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Mourning Gecko Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Mourning gecko, common smooth-scaled gecko
Scientific Name:Lepidodactylus lugubris
Life Span:More than 10 years in captivity
Size:10.5 cm in length
Habitat:Coastal areas
Country of Origin:Countries near the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean including Maldives, India, West Malaysia, Hawaii, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Guam, etc.

Physical Description

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The Mourning Gecko is also called common smooth-scaled gecko. This is a nocturnal animal that has a diet of small insects and nectar coming from local flowers. This is a unique species because of its parthenogenic nature and there are no available males which have been found.

So how do females reproduce then? Female Mourning Geckos use pseudocopulation which means a female can produce viable eggs. 

These lizards originated from the tropical coastal regions of the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Morning Geckos have remained popular in the pet trade with demands rising and falling over the years. Sometimes these lizards are very hard to find and may only be available from reptile pet stores.

Mourning Geckos have a variety of color pattern, not just green or the usual brown. These lizards are mostly yellow-brown. Most of the geckos of this species available today are bred in captivity and despite the readiness to breed, these won’t be available in local reptile stores and pet expos. In the wild, the Mourning Gecko is widespread and it adapts well to human intervention.  These species are not at risk. 

The name Morning Gecko was derived from its audible chirping noise. This is mostly created at night. And because this gecko was once thought to be all female and they are chirping or crying due to the loss of their male counterparts.                                                                                          

Life Span

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Mourning geckos can live for more than 10 years in captivity while some breeders report that this lizard can live for more than 15 years. Because of their size, these lizards will not live for a long time in the wild. They are prey to many animals including birds of prey, snakes, larger lizards and many more. 

Whether in captivity or the wild, Mourning geckos have the following life stages: hatchlings, juveniles, and adults.

Hatchlings

Hatchlings are all female, therefore, you only need one to breed many Morning geckos in an enclosure at home. But despite hatchlings being clones of their mother, these are not identical in appearance. There is a variety of colors and patterns. There are different colors and shades but mostly they are yellow-brown in color. Hatchlings come out of their eggs after two months of incubation. 

Juveniles

Juveniles behave and look like their parent. They are also voracious eaters and will eat anything you place inside their tanks. In the wild, young Mourning geckos hunt, eat and bask like their parent. 

Adults

Adult Mourning geckos are larger, slimmer and are ready to breed at 8 to 10 months of age. She will produce 2 eggs for every 6 weeks. More on the Mourning Gecko’s pseudocopulation later.  

Eating Habits

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Mourning geckos are insectivores. These hungry little lizards will eat almost any insect that they catch. Take note that these geckos are tiny therefore these will also need very small bits of food. In the wild Mourning geckos will eat any insect they find on the coastal floor. 

But in captivity, it’s your job as a pet owner to give them the food that they need. Choose small insects like bugs, ants, and flies. Have a breeding area for these insects so you won’t have to feed these with wild-caught insects. 

Larger pieces of food should be cut up so they can easily swallow and digest. After eating, juveniles are almost ready to eat again. These young lizards have developed a voracious appetite. Larger geckos may need to be fed every other day. 

There are commercially-prepared lizard or gecko food available from local and online pet shops. These are more convenient because these come with all the necessary nutrients your pets need.

Sleeping Habits

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Mourning geckos are mostly nocturnal. This means that this animal will sleep in the morning and are awake at night to feed, hunt and reproduce. You should use perches, burrows or other structures inside your tank where your gecko can sit or lie down to sleep.

It’s better to place the lizard tank in an area where there’s no traffic like a spare room, your basement or attic as long as the area is quiet and warm.

Water

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The Mourning gecko needs water to drink and to swim in. It will dip in its water dish to drink or lick at the moisture on the tank walls and on the plants. A tank with a water feature will be perfect for Mourning geckos. They will love to swim for a short while, nibbling on plants and eating small animals in the water. But as you keep it in a tank with a water feature, add a lamp that will provide enough heat to improve temperature inside the tank.  

Development and Reproduction

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Mourning geckos have a unique way to reproduce. Since all Mourning geckos are female, they have a special way to breed. Female geckos will lay fertile eggs which will hatch after a few weeks of incubation. 

In the wild, Mourning geckos lay their eggs on leaves, the bark of wood or inside any hollow space that the gecko thinks is safe. The eggs are very difficult to remove and are so secure that sometimes these are hidden very well. 

The eggs are laid very soft on the surface or opening but after a short, while these harden and will be very difficult to open by predators. 

Mourning geckos have a bad habit of eating their eggs and this may happen from time to time. This is why pet owners should check for eggs and protect these by removing the eggs ASAP. 

