The Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) is becoming a very popular animal in the gecko hobby. This small, active lizard is great for natural terrarium set ups and is widely enjoyed by beginners and advanced hobbyists alike.
The Mourning Gecko is distributed throughout the South Pacific region, Central and South America, and Hawaii. They are Parthenogenic, meaning that they produce offspring without mating, essentially creating clones of themselves. The populations therefore are all female. They are small geckos averaging about 3.5 to 4 inches in total length, about half of which is tail. Mourning geckos will squeak and chirp when housed in small groups and they will develop a sort of pecking order amongst themselves. Fighting is common but is rarely severe. Observing these geckos social interactions is one of the most enjoyable aspects of keeping this species.
The first thing to consider when practicing proper Mourning Gecko husbandry is how to set up their enclosure. Live planted terrariums are great for these guys because they require higher levels of humidity and the plants provide cover, climbing structure, and egg deposit sites. Pothos, Philodendron, and other viney, fast-growing plants are well suited for this type of terrarium. Rocks, cork bark, cork branches and other natural decors can also be used in the terrarium. Since Mourning geckos are not very handle-able, most people choose a natural set up as this species is much more enjoyable to view when set up this way.
You can also set them up with artificial plants and decor however you will have to pay closer attention to humidity levels and misting routines to make sure they are not getting too dry.
The Exo Terra 12x12x18 terrarium is ideal for as many as 5-6 adult Mourning Geckos. Keep the rear vents closed or these geckos will escape especially if you have hatchlings or young juveniles. The Exo Terra tank can be set up naturally or with artificial plants, vines, and decor.
If you choose to set up the terrarium with live plants your best bet is to use a base layer of Hydro Balls about 2 inches deep, which will act as your drainage layer.
Next place a layer of Terrarium Mesh on top of the Hydro Balls, then cover that with a 2-3 inch thick layer of ABG substrate which is perfect for keeping live plants in the terrarium. Now you are ready to plant your plants in the ABG substrate.
Temperature, Heating, And Lighting
Mourning geckos do best in warm tropical conditions. Ideal daytime temperatures are 77-82 degrees and can drop to 72 at night. Small wattage basking bulbs can be used to create a temperature gradient within the tank. Basking temperature should not be above 85 degrees, and the geckos should be able to retreat to cooler areas. Higher output fluorescent, T5, or LEDs can be used for plant growth and to light the terrarium. UVB lighting is not 100% necessary for these geckos but may provide some benefit.
Humidity levels should be maintained at 60-70% at all times with higher humidity for a few hours per day from misting. Misting should be heavy to the point of having water droplets on all plants and decorations and the tank walls. Humidity should be allowed to fall back to normal within 4-6 hours of misting. Misting also provides plenty of water for drinking provided it is done daily.
Food and Feeding
Mourning geckos are primarily insectivores but will relish an occasional fruit-based food like the Pangea Fruit Mix Banana & Apricot Diet. We find that of the different varieties of PFM, our mourning geckos prefer the Banana and Apricot flavor, and they like it mixed slightly on the more watery side. They get the PFM gecko diet 2 days per week and dusted gut-loaded insects 3 days per week with two off days where no food is given. Adults and Juveniles can eat dusted and gut loaded crickets that are 1/8 to 3/8 inches in length depending on the size of the geckos being fed. Hatchlings can eat dusted Hydei "flightless" fruit flies which is the larger variety of commonly available cultured fruit flies or pinhead crickets. We dust insects with a good calcium and vitamin d3 powder for 2 of their weekly insect feedings, and good multivitamin for their 3rd weekly insect feeding.
Hatchling Mourning Geckos are cared for exactly like the adults but more attention should be paid to humidity levels and misting as they can dehydrate much more easily. Hatchlings will also require Fruit Flies or pin head crickets as a food item.
Since Mourning Geckos are essentially all females, they do not technically breed, however most adults will lay fertile eggs once they are mature. The eggs are basically glued to the laying site and you should not attempt to peal them off because they will likely break. Typical lay sites include the sides of the tank on the glass, on plant leaves, or on pieces of cork bark or other cage furnishings. If glued to the glass you can tape a small plastic cup over the eggs to protect them and to trap the hatchlings when they emerge for easy removal. If glued to a plant leaf you can simply clip that part of the leaf and remove to a hatching chamber. Sometimes the eggs are hidden really well or laid in a place where removal or containment is impossible and they end up hatching in the terrarium. if you notice hatchlings in the tank you should remove them immediately before they are eaten by the adults. Sometimes they are left alone, and other times they are eaten rather quickly. Adults will also sometimes eat the eggs from other females immediately after they are laid and while they are still soft. Once the eggs harden they are pretty safe from being eaten.