hi! I'm finally branching out from fishkeeping and setting up my first bioactive vivarium. This will be for a crested gecko. I have almost figured everything out but I still have a few questions which I will list below. Thank you in advance for any answers you can give me!

1) Should I trust Zoo Med Crested Gecko Diet?
I was planning on using Pangea as my staple diet, but an employee at my LFS says that she uses Zoo Med's diet for her crested. She says that they changed their formula recently and it's now comparable to brands like Repashy and Pangea. Does anyone know if this is true?

2) Are these stick/branches from Michaels safe to use in my tank?
(See attached photos)
I have seen warnings about stains/dyes on materials from craft stores, but I am not sure if these would be safe or not. Has anyone had experience with these?

3) Is a cooling system worth it?
I was considering getting a thermostat with both a heating and cooling function for this vivarium. I am definitely going to have a heat source, but I don't know if I should buy a small fan to use for cooling in the summer months. Would it make enough of a difference to be worth it?
 

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wodesorel

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The Zoomed food may be okay, but I personally trust Repashy, it has been around the longest with no issues. Pangea is another well respected brand, but I found it fussier to mix up.

I am not sure about the branches at the craft store, they may be coated or treated. I follow the same rules for my reptiles as I do for my fish for safety, after all, cresties can live a couple decades! If you like that look, Exoterra and Flukers make several reptile products that are similar.

How hot and cold is the room getting? They do well between 60 and 80, and can tolerate cooler but not much hotter. In most homes, no special climate control for them is needed.
 
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ahouseofscales

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The room usually stays between 60 and 80, but can get up to 90 in July and August. I can either install a cooling system or I can move the gecko to the basement in a temporary enclosure until it cools, although I feel like that would be stressful for the gecko.
 

aBettaNamedRoy

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A cooling system may be a good idea, but it would have to be closely regulated. My gecko is quite comfortable at 74 degrees, so 90 may cause your gecko some discomfort. It likely would cause stress for your gecko to be relocated, but it depends on the personality of the individual gecko you own. The ingredients of ZooMed Gecko Formula seem to be good, and I see no problem with feeding him that. However, I would recommend Repashy simply because it has higher reviews and reputability. It's up to you!
As for the sticks, I would avoid ones from Michaels. The dyes can be problematic to a gecko's health, but that isn't my main concern. My main concern is any waxes or preservative chemicals on the sticks. If you've ever bought any decorative wood from craft stores, you'll notice it doesn't decompose under conditions that would affect normal wood. This is likely because they have been soak, sprayed, or waxed with preservative chemicals to prevent decomposition. If you mist the vivarium, there is the chance that these chemicals will leach out into the soil or even onto your gecko's skin. Between the risk factors of the dyes and preservatives, I wouldn't risk using wood from a conventional craft store. However, they offer great cork rounds at the pet store. These are sanitized and chemical free; safe for your pet. I understand that this can be an expensive endeavor. If you're looking to save money, you can find intact, "cured" sticks from the forest or along the banks belonging to bodies of water. Make sure that there is no moisture inside; if there is, let them dry fully. I highly recommend using dried driftwood for this process, as it is already used to water exposure and considerably cleaner than sticks you would find on the forest floor.
Natural wood can bear lots of parasites, bacteria, and fungus. You CANNOT put wood straight into your tank. However, you can go through a sanitization process to make it safe for your gecko. I recommend using small sticks, as large logs have to be sanitized by the boiling method, which takes far too long to execute (in my opinion).
Clean your sticks fully and wipe away all dirt and additional debris. With your small sticks, you can use the baking method. Simply place the sticks in the oven at 200 to 250 degrees and bake them for 2-3 hours. The longer you go (around 3 hours), the better, and all problematic organisms will be killed, effectively making the wood safe for addition to your vivarium. Increasing the temperature will not speed up the process, but rather increase the chances that your wood will catch fire or combust. Steadily monitoring your wood for 2-3 hours between 200-250 degrees will ensure that nothing goes awry. Let cool for a sufficient amount of time before adding the wood to your vivarium.
In this way, you can ensure that your gecko is safe in its habitat. But it is also a way to chose pieces that fit your vivarium to your customized tastes. Before you bake them, you can cut the wood to size. Be sure to sand all rough edges smooth. This is a great method to outfitting your vivarium just to your fancy! Here's a link to my reference when I baked my wood:

I used pieces of driftwood that are holding up terrifically to the humidity of my vivarium. My gecko loves to climb on them!

Sorry if I sounded a bit critical in my response! I hope you find this information useful and please don't hesitate to ask me any more questions; I'd be happy to try and answer them!

Do you know about springtails and isopods, and how they help create a bio-active environment? If so, do you plan on adding them?
 
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