Hatchlings will come out of their shells after 60 days. These hatchlings are already capable of hunting and looking for food on their own. And once these young geckos are around 8 to 10 months old, these are now capable of laying eggs. 

Morning geckos make a weird noise that sounds like a peeping chick and a squeaking sound similar to a mouse’s sound. The gecko will use its tail to communicate with other geckos. They often raise their backs, waving their tails and move it from side to side.  

You can also tell from a group of Mourning geckos that dominance also happens. A dominant female may try to look bigger to take control of the group. Less dominant geckos follow her and submit to her demands. 

When grown in captivity, Mourning geckos will still exhibit these unique behaviors. It’s up to pet owners to control these behaviors like egg eating to protect future generations of Mourning geckos.   

How to Breed

Mourning geckos are the easiest to breed because you don’t need to search for a suitable male. But you need to create a breeding tank that’s suitable for your geckos. The gecko tank should have a temperature of more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit but not higher than 85 degrees.

There are many types of substrates available but the most highly-recommended is Repti Bed, coco fiber or peat moss. No matter what type of substrate you use, make sure it can retain moisture really well. Take note that sand, rocks, and pebbles are not good substrates because these are incapable of retaining moisture.    

When your pet lays eggs, don’t panic when you see it eat her eggs. However, you must watch out for hatchlings after 60 days of incubation and remove these as much as possible. Don’t remove the eggs says experts because once all the female geckos are on the same cycle of laying their eggs, these will also stop eating them. 

It’s also difficult to remove eggs even inside a tank so most breeders just let the eggs be. Mourning geckos usually deposit their eggs in places that are very difficult to reach even inside a plain breeding tank. 

Remove the hatchlings and place these in another tank to give them extra-special attention. The tank should be kept in a very humid tank. Use a mister to apply moisture inside the tank. Hatchlings are prone to dehydration so be sure hydrate the tank with a mister time and again and monitor humidity using a digital hygrometer. Hatchlings will need pinhead crickets or fruit flies as their baby food.  

Common Health Problems

Stomatitis

Similar to other lizards, Mourning geckos are susceptible to stomatitis or mouth rot. You can spot stomatitis like redness and swell along the mouth area, pus or any kind of discharge from the mouth. Also, take note of excess saliva because this is a sign of respiratory problems.

Parasitic Infections 

Parasitic infections of the skin and infections inside the body are very common and this is usually due to a dirty tank. It is also possible to pass on parasites from a new pet to your captive geckos. You can tell that the gecko has a skin infection when you spot a rash or an inflamed patch of skin. Mourning geckos shed regularly but if yours find it hard to do so, suspect an infection.

Bites and other injuries

Mourning geckos may suffer from severe injuries after a fight including the loss of a tail or limb. A lost limb or tail will grow back but it can take many days to do so. Also, the area may have cuts, marks and that need immediate attention from a vet. Your Mourning gecko may also lose blood or can suffer from irreparable injuries if you overlook medical care. 

Preventing Illness

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To prevent illness, take your Mourning gecko to a vet for regular check-ups. A vet can diagnose early any medical condition and can rule out any illness for immediate treatment. Another way to prevent illness and injuries is to place the larger geckos to a separate tank. Separate the hatchlings as well.  

If you spot a sick gecko, take this to the vet at once to prevent the spread of the illness to other geckos. If you have a new pet, quarantine this in a separate tank to check for any illness or medical condition. Don’t place it inside any tank right away. 

For healthy pets, use only quality food.  Mourning gecko owners use fresh food. Replace water inside the tank more often. Use a water filter to maintain water quality and to ensure good gecko health and tank humidity. Make it a habit to clean the tank more often. A dirty cage can lead to bacterial infections, parasites, and odors.

Behavior

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To fully understand a Mourning gecko, you need to learn all about its unique characteristics and weird behaviors. There are hundreds of lizard species but the Mourning gecko is unique because of the following traits:

All-female geckos

Mourning geckos are all females and therefore have the unique capability of producing young despite no males. You may say that hatchlings are all clones of their mother and this applies to future generations of Mourning geckos. This may be the reason why color variations in Mourning geckos are hardly noticeable. 

Because there are no males the females will lay fertilized eggs that are ready to hatch after a short incubation stage. The female geckos live and thrive in small groups often social and friendly to their handler. 

Signs of dominance

You may have thought that only males have dominant characteristics but apparently, female Mourning geckos also show some dominant behaviors. The dominant female usually tries to make herself larger to make smaller, less dominant ones submit. Experts say that there are many perks of being a dominant gecko in the tank and one of these may be the first to choose the site for her eggs. Meanwhile, other experts are still not sure if this dominant behavior exists in all Morning gecko groups. 

