The mourning gecko is a tiny gecko which comes out at night. They grow to be at most 4 inches. Interesting, although they are widespread, no male has been discovered. The species reproduce parthenogenetically. Unlike most geckos, members of this species do well when kept as a colony.
Caring for mourning geckos is simple. They eat crested gecko diet and thrive at room temperature. You just need to ensure that, the ambient relative humidity level of their enclosure is between 60 and 80 percent.
Quick Reference Section
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Gekkonidae
- Scientific Name: Lepidodactylus lugubris
- Average Adult Size: 3.5 – 4 inches (85-100 mm)
- Lifespan: 10-15 years in captivity
- Clutch Size: 2 eggs
- Egg Incubation Period: 2 months
- Food: Live insects / Meal Replacement Powder
- Tank Size: 5 gallons
- Average Temperature: 82°H/72°L
- Humidity: 60 – 80%
- UVB Lighting: Optional
- Average Price Range: $20 – $40
- Conservation Status: Not Applicable
Facts and Information
The Lepidodactylus lugubris is also known as the mourning gecko or the common smooth-scaled gecko. They are tiny, and grow to lengths of just 4 inches. In fact, about half their length consists of their tail.
These interesting reptiles have wild populations all over the world and in every continent with human settlements bar Europe. They occur naturally in the Mascarenes, Pitcam Islands, Society Islands, Guam, Western Samoa, Australia, Fiji, New Guinea, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Hawaii, West Malaysia, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. In fact, they are indigenous to the coastal areas of the Pacific and Indian oceans.
They have also been introduced to Seychelles in Africa, and Colombia, the Galapagos, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and west Mexico – all in the Americas.
Apart from their tiny size, discerning physical traits include a brown coloration, zigzag patterns on their backs, stripes from each nostril to ear, and a white belly.
Mourning Gecko Habitat
As already mentioned, they are endemic to the coastal areas of the Pacific and Indian oceans. In captivity, these tiny reptiles do well in small enclosures. It is prudent to keep them in a group.
Communal housing of this species is safe and actually a good idea. They are one of the few reptiles that can be housed communally with few issues as far as you provide enough space. A single mourning gecko doesn’t require much room (a minimum space of 4 gallons) as they are tiny.
Because they are arboreal (tree climbing) reptiles, a vertical terrarium is better suited to their need. Two or three mourning geckos can be safely housed in a 10-gallon terrarium such as the Zilla Vertical Tropical terrarium which measures 12 x 12 x 18 inches. As a rule of thumb, for every two addition adult geckos, increase the size of the terrarium by about 5 gallons.
Baby mourning geckos extremely tiny and can easily escape through ventilation holes found on terrariums. As such, they are best kept in tiny plastic containers with tiny holes poked through the lid. For instance, a 32 oz. (0.25 gallons) food storage container can house two babies.
Decorating the terrarium is a great way to maintain the high humidity needed by the gecko, as well as provide hiding spots and climbing opportunities for the reptile. The terrarium can also serve as a décor piece for your room.
You can decorate the vivarium with plants – both live and artificial, branches/cork bark, vines, fake rocks and many more. An excellent assortment of plants for the vivarium includes Ferns, dragon plant (Dracaena), Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum), Bromeliads, Wandering Jew, Schefflera, Baby tears, Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans), Philodendron, Peperomia, Orchids, and Moss.
As arboreal reptiles, the mourning geckos spend most of their time climbing and resting on branches, and leafs. However, the right bedding can help maintain a high relative humidity level and provide an excellent medium to grow plants in. The substrate must also be non-toxic to the pet. Some excellent substrates/bedding include Zoo Med Eco Cage Carpet, coco coir, Reptisoil, and peat and sphagnum moss.
Unless your room is very cold, supplemental heating is not necessary as mourning geckos do well in room temperature.
A day temperature of 77 to 82 F is suitable, while a night temperature of 72 F is okay. If your room is very cold, then you can provide a basking spot of temperature between 77F and 82 F. a 40-watts incandescent light bulb such as the Snap Supply Incandescent Light Bulb can be used for this purpose.
Similarly, you can use a heat lamp such as the Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter. Because of the vertical nature of their terrarium, a heat lamp or incandescent light bulb will create a warm temperature zone at the upper section of terrarium closer to the lamp and cooler temperatures at the lower section.
The temperature should never be higher than 85 F as it can lead to heat strokes and even death.
Providing the right relative humidity levels for these geckos requires that you mist the enclosure regularly. You should mist the enclosure nightly. The relative humidity level should be about 60 to 70%. To prevent the growth of fungus and mold, ensure the enclosure dries to about 50 percent before you mist the enclosure again.
Since the tiny mourning geckos don’t drink from dishes, water droplets created through misting is the only way they hydrate. They can even thrive in relative humidity levels of up to 90 percent as far as you ensure that portions of the terrarium are drier.
While you can provide additional lighting this is not necessary, as these reptiles are comfortable in dimly lit environments. You can use a fluorescent lamp to view the geckos. However, the light provided in the room should be good enough for the mourning gecko.
