Substrate, or “bedding,” is the material that is used to cover the bottom of your mourning gecko enclosure. The right mourning gecko substrate can help maintain humidity, while others won’t — and some can even make your pets sick!
Good mourning gecko substrates:
Peat moss: Cheap and holds humidity well. However it tends to be pretty dusty.
Coconut fiber/Eco Earth: Cheap, holds humidity well, and is less dusty than peat moss.
Lugarti Natural Reptile Bedding: My personal favorite substrate for small tropical and semi-tropical reptile species. Holds humidity well, not dusty, and smells nice. It is one of the more expensive substrate options, however.
Zoo Med Reptisoil: Designed specifically for terrariums with live plants. Not the greatest at holding humidity, and tends to get muddy when wet.
Sphagnum moss: Great as a substrate by itself or as an additional layer on top of your main substrate. Soft and holds humidity very well, although feeder insects tend to hide in it.
Orchid bark: Attractive, holds humidity well, and doesn’t pose a risk of injuring the geckos (unlike other bark products). I prefer it as a top layer rather than as a solo substrate.
ABG Mix: Substrate mixture developed by the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Great for live plants, holds humidity very well, and works perfectly as a bioactive substrate.
Bioactive: Bioactive substrates and enclosures are nice because they use symbiotic relationships between the animals (in this case, mourning geckos) and certain detritivore species to break down waste. The result? Essentially a self-cleaning terrarium. For more information, read the files in Reptile & Amphibian Bioactive Setups on Facebook or visit TheBioDude.com.
Bad mourning gecko substrates:
- Coconut husk
- Cypress mulch
- Wood shavings, especially pine/cedar
- Reptile carpet
Most of these substrates pose a substantial risk of injury. Additionally, reptile carpet fibers can catch and damage delicate gecko toes, as well as encourage bacterial growth. Pine/cedar oils are well known to cause permanent neurological damage in reptiles.
How to Layer Your Substrate
One of the best ways to maintain humidity and prevent mold in your mourning gecko terrarium is to create a drainage layer underneath the substrate. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually really simple.
All you need is a bag of clay balls and some landscaping mesh. Pour enough clay balls into the bottom of the terrarium to make a 2” deep layer, add some distilled water, and then cover with the mesh and a 1-2” layer of your substrate of choice.