Other ways that the dominant female shows off is by arching her back and waving her tail. It is unknown if this means that she is accepting a challenge for dominance or just to warn other geckos nearby to watch out for her. 

Will emit a sound

As mentioned a while ago we mentioned that Mourning geckos make a sound, This sound is actually similar to the chirp of a chick and the squeak of a mouse. It is uncertain what this means and experts say that it could be the mother calling her young or could again be a sign of dominance. 

It’s important to keep your Mourning gecko tank away from your bedroom because it can get noisy especially when it nears breeding time. 

Will eat their eggs

This might sound disgusting but the Mourning gecko will eat her eggs time and again. It is unknown if she eats only unfertilized eggs or she will eat fertile eggs as well. The geckos will finally stop eating her eggs when all the females in the tank are breeding or laying their eggs at the same time. Again, it is unsure why she does this or why all the females in the group do this.

Easy to handle

Mourning geckos are the easiest to handle because these are usually very friendly. These small lizards will enjoy being out of their tanks and handled by their keepers but make sure to start out young. Just like other reptiles, your Mourning gecko will become more confident if you handle it more often.

Very small

One reason that some pet owners are unsure about taking care of a Mourning gecko is because of its size. These are so small during the hatchling phase that you can easily lose them when you take them out of the tank. 

As a Mourning gecko becomes larger, it will grow bigger of course but still not as big as other lizards. If you’re not careful, you might end up stepping or crushing one.  

Do Mourning Geckos Hibernate? 

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Mourning geckos don’t hibernate. These lizards are indigenous to Southeast Asia and in this region, there are no winters or cold climates. Tropical climate countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, and others have a warm climate all year which is why you should keep your geckos warm all year.

If you live in a country where there are winter and fall, keep your pet Mourning gecko under a lamp to maintain its body temperature. Geckos are cold-blooded and cannot produce body heat to keep them warm especially during the cold months. These animals rely on their environment to maintain their body temperatures which can also help in digestion and metabolism.

A Mourning gecko kept inside a cold environment, it can suffer from pneumonia, lack of appetite and indigestion. A very cold environment am can kill your gecko. The temperature inside the tank or cage should be between 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and must be checked and maintained especially during the cold months.

As much as possible, before wintertime or before it starts to get cold, check your lizard’s cage to ensure that everything is all working well to keep your pets warm and comfortable. 

Shedding

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Mourning geckos will shed their skin. It is a way to check for gecko health. A sick or a malnourished gecko will not shed. Juvenile geckos will shed more often than older lizards. This is because younger geckos outgrow their skin. Usually, a healthy adult may do so every five weeks. 

Shedding happens in just 24 hours but may also extend in case of some problems. Shedding could be stressful to geckos especially when the temperature is too hot or too cold. There are signs that a gecko is about to shed. It may act agitated, stressed or may move around quickly. It may also refuse to be held and may become aggressive towards other lizards. 

If you have determined that your pet is going to shed, leave your gecko alone. Take note that a few minutes before shedding, their skin will look pale. The skin will shed in fragments and it is common for Mourning geckos to eat old skin just like other lizards. Experts say that lizards do this because it is a good source of protein and other nutrients. Some also reveal that lizards eat their skin because they want to hide their smell from larger animals and predators. 

It is also common for lizards to refuse eating when they are shedding. This is natural and should not be a bother at all. Make sure that there is nutritious food waiting for your pet after shedding. Offer mealworms, small insects and fruits. 

Habitat

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In the wild, Mourning geckos live in the floor and trees of the rainforests of Southeast Asia. Mourning geckos are very small so it’s hard to spot them. Their color also allows them to blend into the environment. 

A large tank may be enough to house five or more geckos. It’s best to use a glass tank or enclosure rather than use a cage because the geckos can slip out of the cage easily. You must have another tank or cage where females can lay eggs and where hatchlings may stay.

Inside the cage or tank, place tree branches where your Mourning geckos can climb. Don’t place these branches near the edge of the tank because tiny geckos might escape. Use potted plants or plastic plants to provide foliage and areas where the geckos can deposit their eggs.  

Mourning geckos can also remain inside crevices, holes and anywhere there’s the cover. Prepare a water tank where your geckos can swim and where they can stay and keep cool. Some geckos will love to bask under a lamp so you should use a high-quality reptile lamp.

Another thing to consider is that thee tank or cage should have a strong and secure lid. Mourning geckos are very small and can easily move through any gap. The very small hatchlings are more vulnerable so take extra care to secure the tank lid.