As already mentioned, you can use an incandescent light bulb, or a heat lamp to warm up the top of the terrarium if temperatures are below 70 F. Similarly, you can use a night light to warm a cold enclosure.
Feeding the Mourning Gecko
As with most geckos, feeding the L. lugubris is easy and simple. In the wild, these nocturnal species feed exclusively on small insects and flower nectar. Similarly, you can feed them insects and meal replacement diet made for geckos.
Meal replacement diets contain all the nutrients and minerals needed by the gecko. They can be stored for a long time since they come in powdered form. All you need to do is add a little water to it to create a puree which you then feed to the reptiles.
Excellent brands include the Pangea Banana/Papaya Fruit Mix Complete Crested Gecko Food which comes in many flavors including Watermelon and Apricot, and the Repashy Crested Gecko Meal Replacement Diet. They will also eat baby food as an alternative to the crested gecko diets mentioned. Baby food, however, lacks the vitamin D3 and calcium they need.
Adults can eat live insects. Just ensure that the insects are tiny. They eat tiny flightless fruit flies, tiny crickets, tiny mealworms, tiny roaches, and tiny black soldier fly larvae.
You must gut load the cricket or insect for about 48 hours before feeding them to the geckos. This ensures the insects provides all the nutrients the gecko needs. Gut load the insects with Fluker’s High-Calcium Cricket Diet and Fluker’s Cricket Quencher.
Additionally, you have to dust the insects with a calcium-vitamin supplement such as Zoo Med Reptile Calcium with Vitamin D3.
Feed the mourning gecko every 2 days with meal replacement diet and insects once a week. As with other geckos, feed them as much as they can eat each feeding session.
As such, remove the meal replacement diet only if 24 hours has passed. If several geckos are housed in the terrarium provide several cups with meal replacement diets.
Lastly, you can provide a bottle cap of calcium supplement for the reptiles to lick at will and regulate their calcium intake.
Mourning Gecko’s Temperament
Mourning geckos prefer to be left alone. They are display pets and not pets you can handle. These reptiles are extremely quick and tiny. This makes them difficult to handle and easy to injure.
However, with that said, it is possible to tame them. This requires a lot of patience and time. Even with that, it is still a risky proposition since they can easily get missing or injured.
In a colony, there are several ways they communicate. They chirp and squeak often during the night as they are nocturnal. They also eat smaller geckos including their young. For this reason, it is imperative to house the younglings separately.
Mourning Gecko’s Lifespan
These geckos are quite long-lived. They will live between 10 to 15 years with proper care. It is, however, not uncommon for them to live less than 10 years.
Breeding Mourning Geckos
Since no males exist, offspring are basically clones of the mother. Adults engage in pseudocopulation, so named since there isn’t any transfer of sex cells between the two adults involved.
They don’t need any help to reproduce. You just need to keep them in a group. A pair of adult females stimulate each other in what looks like mating. This results in a pair of gravid females.
They will then lay two eggs per clutch every month or so. The eggs incubate at room temperature and hatch after about 50 to 60 days. Mourning geckos reach maturity at 8 to 10 months.
As with most reptiles, with proper care, they hardly ever get ill. However, regardless of the care given they can still suffer from health complications. In order to notice health issues, you have to diligently watch them and notice any changes in behavior and physiology.
Some common health complications include
- Kinked Tail – This is usually a symptom of MBD which is caused by vitamin D3 and/or calcium deficiency. With this disease, their tail becomes crooked or kinked.
- Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) – This is caused by vitamin D3 and/or calcium deficiency. Symptoms include a kinked tail, lethargy, curved limbs, seizures, and loss of appetite. To treat this disease, provide a bottle cap of calcium supplement, and install a UVB light over the terrarium mesh just in case. To prevent this, ensure that you gut load and dust insects fed to the reptile. Similarly, provide a cap of calcium powder. With proper diets, you won’t need a UVB light.
- Seizures – This is also caused by nutrient deficiencies. Symptoms include weight loss, lost off perch, and uncontrolled jerking. To prevent this, ensure that you gut load and dust insects fed to the reptile. Similarly, provide a cap of calcium powder.
- Shedding Problems- When humidity is low, shedding problems may occur. To prevent and treat this, ensure that the humidity of the enclosure is between 60 and 80 percent. These reptiles eat their shed skin.
- Tail/Limb Loss – Tail loss is normal and usually happens when the gecko is scared. The tail usually grows back. Limb loss is quite rare. And usually happens when the gecko’s limb gets caught in the door.
Pricing and Availability
These tiny reptiles are quite easily bred resulting in several quality captive-bred specimens on the market. A single mourning gecko should cost you about $40.
The L. lugubris is quite widespread and doing well in the wild. This is because, there are many wild populations of this species. There is actually no conservation status for this species.
While they may not be the most popular geckos out there, the unique mourning gecko is easy to care for, and a hardy little reptile. They don’t require much and as far as their enclosure is misted once or twice a day, they will thrive.
They eat crested gecko diets and don’t need additional lighting or heat. If you have any information or questions, we would love to hear them. Leave us a comment below.
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