If you are an experienced or beginner reptile keeper looking for a great pet, the Mourning Gecko is an excellent choice, yet it is surprisingly rare and misunderstood. When I first welcomed them home, I was surprised by their excellent camouflage, incredible speed, and ability to hide.
The small but mighty geckos are not just quick ninjas, they can also crawl into holes and under substrate, often living up to their arboreal reputation! Originally from tropical coastal regions, these cool pets possess unique traits.
The Mourning Gecko is also known as Smooth Scaled Gecko, or Lepidodactylus lugubris in scientific Latin. These small geckos are shy, quick, and grow up to a maximum of 4 inches. They have pointed noses and patterned, long bodies.
They are not easy to handle, but they are fascinating to watch as they climb and hide in their terrarium. You can keep them in groups or even with some other species like Dart Frogs. With their natural dark colors, they eat a mix of gecko food and small insects such as crickets and roaches, which provide them with entertainment and exercise through hunting. Today we will share top tips for setting up your live planted bioactive Mourning Gecko terrarium and keeping your tiny lizards healthy and happy.
Check out this YouTube video that convinced me that Mourning Geckos could be a great pet, well worth a watch! Then we’ll continue with your written care guide below.
Mourning Gecko Reproduction
The Mourning Gecko is famously almost entirely female-only. I’ll explain how that works.
Most people mistakingly spell the name as “Morning Gecko,” but their name has nothing to do with the time of day. They are called “mourning” geckos” due to the mournful chirps that females make, calling out to all the lost male mourning geckos!
They reproduce through a process called parthenogenesis, which means that the females (all of them) produce and fertilize eggs themselves! Breeding these geckos is therefore incredibly easy, and the only risk is overpopulation of your tank.
Parthenogenesis is rare in higher animals, and it is a bit like cloning in that all the offspring are genetic copies of their parent. Unlike reproduction involving two parents, parthenogenesis does not result in genetic diversity, which is an evolutionary disadvantage as it does not allow a species to adapt to a changing environment.
However, if you own Mourning Geckos, the likelihood is that you will also be breeding them.
Mourning Gecko Eggs
These female-only geckos lay eggs frequently, attaching them to the leaves in their terrarium. The eggs are held on by a natural sticky glue until they are ready to hatch.
If you leave the eggs in the terrarium to hatch, they are likely to survive, but it is possible that the mothers might forget what they are and eat them! You might want to remove the babies temporarily to avoid this.
Mourning Gecko Types
A few color variations of Mourning Geckos are referred to as types, but some are more distinctive than others. They are all patterned with natural tones of tan, brown, and green. These colors are flecked and laid around their bodies, limbs, and heads in light to dark shades with dark spots.
Mourning Gecko Full Size
Baby Mourning Geckos are tiny and delicate. As adults, they are not much bigger.
If you are used to handling Crested, Leopard, or Gargoyle Geckos, these little cuties might surprise you. They are more slightly built and only grow up to 4 inches in length.
Mourning Gecko Enclosure
The ideal Mourning Gecko enclosure is a terrarium measuring 18 x 18 x 24 inches. You can put them in a smaller tank but remember that they will multiply. Unless you can find homes for your little baby lizards every time they reproduce, it is best to accommodate their new arrivals in a slightly larger tank.
Although social, Mourning Geckos still require lots of different places to hide and explore. They like each other and are not usually aggressive unless they are densely overpopulated, another good reason to set up a large tank.
Bioactive Mourning Gecko Terrariums
We prefer keeping our lizards in a more natural bioactive enclosure. This is not necessary, but it will allow the eggs to hatch in their tank rather than risking removing them. Besides, setting up bioactive environments is incredibly satisfying, and it’s great to watch your own ecosystem flourish.
Bioactive terrariums require a drainage layer of clay balls, a dividing layer of wool, or a similar substance, and a natural dirt layer on top. You can plant directly into this top layer and add any decorative bark, cork, or sticks on it.
Do Mourning Geckos Need UVB?
I provide my Mourning Geckos with an arboreal level UVB light during daylight hours for a few reasons. Firstly, they are awake during the day sometimes, and they would naturally be in the sunlight at some point. Secondly, there are live plants in the terrarium that grow best under some level of UV light.
Room temperature is suitable for Mourning Geckos, although we recommend a heat lamp for colder houses in the winter. They require spraying with a water bottle twice a day, and the tank should be left to dry out slightly in the intervening period.
Mourning Gecko Diet
Their natural diet consists of a wide range of small animals and plant matter. However, you can feed Mourning Geckos with a tiny dollop of Crested Gecko Mix by Repashy or similar brands. I scoop a teaspoon from my crestie’s bowl and put it into a separate dish for the tiny gecko tank.
Your pet will also benefit from access to live food. This can be fruit flies, small crickets, or mealworms. I give them access to live food about twice a week, but they also feed on the baby isopods that act as a cleanup crew.
How Long Do Mourning Geckos Live In Captivity?
Reptile lifespans are often assumed to be shorter than they should be, as caring for them requires a delicate balance. Although many pet Mourning Geckos have sadly short lifespans, they should live for around 15 years if kept correctly.
Handling Your Gecko
It is possible to handle Mourning Geckos, but they are typically more of an ornamental species. They are fast, shy, and asleep during the day. While lifting them out of the tank, it is easy to unintentionally release them, and catching them again is challenging.
When I open my girls’ tank, I always check that they are not near the door, so they don’t escape or get trapped in the gap that swings open. I also keep a tiny pet fish net handy just in case they manage to escape. Although, as of yet, I have not had to use it, but I am relieved to know that it’s there when I open up!
While no male Mourning Geckos have ever been bred
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