Lighting and Humidity

Keep the tank temperature conducive for raising Mourning geckos at 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit at night. There’s no need to use a UVB bulb because these lizards are mostly active at night. Use an incandescent bulb for daytime heating and a ceramic bulb should be used during the night.

Use a heating pad if you think that lamps are not enough. Maintain humidity levels at 70% through a spray bottle. Never allow the humidity to drop below 80%. Use a good substrate to maintain tank humidity. Finally, use a digital thermometer and hygrometer to monitor temperature and humidity more precisely.

Tank Bedding and Accessories

For lizards, use orchid barks or coconut husks for a substrate. These will retain moisture better compared to using sand or pebbles. These materials are also more comfortable for your pet instead of hard rocks and sand. 

When your lizards are shedding, you can use paper towels to line the bottom of the tank. This is soft and comfortable for your little pets plus will make clean-up and maintenance easier. Use natural paper towels and not colored towels. 

Sanitation

Tank cleanliness is crucial for your Mourning gecko’s health. You need to make a cleaning schedule and use the best products to thoroughly clean the tank. Take note that cage maintenance should be done daily, weekly, monthly and you should spot clean. 

Spot cleaning to remove poop or dirt is important. Clean the substrate and change it. Never reuse it because these may harbor dangerous bacteria or parasites that can make your pets sick. If you’re using paper towels, change the towels once or twice a week. 

Wash the lizard tank with warm water and soap. Use a soft brush. You must wash the tank as well as all the accessories. If you’re using live plants, trim, remove decaying leaves or bark. Make sure that these plants can survive very humid environments so carefully chose this before placing inside your lizard tank. 

The food and water bowls must be washed once a week. Always check the tank for any hidden dead insects or poop because these are often overlooked. If you leave these be, your tank will smell and can harbor dangerous parasites.  

There are many cleaning products you can use to clean your tank. You can use disinfectants which are antimicrobial commercial products that will clean the accessories and the tank itself. A disinfectant also kills bacteria, viruses, spores and protozoa, basically anything that can cause disease inside the tank. The most common disinfectant is bleach and this needs to be diluted in water before use. 

Sanitizers are cleaning products that remove microorganisms but you need to use a cleaning product beforehand.  Sterilization is a way to remove microorganisms including fungi and spores. This method uses chemicals, steam or boiling water to clean your tank. 

No matter what technique you used, dry the tank completely using papers. Make sure that the tank is very dry before placing the accessories inside and before placing your Mourning geckos back.

Hydration

Always keep a shallow dish of water inside its tank so that your Mourning geckos may drink. The best container for food and water is a heavy bowl made of clay or porcelain because these are easier to clean and won’t reek dangerous chemicals which can affect your lizards’ health.

Geckos swim in large pans of water as well as in deep tank water. Change this water often as well. Make sure that the water you used for drinking and for filling the tank pond is safe, preferably pH neutral. 

Availability – Where to Get One?

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Mourning geckos are very popular pets and may be available from a local exotic store or from an online exotic pet shop. Some prefer to buy locally than online because you may also end up paying for more due to shipping fees.

The cost of a Mourning gecko depends on the size, the vibrant designs or colors and the age of the gecko. Juveniles cost from $15 to $20 while adults are around $25 to $30 depending on where you purchased them. The shipment cost can vary depending on where you’re located.

Be mindful of local laws against owning or buying pet geckos. In some countries and states in the US, geckos are not allowed for purchase. Understanding local laws is important because ordering and shipment may be affected especially when you order online.  

How to Care for a Mourning Gecko?

Here are some tips on how to care for a Mourning gecko in captivity

Keep the tank heated all the time

Mourning geckos cannot regulate their own body heat because they are cold-blooded animals. You must use high-quality lamps and a heating mat to provide radiant heat inside the lizard tank. Juveniles require warmer temperatures than adults because these can suffer from dehydration faster.  

Keep the tank humid; use a digital hygrometer

Use water sprayer and mist the inside of the tank to maintain humidity. Use a digital hygrometer and thermometer to check for humidity levels. Keep in mind that humidity can easily go down if the tank is too warm so be sure to check this as often as possible. 

Always keep the tank clean

Parasitic and bacterial infections are usually due to dirty surroundings. You can prevent these by keeping the tank very clean. Spot clean your tank by picking up poop and dirt daily. You must clean at least weekly and monthly. Maintain a schedule for cleaning. Take note that because Mourning geckos are very small, it may be very hard to tell if these are sick. Therefore, it’s best to prevent illness by cleaning the gecko tank more often.

Feed high protein food

Mourning geckos need protein-rich food during the juvenile phase. As these lizards age, you may now add fruits, vegetables, and supplements. It’s always best to ask your vet to find out the best supplement to enhance the health of your geckos.

