3 factors should be considered when choosing a leaf-tailed gecko substrate (bedding):
- Moisture retention — Humidity is essential to maintaining a leaf-tailed gecko’s health and preventing/managing stress.
- Digestibility — Although Uroplatus are adept hunters, there is a risk of ingesting a mouthful of substrate if they miss their target.
- Softness — Uroplatus dive for their prey. If the ground is hard, they can potentially severely injure themselves on impact. Furthermore, Uroplatus skin is thin and soft, so substrates with sharp edges can also cause injury.
The best leaf-tailed gecko substrates meet these requirements. Keep in mind that juveniles and species under 10-15g are particularly in danger of impaction, and are best kept on paper towels for their safety.
Paper towels: Needs frequent changing and does not hold humidity well. Works well for juveniles and smaller species where impaction is a concern, especially in larger-scale breeding operations. Not suitable for adults outside of the Ebenaui group or phantasticus.
Organic peat moss: Attractive, retains moisture, soft, and digestible. Also very affordably priced.
Lugarti Natural Reptile Bedding: Soft, attractive, pleasant-smelling, moisture-retentive, and fungus resistant. My personal bedding of choice for arboreal tropical geckos, including Uroplatus.
Bioactive: Simply put, bioactive substrates use detritivore insects in a symbiotic relationship with the animal(s) in an enclosure to self-clean. Done properly, bioactive substrates are excellent at maintaining humidity, and resist odor and mold growth. For more information about creating a bioactive enclosure, join Reptile & Amphibian Bioactive Setups on Facebook and read their files.
When using a natural leaf-tailed gecko substrate like Natural Reptile Bedding, peat moss, or bioactive, moderate humidity and mold growth with a 2” (5 cm) drainage layer of clay balls underneath the primary substrate. The two layers should be separated with a semipermeable barrier like nylon screen or fine mesh, which will make future substrate replacements easier.
Substrates to Avoid
- Pine/cedar mulch — Pine and cedar oils irritate the respiratory system and can lead to neurological damage.
- Coconut fiber — Not digestible, and expands in the presence of moisture, quickly causing impaction.
- Linoleum — Hard and does not contribute to humidity.
- Tile — Hard and does not contribute to humidity.
- Bark chips — Sharp edges may cut delicate gecko skin, and small pieces can also be accidentally ingested.