Place the tank in a least-traffic area at home

Don’t place the tank in the living room, kitchen or entertainment room because Mourning geckos are night animals and need a quiet area where they can sleep and recuperate. The basement is the perfect place to keep lizard tanks because it’s quiet and humid. 

Leave the  lizard alone when it’s shedding

Shedding takes place every few weeks and this is not an enjoyable time for any lizard. But as much as possible, stay away and just let your geckos shed. Shedding is a natural process so don’t be worried. Support your pets by leaving a bowl of food after shedding is done. Like most lizards, Mourning geckos won’t eat as shedding happens but after it is done, it will be very tiring and very hungry to do anything. 

Monitor the growth and development of your geckos

Maintain a diary of your pet’s growth and development. Use a small weighing scale to check for its weight and a ruler to check its length. Always check changes in the skin, eye color, mouth color, and temperament. For any medical issue, consult your vet right away.

Consult a vet for any medical emergency

Any medical problem should be consulted ASAP. A vet that specializes in reptile medicine and care is the best choice. 

Wash your hands after handling  your Mourning gecko

Wash your hands after handling your gecko to prevent the spread of diseases. Use warm water and soap before and after handling it. This reduces the spread of disease that your pet may have and prevent contaminating your pet’s tank. 

Breeding should never be taken for granted

Since Mourning geckos have the natural behavior of eating their eggs, you must watch out for this behavior. Check for hatchlings and immediately remove these from the tank to avoid getting eaten.

FAQ Section

Where are the male Mourning gecko lizards?

Over the years of evolution, male Mourning geckos have disappeared. Meanwhile, female Mourning geckos have continued to breed even without them and hence these lizards are named Mourning geckos. 

How do females fertilize their eggs?

Female Mourning geckos lay their eggs fertilized. When the eggs hatch, the hatchlings are all clones of their mother and hence they all look like the mother.

How many eggs can female Mourning geckos lay?

Mourning geckos can lay around 10 eggs or less depending on the size and the health of the female. Eggs start out as soft and become hard as these are exposed to air. 

Can you keep Mourning geckos in a small plastic tank?

Yes, Mourning geckos are very small and can fit even in a small plastic tank. But despite being small, you should still consider a larger, glass tank so your geckos have room to play, feed and sleep. 

How do you feed Mourning geckos?

To feed Mourning geckos, puree fruit or cut pieces of insects so that these small lizards can easily swallow them. Usually, you can see a group of geckos taking a bite from a bowl of fruit or pureed food.

Can Mourning geckos drink water?

Yes, Mourning geckos, like all lizards, need water. Smaller lizards like the Mourning gecko will enjoy drinking from a shallow pan or licking water from the tank walls and accessories inside the tank. Make sure that you are giving your lizards fresh, clean water all the time. 

How hard is it to buy a Mourning gecko?

It’s not hard to find a dealer or supplier at all. The best way to find a reputable dealer is to shop online where hundreds of pet shops that cater to lizard lovers sell Mourning geckos. 

Are Mourning geckos easy to take care of?

Most people who have cared for Mourning geckos agree that these lizards are very easy to care for. Some recommend this species for first time lizard owners and reptile owners.  

Do Mourning geckos bite?

Yes, but the bite is hardly dangerous. Almost all reptiles including lizards and snakes will bite if they are provoked or if they feel threatened. So you must learn how to hold your gecko securely. 

What happens when a Mourning gecko bites you?

Mourning gecko bites are not harmful but if the bite becomes inflamed and painful, visit a doctor. But normally, the bite of this gecko is small and there’s nothing to worry about. 

Can you find a Morning gecko in the wild or at your backyard?

If you live in Southeast Asia, you might just find one crawling in your backyard but if you live someplace else, no. It is common for Mourning geckos and other lizards to check out human homes in Southeast Asia so don’t be surprised to find one in your bedroom! 

How much is a Mourning gecko near me? 

It depends on where you are located. If you live in Southeast Asia, you might find lizards and geckos for sale for less than a US dollar. But if you are on the other side of the world, you can buy an adult gecko for $20 or more depending on the age, size, etc. 

Are Mourning geckos territorial?

No, Mourning geckos will gladly live with other females in a terrarium. But just like males, females will have a dominant member who will exert her dominance among submissive geckos. 

Can you release a Mourning gecko in the wild?

If you live in a warm country or region, with a climate similar to southeast Asia then you may release your gecko in the wild. In colder climates, you may only end up killing your gecko if you release it in the wild. Also, a responsible owner should consider long term care of his pets even something as small as a Mourning gecko.

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